Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is Cooking Whole Fish Daunting? Let me help you!

I rarely cook whole fish because it seems OH-SO daunting, so I figured, why not try something new! And lucky for you, in this blog, I have included all the details from a) buying the fish to b) prepping the fish to c) baking the fish to d) eating the fish with other things!

Welcome back to Chelsea Market -- If you've read my other blog postings, it seems like I frequent this food market quite often, but it just so happened that it was a convenient location to my friend's house and more likely to offer fresher fish than the local supermarkets. There are many other fish markets where you can buy fresh fish, but that will be in another blog posting.

Where to Buy Fish?
We went into The Lobster Place to buy our fish. As we entered the seafood market, we could already smell the day's delivery of seafood... The market offers a whole array of fish -- whole fish, fillet fish, pre-marinated fish -- alongside its other catches of oysters, clams, scallops, lobster, crabs, etc. If you don't want to cook and are looking for an immediate meal, you can also buy prepared foods such as sushi (not a surprise), seafood salads, and even lobster & crab rolls.

What to Buy?
Needless to say, my friend and I were dumbfounded by the assortment of fish and had hoped a fisherman would be able to help us. To our dismay, the fishmongers were unable to help us with our decision (likely attributable to their lack of English). So instead, we relied on what we've seen served at restaurants and of course, my ability to strike up random conversations with complete strangers. I saw a man order two branzinis and I asked him how he planned to prepare his fish. He mostly said he was about to marinate it with some orange juice and and rosemary (hmm, not exactly what we were thinking)... but from that conversation, we decided to buy the branzini and the brook trout. I had branzini for the first time at Lure (see my blog posting) and new this would be a great choice. The brook trout was a new one for me, so I figured, why not experiment and try something new!

Preparing and Cooking the Fish
The branzini was butterflied (cut in half) and pan ready. Its a Mediterranean sea bass and has a sweet taste to it. According to the Lobster Place, its flavor and texture are similar to the Snapper. The Lobster Place suggested cooking tip was to season it with fresh herbs, garlic and saute or grill.

What we did -- salt and peppered the branzini both inside and outside, added some oregano and olive oil on the inside and poured some white wine on the fish. We let it marinate for a few minutes on parchment paper and then placed it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes.

According to The Lobster Place, the Brook Trout was farm raised in Idaho's fresh waters and has a mild, delicate, nut-like flavor with a soft flaky texture. The suggested cooking tip was to bake or broil with butter, lemon, garlic and parsley.

What we did -- salt and peppered the trout, placed some tarragon herbs in the fish and layered it with some fresh lemons and poured some extra virgin olive oil over the fish. We let it marinate for a few minutes and then placed it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. The Brook Trouth took longer to cook, perhaps because of the lack of wine or the positioning of the fish in the oven.

All Done and Ready to Eat
Of the two fish, I preferred the Branzini fish -- the oregano seemed to be the right herb to add to the fish; but because we didn't prepare the same fish with different ingredients, it was a bit difficult to compare across fishes and ingredients. With that said, I didn't think the tarragon went well with the fish, and though the lemon added a nice freshness to it, we probably should have tried it with garlic and parsley. But there is always next time -- and next time, I hope the fish selection won't be as daunting (and if you are stuck in the fish aisle unable to decide what you cook, just order what the other customer is ordering, but hope its not me or my friend who is looking a bit lost in the fish aisle!!)

Other food pairings:

Since fish is a relatively light meal, you would do yourself a dis-service if you served it with pasta or something heavy. So, we decided to go with the healthy theme and pair the fish with vegetables. On the left, we paired it with roasted bell peppers (see my previous blog posting for details on how to do this). In the middle, we stir-fried some green beans with cherry tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes were a nice addition to the meal as it added a juicy "pop" in flavor that enhanced the meal overall. Although its not pictured in this post, we paired the food with a nice white wine, which goes very nicely with white fish! If you weren't full from all of this yummy goodness, we finished the meal with a bowl of berries - strawberries, raspberries and blueberries (photo on the right).

Happy Cooking!

All photos taken with my Canon SD880 IS (still waiting for my Nikon to be returned)

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