Grilling Hy-Vee Responsible Choice Seafood: Let the Grill Do the Work

Grilling is one of the best ways to prepare Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice fish and seafood in the summertime, but it also can be intimidating. Fish is so delicate that a few wrong steps can cause the fish to fall apart

Two of the top tips are to touch the fish no more than necessary – let the direct heat of the grill do the work for you – and to start with a clean surface lightly sprayed with Hy-Vee non-stick cooking spray.

Wild salmon, which is coming into our stores fresh from Alaska for the next couple of months, is great on the grill. So are halibut steaks, swordfish and tuna. Other fish can work well with some extra precaution, and I’ll get to that later.

Plank it:

A popular way to prepare wild salmon is to cook it on cedar planks, which adds nice smokiness and a cedar flavor to the fish. To plank salmon, just soak the plank in water overnight.

Or, if you want to infuse some other flavors, try soaking the planks in smoked porter beer or an oaked chardonnay.

Pouch it:

If you don’t want to take a chance of the fish sticking, cook it en papillote, which literally means cooking “in paper.” If you’re using parchment paper, as the French recommend, use medium-high indirect heat. Add a little white wine, some fresh herbs and vegetables or citrus fruits, like lemon, orange or grapefruit, and you’ve got a meal in a bag.

A foil pouch also works. Just make sure you poke a few holes in the foil to allow the smoke flavor to infuse.

Marinate it in alcohol:

An alcohol marinade can release a new flavor sensation, but be sure not to overdo it. Alcohol is great for tenderizing meat, so don’t overdo it – 30 minutes tops, just long enough to infuse the flavor. If the fish is in the marinade too long, especially if it’s an acidic marinade, the proteins can begin to coagulate and the cooking process can begin.

Some combinations to think about include tequila-lime scallops, bourbon and brown sugar-glazed wild salmon, whiskey and brown sugar-glazed wild salmon, and vodka and wild salmon.

Skin on or off:

This is a matter of preference. If you’re going to remove the skin, start with the presentation side down on the grill, and flip it only one time, after about 4 minutes.

If you’re going to leave the skin on, that’s the presentation side and there’s no need to flip it. Just make sure the skin is crispy and not mushy.

Again, you don’t want to mess with it too much. It will release itself from the grill when it is cooked. Moving it around on the grill tears up the flesh.

Other fish:

Catfish, tilapia and some of the more delicate white fishes generally don’t hold up well during grilling, but you can still enjoy them. Hy-Vee sells stainless steel fish baskets that will hold them together.

Whole rainbow trout also works well. Score the skin on both sides and slip citrus and herbs under the skin to add more flavor. Some of the herbs that work well include thyme, tarragon, fennel, dill, rosemary and oregano.

Don’t ever do this:

One thing you never want to do is re-cook shrimp. You can reheat it briefly – 30 seconds tops –  but any more than that will make it a rubbery mess.

A good way to grill raw, deveined shrimp is to skewer, add some lemon and pepper and grill a couple of minutes on each side. Be sure you use some of the larger shrimp available in our seafood cases. Shrimp is not a Responsible Choice at Hy-Vee yet, but we’re working on it and will have shrimp that meets our environmental standards by the end of 2015.

Don’t overcook it:

One of the common mistakes in grilling fish is to overcook it. Here’s a guide:

Fillets (tilapia and catfish): 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness, medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes

Firm steaks (halibut, wild salmon, tuna, swordfish): 1-inch thickness, medium to medium-high heat, 10 minutes

Lobster tails: 8- to 10-ounce, medium heat, 8 to 10 minutes

Raw shrimp (not a Responsible Choice): 21- to 25-count per pound, medium heat, 4 to 5 minutes; under 10-count per pound, 6 to 8 minutes, medium heat

Farmed scallops, clams, mussels: under 12 per pound, medium heat, 4 to 5 minutes

There’s No Reason to Avoid Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Farm-Raised Fish and Seafood

The reputation of farm-raised fish and seafood is improving to the point that you’re probably eating more farm-raised seafood than you know. Anytime you’re ordering it off the menu, it’s probably farm-raised unless it’s specifically labeled as wild caught.

