Monday, August 25, 2008
Crunchy Baked Fish
I'm Greek, so I grew up eating all kinds of fish. My dad loved fish and we ate it regularly. Every Monday a fishmonger would drive through our North Hollywood neighborhood with his refrigerated truck to sell our family fish. That was my dad's day off, so he'd select the fish for dinner that night and often get extra to make fish stew to take for his lunch.
My husband has never been a big fish eater. As a child, he was warned repeatedly of the dangers of accidentally swallowing a fish bone and possibly choking to death. He took the many warnings to heart and had little enthusiasm for eating fish at all. Little by little, over the course of our marriage, he's become more and more comfortable with fish. I've discovered that he likes firm fish, well cooked, and fillets or steaks with little or no bones. A crunchy breading makes the fish more palatable to him too.
Of course, the biggest problem with fish is finding any worth eating. I've had pretty good luck at our local grocery stores. Raley's/BelAir in Northern California prides themselves on providing fresh seafood. Trader Joe's has a good selection of frozen fish, and so does Costco. But this summer, I hit the bonanza! A true fishmonger is selling his goods at our local farmer's market. The Little Fish Company is there every Saturday selling the freshest fish I've ever tasted. So far I've gotten red snapper, lots of halibut, and some salmon. So now we're eating fresh fish every week thanks to fisherman Brand Little.
My cooking method is simple and straightforward. Nothing experimental. I want to make a dish that my husband will enjoy; I want him to continue having positive experiences with fish. Using a tweezers or needle-nosed pliers, I diligently remove any possible bones. I combine about 1 cup of homemade dried bread crumbs with either a bit of olive oil or melted butter and set the mixture aside. Sometimes I'll add a bit of grated lemon zest to the breadcrumbs. Lately I've been adding a couple of drops of lemon flavored olive oil to the crumbs too. Then I sprinkle both sides of the fish with one of the many salt-free spice blends I keep on hand, usually Cajun because my husband likes that flavoring with fish. After that I coat both sides with a mixture of 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon unsalted mustard, and 2-3 crushed garlic cloves. Finally I dip both sides of the fish into the crumbs and place the piece(s) in a baking pan that has been drizzled with olive oil. The lemon flavored olive oil is really great. I usually bake the fish in my toaster oven. About 15 minutes at 400 degrees, just until the fish flakes easily.
I make a lower sodium tartar sauce by combining equal parts mayonnaise, sour cream, and plain yogurt. I add a bit of finely chopped onion or shallots, about 1 teaspoon of dried dill weed, and a slurp of olive oil (the lemon olive oil is really good here too).