Something fishy

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

IN AN AGE of dietary doom saying, where everything from three square meals a day to the goodness of milk is being challenged, fish has emerged as the new messiah. Even its fat content, which is the bane of all other animal proteins, seems blessed with health benefits.

Fish is naturally low in cholesterol and calories. It cooks quickly and radiates flavor even in the simplest presentations.

The only problem is that most of us don't know the first thing about cooking fish. Reared on frozen flounder and tinned tuna, even good cooks in America frequently find themselves at a loss when confronting a swordfish steak or a red snapper shining crimson beneath its scales. Add to this the phenomenal number of new fish varieties constantly appearing at market and it is easy to see why fish cookery in most homes amounts to preheating the broiler and juicing a lemon.

Substitutions of fish are also possible if the exact fish listed in a recipe is not available. Just make sure if a recipe is written for a fatty fish to use another of similar fat content in its place. To insure consistent results flatfish should only be replaced by other flat fish, fresh water fish by other fresh water fish and such.

Use the following listing as a guide when making substitutions;

* Lean Round Fish: Black Bass, Catfish, Cod, Grouper, Haddock, Ocean Perch, Pike, Pompano, Orgy, Ruffle, Scrod, Sea Trout, Snapper, Tilefish, Whiting.

* Fatty Round Fish: Bluefish, Salmon, Shad, Smelt, freshwater Trout, Tuna

* Dense-muscled Fish: Mahi Mahi, Monkfish, Shark, Sturgeon, Swordfish

* Flat Fish: Flounder, Fluke, Halibut, Sole, Turbot

Though all of the following recipes have been tested, cooking times can vary with the thickness of a particular piece of fish. Judge eight minutes of cooking for every inch of thickness when grilling, sauteing, boiling, broiling or frying; ten minutes per inch of thickness when steaming or baking, or with dense-muscled fish.

It is assumed that you will season all recipes to taste with salt and pepper, including the seasoning for dredging, the seasoning rubbed into the surfaces of fish before cooking and the seasoning added to sauces. For that reason we have only included salt and pepper where amounts are unusual.

All recipes yield four portions.

Black Bass on Cucumber Noodles

2 large peeled, seeded cucumbers

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 6-ounce black bass fillets

1/4 cup yogurt

1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

1 tablespoon dried dill

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 minced clove of garlic

Juice of one lemon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, optional

With a vegetable peeler pare length long strips of cucumber from the cucumbers. Toss with kosher salt and set aside for ten minutes. Rinse well in cold water and shake dry. Arrange in a ring on a serving platter.

Brush four six-ounce black bass fillets with yogurt and dredge i flour and the dried dill. Saute fish in two tablespoons olive oil for two to three minutes per side. Place in the center of the cucumber noodles. Reglaze the pan with the last tablespoon of olive oil, garlic, the lemon juice, and fresh dill. Pour over the fish and cucumbers.

Baked Bluefish

2 tablespoons chopped onion

minced clove garlic

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup white wine

1 1/2 pounds of bluefish fillets

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2/3 cup sour cream or yogurt

CIn a flame-resistant baking dish soften the onion and garlic in the butter. Add the wine and reduce to half its volume. Place bluefish in the liquid in a single layer. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the fish flakes to a gentle push.

Mix the mustard with the sour cream. Set aside. When the fish i done transfer to a warm platter with a slotted spatula. Bring the juices in the pan to a boil. Add the mustard mixture and heat through. Do not allow to boil. Cover the fish with the sauce.

Poached Flounder

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup white wine

2 teaspoons dried basil

Pinch marjoram

3 cups chopped, skinned, seeded ripe tomatoes

4 skinned flounder fillet

Juice of half a lemon

BSoften the onion and minced garlic in the olive oil. Add the wine, basil and marjoram. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add tomatoes and simmer three minutes. Place fillets in the simmering sauce, cover and cook gently for two minutes, just until the fish is firm. Remove the fish with a slotted spatula, add the lemon juice and pour over fish.

Panfried Trout

1 cup finely chopped pitted oil-cured black olives

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup virgin olive oil

4 cleaned 8-ounce brook trout

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

Olive oil for frying

Toss olives with garlic, olive oil and salt. Set aside. Dip trout in milk and then dredge in breadcrumbs. Pan fry in one-quarter-inch olive oil until the skin is crisp and the flesh flakes to the touch. About three minutes per side. Drain on towels and serve with the sauce.

Fried Flounder

1/2 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon dried dill leaves

1 large egg, separated

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 pounds flounder fillets, cut into two-inch long sections

Cornstarch

1 to 2 teaspoons freshly chopped dill (or substitute a pinch of dried)

Oil for frying

Lemon wedges

Sift the flour and baking soda with the dried dill. Beat in egg yolk and buttermilk. Beat the egg white until firm and fold in.

Dust the fillets with cornstarch and fresh dill. Dip into the batte and fry in several inches of 375-degree oil until golden brown, two to three minutes. Do not crowd the pan. Drain on paper towels and serve with wedges of lemon.

Curried Grouper Chowder

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup each diced carrot and celery

1 minced clove garlic

1 tablespoon curry powder

2 tablespoons clarified butter

1 pound peeled and diced potato

1 cored, peeled and diced green apple

4 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 pounds skinless grouper fillet cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

1 cup plain yogurt or milk

1/4 cup toasted nuts.

In a heavy bottomed pot soften onion, carrot, celery and garlic with the curry powder in the clarified butter. Add the potatoes and apple. Mix well and add broth. Simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add grouper. Simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in yogurt. Adjust seasoning and serve garnished with nuts.

Panfried Perch

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 minced cloves garlic

1 cup diced, peeled and seeded apple

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons pickle relish

2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce

2 whole perch, about 1 1/2 pounds each

Milk

3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

Oil for frying

Saute onion, garlic and apple in vegetable oil until tender. Deglaze the pan with vinegar and lemon juice. Cool and blend into mayonnaise mixed with pickle relish and hot pepper sauce. Set aside. Dredge perch in milk and then breadcrumbs. Pan fry in one-half-inch hot oil about five minutes per side. Serve with the prepared tartar sauce.

Sauteed Ruffie

4 6-ounce fillets orange ruffie

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

2 teaspoons ground anise seed

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 egg, beaten

3 tablespoons water

1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs

Olive oil

Lemon wedges

Mix Parmesan, anise seed and parsley together. Dredge fish in mixture. Shake off any loose crumbs. Gently dip the fish in an egg beaten with water and dredge in the breadcrumbs until well coated. Place on a clean plate and allow to rest for at least ten minutes before proceeding. The fish can be held for several hours under refrigeration at this point.

In a large skillet saute the fish in a thin film of olive oil until browned, about three minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spatula and drain on towels. Serve garnished with lemon wedges.

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