Cooking Fish for
the First Time
Lalitha Rao Pentapati
The best place to obtain this protein is at a respectable fish
market. If that’s not an option, a grocery market with fish
mongers will do. Shopping for sustainable options is best.
These include Alaskan cod, Arctic char, North American
swordfish, rainbow trout, wild Alaskan salmon and red
Choosing a Good
Look for fresh fillets that feel firm and smell like the ocean, not
fishy. When buying a whole fish, inspect if for shiny eyes, taut
skin, firm scales and bright red gills. The latter should also be
moist. Order the fish dressed, which means that the
fishmonger will remove the scales, gills and guts. Frozen fish
should lack any type of freezer burn.
For best results, cook fresh fish on the day of purchase, but it can
keep for a day or two when properly refrigerated. Even on deboned
fillets, check first for pin bones. Do so by running several fingers
gently over the fillets and feel if they encounter tiny bumps.
If needed, use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to remove pin bones.
Leave the skin on when cooking delicate fillets, but score it with a
knife to prevent curling when the fish heats up. To achieve a crispier
result, dry the fish with a paper towel before cooking.
Start with a heavy skillet and sear the fish in oil that is tolerant to
high heat, such as canola or grapeseed. When ready to flip the fillet,
add a dollop of butter and baste the flip side vigorously. This will
create a tasty crust while keeping the flesh tender.
The whole process should take no more than five minutes. Since the
cooking time remains short, it will keep the house from smelling
fishy. While this process works on most types of fish, make sure that
each fillet is at least half an inch thick.