Pensacola, Florida
Saturday December 20th 2014

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Summer Eats: Cooking School

with Chef Blake Rushing

Fresh seafood is one of the best things about summer, especially summer on the Gulf Coast. But just because it’s easy to come by doesn’t mean it’s easy to cook—trust us, we know. We’ve turned our fair share of shrimp into overcooked mush, so when we decided to do a story on how to cook seafood, we thought it was best to call in a pro. Enter Chef Blake Rushing. A veteran chef on the local scene, Rushing knows his way around a kitchen and a seafood market. He was nice enough to answer all of our questions, no matter how basic, and threw in lots of extras like “carry over cooking.”

IN: Where’s the best place locally to buy fresh seafood?
RUSHING: Joe Patti’s

IN: What’s important to look for when buying seafood?
RUSHING: I always check to make sure it is on the sustainable seafood list. There are plenty of different delicious types of seafood, no reason for popularity or a food fad to hurt one particular species. On fish, you should always make sure the gills a vibrant red and the eyes are clear. Also, smell everything! The smell of seafood should be that of the sea. Some smell stronger than others, but none of them should make you stomach turn. I like buying from the Gulf or Atlantic because it has had less time in transit and is usually fresher.

IN: Do you have favorite seafood to cook/use in recipes?
RUSHING: I love cooking skin on salmon in olive oil. The skin gets crispy and the flesh golden brown, while the inside can flake apart and be a perfect medium rare. Gently poached grouper is also a favorite. The grouper flakes apart and melts in your mouth.

IN: What should someone start with who’s never tried to cook any kind of seafood?
RUSHING: Gulf shrimp in court bouillon or crab boil, grilled grouper or snapper or even a nice piece of tuna or swordfish, which you can treat a lot like a piece of meat and is more forgiving.

IN: What should they avoid?
RUSHING: I would not want anyone to avoid cooking any seafood. Making mistakes is how you learn and get better. But there are some that use precision and a more delicate touch: scallops, salmon, oysters and lobster to name a few.

IN: Do you recommend pre-maid seasoning for stuff like crab boils? Or do you have any tips for making it yourself?
RUSHING: I love crab boil, but you can easily make your own. You can also use pre-made crab boil, but make it better. I like to throw a couple heads of fresh garlic and halved lemons in the pot. For the most part I make my own seasonings. Spices are a great tool, you just need to become familiar with them and experiment.

IN: Do you have any tips for steaming and not overcooking?
RUSHING: Steaming, grilling and baking are great for seafood, but there is a very short window between under and overcooked. Seafood is much more delicate and the carry over cooking is something you must take into account. Carry over cooking is the amount the protein cooks after you have removed it from the heat source. If you were to bake a piece of salmon and you want it medium, you should pull it from the heat at medium rare and let it rest for five minutes. The residual heat will “carry” it to medium.

If you’d still prefer to just enjoy your seafood (and good food in general) and leave the cooking to someone else, make sure you visit Rushing at Type.

Type by Blake Rushing
501 N. 9th Ave. (in Duh), facebook.com/typerestaurant