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Help me get started cooking fish!

I know that fish is a great source of lean protein, but I literally married a meat n' potatoes/double cheeseburger kind of guy. I have gradually broadened his palate, and now with a little one, I want us to be eating a broader range of healthy foods. As my culinary history (as far as fish is concerned) is limited to throwing salmon on the grill, where should I start? What are some mild tasting, easy to prepare fish to look for, that are commonly found in the local supermarket (or Trader Joe's). And any recipes you love?

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  1. You're best off starting with a mild, nicely textured fish like tilapia, which is difficult to ruin and which has no fishiness at all.

    It's really good simply pan-fried (coated with a bit of flour, salt and pepper beforehand). I like to cook it this way and place it on top of a nice salad with a simple vinaigrette, or even in a large crusty roll with some homemade sauce, usually mayo-based, tomatoes and lettuce.

    Or, take the tilapia and top it with some sliced tomatoes, olives, onions, capers (actually, anything in your pantry/fridge), a bit of white wine or broth, and bake it in a 400F oven for about 15 minutes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: FlavoursGal

      I've done this with tilapia, little flatfish (like Rex sole), even boneless fillets: Preheat the oven to 400. Salt and pepper the fish, dredge in flour and shake off the excess, then put into a very hot ovenproof skillet with butter or oil. Cook four minutes on one side, then turn'em over. Spread about a soup spoon of good fresh salsa, maybe with some capers added, on the tops, and put the pan in the oven for another five minutes. Serve with rice and a salad.

    2. maybe start with chowders and stews. the main mistake people make when cooking fish is overcooking it -- in a big pot of soup that's much harder to do. in this case, it also doesn't matter so much if you use frozen fish (like from trader joe's.)

      haddock, pollock, halibut, hake, cod, flounder and trout are all very mild. most shrimp is sold frozen and also quite mild.

      1. one of the easiest, least expensive, and most common-in-supermarket fish is tilapia. it's a pretty firm white fish and adapts to a lot of different cooking treatments and is somewhat forgiving. you can bread it (dip in flour, then beaten egg, then bread crumbs or panko) and fry it in olive oil over high heat (a couple of minutes per side, wait until the bread crumbs brown). or you can try this recipe, which is a staple for me and my bf:
        baking fish in a parchment package, as in the recipe above, is a pretty easy and universal way to cook a lot of white fish. you just enclose the fish in a parchment package and put herbs or other flavorings on top...i just did fish packages with orange segments, sliced fennel, sliced red onion, and lots of parsley and it was really yummy.

        if you want to add some flavor to salmon, you can broil it in the oven with a miso-soy glaze (whisk together some miso paste and soy with a little ginger) or with a maple mustard glaze (half dijon mustard, half maple syrup or honey, with a little garlic and pepper). there are tons of different ways to jazz up salmon when you roast/broil it in the oven (which is way easier than grilling it since it won't stick!


        the easiest, easiest fish to cook is shellfish, though it's not necessarily as healthy as fish fish. get some mussels, saute a chopped shallot in butter in a big pot, add a cup of white wine and boil until the alcohol goes, then add the mussels, cover, and steam for 5 minutes or so. uncover, sprinkle in some chopped parsley, and ladle the mussels (with the now incredible broth you've made) into bowls. serve with lots of bread to soak up the sauce.
        or get some deveined fresh shrimp, saute some garlic in olive oil, add the shrimp, which cook in about two minutes, and toss with fresh linguine and parsley

        1 Reply
        1. re: ginqueen

          These are some of my favorites too. Also, if you're not familiar with mussels, definitely do some research on safely buying and preparing them. A couple previous threads



        2. I'm very fond of using a lemon bay cream sauce to go over baked whole salmon (which can be baked on the grill in foil or in the oven in a dish).

          For the sauce, make a roux with butter, flour and a touch of onion salt, add a can of canned milk and a bay leaf and simmer. Just before finishing, add fresh lemon juice (we have meyers) and stir like crazy. The lemon juice curdles the canned milk and thickens the sauce, making a good heavy lemon sauce perfumed with bay that will hold up to salmon. Serve that with potatoes.

          1. I am in the same situation as Ginger. But, I have progessed a little more, having tried a few fish experiements. I need some basic, healthy recipes too. I also decided to not fry the fish or add other fats, which defeats the purpose of us eating the fish in the first place. We hate fishy fish. The fish I have found I like and that I bake or broil is sea bass (which is thick like a steak) and Orange Roughy.

