Let’s cook some fish!
This recipe is easy, elegant, and quick to prepare; it goes great with simple steamed green beans, roasted veggies, or potatoes, or try it with some basic mixed greens dressed in Green Salad Vinaigrette or Carrot Ginger Dressing from September’s post. You will need a firm white fish such as dover sole, cod, or tilapia fillet; salmon fillet also works great with this recipe. Some of you might find buying fish a bit intimidating, but have no fear: I’m here to help with that too.
First, I like to choose the most sustainable fish available to me. I use the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app. This is a nice little tool, right on my phone, that will tell you which fish is on their “happy” list; it even tells you what to look for in farmed fish and how to buy it safely if open-water fish is not available in your market.
You’ll want to pick a fillet that is closer to the head and ask for nice thick, even pieces. I like these three rules on how to select fish from The Food Lab.
Rule #1. Look at the fish market itself. Is everything clean and orderly? Is the fish displayed with care and kept on ice at all times? If your fishmonger looks careless with his wares even in front of the customer, chances are you’re not getting goods worth paying for.
Rule #2. Look at the fish. Does it look fresh? Whole fish should have shiny scales, clear eyes, and bright red gills. Bloodshot or cloudy eyes are an early sign of spoilage. Fillets and steaks should look shiny, fresh and moist.
Rule #3. Smell the fish. Fresh fish should not have a “fishy” aroma; it should just smell faintly briny. Any hint of ammonia is a bad sign.
My rule: Don’t accept crappy fish! Does it look like it fell off the back of a truck and then somehow made it back into the crate? If it looks gross, leave the store and order a pizza.
When you get home put the fish in the fridge right away. Ideally, you should eat the fish the same day you buy it. You can wait a day, maybe, but no more than that; fish can get stinky very quickly. If you do wait, before you start the cooking prep make sure to give the fish a safety whiff, and then pat it dry with a clean paper towel. If it makes you feel better, you can also give it a rinse of fresh water before patting it and doing Rule #3.
Dover Sole, cod, and tilapia fillets will usually come deboned, with the bottom skin removed. You always need to check for pin bones before you cook; just run your finger over the fish to feel for them. If you find any, they can be removed with a clean pair of tweezers. Make sure you pull the bones along the grain of the fish so you don’t tear the flesh; otherwise it will fall apart in the pan.
Salmon filets will usually come with the skin attached on the bottom; I keep the skin on because it keeps the fish together. Salmon has a lot of bones, but they are easy to remove with a good pair of tweezers, as described above.
When you cook salmon, put the flesh-side down first and then cook the skin-side down. You can easily remove the skin after cooking thoroughly. After you plate it, carefully turn it on its side and gently peel off the skin.
Read the recipe illustration entirely before you start cooking!