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New angles on fish dishes.

If you are one of those people who love to dine on fish at restaurants but who in their own kitchens don't know a red snapper from a red herring, welcome aboard! Many cooks may be unfamiliar with the wide variety of fresh catch now available in grocery-store seafood cases. In fact, a whole generation's closest brush with fish has been with the frozen fillets that come from a cardboard box.

The truth is, fresh fish is easier to cook than frozen, and once in the pan, fish is the fastest-cooking main dish around. It is high in protein, and because it contains little connective tissue, it is more easily digested and assimilated than red meat. It's the perfect healthful dish to serve at least once or twice a week.

But how about the high price? you may well ask. Some varieties of fish sell for five to six dollars a pound--fresh salmon, for example. It's true, that's more than a high-priced steak, but considering that 1/3 pound of filleted fish makes a serving, it's cheaper by far than a restaurant fish dinner and per serving costs about what you would pay for a carry-out hamburger.

Here are some tips for getting a good catch the next time you go fishing at the grocery store: Look for firm flesh and a clean, nonfishy odor. A whole fish should have bright, clear, protruding eyes, shiny skin and red gills. If the fish is cut into steaks or fillets, examine it for firmness and make sure there are no signs of drying.

Once your catch is home, do not leave it at room temperature for more than two hours or keep it stored in the refrigerator for more than two days. To keep fish fresh until cooking, place it in a plastic bag on ice in the refrigerator until ready to use. Renew the ice twice a day. If you aren't going to be cooking it soon, it is better to put it in the freezer--but remember, don't ever thaw and then refreeze fish.

In preparing fish, whether you fry, bake, broil, poach or steam it, pay attention to be degree of doneness. The worst crime perpetrated against fish is overcooking, which takes out the natural moisture and the flavor as well. Fish is done as soon as it flakes easily with a fork. Often the simplest methods of cooking are preferred. Poach in water with a bit of white wine added unless you are preparing a more elaborate recipe. The proper cooking time is about ten minutes per pound.

When selecting fish for a specific number of people, follow these guidelines: 3/4 pound per serving for whole fishf 1/2 pound per serving of dressed fish; and 1/3 pound per serving for fillets or steaks.

In our search for gourmet-quality fish dishes that are easy to make, we discovered the following recipes. Some are taken from the food columnist Cornelius O'Donnell's book Cooking with Cornelius. "Company meals shouldn't differ radically from what a family eats," says Cornelius, and we agree.

Baked Fish & Vegetable Dinner (Makes 4-6 servings) 3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thin Salt substitute 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced 1 pound zucchini, cut into 1/8-inch slices 4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and sliced 2 green onions, sliced thin 1-1/2 pounds fish fillets (haddock, perch, scrod, flounder or sole) 2 tablespoons corn-oil magarine 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon, dried 1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried Pepper, freshly ground Lemon slices

Preheat the oven to 350[deg.]F. Generously butter a 2-quart baking dish. Arrange the potatoes in the dish and sprinkle lightly with salt substitute. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and place the mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes and green onions over the partially cooked potatoes. Place the fish fillets over the vegetables, and cut a few diagonal slashes in the fish. Dribble the melted margarine over the fish and sprinkle with the herbs, salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered, until the fish is slightly browned and flakes easily. This may take from 10-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Do not overcook. Garnish with lemon slices.

Fish Fillets au Gratin (Makes 4 servings) 2 tablespoons fine cracker crumbs 1 pound perch, flounder or other fish fillets 1 cup canned tomatoes with liquid 2 tablespoons onion, chopped 1/4 teaspoon salt substitute Pepper, freshly ground 1 tablespoon corn-oil margarine 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded Preheat the oven to 375[deg.]F. Sprinkle a lightly greased, broilerproof 2-quart baking dish with the crumbs; arrange the fish on the crumbs. Combine the tomatoes, onion, salt substitute and pepper and pour over the fish, then dot with margarine. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily and is opaque. Sprinkle with cheese and return to the oven until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes, or place under the broiler until the cheese is lightly browned. Variations: Add fresh herbs--dill, chervil, oregano--to the tomato mixture. And use different cheeses--shredded mozzarella, Gruyere or Swiss work well.

Fish Vinaigrette (Makes 4 servings) 1-1/2 pounds fillets of flounder, haddock or sole About 1-1/2 cup flour 4-5 tablespoons corn-oil margarine

Vinaigrette Dressing 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice Peel of 1 lemon, grated (yellow part only) 1/2 teaspoon salt substitute Dash of hot pepper sauce 1 clove garlic, minced 1/2 cup vegetable or corn oil

Garnishes Green onion, sliced Carrot curls or carrots, grated Fresh parsley, chopped Black or green olives Lemon wedges Dip the fish fillets into the flour, then saute them in a 10-inch skillet in margarine, turning once, until the fish flakes easily with a fork and is opaque; do not overcook. Carefully remove them to a serving platter. Mix the vinaigrette-dressing ingredients together and pour this over the fish. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Before serving, garnish the platter with all, or any combination of, the suggested garnishes.