The problem with farm-raised fish in the past was that it was penned too tightly. One of the problems with that is the same as putting too many people in a pressurized cabin on an airplane. If several people have colds, there’s a good chance many people will catch it. In the oceans, if disease gets to the native fish it can cause a kill.

Large pens of farmed fish also creates waste and uneaten feed that goes to the sea floor, causing negative impacts on crustaceans and other sea life.

But that’s the past. Hy-Vee’s commitment to responsibly choice its seafood by the end of 2015 means our customers won’t have to worry about those practices.

Modern aquaculture practices bear no resemblance to those Old World practices where shrimp was raised in the mud, tilapia in the water and poultry occupied cages resting above the water, creating a not so appetizing circle of life that might have seemed efficient. Today, fish aren’t packed in as tightly in the big enclosed systems used to raise tilapia and trout, and fresh water is filtered and recirculated.

One species where we’ve seen the biggest gains is in tilapia, a fish that has exploded over the last 10 years and is farm-raised all over the world.

We don’t have to go far down the road here in Iowa to see how it’s raised. The Waterfront Drive store in Iowa City, where I work, is one of the few places around that live tilapia can be found. It’s raised by Kingfisher Farms in Long Grove, Iowa, just north of Davenport, in an enclosed tank system. It’s a local, organic operation and you can’t beat it for freshness. Due to the environmentally friendly way that it’s farmed, Kingfisher Farms’ tilapia is a Hy-Vee Responsible Choice.

The system there is very similar. Tilapia are vegetarians, so farmers are able to avoid one of the biggest issues that gives farm-raised fish a bad reputation: in too many farm operations, it takes too many pounds of fish to grow a pound of fish.

One of most exciting developments in aquaculture comes from Chile, where Hy-Vee procures its Responsible Choice Verlasso salmon. Chile is one of the countries where most fish farms still need a lot of work, because fish are packed in too tightly. Verlasso salmon is different.

What Verlasso has done is huge. Not only are fewer fish raised in a pen, the company has developed a feed that has achieved a 1:1.34 ratio in that the fish meal they’ve developed uses slightly over one pound of wild fish to create one pound of salmon. That’s the reason most salmon isn’t Responsible Choice; it uses too much wild fish in the meal.

Verlasso has changed the feed without changing the flavor, which is one of the biggest issues people have had with farm-raised salmon. It still contains those essential Omega-3 fatty acids people want, and it still has the same texture people want.

Salmon is a very popular fish, and wild-caught salmon can only supply about 10 percent of the demand for the salmon, so Responsible Choice options like Verlasso are very important.

Farm-raised mussels are also Responsible Choice. They filter and help clean the water, so they’re actually helping the environment rather than harming it. They grown and multiply quickly and they don’t have to be fed. So we haven’t seen huge changes in those practices, because the fisheries have been doing the right thing for a long time.

We’re watching a shrimp out of Belize very closely. The shrimp industry has been slow to change, but it is beginning to adopt better practices. Hy-Vee has picked up fully traceable shrimp from Belize Aquaculture Ltd., which last year earned a three-star rating from the Global Aquaculture Alliance. It’s the best farm-raised shrimp out there, and we’re glad we can offer it to our customers.

Recipe Spotlight: Affordable Doesn’t Mean Boring

Hy-Vee’s seafood cases are filled with Responsible Choice options that can turn family dinner into a culinary adventure. These recipes also work well for families who want to stretch their food budgets. Affordable doesn’t have to be boring. In the recipes below, a zesty sauté jazzes up scallops. The elegant presentation of a roasted red pepper, kalamata olive and arugula salad transforms tilapia. Or consider a classic cloppino that brings several types of fish together in a savory stew.


