Fish Without a Doubt

The Cook's Essential Companion

by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore

Fish Without a Doubt

Hardcover, 496 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, List Price: $35 | purchase

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  • The Cook's Essential Companion
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Book Summary

An indispensable guide to cooking with fish introduces more than 250 simple and delicious recipes that encompass all the techniques of fish and seafood cookery for appetizers, soups and salads, pastas, and main courses, including updated renditions of such classics as Trout Almondine, innovative new dishes, quick weeknight meals, and centerpieces for special occasions.

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Excerpt: Fish Without A Doubt

Fish Without a Doubt

Fish WITHOUT A DOUBT

The Cook's Essential Companion


Houghton Mifflin Company

Copyright © 2008 Roy Finamore and Rick Moonen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-618-53119-6

Contents

Introduction.............................................................13Fish and Health..........................................................16Sustainable Seafood......................................................17Is It Cooked?............................................................23The Fish Cook's Kitchen..................................................27Preparing Fish and Shellfish for Cooking and Serving.....................33Shopping for Fish........................................................49Storing Fish and Shellfish...............................................53Notes on the Fish in This Book...........................................55Poaching.................................................................77Steaming and Boiling.....................................................101Broiling.................................................................121Grilling-Stovetop and Outdoor-and Smoking................................133Baking and Roasting......................................................187Searing and Sautéing.....................................................227Frying...................................................................257Shellfish Appetizers and First Courses...................................277Chowders, Soups, and Stews...............................................295Salads, Ceviches, and Gravlax............................................333Fish Cakes and Burgers...................................................359Pasta and Rice...........................................................375Salsas and Relishes......................................................393Sauces, Vinaigrettes, and Spice Mixes....................................403Essential Sides..........................................................445Some Helpful Techniques and Building-Block Recipes.......................473Online Sources for Fish and Shellfish....................................477Index....................................................................478

Chapter One

IS IT COOKED?

Whenever I teach a class or do a demonstration on cooking fish, I hear two questions: "How do I tell if fish is cooked?" and "What if I overcook it?" These are valid concerns, particularly when you're paying a high price for a great piece of fish. To begin with, let me tell you that my preference for most fish that I'm cooking all the way through-bluefish, say, or sardines or sole or halibut or striped bass-is to undercook it slightly and let the residual heat finish the job. The outside of the fish you're cooking is going to be hot when you remove it from the heat source, and that heat-the residual, or carry-over, heat (more about this later)-will continue working its way to the center of the fish, cooking it perfectly. I like salmon medium-rare and tuna rare. The timing in my recipes should lead you to these results. But while I may tell you to cook a piece of fish on one side for 4 minutes, I know there are a lot of variables in play. The pan you're cooking in may be lighter than the one I use. Your stove may be hotter than mine (most of these recipes were tested on a pretty dinky home stove). The kitchen itself may be hotter, or cooler, and when you take the fish out of the refrigerator, it reacts to the room temperature. So keep these things in mind:

