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May 22, 2005 04:28 PM

Whats the best fish for a first time fish eater?

  • s

i have never had fish or seafood in my life and i am well over 20! i think its time to try some but i dont know what to buy or how to prepare it? any and all advice would be lovely

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  1. Actually, I suggest you try it at a halfway decent restaurant first - it's not "hard" to cook, but if you really have never eaten it before, you'll have no frame of reference at all! I happen to like fish slightly overdone by "proper" standards, but it's really easy to overcook it to the point where it's unpleasantly dry. And if you've never eaten it before, you probably don't want it noticeably underdone, either - the texture can be off-putting unless you like things like softly poached eggs. [shudder :) ] If you really want to make it at home, broiling is probably the most foolproof method, though pan frying is a close second if you're a not inexperienced cook in general. (Think of it as a fast cooking chicken breast!)

    As for which one, I'd suggest a mild white fish unless you like "gamier" land/air meats. Flounder, scrod, sole, halibut, etc. are all quite tasty and couldn't possibly overwhelm you. Snapper, sea bass and salmon are all slightly stronger tasting, in their own ways, without being at all "fishy." Definitely leave the bluefish and mackerel for at least the second foray. ;)

    2 Replies
    1. re: MikeG

      I'm with MikeG. Definitely try it at a restaurant first. Use Chowhound to find one of the better restaurants serving fish in your area, and go there.

      BTW, I don't mean any offense, but I find it amazing that one could live so long without ever trying fish of any sort! But fear not, it's wonderful stuff.

      1. re: MikeG

        Sole is probably the mildest. If it's a typical thin filet, simply fry as is, or dust with flour, and cook over low-medium heat. The important thing is don't overcook; just 5 minutes or so. If you cook it till it's a real brown, it will be overdone.

        Another possibility is swordfish. I wrap it in foil with a little butter, lemon and white wine (use your favorite herbs) and put in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes.

      2. You should probably start with a mild, friendly white fish such as halibut. The more uniform in size it is, the easier it is to cook--i.e., a fillet that's more or less the same thickness from end to end. You can get it with skin on one side, or no skin. If it has skin, you might want to broil it: place the fish, skin side down, on top of a shallow baking pan that you have lined with foil (this makes clean up much easier). Rub the fish with a little olive oil, or put a few dabs of butter here and there, then sprinkle on a little salt, pepper, and (if you have it) some paprika. Put the pan into your preheated broiler (or oven on broil setting) and leave it in a few minutes (how many will depend on thickness), or until the surface is lightly browned and the fish flakes when you stick a fork in it. Or, saute: mix together some flour and seasoning of your choice; dredge the fish in the flour mixture so it's lightly coated all over, then place in a pan in which you have melted butter, heated oil, or a combination of the two. (The flour helps to keep the fish from spattering in the oil, and makes a nice little outer crust.) Cook the fish in the butter/oil a few minutes per side (again, depends on thickness) or until each side is golden brown, then remove from pan and adjust seasoning as needed. Or: in a saucepan (must have a lid) large enough to hold your fish, heat enough court bouillon or fish stock to cover your fish entirely, until it boils. Turn off heat, place your fish in the hot broth, put the lid on, and leave it for about 20 minutes. The heat of the broth will cook the fish even with the heat off. Test the fish for doneness; if not done, let it stay longer (covered again) in the hot broth. If done, remove, and reduce the broth over medium high to high heat. Pour the reduction over the fish fillets. (You can also serve the fish on a bed of mesclun, pea sprouts, or other delicate greens; the heat of the fish and the reduction sauce will wilt them nicely.)

        1. try a nice chunk of salmon. you need about 6 oz. p.p. take a fairly deep frying pan and sauté some onions and garlic in a bit of butter. add white wine, a pinch of salt, white pepper and bring to a simmer. add your salmon and poach for a couple of minutes on one side. turn the salmon and poach for a couple more minutes. if you push on the salmon with your finger and it feels firm your fish will be cooked medium . that is the way you should eat wild salmon. serve with the salad of your choice.

          1. I'm gonna buck the "try white fish first" advice. I ate white fish my whole young life and hated it, even though it was well prepared by my grandmother, who made wonderful food in general. It was not until I'd had poached salmon once at a party when I was in a semi-vegetarian phase and there were no other choices that the world of fish-eating opened up to me. Now I love salmon, tuna, swordfish, and monkfish, although I still find most white fish to be too bland and mushy to not get my gag on. I do tend to like strong flavors generally, and like my steaks beefy and my chicken with dark meat, so it makes sense that the white fish was too bland for me.

