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Jan 3, 2009 04:26 PM

Fish Without a Doubt by Rick Moonen & Roy Finamore

I believe it was ChefJune who first turned me on to this book in one of the COTM suggestion threads. I already owned a bunch of fish cookbooks, but after taking this out of the library I decided I needed to own this one too. There seemed to be some small amount of enthusiasm for having this book as a COTM selection at some point, but I decided not to wait. I’ve been cooking from it a bit and am very pleased with everything I’ve made so far. I’m eager to hear what others have made from this book, so am starting a thread in the hope that those who have been cooking from it for a while will chime in with recommendations.

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  1. Baked Branzino (page 211)

    Made this with fresh bluefish from the farmer’s market, an “accepted substitute.” You make an oreganata topping of bread crumbs, minced garlic, chopped parsely, crumbled oregano, fresh thyme, grated parmesan, EVOO, lemon juice, and clam juice. You drizzle the fillets with oil, top with the oreganata mixture and bake. Excellent. Needed a bit more baking than the 8 minutes recommended. Maybe 10 minutes? Still have some leftover topping (used for the Clams Oreganata), and will get some clams as soon as possible to use it up. Great stuff.

    Clams Oreganata (page 282)

    Shuck clams (I still have to put them in the micro for a few seconds to get them to begin to open before I can open them the rest of the way. Maybe that should be my new year’s resolution? Learn to shuck clams and oysters!), put on a bed of coarse salt, add the oreganata topping and bake for 8 minutes at 450F. Heavenly.

    Can’t decide which way I liked the topping better. Luckily, I don’t have to. Will just plan to make both again knowing I can get two terrific meals from one recipe of topping.

    1. I saw this in the bookstore here and thought about picking it up. There's another fish book that you like as well, right? James Peterson?

      1 Reply
      1. re: MMRuth

        Impressive memory! Yes. James Peterson is my go-to reference for all things fish and shellfish. I also have and regularly refer to Shirley King's "Fish: The Basics" and Jane Brody's "Good Seafood Book." Peterson is sort of the Joy of Cooking for fish but with better recipes. Everything you could possibly want to know about the fish, possible substitutes, techniques, and damned good recipes to boot. But Moonen, although it does have a lot of the basic info that the other books have, had recipes that were a bit more modern and really appealed to me in the reading. And they've been appealing to me in the execution as well.

        I hope others who are familiar with this book will chime in with some of their favorites. The ones I've posted about are the only ones I've tried so far, but all have been very, very good and I'm encouraged to explore further.

      2. Baked Scallops (page 217) with
        Porcini Butter (page 410)

        I made a half recipe of the Porcini Butter. You combine softened butter with dried porcini powder, truffle oil, sherry vinegar, and S&P, set it aside to mellow for an hour, then refrigerate. He doesn’t say to, but I rolled it into a log knowing I’d be using only a small amount and would want to freeze the rest.

        Smear softened Porcini Butter on a gratin dish, put in scallops, smear more porcini butter on top, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and bake at 450F for 10 minutes.

        Easy. Terrific. The porcini butter highlights the sweetness of the scallops perfectly. Can’t wait to see what else it complements, but am sure it will be equally heavenly with simply grilled, baked, or broiled fillets.

        He doesn’t make any serving recommendation. I put the scallops on lightly sautéed and seasoned spinach and though it just pefect.

        3 Replies
        1. re: JoanN

          JoanN: Did you make your own porcini powder? In case I'm too lazy to look around for it and I already have a bunch of dried porcini.

          1. re: oakjoan

            Yes, I did. Didn't even consider looking for it. (Not even sure it's commercially available.) Just broke up a couple of dried ones and put them in my spice grinder (dedicated coffee grinder). Did the job perfectly.

          2. re: JoanN

            Just lost a post here ... will try again! Made the Baked Scallops with Porcini Butter for our Valentines day dinner. It was fantastic. Very simple, absolutely delicious. Made the butter a couple of days ago (and it was easy to make) so putting together the scallops yesterday was a snap (leaving more time to drink some champagne ... weeee!). Our scallops were jumbo, so I cooked for 14 minutes instead of 10 and they were perfect. Served with aspargus vinaigrette and a baguette. A lovely meal. We'll be making these again, and I can't wait to try the butter on fish too. Photo is a little dark.

          3. Almond Crusted Barramundi with Spinach and Pickled Onions (page 248)

            Made as directed, except that I already had Zuni pickled onions in the fridge so used those instead of making his. I’m sure his would have been prettier on the plate since they’re made with red, not white, onions. But I doubt the flavors would be significantly different. I always have pickled onions on hand and it never would have occurred to me to serve them with fish. So now I know. Great combination.

            This couldn’t have been simpler and couldn’t have been better. A very quick and tasty weeknight meal. I’ll certainly be doing this again.

