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Classic Fish Cooking Techniques

Martha Stewart Living, April 2009

There's no need to fear fish -- or reserve it for eating in restaurants. Once you master a few simple methods, you'll always be able to enjoy the catch of the day.

Pan-Sauteed Sole
The Technique
To saute fish, cook it rapidly with a little fat and a few basic ingredients in a pan over relatively high heat. The method showcases the fish's delicate texture. You can use the pan drippings to create a quick sauce. 

The Fish
We used lemon sole, a flaky, mild-tasting white fish. At the market, look for flatfish such as sole and flounder; Pacific-caught are the most sustainable. Tilapia works well, too. 

The Meal
Cook the fish at the last minute; serve it with steamed new potatoes and sauteed spinach.

Pan-Sauteed Sole Recipe

Slow-Roasted Salmon
The Technique
Oven-roast thick fillets of salmon at a very low temperature (250 degrees) until they're opaque on the outside and medium-rare in the center, about 25 minutes. The trick is to be generous with the seasoning mixture and to make sure the fish doesn't overcook. The result? Perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture. 

The Fish
We cooked with wild salmon. Alaskan sockeye has a rich flavor; king is pricier and fattier. If you like, try Tasmanian ocean trout as an alternative. 

The Meal
Make tabbouleh salad, and toast pita bread to serve with the salmon.

Slow-Roasted Salmon Recipe

Parchment-Baked Black Bass
The Technique
For this variation on steaming, wrap fillet in a single-serving parchment packet. Cook fillet just until done, usually when the package is puffy and the paper has browned. 

The Fish
Black bass is what we used, but firm-fleshed mild fish (striped bass, for example) and fine-textured weakfish and tilapia swap in well. 

The Meal
These Asian flavors are complemented by brown or white rice and steamed bok choy.

Parchment-Baked Black Bass Recipe

Steamed Halibut
The Technique
Steaming in a closed vessel surrounds fillets or steaks with water vapor to produce clean, clear flavors. Place fish on a bed of herbs to infuse it subtly. Leave room for the steam to circulate and ensure even, rapid cooking. Try different stocks, citrus, or herbs for variations. 

The Fish
We loved this recipe with halibut steaks. You can also make it with salmon steaks or Pacific cod. 

The Meal
Serve this healthful, clean-tasting main dish with asparagus; try cooking it in the second layer of the steamer.

Steamed Halibut Recipe

Poached Trout
The Technique
To poach, submerge fish in a gently simmering liquid such as court bouillon, other stocks, or water flavored with aromatics including spices, citrus, or vegetables. 

The Fish
Whole fish (such as this butterflied trout) are as easy to poach as fillets. This recipe works with almost any variety. Look for pink-fleshed arctic char as another option. 

The Meal
Serve chilled over greens with horseradish for lunch. For dinner, serve warm with pureed vegetables on the side.

Poached Trout Recipe