Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fishy Facts

My sister sent me an email that read, "I'd like some tips on cooking fish for frightened newbies. I love love love fish (and it's so good for you!!!), but never cook it for myself because I am certain I will destroy it. I know you have the secrets."

Well, yes, dear sister, I do.

The secret is, don't freak out about cooking fish. It's not rocket science. It's just food. And you won't destroy it.

First let's be clear about why fish is good for you. Fish are full of Omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for visual, mental, metabolic, hormone and heart health. And while we get some Omega 3s from the flax and wheat germ in our morning smoothie, there are some Omega 3s that can only be found in fish.

So it's important to incorporate fish into your diet. Aim to have three servings of wild caught fish (less chemicals, antibiotics, dyes and mercury than farm raised) a week and your body and brain should be getting what they want.

The easiest and most delicious route to cooking fish is grilling it. But since the Angelino skies poured a sea down on us when I made my last fish, I pan roasted it, just like the lamb chops.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Coat halibut with olive oil, salt and pepper.

3. Heat metal handled pan on stove top at medium high.

4. When hot, put fish in pan. Brown one side, flip, pop in the oven for four minutes. (For a thicker fish go longer.)

5. After four minutes, plate fish, squeeze lemon over it.

6. Enjoy!

This method will work with any meaty fish like salmon, halibut, swordfish, seabass or tuna. But when it comes to flaky fishes like flounder, tilapia, orange roughy or red snapper, you can simply saute it. Since they're so thin, you don't want to overcook them in the oven. (More on that in posts to come.)

And mix it up! Use different herbs and spices. Try a cajun rub on halibut or swordfish. Give it your own spin.

Fishy Terms

Unless you live where you can buy fresh fish off a boat (and if you do, I'm totally envious), you're going to have a hard time finding good fresh fish. Of course there are local fish markets but it can get pricey, so I try to purchase wild caught flash frozen fish when I can. Flash frozen means it's been frozen on the boat. So it's as close to fresh as you can get.

You can find inexpensive flash frozen fish at Trader Joe's and most likely in your local supermarket. Believe it or not, Whole Foods sometimes has specials on flash frozen fish too. Although it's tough to buy it because the $25 per lb fresh stuff sitting in the case next to you is sooo enticing.

Most of the fish at the supermarket is Previously Frozen. That's a weird term because it's vague. When was it frozen? How long did it sit on a boat? And if it was previously frozen, now it's sort of thawing so you need to cook it that day. Because you can't re-freeze previously frozen fish.

So, that's the skinny on fish. If you have any fishy questions (or non-fishy questions) ask them!



  1. UGH!!!
    Ok, can you put yourself on a damn dish??

    Suzy Q...not only is fish my main staple food.. (Dude, my parents rowed to get here), but your simplistic and even nutrient dense lessons are super easy to swallow. That's what she said. Keep em comin babe.

    That's what she said, too.

  2. I love halibut. Sadly, I don't get it fresh anymore living in MT. Lots of lake fish here, but I haven't been brave enough to try those yet.

  3. Thanks for demystifying fish. Personally, I love a great piece of cooked fish, but I fear the freshness issue. A not-so-fresh hamburger is palatable... a not-so-fresh trout is a nightmare! The biggest reason I fear cooking fish is that I've often ordered fish in restaurants that tasted so bad I had to send them back. Maybe because fish is less popular and gets less turnover in restaurant kitchens?

    By the way, never order fish on Mondays; that is the fishmonger's day off so the fish will not be fresh. I know your readers will be tempted to run out and buy some fish today... you'll be happier if you wait until Tuesday.

    On a side note about fish, my husband took me to Gordon Ramsey's new restaurant at the London Hotel for Valentine's Day, and I had the most amazing sea bass. It was a delicate little fillet with its shiny silver skin still on... it looked beautiful and pristine, like it had just jumped out of the ocean onto a plate. When I cut into it, I discovered that it had actually been stuffed with a delicious basil mousse! I don't know how the chef managed to do that and have the skin look so untouched. It was truly a work of culinary genius.

    As if that weren't enough, there was a piece of langoustine on the side. I didn't even know what that was until I asked the server. It's a Norwegian lobster. I love my Maine lobsters, but this thing was unbelievable. I took a trip to seafood heaven that night.

  4. Great post! I just posted awhile ago on my personal blog about fish. Thought I'd share. Not sure how absolutely healthy this recipe is, but you can make it healthy. :)

    The Healthy Argyles, Yeah Right

  5. Thanks for the recipe link Lady Glamis! Sounds yummy!