            1. Shark - start off with Thresher and work up to Mako. It's meaty and cooks like beef. You can do anything to it and it doesn't taste fishy or have any strange aftertaste. Plus it's shark! How cool is that?

              2 Replies
              1. re: hooliganyouth

                An surfer boyfriend from way back when would NEVER eat shark, bad karma he said. I always thought that was funny.

                But yea, shark is easy, mild, and underrated. Give it a try.

                1. re: adroit_minx

                  I was going to suggest shark, but both of you beat me to it. Throw a couple of shark steaks in a baggie with flavorings of choice (anything goes-- I like some smashed garlic and ginger, s&p, a shot of soy, good glug or two of olive oil and whatever fresh herbs are lying about), marinate for a bit, then grill, broil, bake or pan sear. It's done when the inside is just opaque.

                  Whatever kind of fish you make, ignore the directions in older recipes that tell you it's done when it flakes. By that time, it's overcooked.

              2. I like fish pan-fried in a little bit of butter or olive oil - one the fillets are done you can dress them up about a thousand different ways (caper/lemon sauce, tiny diced tomatoes and basil, parmesean cheese and pepper etc etc etc).

                A good trick for getting rid of the "fishy" taste of frozen white fish fillets is to defrost them in milk - I used powdered milk cause it's cheap for this. It really improves the taste, though you have to pat them dry well if you want to brown them.

                And for a meat and potatoes guy, consider starting with cod cakes. Salt cod is inexpensive, stores well, and once you have eaten a good cod cake, you will understand why someone once thought fish sticks were a good idea. Cod cakes are what fish sticks get to be if they live good lives and die in a state of grace and are reincarnated and then achieve nirvana.

                Cod Cakes.

                1lb salt cod, soaked in cold water over night in the fridge.
                about 4 large potatoes, peeled and boiled
                1 large onion, chopped fairly fine
                2 eggs
                pepper to taste
                butter for frying

                Pour the soaking water off the salt cod, and put it in a large pot with fresh water, and boil the dickens out of it until it begins to fall apart. Drain off the water, and put the cod, the boiled potatoes and the onions into a large bowl, and grind the pepper over. Mash the cod and potatoes together until they are fairly well mixed, but there's still some nice sized bits of cod to be seen. Break the eggs over it at this point, and mix it around until it's holding together nicely, and you can't see anymore egg.

                Shape into flat patties, and fry until nicely browned in the butter over medium to medium high heat. Or, if you don't mind hash, just fry it back and forth in the butter until there are plenty of browned crispy bits all through it and you're not scared of raw egg anymore.

                2 Replies
                1. re: AnnaEA

                  soak the cod in water overnight, then drain that off in the morning. soak it in milk till dinner. really helps tenderize the fish even more.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    I'll give that a try. I get good salt cod from my fish guy, and tenderness has never really been a problem, but it might be worth doing for the boxed stuff from the grocery.

                2. Epicurious' Fish Fillets Dijon is easy and healthy and I've successfully substituted olive oil for the butter in this recipe OR you could just use 1 Tablespoon of butter if so inclined...I've used this recipe mostly for mahi-mahi...Sweet Ginger, are you a Cali girl? If so, you probably have access to many good fish sources! Here's the link:


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Val

                    You *must* get Mark Bittman's "Fish" cookbook. Paperback, only $20.00, and filled with simple, delicious fish recipes and information about fish---buying, storing, etc.

                    As for getting your meat-eater to eat fish, I think the meatier varieties, such as tuna, shark, salmon (in steak form), and grouper would be good. All work great grilled or broiled with simple marinade or sauces. Enjoy!

                  2. I agree with the tilapia rec - that's how I started (and I haven't progressed far!). It's also cheap. Rub a little olive oil on both sides, salt and pepper, and top with lemon slices, then bake in a glass dish (around 350 degrees), or broil in the broiler pan. This simple preparation works easily with salmon or other fish. Maybe your husband would go for something with a crunchy crust - a bag of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), mixed with some yummy dried herbs, can be a shortcut to a healthy "breaded" recipe.

                    I will also sometimes go with pre-marinated catfish or tilapia filets from Whole Foods (usually cajun spices) - just bake for 10 minutes or so, nothing's easier, and still cheap.

