Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fish catastrophy 1 - Red Snapper

I don't know why but this week, fish is prominently on the menu at home... I guess it is due to the combined effects of the grocery's weekly specials, some weird health concerns, the feeling of the moment and pure coincidence.

As a matter of fact, I love to eat fish and I could eat more of it every week... But, to tell you the truth, I have very little experience at cooking it… especially in the case of the more delicate white fish.

Fish can be quite expensive and is not always fresh in this city. Subsequently, I don’t have the opportunity to work with this type of product as often as I would like to. I even started fishing a few years ago but even then, my skills at cooking fish didn’t improve much. All fishes do not react the same way in a frying pan or in the oven making the learning curve pretty steep. Finally my sometimes idiotic and somewhat ‘malish’ reluctance to follow recipes didn’t help at improving my skills.

All this to say that I completely screwed up diner tonight! Yep, I wasted perfectly good ingredients and made a fool of myself. Not that it was the first time it happened, on the contrary, but this time I had a plan and an idea of what I wanted to do. Usually, when I mess up something it is often due to a lack of preparation or just a lack of thinking and attention.

Tonight, I wanted to cook red snapper filets and serve them with an olive oil and tapenade (crushed olives) sauce… nothing really complicated, or so I thought!

I heated my pan, poured a good amount of olive oil and added my fish skin side down and almost immediately the skin contracted bending the flesh and preventing its proper cooking. The skin didn’t get crispy and the delicate white flesh didn’t received enough heat from the pan. I guess my pan was a bit too hot and I obviously forgot to score the skin on the filets. Without any delay I tried to save my dish by placing it in the oven adding the tapenade to the oil to enhance the flavour of the fish. The tapenade simply made the whole dish look very dirty. After plating the fish, I realized that since the oven didn’t have the time to pre-heat, the fish turned out undercooked. I usually prefer my fish to be slightly undercooked rather then overcooked but this setback simply added to the multiple flaws of my dish.

Now, if I had to cook this dish again, I would:

Score the skin of the fish before cooking
Fry it in a pan skin side down at medium heat until the skin is crispy
Finish cooking in the oven under broil to cook the top part of the filet.
Prepare the sauce in a separate dish, as one would do vinaigrette, adding a little acidity (lemon juice, vinegar, wine, cappers…).

I’m not sure I’m yet ready to try my luck again but when the time is ripe, I’ll certainly try not to repeat the same mistakes. At least we didn’t order pizza, the problems were, after all, mostly on the cosmetic and texture side... And lets admit it, my girlfriend put a lot of energy in making a nice presentation using my ugly fish!


yanyan said...

Your writing is getting better and better. I really enjoy reading your kitchen stories.

fufu said...

That's red snapper. I didn't know that at dinner time.