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Small Seafood Secrets
From fishing to filleting, Chef Francesco provides quick tips for preparing seafood.
For many of us, seafood is a culinary delicacy that we simply cannot resist, but for Chef Francesco, seafood is a reminder of family and leisure and was one of the key influences behind pursuing a career as a chef. Growing up in the town of Pertegada in northern Italy, Francesco was always surrounded by water; the Tagliamento river to the east, the Marano Lagoon to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the south. From a very young age, he would spend most of his weekends fishing with his Grandfather – a fisherman by trade, and his Father and Brother.
Having the pleasure of fishing in 3 different water environments meant that Francesco could grasp a deep understanding of the native fish and the best ways to catch a bite. They would use fishing rods in the river and use nets when out at sea. Speaking about the best areas and times to find fish, Francesco explains “my Grandfather always knew the best spots to go fishing for different types of seafood. It’s always important to check the tide, and more importantly, the size of the moon as this will always change the level of the tide and therefore the fish’s behaviour. For certain types of fish it is better to go fishing at night time or first thing in the morning, but overall, you should avoid fishing when marine animals are spawning”.
Fishing on a weekly basis also meant that the whole family could enjoy eating crustacean, flounder, sole and seawater bass for dinner a few times a week. Preparing the seafood with his Mother also became an interest of his, further encouraging Francesco to develop his cooking skills on a professional level. At the age of 13, Francesco decided to start an apprenticeship at a local seafood restaurant where he learnt important cooking techniques specific to seafood, “the key technique that I learnt during my apprenticeship that unfortunately, many people don’t know how to do well, is filleting the fish.” Francesco explains that when you prepare a fillet, there should never be any bones if you scale the fish correctly, “always use a flexible knife that will allow you to slice as close to the spine as possible but without touching it. By slicing the fillet properly, it will ensure that the bones stay connected to the spine and will not be left in the fillet once it’s removed”. (With that in mind, we’ll be definitely taking a closer look at our fillets on our next grocery trip or when indulging in a delicious restaurant meal!)
While the experiences and opportunities in Italy have laid the foundation for Francesco’s career, he reveals that his seafood skills really came to life when he worked in Japan. “The seafood in Japan is incredibly fresh and most of the time you are cooking with live produce, so it makes the whole process completely different”. But the one technique that will benefit many of us, is knowing how to prepare crustacean. Crabs, lobster and shrimp are just some of the more popular seafood dishes that we Australians enjoy, so it only makes sense that we know the ins and outs to prepare such culinary delicacies. As a final quick tip to cooking a delicious crab feast, Francesco recommends placing the crab in icy cold water for 3-4 minutes prior to blanching it in boiling water, and then transferring it back into the icy cold water to stop the cooking process. You then simply clean the crab to remove any inedible parts and cook it in a stir fry with a beautiful combination of aromatic herbs and spices.