Picks and Pans Review: Seafood: a Connoisseur's Guide and Cookbook

updated 12/11/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/11/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Alan Davidson

The fishes of the sea are the subject of this first-rate collaboration. Alan Davidson, a former British diplomat and cookbook author, is the most literate of cicerones in a well-charted voyage through international waters. In informative essays Davidson focuses on some 100 fish, crustaceans and mollusks, among them the mahimahi, the barracuda and the puffer fish, some species of which are known in Japan as fugu, a deadly delicacy if not properly prepared. Davidson offers biological and social histories of each seafood. Salmon like the chinook and the sockeye that swim vast distances upriver to spawn need greater reserves of fat, and that enhances their flavor. Croakers, a perchlike fish, actually rrrrrivet like frogs. Malaysian fisherman are known to listen for the distinctive croak before setting their nets.

Topping off each essay with a recipe, Davidson offers seafood fanciers mouthwatering possibilities. Among them: Damon Runyon's recipe for stone crabs, sea bream with fresh fennel and white wine, and octopus cooked Neapolitan style.

Artist Charlotte Knox provides the paintings that illustrate each essay. While technically excellent, they seem better suited to a medical text. (Simon and Schuster, $29.95)

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