I have a confession. Even as a fairly confident home cook, I’m intimidated by fish. Let me take you down the path of my seafood anxiety. First, for a protein that be so expensive, it sure is easy to overcook. Plus, it’s tough to keep track of what seafood is sustainable, or even to trust that your fish is properly labeled. All the TV chefs have warned us to look for fish with clear eyes and a clean, non-fishy smell, but it’s hard to check those off the list when you’re staring at a pile of tightly plastic wrapped filets in the supermarket.
But, living in Boston, I feel like I should take advantage of our proximity to the sea and learn how to make the most of its bounty. That’s why I’m a proponent of buying fish from a dedicated fishmonger, an expert who can tell you how fresh your fish is, recommend a tasty, affordable and sustainable option you might not have thought about and can walk you through the best way to cook your selection. Plus, going to a dedicated seafood market makes me feel just a little bit like Ina Garten. Here’s a list of markets to get you started.
1. Courthouse Fish Market
East Cambridge is the heart of the greater Boston Portuguese community. Courthouse Fish Market has been serving that community, and fostering its seafood-centric cuisine since 1912. Expect great prices, fresh fish for your cataplana and not-so-fresh specialities like bacalhau and cured sausages like linguiça and chouriço.
498 Cambridge St., Cambridge, courthouseseafood.com
2. New Deal Fish Market
Down the street from Courthouse Fish Market, you’ll find New Deal Fish Market slinging similarly fresh ocean critters. On a recent visit I was greeted by the proprietor who let me know off the bat that I was in a nearly 100-year-old establishment. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. These guys are here to help you make dinner a success.
622 Cambridge St., Cambridge, newdealfishmarket.com
3. Red’s Best Seafood
For the city dweller, head to Boston Public Market and check out the Red’s Best Seafood stand. But before you go, check out their website which includes a seasonality chart and a calendar of events like a ceviche workshop.
100 Hanover St., Boston, redsbest.com
4. Burke’s Seafood
South Shore residents may already know about Burke’s Seafood, a family-run operation in Quincy with an enthusiastic following of regulars who go both for the fish to take home and cook and for the comprehensive menu of seafood cooked on-site.
61 Billings Rd., North Quincy, burkesseafood.com
It’s no secret that to make sushi at home, you’ll need sushi-grade fish. Sakanaya in Allston sells an array of high-quality sushi-grade fish ready to slice and assemble into nigiri, maki or chirashi in your own kitchen. Not in the mood to slice? Sakanaya also sells sushi ready to eat.
75 Linden St., Allston, sakanayaboston.com
6. Quarterdeck Seafoods
At Quarterdeck Seafoods in Maynard, you’ll find a gorgeous display of fresh-caught fish and crustaceans and an experienced staff to guide your way.
175 Main St., Maynard, quarterdeckseafoods.com
7. Colony Farms
Colony Farms in Auburn carries a variety of local seafood, but the emphasis here is on the live lobsters. Call ahead to make sure they can accommodate your order.
718 Southbridge St., Auburn, colonyfarmsauburn.com
*Pro-tips: Check hours in advance. Many of these markets are closed some weekdays or have tricky hours. Call in advance if you need a large amount of a particular item or you need something very specific.