Creamy Scallop, Tomato & Spinach Sauté

Serves 4 people. All you need:

  • 1 (16 oz) box angel hair pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine, optional
  • 1 (14 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 pound frozen bay scallops, thawed

All you do:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil; add angel hair pasta and boil until cooked, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain pasta and set aside.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add the garlic and shallot; sauté until fragrant. Add white wine and cook until reduced by half. Add petite diced tomatoes, heavy cream, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper; reduce for 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add spinach and scallops and cook until opaque, 2 to 3 minutes. Toss pasta in pan until sauce coats all ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Seared Tilapia with Roasted Red Pepper, Kalamata Olive & Arugula Salad

All you need:

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced roasted red peppers
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil leaves, cut in chiffonade*
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tilapia portions
  • olive oil, as needed

All you do:

  1. Stir together the roasted red peppers, shallot, garlic, kalamata olives, basil, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  2. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season tilapia fillets with salt and black pepper and place in the sauté pan. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
  3. Toss the arugula with the pepper mix and place atop each tilapia fillet; serve immediately.

Classic Cioppino

All you need:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large shallots, chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 5 cups fish or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1 pound assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets such as cod or salmon, cut into 2-inch chunks

All you do:

  1. Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots and salt and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.
  3. Add the clams and mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the fish and simmer gently until the fish are just cooked through and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard clams and mussels that do not open). Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and red pepper flakes. Discard the bay leaf.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with crusty baguette bread.

Recipe Spotlight: Responsible Choice Seafood Doesn’t Have to Break Your Grocery Budget

When people tell me they’d like to add more seafood to their diets and are looking for some budget-friendly options, I push them toward Pacific cod, tilapia, catfish, mussels and clams.

Responsible Choice swai is another good choice. It’s a product of Vietnam and is very much like catfish. It’s very reasonably priced. Right now, Hy-Vee is selling two one-half pound fillets for $5.

Pacific cod ranges between about $7 and $8 per pound, which is very affordable when you consider a pound will feed four people.

Mussels and littleneck clams run range from about $5 to $6 a pound and can stretch a food budget. Recipes are very basic, using olive oil, garlic and shallots, some fresh Italian herbs and liquid, either white wine or citrus juice. Don’t forget to buy a loaf of crusty baguette bread for $1.99 to sop up that good broth.

Fish tacos are a hot food trend right now, and they don’t use many ingredients, which makes this an affordable meal. The same goes for blackened catfish, which has a lot of spices, but most people have them in their cupboards already, so it’s easy to throw together. This recipe can also be used with swai.


Spicy Tilapia Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

Serves 4.

All you need:

  • 1 pound tilapia fillets
  • Old Bay Blackening Seasoning, as needed
  • 2 cups cabbage slaw mix
  • 1 red pepper, sliced thinly
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 container Hy-Vee peach mango salsa
  • 6 to 10 soft or hard corn or flour tortillas

All you do:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place fish on a prepared sheet pan and season with Old Bay Blackening Season. Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

2. Toss cabbage with red pepper, green onion, rice wine vinegar, sugar and olive oil; season to taste with salt and black pepper.

3. To assemble tacos, place flaked tilapia on tortilla shells. Top with cabbage slaw and peach salsa.


Blackened Catfish with Fresh Lemon

All you need:

  • 2 tbsp Spanish paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 5 (5 oz each) catfish fillets, skinned
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 to 4 tbsp sweet cream butter, softened
  • 5 fresh lemon wedges

All you do:

1. In a pie plate, combine paprika, cayenne, thyme, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

2. Pat dry the fish and roll in the blackening spice mixture.

3. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil until nearly smoking. Place catfish fillet in pan and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until done. To serve, top each fillet with a little softened butter and fresh lemon wedge.

Hy-Vee’s Seafood Cases are Brimming with Responsible Choice Options from Around the World

Seafood Case

The seafood cases at Hy-Vee stores are brimming with sustainable seafood options, branded Responsible Choice to demonstrate our commitment to healthy choices for your family, the environment, and the world’s oceans and the various species they support.

One of the best choices is Idaho rainbow trout from Clear Springs Foods. They are definitely the leaders in the industry for Responsible Choice trout, and Clear Springs is the only trout supplier we’re featuring now. We had some others that weren’t as environmentally friendly, so this is a big change that comes with Hy-Vee’s commitment to responsibly source all of its fresh and store brand frozen seafood by the end of 2015.

Clear Springs Foods made the grade because the fish are farm-raised in a closed system of concrete raceways fed by pristine natural spring waters. The same company provides ready-to-bake options, such as Parmesan-crusted Idaho rainbow trout.

