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Need a tasty fish recipe to convert a non-fish eater!

What kind of fish meal would you serve to a picky eater who never eats fish, but wants to expand their horizons beyond chicken breasts? I am not looking for shellfish - I want to stick to something mild and non-fishy. I was thinking flounder, sole, or tilapia? What preparation would you recommend for a first-timer?

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  1. Don't fear the deep-fryer: fried seafoods can convert fish-haters. Try some fried catfish (mild, soft-textured) or even fried shrimp. Can the picky eater be converted by a shrimp tempura roll at the local sushi joint?

    1. The Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook has a really nice recipe for prosciutto-wrapped halibut that I would recommend... not too fishy, filling, but not too heavy.

      1 Reply
      1. re: glutton

        I'm also very sensitive to 'fishy' taste and my favorite fish is Halibut. It has a nice firm texture (Unlike most mooshy fish) and in how well it plays with marinades. Aside from that recipe... for summer, I love just baking a Halibut with some S&P and Lemon in a foil packet in the oven and putting on Chamoula on top...


        Also, I think in Sunday Suppers is a recipe for my second favorite type of fish, Monk Fish. Very sweet and very firm flesh...


      2. Tilapia is very mild and would work well. Doing an encrusted, pan fried or baked option might be the safest way to start out. Maybe coconut encrusted? Then next time you can serve the same fish no breading. This is a tasty recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

        1. I like the ideas of deep fried fish and the prosciutto-wrapped halibut. For the latter, I've done that with a sorrel puree as the sauce. I had a non-fish eating roommie years ago, and one hot summer evening, I was having smoked trout with a horseradish mayo, potato salad, and grilled veg salad, and he loved it. The thing about a lot of people who say that they don't like fish, it's often an issue with the texture, as well, which is why the smoked trout was a hit... it's a meaty texture rather than fishy one. For that reason I'd ignore the types the OP mentions. As an aside, a wine like a dry riesling is good for the first timer, because it's refreshing, cleans the mouth if they're uncertain that they're enjoying the flavour. Good luck!

          1. For tilapia , my brother sprinkles Paul Prudhomme's redfish blackening spice and drizzles on some olive oil and grills it. I do the same thing with cod, but I put some olive oil on a piece of foil, sprinkle on the spice and top the fish with thinly sliced lemon, fold up the foil to make a little package and then onto grill.

            I also make fish cakes with a roasted red pepper sauce that seem to appeal to everyone. I usually use salmon when I make them.

            1. I think filet of sole is one of the best, mildest, delicous fish there is. I love almost all fish but find catfish to have an odd testure and flavor- would not be my first choice. Flounder is similar to sole. Excellent. Dredge filets in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and saute in a mixture of olive oil and butter, or just oil. Serve with lemon.

              1. I second the Tilapia and I'd sautee it in butter. Butter makes everything good.

                Doesn't really matter what you do to it though, no converting will happen unless it's a good piece of fish.

                1. I don't eat most fish because of the "fishy" odor and taste, but there are a few white meat fish that I like.
                  Bass with some lemon juice and a light flour coating, fried.
                  Sole or flat fish, seasoned and pan fried.
                  Halibut, battered and fried.
                  For a first timer I would say stay away from the oily, dark meat fish.

                  1. Grilled Mahi.

                    salt, pepper, and olive oil, and a squirt of lemon while cooking, it can almost be passed off as grilled chicken it is so mild.

                    Other mild fish I like are swordfish, shark, orange roughy, walleye, and lake perch.

                    1. Far more important than how you prepare the fish is how fresh it is. Most "non-fishers" got that way from that "fishy" smell. Really fresh fish (and shellfish) never has that. Instead it smells "clean," kind of like the ocean.

                      It's helpful if you know what you are looking for at the market, but I would only buy from a reputable fishmonger (never at a grocery store or a place like Costco) and choose a whole fish that you have the fishmonger fillet for you.

                      I would saute sole or flounder fillets (I don't think tilapia has much flavor) in a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and white pepper. Perhaps add a sprinkling of fresh herbs such as fennel tops or thyme. They shouldn't take more than about 3 minutes per side to cook through. I always like to splash the fresh, hot fillets with a little fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavor.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ChefJune

                        Definitely would serve sole or flounder, lightly seasoned with some old bay or salt and pepper, melt or soften some butter place on non-skin side, bread crumbs or panko, lemon juice, broil 4-7 minutes until browned. As butter melts, pull out of broiler once and spoon juices/ butter back on the filets. I think the fish stays more moist than pan frying. Add some fresh parsley and a wedge of lemon and serve.

