Let’s face it, in this country we’re stuck with frozen fish. Not exclusively, mind you, but if you cook on a budget, like most people, you’ll sooner reach for a frozen package of fish than the fresh option at five times the cost.
Given that limitation, there’s still much you can do with frozen fish and it will still come out amazing.
Ice, Ice Baby
They do something to the frozen fish in this country that really pisses me off. They encase frozen fish in ice! The only thing this does is jack the cost up a little more, since you’re now paying for the weight of the ice coating. This offense is usually found in the bulk packages, so look for vacuum packed fish wherever possible. And if anyone would like to debate the merits of this asinine practice, the comments are open.
Freezing causes ice crystals to form. The crystals expand, making the ice less dense than water, which is why ice floats. When the water in the cells of the flesh freeze, they expand, cutting through the cell walls. When they defrost, the ice melts and the water drains out of the ruptured cell walls. Bear this in mind when you are preparing fish.
First and foremost, you must work with defrosted fish. You cannot cook with frozen fish, so do some planning and take the fish out of the freezer well before you plan on making the fish.
Once the fish is defrosted, it needs a little preparation. If present, remove the little strip of skin and feed it to your cat. Next, if there’s a dark red section of flesh, cut it away. You’ll see this more with round fish than with flat fish. This dark area was near the blood line of the fish, and while there are no kashruth or health issues with it, it tends to have a very fishy flavor when cooked, which some people find unpleasant. Like me. This piece too goes to your favorite feline. Once you’ve trimmed the piece of fish, season it lightly.
Here’s a typical example of a method (it’s more of a preparation than a recipe) that can showcase the deliciousness of a piece of frozen tuna. Does it compare to fresh fish? Certainly not. But it is nonetheless a good meal for anyone who is willing to take a few extra minutes to do the necessary prep work.
Seared Tuna with Tangerine Balsamic Gastrique
This recipe will go on the lunch menu of any restaurant I ever open [*snort*]. A gastrique is a vinegar reduction.
Identifying the Undesirable Parts
The skin and the blood line need to be removed before cooking, to reduce the unpleasantly strong fishy flavor.
Trimming the Skin
Sometimes you can simply pull it off, other times you need to peel it off with a knife.
Pan Cooking the Fish
Use only a little oil or butter, or nothing at all. You want to get a dark sear on the outside of the fish. You only want to cook it for two or three minutes per side, otherwise you'll overcook it and dry it out.
Deglaze the Pan
Add balsamic vinegar to the pan and let it reduce until it gets thick and syrupy.
Add the Citrus Flavor
In this recipe, I used a Clementine tangerine. Blood orange works well, but you lose the dramatic coloring of the orange.
The Finished Dish
Note how the fish is not cooked completely through. This is the correct and proper way to cook a tuna fillet.