Poached Salmon with Dill Sauce (Makes 6 servings)

Court Bouillon 1 carrot, sliced 1 onion, sliced 1 stalk celery, sliced 1 large lemon, sliced 1 bay leaf 4 black peppercorns, slightly crushed 2 sprigs fresh parsley 2 teaspoons salt substitute 3 cups water 6 small salmon steaks (about 1 inch thick)

Sauce 1 cup mayonnaise 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped, or 2 teaspoons, dried 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Mix together the ingredients for the court bouillon and, in a 10-inch skillet, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Remove the vegetables, bay leaf and lemon with a slotted spoon. Cook the salmon steaks gently in the bouillon, covered, for about 8-10 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a serving bowl. When the fish is done, remove it carefully and serve it either hot or at room temperature, with the sauce spooned on the side.

Fish Fillets with Spinach (Makes 4 servings) 2 tablespoons corn-oil margarine 2 tablespoons onion, chopped Salt substitute Pepper, freshly ground 4 sole, scrod, whitefish or other fish fillets (about 1-1/4 pounds) 1/2 cup dry white wine 1 pound fresh spinach or 2 packages (10 ounces each), frozen

Sauce 2 tablespoons corn-oil margarine 2 tablespoons flour 2/3 cup milk 1/3-1/2 cup poaching liquid from fish Pinch of nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon dry msutard Pepper, freshly ground 3-4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated Lemon slices Watercress or parsley sprigs

Preheat the oven to 200[deg.]F. Melt the margarine in a 10-inch skillet, add the onion and saute for just a minute, sprinkling with salt substitute and pepper. Top the onion with the fish fillets and white wine, cover and poach just until the fish flakes easily. Meanwhile, wash the spinach and cook it quickly in a saucepan, using only the water that sticks to the leaves; do not overcook. (If you're using frozen spinach, cook it briefly and squeeze it dry.) Drain the spinach and arrange it on an ovenproof platter. Carefully lift the fillets and arrange them on top of the spinach; save 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid. Keep the platter warm in the oven while making the sauce. To make the sauce, melt the margarine in a small saucepan, add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes. Gradually add the milk and 1/3 cup of the poaching liquid and stir vigorously. Cook until the sauce reaches the boiling point and thickens. Add the remaining liquid if it seems necessary. Season with the nutmeg, mustard and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the fish and sprinkle with the cheese. Turn the oven up to 425[deg.]F. and bake for 10-15 minutes or until well heated. Garnish with lemon slices and watercress or parsley and serve.

Fish Steaks Minceur (Makes 4 servings) 3/4 cup water 3/4 cup dry white wine 1 teaspoon dried leaf thyme 1 bay leaf 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco pepper sauce 1 large carrot, cut in julienne strips 1 zucchini, cut in julienne strips 1 red pepper, cut in julienne strips 1 leek (white portion only), cut in julienne strips 4 salmon or halibut steaks (about 1-1/2 pounds) 1 egg yolk

In large skillet combine water, wine, thyme, bay leaf and Tabasco sauce. Bring to a boil. Add carrot, zucchini, red pepper and leek. Arrange fish steaks on top of vegetables. Reduce heat. Cover. Simmer 10-12 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork. Transfer fish steaks to heated serving platter. Remove vegetables from skillet and reserve. Reduce poaching liquid to 3/4 cup. Remove bay leaf. Strain. Pour into container of electric blender. Add 1 cup reserved vegetables and egg yolk. Cover. Process until smooth. Spoon sauce around fish steaks on serving platter. Arrange remaining vegetables on top of fish.

Curried Salmon-Rich Loaf (Makes 6 servings) 1 7-3/4-ounce can salmon 3 cups rice, cooked 1/3 cup scallions, chopped 2 teaspoons curry powder 3 teaspoons lemon juice 3 tablespoons cider vinegar 1 teaspoon garlic powder Tomatoes, to garnish

Flake the salmon, removing any skin and bones, and add the salmon with its liquid to the cooked rice. Add the scallions, curry, lemon juice, vinegar and garlic powder. Pack the mixture into a small loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for several hours. When ready to serve, unmold the salmon and arrange it on lettuce leaves. Garnish with sliced fresh tomatoes, if desired.

Curry Sauce (Makes 3-1/4 cups) 3-1/4 cups defatted chicken broth 3 tablespoons cornstarch 1 teaspoon curry powder 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard 2 tablespoons undiluted, frozen apple-juice concentrate, thawed

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a skillet. Dissolve the cornstarch in a bowl of water. Add this to the broth, stirring until thickened. Add the mustard and curry to the apple juice and stir.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Author:Simon, Allen
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1984
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