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Sep 7, 2007 07:44 AM

Home Attempt Restaurant Fish Deliciousness Failure

The other day i scored a couple nice, fresh black sea bass (about 1 lb each) at WFM. I always have this image that i'm going to take them home, stuff with some herbs, cover with oo, run under the broiler, and end up with restaurant-quality fish-- as served in the Greek places in Chicago and NYNY. So very not.

It comes out cooked well enough, but rather tasteless and bland. So. The ingredients are pretty good (herbs right from the garden), our broiler is very hot. What is the "chef's secret" here?


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  1. Salt? The one thing I learned working in restaurant kitchens- Salt and Pepper, but mostly salt.

    1. Salt. Seriously a lot of people do not season their food as much as restaurants do. I don't know why it came out tasteless. I find my fish usually comes out as flavorful as it does in most restaurants. For Greek seasonings maybe a lemon butter reduction with Greek oregano.

      1. salt & pepper in the cavity, you did not mention olive oil or lemon slices.

        1. Salt, pepper, and panfrying seems to give me consistently good results with fish. I did some seabass like that not long ago and made some kind of sauce to go with it... maybe an herb vinaigrette or something along those lines.

          You can also go the breaded route... season > flour > egg wash > herbs and panko bread crumbs > 350F in a half inch or so of olive oil does the trick pretty nicely when you're not dealing with skin. I did that with a tilapia filet the other night, and it came out great. If the skin's still on, it's usually best to cook with it still on.

          I used to think cooking fish was hard until I actually started trying it. Just give it a few tries... The only real trick is getting good fish. Luckily, we got a good fish market recently.

          1. Hmm, your general description sounds right; I agree that it's also good to season them with salt and pepper and, as mentioned above, adding a couple of thin lemon slices to the herbs in the cavity helps as well before cooking them.

            Couple of questions:
            1. Have you ever cooked fish this way before?
            2. How long did you cook the fish for?
            3. Was the broiler at full heat before you put the fish in? (I can't assume this from your post)

            I would usually have either grilled them on the outdoor gas grill over high heat for about 5-6 min per side or inside I would have pan-seared them and then put into a 250 oven to finish. I determine that fish cooked either way is done when it starts to flake and the inside is no longer pink; any longer will overcook them and remove moisture.

            I like the way I cook fish at least as much as restaurant fish as I rarely use butter and even the best restaurants seem to use too much, IMO.

            The fish should have been indescribably tasty so something's missing here.

            PS, I also agree, as with anything new, that it may take a few times to get the idea so don't give up!

            4 Replies
            1. re: kevine

              The broiler was up to full heat (it's electric, but browns very well). About 5 inches away for about 8 minutes. More salt and lemon-- especially in the cavity-- very good suggestions. I'll try oregano also. And keep at it. (Well, it wasn't <i>completely</i> tasteless. Just not up to what I'd like). Many thanks to all.

              1. re: schlimmerkerl

                the lack of salt and fat is probably your problem. when i worked in restaurants i was amazed and almost grossed out how much salt and butter were used. rub the skin with tons of OO and salt it until it's covered. broil on high heat. it'll give you a nice crispy skin too.

                1. re: schlimmerkerl

                  Try making a paste of olive oil, herbs, and a clove of garlic. Spread it liberally inside & outside the fish, then sprinkle w/kosher salt & stuff a few lemon slices inside.

                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                    Yes, a famous chef said (something like) "Of course restaurant food is delicious. We use a stick of butter in everything." Butter+salt does sound promising, though-- as does the herb/garlic/oo paste. Thanks guys.