                    1. I don't know how to post a reply that contains a link. If I did, I'd give you the link to our newspaper's food page because there's a great-sounding fish recipe this week.

                      It goes something like "halibut wrapped in country ham with bourbon cream sauce." And it sounds VERY SIMPLE.

                      If you're interested, go to courier-journal.com and look for the features link, then the food link.

                      1. My favorite fish application is this:

                        Sprinkle salmon with a mixture of 1 part Caribbean Jerk Seasoning and 3 parts brown sugar.

                        Bake until almost done, then broil to crisp the topping.

                        Even my pickiest friends love this one!

                        1. This is an Asian salmon recipe featured by Ina Garten (but I belive it is Eli Zabar's). It is fantastic and oh so easy. You can't go wrong with it.


                          1. I'd suggest that you stick to the small farmed fish, especially for the litte one. Large meaty fish such as tuna, shark, swordfish, and salmon are at the top of the food chain and are noted for high mercury levels, especially wild caught.

                            I love big flavor in the food that I eat. So when I am in the mood for fish I love to cut into cajun seasoned, pan seared catfish (farmed - no river muckrakers for me). This is big and bold food that is bound to please meat-n-potato folk. If ya don't care for catfish (my wife) then use tilapia or some other firm white fish. Served with corn bread and seared greens is great.

                            Another straight forward approach is to pan sear the fish of you choice and finish it in the oven. The searing works seals in the moisture and the slow cooking (350) preserves that moisture. when the fish is done serve it with a lemon wedge and cracked pepper, a small salad (or veg) and boiled potatoes topped with butter, salt and pepper. Meat and Potatoes!

                            1. A real simple but tasty recipe is blackend fried grouper fillets. You need Chef pauls prudhommes blackened redfish magic. It is delish-- I have even used it on a blackened chicken recipe. First you marinate the fish overnight in milk.
                              1 hour prior to cookin season with redfish magic.
                              Heat olive oil in pan until oil is smoking hot.
                              Fry a few minutes until browned. If fish starts to fall apart you are starting to overcook it.
                              This recipe is fresh grouper the milk takes out the "gamey??" taste. It is so delicious served with a salad, and seasoned rice.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: 1phishygirl

                                Another plug for Chef Paul. We use his Salmon Magic and also his Seafood Magic spice blends. Quick and really excellent.

                              2. This is good if your guy like tomato sauce based foods. Bake any type of white fish filets in a Mexican-flavored tomato sauce. Delicious. I use Diana Kennedy's recipe and it is basically:

                                Saute onions and garlic with salt, pepper, basil and oregano till limp. Add a bay leaf or two, a large can of stewed or chopped tomatoes (or use fresh ones if its summer) 2 T capers, 1/4 cup sliced green olives and 1 small chopped pickled chili ("chili en escabeshe"). Put fish in a shallow baking dish, pour sauce over fish, and drizzle with 2 T olive oil. Bake at 350 about 15 min till fish flakes. We eat this over brown rice. I make extra because this is great as a leftover.

                                1. Oh wow! Thank you for all the great ideas- I have to admit, I was concerned about overcooking the fish and what to start with- and I had forgotten about tilapia- one of my favorites when my family made it- I'm really excited about getting started!

                                  1. My original post never made it (error on my part) so rather than give you the long winded schpiel I had written, a few quick tips and recipe ideas:


                                    *the simpler the better
                                    *got a slight fishy smell? cover it in milk for 5 minutes (much more will begin to break down the fish, this is a quick bath)
                                    *trust your fish monger ... and the moment you don't, leave him. A very high priced (even by New York standards) grocer had consistently sold me inferior fish; after the third time I swore never again. Trust your instincts.

