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Cooking Fish

Asian carp, battered and fried. As the fish makes its unwelcome way up the Mississippi River, chefs are trying to get people to eat to beat it back.
Louisiana Sea Grant
/
Flickr
Asian carp, battered and fried. As the fish makes its unwelcome way up the Mississippi River, chefs are trying to get people to eat to beat it back.

One of my biggest frustrations is that I have a hard time cooking fish. I would probably eat a lot more of it if I knew how to cook it well. So I asked for my buddy Chef Jerry Pellegrino to give me a few tips because it's still a big mystery to me.

Essentially, the problem often is over-cooking and unfortunately it can happen fast. But there are other tricks to master. Here's a list of things to keep in mind.

1. If you are marinating fish, do not add too much salt. Salt has the property of drawing moisture out of meat or fish, and that is something you want to avoid.

2. To get a good sear on your fish, pat it dry. Any wet or damp protein will not properly brown in the skillet or oven. This is because the moisture will turn to steam which in turn will cook the fish and turn it gray. Dry fish will brown up very nicely.

3. Preheat your skillet or grill. If you throw your fillet onto a skillet that's just starting to heat up, it will stick and cook unevenly. A good hot skillet will sear your fish quickly.

4. You should keep the handling of the fish to a minimum. Turn it once and only once. Because it is so delicate it can fall apart very easily.

5. Do not over-cook the fish. The rule of thumb is 2 1/2 minutes for each 1/4" of thickness. And that means total time. A 1/2 " fillet needs only 5 minutes, say 3 minutes on one side and two minutes on the other. And remember, the fish will continue to cook after you take it off the heat.

6. Start with the fish skin side down. If your fish has a skin side, cook that first and longest. A good sear on the skin is desirable, and it will detach from th skillet much easier.

Now that you've got that down, here are some ideas for cooking fish that Jerry came up with.

Chili Garlic Cod

Ingredients

4 6oz. pieces of cod fillet

2 red peppers cut into strips

12 green onions, roots removed

2 cups cooked noodles (lo mein, linguini, etc.) tossed in sesame oil

2 limes cut into ¼ inch wheels

6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 small green chili, roughly chopped

1 Tablespoon sambal (or similar chili paste)

2 Tablespoons fish sauce

In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, shallots, ginger, cilantro, chili, sambal and fish sauce to a paste. Alternatively you can use a food processor. Spread the paste evenly on top of each of the cod filets. Starting at the green end of the green onions, cut ¼ inch pieces until the onions are approximately 4 inches long. Reserve the small green pieces for garnish. Cut two large pieces of parchment into quarters. Using a double layer of parchment, start with the noodles, then place the peppers and 4 inch pieces of green onion on top. Add the cod, paste side up and then place three lime slices on top of the cod. . Bring the two long edges together in the center and create a 1/2-inch fold. Make several more 1/2-inch folds to form a tight seal, then twist the ends of the packet to close completely. Place the packets on the baking tray. Position a rack in the center of a 375°F oven. Place the baking sheet with the fish on the rack and let cook until the fish is tender, approximately 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully open the bag to release any steam, garnish with chopped green onion and serve immediately.

Roasted Rockfish with Crab Imperial

Ingredients

4 – 8 oz. fresh wild Rockfish filets

1 lb. domestic lump crab meat

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup heavy cream

1 egg

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter until foaming. Add the flour and cook for three minutes. Add the cream and stir until thick. Stir in the mustard. Carefully pick through the crab to remove pieces of cartilage or shell. Gently toss the crab with the cream reduction and season with salt, pepper and Old Bay. Season the Rockfish with salt and pepper and place, skin side down on a greased baking sheet. Dived the crab meat into four equal balls and mound it on top of the Rockfish. Bake in a 350°F oven until the Rockfish is cooked through and the crab has browned slightly, approximately 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Asian Salmon Marinade

Ingredients – makes enough to marinate one large side of salmon or 4 lbs of salmon fillets.

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

½ cup brown sugar

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small knob ginger, finely grated

4 green onions, green and white parts cut into ¼ inch disks

2 tablespoons Sambal, or other garlic chili pasta

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and marinate the salmon for up to one hour in the refrigerator before roasting or grilling.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.