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December 2013 Cookbook of the Month, ALL ABOUT ROASTING by Molly Stevens: Fish & Shellfish

Please use this thread to report on the following chapters from ALL ABOUT ROASTING by Molly Stevens

Fish & Shellfish, pages 377-437

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  1. Basic Whole Roasted Rainbow Trout, p. 433 and Tomato-Orange Relish, p. 434

    This is, indeed, a basic, dare I say standard, approach to cooking whole trout in the oven. The inside of the fish is seasoned with salt and pepper and stuffed with lemon slices and herb sprigs (I used thyme). The fish is brushed on both sides with melted butter (I used olive oil) and seasoned, and into the oven it goes. While that's the order she suggests, to me it makes more sense to brush and season one side and flip the fish before adding the aromatics, than to gingerly flip the fish without allowing the lemon and herbs to fall out.

    There's a bit of a disconnect between ingredients and instructions, in that she specifies trout around 12 oz, "preferably boneless" (on p. 437, she says that without bones, they'll weigh 8-9 oz) but the timing given (18-20 min) and instructions for manually assessing doneness are geared to bone-in fish. My trout was boneless, and I pulled it out at 14 min, when an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the back shot past 150F, well over the 130-140 she indicates. The flesh was still moist, but would have been better pulled a few minutes earlier.

    Tomato-Orange Relish

    I took a couple of liberties here, one in technique and the other is some minor ingredient substitution. While on the facing page, she explains that leaving the tomato skins on gives an unpleasant texture, I didn't peel mine because I didn't want to spend the time on a hurried weeknight, and the cooked skins don't bother me much. I also didn't seed them because these are about the last local tomatoes till midsummer next year, and I didn't want to give up any of their flavor (and the seeds don't bother me in this kind of prep, either). I don't get why she calls for beefsteaks, as I don't think they fare well cooked, but at any rate, I used what I had, which were smaller.

    So: Sauté shallots in olive oil (I reduced the amount of oil) until softened, then add the chopped tomatoes, fresh thyme, a bit of vodka or grappa (I used gin), and S&P, cook until reduced and the liquid's gone. Off heat, add capers and orange zest and juice (I used a lesser amount of Meyer lemon juice because the flesh of my orange was earmarked for a different use), serve at room temp. This is a nice, bright condiment for fish, with concentrated fresh tomato flavor and a bit of zing from the orange and capers. I'll serve the balance with salmon later this week.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

      Basic Whole Roasted Rainbow Trout, p. 433 and Tomato-Orange Relish, p. 434

      First, I want to thank Caitlin for inspiring me to make this. I'm embarrassed to admit, but I've never cooked a whole fish before ... only fillets. For the past couple of weeks, one of the vendors at my farmers market has had some beautiful rainbow trout. When I saw Caitlin's post and how easy this dish was, I decided to give it a go. My fish was 14 oz with bones and I cooked it the whole 20 minutes and it was fine. My only fail was when I went to fillet the fish after cooking. Unlike in the restaurants where they seem to be able to remove the fillets from the bone in one piece, I had many pieces. I guess I need some practice.

      Anyway, I made the dish basically per instructions along with Caitlin's tip on brushing the first side with butter before stuffing with the herbs. I used a combo of thyme and parsley. I made the tomato orange relish with halved cherry tomatoes and it was fine that way. This was a good quick and easy dish and would be very easy for a weeknight meal.

      I did have one question. She uses vodka in the tomato-orange relish ... what is the purpose of that? I used it, but usually when I add alcohol to a recipe it has some flavor. I'm curious what vodka does for the cooking.

    2. Quick-roasted Scallops with Sriracha and Lime (p. 393)

      Super easy for those of you looking for something from this book that will take no time at all. You make a sauce of mayo, sriracha, lime juice and a smidgen of sugar. I ended up going a bit heavier on the sriracha than she calls for (we make srirach and chipotle mayos around here a lot for putting on fish we're going to grill or serving on sandwiches). Unfortunately the scallops I got were small compared to normal (no, they weren't bay, but they looked as if a bay scallop and a sea scallop had a one night stand). You heat the oven, toss the scallops with a tablespoon of the sauce, then put on a buttered baking sheet. Turn and add extra sauce, then put on broil for 2-3 minutes. Our broiler doesn't work (insert complaints about Viking here) so I did the 5 minutes on one side that she recommends and then turned and did 2 at the 500 she has you start them at. They were a bit overcooked, but we all loved the flavor and I'd definitely try this again with bigger scallops. Served with rice and the Asian slaw from Fish without a Doubt and it was a very nice meal (aside from the overcooked thing).

      2 Replies
      1. re: LulusMom

        Glad this was a winner and falls in the take no time all category. I think she also says you can do this with shrimp, which I thought I would try.

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Yes, she says shrimp or meaty fish (I think she mentions halibut). Very easy and quick, and tasty.

      2. Slow-Roasted Wild Salmon Fillets, p. 418

        Wow, was this ever disappointing. Especially given the money spent on a beautiful, thick fillet of wild king salmon. I haven't figured out exactly where things went all pear-shaped on me, but they certainly did.

        In the head note, Stevens rhapsodizes about the texture resulting from roasting salmon at low heat ("incredibly moist, practically creamy and custardy inside"). There's not much to the prep: Brush the salmon with olive oil, rub with minced chives and lemon or orange zest, season with S&P, place on a rack over a baking sheet. Now, I had roasted vegetables at a higher heat first and turned the oven down, so it may have been too hot for a bit, and while it's generally true to temp I didn't have a thermometer in at the time. It's also small and a bit strange, so things often are done on the quick side, and for all these reasons I thought it best to rely on internal temperature. I didn't use the probe thermometer, just a basic Taylor instant-read, but I checked a couple of times and took the fish out when the thermometer in the center of the thickest part read in the 130-135 range, which she indicates for medium rare. Only to cut into it and find it completely overcooked throughout, well done if not more so - it was still a bit moist in the thickest part, not so moist in the rest.

