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Something Fishy...

We're trying to make another tweak to how we eat (YEA!!!) however, my husband lost his job on Monday (Boo!!) so we have to do it on the cheap for now. The main thing we are adding is lot's of fish. I just put in our grocery order for several kinds:

Mahi Mahi
Orange Roughy
Lemon Sole

Here's the big problem: I am HORRIBLE at cooking fish. I always overcook it or it ends up fried and not healthy at all. Please please please help me - it's a real gap in my ability in the kitchen. Any kind of recipe, I'll take it. All your favs! Help me out of my shame!!!

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  1. grill or bake your salmon. I like soy sauce and dijon on mine, and it turns out perfect every time.

    pan-fried sole is great. dredge the fish in seasoned flour, use a nonstick pan, butter and a bit of oil, and finish it with a tablespoon of capers and the juice of half a lemon. YUM! Just make sure the fish is cooked to golden. You don't want raw flour flavor.

    1. I'm sorry about your husband. You'll get a lot of good recipes from other people, but I'll you a general piece of advice: a good rule of thumb is to cook fish for about 10 minutes per inch of thickness at the thickest part of the fish. So a filet that is 1/2 inch, figure 5 minutes of cooking time. Obviously this is a generalization, and the right amount of cooking time depends on the air temperature, the cooking medium, the heat in the pan/grill/oven, etc. But use this as a starting point in figuring out how much time to allow.

      This rule of thumb was developed by the Canadian Dept of Fisheries (if I remember correctly). They found that this rule of thumb was pretty good for most applications.

      1. tilapia is another inexpensive good fish.

        if you type in any fish name at the top & hit search, you will see many previous threads on various cooking methods & recipes.

        my easiest tilapia recipe...

        1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
        1⁄4 cup brown mustard
        1 tsp melted butter, a bit more for the dish
        1⁄4 cup chopped pecans
        Lightly butter dish (don’t use spray)
        Combine mayo, mustard, butter
        Pat fish dry, spread mixture on fish. Coat with pecans, pressing down slightly
        Bake 350 about 15 minutes

        1. Take a fairly large piece of aluminum foil. Add lemon slices, dill, extra v, garlic, s & p. Seal into a pouch and bake at 350 for 15 - 30 minutes depending on how thick your fish. Works best with thin fillets.


          4 Replies
          1. re: Davwud

            Parchment paper works really well also. I do this with tilapia and I add veggies that are in season...last night I made it with zucchini cut into matchsticks. I put the veggies on the bottom (put a good handful that would constitute your vegetable serving) then the fish and then I top with either lemon or some white wine salt pepper, herbs, a touch of olive oil. I sometimes like to use sundried tomatoes on top. Really cooking fish this way is great...no smell, easy clean-up and your fish is always moist.

            1. re: iLoveFood

              The parchment makes it elegant. It does. When you cut it open at the table and the fragrant steam escapes, good stuff. You can put salsa on top, too. This is a really flexible preparation.
              This may not be the time of year for this, but fish soup is good. You can make whatever kind of soup you would make with sautéed aromatics, fresh vegetables, a broth of whatever, and add the fish at the last minute so it doesn't overcook.

              Losing your job is no fun. Good luck.

              1. re: yayadave

                I know that you're on a budget so it may not be the most cost effective thing. But of you do the pouch principle, mangoes and fresh rosemary are an incredible match with salmon.


            2. re: Davwud

              I also recommend this method. You can vary the seasonings depending on your tastes and the type of fish--salmon is great with just lemon and salt and pepper. And if it's a little fatty, it's almost impossible to overcook this way.

              Double over the foil so you have an extra-strong pouch. I also put a baking tray under it in the oven just in case of leakage.

            3. Krissywats, ouch. Am sorry for the situation, but hope your spirit turns lemons into lemonade. Years ago, when I was dead, stony broke, I too found interesting and nutritious ways to streeeeetch my food dollars. A quick visit to the public library researching peasant food around the world was my first stop and a very enlightening one, I must say.

              Combining a grain (wheat, rice etc) with a legume (beans) provides a complete protein, just the same as an animal product. Obviously the more nutritious the grain (whole wheat VS bleached white) and legume, the better the final outcome.

              Bean burritos from Mexico, Creole red beans & rice, hummus on pita bread, corn & black bean salad or salsa, even a PB&J are examples of complete protein from inexpensive sources.

              Of course it is a great idea to add fish to your diet as well. I don't find that it is a stunning dollar bargain though. Granted, every bit is usuable in a filet, but at 10.99 pp for salmon at my local market, this is still eleven dollars for a pound of fish.