FISH CHANGES COLOR AS IT COOKS. Fish is a high-moisture protein, and as the protein cooks, it will change from translucent to opaque (think of what happens to egg whites when they cook). That piece of salmon may look bright pink when you take it out of the refrigerator, but as it cooks, the color softens, almost turning pastel. Bluefish and sardines turn grayer. White fish may start translucent, but the white becomes chalkier as you cook. WATCH FOR CUES. When you're sautéing a thicker piece of fish, you can see it cooking from the bottom up; when you broil, you can see it cook from top and bottom toward the middle. With thinner fillets, you will notice a definite change around the edges. Fried food will start turning golden and then brown. The eyes on a whole fish turn opaque as it cooks. DON'T BE AFRAID TO TOUCH. Remember what the fish felt like when it was raw. As it cooks, it will become firmer and resilient. Use the flat part of the first joint of your index or middle finger to check as the fish cooks (the tip of your finger is really pretty useless for this; it's not sensitive enough). And don't wait until the moment you think the fish should be cooked; check it along the way and track the changes-always in comparison to how it felt raw. Make it a learning experience, and give yourself a set of references that will guide you to becoming a fish cooking expert. REMEMBER RESIDUAL HEAT. Just as when you cook a chicken or a roast of beef, that piece of fish will continue to cook when you take it off the stove and even out of the pan. Think of this as temperature momentum-the larger the "vehicle," the longer the coasting. PEEK. Who says you can't poke a knife into that salmon fillet so you can see what it looks like inside? And when presentation is important to you, put the piece you checked on your plate so you can still impress your guests. For most fish, other than tuna and salmon, you are looking for a glistening moistness in the center and a color that hasn't changed all the way through. Residual heat will take care of the difference. For fish that you want to serve less well cooked, the center should still look raw. ADAPT. I've told you that I like salmon medium-rare. If you like it more cooked, approach my recipes knowing that you will be cooking the fish another minute or so. ABOUT FLAKING. I bet someone's told you that if the fish is flaking, it's overcooked. There's some truth in that. If a dense fish like tuna or salmon is flaking, you can be sure it's very well done. But a flaky fish like cod will start to separate into those individual slivers, or flakes, when it's medium-rare. What this means is that you should start by relying on the other cues. Be curious, and taste often.

Overcooking is another issue. I can't lie to you; cooking fish is definitely a case where practice makes perfect. That said, if you follow the tips I've just given you and the cues in the recipes, you won't overcook a piece of fish to the extent you can't serve it. I wish I didn't have to make the meat comparison again, but I will. What happens when you overcook that roast? It's dry and chewy enough to keep your molars working for much longer than they should. That won't be the case when you overcook fish; it will just be more dry than you want, and it will have lost the taste of the ocean. But you can still eat it without chewing forever.

If you are very concerned about overcooking, let me give you two pieces of advice. Start with steaming or poaching, since these techniques keep fish moist. Or go with a whole fish-steaming it or putting it in the oven or even on the grill. A whole fish gives you a lot of leeway. You have the skin protecting the fish all around when you cook it, sealing in the natural juices. And you have those bones too. Fish bones may vary in size, but they react to heat and release their goodness pretty quickly. Take a look at how long you cook fish fumet and compare it with the hours you should simmer a meat stock, and you will get an idea of what I'm talking about. Cook a fish on the bone, and that flavor and moisture goes into the fish and then happily into your mouth.

THE FISH COOK'S KITCHEN

There's really nothing that different about a kitchen you cook fish in. Sure, you need a couple of pieces of special equipment, but a lot of what I cook with is stuff you probably have anyway.

Yes, I work in a state-of-the-art, big-ass kitchen in my restaurant, but I made all these recipes at home, and my kitchen (in New York, when I was living there, and now in Las Vegas) is as basic as they come.

EQUIPMENT AND GADGETS FOR THE FISH COOKING PRO

Your pots and pans should be heavyweight stainless steel. Don't use aluminum for cooking fish. Ever. Well-seasoned cast-iron or black steel skillets belong in any kitchen. I love searing fish in cast iron.

