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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.

                      3. Got this book about a month ago, but things have been so crazy that I haven't even had a chance to look at it yet. Will join you ... but it may take a couple of weeks. The scallop dish looks especially crazy-good.

                        1. You're not alone, Joan. I've had the book for a couple of months now, I think it was YaYa Dave who mentioned it. I've cooked several recipes, but don't have the book in front of me now. When I get a chance I'll list them.

                          I love the book. The recipes are concise and relatively easy which I like. Life can be complicated at times without having cooking complicated too.

                          1. Grilled Dorade with Hoisin Glaze (page 142) served with Asian Slaw (page453)

                            I made it with rainbow trout fillet, a suggested substitute. He offers three different ways to cook the fish: a George Foreman grill, a cast iron grill pan, or on an outdoor grill. I had a cast iron grill pan so that’s what I used. You brush the fillet with oil, sprinkle with S&P, and cook for a minute and a half on each side. I cooked it for two minutes on one side and a minute and a half on the other and it still wasn’t quite as well done as I would have liked. I’m beginning to realize that the timing of some of his recipes leaves the fish a bit more underdone than what I prefer and adding 30 seconds to a minute is more to my taste.

                            After the fish is plated you brush it with the Hoisin Glaze. The glaze is made of hoisin sauce, lime juice, a bit of honey, a small clove of garlic, cilantro, and salt to taste. The glaze is excellent. But—and I knew this—I’m just not crazy about sweet sauces on fish. I don’t understand what that’s about, and I thought maybe this recipe would prove my previous prejudice a lie, but it didn’t. Still, I like the glaze so much, I’m wondering if I’d like it better on salmon—another suggested substitute. I have some left. What’s to lose?

                            Asian Slaw is one of the sides he suggests. It’s shredded cabbage and carrots with some chopped mint tossed with an Asian “Vinaigrette,” his quotes. It’s made with vegetable oil, fish sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, sugar, chopped garlic, and a chopped hot pepper. This was okay, but not great. It may have been because I screwed up, forgot I didn’t have limes, and used lemon juice instead.

                            So this is the first recipe from the book that hasn’t knocked me out. But it probably has as much to do with my sweet/fish aversion as with the recipe itself.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: JoanN

                              Salmon is the only fish I've ever had that worked with a sweet sauce (for my tastes), and I think this sounds like it would be great that way. I'm going to make a note in my book to sub that for the dorade - thanks for taking one for the team.

                              1. re: JoanN

                                Tried this again with salmon (wild steelhead) and liked it much better, but I’m still not totally sold on sweet with fish, even (or perhaps especially) with salmon as good as this. Served it with his recipe for Basic Bok Choy (page 451) and basic it is indeed. You parboil it for a few minutes then, after plunging into ice water and squeezing the excess water out, you rewarm it in a bit of water and salt with some butter whisked in. Okay, but nothing special, although it did allow the flavor of the salmon to predominate.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  JoanN: Have you tried Alice Waters' (and many others') truc for browning stuff? She puts a frying pan on top of whatever it is and the weight from the pan pushes the fish/chicken, etc. evenly down against the pan's bottom. I tried it with petrale sole a couple of weeks ago and it even worked with that delicate fish. Great for chicken.

                                  Probably most folks have been doing this for years and I think I discovered it...or discovered Alice discovering it.

                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                    I've been doing that for chicken under a brick for ages, but it wasn't until "The Art of Simple Food" that I tried it with a bluefish fillet. It worked very well, but it required quite a bit of oil (don't recall how much since I had the book from the library; but I did make note in my report that it took more than I would have like to have used). I think I actually prefer Moonen's technique of broiling the fish in a preheated cast iron pan under the broiler. The skin is even crispier, it browns as well, and the only oil needed is what you brush on the fish itself--just a teaspoon or two.

                                2. Broiled Fish Fillets with Butter and Herbs (page 122)

                                  Here’s the scenario: (1) I had a second trout fillet. (2) I was so enamored of his broiling method, I wanted to try it with the trout. (3) I didn’t want to go out and buy anything.