        As I said, I really don't know what exactly happened, except that it obviously cooked way too long, and perhaps too hot. Befuddled, I tested the instant-read thermometer in boiling water after dinner and it read accurately. A sad fate for a beautiful piece of fish, and certainly not the best eating, though made a tad more manageable by serving it with some of the tomato-orange relish reported upthread. You win some, you lose some, I suppose.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          Oh no! How disappointing! I shall scratch this one from my list.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            What temp does he have you roast the fish at?
            We slow roast salmon all the time here (in summer, over fig leaves) and it's become our go to fish dish. Goes together quickly and takes so little attention -we roast at 250 though.
            Sorry this didn't work our for you. I hate when I ruin the pricey stuff!

            1. re: rabaja

              Her instructions are 275, or 250 for convection. I do think my oven was probably too hot at least part of the time on account of my turning it down from a higher temp, and my funny small electric oven with top element does tend to be fast, but the disconnect between internal temp reading and actual doneness is a head-scratcher.

              I'd like to try it again sometime, but I'll be sure to preheat from cold, maybe aiming a bit low, and either use a probe or just check manually.

          2. One-Dish Roasted Haddock (Hake) with Lemony Potatoes, p. 401.

            This is an easy, one-dish meal in which medium-sized potatoes (I used Yukon Golds) are sliced and then spread in a gratin dish along with thin slices of whole lemons (skin 'n all). These are all drizzled in oil and then seasoned with a mixture of chopped thyme, chopped garlic, and some Marash or Aleppo Pepper (plus s & p.) The potato-lemon mixture is roasted gently (turned once) until just tender and lightly browned.

            The fish filets--Stevens recommends any white fish and I used hake--are oiled, seasoned with s & p, and a bit more chopped thyme and Aleppo pepper, before being arranged over the lightly browned potatoes. A final squeeze of lemon juice and then all is roasted until the fish is just cooked through. Then served immediately.

            I really liked the idea of this, and the finished dish is agreeable: potatoes are tender and the fish happily roasts on top till done. It just needs more flavor, IMHO. I did not have any Aleppo pepper, which Stevens says cannot really be substituted for, if that's the phrase. Feeling a bit reckless, I used some Ancho pepper I found in my spice cabinet and perhaps this is why the finished dish didn't seem exciting--don't know. I would add some capers or briny olives or a relish sauce of some sort--even the anchovy vinaigrette on p. 462, which was delicious on the Roasted Broccoli (report on veggie thread.)

            3 Replies
            1. re: Goblin

              One-Dish Roasted Haddock (Cod) with Lemony Potatoes, p. 401

              I had exactly the right amount and sort of potatoes from the last CSA share of the year last week, so had this dish in my sights. Even before reading Goblin's report, I had noted Stevens's mention in the head note of adding olives or capers and decided that would be the way to go, and added a few tablespoons of capers. After reading her report, I decided to also amp up the garlic; in addition to the 4 cloves of minced garlic, I tossed 10 or 12 whole peeled cloves in with the potatoes and added another minced clove to the seasoning of the fish.

              Overall, I thought this was quite good. Not super assertive, but well seasoned enough, and I absolutely loved the creamy texture of the roasted sliced potatoes and the surprise of the mellowed and half-dissolved slices of lemon here and there (I did cut the slices in half so they'd be better distributed).

              1. re: Goblin

                One-Dish Roasted Haddock (Cod Loin) with Lemony Potatoes, Pg. 401

                We made this recipe and Loved it! I used a large thick cod loin about 1 1/4 pounds, 1 pound sliced small red potatoes , 1/4 cup chopped small green olives, 1 large thinly sliced lemon, 1 t Aleppo pepper, and all the other ingredients as listed.

                We loved the technique and will use it again. The timing was perfect for the potatoes, G watched the fish like a hawk to insure it did not overcook. The result was a lemony, subtly spiced delicious piece of fish and soft slices of potato. I did think the lemon flavor just a little too pronounced for my taste but that's easily adjusted. A tossed salad w red wine vinaigrette completed the meal.

                1. re: Gio

                  I need to get to the fish store before Christmas Eve.... two days before Christmas the place gets totally nuts!

              2. Sear Roasted Salmon

                I just did the basic version of the dish -- wild salmon fillets are seasoned with salt and pepper, seared flesh side down in a hot skillet, then flipped and put into a hot oven (425) to finish roasting. This technique didn't work so well for me. My salmon stuck to the pan during the searing stage. Probably the fish was too cold or too wet or both. However, if it is very important to the success of the recipe that the fish be not overly chilled or very dry, I think the recipe should indicate that, so that busy frazzled moms like me know to pay attention instead of just bunging the fish in the pan, which is pretty much what I did. It cooked through fine in the oven, but the appearance was not what I would have wished. My kids had it plain, but I drizzled some of the kalamata viniagrette, which I had made for another recipe, on my portion, and I thought it worked well as an accompaniment.

                I wouldn't repeat this method. I have had better luck searing with the skin side down, then flipping and oven-roasting (this method results in very crispy skin, and I have not had problems with sticking). And for convenience, I actually prefer to avoid pan-searing and flipping entirely, and just roast the fish entirely in the oven.