A well-seasoned cast-iron griddle is essential for broiling fish (don't use that wavy broiler pan that came with your oven for broiling fish: it's designed for meat). Preheated well under the broiler, the griddle sears the bottom of the fish while the broiler cooks from the top down. And since it has a flat surface, it's easy to remove the fish when it's cooked. Some griddles are double-sided. The flip side, with ridges, is what you want for stovetop grilling. Cast-iron grill pans come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You'll need one for indoor grilling if your griddle pan isn't double-sided. Bamboo steamer sets (two steamer racks and a lid) are inexpensive and really the best pieces of equipment when you want to steam fish. If you don't have access to a Chinatown market, you can buy them online from www .pearlriver.com. A fish basket makes your life much easier when you're grilling small whole fish or fish steaks. There are a lot of versions available (I got mine in a local grocery store). Find the one that works for you, and just make sure you oil it well before each use. My favorite knife for cutting whole fish is a lightweight Swedish carbon steel "petty," with a 15-centimeter blade; it's made in Japan by Misono (available online from www.korin.com). I can feel the bones better with this semi-flexible blade. If you plan on shucking oysters, invest in an oyster knife with a nonslip handle and a 3-inch blade (if your kitchenware store doesn't carry it, try an online source like www.amazon.com or www.surlatable.com). I use a small paring knife for shucking clams. A flexible fish spatula has a beveled end, a head that's much wider than its base, and ribs, or slots (which allow fat to drain quickly and easily). You want something thin to get under delicate fish fillets. Big ones will come in very handy if you're grilling. You'll find them in most kitchenware stores and online from many sources. Yes, you can use needle-nose pliers to pull out pinbones, but fish tweezers work better. They're available in kitchenware stores and online. An immersion (or hand) blender, a wand with a blender at the bottom, is an essential tool for making any of my butter sauces. A conventional blender won't work here, because the sauce base will cool down and stop the butter from emulsifying, and a whisk won't puree the solids. And I bet you'll find plenty of other ways to use this handy gadget.

PANTRY STAPLES

SALT. I use coarse kosher salt for my cooking, and I think Diamond Crystal has the most consistent quality. For finishing a dish, it's coarse sea salt. I like both the great flavor of fleur de sel from France and the big, beautiful flakes of Maldon salt from England.

PEPPER. White pepper is my pepper of choice when I'm cooking fish, but there are some dishes that call for black. If you can find Penja pepper-white peppercorns from the Penja Valley in Cameroon-try it; this pepper is very fragrant and has a delicate flavor (buy it online from www.vannsspices.com). For black pepper, I prefer Tellicherry peppercorns. OILS. I stock several kinds of oil in my kitchen. BULK EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: This is what I use for most of my cooking. Find a good, inexpensive oil with a flavor you like (I tested the recipes in the book with Whole Foods' house brand). FANCY EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: Invaluable for finishing a dish. I love the flavor of Terre Bormane Riviera Ligure, which you can find online at www.lepicerie.com. PORCINI OIL: This extra virgin olive oil is infused with porcini mushrooms and adds terrific depth of flavor to sauces. My favorite is from Urbani, which you can find online. TRUFFLE OIL: The most exciting of the infused oils on the market. The best versions add a great truffle "punch" when you use them to finish a dish. My favorite is Urbani white truffle oil, which you can find at many online sources. FRYING OIL: I think peanut oil is best for deep-frying, but I've been known to use canola oil too.

VINEGARS. Every kitchen needs a selection of vinegars. You'll find that I use good-quality red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar (which is lighter and more elegant in flavor than white wine vinegar), sherry vinegar, and basic white vinegar in my recipes.

OTHER ESSENTIALS

ANCHOVIES. I buy imported anchovies in glass jars. Then I can just pull a couple of fillets out of the jar and put it back in the refrigerator instead of finding a little container for the leftovers out of a tin. Add more oil to keep the anchovies covered.

CAPERS. The capers I use are the small "nonpareils." Always drain capers before adding them to a dish or sauce. To do this, I just overfill the measuring spoon and hold it upside down over the sink, with my fingers pressing down on the capers.

CHIPOTLES IN ADOBO. Cans of these chiles braised in a spicy, smoky sauce are available in the Mexican section of many groceries and in Latin markets.

CLAM BROTH OR CLAM JUICE. For most of the recipes in the book, I call for the clam juice you'll capture when you shuck clams, but clam broth or juice should be a staple in the fish pantry. I like St. Ours, which is a dehydrated natural broth from steamed clams, but the stuff in the bottle that you'll find in most grocery stores works fine.

FISH SAUCE. It may not have the most appealing fragrance, but fish sauce adds amazing depth of flavor. It's becoming more and more available in grocery stores. The brand I prefer is Tiparos, from Thailand.

