Get Your Fish Fix: Cooking Techniques for the Aspiring Pescatarian
Many people seem confused when I tell them that I’m a pescatarian. It sounds rather official, “-tarian” suffix and all, so people hastily voice their support. But their justifiably dubious expressions convey a different message: you’re a vegetarian who eats meat? Yes, that pretty much sums it up. We pescatarians tout our “-tarianism” as if it denoted some impressive dietary undertaking when, in reality, we have simply given a name to our collective lack of willpower. A pescatarian is one whose attempts to end his/her consumption of meat are repeatedly thwarted by delicious filets. I can go without steak or bacon, but fish is too damn good to forsake.
Alternatively, pescatarians are individuals that define themselves by their love of fish. We may be hypocrites, but we are also enthusiasts. While eating an unacceptable amount of smoked salmon from Dewick a few weekends past and living up to my title, I thought about the many methods of making fish. The following are some styles that don’t require fancy equipment!
Curing: The alternative to spending a fortune on store-bought lox. Curing is the process of removing water from fish (yay, osmosis!) in order to inhibit the growth of microorganisms and consequently enable the fish to keep for longer. Mix salt, sugar, and whatever seasonings float your boat (e.g. pepper, dill, coriander, or citrus zest) in a dish and submerge your fish in the mixture. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and place something heavy on top. Let it hang in the fridge for a few days until the fish firms, rinse it off, and live in lox-laden paradise.
Steaming whole: Super healthy with little preparation. Here’s one method of steaming without a steamer, courtesy of my mama. First, clean the fish and make sure that the scales have been removed. Place the fish in a glass dish and cover it with ginger and scallions. Place a metal stand in a pan and fill with water but make sure that the water level does not reach the stand. Bring to a boil, and then place the fish dish atop the stand. My mom makes a soy sauce/olive oil sauce to accompany the steamed fish. Mmmmm.
Homemade seafood stock: The prospect is daunting but the process is surprisingly simple. Take the rejects from your previous seafood meal (can be fish heads, shrimp exteriors, lobster shells, etc.; pretty much any skeleton will suffice) and put them in a large pot. After roasting the shells for a few minutes, cover them with water and throw some peeled, chopped veggies into the mixture. Garlic, celery, onions, and carrots are popular additions. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat. After an hour, toss in some wine, tomato paste, leaves (e.g. rosemary, bay leaves, parsley), salt, and pepper. Strain and give yourself a pat on the back for not wasting the carcasses.
Baked in foil: One of the easiest ways to cook fish. This technique is particularly effective when it comes to delicate white fish, which tend to dry out and flake into a million tiny pieces when cooked in pans. Lay out any veggies you wish to include on a piece of foil (Spinach? Onions? Lemon slices?) and place the fish on top. Drizzle everything with olive oil/butter and sprinkle with your preferred spices. Fold it up into a neat little package and bake! The fish steams in its own juices and is difficult to overcook. No mess, no stress.