                                    RECIPE IDEAS:

                                    Broiled Rainbow trout (family recipe, per person)
                                    1 rainbow trout, cleaned
                                    juice of 1/2 lemon plus extra if desired
                                    1.5 tbsp butter, in small, thin pieces
                                    1 tsp dried dill
                                    salt and pepper to taste

                                    in a dish, place fish skin down
                                    squeeze lemon, sprinkle with dill ... marinate 15 mins
                                    preheat broiler
                                    spray broil pan with Pam or something like it
                                    fish on to tray skin down
                                    put butter all over the fish (small bits will melt quickly)
                                    broil 2" from heat for 4-7 mins (to me it was done when the edges were crispy brown)
                                    Serve with steamed green beans or new potatoes.
                                    WINE: chardonnay, from California (though not my thing) might be good here; also a lighter red like beaujolais or maybe a lighter pinot noir

                                    Broiled Orange Roughy
                                    WINE: A lighter red

                                    Baked Cod
                                    Cod isn't halibut, but I've used it as a sustitute to keep the price of a dish down;
                                    WINE: chardonnay

                                    Pan seared Tilapia with chili-lime butter
                                    I think you could bake or broil just as easily
                                    WINE: maybe a vinho verde or albarino, whites from Portugal and Spain respectively

                                    Blackened Swordfish
                                    works well with other things like mako shark or mahi mahi.
                                    NOTE: generates a LOT of smoke; unplug your smoke detector if you can
                                    WINE: sauvignon blanc (something with good acidity to counter the spice


                                    Halibut with Citrus Beurre Blanc
                                    I have poached and baked the halibut; I have also used the beurre blanc with striped bass (aka rock fish); could be used with less stunning success for swordfish, mako shark or mahi mahi. NOTE: Halibut is expensive so get the cut you want; I prefer fillets to steaks for halibut.
                                    WINE: chablis if halibut and maybe striped bass, sauvignon blanc for others

                                    Skate Wing with brown butter and capers
                                    A French classic, can be rich. Feel free to ditch the peppers.
                                    WINE: chardonnay, preferably white Burgundy

                                    Coquilles St. Jacques
                                    OK, maybe not the healthiest thing in the world, but a classic and a personal favorite. I actually prefer using smaller bay scallops when I can. In small portions, makes a nifty side dish in a multi course dinner.
                                    WINE: rich enough to go with chardonnay, but I would probably choose muscadet or chenin blanc from the Loire Valley in France.

                                    1. May I suggest the main dish from my personal #1-company dinner?

                                      The recipe follows. I got it from a Vancouver newspaper decades ago). I typically serve it with couscous cooked with dates and mint OR my mother's wonderful rice pilaf and a stir fry of veggies with Hoisin sauce.

                                      SALMON with YOGURT and DILL SAUCE
                                      1. Stir together:
                                      - 2/3 cup plain yogurt (a 175 gram container)
                                      Works even better with French Vanilla yogurt,
                                      - 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh dill
                                      - 2 tablespoons lemon juice
                                      - 1 egg white
                                      - salt and pepper
                                      2. Heat 11⁄2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and cook 4 skinless salmon fillets for 30 seconds a side
                                      NOTE: Pan must not be too hot or butter will scald
                                      3. Add yogurt mixture
                                      4. Gently simmer uncovered for at least 8 minutes, turning once. NOTE: my son likes it cooked longer.

                                      1. We have a hard time here in rural northwest Iowa getting decent fresh fish. For some reason the frozen fish I've been getting has a strange texture. But I got some little tilapia fillets from one of those trucks, and it was nice. I put it on a cookie sheet, still frozen. I melted some butter with a couple of cloves of minced garlic, then added lemon juice, salt and pepper, and herbs (parsley or dill are good), and poured it over the frozen fish. THen it went in the oven at 450 for 10 minutes, and it was perfectly done. And it didn't have that weird rubber-band texture that the other frozen fish I've cooked had. (Don't even bother with frozen halibut!)

                                        Many years ago our local paper's food section had a recipe that Julia Child had evidently cooked on David Letterman's show. It was red snapper poached in chardonnay. That was actually the first fish I ever cooked myself, and it was pretty good. (I've got some more of that tilapia that I'm going to get out sometime this week and poach in some pinot grigio, unless I taste the wine first and decide it won't work, in which case I'll bake the fish and drink the wine.)

                                        1. I am not too big a fan of salmon but I love this recipe! It was in a Barefoot Contessa cookbook but it's from Eli Zabar's/


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Susan627

                                            OOps. That was supposed to go to the salmon question! I know the recipe was already posted here.

                                          2. What about dishes that involve fish but are similar to meat dishes? Fish tacos are fast and easy and can be made with any white fish. I'm also a big fan of tuna and salmon burgers. Also very quick to make with the help of a food processor, and you can change things up depending on what herbs and seasonings you add. My BF loves them...