                                  So this is a variation of a variation.* I oiled and seasoned (S&P) the fillet. I minced parsley and thyme and added lemon zest. I patted that on the fillet, sprinkled the fillet with bread crumbs, and drizzled olive oil over all. I plopped it into the preheated cast-iron pan under the broiler and cooked for about 3-1/2 minutes. Served with a squeeze of lemon.

                                  The bread crumbs burned, but just a bit. Didn’t seem to matter too much to the flavor which was very, very good. And the fish was cooked perfectly. Not sure how I reconcile that with the burned bread crumbs, but I'll work on it.

                                  *The original recipe calls for lots of butter. Wasn’t gonna do that. He offers two specific variations, one also with a lot of butter and one with ingredients I didn’t have. So I sort of combined all three variations and took him at his word in the headnote, “As you’ll see in the variations, this technique opens the door to all kinds of experimentation at home.” And that’s another thing I love about this book. You don’t feel as if he’s setting down hard and fast rules. It’s more, here are some ideas, here are some techniques, play with it and see what works for you. It makes it so easy to cook with what you’ve got and not worry about what you don’t.

                                  P.S. These fillet photos are all beginning to look alike, aren’t they? Well, you don’t have to look. And in the meantime I get to practice my food photography skills. :->

                                  1. Broiled Flounder with Arugula Pesto, p. 125

                                    I bought this book last week thanks to this thread, and made my first dish last night. Well, I prepped it, and my husband did the actually broiling, as I have both a sprained ankle and now his cold! I made half a batch of the pesto (with pine nuts that were $24 a pound - I could not believe it when my husband told me, and actually called Citarella to confirm the price - time to get another source), and then prepped the fillets - seasoned with salt and pepper, dipped in melted butter, rubbed on lemon zest, then spread on pesto and sprinkled on bread crumbs. I then put them on foil on my flat broiler pan, and forgot to grease the foil, but it turns out there was no need. They cooked in five minutes, and were quite good - I thought the fish was slightly mushy, but perhaps it wasn't quite as fresh as it could have been. My husband added some pesto to each bite, and we had this with some snow peas. I'm looking forward to trying some other recipes.

                                    1. Although I've been trying very hard to not buy any more cookbooks, this thread convinced me I did, indeed, need another.

                                      Sauteed Salmon with Beets and Skordalia p. 234

                                      I used Wild Coho and this was very, very good. I bought a 1 1/2 lb fillet and divided the two ends between two skillets. The skinnier end took less time (of course) but the thicker end was done perfectly following the recipe's directions. I loved it on top of the skordalia. I used a heavy-handed 8 thick cloves of garlic and while my spouse said "whoa" at the first taste, he declared subsequent bites delicious. The beets were a great side, although next time I will roast the beets instead - just because I prefer them that way.

                                      This was a very easy, delicious weeknight dinner.

                                      Thank you, JoanN, for convincing me to get this book. I'm excited about trying many other of the recipes.

                                      1. Clams and Chorizo (page 283)

                                        This is his take on the classic Portuguese Porco à Alentejana, and a damned good take it is. (There’s another take on this in Sunday Suppers; Goin says it “is one of the more involved recipes in the book,” and for Goin, that’s saying something!) I know I’m turning into a broken record here, but it was quick, it was easy, it was excellent.

                                        You sauté 3 oz of chopped chorizo in olive oil until it begins to brown, then add a very healthy amount of chopped garlic and a couple of sprigs of thyme and stir for about a minute. Add a dozen little necks to the pan, splash in 1/3 cup of amontillado, and shake the pan until the clams open.

                                        I served it as a tapa with drinks, which I’d only recommend doing (as did I) with good friends. The three of us ended up hanging over the bowl scooping up every last bit of pork and sauce with bread, forks, and shell-halves. He says it serves four. Pay no attention. Even as an appetizer it would barely serve two. Gonna be doing this one again. And next time, I’m not sharing.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          Oh good - I'll have to try that - I've often eyed that Goin recipe, but, like you, was put off by her warning!

