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Help a fish newbie out

So I am not that familiar with fish, both cooking and eating. I do know I'm not really into "fishy" fish, like salmon or mackerel, but I like light fish like mahi mahi or halibut. Tuna is OK too. My store has wild caught fresh mahi mahi filets on sale this week so I'd like to try it at home, I've literally cooked fish (salmon) once at home.

I'm guessing that any recipe I find for lighter fish can be interchangeable?
For example, the COTM has a simple looking trout recipe that has lemon, brown butter, and parsley. This should be fine with mahi mahi, right?

I'd also be interested to hear in your other favorite ways to prepare mahi mahi, on the simple side since I'd most likely be making this on Friday night after work. I will do asparagus and roasted potatoes as sides.

Lastly, how do you know when fish is done, but not overly so?

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  1. Mahi Mahi is great grilled with some olive oil and S&P.

    1. I made this cod recipe and it was terrific. I did the leeks also but you wouldn't have to.


      2 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        There were some comments on this recipe that covering it, as per the recipe, didn't allow the fish to get crusty on the bottom. Did you cover it?

        1. re: juster

          I did and it did :) Dark? No. But I really liked it and should fix it again soon.

      2. That should be okay, but it wouldn't be my first choice for Mahi. When interchanging fish recipes, you want to stick with similar varieties in either type or flavor. Thin trout filets aren't remotely like Mahi in either thickness, taste, or texture.

        I'd look for recipes that involve thicker & more flavorful fish like Halibut or Cod. The cooking times will be more in sync, as will seasoning, etc. (And there also are plentiful Mahi recipes out there as well - why are you looking at one for trout?).

        As for how I enjoy Mahi - I enjoy it most often brushed with melted butter & sprinkled with Jerk seasoning & some fresh lime juice, then simply baked or broiled until "just" done. (NEVER overcook fish!). But you can use any type of seasoning that appeals to you. Mahi can take stronger seasonings & sauces than wimpier white fish.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Bacardi1

          I just looked at the trout recipe because it's in the COTM and I want to make more things out of the book. Plus I already have all the ingredients (minus the fish) from that recipe. But I'm not stuck on cooking from the book. I have this recipe for halibut, it should work ok right? http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/garli... I was saving it in case halibut ever became affordable for me (ha ha ha, like that'll happen).

          I would love to grill the fish but it's not grilling weather at all here (cold and windy).

          I recently had mahi at a restaurant w/ chimichurri sauce and it was good, but my SO can't handle a ton of herbs like that due to his Crohn's, they really mess him up. The jerk seasoning idea sounds nice though.

          1. re: juliejulez

            I've never understood "grilling weather" :) We used to live in the PacificNW and grilled in the pouring rain, standing under an umbrella. Now we live in snow country. The grill itself is under an eave of the house but the grill-ER isn't. That's why parkas have hoods :)

            1. re: c oliver

              my DH grills year round here in Philly - snow, sleet and freezing rain! :)

              1. re: c oliver

                Rib-Eyes/Porter Houses grilled in a Severe Southern Thunderstorm with the lightning lightnin and the thunder crashing are awesome!! ~~ Guarantee you want over cook them. ;)

                1. re: Uncle Bob

                  I grew up in the South and that remains one of my guilty pleasures. We now live where thunderstorms are summer events and therefore fire danger. But always short-lived so we can still dash out to grill. I'm not sure we've ever overcooked a steak :)

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Yep, as a youngster grilling in a Severe Thunder Storm brought me from 'Medium" to a 'Medium Rare' man. ~~ I suppose if the the Tornado Siren ever goes off while grilling, I'll move all the way to 'Rare' :) ~~ Southern DNA huh? Don'tcha think it's time to come home?

                    1. re: Uncle Bob

                      My over the top liberalism doesn't always do so well down there :) But you can never truly take the South out of the girl. Especially when it come to cookin'. Even turned my Westerner husband into a collards, black-eyed peas and grits lover.

