Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fish or cut bait

This past year has been a very difficult one for the Burhop family. Illness caused the rather sudden retirement of our CEO (my husband) last September, and I had to take over many of his duties. I found that important things had fallen by the wayside in the management of the company, and that mistakes made years ago had come back to haunt us.
     After a lot of soul searching, a decision was made to close the Glenview store at the end of this month. There is a possibility that another seafood operation will take over from us, I will keep you posted.
      We have been in the Glen Oak shopping center for over 30 years, a long time. We wish it was going to be longer. I found out that we were paying the highest rent per square foot in the center, and we were paying retail rent for our wholesale space in the back, a giant drain on our bottom line.
      While the former owners of the shopping center were local, the current owners are a very large corporation. They were not willing to work with us on changing our lease - at least not until we told them that we were closing. Too little too late.
      We are incredibly grateful to our loyal staff, some who have worked for us for decades, and are very sad to see them go. We are also sad about letting down our many wonderful regular customers in Glenview - we will truly miss you. We just wish that there had been more of you.
      Our Hinsdale store will remain open, and we're looking into the possibility of providing delivery service to people in the northern suburbs who still want to get our incredible party trays, our famous cooked shrimp, and various oven-ready entrees, sauces and other prepared foods. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to tell if fish you buy is fresh

I always get my fish from one of our stores, but that doesn't mean that I don't go into grocery stores on a regular basis and check out their fish counter. Here are some tips for picking out good, fresh
De-boned fresh Scottish salmon fillets
with a nice fresh shine.
fish, using your eyes and your nose:
1) Notice as you approach the fish department how close you can get before you smell the seafood. Fresh fish smells like the sea, sort of like being at the beach. If there's a strong fish odor 10 or 20 feet before you get to the fish counter, probably not a good place to buy your fish.
2) Look at how the fish is displayed - is it laying right on the ice? How high is is it piled up? Putting fillets of fish right on the ice can suck the juices right out of the fish. (Whole fish is OK on the ice). We use stainless pans embedded in the ice. When fillets are piled up too high, the fish at the top of the pile are not being kept cold enough, and it will go off quickly.
3) Look at the flesh of the fillets - does the flesh have noticeable gaps in it? Does it have a nice sheen, or is is it dull? For things like tuna, do they have a loin from which they will custom cut some steaks for you, or is it already cut up?
4) Read the small print - fish that has been "thawed for your convenience" is a bad idea. There's nothing wrong with buying frozen fish, but once it's thawed, it deteriorates much more quickly than fresh fish. If you have a choice, buy the fish that's still frozen, thaw it overnight in the coldest part of your fridge, and cook it as soon as it's thawed. Thawed out fish that's been put into a fresh case is there to fool you into thinking it's fresh. If it's been there more than a day, it's no longer worth buying, no matter how cheap it is.
5) Fish and shellfish that are kept wrapped in your home fridge can accumulate gasses in the wrapping. We recommend cooking fish the same night you buy it, or storing it in the coldest (bottom) part of the fridge and rinsing with cold water before cooking. Things like cooked shrimp should be refrigerated in a covered bowl in the fridge if you're keeping them overnight, and also rinsed in cold water before serving.
     Truly fresh fish is a real treat - we're lucky in Chicago, because as a hub, planes come in constantly from all coasts and overseas, bringing fresh product from many oceans. We also have the bounty of the Great Lakes - there's nothing better than fresh lake perch floured, sauteed and served with Burhop's Tartar Sauce.
     Use your senses to choose your fish - and if you suspect it isn't fresh, don't buy it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Gaining fish cooking confidence

Have you ever noticed how often commercials for some kind of room deodorizer show you a picture of a fish? We feel like suing them every time they do it, because they're enforcing a stereotype of fish being smelly that just isn't true - if you buy good fish. Here are two odor prevention steps which are totally in your control:
     1) Buy really fresh fish - when you buy fish that's been sitting there for a week, or cheap, thawed out fish, yes, it probably will smell when you cook it, and it won't taste very good. Fresh fish that is properly cooked will barely smell at all, except to smell good.
     2) Don't overcook your fish. When fish is cooked too long, it dries out and starts to smell - so follow the Canadian cooking method, 10 minutes of cooking time per inch of thickness, measuring at the thickest point, at medium high heat. (We cook at 425 degrees). If the fish isn't quite done, put it back in for a minute - you can always cook it a little more if it's underdone, but once it's overcooked, there's nothing you can do about it. And fish keeps on cooking even after being removed from the oven or grill - fish that looks a little rare probably won't be by the time it's served.
     We have numerous customers who cook fish on the grill all summer long, then when the weather dims, they stop eating it, for fear of making their house smell of fish. This is unfortunate for all concerned! Fish is an important part of your diet 12 months a year.
     If you are baking your fish, add a tablespoon of white wine to the baking pan - it enhances the flavor, keeps the fish moist, and also prevents odors.  Our Lemon Dill Sauce, great on almost any fish you can think of, also prevents cooking odors when poured over the fish during the last few minutes of cooking.
     But still, the most important thing of all is starting with top quality fish. If it smells bad before it goes into the oven, why would you expect it not to smell during and after cooking?
     We have lots of simple, delicious recipes on our web site - check them out at  But remember, we don't guarantee our recipes with someone elses' fish.
     And you can always ask our staff for cooking tips.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Labor Day does not mean Put the Grill Away

Before global warming, when it actually was chilly for the start of school, people would start rolling their grills back into the garage for the winter. Now that so many of us have gas grills (we only converted last year, but we love the convenience, and the food tastes great), there's no reason why we can't grill all winter long.
     We did have to dig the grill out of the snow once or twice last winter, but we covered it with a tarp that protected the grill and made using it a matter of dumping the snow off the tarp and unwrapping the grill. It was great to have that tasty grilled flavor in the middle of January.
     Technically, it isn't actually fall until Sept. 21st, so a few more weeks of meteorological summer are left, and then fall is a great time of year for seafood. October is National Seafood Month for a reason - there are loads of great fresh fish in season during the fall months.
     Here's a list of fish and shellfish that are great on the grill this time of year:
Salmon, tuna, swordfish, Chilean sea bass, mahi mahi, tuna, marlin, halibut, grouper, wahoo/ono (when available), scallops, shrimp, red snapper, lake trout, black sea bass, whole fish, lobster tails. 
     Any time of year, when you're grilling, preparation is important. Always scrape any residue off of your grate, and rub it with oil before you start your fire.
     Pre-heat the grill to medium high - hold your hand about 5" from the grate and see if you can count to 5 before pulling away - if it's too hot, lower the gas or let the charcoal burn a little longer.
     You can cook almost any fish on the grill with a grill basket or grill topper, which allows you to turn the fish easily. Whole fish, like trout or snapper that have been cleaned can be stuffed with fresh vegetables and herbs, and roasted in foil on the grill - really delicious, with some roasted sweet corn on the side. Yummy.
     We don't know why, but fish consumption seems to go down in the fall, and we think it's because many people like their fish grilled and don't consider grilling when the weather gets chillier. My advice: If your grill isn't under 10 feet of snow, there's no reason not to use it, no matter what month it is. Just keep the grill close to your back door, and put on a jacket if you have to. Grilled fish tastes even better when it's cold out!