You’re on this website, so I’m going to assume you’ve at least heard of Twin Cities fishmonger Coastal Seafoods. If you caught the write-up I did after I was finally able to locate Sea Salt Eatery, you’d know their founders put in a combined 24 years at Coastal before branching off. Sea Salt still does a lot of business with Coastal. My dude Keane Amdahl, who has logged bylines on several Twin Cities-based publications and recently published book on preparing freshwater fish, now represents Coastal. Coastal’s got their name out there, is what I’m saying.
Maybe you’ve been to one of their locations. The original spot is in Minneapolis, just off Hiawatha, in a section of town that’ll make your GPS voice go nuts while you frantically scan the roadways for bicyclists. They’ve got a shop on Snelling and Grand in St. Paul, too, but it’s the Minneapolis location I visit probably weekly.
It’s a tiny, lively space. You’re probably going to be peeking around someone (or a few people) to see into the coolers, and you might just be staring down the day’s Lobster on Patrol while perusing the shellfish. There’s a shelved wall with various fixings, a freezer, the coolers, the work space, and that’s it. Sound travels well in there. It feels like a busy marketplace, even when you’re the only customer. Call me crazy, but I kind of like that.
If you don’t, though, good news: Coastal Seafoods is relocating and their new spot will have eight times the space. They’re going to need a lot more lobsters on their security payroll.
Pencil me in for at least two nights a week at home cooking seafood. I’ve my motivations for this (specifically, a cholesterol level recently revealed to be quite high), but the eating’s been good. So, I’m switching it up a little and sharing some of the simple dishes I’ve whipped up with the fish I’ve bought from Coastal.
Don’t worry: just because I write about food, doesn’t mean I can cook. No, I’m merely enabled by the simplicity of cooking fish. These “recipes” can be summed up as “cook fish, add one or two things, eat.” Just as fashionistas say true style is effortless, fresh fish requires very little help tasting great.
Ingredients are in bold and all cooking times are approximate. You know your cooking surfaces better than I do. Just keep a meat thermometer handy and you’ll be fine.
Let’s start with opah. You’ve heard of opahs, right?
Opahs are big, colorful fish that largely occupy the perfect ocean waters we escape to during vacations. The white, moon-looking spots dotting their skin has led to them also being called moonfish. The biggest species of opahs are over six feet long and weigh about 600 pounds.
I cut my opah down to small, fillet-type pieces and cooked them in a pan with olive oil. I didn’t track temperature, since my opah was sashimi-grade. I just flipped them a few times and waited until the meat had turned white. It was pretty quick.
From there, you could literally pick the meat into bits, stuff a King’s Hawaiian hot dog bun full of it, add nothing else, and be very happy. Opah meat is oily, sweet, and robust. I’ll sometimes smear light mayonnaise in the bottom of the bun, and/or top it with ponzu marinade. Whatever you do, if you make one, you’ll probably want to make two.
You already know salmon, I’m sure. You’ve beheld the beauty of wild-caught salmon – vibrant color, graceful fat lines – and you know how it can steal the show at a cookout. Fresh salmon with a good rub is the kind of thing you nod and point at with your fork at while other meats languish in obscurity on a grill surface nearby. I grilled coho salmon at a friend’s house and did this exact thing while pheasant and jalapeno poppers awaited their turn.
When I bought that coho salmon, I also scooped up a salmon rub called Rub With Love. I laughed at the name, too, but it’s a really nice mixture of spices (paprika, pepper, sea salt, brown sugar, thyme). If you didn’t dry out your salmon, you’ll get an experience similar to what you hope for when you get candied bacon. Candied bacon often winds up being gummy and gross; coho salmon with Love, figuratively and literally, is a different animal.
The rub is available at Coastal for a price much lower than its Amazon sticker. And you know to apply the rub before you cook the meat, right? Thought so. We didn’t track temperature when we grilled it. We just took it off when it looked done.
I enjoyed steelhead at home one quiet night. My wife and dog were already asleep, and the only noise in the house was that of fish oil popping in the oven while I sat on the couch with Mick Foley’s biography. My steelhead was sashimi-grade, but I cooked it to an internal temperature of about 145 degrees. My one-pound cut took about 25 minutes.
I used Rub With Love for half of it. Those pieces looked like freshly-unearthed treasure chests when I pulled them out of the oven. The steelhead was milder than the coho, but there wasn’t a night-and-day difference between the two (trout and salmon are both from the family, Salmonidae, in case you were curious).
Alternatively, you can do a good job recapturing summer – if only for the course of a meal – by simply splashing ponzu marinade on a piece of otherwise unseasoned steelhead. It’s light and sweet, with citrus flavor you’ll notice but won’t be distracted by. It’s a yacht rock soundtrack you can eat.
Swordfish steaks are meaty, juicy cuts. They’re the kind of things you take into your hands, throw it without actually throwing it, and think “Oh yeah.” I was told at Coastal to cook my swordfish through to 145. I wanted to keep my big, fat steak intact so I overcooked mine a little. It took about 30 minutes.
If you want to keep it simple, a good cilantro lime hot sauce will complete this in a way few other things can. My go-to is Isabel Street Heat’s fermented cilantro lime hot sauce. In the second episode of David Chang’s series Ugly Delicious, late L.A. Times food critic Jonathan Gold says tacos have the highest flavor per second of any food. The best ones are made with the elemental ingredients, and that’s it. I’m talkin’ meat, cilantro, onions, drop a wedge of lime in there and hustle it over the counter.
There’s a reason street tacos have become a delicacy while American tacos don’t shine until after the alcohol has taken hold, and it might surprise you how closely you can capture the magic of a street taco with a fish steak and a well-shaken hot sauce. Apply generously, but carefully – but if you have to choose one, apply generously.
Swordfish is one of the large, predatory fish that’s often brought up in conversations about mercury risks. I’m not a medical expert, but it’s 2018. Information about it isn’t difficult to find.
Speaking of: you can find more information about Coastal Seafoods, including hours of operation and weekly specials, on their website.