Great ideas to spice up fish cooking?
November 23, 2008 8:38 PM   Subscribe

What is the best fish cookbook for the beginner?
posted by parmanparman to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I meant to phrase this "What book will help me become unafraid of cooking fish recipes myself?"
posted by parmanparman at 8:51 PM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I strongly recommend Mark Bittman's Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking. He's great at explaining the basics, including various ways of cooking fish, what sorts of fish are interchangeable in recipes, etc. You might know Bittman from his Minimalist column and blog in the New York Time or from his other fantastic cookbook, How To Cook Everything.
posted by ethorson at 9:10 PM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

There is nothing like hands on practice, I was afraid of fish until I took a class and learned exactly how to cook fish. Alot of more upscale grocery stores (Central Market if you are in Texas) have chefs on staff that offer cooking classes so you get to see professionals do it, ask your questions and also get a five course meal for under 50 bucks.
posted by bigmusic at 9:10 PM on November 23, 2008

Best answer: Mark Bittman's Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking?
posted by purpleclover at 9:10 PM on November 23, 2008

Best answer: Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking by Mark Bittman. His recipes are sophisticated, but very simple, and not at all intimidating.

I'd also recommend his blog, Bitten. The "Recipe of the Day" feature often involves seafood.
posted by arianell at 9:10 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The Ayes have it! Thanks, everybody!
posted by parmanparman at 9:21 PM on November 23, 2008

I suppose if you're really cautious you can wait until the book, but you should know that cooking fish isn't rocket science.

These are the two easiest fish dishes:

1) Pan-fried trout: get a small trout, gutted and scaled but otherwise intact. Wash it thoroughly, then wet it with water and press firmly into breadcrumbs that have been well seasoned with salt and pepper. Fry on medium heat in a frying pan with just enough oil to coat the pan. A small fish will only need 3 minutes per side, maybe less. The fish is done if it flakes away clean when you pull at it with a fork (before it is ready, it will stick to the bone and be more elastic, similar to raw chicken breast).

2) Steamed: steaming isn't that common of a cooking technique but really it's the easiest way to cook fish, especially since it's relatively difficult to mess this up. So long as there's enough steam the fish isn't going to dry out and so long as you don't cook it to death it'll taste fine. My favorite steamed fish dish involves cutting green bananas into thin slices and laying them across the surface of a bamboo steamer. Then, on top, I place small pieces of a white fish fillet (tilapia, which I guess is technically a whitefish but has a slightly stronger flavor, works well here). Steam until the bananas are cooked through. Top with homemade tomato sauce (I use diced canned tomatoes flavored with Carribbean-style seasonings).

These are the criteria I used to choose a good fish, based mostly on superstition: the fish, if it's whole still feels a bit springy and active when you move it around. The flesh bounces back a bit when pressed (it shouldn't mush in). The eyes, if there, are clear and bright. The fish smells like the ocean, or it smells like that kind of fish, but it should not smell fishy. If I feel like it's appropriate I'll ask the seller when the fish came in. Almost all of them swear back and forth that they bought their fish that day; if so, some of them must buy their fish from a secondhand shop.

If you live in Philly like I do a great place to buy fish is the Italian market. There are a couple of fishmongers right on 9th street, and two large fish and seafood stores along Washington Ave. I've heard good things about the fish and seafood from Terminal market but I don't do much shopping there. If you don't have a good fishmongery type place where you live, I have heard (from a couple of professional caterers) that in general Whole Foods' selection is fairly reliable. I would steer clear of many chain supermarkets, however...I've seen really really godawful fish being sold there.

...all that being said I will definitely look into this book. I generally cook fish by wits and prayer alone, and it'd be nice to have some actual techniques under my belt.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:01 PM on November 23, 2008

Best answer: Fish - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

It's UK-centric, though.
posted by idiomatika at 10:40 PM on November 23, 2008

Best answer: I love Bittman, and while I've not got his Fish book, I'm sure it'll treat you just fine. However, should you want to consult a slightly more time-honored tome, you could do worse than to get James Beard's classic New Fish Cookery.
posted by mumkin at 11:50 PM on November 23, 2008

Best answer: Rick Stein's Complete Seafood is a great book. Full of good recipes, and has large step-by-step sections with lots of photographs (useful for the first occasion you, say, find yourself filleting a fish or prepping a squid yourself). I did his baked sea bass with roasted red peppers, tomatoes and anchovies (one of my favourites) last night, as it happens.
posted by kxr at 12:22 AM on November 24, 2008

Fish Forever
posted by hangingbyathread at 12:36 AM on November 24, 2008

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