                      2. What about swordfish steaks? Any kind of firm fish is good for starters.

                        One of my all-time anything favorite recipes is these swordfish kebabs on the barbecue... supereasy to make too.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: amandine

                          I'm one of those that tends away from fish for the fishy-ness. My suggestion is to grill the fish outside so that your house doesn't smell like fish. That would be an instant turnoff to eating the fish (the smell of fish in the house). I can do fresh salmon grilled, but cooked a little more well-done than a real fish lover would probably typically have their fish. Fresh salmon would be good right now as the wild, fresh version of Salmon is in season. Other thing would be to avoid any/all skin (way too fishy). We grill the Salmon with the skin on but immediately take it off and throw it away. Don't let your friend see/smell that part.

                          1. re: burbankfoodie

                            Fish tacos! My kidlet, who doesn't care much for fish ('cept Grandpa's Fried Fatcish) loves fish tacos. We make them with whatever's fresh, topped with cabbage, cilantro, and some sort of salsa fresca....Yum, might make some for dinner tonight.

                            1. re: kmr

                              mmm. I like mine with the salsa made of mango, avocado, lime and shallot. loads of cilantro.

                          2. re: amandine

                            i love all fish including swordfish, but i think it's a little too fishy for someone who's not into it. plus, unless you're skilled at preparation, swordfish, as meaty & firm as it is, can be very tesy when you cook it...and when overdone, it's a dry, tough mess.

                            if you want mild, but with a nice meaty texture, i'd say go for cod...maybe pan-fried with a cornmeal crust.

                            1. re: amandine

                              lol made those kebabs again for dad today... another ringing endorsement! ;)

                            2. I'd have to recommend tilapia also... However, for beginners, I like to keep the tastes as simple as possible. First time exposure with a more complexly flavoured dish may lead them to think it should *always* taste similar to that, particularly with someone who has (as you seem to imply) a relatively novice palate. That can make for hard to meet expectations. Keep it light is my recommendation. Lightly brush it with fresh lemon juice and apply a rub of equal parts freshly ground black and white peppercorns, onion and garlic powders. Broil it (the heat of broiling and speed of preparation will help eliminate some of the aromatics naturally released during cooking, etc and hence reduce the fishy aroma from the dish and your house...). Right before serving, perhaps a light sprinkle of fleur de sel if you have it on hand.

                              edit: forgot to mention, keep the rub light... more of a sprinkle/dusting than a true "rub"

                              1. This is sure fire - marinate some salmon (skin removed) in 3/4 cup maple syrup and 1/4 cup soy sauce for 12-24 hours in a freezer bag in the fridge. Crank the oven to 500. Grind out a bunch of black pepper and pat one side of each piece of salmon in the pepper. Place the fish on an oiled piece of foil and bake for 7 minutes. I've had more than one person who doesn't like fish gobble this up.

                                1. As a "moderate" fish eater, I agree with suggestions of filet of sole, flounder, tilapia or halibut. This recipe calls for halibut (with capers, olives and tomatoes) but anything can be substituted (even chicken).


                                  And I would not recommend catfish. I certainly wouldn't eat it.

                                  1. I would go with the other recommendations for a mild white fish -- cod is another -- but stay away from tilapia for a first-timer. I know a lot of people (at least five friends) who are not allergic to fish generally but who always get sick from eating tilapia. Since you're dealing with a fish newbie, I'd wait until the person had developed their taste for seafood before trying the tilapia.

                                    1. Ahi Tuna Steaks
                                      Since it looks like meat and cooks like meat I do this.

                                      Grill just like a steak and cook it to the temperature they like it, and then serve with lemon.
                                      If at all possible try to get them to at least go for a med rare. I will usually let them taste ahead of time so they can see for themselves how meat like it tastes.

                                      So Simple and delcious.

                                      Dry the fish with paper towels
                                      Brush with olive oil
                                      Salt and pepper

                                      Cook to preferred temperature and serve with lemon wedges.
                                      You can also for the veterans, prepare different salsa to serve with the fish. So yummy!
                                      They love it.

                                      1. I've had success tempting picky eaters with this recipe for lemon-horseradish fish cakes ( tilapia) from Everyday Foods. I jazz it up a bit with more horseradish and such and serve it with a cajun tarter sauce..

                                        1. Miso glaze salmon

                                          1/2 cup white miso paste
                                          3 crushed garlic cloves
                                          2 tsp soy sauce
                                          1/3 cup white wine or cold sake
                                          2 tsp ginger (fresh is best) can add more to taste
                                          1/4 cup honey, apricot jam or ornage marmalade.

                                          1 lb salmon fillet.

                                          Mix all the marinade ingredients together, pout over salmon in a sealable container, bag or vacuum bag.

                                          marinade in fridge for 1 hour to overnight.

                                          Heat oven safe sautee pan to medium or meduim high. Pre heat broiler with rack in middle of the oven.