              Can you shop at Asian markets? I've found the prices much lower there as well as offering interesting and different kinds of really fresh fish. I bought a whole salmon frame (head, tail & skeleton) for 50 cents and made salmon soup and salmon cakes with the bits I scraped off the bones. Today, I'd probably combine some salmon bits with peas and make a pasta sauce as well.

              To answer your question about cooking fish in general, the most important thing to do is look at the fish. Watch it. Know what it looks like raw and watch the color change as it cooks. It will become opaque and feel firmer to the touch. The 10 min per inch is a good rule of thumb but pay attention to the fish itself. 10 minutes may be too much. Undercook it because you can always add extra time but you cannot uncook it. Our house salmon basic recipe is: brown two filets (about 1.5 inches wide) in a small amount of butter. When the fish is becoming firm - lift it and test - add some liquid to the pan and cover, turning heat to lowest setting. After five minutes, check for doneness. The first few times you may need to cut into the fish to see the color, but pretty soon, you'll be able to tell by feel. This can be sauces or left plain.

              The lemon sole can be prepared very simply a la meuniere and its my favorite way to showcase the flavor. While heating a pan large enough to hold the filets in a single layer, dip the filets in a bit of flour - seasoned or unseasoned. Add a lump of butter to the pan. When the butter has just begun to smell nutty, add filets. Count to twenty and check the underside of one. If it is browned, turn the filets and cook for an additional 30 or 40 seconds.
              You can also roll and stuff these to bake in the oven.

              Mahi-Mahi is delicious grilled, if you have access to a grill or it can be oven roasted. I paint it with a simple olive oil-citrus marinade and cook it hot & fast. Again, watch for the color change from translucent white to milk white. We ate Mahi-Mahi (Dorado) roasted on a stick over an open fire on a Mexican beach and it was heaven.

              If you have off-topic questions, please feel free to e-mail me - cooks4play@mchsi.com. Good Luck!

              PS - I should mention that Marian Morash has a "Victory Garden Fish and Vegetable Cookbook" that may help with ideas and technique. It might be at the library or on e-bay for next to nothing.

              1. I posted this about a week ago in a thread on light everyday meals, but I think it well worth repeating. In fact, I have the potatoes in the oven as I type.

                Thinly slice one or two peeled baking potatoes and layer in an oiled oval dish with garlic, thyme, S&P, and additional evoo. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Lightly oil a scaled and gutted whole fish and sprinkle with S&P. I've done it with both sea and striped bass and red snapper. All excellent. Lay fish in baking dish, sprinkle 1 or 2 chopped, seeded tomatoes and about 8 chopped, brine-cured olives around fish. Bake about another 30 minutes, or 15 minutes per inch.

                It's a quick, easy, healthy, really tasty one-dish meal.

                I've only done this with a whole fish, but as someone in that thread noted, Mark Bittman has a similar recipe using filets.

                1. I used to be completely awed by cooking fish but now do so quite often. One very important thing is to buy it **fresh**!!. Find a good fishmonger and develop a relationship with him/her. Let them know who you are and what you want to do. You're lucky if you can find one in a chain grocery store like Safeway as they seem to change personnel and it's hit or miss if they know much anyway. Some are great, some aren't. Whole Foods usually is much better. Used to be most fish was pre-wrapped but not so much the case now at least here in San Francisco; look for unwrapped you can look at. Ultimately a store dedicated to selling fresh fish is usually best. If they don't kiss up to your steady business find someone who will.
                  Next is to go local if you can. Looks like you live in NYC so you should try to get as fresh as you can. Takes a little bit to develop an educated eye and again a good fishmonger will help. Easier to tell freshness in whole fish; look for clear eyes, bright skin, pink gills and no **fishy** odor. Should hardly have any odor at all in fact.
                  Next try to develop a taste for fish you may have an old aversion to. All the people I know who never eat fish developed the prejudice early in life when they'd eaten fish that was not fresh, over cooked, or from a can or package and was highly processed. We tend to get whole fish as my wife is from a Chinese family where fish was a central and very well-handled component to many meals and was usually prepared that way. We very often eat fresh sardines, anchovies (completely unlike the ones in cans! - very cheap and very tasty), trout, bass, branzini(man what a treat!), skate, tuna.
                  Very easy, once you've done it a couple of times, to grill fish very simply. Pick out a white flesh fish like bass or trout, have the monger scale and gut it, prepare at home with good EVOO, sea salt and freshly gound pepper. I usually put a few thyme stems and a couple of thinly sliced lemon pieces in the cavity too for flavor. Put in a fish basket that has been wiped with plenty of veg oil and grill for about 5 - 10 min a side over direct heat. You can usually tell when done when there is no pink left in the cavity and the meat is flaking. If in doubt undercook rather than overcook as you can always put it back on the heat.
                  Learn how to de-bone it and serve with a drizzle of more EVOO. If you try a few times, even if you screw it up a bit, you'll get the hang of it. Not rocket science and very much well worth the effort.

