Delicious Ways to Prepare Affordable White Fish
I often hear that many people are mystified about how to choose and cook fish or how to find fish that fits their budget. White fish, of which there are many types, is usually very affordable. Even better? It's suitable for a variety of preparations. (See also: How to Shop for Fresh Fish)
What to Look for in a Piece of Fish
First of all, do not assume that fresh fish is always best. What you may not know is that "flash-frozen" fish may actually be tastier than "fresh," which may have spent several days in refrigeration. "Flash-frozen" means that the fish was frozen, on the fishing boat, within four hours of being caught.
If you are buying fresh fish, use your nose. Lift up that package and give it a sniff. If it smells really "fishy," odds are that it is not very fresh. Also, look at the liquid in the package. It should be clear, not milky. Milky liquid indicates the beginning of spoilage. If you are buying a whole fish, check the gills — they should be bright red. Eyes should be bright and clear.
Okay! Now that you've chosen a nice piece of fresh fish, let's prepare it. The following are fifteen suggestions for cooking fish that are tried-and true.
White Fish Recipes
First up, my own creation. If you don’t like coconut, just leave it out.
Marla’s Crispy Coconut Fish
- 2 large fillets (tilapia or mahi-mahi work well)
- 2 eggs
- 2 T. flour
- ½ cup panko crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs)
- ¼ cup shredded coconut
- 1 T. rice flour (for extra crunch)
- ¼ t. salt
- ¼ t. pepper
- Oil for frying
You’ll need three cereal bowls or small bowls.
- In the first bowl, put the flour, rice flour, salt, and pepper. Mix and set aside.
- In the second bowl, beat the eggs and set aside.
- In the third bowl, combine the panko and coconut.
- Dip the fillets into the first bowl and get them well-coated with flour, salt, and pepper.
- Next, dip the filets into the beaten egg wash.
- Third, roll the filets into the coconut-panko mixture and gently tap to remove excess breading.
Fry on each side until crispy. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
During much of my childhood, we had fish on Fridays. Unfortunately, my mother had a limited fish repertoire, and that meant sole in a white sauce. That experience made me reluctant to try sole for years. Sole, however, is delicious, and I am glad I got over the resistance to use it. The second recipe I’d like to share here is for baked sole with tarragon butter.
Not only is it easy, but it looks elegant if you are entertaining and want something showy. When asked to describe the flavor of tarragon, I am at somewhat of a loss. I asked this question of the good old Internet and found that I wasn’t the only one. I am reminded of anise, or licorice...but it has a bit of sharpness, too. Sole (and chicken breasts) are really nice with tarragon — maybe because they are both mild and don’t compete with the herb.
When I used to be a lady who lunched, I noticed stuffed sole turned up on menus a lot. It still pops up at the occasional event, and I am always glad to see it. It does seem luxurious, but if you clean and cook your own shrimp, you can keep the cost down.
My husband made seared tuna with wasabi-butter sauce for me for my birthday in 2007. I enjoyed it so much that the recipe card now features an enthusiastic expletive. Although it calls for seared ahi, I experimented and found out that it really doesn’t matter what fish I use — this recipe is about the sauce. Don’t be afraid of the wasabi, as it mellows into a very luxurious sauce.
Because it can be farmed, the global tilapia market grew rapidly. In turn, there were environmental concerns about what was fed to the fish, pen overcrowding, and so on. As of this writing, Seafood Watch recommends, "tilapia raised in the United States as 'best choice', tilapia from Latin America as a ‘good alternative’, and tilapia from China to be avoided."
Costco and Whole Foods carry U.S.-raised tilapia. Also, because it is farmed, and fed corn, soy, etc., it is lower in Omega-3’s than other fish. However, it is still a healthy choice. Because it is a bargain, I use it quite a bit. In fact, I use it so often my husband and daughter said, "ENOUGH." In deference to their wishes, I have eased back. This Wise Bread post contains several of my favorite tilapia recipes, developed while the fun lasted.
Although some describe catfish as having a "muddy" flavor (well, it is a bottom feeder), once you fry the sucker, you’ll forgive it. This Paula Deen recipe for an oven-fried catfish makes it healthier than a deep fried version.
I didn’t really think I liked cod until I ordered fish and chips not long ago at a restaurant, and it was delicious. This beer batter fish-and-chips recipe, also from Paula Deen, uses cod (and the fryer).
If you get a chance to try Opah, I don’t think you will regret it. I find it easy to work with and, like sole, it is mild. Seared opah and tomato garlic butter represents it well.
If we are discussing "cheap" fish, we cannot leave out Alaskan pollock. But I have issues, so I will be leaving the pollock recipes out. Determined to try and use this inexpensive fish, I bought a small quantity for a recipe. It looked and smelled strange. Not wanting to waste it, I put it in front of the cat. He sniffed it, sniffed it again, and walked away. Readers, if you have a good recipe for pollock, please send it my way.
A Native American acquaintance once shared sturgeon with us. In all honesty, I think that sturgeon are really ugly. They can get huge and they are very prehistoric-looking. I wasn’t too sure I wanted to eat it, but after a soak in this marinade, I was a convert. Best on the barbeque.
Mike’s Sturgeon Marinade
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 T. fresh ginger, grated
- 1 T. fresh garlic, finely chopped
- ½ cup sherry
Combine ingredients and marinate fish for 30 minutes. Grill.
Is there a better camping breakfast than rainbow trout with cornmeal crust? No, there just isn’t. Make life easy and pack the breading mix in a Ziploc bag before you head outdoors.
You don’t see sand dabs much anymore, and that’s kind of a shame. They made a great breakfast, too, along with fried potatoes and eggs. They couldn’t be any easier to make.
When I lived in Northern California halibut was affordable, but I am told those days are now rare. I am envious of Alaskans who can eat halibut regularly. This is my favorite way to eat it. I add a half cup of roasted, salted and chopped macadamia nuts to the topping in this recipe for broiled halibut.
I love the Italian take on this sea bass recipe. Sea bass is also known as "rockfish." I think it does much better in the oven than on the barbeque, where it wants to fall apart.
This fun crispy fish finger recipe comes to us from Elle Krieger at the Food Network, so it's also healthier than the usual fried fish. Ketchup is the perfect dipping sauce for kids.
Have a favorite fish recipe? Please share!