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            JoanN or anyone else, I am planning on making this tonight, but have never done clams. Mussels billions of times, but not clams. The recipe says to scrub, but doesn't talk about shucking -- is that implied? And, if so, what is the tip on the microwave to open them partway mentioned upthread? Any guidance is appreciated. TIA. Excited that FWAD is back as I missed it the first time around!

                                            1. re: mebby

                                              No, no shucking required. This dish is served as clams in the shell. And there's no need to partially precook them in a microwave as I often need to do when making paella. In this instance, you're cooking the clams in liquid in a covered pan. Depending on the size, some clams take longer to open than others, but they will open without being microwaved. Just keep checking the pan, probably beginning after about five minutes as he says, remove the ones that have opened, and keep cooking until they've all opened (or until you discover that there may be one that will never open, in which case, throw it out).

                                              Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. It's been a long time since I first made it. Time to make it again.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                Thanks so much, Joan -- I guess I wasn't reading very closely! I always love reading your reports from this book and look forward to being able to participate in some limited manner in COTM this month.

                                          2. I finally got around to settling down with this book over the last few days, and if the recipes are anywhere near as good as they read, I'll be in love. I've got a list almost a page long of things I want to try. I have a weird week coming up and probably won't get a chance to cook anything until the following week, but one of the things high on my list is the tandoori salmon. The picture sells it really well.

                                            1. Baked Tandoori Salmon with Tatziki (p. 188)

                                              He gives recipes for both a baked and a grilled version of this. I'd happily do either, but today was sort of chilly for here, so we baked it. You rub some commercially made tandoor paste on the fish, along with a little ghee (or unsalted butter) and a bit of yogurt and let it sit for an hour in the fridge. Then very simple - sear on a hot pan for 90 seconds, then bake in the oven for 3 minutes. I'd say it was *slightly* more cooked than I like my salmon, but this is probably because our salmon was fairly thin. He recommends Bombay brand tandoor paste, but unable to find that, I went with Mina's. Huge hit. So easy to make, and lots of great flavor. And the tatziki! Best I've ever had. Husband loved it, I loved it, Lulu loved it.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                That looks and sounds delicious. I wonder why he calls it tatziki rather than raita? I think of them as being kind of the same.

                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                  My husband asked the very same question. Lulu went through a phase when raita was *always* on the plate, she just loved it. This had garlic, which I've never had in raita (not that I'm a raita expert), and didn't have any dry spices. It was mint or dill (I went with dill), lemon juice, garlic and the yogurt. I have to say that my initial reaction was that it made more sense to go with a raita with an indian spiced dish, but this combination was pretty darned wonderful.

                                                2. re: LulusMom

                                                  Oh my goodness that looks good.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    This looks like something which might appeal to the fish-dodger who is Mr GG. (He will eat fish, but doesn't like bones and would always prefer a steak or a sausage.) Would you mind paraphrasing the recipe (I know you've kind of already done that but some idea of quantities would be great). Thanks.

                                                  2. I could really use some interesting options for cooking fish, so, I'm glad to have this thread to consult now that Fish is the March COTM!


                                                    1. Chicken-Fried Trout 272
                                                      with spicy remoulade 416 Substituted catfish fillets. Bought this cookbook due to this thread and I, too, have a lost list of gotta makes. This was the best fried fish I've ever had - can't wait to make it again, and the remoulade will be a regular in our house.
                                                      Served with coleslaw and had to try the cucumber salad (459) with it. YUMYUM!!

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: bayoucook

                                                        Wow. High praise indeed for someone named bayoucook. Thanks for the report.

                                                        1. re: JoanN

                                                          You're welcome. It was just the mixture of flavors I guess - AND we don't have fried anything very often. And I DO live on the bayou, wwwaaayyy down south!

                                                        2. re: bayoucook

                                                          bayoucook so good to find your glowing review of the spicy remoulade here (albeit feedback coming over 3 yrs after your post!!) I plan on making this tomorrow w a salmon dish from the book. and will post in the COTM thread but I appreciate your input and wanted to let you know your post influenced my decision to prioritize this dish. Thanks!