FISH STORY

Why you should bring home more miracles of the deep

Time was, there was little reason to meet the cold, glazed stare of a fish. Seafood cravings could be saved for expensive evenings out. But lately fish stories have dominated the news for the health-conscious cook.

Much of the magic of seafood, say the experts, is owing to fish oil’s cholesterol-busting long-chained carbon molecules-important tools for keeping to a minimum the nasty plaque that stops up arteries. At an American Heart Association news conference held in Dallas last fall, doctors suggested substituting fish for meat two or three times per week, particularly cold-water fish that eat plankton-benito, herring, trout, mackerel, pompano, salmon, whitefish, shad, and albacore. Such a change, they say, can make a dramatic difference in health. A controversial study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed that as little as thirty grams of fish a day, or approximately two servings a week, resulted in a 50 percent reduction in the cardiovascular mortality rate.

Increasing fish in the diet is a recommendation that strikes fear even in healthy hearts, because fish is among the most expensive foods in restaurants and, for landlocked North Tex-ans, a virtual stranger in our kitchens. But limited availability of a fresh and wide variety of seafood is no longer an excuse. Although just a few years ago catfish was almost the only fish sold in Dallas without third-degree freezer burn, now most major chain groceries sell never-frozen Boston scrod, flounder, salmon, and trout. Local fishmongers with the best reputations are Hampton’s Seafood Market at 801 S. Pearl and 8411 Preston in Berkshire Court; and Simon David on Inwood.

As the health benefits of seafood continue to be revealed, classes in fish cookery are becoming more popular. Classes are offered at Tina Wasserman’s Cooking and More, The Plate and Platter, and Williams-Sonoma. Cheryl Weatherly Schultz at WilliamsSonoma in Highland Park Village teaches classes on cooking round fish, flat fish, and fish mousses on scheduled Thursday evenings.

Schultz discourages microwaving fish; she says it toughens it. Instead she recommends grilling, broiling, or lightly sautéing. Poaching in water and wine is a good low-calorie way to prepare salmon, snapper, bluefish, monkfish, or any variety with a “long flake” (the space between the rat line in a fish). Although ideal, a special poaching pan isn’t necessary; any pan that is deep enough to cover fish with two inches of | liquid will do.

Schultz advises cooking fish only until its appearance has changed from translucent to opaque, which usually takes thirty to forty-five seconds. If the fish is flaky, you’ve overcooked it and have lost all the fat and many of the nutritional elements. Avocado oil is a good, buttery-tast ing substitute for vegetable oil. The best spices for fish-cooking escapades are fennel, thyme, tarragon, and saffron. Schultz uses many combinations of these and also says she likes to put a big sprig of rosemary on the coals when grilling. She likes mushrooms-wild or white-and potatoes with her grilled fish, but discourages overdependence on lemon, tartar sauce, or ketchup. A well-prepared fresh fish should stand alone, she says.

Although expensive specialty fish grills are available at stores such as Brookstone and Sharp Hardware, Schultz says a long-handled hamburger grill is perfect for outdoor grilling. Wrapping fish in a doubled foil packet with holes punched in it to allow smoke circulation will also work quite well.

If March breezes make it too cool for grilling, try this Schultz favorite for an elegant, quick, heartily healthy fish dish:



SAUTEED BABY COHO SALMON

Open whole baby salmon and lay flat, skin side up. Sprinkle with pepper, thyme, and salt. Dust lightly with flour. Heat four tablespoons avocado or grape seed oil over medium high heat until water drops sizzle. Saute salmon flat in the pan, skin side down, for three minutes. They’ll turn golden brown. Turn flesh side down and cook one to two additional minutes. Remove from heat, whether you believe it’s done or not-seafood continues to cook after being removed from the heat source. Retain oil and add to it a tablespoon of chopped capers, the juice of one lemon, and chopped parsley, Pour sauce over fish, and serve at once with lemon wedge.

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