                2. re: c oliver

                  The cold isn't as much of an issue as wind is. I live kind of out in the plains in an open area with empty lots on all sides of us, so the wind really picks up, and it makes bbqing to a good result very difficult. IF the flames stay lit (I have a gas grill), they cook very unevenly even with the lid closed.

                  1. re: juliejulez

                    Ah, I see. We have a second home with more that type of climate but the grill is in a somewhat protected space.

                3. re: juliejulez

                  I like that recipe much better than the trout idea.

              2. I love mahi mahi grilled, with a mango salsa on top! I can't get decent fresh mangos in Iowa, so just buy the frozen chunks and the salsa still works (and tastes!) great.

                4 Replies
                  1. re: juliejulez

                    I just read that the weather inhibits your grilling - sorry about that! I've also done mahi mahi pretty successfully on my indoor grill pan, if that's an option. I do like the idea of the jerk seasoning a lot! And that mango salsa would still work. :)

                  2. re: iowagirl

                    Yes - I too made it once topped with a Mango salsa. A Mango-Habanero salsa. Talk about heat! But it was also fruity & flavorful at the same time. Was an excellent pairing.

                  3. Yes, a recipe calling for one type of white fish will be fine using another, in my experience.
                    ETA: I don't have any experience cooking trout - my experience is with mahi, cod, turbot, tilapia... which are pretty interchangeable.

                    Fish is done when you can flake it with a fork. it also turns more opaque as it cooks. Unless the filets are very thick, 10-15 minutes is usually long enough.

                    my favorite recipe:
                    1 to 1.5lbs of white fish
                    a thinly sliced onion
                    2-3 thinly sliced roma tomatoes
                    cajun seasoning (or other favorite seasonings)
                    butter or evoo

                    heat the butter or evoo in a deep sautee pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook about 5 minutes, stirring ocassionally. season the fish with the cajun seasoning and lay on top of the onion. lay on slices of tomato. throw in a splash of white wine, stock or water if the pan looks real dry. cover and cook on med low about 10 minutes, until the fish flakes with a fork.

                    I also like to do fish in a packet - either tin foil or parchment - with some evoo or butter, veggies such as tomato, asparagus and seasonings. doesn't take long in the oven... about 20 minutes IIRC.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: jujuthomas

                      Unfortunately the romas in my market are horrendous right now, I made the mistake of buying some a few weeks ago :( But that would be great to make in the summer.

                      I like the idea of the packet... easy clean-up.

                      1. re: juliejulez

                        they are all pretty awful right now aren't then! I've made this recipe with all types of tomatoes... when the romas were sad or I forgot to pick some up. it's a pretty flexible recipe - based on one my mom made when we were kids.

                        the packet IS nice tho - a FB friend suggested it one day when I posted that I had fish and asparagus and tomato and was out of recipe ideas. I threw it all in a packet, and there was dinner! :)

                        1. re: jujuthomas

                          A neighbor did basically what you describe minus the tomato and it was great. Canned tomatoes would work. Plus honestly I think sad tomatoes aren't so unhappy when they're cooked. I'll even use them in a salad but I slice them ahead of time and then drizzle with a little oo and some s&p. Seems to perk 'em up a bit.

                    2. The best tip I've ever found for cooking fish is this: If the fillet is much thinner at the tail end, fold it under so the entire fillet has as much equal thickness as possible.

                      Also, don't overcook fish -- remove from heat just as soon as the flesh begins to flake and let residual heat finish the cooking.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Chowbird

                        that's a great tip Chowbird! I can't believe I never thought to fold over the tail end like that. :)

                        1. re: Chowbird

                          That is a great idea, the folding of the tail.

                          1. re: Chowbird

                            Thank you for that tip, Chowbird. Ashamed to say I never thought of it. And just two weeks ago I cooked a piece of fish with just this problem. Now I know what to do in the future.

                          2. The thing to remember is that you don't have to cook the fish until it is tender---it is already tender, unlike many meat dishes. Season, cook until the fish is opaque all the way through (use a knife to take a peek), on the stovetop or in the oven. That's it!

