I come from a long line of seafood lovers. Everyone in my family LOVES fish. Somehow, I do not. If something has the very slightest fishy taste, it makes me nauseous. And clearly my taste buds are very sensitive to that taste, as someone else eating the same piece of fish might think it tastes great. But I know fish is good for you, and I am making a concerted effort to try to find fish I can eat. And well, now it is Lent, so fish on Fridays is part of the drill, and I am trying to learn not just to like eating fish, but to cook it for myself.
So each week I head to a Central Market to figure out what I am going to make this week. I question the fishmongers about the fish that is available and then try to figure out what I am going to make. I only buy fresh, wild-caught fish, so that narrows down the field substantially.
The prevalence of farmed fish has made me wonder why everyone thinks chickens, pigs, and cows should be raised free-range, but it’s Ok for fish to be intensively raised. Don’t fish deserve to swim free as well? Why do you want to buy, much less eat salmon that has to have beta-carotene added to its feed so it will have the orange colored flesh that wild salmon has from eating Krill—shrimp-like crustaceans. But that, I suppose, is a discussion for another day.
On Ash Wednesday, after listening to my litany of needs—fresh, wild caught, mild flavor—the fishmonger recommends a red snapper filet. He turns over several filets looking at the cut side, but then he turns his attention to a pile on the back counter that had just been cut. He selected the smallest one of those and presented it to me pronouncing it better as it had just been cut. As he weighed it and packed it on ice for me, a coworker came over because he had had those fish cut for a customer who was coming in later to pick them up. Luckily, there were more to be cut and I got my freshly cut filet.
Now I had the fish, but what I am going to do with it? I entered red snapper as the search term on the Food Network web site and looked through the recipes that came up. I decided to go with Rachel Ray’s recipe for Red Snapper Livornese. You cook the fish in a little olive oil—or EVOO as Rachel would say. A few minutes on each side and then on to a warm platter. More olive oil and garlic go into the skillet followed by white wine, which is reduces quickly. Then chopped tomatos, capers, and parsley are added. And the sauce goes over the fish and it’s done. It was so easy and really, really good. Here is the link to the recipe, if you want to try it yourself. You should it is so delicious!
As the filet was more than I needed to one meal, I saved the leftovers for my Fish-on-Friday meal. My friend, Julia, assures me that my cooked red snapper will hold up well in the refrigerator. I re-warm it, and it seems to still be good. Then, however, my super-sensitive taste buds detect a distinctly fishy taste in one bite and that was it for me. I will think twice about keeping leftover fish now.
The next week, I turn to another of my favorite Food Network divas, Ina Garten. Central Market has a fabulous pile of fresh Gulf shrimp and I suddenly have a craving for Shrimp Scampi. I felt a little like I am cheating because I will eat most shellfish, but I don’t ever cook it myself. I peel and devein them and put the shells in the freezer because I read somewhere you should save them for making fish stock. Yep, a couple of weeks of trying to cook fish, and I am suddenly channeling Anthony Bourdain and thinking I’m going to start making fish stock now. Back to the shrimp at hand…
It is another easy recipe. Butter, olive oil and garlic in the pan, followed shortly by the shrimp. The shrimp is done in about 5 minutes and you add parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. A quick stir and it is ready to be combined with the linguine. Ina drains the linguine puts it back in the pot and adds the shrimp and sauce. I take the pasta out of the pot and add it directly to the shrimp and sauce. It just seems easier to toss the two that way. And then I congratulate myself on actually timing the linguine and shrimp to be done at the same time.
It is very good, but I think I will add a bit more garlic next time. What is once again apparent is how fast the meal is ready. The longest part was peeling and deveining the shrimp—which, if you are lucky, you can get someone else to do that part. Here is the link to Ina’s recipe for Linguine and Shrimp Scampi.
This week an advertisement for Dover sole catches my attention, so I turn to Darina Allen for advice. More specifically her book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking. She recommends a quick fry in clarified butter or to put it under the broiler after brushing with clarified butter. She is talking about sole on the bone, and I have very thin filets. I am afraid they will overcook under the broiler, do I decide to pan fry them. The longest part of this preparation is making the clarified butter. Darina suggests putting the butter in a pyrex bowl in a 300 degree oven. Then is sits to cool for a few minutes and then I scoop the salt particles off the top. The clarified butter sits on top of the milky liquid at the bottom. I carefully pour of the clarified butter into another pyrex bowl. It is the easiest clarified butter I have ever made. Usually I melt the butter in a saucepan on top to the stove and spend ages getting all the salt and milky bits out. Thank you, Darina, for my new clarified butter method.
So clarified butter done, I try to figure out side dishes that can be done really quickly and at the same time might be able to sit a few minutes and wait for the fish. I decide on broiled tomatoes, sauteed spinach, and brown rice. Darina recommends sprinkling both sides of the fish with salt a little while before cooking. She says,”Sprinkling a fish with salt on both sides and leaving it for even 10 minutes before cooking dramatically improves both the flavor and texture.” Ok, I can do that.
I started the rice, prepped the tomatoes and sprinkled the fish with salt and not much later was enjoying my latest seafood creation. I wish I was a food stylist so I could make it look as good as it tasted.
I can’t believe I have cooked and LIKED three seafood dishes. What will the next weeks bring? I’ll post my progress in a few weeks!
If you want to buy Darina Allen’s book, here is the link on Amazon:
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It is a great book that teaches you all kinds of forgotten skills (some never known to me) from foraging for food to how to skin a rabbit. In the meantime, eat some fish!