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with Chef Domenica Catelli

Domenica Catelli's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fish: Fighting the Fear!

salmon steak

iStockphoto

One of the most common questions I get asked is about how to cook fish properly. There is a fear that surrounds the preparation of it from the novice in the kitchen to even the most advanced home chefs. The good news is, if you are willing to push past your fear, it has to be one of the simplest proteins to cook.

Not only is it fast and easy, the health benefits are numerous.  It is considered to be one of the keys to brain health. The amount of Omega 3 fatty acids found in many fish can’t be matched by many other foods.

According to WebMD:

“A protein source associated with a great brain boost is fish — rich in omega 3 fatty acids, essential for brain function and development. These healthy fats have amazing brain power: higher dietary omega 3 fatty acids are linked to lower dementia and stroke risks; slower mental decline; and may play a vital role in enhancing memory, especially as we get older. For brain and heart health, eat two servings of fish weekly.”

Ideally, purchase your fish from a source that knows where the fish is coming from — a local fish market is your best bet. Also, look for fresh and wild and not farm raised. Sometimes you may not have that option due to where you live or the season, but that should not stop you from giving it a try. You can find wild salmon steaks frozen at many markets.

Fish does well in a hot oven or under a broiler. Some fish are fantastic grilled. Mahi mahi, salmon, halibut, and most fish that are thicker and have a meatier texture are the best to grill. One of the keys to cooking great fish is not overcooking it. A thin piece of fish like sole or tilapia can cook under a broiler in as little as three minutes!

The amount of time a particular fish takes to cook has a lot to do with how thick it is. A general rule is 10 minutes per inch of thickness…no matter the cooking technique. So, if you have a ½ inch thick fillet of salmon, five minutes under the broiler should do it. This type of timing will ensure that your fish doesn’t get dried out. However, if you pull out your fish and it is a bit under what you prefer, pop back in for a few minutes. You can always add time but you can never go backwards.

Most all fish are fantastic with citrus, especially lemon and lime. Generously squeeze fresh juice over your fillets or steaks before cooking and then add another squeeze after cooking. Add sea or kosher salt, cracked pepper, or even a spice rub and you are set.

You can also finish with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a bit of fresh chopped herbs. Mint, basil, cilantro and dill all go great with fish.

The next time you are thinking of making chicken, switch it up and see how simple and delicious a fish dinner can be.

Until next time, stay fresh and delicious!

~Chef Domenica

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 7:17 am

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