Cooking fish

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Cooking Fish

When cooking, always be careful to avoid overcooking. Fish is done when it loses its translucence and appears milky-white. It should flake easily when tested with a fork. Handle cooked fish as little as possible since it falls apart easily due to the minimal amount of connective tissue.

Deep-fat frying is a method of cooking where the fish is immersed in oil. It produces tender meat coated with a crispy crust. To deep-fat fry, fill the fryer halfway with oil. Place breaded fish in the fry basket one layer at a time and lower it into fat heated to 350 F.

Fish should be tender and lightly browned which usually takes three to five minutes. Use absorbent paper to drain.

Although the taste of fish oven-fried is similar to fish fried in oil, the processes are quite different. The first step in oven- frying is to dip servings of fish in milk and bread them. The next step is to place the breaded servings on a greased cookie sheet. Drip melted fat over the fish and bake at 500 F. for ten to twelve minutes.

To pan-fry fish, heat about ⅛ inch of fat in a frying pan. Place the breaded fish in a single layer leaving small spaces between them.

Fry until the side is light brown, then turn carefully and continue cooking until the other side is light brown. Total cooking time should be between eight and ten minutes.

Planking is a method to cook whole fish, steaks, or fillets. It is a two-step process. First oil a hard wood board or plank and heat it slowly in the oven at about 225 F. Remove it from the oven and raise the temperature to about 350 F. Place the fish on the warm plank.

Brush with fat and bake until the fish flakes easily when touched with a fork. You may then serve the fish on the plank.

Charcoal broiling is a method of cooking over hot coals. Baste the fish with basting sauce before, during, and after cooking. To eliminate sticking, grease a long handled grill. Place the fish on the grill about five inches from the hot coals and turn once.

Depending upon the thickness, cooking time should run from ten to twenty minutes.

Baking utilizes dry heat. First, grease a baking dish. Cook the fish in an uncovered dish at 350 F for a short period of time. Baste several times. Steaming involves cooking by steam, generated from boiling water. Use a steam cooker or deep pan with a tight cover and a rack to prevent the fish from touching the water. The water may be seasoned or enhanced with wine. Boil the water, and place the fish on the rack. Cover the pan with the lid and cook for five to ten minutes.

Broiling utilizes dry heat in the preparation of fish. The heat is direct and from one source. To broil, place the fish in a single layer on a greased broiler pan about three or four inches from the heat. Baste at least once during the cooking process for fat fish; baste more often for lean fish. Allow six to ten minutes for fillets, and six to sixteen minutes for steaks. Be sure to turn thick pieces and whole fish.

Poaching is cooking fish in a simmering liquid. A shallow fry pan is used Be sure that it is wide enough so that the fish don't overlap.

Lightly cover the fish with a liquid such as water, seasoned with spices, milk, or a mixture with wine. Cover the pan and simmer about five to ten minutes.

Fish can be smoked by hot smoking or kippering, and cold smoking. In hot smoking, the fish is hung three or four feet from the fire and smoked at temperatures ranging from 150 F to 250 F. Curing time ranges from two to four hours. Hot smoked fish requires no additional preparation. Since it is perishable, it should be refrigerated and treated as fresh fish. In cold smoking, the fish are hung farther from the fire than hot smoking and smoked at temperatures lower than 80 F. The longer the fish is smoked the less perishable it is. Fish may be smoked for a few days up to three weeks.

Fish may also be cooked in a microwave oven, provided the fish is tested for doneness before the designated cooking time. This will prevent the fish from being overcooked. Allow three minutes for every edible pound of fish. Fish should be covered with a plastic wrap, leaving one corner up so that steam can escape. Breaded fish should be cooked uncovered to avoid sogginess, or lightly covered with paper towels to avoid splattering. To insure an equal distribution of heat, the dish should be rotated during heating. Fish can be baked, boiled, poached, or steamed in the microwave oven.

Frying is not recommended.

Adam Starchild has combined business travel with discovering the delights of native dishes from Hawaii and Hong Kong to Russia and the Caribbean. He is the author of The Seafood Heritage Cookbook (Cornell Maritime Press), co-author of another seafood cookbook, and the author of a number of food and cooking articles.

Submitted By BARRY WEINSTEIN On 08-30-95

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