Taking the Fear out of Fish

Spring is finally here and with that comes Lenten Fish suppers every Friday night. I try to make fish at least once a week throughout the year but during Lent, I guess you could say, I’m religious about it! (Yes, pun intended!)

Fish can be one of the most simple proteins to make, but many people are afraid to cook it simply because they do not have the experience. Chef Kathleen Sanderson is a regular instructor at T&T and is teaching a Fish 101 class this week to help students take some of the fear out of experimenting with cooking fish. In her packet of recipes she includes some very helpful information.


When buying fish, both sight and smell are the senses that will help you to determine freshness. Fish flesh should glisten and look tight and clean, white for white-fleshed fish. It should smell sweet, not fishy. If you get a fishy odor, think again before purchasing.

When you get home from the market with fresh fish purchases you should:

Remove fish from plastic wrap or plastic containers. It can be wrapped in paper or wax paper. Fill a container such as Tupperware with ice and place the wrapped fish on top. Lightly tent with plastic wrap and keep it refrigerated until ready to use (2 days maximum).

Shrimp, clams, mussels, oysters or lobster should be placed in a colander over a bowl. Top shellfish with ice and loosely tent with plastic wrap. The drainage will keep shellfish fresh. Do not store more than 24 hours. Clams can be soaked in ice water with cornmeal for 1-2 hours before cooking to get them to spit out any sand grit. Use 1 Tbsp. of cornmeal per quart of water.

Not all fish are available year-round or regionally. The groups below are similar type fish that can be substitutions when you can’t find that particular one. Most of these fish can be used interchangeably in recipes. Some fish can be used for both tender and firm substitutions.

Firm White Fish           Tender white fish
Blackfish                           Carp
Carp                                   Cod
Grouper                            Haddock
Monk Fish                        Pacific Pollock
Sable fish                          Weak fish
Red Snapper                    Whiting
Striped bass                     Sole
Tile Fish                             Flounder
Catfish                                Perch
Tilapia                                Halibut
Halibut                               Bass
Orange Roughy                  
Mako shark


Back in 2008 Karyn Jarmer, AKA “The Kitchen Witch” https://www.mykitchenwitch.com/ was one of the first guest chefs to teach at Taste & Technique. She made a simple and delicious fish dish that has been my go-to recipe ever since. I managed to misplace the actual recipe, so I’ve written it as I prepare it. Karyn used Tilapia, but any white fish can be used. I’ve made it with tilapia, cod, red snapper and grouper. Just adjust the cooking time depending on the thickness of the fish.

Tilapia with Capers and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
1 quart cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 Tb. capers, rinsed
1 lb. Tilapia filets
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
lemon wedges, optional

Preheat oven to 400˚. Spray a 13×18″ baking sheet with cooking spray. Add tomatoes and capers and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes until tomatoes start to blister. Remove tray from oven and push tomato mixture aside so that the fish can be placed on the baking sheet. Spread tomato mixture on top of the fish and bake for another 10-15 minutes until heated through. Serve with lemon wedges.

It’s become a tradition at Taste & Technique to host a great class filled with simple seafood recipes by The Lusty Lobster the Friday before lent starts. Lusty Lobster has been known for over 20 years in the Two Rivers area as the best place for fresh seafood. Their retail store offers a great selection of seafood and their wholesale business supplies many well known restaurants. A visit to Lusty Lobster is truly an experience on the days leading up to Christmas when a jovial line of customers wrap around their building waiting for abundant supplies of holiday seafood.

Here’s one of the many simple recipes that Doug and Dan from Lusty Lobster have shared with Taste & Technique.
Pepper-Crusted Tuna Steak
Serves 1

1 6-8 oz. Tuna Steak 1” thick
½ cup Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp. Ginger Root – fresh grated
1 Tsp. Wasabi Sauce
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Prepare Sauce – Mix Soy Sauce, Ginger, Wasabi and Scallions in small saucepan, reduce by half.

Heat non-stick skillet to medium-high heat.  Place 1 Tbsp. Olive oil in skillet and heat until almost smoky. Liberally coat tuna steak with cracked pepper and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Remove to plate and top with sauce.

Pepper Crusted Tuna with Soy Glaze

Chef Diana Albanese teaches regularly at Taste & Technique and often instructs students on proper techniques for cooking fish. She offers the following advice for testing fish for doneness:

The challenge in cooking thicker fillets is to be sure that you have cooked the fish thoroughly.  A standard rule is 8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness – a firmer fillet will take a bit longer than one that is tender.

How do you know when they are done?

Begin checking at about 7 minutes of cooking time per inch.  First, insert a thin bladed knife or skewer into the thickest part of the fillet.  If it penetrates with little or no resistance, the fish is done, or nearly so.

Again with a thin bladed knife, gently pry open the fillet at its thickest part.  Take a peek.  Once the fish is opaque throughout, it is done. Your goal should be to take it out just before this point.  With a bit of translucency remaining, the fish will finish cooking on its way to the table.

I asked Diana to share one of her favorite simple fish recipes. This recipe has great flavor and the added benefit of being a one dish meal.

Roasted Cod with Crispy Potatoes, Tomatoes and Zucchini
Serves 4

1 ½ pounds red skinned potatoes, scrubbed, cut into ¼ “ thick slices
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup small diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup shredded zucchini using large holes on grater
¼ cup pitted calamata black olives
1 tbsp. rinsed and dried capers
1 small chopped garlic
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
4 skinless cod fillets about 6 ounces each or other firm white fish

Preheat oven to 425˚.

In a large bowl, combine potato slices, oil and salt and pepper. Toss to coat and spread on a sheet pan, in a single layer.  Roast for 30- 35 minute or until lightly browned on bottom side.

While potatoes are baking, in a bowl combine tomatoes, zucchini, olives, capers, garlic and parsley.  Season to taste and set aside.

When potatoes are browned, remove pan from oven and carefully turn potatoes over.

Arrange fish fillets on top of potatoes and season to taste.  Top each fish fillet with tomato and zucchini mixture.

Return pan to oven and cook until fish is just cooked about 10-15 minutes. Pierce fish in the thickest part with a sharp paring knife and it should go in and out easily.

Use a large spatula and serve a portion of fish, tomatoes and zucchini and browned potatoes for each person.

Since this article started with some helpful tips by Chef Kathleen Sanderson here’s one more recipe by Kathleen. This recipe is delicious served out of the oven or at room temperature as part of a do ahead holiday buffet. Be sure to check out Kathleen’s website and blog with more recipes at http://kkscooks.com/

Roasted Salmon with Citrus Gremolata

1 1/2 -3 lb. side of salmon
The zest of 3 lemons, reserve lemon for garnish
The zest of 2 oranges, reserve orange for garnish
½ cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup chopped chives
4-5 cloves minced garlic
1 Tsp. cracked pepper
2 Tsp. Kosher salt
1/3 cup olive oil

Roasted Salmon with Citrus Gremolata

Pre-heat oven 425˚. Lay salmon on a parchment or foil lined sheet pan

In a bowl combine lemon and orange zest, herbs, garlic, pepper and salt. Remove 2-3 Tbsp. and reserve. Add olive oil to zests and the juice of 1 lemon. Brush olive oil mixture over the surface of the salmon and let stand 20 minutes.

Oven roast the salmon 12-15 minutes or until firm to the touch. Turn oven to broil and broil salmon 1-2 minutes or until golden.  Remove from oven and serve with reserved gremolata.

This dish can also be cooled, wrapped and refrigerated until ½ hour before ready to serve. Serve at room temperature on platter sprinkled with reserved gremolata and garnished with lemon and orange slices that the membrane has been removed from.