            One of the regular dinners in my rotation is wild salmon filet (about 3/4 lb for two people), bought frozen from Trader Joe's, thawed overnight in the fridge, and then roasted in butter and shallots in a 375F oven, in accordance with a recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Basically, you chop two shallots (or one small onion) finely, and preheat your oven. Put your 1/2 stick salted butter in your oven roasting pan (I like Pyrex for this recipe), put the pan into the oven until the butter is melted and beginning to foam, take the pan out, dump in the shallots, put the salmon directly into the butter, and roast for 10 minutes. You can flip the salmon over once if you want, but I generally don't, as I tend to be a fish klutz and break the filets this way. Serve hot, as cold fish is not for newbies, and serve sliced lemon wedges to squeeze over the salmon. Don't forget to spoon some of the buttery juices over the top of the salmon when serving. I serve this with steamed green beans with lemon butter--when I'm feeling carby, I also serve a whole wheat couscous pilaf made with butter-toasted almond slivers and sauteed onions.

            I like all of the fish recipes in Mark Bittman's cookbook generally.

            Another idea is to look at fish recipes in your favorite cookbook, and experiment based on your favorite flavorings, counting on them to ease you into the fish flavor and texture. Like lemon? Try lemon sole. Like tomato? Try some tuna or swordfish on the grill and serve it with marinara or roasted tomatoes.

            The oilier fishes (salmon, tuna, swordfish, mackerel, bluefish) tend to take teriyaki flavorings well, too, either marinated, basted on the grill, or poached. Last night I poached some salmon in a soy sauce/sherry/garlic/ginger/lemon juice sauce, and it came out quite nicely, and picked up a real ginger hit.

            I tend to buy my wild fish frozen at Trader Joe's, since I don't like the taste of fresh farmed fish (too watered down) and I don't like the price of fresh wild fish. If you're buying fresh fish for the first time and don't have a local small fishmonger, I think your best bet is to get to a Whole Foods, and let them give you a lesson in what to look for. It's worth it to buy the good stuff at first as a lesson in how it _should_ taste. Kind of hard to acquire the taste when the quality is substandard. Then later on, when you know you like fish, you can decide where to compromise.

            As a final note, all fish likes moist cooking, and tinfoil packets are a good way to cook fish filets and steaks while also infusing flavor (and cutting down on dishwashing). I do monkfish in tinfoil packets with salt, pepper, olive oil, slices of fennel, onion and lemon, and sprigs of rosemary or thyme for 10 minutes at 450F, and everything is lovely when it's done.

            1. I have to say, if I were going to eat fish for the first time I'd probably want one that was a little "meatier" than whitefish, but YMMV.

              Ahi tuna: get a 2x2x4 block, dip the four long sides in soy sauce and then in a mixture of black pepper (1 part), coriander (1 part) and sesame seeds (3 parts). Grill for one minute on each of the four long sides (leave the "ends" alone). It's meant to be rare in the centre.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                I think this advice is right on.

                I come from a family that has significant food fears, and one of them is fish. I didn't have it until my mid-twenties and didn't look forward to eating fish until about five years after that. Now I love it all.

                The meatier fishes are better choices for the uninitiated, such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish. Personally, I recomend grilling swordfish over lump hardwood charcoal. But don't get it frozen from the supermarket.

                1. re: Steve S.

                  I too had fish fear. (I feel like we're in a twelve-step meeting here.) Actually, I had what a friend of mine calls "that Catholic fish thing." That means that my Bostonian Irish mother would cook the heck out of cod every Friday night of my childhood. I loved shellfish (lobster, mussels, Maine shrimp, and clams were big summer treats), but fish-fish, as we would say, was disgusting, like dry flaked cardboard fused into a fillet. That texture - monstrous.

                  I started to make my way into fish with tuna, either raw or black-and-blue. Lots of wasabi. Then I moved into salmon, with lots of mustard-dill sauce. Salmon cakes with lots of tartar sauce also helped, as well as fish and chips with plenty of tartar sauce. I'm still not a true fish-lover. Fish is never the thing I look for if I'm at a nice restaurant. But I do like tuna and salmon quite a lot, and I buy catfish sometimes, and even red snapper.

                  I still hate cod. And smelts still give me the creeps.

                  I would say that if, like me, your issue with fish is textural, the meatier fish would be a good starting point. If you don't like the smell or flavor of fish (that is, you don't like shellfish either), maybe some of the milder fish other have mentioned would be better. But in that case I would start with scallops, lobster or crabmeat. Scallops are hard to dislike - meaty texture, mild fresh flavor.

                2. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Das...that was a great list of suggestions about fish. I'm always bothered when I see these threads about people not liking fish cause it smells "fishy". As you and I know, fresh fish has no smell at all. Thanks for clearing that up for those not in the know.