                            1. A mild firm fleshed fish is haddock which you might want to look into. I used to dislike salmon, but started to cook it myself, in the oven at 375 with a small amount of olive oil, herbes de provence and lemon slices over it. It is not as strong tasting cooked this way. There's a really big difference for me in flavour between salmon and mackerel! How did you cook your salmon? I find trout quite flavorful, and if you like it you might just like salmon cooked another way?

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                I used this recipe for the salmon: http://traceysculinaryadventures.blog... but I've had it in restaurants, at other people's houses, etc, and I just have never liked it.

                                Part of my problem is the fish I HAVE liked, has been in either areas that have good fish (like on the coast) or in high end restaurants (ie Tru in Chicago). So I got spoiled. I live in Colorado now and unless we go to a place that is known for seafood, the fish just isn't that good. Plus I can't afford to buy the really nice fish at the nicer markets, so I'm stuck with my regular grocery store fish. I usually just skip making it because I can't get a good product. I'm hoping this sale mahi mahi will be OK. My SO loves fish so I'd like to make it for him more often.

                                1. re: juliejulez

                                  Do you have a King Soopers nearby in Colorado? I used to get pretty good swordfish there, or more local rainbow trout.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Yes, that's where I go, that's where the mahi mahi is on sale at.

                                  2. re: juliejulez

                                    Do you have TJs? They have flash frozen fish (i.e., frozen immediately after being caught), sold frozen, that is moderately priced and pretty good. It's much better than the fish you will find in the refrigerated case at most mass-market supermarkets. Alternately, Whole Foods tends to have excellent quality fresh fish, but the prices are much higher.

                                    I regularly buy TJ's cod and the silver-bright Salmon. With regard to the salmon, I know you say that you don't care for it, but what varieties have you tried? Some have a stronger fish taste than other. The silver-bright is fairly mild. I usually use the cod for fish tacos. Happy to share the recipe that I use but I suspect it may be too spicy for your SO.

                                    1. re: masha

                                      No TJ's here yet :( They're in the process of building two though. I miss it!

                                    2. re: juliejulez

                                      The recipe you have fries the salmon which intensifies the taste. I understand you on the fish, I grew up in Northern Quebec and we ate fresh fish, fresh caught that day. It is very difficult to find good fish but the day you buy it might help you out. I have been told that fresh supplies come in on Wednesdays which makes it the best day of the week to purchase fish. As well I have purchased fish from Cosco in both the fresh and frozen sections and was satisfied. Some frozen fish is actually fresher than what we consider fresh.

                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                        Ruthie you make a good point about what day the fish comes in. I'll have to ask them at the counter if there's a specific day that it's better to buy the fresh stuff.

                                  3. I found this recipe for a walnut and herb crusted mahi mahi, does it look good to you all? I have some leftover walnuts that have already been ground up to use up.


                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                      That does look yum. I'd be tempted to add some lime or lemon juice to the paste though; flavors may need brightening. I'd also s&p the filets directly, rather than top of the paste.

                                      Shame she didn't have photo of the finished fish. But others have provided the advice you need.

                                      If you like ceviche, that's easy and delicious and no need to even use the oven.

                                      Also consider pan grilling or sauteing some mahi mahi for tacos.

                                    2. This recipe is simple and delicious pan-seared or even better on the grill. I have made it with Mahi and I think the lime and the vodka perfectly compliment the fish!


                                      1. Just want to add, everyone will tell you not to overcook, but sometimes that leads you to undercook. Which is perfectly fine with tuna, but not so much most others. Test it to make sure it flakes and is not undercooked in the middle, that is such a turn off to me. I have had great success with things like salmon and halibut on my George Foreman, when I can't actually grill outside.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: coll

                                          Ummmm If your fish "flakes," it's already overcooked. The knife tip to see that it's opaque throughout is a better indicator.

