Friday, September 12, 2008

Frozen Fish from Trader Joe's

I'm usually a bit dubious about the idea of frozen fish, but I noticed that one of our new Trader Joe's stores here out east had some interesting selections of mostly wild caught fish that looked good in the packages and was very reasonably priced, so I thought I'd sample a few--mahi mahi, swordfish, Dover sole, and coho salmon. Modern "individually quick frozen" (IQF) processes that use vacuum packaging and flash freezing have greatly improved upon the frozen fish of yesteryear. The fish seems to be glazed with ice, which is probably part of the secret. I defrosted the fish overnight in the refrigerator, and all the selections I tried smelled fresh and had good texture when I took them out of the package, and all were very neatly cut and filleted.

I've grilled the Trader Joe's wild Coho salmon in a very hot cast iron grill pan twice now, once with garlic butter, once with a teriyaki style marinade. This kind of salmon has a good flavor, but it tends to be a bit on the dry side, so it needs to be just barely cooked through--about two and a half minutes on a side--and a marinade to add to the moisture doesn't hurt. I've had plank roasted Scottish wild salmon that was like this in England. It's very easy to overcook, but if you get it right, it's perfect.

The Dover sole was the least freezable fish of those we tried. Even though the texture was good in general, the thin frozen fillets had evidently cracked in shipping and storage. It held together well enough to roll and bake with a crab and spinach stuffing, but it would have fallen apart, if I'd tried to broil it.

The swordfish was a success--maybe not as high a fat content as the best swordfish I've had, but that kind of swordfish is hard to find in general. 4 minutes on a side in the cast iron grill pan with garlic butter and a little lemon zest was perfect.

We're used to fresh caught local mahi-mahi when we're in Hawai'i, but even with that as a point of reference, Trader Joe's Peruvian wild caught mahi-mahi made a very respectable showing, grilled about three minutes on a side with garlic butter and lemon in the hot cast iron grill pan. It's not fresh from the shores of Moloka'i, but for what we can get in New York, it's excellent.

We're fortunate to live close enough to water to find fresh local fish in the markets and from the Greenmarkets around the city, but for fish that aren't local to our waters and the convenience of being able to have fish of good quality on hand in the freezer Trader Joe's gets a thumbs up.

Update (14 May 2009): A couple others we've tried since this post are the sockeye salmon, wild halibut steaks and the Alaskan wild cod. The halibut grilled very nicely. The cod had a good flavor but was maybe a bit chewy for a grilled fish; however, it seemed to have enough substance to hold up well braised or in a stew, so we might try it again that way. The sockeye salmon was first rate.


Daughter of Food said...

Thanks for the reccomendation, rother. I recently tried frozen packaged fish from Ralphs and it was barely edible. I am looking forward to picking up some Trader Joes Fish. I'll let you know how it holds up on this coast.

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I live in southern California via NJ. I LOVE TRADER JOES
All the products are reasonable and good
Frozen Fish too

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