            1. Broiled Fish Fillets with Compound Butter (page 124)

              Well, I’m sorry no one seems to be joining me, but I’m keeping on keeping on.

              I had some Porcini Butter left from the scallops so decided to try this recipe using a branzino fillet. It’s more a technique than a recipe, but it’s a great technique and will probably be my new way to cook all fillets.

              You heat a grill pan (which I don’t have so I used a large cast iron skillet) under the broiler for 15 minutes, brush olive oil on the skin side of the fillet and sprinkle with S&P, smear the flavored butter on the other side of the fillet, and broil on the grill (in the skillet) for a minute (other fish cook for different amounts of time and Moonen specifies how long for each). I had trouble smearing, so I dabbed. And my fillet wasn’t releasing after a minute so I cooked it for another 30 seconds. It wasn’t overcooked. At least, not for me.

              I don’t recall ever making fish with such wonderfully crispy skin. I like fish skin, but it’s nearly always a bit slimy when I broil fish. And I’d rather not, if I don’t have to, use the amount of fat you need to get the skin crispy when sautéing. This method really does the trick and may even convince me to buy a grill pan if I can figure out where to store it. And the fish was excellent with the Porcini Butter. Another very simple, very delicious week day meal.

              12 Replies
              1. re: JoanN

                Wow, that's pretty much the same technique (heating the pan under the broiler) that I use (thanks to AB) for steaks during the frigid Minnesota winter. I would have never thought to try something similar with fish, but you better believe I will now!

                1. re: JoanN

                  "Well, I’m sorry no one seems to be joining me, but I’m keeping on keeping on."

                  Stay with it. It's a noble effort and I'll bet it is much appreciated. You don't know how many people are looking with-out commenting.

                  1. re: yayadave

                    Ditto. I'm reading along and already I was thinking, hmmm, should l take a risk and buy it? JoanN makes everything sound so quick and easy. And, I'm always looking for fast, delicious dinner. But, then I slapped myself and said, no, look at it first. I'm definitely putting it on my library request list.

                    1. re: yayadave

                      Thanks, guys. Good to know I’m not entirely alone. It wasn’t so much that I was trying to coopt COTM as that I’d had the impression that a number of people had been cooking from this book for a while and would be able to make recommendations.

                      With the successes I’ve had so far, I’ll definitely keep on cooking from this book. This is my way, despite the use of some fats, to try to cook lighter and healthier this month. Dedicated diet recipes are just too boring and most “eat healthy” books seem not to appeal to me. So thanks for your encouragement and hope to see you here if/when you are so inspired.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        Personally, I love dedicated threads to single cookbooks. Because later, it's so much easier for me to see what problems and/or modifications were made to a recipe. And, I love vicariously "eating" through others.

                        ETA: I really liked MMRuth's threads on Roast Chicken, and that Sardinia cookbook. Also, another poster started a thread about the Sweet Spot, which is one of my favorite dessert cookbooks. (Ok, fave might be stretching bc I only have 2 dessert cookbooks, the other is Pure Dessert and I love them both.)

                        I'm hoping someone will start a Platter of Figs thread since I just acquired that cookbook.

                        1. re: beetlebug

                          And I'd add your own Flexitarian thread to the list. That one got me to buy the book, and I love it. Cook from it all the time still.

                        2. re: JoanN

                          Well, Joan, there's this:

                          The spirit may be inspired,
                          But the bod may just be tired.

                          Or maybe:

                          I bot so many cookbooks,
                          My shelves are saggin' down,
                          Just open up the internet,
                          Don't even go to town.

                          I think this book is so good, your thread will be getting new posts years from now.

                          1. re: yayadave

                            Very sweet, YYD. And I know just what you mean. I've had "Cradle of Flavor" for months now and I've yet to make a single thing from it.

                            There once was a gal from Manhattan
                            Whose hatches she just couldn’t batten.
                            The cookery books
                            Overflowed all the nooks
                            Not even one more could she pat in.

                            1. re: JoanN

                              You must lead an exciting life if you can rip off a limerick that good that quickly. Especially "pat in." Haiku to U.

                              When winter comes near
                              The porch is a new ice box
                              So then we make soup.

                      2. re: JoanN

                        This is the first time I've seen this thread, for some reason, but I hope you keep it up, because now I'm hooked! I had looked at this book a while back, but I always am hesitant to buy seafood here in the Midwest, because I'm almost always disappointed. Maybe if there are a lot of trout or walleye recipes?

                        1. re: Katie Nell

                          Nope, no walleye--or any perch or pickerel, for that matter. But 14 recipes for trout (or recipes for which trout can be substituted). Hmmm. I really like trout. I see one recipe with a hoisin glaze served with Asian slaw. Gotta mark that one.