Fear of Fish -- Part 1

A lot of people worry about preparing fish. “I don’t know how to cook it,” they say. “Fish is expensive! And how do we know it’s fresh?”

Many of us want to eat more fish because everything we read suggests that it’s good for us. So I went by Star Fish Market in Guilford, Connecticut to speak to my resident seafood expert, Mike Lukas, who owns the store with his wife Colette. What do most people ask him?

Mike described two very different sorts of customers, with different sets of questions: “Your Tuesday-to-Thursday client is just trying to get dinner on the table in half an hour and get to the other side. Your Friday-to-Saturday clients are looking for something a little more special. Maybe they’re entertaining, or maybe they have more time to try something new. They’re buying completely different fish – the higher end varieties.”

The weekday crowd is working hard to introduce fish into their family meals. They may not particularly like the taste of fish. And they’re certainly on to the fact that their kids would prefer a burger. So Mike has developed a routine for these folks.

“These are your white fish people. I start them out on less expensive, milder tasting fish such as tilapia, cod, flounder, and grey sole. From there, we move on to other varieties. And I tell people, if you want to get the kids to eat it, I hate to say it, but add a little sweetness. Something natural, like a little reduction of orange juice.”

What if a recipe calls for cod, but it’s sold out? Substitute, Mike says. “You can use hake or haddock – something in the same family as cod – or any white, flaky fish like fluke. On the west coast, it would be Pacific cod or black cod; it will all cook up the same.”

And how about frozen fish? Mike doesn’t deal with it but he assured me that, with the advances in freezing technology, frozen fish can be very good. “You can buy frozen cod already portioned at the grocery store,” he said. “The most important thing is to thaw it slowly; so put it in the fridge before you go to work.”

Wild Alaskan King salmon, definitely a Friday-to-Saturday fish, is coming into season now. It will become affordable within a few weeks, and I’ll hit Mike up for a recipe.

In the meantime, if you suffer from Fear of Fish, or would just like to make something your kids will like, here’s a dead simple Tuesday-to-Thursday recipe from Mike for Orange-Baked Cod.


Mike’s Tuesday-to-Thursday Orange-Baked Cod

Serves 4

Take the fish out of the refrigerator about 10 minutes before you cook it, just to take the chill off. And if you drizzle the finished dish with a good quality olive oil and sprinkle with a flourish of parsley, I think it might make the grade as a Friday-to-Saturday dish.

1 teaspoon cooking oil or butter for the baking dish

2/3 cup orange juice (fresh or from concentrate)

Grated zest of 1/2 orange (optional)

1 1/2 pounds boneless cod, haddock, fluke, Pacific cod, or black cod fillet, about 1 inch thick

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Grease the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold the fillets in a single layer with the oil or butter.
  2. In a small saucepan, simmer the orange juice over medium heat until reduced by about one-half. Remove from the heat and add the orange zest, if using.
  3. Place the fish in the baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with about half of the reduced orange juice. Bake until the fish flakes, 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Serve drizzled with the remaining orange juice.