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A few 'New to fish' questions

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm biting the bullet and getting serious about cooking fish.

 

Early on question--

 

I tried a recipe of 3 tablespoons olive oil + pan + garlic slices + Tilapia fillets. It was good but is there a way to similarly cook the fillets with less oil (no butter)?

 

Mark

 

P.S. I thought about this post while showering this morning ;-) The primary reason for the oil + pan + cooktop was a thin fillet that couldn't go on the grill. Is there a way to over broil and get some crisp without crumbs and with minimal splatter on inside the oven?


Edited by markg2 - 6/30/11 at 7:30am
post #2 of 7

Not that I know of. If you want crispy, you need fat. And you will get splatter, or you need to get splatter. Crispy = no moist and while moisture escapes from the cooking fat, there will be splatter. If you want to avoid splatter, I think you can try steaming either the Chinese wok style or wrapped in parchment paper with aromatics and wine, but you won't get anything crispy.

post #3 of 7

Mark, are you cooking on the cooktop or in the oven? Your comments are a bit ambiguous.

 

For a thin filet, there's no need to use the oven. It will cook pretty quick, and you want to be able to monitor it. The general rule is ten minutes cooking time per inch of thickness. A thin filet, therefore, takes only 2 to 2 1/2 minutes per side.

 

The amount of oil actually is dictated by the size of the pan. What you're looking for, in a recipe such as you describe, is a thin film. So, to pick a random example, if that film is achieved by two tablespoons in an 8 inch pan, you may have to go to 3 tablespoons in a 10 incher.

 

I leave it as an exercize for the the student to figure one obvious way of reducing the oil.

 

By why are you concerned? If the oil is hot enough, the fish isn't absorbing enough of it to make a difference, healthwise. If it's not hot enough, the fish will be soggy regardless.

 

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

The example in this discussion is the cooktop.

 

I placed the fish on double paper towels after cooking and then needed 3 separate towels pressed down on the fish before I got a reasonably dry towel. That's what made me suspicious about the amount of absorbed oil.

 

Mark

post #5 of 7

Sounds to me as though the oil wasn't hot enough, to begin with.

 

But it can also be that your method of transfering the fish picked up a lot of surface oil as well. That is, there was oil adhering to the fish, and to the spatula, etc.

 

Next time try this. First, assure the oil is hot enough. Cook the fish. Lift it with the spatula and, lean it slightly against the side of the pan (above the oil, of course), tilt it upwards and let the oil on the surface and spatula drip off for a moment or three. Then transfer it to the paper towels. That will get rid of most "loose" oil. The rest should be easily absorbed by the paper towels.

 

It also sounds as though you're on a very low oil kind of diet. If that's the case, why pan fry at all, when there are so many other great ways of preparing fish? I would choose something other than tilapia (which has very little flavor of its own) and go with a different dry, white-fleshed fish. Then try anything from broiling to poaching to baking.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Years ago I had a very bad almost fire kitchen experience with oil causing me to stop any further sauce pan-cooktop-oil experiments. Then I read that the simple and safe way to cook with oil is to never go above medium heat--the setting I used for the tilapia. I'm fairly certain that the oil was emitting a slight bit of smoke before I added the fillets.

 

My preference for fish is the grill since there's little cleaning and the grill adds a distinctive taste. I either grill salmon fillets or whole trout.

 

[as for thin fillets] A buddy of mine suggested sauteing mushrooms, onions and peppers then adding and covering the thin fillet after the veggies had cooked. This would then result in a poached fish with veggies?

 

What white fish would you suggest other than tuna?

 

Mark

 

 

post #7 of 7

Just for the record, tuna and its relatives are oily fish. But that's apparently not the problem for you I'd thought. Also oily are salmon, all the mackeral, bluefish, trout, dolphin, etc.

 

Among the common white-fleshed fishes would be halibut, grouper, red snapper, flounder (all the flatfishes, in fact), haddock, pollack, the sea basses, and others, including most fresh-water fishes.

 

For grilling, first choice goes to the oily fish, for what should be obvious reasons. Among the whites, whole fish work better on the grill than filets; even if they have the skin left on. A whole snapper on the grill, for instance, can be incredible. Filets, on the other hand, are likely to stick and fall apart.

 

Swordfish also works well on the grill. But, in general, think of swordfish as beef rather than as fish.

 

You're buddy's suggestion sounds good. I would call it steamed rather than poached (poaching requires submersion in liquid). Cook the veggies to the tender-crisp stage, then add the fish and cover the pan. Just before the fish is done I'd throw in a jigger of bourbon and flame it. But that's certainly not necessary---although salt and pepper is. If this sounds like I make a similar dish it's because I do.

 

On your tilapia experiment, did the fish sizzle and spit as soon as they hit the oil? If not, the oil was too cold.

 

Although it's held in disrepute, I still use the drop-of-water-in-the-oil test for pan frying. For deep frying you really need a thermometer. And never fill the pan more than half way with oil.

 

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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