                                          Take salmon out of marinade and reserve the marinade. Place fish in pan, skin side down, and let cook for about 3-4 minutes. Then , cover with a spoonful or so of excess marinade and place under boriler til done, about 5-6 minutes (less or more, depending on oven) till just cooked through but not overly flaky.

                                          Cook reserved marinade in small saucepan over stove to take care of iky bacteria. You can put it on a bowl on the table for guests to spoon if they want. Or just toss it.

                                          Garnish with chopped green onion and serve!

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: Diana

                                            thanks, Diana! that sounds yummy!

                                            1. re: Diana

                                              Do you buy your white miso online?

                                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                                No, I get it at Gelson's, a local upscale supermarket chain. I get it in a little tub.

                                                Asain Markets are also a good source.

                                                Whole Foods might have it

                                                1. re: Diana

                                                  Thanks Diana, I just love a little cup of miso. I have not had any luck where I Iive finding any. Guess I can always go to Oakland. Since the shelf life is indefinite, I'm wanting to gather as many colors to use as I can. I can't believe I can't even find one here that isn't in a premade package of soup with a $3.95 pricetag.

                                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                                    Well, it is a paste and has to be refrigerated! This is pure miso paste!

                                                    1. re: Diana

                                                      That is what I am hoping to find..

                                                    2. re: chef chicklet

                                                      Just make sure that it is Japanese Miso and not the Korean Doenjang. While both are soy bean pastes, they have different flavors.

                                                      1. re: hannaone

                                                        May I ask, what is the use of Doenjamg?

                                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                                          Doenjang has a lot of uses. Seasoning pastes and soup are probably the biggest use.
                                                          Doenjang is the Korean version of Miso but the flavor is different. It can be used in Japanese recipes but you would want to do a taste test to see how much it affects the flavor of the dish.

                                              2. Love fish tacos. Got some Amber Jack a few weeks ago and hopefully will get more tomorrow, marinated with olive oil, S&P a little lemon and roasted it at 500F for about 20 mins for a 1 1/4 lb. steak absolutely declicious, not "fishy". Meaty mouth feel. Skate is another favorite, very mild and be sure it is impeccably fresh, ask to smell it. If you catch the slightest hint of ammonia pass it by. But when it is fresh, fresh, fresh and dusted with S&P and flour and pan sauteed in brown butter quickly and finished off with a splash of white wine and a few capers you have a dish that is divine.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Candy

                                                  Never had amber jack. What's it comparable to and what's it supposed to look like? (Almost bought some last week but it wasn't too aesthetically pleasing.)

                                                  1. re: creativeusername

                                                    very lean, firm whitefish with a mild flavor. it's somewhat like yellowtail but much less oily...or similar in flavor to snapper, but with a meatier texture.

                                                    it's a member of the pompano family if that helps.

                                                    or did i totally confuse you? :)

                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                      Not at all, you validated my choice to pass since the amber jack for sale was not really white but closer to the look of a meaty steelhead.

                                                  2. re: Candy

                                                    mmmmm, skate. I've ony ever had it in a restaurant. I should try your simple recipe.

                                                    I've failed misrebly at browning butter, though, How do you do it?

                                                  3. I'd foray in with a texture that's most "meat like" rather than tilapia whose merits include its mild taste.

                                                    Blackened halibut or mahi mahi.

                                                    Swordfish might be a good idea too.

                                                    Or, incorporate it into pasta or risotto. Shellfish or fish fish. That way there's the flavor and texture, with a bit of an accompaniment and an acclamation period/space.

                                                    1. I like very few fish dishes despite many attempts to convert me (including many of my own). I was about three when my Dad forced me to try a piece and, well, my earliest memory in life is throwing it right back up again.
                                                      Salmon (popular where we live) is almost always too fishy (yes, it's fresh/wild/etc). Eeek. I did plank it the other day and liked that. It was a Spring (King) which I find milder than Sockeye.
                                                      I also like sole fillets either with a bit of flour and fried in lots of butter (and with tartar on the side), or rolled up with a sun dried tomato tapenade baked on top. This latter is a Delia Smith "Winter" recipe and very good.
                                                      Oh, and I also like fish 'n chips (or at least tartar and breading and oil).
                                                      I'll definilty give a few of everyone's suggestions a try too.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: waver

                                                        I don't like salmon either. I used to eat it all the time and then one day I realized that I just don't like it. I do, however, love smoked salmon.

                                                        1. re: valerie

                                                          Back to the white fish options - tilapia, or white snapper, or any similar firm white fillet is rendered tasty and unthreatening with this simple preparation. Wash it, dry it, moisten with mayonnaise/sour cream/yoghurt (any one or combinations of those, just prep it to receive a coating). Don't make the coating too thick. Use instant mashed potato flakes, not buds, and season them with salt, pepper, onion and garlic salt. Coat the fillets and brown in a frying pan without fussing with them 'til they're golden on each side. A little lemon, or if your diners need extra comfort, some tartar sauce. Really quite tasty and kind of looks like chicken.

