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Feb 7, 2008 11:41 AM

I'm trying to conquer my fear of fish, any help appreciated!

So, for the longest time I have been afraid of cooking fish and I am now trying to overcome that fear. I love fish but am afraid I will totally ruin the fish by over/under cooking it. I am thinking of cooking a nice white meat fish or possibly salmon in parchment in the oven. Is this a good method for my first time cooking fish? And do any of you home chefs out there have a fool proof method of cooking fish? My hubby and I eat almost anything, but especially love Asian and Mexican flavors. Thanks!

P.S. We have a pretty good fishmonger in our area as well as a Whole Foods, so I think I am okay there, but would appreciate fish buying tips as well.

Edited to add: I will report back on my attempts with pics!

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  1. As I read your title and the start of your post, fish in parchment was exactly the suggestion I was about to make! :) Foolproof. I served fish this way at a dinner party, my first time ever cooking fish. I like it with a few olives, tomatoes, a little squeeze of lemon and some fresh herbs in the packets. This is so easy to prepare and tastes light and delicious. Good luck!

    Here's an epicurious recipe very similar to the way I've done it:

    1 Reply
    1. re: foxy fairy

      I was going to make a similar suggestion of "en papillote." Actually, Alton Brown has a good fish in parchment recipe on Food Network. I like onions, fennel, lemon, herbs, garlic, and white wine. You can also do an asian theme... layer wild mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, fish, chives, ginger, garlic, and drizzle with miso broth, then bake.

      You can also poach in miso broth, mixed with chives, garlic, soy sauce, then serve over white rice, steamed veggies and drizzle with leftover reduced broth (boil it after you remove the fish).

      I like to blacken fish (halibut, mahi mahi, sole, tuna), then broil and serve w/ lemon juice and/or salsa. A piece of sole usually takes 5 min or so, but a thicker cut will take a little longer to turn opaque. The only outlier is the tuna, which I broil only 1-2 minutes just to cook the exterior as I prefer mine essentially raw.

      If you're interested in salmon, the Dijon Baked Salmon on is sooo easy, and always gets rave reviews from my father, a guy who doesn't often complain or praise food, so when he goes on about how good something is... I know it's a hit.

      One other foolproof fish preparation is ceviche... so many great recipes out there for this, depending upon what your tastes are.

    2. glaze, cooking fish is really easier than it seems, once you get the hang of it.
      As a basic rule of thumb, it is much more of a crime/tragedy to overcook fish, rather than undercook it. If you undercook it, the worst that could happen is you two don't like the texture of it and can tell it's been undercooked, and you can simply put it back to cook for a few minutes. If it's overcooked, you'll know - the whole house will smell, the fish will turn tough/leathery, and basically inedible! So when in doubt, cook a little less than you'd think (until you get really used to it.)
      Since you and your husband enjoy Asian flavors, I would really suggest getting a nice couple pieces of Ahi Tuna and searing them. Ahi is "the meat of the sea", and you can cook it almost like a piece of steak.
      At the fishmonger's, the 2 most important things to make sure of:
      1. Make sure the fish is fresh.
      2. Ask the fishmonger if you can smell the fish. Should smell faintly of the sea, if it's stronger, get some other fish!
      Once you get the tuna home, season it simply with cracked pepper. Sear it quickly on both sides - no longer than, say, 30-45 seconds on each side, depending on the thickness of the fish. It will be rare.
      Take off the heat, serve with soy sauce and wasabi for dipping and a simple salad, and enjoy!

      1. I don't care for salmon, but I will eat white fishes like flounder and sole. I recently tried jfood's Sole with Leeks and Tomatoes and it was very tasty and easy (thanks jfood!).

        1. I lived in Seattle for years and cooked a LOT of salmon. The best thing I learned when I first cooked it was--when in doubt, undercook. You can always put it back on the the the pan. It's not a bad rule of thumb for all fish. I live in California now, so I grill a lot. And I still always pull the fish sooner than I think I should. It will continue to cook....and again, worse case scenario, I cook it a little more. Sorry if this seems a little TOO overly simplified, but I've had a lot of overcooked fish at dinner parties at peoples' homes.

          1. Glazebrookgirl, if you are comfortable cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts, then cooking fish is going to be a breeze. You can basically do all the same things with white fish fillets that you do with chicken breasts, only it usually takes even less time to cook them!

            Since you like Asian flavors, you might start with a couple of sole fillets and some garlic and fresh cilantro. Get your sauté pan nice and hot and then put in a film of peanut oil. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on your fillets and Slide them into the hot oil. Cook face down for about 2 minutes, then turn them over, and add about a tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro and a couple of chopped garlic cloves. The whole cooking process won't take more than about 6 minutes, or your fish will be overdone. The thin fillets really cook FAST! You can do the same thing to halibut or cod, but then you'll need a lid and a bit of rice wine. After I add the garlic and cilantro, I add a little rice wine to the pan and cover it with the lid. In about 5 or 6 minutes, the fish will be cooked through.

            You can figure 10 minutes of cooking time for each inch of thickness of the fish.

            Happy Cooking!