Tips for Fish
When buying fresh, whole fish look at the eyes of the fish. Bright and clear eyes indicate a fresh fish, whereas dull gray eyes indicate the fish is past its prime. You should also smell the fish. Fresh fish smells like clean water or salty water. If it smells bad, do not buy it. The same hold for fish fillets, if they smell bad, definitely do not buy them. Fillets should also have vibrant-looking flesh. If it is faded, then it is likely not that fresh.
If you will not be cooking your fish right when you get home, then you should keep them iced until you are ready to do so. Even if you are storing them in the refrigerator, you need to keep them on ice, to prevent rotting. If you put them on ice in a container, preferably in such a way that the ice and the fish are separated, then you can store fish for several days this way. Make sure you replace the ice when it melts and pour out the melted liquid.
There are many ways to cook fish, broil, bake, fry, stewed, and in a multitude of recipes. Depending on the type of fish, some recipes are better suited than others. Some delicious recipes for Louisiana Fish can be found here.
Tips for Shellfish
Crabs and Crawfish are bought live. Make sure that they are still alive when you buy them. If the crab or even worse crawfish are dead before you cook them, then the taste and texture change, and not for the better. It is easy to tell if the crabs are alive, just look at the bucket or hamper and give them a little kick, and they will respond. Sometimes the crabs may be kept on ice, which stuns them. As long as they were on the ice, they will still be fresh when you cook them. For crawfish, look to see how they are stored. If they are stored in a cool place then they are likely just fine. Take a look at the sack and make sure there is some movement in there. If you are skeptical, ask them to pour out part of the sack for you to see them.
Shrimp are generally only bought live for bait purposes. Make sure when you are buying shrimp that they are fresh. The smell and appearance tests, similar to fish, work well for shrimp. They should not have a strong smell and should look bright and shiny. Dull shrimp or ones that have an odor are not fresh and you should avoid these.
Oysters can be bought by the sack, live and in their shell, or already shucked by the quart or gallon. Oysters in the shell should be firmly shut, if they are loose then they are likely dead. If you find an open oyster, give it a tap. If it is still alive it will promptly shut. Shucked oysters are best if they have been shucked recently, preferably that day. Find out if they shuck the oysters themselves at the market. If they do, ask when they were shucked. If shucked elsewhere, look on the container, there may be a date on there.
Crabs and crawfish should be stored in a cool place, perhaps on ice if you are not going to cook them immediately. Ideally, you should cook the live crabs and crawfish the same day that you buy them. The longer you store them, the more likely some of them will die.
Raw shrimp should be stored in the refrigerator or on ice. If you would like to buy shrimp in quantity and cook them later, then you should freeze them. To freeze them, place them in a plastic container or bag and just cover them with water. It is best to take the heads off before freezing. Freeze them like a solid block of ice. You can defrost them by running them under tap water (not hot) until the ice melts.
Oysters can be stored in the shell or already shucked. To store them in their shell, remember they are alive and you need to keep them that way. Do not store in an airtight container. Place them on a baking sheet or something similar and cover them with a damp towel. Place them in the refrigerator and store them at 36 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is colder, they will die. You should consume them within a few days of purchase. Shucked oysters should be stored in an airtight container at very cold temperatures, around 34 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. If kept cold, they will last up to 4 or 5 days.
There are many recipes that enhance the great flavor of Louisiana Shellfish. Crab, shrimp, and crawfish are commonly boiled and served with other items put into the boil, like potatoes, onion, garlic, corn, sausage, and other favorites.
Here’s a good recipe for Louisiana Boiled Crawfish. If you like your corn to taste a little sweet, you can add a cup of dark brown sugar to the water, before adding the corn. This recipe works well for boiling about a hamper or so of blue crabs as well or try this one.
Shrimp are boiled more gently. Make sure not to overcook shrimp are they will be difficult to peel and tough. Here is a good recipe for boiled shrimp from Zatarain’s.