                                                        2. re: waver

                                                          My son once made me a fish and chips dish without the fries, using orange roughy. It came out delcious.

                                                        3. I'm not a fish eater, per se, but on my first trip to Hawaii, I was determined to eat fish! I ordered macadamia-crusted mahi mahi, and it was awesome! Just dip the fish filets in batter then into chopped nuts and saute in butter. Serve it with a remoulade sauce or just a squeeze of lemon. I have also used almonds, but why not go for the gusto?

                                                          1. The very first step is to be sure you have a great, reliable fish monger. Flounder or sole (though it's often hard to actually get sole...sometimes it's flounder in disguise) are good options. A light breading and saute of the flounder served with lemon (and tartar sauce?) would be good, but IMO sole is to expensive for breading. I would not, under any circumstances, serve salmon. Some people love it and some people hate it....it's too iffy to take a chance on. Alaskan Halibut (but not Atlantic), Florida Black Grouper, Mahi Mahi I think are all good choices. They can be grilled and served simply with a compound butter. Firm flesh, not strong. Someone mentioned monkfish, personally I can't get past how it looks to actually eat it.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: gourmanda

                                                              I do not think anyone has mentioned ahi tuna. I hate fish, always have. SO loves fish and I have cooked and tasted every type mentioned above. I always KNOW it is fish and that just ruins it for me.
                                                              I think it depends ultimately to a great degree on the reason the fish offends. Smell, texture, past childhood traima, etc.

                                                              For what it is worth, my experience has been that the firm, meaty textre and color of a piece of seared ahi is the most palatable preparation of fish for the "fish offended". I like it sliced very thinly so I can put a small bit in my mouth at a time. Served with some asian slaw as a cold dish or just cooked over some creamy mashed potatoes/celeriac in a lovely reduction. It is actually very, very good. I do not eat meat either but I imagine this must have the same properties as a steak?

                                                            2. Which fish depends on where you are, but FRESH is best.

                                                              Here on the west coast, you might try a rock fish (cod) whole if you can get it. Have it cleaned, scaled, and deheaded (for the squeamish factor) and bake it in a shallow dish napped heavily with a Vera Cruz style tomato sauce:

                                                              Chopped fresh or canned tomatoes, minced garlic, chopped onion, oregano, bay leaves, capers, green stuffed olives, and some chopped pickled mildly hot peppers, s&p. Saute the veggies, add tomatoes and seasonings, and simmer a few minutes before spooning over fish in baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and bake about 20 min at 350 till fish flakes.

                                                              Serve with rice to sop up all the delicious juice. Baking the fish 'whole' lends much flavor to the dish, over just using filets. The fish is tender and it's easy to remove the ribcage in order to serve it boneless once baked.

                                                              1. I suggest fried grouper, coated with panko breadcrumbs, served with a homemade tartar sauce....That is what I have made for my son who typically only likes fried shrimp...He loved the grouper...

                                                                1. I agree with many others that tilapia is a pretty inoffensive fish. I know many people that won't go near salmon or other meaty fish but will eat white fish varieties fried or otherwise innocuously prepared. I usually cook Tilapia in one of two ways: 1) on the grill in a foil pack with some type of mild lemon dressing (I've been a fan recently of a store bought ginger lemon marinade) OR 2) oven baked with a cracker crumb coat. Lately I've been partial to whole wheat ritz crackers (pulverized) with added lemon zest and sometimes a little parmesan. I dip the fish in melted butter, then in the crumb mix and bake at 425 for tops 10 minutes (usually less depending on thickness of filets). About 1-2 minutes before done, I brush tops with a little more butter. Serve with lemon wedges or dressed lightly with fresh lemon juice. This is a more healthful version of the deep fryer with a nice texture (ok, ok I know butter isn't the greatest, but hell I'm from the south and can't cook without it).

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: ashes

                                                                    i second the ritz suggestion.

                                                                  2. Fried is the least fishy fish preparation, but here is an alternative for somebody who likes mediterranian flavors...

                                                                    1. Fish tacos are wonderful - all those flavors kind of mask the fish. Use sole or tilapia - ask your fish monger at the store what he/she would recommend. Great tip: If using frozen fish, thaw it out in milk in the refrierator; when thawed, pour off the milk and rinse the fish under cold running water to remove any milk residue. The fish will be "sweeter" from the milk, and the milk will absorb any "fishy" odors. Don't use too much fish at first (in your tacos) ... but gradually add more and more. And soon, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about! Good luck!