Customers can also feel confident about Pacific cod, which is probably the most recognized fish in the world. People like this white fish because of its mild flavor and low fat content. Back in the day, sea merchants traded cod for supplies, and Atlantic stocks have collapsed as a result. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has rated some Atlantic cod fisheries as a Red ‘Avoid’ because of the long history of overfishing.

Pacific cod, on the other hand, has been very well managed, so the stocks are good. Our cod comes from Alaska, where limits have been imposed on what can be caught and how much can be caught.

Previously frozen, this Pacific cod coming out of Alaskan waters lives close to the sea floor and is caught in pots – not by bottom trawls – and bycatch is mostly eliminated. If other species are caught, they remain alive and they can be thrown back into the water. With longlines, which aren’t included in the sustainable practices we require at Hy-Vee, the fish can be dead when it’s pulled into the boat.

Halibut is another popular responsibly sourced Pacific fish. Its availability is limited, though, because limits were put in place because conservationists have noticed there haven’t been as many juveniles. We’ll see more fresh supplies in early March – great timing, as this is a good grilling fish.

A good starter fish for people who want to introduce more seafood into their diets is tilapia, which Hy-Vee brings in fresh from Ecuador. It’s a clean, white fish that takes on the flavor of whatever you put with it. If you want a non-fishy-tasting fish, tilapia is the way to go. Tilapia are vegetarians, so farmers don’t have to use fish meal or other fish, making it very environmentally friendly. It’s also a good value fish.

Very close to tilapia in taste is swai or basa, a less common name for this river fish from Vietnam. It’s a type of catfish.

Another very popular Responsible Choice in the Midwest is channel catfish, a river fish that many of us grew up with and know well. Hy-Vee’s catfish is domestic and farm-raised in ponds, mostly in Mississippi. We offer it in three forms: as fillets (the most expensive option), whole fish (about $3 less per pound than fillets) and as catfish nuggets (the most affordable variety).

Also popular are ahi tuna and swordfish, which are pole caught in Indonesia without using other fish as bait. Each shipment comes with a letter certifying that it was caught using this sustainable practice. Both are great grilling-weather fish.

Our Responsible Choice initiative has changed what’s available in the seafood case, and in some cases introduced people to some new fish. Our customers are overwhelmingly supportive of this and think Hy-Vee is doing the right thing.

Eating on a Budget: With Current Meat Prices, Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Seafood is a an Affordable Center-Plate Replacement

Until they’ve had a chance to compare the price of Responsible Choice seafood with some of the other items in our meat counter, customers think “if it’s ‘sustainable’, it’s got to be more expensive.” That’s the perception, but it’s not true.

We’re currently seeing higher beef prices because of a combination of factors – fewer cattle in the system, for one – and fish is a good center-plate protein replacement.

It’s important to get more fish in your diet, so it’s a good choice for your family and a good choice for your wallet. Couple that with the Responsible Choice label, and you can be confident that the fish has been caught in a way that protects other species and is good for the environment.

I’ve seen people at the fresh meat counter, looking back and forth, first at a signature beef item and then at tuna steak, which is priced at $2 or less a pound. They have that “aha!” moment, that they can have a tuna steak and pay less, and it’s going to be a healthier choice.

You can have seafood more often – it’s not just for your birthday or some other special occasion – and it’s not going to kill your budget. Our Responsible Choice lobster, king crab and snow crab can be bought at the same price as a ribeye steak.

Some of our Responsible Choice seafood can be purchased at an incredible value. Mussels sell for around $4.99 a pound – that’s cheaper than ground beef – and clams from $3.99 to $6.99 a pound. Both are great for paella, or just put them in wine and garlic, steam them until they open, and serve them over rice or pasta. It’s a great way to stretch your food budget.

Tilapia and swai are also very affordable, anywhere from $4.99 a pound to $7.88 for two pounds if the fish is frozen. Tilapia is on sale off and on, and both of these are mild white fishes that can take on the flavor of whatever you’re preparing them with.

It’s just a matter of overcoming that preconceived notion that responsible choice seafood will break the family food budget. That’s just not true. A lot of the seafood we carry has been sustainably caught for some time; we just haven’t been shouting about it.