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TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking Fish

On Saturday we provided fish-buying tips from chef Scott Leibfried of Arch Rock Fish restaurant in Santa Barbara.

Today, Chef Scott provides some fish-cooking tips to turn home cooks into chefs de poisson.
INITIAL DECISIONS FOR COOKING FISH

  • Portion Size. A good portion size for a fish is six to seven ounces.
  • Cooking Method. You can bake/roast, grill, poach, sauté or steam the fish. Once you decide on a preparation and a recipe, check the cooking instructions and make sure you understand them.
  • Skin On Vs. Skin Off. Some people love to eat the skin, some don’t. It’s your choice. But when fish is cooked properly, the skin crisps up in a most delicious way. Cooking with the skin on also keeps the fish moister and enhances the flavor.
  • To Scale Or Not To Scale. Depending on the fish, if you’re cooking skin on, you might need to scale it. Scaling is simple: Place the fillet or whole fish skin side up and use a fish scaler or the back of a knife to remove the scales. Scrape from the tail side towards the head. Wipe the fish with a towel when you’re done.
  •  

    Olive oil poached salmon, skin off. Here‘s the recipe. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful.

     

    BREAKING DOWN A FISH

    If you like to wield a knife, you can save money by purchasing a whole fish rather than fillets.

    There are two groups of fish: round fish (bass, salmon, snapper) and flatfish (flounder, halibut, sole). The different shapes mean different skeletal structure. Chef Scott explains how to break down the more popular round fish:

  • Use a knife that is longer than the width of the fish. Chef Scott likes using a chef’s knife, an eight-inch blade.
  • Cut down to the backbone of the fish just behind the gills; don’t remove the head.
  • Turn the knife toward the tail using smooth strokes. You should cut from the head to the tail and be parallel to the backbone. Cut all the way through. Slice into fillets.
  • If there are rib bones in the fillets, use a boning knife and cut them off. Use a tweezers to pull individual bones from the flesh.
  • The finished product should be a clean fillet with skin on.
  •  


    Grilled salmon, skin on, with sautéed black
    olives. Photo courtesy Payard | New York
    City.
      GRILLED SNAPPER VERACRUZ: AN ADVANCED RECIPE

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 six-ounce snapper fillets, skin off
  • 6 ounces onion, diced
  • 4 ounces garlic, sliced
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1-1/2 pounds tomatos, diced
  • 16 pimento stuffed green olives, halved
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  •  
    Preparation: Fish

    1. TURN grill on; you want it to be fairly hot, so the fish cooks quickly. Oil the grill with a cloth: This avoids sticking and breaking.

    2. OIL the fillets and season with salt and pepper. Don’t drench the fish with oil, just brush it. Otherwise, the grill may flare up from the excess oil. Place the fillets on the grill and leave them there. Don’t play with the fish; let the grill marks set in.

    3. FLIP fish with a spatula once, halfway through cooking. Be gentle: Fish is delicate, unlike a burger or chicken. If the grill is hot enough and oiled correctly, the fillets should neither stick nor break. This, of course, takes practice!

    4. COVER and let the fish finish grilling. The process shouldn’t take longer then 8 minutes. The fish will continue to cook when taken off the grill. If undercooked you can return it to the grill (in restaurants they finish it in the oven). But try the undercooked fish: The flavor is more elegant and never “fishy.” The greatest sin is dry, overcooked fish.

    5. ADD sauce and serve. Plate it chef-style: Place the fish atop a bed of starch (noodles, potatoes, rice) or green vegetables (kale, spinach, zucchini) and drizzle the sauce around the circumference of the plate.
     
    Preparation: Sauce

    1. COMBINE onion, garlic and jalapeño in a pan with oil; sweat them over medium high heat.

    2. ADD tomatoes, olives, capers, thyme and cilantro.

    3. SEASON with salt and pepper.

    4. GARNISH with cilantro; or for something more special, fried capers.

     
    Chef Scott likes to serve this dish with a sweet potato hash.
     
    FILET VS. FILLET

    Filet (fee-LAY) is French, fillet (FILL-let) is British. They mean the same thing: a boneless cut or slice of fish or meat.

      




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