I should have titled this post “How to cook fish and not be scared”, because heck, I finally did it. I am endorsing cooking a whole fish… who would have ever thought? Cooking fish ALWAYS intimidates me for some reason, and I know I’m not alone in that feeling. Even some of the most confident cooks I know stray away from any fish that isn’t salmon because they are nervous. Sometimes we overcook the fish and it just falls apart, other times it’s not fresh and tastes fishy (which throws everyone off), and sometimes we just don’t know what the heck to do with it. These are problems I used to have consistently, and still do even now.
I was always one of those people who just stuck to buying meat at the grocery store because I grew up with it and knew it like the back of my hand. I could literally take 3 other ingredients and make it a masterpiece – but fish… no way. So for all of you like me, stop! You are missing out on some of the best foods you can eat! I promise the more you experiment, the better and more confident you will become. Now, I realize cooking a whole fish can be EXTREMELY intimidating, this was my first time and I was scared as hell, but I promise you it’s worth it. The fish comes out soooooo moist, tender, flavorful, and light, you will not regret it.
You may not remember, but a while back I got some seriously fresh fish (and cooked this ahi tuna) from a co-worker of mine, Ken, who goes on these really cool trips out in the Gulf. A few times of year I get really lucky like this and he brings me in awesome stuff to cook. In this case, he went to Galveston and caught some really good size flounder, and brought it back to me – the only stipulation was that I had to cook it whole! I wish I had an application to draw the look on my face when the thought of cooking a whole fish entered my brain… my eyes got kinda bulgy, my stomach felt like I was at the top of a roller coaster about to dive, partially in excitement and partially because I was terrified. I do love ordering and eating whole fish at restaurants, but making it at home is a completely different story.
Alas, the fish turned out INCREDIBLE! By the time I got to sit down at the table and eat, it was almost completely devoured by my boyfriend, brother, and sister-in-law, that’s how you know it was great. The sauce over the fish was so beautiful and light, it didn’t take away from the flavor of the fish, but complimented it extremely well.
My picture of the final product is not my best, but I promise it is freaking good.
If you make the fish, be sure to take a picture and tag #ATastyMess on social media so I can see your dishes!
- 1 whole flaky white fish (flounder, snapper, sea bass, branzino)
- 4 tbsp. fresh ginger, julienned
- 2 scallions, julienned (white and green parts separated)
- 1 stick of lemongrass, outer layers peeled, then mined
- ¼ cilantro, minced
- ¼ toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- Have your local fishmonger descale, gut, and clean your whole fish (leaving the head and tail on). Make sure the fish is really fresh, you can tell by looking at its eyes - they shouldn't be cloudy, they should be clear.
- Slit the fish several times on one side and prepare it to be steamed.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. I don't have a steamer, but if you do, use that. I took a roasting pan, filled the bottom with about 1 inch of water, set a rack into the pan above the water, and placed fish inside, slit side up. Then, cover the dish with foil and steam (for a fish 3-5lb steam for 25-30 min.)
- Heat toasted sesame oil in a large wok. Add the ginger, white portions of scallion, lemongrass, water, salt, soy sauce, and pepper, and then simmer. Cook on medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes, and then pour the sauce over the whole fish.
- Top with cilantro and serve!
- I find this easiest to eat with chopsticks, it is much easier to pick around the bones of the fish this way. It is also really great served over rice!
Recipe adapted from The Woks of Life.