                                          1. re: ChefJune

                                            Maybe just me then. I do not like fish that is opaque. I prefer it a bit firm, and cannot finish if I get to the center and it's pinkish. I'm talking steak here like mahi mahi, salmon or halibut, rather than filets of course. I'm actually less picky about chicken!

                                        2. Julie, you're right. Recipes for any white fleshed fish can be used for any other. Likewise, any recipe you like for boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be easily adapted to fish fillets. Just don't cook the fish as long as the chicken.

                                          Lemon, brown butter and parsley is a classic preparation for fish -- and for a good reason! You could also sub tarragon, dill, chervil or another light, fresh herb for the parsley for a variation.

                                          When is fish "done?" those thin little fillets don't take long. Don't walk away from the stove while they're cooking or they'll be overcooked. Just a minute or two on each side is about right. If you start with a hot pan, there will still be a short window of residual cooking after you remove the fillets from the pan.

                                          1. An underappreciated fish here (though not in Spain) is hake. White, mild, easy to cook, great paired with a simple Basque "salsa verde" (EVOO, white wine, garlic, parsley, teaspoon of flour to thicken).

                                            Also, Marquise Ripert recommends, stick a skewer or some other thin pointy metal bit into the center of your fish, pause 5 seconds, then put the tip on your lip. If it is warm, your fish is done.

                                            1. I ended up making the mahi mahi with the walnut herb crust, and it turned out pretty good. The SO mostly liked it, except he said "I don't like nuts in my food" LOL I told him you couldn't even tell they were there but he still scraped most of the breading off. Oh well. He said he did like the fish itself.

                                              My "filet" was huge, about a pound, and pretty thick, so it took awhile to cook, about 30 minutes. In hindsight I should have cut it in half so each piece would have cooked faster. I also did a google image search of mahi mahi so I could see what it should look like when it was done :)

                                              Thanks for everyone's help!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: juliejulez

                                                I'm with your SO. Don't care for nuts on my fish.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  Ha they were ground up really small! I seriously didn't taste them at all. Which I guess means they were pointless... :)

                                              2. Hi Julie,

                                                I realize it's been a while since your initial post and you've long since cooked your fish but someone had bumped your post and since I saw it, I couldn't help jumping in.

                                                I don't know if you're up for a new cookbook but I'd highly recommend FISH WITHOUT A DOUBT by Rick Moonen.

                                                I was introduced to this book by the passionate endorsements of fellow hounds and I just had to purchase it. It's been a COTM twice now and I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the second one.

                                                It's not an exaggeration to say that this book changed the way I cook fish. I've learned so much from the book and hold it amongst my most treasured cookbooks.

                                                Here's a link to the COTM thread in case it's of interest:


                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                  Yes Fish Without A Doubt is an excellent book, full of great ideas.

                                                2. Chilean Sea Bass is another great fish, if you can find it in your area. It has an almost almond-like smell to it and can hold up to a variety of cooking methods - though my favorite, as with most fish, is to simply just broil it.

                                                  1. Julie, I cook fish very simply most often. This is my main method of prep.

                                                    If using boneless fillets, dry fillets very well with a towel to remove as much surface moisture as you can. I use paper towels for the ease of clean up.

                                                    Season with S&P and any other seasoning you want, dust with Wondra or rice flour. Remove excess flour. It's used mainly as a drying agent and for crust development.

                                                    Heat a skillet with a high smoke point oil like grape seed or similar. Gently lay the fillets in the pan and quickly move them a little in the beginning so there is less chance of sticking. Use a spatula and press lightly if need to make sure the surface of the fish is in full contact with the skillet. Again mostly for aesthetics and crust formation.

                                                    Cook 2/3 or 3/4 of the way on the first side to get a nice firm and well developed crust, then flip and finish. Do not over cook. Most fish do well if the center is still a tad under done when removed from the pan. Grouper is not one of them.

                                                    If cooking really thick fillets you can start in the skillet as described above, flip and finish in a hot oven.

                                                    This has worked very well for me. The fish can then be place on top or along the side the other components of the dish.

                                                    1 Reply