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Old 05-29-2009, 09:52 AM   #1
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Question for Pros

A question for chefs with more recent training...

I have been watching episodes of Kitchen Nightmare at the Hulu site. In one episode, Chef Ramsey completely ripped the local chef in his usual brutal style over his practice of buying fresh salmon, halibut, etc., portioning it and freezing for later reuse. He also ripped him for thawing the frozen portions in containers of water inside the walk-in.

Now it's been almost 30 years since I was in restaurants, but that was a very common practice back then. It reflects the fact that some fish are just way bigger than you can use while fresh over a weekend in a lower-volume restaurant without having too much waste.

My question is, if that's so bad, what's the better practice? Not to offer fresh at all? Pack the specials with different preparations of the same fish in an effort to use it all before its quality deteriorates? And what would be considered a better way of thawing the frozen portions? The use of a covered water bath seems debatable, but hardly harmful in any way. And thawing while under refrigeration is clearly the right way to go.

Thanks for any insights!

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Old 05-29-2009, 11:35 AM   #2
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I'm not a pro..Just that nice kool aid mom up the street.

We buy large quantities of salmon,bring it home.Cut it up,vacume pack the portions then freeze.It's always been my understanding to safely thaw put the packages in cold water,keep in the fridge until it's defrosted,then cook.
to a certain temp.Never thaw fish on the counter top.

*Side note here* It's been recently found out that Ramsey has had food prepared on one site,then has a van bring it to his restaurants.He claims made on the premises fresh daily.

Munky.
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Old 05-29-2009, 11:59 AM   #3
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Scott, it's still common practice in many restaurants. Chef Ramsay may not do it, nor care for it, but not all restaurants have the budgets his does.....
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:03 PM   #4
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I know that some chefs just like to have fresh, never frozen seafood, and make a big deal about it (especially with cameras rolling). Here in Wyoming, unless it is flown in, we use frozen. "Fresh" on a truck for several days is not great.
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:43 PM   #5
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I have one client who absolutely refuses to eat seafood that has been frozen. She swears she can tell when it has been, but I know for a fact she can't. I have made her frozen salmon and she never noticed, on another occasion I gave her fresh Cod that she swore up and down had been frozen. So who knows.

My husband and I are big foodies and we have learned a few things about ordering fish from nice restaurants. One: for us, just because we eat and nice places a lot doesn't mean we can even tell if we're eating previosly frozen fish- as long as it's prepared correctly we don't care or can't tell at all. Two: places that do only carry "fresh" fish over the weekend will peddle that "fresh" fish at you well into Monday or Tuesday in the way of specials. I'd much rather have "freshly" thawed fish than "fresh" fish that's been in a cooler since Friday or Saturday nights dinner.
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:54 PM   #6
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Fish, and indeed, any meat, if frozen properly, is nearly indestinguishable from fresh. The problems that arise from frozen fish stem from improper freezing and/or storage of the frozen product. Frozen foods will dry out and oxidize over time (freezer burn) if they are exposed to air. Also, plastic is not an airtight container. Many gas molecules are small enough to fit between the plastic matrix and allow unwanted flavors to be absorbed by the frozen food.

Glass forms a great barrier, but is impracticle. Fortunately, water is a great sealer, especially for fish. My Dad taught me the trick of freezing freshly caught and cleaned fish in washed-out paper milk cartons filled with water. The water forms a perfect seal and isolates the fish from any contaminates, while protecting the moisture content of the flesh. When thawed, the water acts as a tempering agent to keep the fish from thawing too fast and spoiling.

So to answer your question, freezing, if done properly, does virtually no harm to the fish.

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Old 05-29-2009, 04:32 PM   #7
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I agree.

I can't stand Ramsey. He may think he can cook, but he does not in any way represent the Executive Chefs I had the pleasure of working with for many years. He sets a terrible example of how kitchen employees actually work together in real life.

Commercial kitchens are stressful on any normal day. No one gets any thing done with the screaming and tv drama - much let alone put out a six course meal for 150 on lime - which Ramsey knows. Screaming is not a teaching tool. It disrupts all rhythm of the kitchen.

I worked for a screamer like Ramsey one time for five full minutes before I left. I should have known when I walked into a dirty kitchen with unhappy employees what was afoot.
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Old 05-29-2009, 08:25 PM   #8
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I don't care for fish that's been frozen, generally. With all due respect to you guys and your clients, I can tell the difference -- not in flavor but in texture. That doesn't matter if the fish is in a soup or stew, baked in a heavy sauce, or fried, but to me it's very evident if the fish is grilled or broiled, which are my preferred methods of preparation. Fortunately for me, I've lived within eyesight of the Pacific Ocean most of my life.
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Old 05-29-2009, 09:38 PM   #9
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For catering, if a client wants fish or seafood I do my best to get it fresh for the day through the local markets. However, I am buying a specific quantity to be used on a specific day. A restaurant doesn't have the luxury of knowing those specifics unless they are bringing something for a special of the day. Even then, they need to order "enough", without knowing what that will be so they must order on the side of too much. The rest must be frozen or lost. I see no harm in this as long as it is done quickly and properly.

I admire Gordon Ramsey, but his standards are (and he can afford for them to be) a little higher than the norm.
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Old 05-29-2009, 11:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scotch View Post
I don't care for fish that's been frozen, generally. With all due respect to you guys and your clients, I can tell the difference -- not in flavor but in texture. That doesn't matter if the fish is in a soup or stew, baked in a heavy sauce, or fried, but to me it's very evident if the fish is grilled or broiled, which are my preferred methods of preparation. Fortunately for me, I've lived within eyesight of the Pacific Ocean most of my life.
I understand your complaint. When food is frozen, the individual cell walls burst from expanding ice. This causes the meat to lose some of its cohesiveness resulting in a less firm end result. but as you stated, frying, poaching, and boiling negates that effect. Most fish served here in the U.P of Michigan is dipped in beer batter and deep fried. I prepare my own fish in a host of different ways, and actually prefer my fish broiled. I find that if broiling very close to the flame (I have a gas stove and oven with a gas broiler), the meat tightens up due to the reaction of heat on the protien, again, negating the softer flesh. A little acidity, as from lime or lemon juice also helps firm up the flesh.

And in small, firm fish, such as smelt, brook trout, etc, where the fish is cooked whole, it becomes very difficult to tell the difference. Plus, where you gonna get fresh brookies from the end of September to the middle of May, except from the freezer. You have to pick your battles and make the best you can with what you have. You learn to adapt, and make fish cakes with perch and other flaky fish. Such is life.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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