DRIED OREGANO. To me, nothing compares to the flavor of dried oregano from Sicily, which I sometimes find in little Italian markets, still on the stem and packaged in cellophane. Chances are you'll never see it, but please try to use Mediterranean oregano rather than Mexican (which is actually from a different plant) or unidentified (which could be anything).

PANKO. The Japanese bread crumbs called panko are larger than the American versions and give you a much crisper coating on fried foods. Look for it in specialty stores, Asian markets, and some groceries.

SOY SAUCE. Using this all-purpose seasoning is a great way of adding salt and flavor. Quality varies, though, from brand to brand. If you can find it, buy Tokusen Shoyu (extra fancy soy sauce) from Kikkoman for its depth of flavor. It comes in a 1-liter plastic bottle, with a red cap.

SPICES. I don't think I could cook without having cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds in the cabinet. Toasting the seeds not only deepens the flavor, it also opens up the flavor.

TAMARIND PASTE. Fruity/sour tamarind is often used as a flavoring in Indian cooking. You can find commercial tamarind paste in many Asian and specialty markets, but it's often more sour than fruity. Making your own is better. Both brick tamarind and tamarind paste are available online from www.kalustyans.com.

TANDOORI PASTE. This marinade from India is traditionally used for meat or chicken cooked in a tandoor, a super-hot clay oven. I use it for fish that I cook on the grill or sauté and finish in the oven. There are a lot of commercial tandoori pastes available in better grocery stores and specialty markets, and they vary in quality and flavor. My favorite is Bombay brand, but it's difficult to find. You can get it online from www.bombaybrand.com (it is listed as Tandoori BBQ/Grilling Paste). I've also used Patak's Spicy Ginger and Garlic Marinade and Grill Sauce, which is available from Kalustyan's (www.kalustyans.com) if you can't find it locally.

Check the ingredients on whatever tandoori paste you use. If tamarind is one of the main ingredients, don't marinate for longer than 1 hour, or the acidity will start to cook the fish.

LAPSANG SOUCHONG TEA. Lapsang souchong tea, the fine black tea that is withered over pine or cedar fires and then dried in bamboo baskets set over a pine fire, is my secret weapon when I want to add smoky flavor to a dish. I grind it up in the spice mill and keep the powder on hand for when I want that touch of pure smoke. If you don't find the tea in your grocery store, there are countless online sources.

TOMATO PRODUCTS. I buy tomato paste in tubes. That way, I don't have to try to find a little container to store the leftovers.

When I want the rich flavor of good-quality tomatoes out of season, I use Pomì Chopped Tomatoes. You can find them (in boxes, packaged by Parmalat) in good groceries.

REFRIGERATED ITEMS

FUMET. Nothing compares with the flavor of fumet (fish stock) you've made yourself. But I know not everyone will make it. If you don't, try to find one made fresh (or sold frozen) by a fish market or specialty store. In a pinch, you can use a commercial fish or seafood stock from the grocery store.

HERBS. I prefer the flavor of flat-leaf parsley, but if it looks limp and tired in the market, I'll use curly parsley instead.

When I measure fresh herbs, I pack them down in the measuring spoon or cup.

LEMONGRASS. Used as an herb in Thai and Vietnamese cooking, lemongrass adds an intriguing layer of flavor, the taste of lemon without the edge of acid. The outer layers of the stalks are too tough to eat, but they are great for stocks that will be strained. Bruising-smashing the stalks with the handle of a heavy knife-before you chop the stalks will release essential oils.

Look for fresh lemongrass in specialty markets, better grocery stores, and farmers' markets. Don't use the dried stuff; it has no flavor.

PEPPERS. The basic hot pepper-the jalapeño-doesn't seem as hot as it used to be when I was learning to cook. Same goes for a lot of other hot peppers. I try to find Thai bird chiles or Indian red chiles or something that has heat and flavor. If you don't have access to any of these, just use what you find. The heat will be in the ribs and seeds, so add them.

I think poblano chiles have an interesting flavor, so I often substitute them for plain old green bell peppers.

(Continues...)




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