By Dave “Pops” Masch
Here we are, hopefully happy in a new year, but we must not forget the old axiom – do not overcook fish! It is a truism that most fish is overcooked much of the time in most restaurants and almost all of the time in most homes. Remember this general guideline: cook any cut of fish (or whole fish) for 10 minutes for each inch of thickness at a fairly high temperature (400-degree oven). This rule applies to most methods of fish cookery such as sautéing, braising, baking, grilling, boiling and steaming. Deep-frying takes less time.
This rule of thumb is not absolute but very reliable. After cooking for 10 minutes (5 minutes on each side if sautéing), test the fish for doneness by seeing if the muscle segments will flake apart easily when tested with a fork. If they do part easily, stop the cooking process by removing the fish pan or dish from the oven. The fish will cook a bit more after removal and should be served immediately if possible, though it can and may be kept warm in a 200-degree oven for up to 20 minutes.
Beware! Steaks are the easiest fish cut to dry out by overcooking, especially on the grill. Remember to baste and to heed the recommended times. The goodness of the steak is at stake here, and these can be high stakes indeed if you are grilling swordfish!
In February, there are few fish to be caught locally, so I do much of my fishing by trolling the fish markets, casting my eye over their often dismal offerings. Although the quality of fish in supermarkets has improved greatly, it still often leaves something to be desired. (I wouldn’t buy and eat a mackerel from a chain store on a bet.)
This is a good time of the year to buy fish steaks, either nice big slabs of tuna or swordfish.
Remember, you don’t have to fire up the outdoor grill to cook fish, you can use your oven broiler or cook in your fireplace. Kids, and I, love fireplace cookery.
2 lbs. swordfish steak (in 4 pieces)
Grill 5 minutes on each side. (Dot with butter or rub with olive oil before grilling.)
4 anchovy fillets
1/4 cup minced scallions
1/4 cup watercress leaves
3/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup drained capers
1 clove pressed garlic
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sour cream
Put all of the ingredients, except the oil and sour cream, in a food processor or blender, and chop for 20 seconds. Now add the oil slowly while the machine is running. Pour the sauce into a glass bowl, and whisk in the sour cream.
If you lack one of the greens, use more of another; only the garlic, anchovies and capers are critical. This sauce is good with any white fish. It is also grand as a dip for raw vegetables or cooked beef. It’s a good sauce to know. Put a dollop of sauce on each steak, add a slice of lemon, and go to it! Very nice!
2 lbs. tuna steak, cut 1 inch thick
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• 1/3 cup honey (or syrup, maple or sugar)
• 1/3 cup dry sherry (or 1/2 cup white vermouth)
• 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
• 1 TBS ginger root, minced
Put the tuna in a glass or ceramic vessel. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a stainless or ceramic saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and add to the tuna steaks.
Grill tuna over hot coals or under the broiler for 3 minutes per side, basting a couple of times with the marinade.
The tuna should be pink in the center when you serve it, with additional marinade on the side. Oh boy!
Cooking The Catch 1 & 2 Combo
Get both of these well written and resourceful cookbooks for one reduced price. Hundreds of great recipes for local seafood.