(Mis-) Adventures with Cod

Um... yeah. The Cod experiment didn't go so well (see previous post). It's been a while since I've made something that bad. (In fact, I remember it quite clearly. It was May, and I learned that I don't like ground chicken in lieu of beef. Blech! Had to try it once though.)

The Cod in question tasted -and looked- less like cod and more like cardboard. I figured out my issues though, so it was actually a good thing. Learning from my mistakes and all. Let me explain...

1. The recipe clearly called for cod steaks. Glancing at the picture, it looked kinda like a chicken breast, so I didn't catch the fact that it said steaks. At the store, they only had cod fillets, so I naturally assumed that was the right stuff. All of this was subconscious, by the way. Had I actually used my noggin, I could have skipped this flub-up.

2. One of the basic rules in cooking is TIMING. Start with the things that take the longest so you can time things to be done at around the same time. I thought I learned this a long time ago. I guess we all slip up though, huh? I was frying the cod before the oven was even warmed up to cook the potatoes. Duh! Potatoes take longer than a thin fillet of fish. I got a little too excited about trying my new recipe. Oops.

3. My dear husband was held up at work and came home later than expected. So when the fish was done frying, I took the pan off the heat and covered it with foil. On top of my other issues, leaving the fish in the pan allowed my already dried-out cod to keep cooking from the residual heat. That spelled D-R-Y fish! (I know better than that too!)

So, I made some rookie mistakes. Which all worked together to produce some incredibly dry fillets. Good news is that the seasoning tasted pretty good, so I'll probably try this one again. Another plus was that it was edible. Granted, it was borderline - but it didn't cross that so-bad-you-can't-even-eat-it threshold. (I'll take my small victories where I can!)

Here's the recipe, if'n ya want to give it a try. Hopefully yours will turn out much better, knowing the mistakes I made.

Cajun-Style Cod
4 cod steaks, about 6oz each
2 tbsp low fat plain yogurt
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
nonstick cooking spray (I use olive oil in a pump aerosol sprayer thingy)
lemon slices, to garnish

Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Combine the yogurt and lime or lemon juice and brush lightly over both sides of the fish. 

Stir together the crushed garlic, spices and herbs. Coat both sides of the fish with the seasoning mix, rubbing in well. 

Spray a ridged broiler pan or heavy frying pan with nonstick cooking spray. Heat until very hot. Add the fish and cook over high heat for 4 minutes, or until the undersides are well browned. 

Turn the steaks over and cook for another 4 minutes or until cooked through. Serve immediately, garnished with lemon.

(from Low Fat Low Cholesterol, ed. Anne Sheasby, Barnes & Noble Books New York, 2003, p. 210.)

The recipe suggested serving with new potatoes and a green salad. My new favorite thing is sweet potatoes, cut into chunks, drizzled with either olive oil or some margarine, plus salt & lots of freshly-cracked pepper. I make a foil packet out of it and cook for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees on the middle rack. I'd suggest checking part way through to make sure nothing's being scorched. I leave it in until the potatoes are nice and soft, with maybe a little bit of crispies around the edges. (Your preference.) It's also easy to throw the foil packet on the grill outside instead of using the oven.

Do any of you have go-to fish recipes that you'd be willing to share? A SUPER easy one to make is Salmon, patted with salt and pepper and maybe a little squeeze of lemon juice, put into a foil packet, then cooked either in the oven or on the grill. Salmon is pretty tasty on its own, so it doesn't need a bunch of spices on it. I throw it in the oven until the fish is no longer transparent. (You have to check inside with a fork.) Depending on the thickness of the fillet, it can take between 10 and 30 minutes. If it's on the thinner side, start with 10 minutes and see how it looks. You can pretty much feel your way through this one. 

If you decide to give either the cod or the salmon a try, let me know how it turns out!

OK, Ciao for now! ;-)

How to Cook Fish

In one of my previous posts, I discussed fish... which ones are safe to eat, the nutritional benefits, etc. But if you're anything like me, a crash course in *how-to* is in order. What the heck do you do with tilapia? What's the skinny (ha ha - pun intended!) on how to cook fish & seafood? I'm pretty clueless, and I'm guessing that someone else out there will find this info handy too. 

Just oh-so-coincidentally, the May/June issue of Weight Watchers magazine has just what I needed - instructions on how to buy, store, and cook fish. Serendipity at its best! Here's what they had to say.

Shopping

  • Buy seafood from a reputable market manned by helpful, knowledgeable employees. 
  • Choose fresh fish with shiny scales; intact, clear eyes; and a fresh, mild aroma. For packaged fresh fish, check the "sell by" or "use by" date. 
  • Look for clams, oysters, and mussels that are tightly closed. (But if you tap a gaping shell and it closes, it will be safe to cook too.)
  • Consider frozen seafood: It's flash-frozen within hours of being caught, which locks in flavor and moisture. Thaw in the fridge. 
Storing
  • Refrigerate fish in its original packaging, and refrigerate clams, oysters, and mussels in bowl covered with a damp kitchen towel, 1-2 days.
  • Freeze seafood tightly wrapped in moisture-proof freezer paper or foil up to 4 months. Thaw in the fridge.
Cooking
  • Cook whole fish, large fillets, or steaks until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of flesh reads 140 degrees.
  • Cook thin fish fillets until the flesh is almost fully opaque in center (to check, make small slit with a knife.) Set aside; let stand 2 minutes.
  • Discard any clams, oysters, or mussels that do not open after about 5 minutes of cooking. 
  • Cook shrimp or scallops until opaque and slightly firm.
And some tips & tricks (also from WW):
  • Buy 1/2 inch thick (or less) fish fillets or steaks, which can be cooked on just one side; you won't have to worry about flipping the fish in the pan.
  • Follow the 10-Minute Rule: Cook fish 10 minutes per inch. If you have a fish that needs to be turned, use a flexible metal spatula to gently flip it over halfway through the cooking time. 
  • Place a cup of vinegar beside you while you're cooking fish - the vinegar will absorb some of the seafood odors. Or, light a scented candle about 10 minutes before you start cooking.
  • Don't remove the head and tail before cooking - they help the fish stay moist. Instead, with a long, sharp knife, remove the head and tail from the cooked fish just before serving if desired.
  • Make several shallow cuts in the flesh before baking spice-rubbed or crumb-coated fish or before spraying it with olive oil nonstick spray. This will help the flavors permeate the flesh and keep it from drying out. 

I know, it's pretty basic stuff, but I found it useful. I'm really trying to incorporate more fish into our diets, but was a little intimidated. It's really not that big of a deal! I actually purchased Cod at the store tonight... exciting! The only fish I've made is Salmon, so we'll see how this goes....

OK, Ciao for now! ;-)



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