                    1. Thanks so much everyone! I made the lemon sole tonight and it turned out fantastic. Best fish I've made without question.

                      I used Davwud, iLoveFood and yayadave's suggestion for my first try. I sliced up some summer squash, added greenbeans, light salt, sole on top, garlic, EVOO, salt, pepper, lemon. Wrapped in parchment (ok, I had to cheat and use a staple on each side, how the heck do you get it to stay closed?) and cooked for 30 minutes at 350. It was really beautiful and flavorful.

                      Can't wait to try the others this week!! I'll report back on those as well.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: krissywats

                        I just put the piece of fish in the middle of the piece of parchment and pull up the long sides and fold them down and then just tuck the ends under. I don't know that it's right, but it works.
                        Or you can use a stapler.

                        1. re: yayadave

                          if you can catch a cooking show on parchment fish i think they tend to show you how they do it, explaining it here is a bit tricky but i'll try.

                          it's a crimp type method where you slowly work your way around the fish. take one end and fold over twice a section that is about the length of as wide as half of your thumb and keep going around with the crimped bits overlapping a bit. it ends up looking a little like the edge of a pie crust if that makes any sense...

                          in line with the parchment and gourmaniacs suggestion, it's really the steam that's cooking it so you may never have dry fish again! tilapia with some asian greens, ginger and soy sauce is wonderful!

                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                            I agree with yayadave, I've been trying to think of a way to explain the wrapping method but it's hard to explain. I did however find this on the FoodTV site: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/ck_dm...

                            Hope it helps!

                            1. re: iLoveFood

                              I went there. They have instructional videos. If you go to
                              http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/ck_dm... the nice lady will tell you how to make gnocci. But if you look below, there is a list of all the videos. The one you (we) want is "Fold a Papillote."

                              Or you can use a stapler.


                      2. Easy, and unbelievably tasty and elegant. Very nice for a party because can be assembled ahead of time, and is a lovely presentation when serving.

                        Lemon & Rosemary Baked Salmon Filet

                        10 (4") sprigs fresh rosemary -- divided use
                        1 large red onion (yellow ok) -- thinly sliced
                        4 ounces mushrooms -- thinly sliced
                        1 2-pound, center-cut salmon fillet, skin removed
                        salt and pep to taste
                        2 to 3 large lemons -- thinly sliced
                        1/4 cup dry white wine
                        1/3 cup olive oil
                        Optional: creme fraiche

                        Preheat oven to 475 degrees (450 for convection). Arrange 5 of the rosemary sprigs in a single layer lengthwise down the center of a heavy baking sheet with sides. Arrange sliced onions atop rosemary, then top onions with sliced mushrooms. Place salmon over to cover; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top salmon with the remaining rosemary sprigs (LENGTHWISE). Arrange lemon slices over the salmon, covering completely. (Add extra coverage over the rosemary, which needs to be covered well to avoid burning). Drizzle over all with wine, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lemon slices with salt. (Can be assembled 8 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate).

                        Bake salmon until just cooked through, about 22 minutes. Cover with foil until ready to serve. Serve salmon with the onions and mushrooms and creme fraiche on the side, if desired.

                        1. Here's a favorite of mine that I made last night - especially good when it's hot and you don't want to use the oven or spend too much time at the stove. I had a 1.3 pound piece of beautiful Yukon wild salmon - it was a very thick, large piece. I cut it in half down the middle, and then each of those pieces in half (so, in effect, quarters). I then butterflied the pieces, so that I ended up with four thinish filets, which I salted lightly. Heat two Ts butter in a skillet over medicum heat until foam starts to receded, and cook about 30 - 45 seconds on each side; remove from pan. I try to err on undercooking, since I can always cook a little more if needed. For a sauce, I sauteed a large, chopped tomato in the same pan for about 30 seconds, then added a lot of basil leaves. Serve the sauce spooned on top of the fish (note - this wasn't enough sauce for the amount of fish -but I plan to do something else with the left overs). Served this with some blanched cucumber "footballs" sauteed quickly in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. This is all from J. Pepin's The Art of Cooking.

                          PS - sorry about your husband's job ....

                          1. Sorry about the job loss. One dish that I make in the summer is to steam the fish directly on sauteed summer vegetables. Diced zucchini, fresh corn, minced shallots, diced red peppers sauteed in butter and olive oil, a little white wine and chicken stock, seasoned filet (fresh salmon or cod usually but any fish will do) cover with lid and steam over medium heat for ~10-15 minutes. Serve over rice with fresh herbs. An easy delicous dinner for $5.00 or less per person depending on the price of fish.