Advice from a magical kitchen to yours.
Every week, the Kitchen Witch answers your culinary questions with an eye towards seasonal, sustainable cooking. Ask your question by email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ECkitchenwitch.
Dear Kitchen Witch,
I have a pound or so of cod, which I love fried with fries! But is there a healthier recipe? I’m thinking I’ll roast some small potatoes and veggies too. What’s your advice for making a mild white fish more interesting?
—Oh, For Cod’s Hake
Cooking fish at home can be hard to get in the habit of, or maybe is just hard for me: it often seems like you’ve got to procure it fresh (though flash-frozen is a great high-quality option!); it’s a little delicate to cook, especially if you don’t feel confident about it; it’s often kind of pricey; and if you don’t use it up right away very bad things can happen. (I am still scarred, twenty years later, by moving into a crummy grad-school place where the previous tenant had left behind unused raw fish, but let us draw a veil over that terrible incident. Moving right along!) It’s also important to pay attention to sustainability of fisheries when choosing fish to eat at home.
With all this, fish cookery can seem a bit high stakes. I realize, however, I’ve introduced a whole lot of issues when your urgent question is that you have a pound of mild, white fish, sitting there, being kind of bland and demanding your cooking attention but inspiring very little interest. I share your love of fish and chips, and yet who among us can live on fried fish alone? More to the point, who wants to deep fry fish and French fries at home?
I like to do mild white fish like cod, halibut, and others in a spiced-up preparation. One of my favorites is something like this Italian fish in acqua pazza (the name, delightfully, means “fish in crazy water”). If you want to go both crazy simple and crazy healthy, steam your fish on a bed of greens. Or try cod with orange and fennel. Firm-fleshed fish holds up well in Goan fish curry, which introduces a flavor profile some Western cooks might not think of for fish dishes at home.
Consider roasting fish briefly in the oven with everything else alongside for a sheet pan supper (hey, you’ve already gone to enough trouble buying that fish). You can adapt the basic formula of the sheet-pan bake to work with whatever you happen to have or the flavorings you prefer. Or, for similar flexibility, wrap cod in parchment with fresh vegetables for an all-in-one packet meal.
Similarly, fish stews are flexible, as in this cod and root vegetable stew. Or if you want more of a kick, try cod stew with white beans and chorizo. For a crowd, Spanish-inspired fish chowder or bright coconut lime fish chowder will stretch a smaller amount of fish to satisfy more appetites.
If you have leftovers of your cooked fish—or just want to cook some up to make some refreshing and different casual fare—the answer might be smorrebrod or an open-faced sandwich. The good news here is that fish tends to cook very quickly and is inherently very healthy; all you have to do is apply a little heat and some flavoring to have a quick and satisfying dinner that should dispel any lingering feelings of intimidation by fish in your kitchen.