Easy Fish, or How Not to Flounder

For whatever reason, people are afraid to cook fish. Sometimes they don’t like fish, or have had a fishy fish experience. The cursed 10-minute rule seems to linger and prevail where common sense and eyesight should inform. In the spirit of full disclosure, I was once part of a dinner party group we called “Fish Club.” First rule, don’t talk about Fish Club. (I think you can see where this is going . . .)

Fish Club

Fish Club

But I’ll risk the consequences and tell you the secrets of Fish club. We tried 2 or 3 types every time, not too much of anything, and I learned what I liked and was challenged to prepare things in different ways.

(That said, you will not find shellfish recipes here. The Practical Cook is allergic, and it is not practical to prepare something that is guaranteed to make you sick.)

Fish is a great source of protein, and once you find what you like, and buy good quality, the fish fear should dissipate quickly. It’s ideal to serve to one person or ten, just buy what you need. Fish grills well, broils well, and pan sears nicely. Some preparations will stink up your house though, and I recommend being ready to open a window, turn on the fan, or mull some cider afterward.

Buy the fish locally if you can, don’t buy much of a type you don’t know you like, and be sure to experiment to find out what you do like. A fishmonger once told me that truly fresh salmon smells like watermelon, and it is shockingly true. If it smells fishy raw, cooking won’t do that much to change the end product.

For the fish meal I made this week (see Weekly Menus 1/30/11), I had the advantage of locally, family-caught fresh flounder. It was delicious simply broiled with a little lemon juice. However, I made the mistake of not fully defrosting it before cooking. Yes, the Practical Cook still swings and misses, and from it I learn a lesson and live to fight another day.

Fish and Chips

Sunday Night Dinner: Fish and Chips

So you’ve had your pep talk, gentle readers, now it’s game time.

Spicy Mahi-Mahi with Lime Juice

(this recipe goes out to my friend, whom I shall refer to as Dr. Particular to protect her identity)

olive oil
1 6-8 oz fillet of mahi-mahi, fully defrosted if frozen, rinsed and patted dry
1/8-1/4 tsp Cajun-style seasoning mix, or to taste
1 lime
butter

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat the olive oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium heat until the oil is hot but not smoking.

3. While the oven and pan are heating, rub the fish with the Cajun seasoning, covering thoroughly (or to taste).

4. Sear the fish in the hot skillet for 1-2 minutes per side, then finish roasting in the oven. Depending on thickness, this should take less than 10 minutes. But I’m not your oven, nor your fish, so use a fork and flake it to check.

5. When right at done, remove from heat, plate and top with a pat of butter and a squeeze of lime juice.

Fish pairs well with potatoes and rice, and the sweeter varietals (like salmon and trout) go very well with sweet potatoes and winter squash. Most green veggies sit nicely alongside, so if you’re in a rush, whip out the frozen peas or green beans.

Coming up next, “Can this supper be saved?”–transforming soup into pot-pie in 2 easy steps.

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2 Comments

Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, On the Table, Recipes

2 responses to “Easy Fish, or How Not to Flounder

  1. Tony

    Wish I had this in hand before my epic salmon fail with the kids

    • The Practical Cook

      I’m intrigued by this challenge–can you tell us some more about the epic salmon fail?

      Salmon has been touch and go here as well. The youngest breaks her carb rule to eat fish of all types, while the eldest sneers and picks at most types. Highly recommend salmon cakes as the compromise. You can mask the taste, serve with ketchup, etc. (When all else fails, sell it as brain food, creating a competitive environment between siblings!)

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