Dead Fish: Make It Yummy
February 14, 2011 6:12 PM   Subscribe

How do I cook half a (dead, frozen) fish?

I bought the wrong thing at the grocery store and rather than throw it out, I froze it. Now I've finally worked up the nerve to cook it (for my wife--I personally hate seafood) but have no idea how.

It's a salmon. More specifically, half a salmon. No head, tail or (AFAICT) bones, but one side does have scales. It's thawed. Now what?

I was thinking of wrapping it in tinfoil with maybe some lemon juice in there and baking it. Is that OK? When will it be done?

I will have her have PB&J standing by for when this fails....
posted by DU to Food & Drink (18 answers total)
Response by poster: Two more things: Do I remove the skin before cooking? If so, how?

Mrs U wants me to mention that my grocery store error was kind of a long time ago and the fish has been in the freezer for...a while. In vacuum packed plastic! But at least 6 months, maybe a year. Or maybe longer. I have no idea. ...It's chockfull of poison, isn't it?
posted by DU at 6:15 PM on February 14, 2011

Pan sear it! The skin is delicious, so I suggest leaving that on. She can always fork it off if it's not her thing.
posted by katillathehun at 6:17 PM on February 14, 2011

And now that you've updated, scratch that. "Possibly up to a year" is a long time for frozen fish. I'd toss it. says three months, tops, for salmon.
posted by katillathehun at 6:20 PM on February 14, 2011

It's not poison. It may not be quite as delicious or delicate of texture as it would have been a few months ago, but then again, even if you only froze it for a day you'd have affected the texture to some extent.

I second pan searing, it's lovely for fish with skin still on.
posted by padraigin at 6:22 PM on February 14, 2011

I don't know it it's still going to taste good. I'd throw it out, myself. If you do cook it, fry it in butter or oil on medium heat. I leave the skin on but always start it cooking on the flesh side first -that way, any loose scales will be left in the pan after it's flipped.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:23 PM on February 14, 2011

You could simmer it in white wine or vegetable stock with the lemon on top, it'd come out with a nice velvety texture to it. Just fill the pan to halfway up the fish, cover & leave on low for a few minutes.
posted by scalefree at 6:44 PM on February 14, 2011

I foil wrap salmon all the time. You can leave the skin on. I usually do 375 degrees for 15-18 min. The skin comes off easily after that if you don't want to eat it.
posted by BlooPen at 6:51 PM on February 14, 2011

The tinfoil method is good for whole fish. Preheat oven (440 F).
Add lemon juice, salt, pepper and high-end olive oil (quite a bit). Seal well. Cook for 25 minutes, take and give. But it's a good average, quite foolproof. In that case you can wait with removing the skin until after.
For half a salmon, like: one side, take 4-5 minutes off the cooking time.

Pan-searing, on the other hand... you might even want to scrub the scales off before, and eat the skin crispy-crisp.
If the thing was sealed tight and frozen to specifications, I'd go for it, unless it smells too fishy.
posted by Namlit at 6:54 PM on February 14, 2011

Given that you are seriously unsure how to handle this fish and it's possibly been frozen for more than a year, I would throw it the hell out. Go out tomorrow, buy a nice fresh piece of fish and cook it for her tomorrow night with the good recipes that you are getting here.
posted by crankylex at 7:21 PM on February 14, 2011

Poach it.

Put a couple of cups of mire poix in the bottom of a baking dish, put in your thawed salmon, hit it liberally with salt and pepper, dot it with some butter (if that's your thing, otherwise a good splash of olive oil), top with a few thin slices of lemon and several sprigs of parsley.

Dump a couple cups of cheap white wine into the baking dish (and some into yourself, if that's your thing), cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350'F for about 25mins. Serve with sour cream or creme fraiche and capers with brown rice and a nice green veggie, if that's your thing.

This method works great with most firm-fleshed fish. The fish you have is probably past its prime, so have a jar of mustard handy to drown out the freezer burn flavor.
posted by slogger at 7:24 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Living in British Columbia, the way we always cooked salmon was to smear mayo all over it and pop it in the oven.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:07 PM on February 14, 2011

In general, fish is done when the flesh is white throughout. A simple lemon dressing will work fine. Leave the skin on; that's where all the delicious fat is.
posted by chairface at 8:10 PM on February 14, 2011

chairface - salmon will never get white. it's a pink fish!

The problem with freezing stuff for a long time is that its likely to get freezer burned, but its not actually going to be bad for you, or have gone bad. At worst, the texture might be off.

I think your idea of wrapping it in foil with lemon is a good idea. However! If you are unfamiliar with cooking fish, you'll probably end up overcooking it out of paranoia, since you won't want to take it out and unwrap to check for doneness. I'd vote for just throwing it in a frying pan with some oil and salt and pepper, and squeeze some lemon on it before serving. Its the easiest way - it'll be pretty obvious when its cooked (or you can cut a little slit and check if you're not sure.)

Also, keep in mind that fish cooks fast! So stay by it - it won't take more than 5 or 6 minutes or so.
posted by Kololo at 9:03 PM on February 14, 2011

Foil (or parchment) pouch. Thaw it, season it, sit it on a bed of shaved onions and top it with some herbs of your choice. Maybe put some thin lemon slices on it. Bake at 350 until it puffs up (about 25-30 minutes). This is a very forgiving technique.
posted by Gilbert at 9:38 PM on February 14, 2011

I usually cook salmon by coating it in a mixture of miso and brown sugar.

If it's been sealed properly, it should be okay. I just ate some halibut that's been in my freezer from 9 months and it was fine. (I did eat in soft tofu stew - but only becuase I had ONE piece to feed 3 people not becuase I thought it would have been bad.)
posted by vespabelle at 10:49 PM on February 14, 2011

Normally I'm in the throw it out camp at the drop of a hat, but if it was correctly vacuum sealed (so no leaks) then I think that extends the storage time by a lot. So you're probably OK.

So I'd grill it, nothing fancy, just straight under a grill and cook until the texture changes all the way through (probably best not to eat it rare after all that freezing). I'm trying to remember if I put the skin up or down and I think it's down, but if the grill is very hot or the fish very thick you can put it up so the fish doesn't get too crispy. You can also just put it in a pan (skin side down) and cook through from the bottom. The skin may burn a little by the time it's done but it protects the fish just fine. There may be little pin bones in it but they're easy to remove as you eat.

Then, if the texture wasn't great, I'd cook some chopped potatoes, throw in eggs, cream, chopped capsicum, red onions or shallots, garlic, salt, ground pepper, and thyme along with the salmon all broken into bits, then fry up some hash. Mmm.
posted by shelleycat at 1:36 AM on February 15, 2011

Response by poster: Followup: As it turns out, it was not yet boneless. I took a needlenose pliers and remedied that (mostly). Then I sprinkled on salt and poured on lemon juice. Wrapped it in foil and popped into the oven at 350° with a thermometer set to ring at 147°. As I said, I hate fish but my wife said she couldn't stop eating it, so I guess it was good.

She says she wants me to do it again, but first I'm going to see if this attempt was fatal. If so, I'm suing a bunch of you.
posted by DU at 4:18 PM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Followup followup: Nobody was fataled. In fact, it was so infatal that I've had to come back to this thread more than once to remind myself how I did it, in response to demands I "make that fish thing again".
posted by DU at 2:20 PM on April 19, 2011

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