When you consider that fish is a low-fat protein source that also provides heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D and B12, calcium, phosphorus and minerals including iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium, it’s easy to understand why The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two (3.5 ounce) servings per week. And yet, many of us don’t eat nearly that much fish and the reason often comes down to not knowing how or being afraid to cook it at home. One burnt salmon filet or a single smelly kitchen experience and we write fish off as too difficult to make at home. But fear no more. With recipes and advice from chefs and food experts, including Giada De Laurentiis, Martha Stewart, Jamie Purviance, Chungah Rhee and Janet Fletcher, anyone can whip up a home-cooked seafood feast.
Here, you’ll discover how to cook different kinds of fish and learn easy techniques that will take the guesswork out of the process and give you more confidence in the kitchen. Best of all, most of the recipes are quick or can be made ahead, so you can enjoy fish any day of the week.
“Grilling was the first way that man cooked fish,” says grilling expert and cookbook author Jamie Purviance. “If you ask me, it is still the best and most flavorful way to do it.” Charring the surface adds instant intensity, while the smoke from the fire infuses quickly into the fish. For these tacos, from Purviance’s new cookbook, “Weber’s Ultimate Grilling: A Step-by-Step Guide to Barbecue Genius,” he cuts firm fish, such as mahimahi, halibut, or cod into chunks and skewers it for easy grilling. The oil in the rub prevents sticking and closing the grill ensures a quick cook time. You know the fish is ready when it turns opaque and is flaky around the edges. Add the spicy, crunchy slaw and cool avocado cream and dinner is served.
Too cold to grill? Use a grill pan on your stove top.
“This dish comes together so quick and easy for an elegant weeknight dinner,” says TV personality, cookbook author and restaurateur Giada De Laurentiis. From start to finish, it takes just 30 minutes and you can make the sauce in the morning and keep it in the fridge to get a jumpstart on dinner. The salmon is seared in a hot pan to give it beautiful golden crust then flipped and finished in the oven, so it could not be easier, while the succotash requires just a quick sauté and the creamy, tangy sauce is whisked together in mere seconds. Still, De Laurentiis’ favorite part is that this quick, colorful meal also makes great leftovers. “Just flake the salmon into large pieces, toss with the cooled orzo, drizzle with the sauce and lunch at the office is done!”
Got a few picky eaters in your house? This is “hands down the best and easiest way to get kids to eat salmon,” De Laurentiis says of these crispy, cheesy Parmesan and breadcrumb-crusted fish sticks. “Adults love it, too!” The fish sticks are baked, and the irresistible dipping sauce is made with a combination of reduced fat mayo and low-fat yogurt, making for a light yet flavor-packed dish. And who doesn’t like a dinner you can dip?
While it’s hard to beat the ease and simplicity of Rhee’s sheet pan fish, her foil packet technique makes cooking fish at home even easier. Plus, Rhee points out, it requires “basically zero cleanup!” Her Thai Salmon in Foil features sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, Sriracha and lime with everything sealed into a neat foil packet so all that amazing flavor infuses the fish. Carefully open the foil to test for doneness—the fish should flake easily with a fork. It requires so little work and “the salmon comes out so amazingly tender and juicy,” says Rhee.
Gently poaching tuna in olive oil at a low temperature “drives the beautiful flavor of the oil into the fish and keeps it moist,” explains cookbook author Janet Fletcher, who included this recipe in her new book, “Wine Country Table: With Recipes that Celebrate California’s Sustainable Harvest.” The poaching process is practically effortless, as you simply cover the tuna in oil then place it in a 200°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes. And while it seems like a lot of oil, it’s the secret to the tuna’s rich, concentrated flavor and none goes to waste. Some of the “leftovers” are repurposed to make the dressing and the rest can be used on salads or veggies. You can use this easy technique on other sturdy fish like swordfish, salmon, halibut or cod and the fish can be poached and refrigerated in the oil for up to two days.
“This bright summery halibut with avocado-pineapple salsa is the perfect dish to make for a quick weeknight meal,” says entertaining guru Martha Stewart. It’s ready in no time, but Stewart insists “your family and friends will have no idea it took just 20 minutes using the broiler,” which she adds “is one of the quickest and easiest ways to cook fish.” The colorful salsa is also a cinch and requires simply tossing together avocado, pineapple, jalapeño, onion, cilantro and lime juice.
“I love the French technique of cooking ‘en papillote’ or “in parchment,” explains Stewart. “It seals in all of the fish’s natural flavor, while letting it marry with whatever vegetables and seasonings you add.” In this case, flounder is steamed with shiitake mushrooms, red onion, thin asparagus and a touch of white wine for a light springtime feast. It takes less than 15 minutes in the oven and what’s even better is that it’s “mess-proof and delicious.”