I'm just not a cooked fish guy.

September 11, 2011

I'm just not a cooked fish guy, but I'll eat it if the fish is cooked very quickly in a very hot pan.  Complicated recipes for fish just don't please me. 

If there is anyone to blame it is my own palate.  Years ago- when I was cutting my teeth on the very thought of becoming a chef, I worked as a pot-scrubber/dish dog up in York Harbor, Maine.  I had just graduated college and didn't really know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  That time was confusing for me with my degree in Film (from Emerson College in Boston) hanging heavily over my head.  I didn't want to move to La La Land and work in the Industry, nor did I really want to work in television in NYC. 

I wanted to become a chef- but without a culinary degree- there was very little chance of that happening.

So I became a pot-scrubber at the York Harbor Inn up in Maine and started the climb to becoming a chef by cleaning out garbage pails and scrubbing burnt food off pots and pans.

One of the jobs that made me dislike cooked fish until today (that was 1985, so it's been a while) was breaking down the seemingly endless amount of fish that was delivered fresh daily.  Under most circumstances this job would be a delight- but I'd rather have been peeling potatoes than breaking down large hunks of whatever the executive chef wanted to be fried into oblivion.  I suppose that's what did it to me.  The idea of taking a pristine product- fresh and glistening from the ocean and then destroying it in blistering hot fry oil for a plate of 'fish n' chips' will never leave my nasal passages. 

To this day I find cooked fish unpalatable because of the smell of frying fish.

Raw fish on the other hand I find sublime.  There is nothing in my culinary tool-kit of recipes that I find more interesting than a perfect slice of salmon- sliced with a knife so impossibly sharp that just brushing your fingers over the edge is an exercise in stupidity. 


A Cocktail for Raw Fish (or cooked fish like Snapper, Cod or Halibut)

I don't have to lecture you about where to get your fish.  Your fish monger should be familiar with the different grades.  I like buying my fish from Metro Seafood in Clinton, NJ.

Mark Drabich, the owner- is responsible for sourcing and procuring the very finest  fresh seafood from the Hunt's Point in NYC.  It makes sense to slice the very best and this cocktail is mighty delicious with the very best seafood that money can buy. 

Each recipe makes 2 nice cocktails

Fleur du Sel Cocktail


4 Shots Brooklyn Gin

1 Shot of white rum (I use Rhum Agricole from JM)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

Simple Syrup (I use Cane Sugar Syrup from Martinique) to taste.  This cocktail is meant to be somewhat bitter, so use just a splash

Grapefruit segments-well cleaned of the pith

Grapefruit Bitters from The Bitter Truth (essential!)

Fresh mint (Very well washed with no dark spots or slimy pieces.  I prefer spearmint for this cocktail)

Q- Tonic Water (Essential)

Pinch of Falksalt (from Sweden) Citrus Salt


In a cocktail shaker- muddle some grapefruit segments with the fresh mint until a nice slurry is made.

Add the Brooklyn Gin, the white rum and a few large ice cubes

Add the grapefruit bitters

Shake until a nice frost appears on the outside of the shaker

Strain into a tall rocks glass filled with a couple of rock ice cubes, and top with Q-Tonic Water. 

Sprinkle some Citrus Sea Salt over the top, garnish with a grapefruit segment and sip through. Makes two nice strong cocktails.


Perfectly cooked fish takes a light hand.  I enjoy the saline. oceanic flavor of pristine fish- and if it needs to be cooked, I do so very quickly in a very hot pan- then finish in a blisteringly hot oven. Please don't cover up my fish with a heavy sauce- I won't eat it.

A white fish like Snapper works very well for this modern take on basic fried fish- This recipe has tons of flavor.

Buy the best filets of fresh Snapper that you can find. NEVER FROZEN, the dish just won't come out correctly.

Slice the filets on the bias (an angle)

Wrap filets in plastic film and pound with the back of a heavy pan until very thin without breaking the tender flesh. 

Flour *seasoned with salt/pepper*, eggwash and Panko (Japanese Bread crumbs) until lightly covered.

Saute' in clarified butter and extra virgin olive oil, until uniformly crispy, then place pan in 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes or fewer. 

With a very dry potholder, take the pan out of the oven.  Carefully remove fish from pan and keep warm, and add a very finely chopped shallot to the cooking juices. 

DEGLAZE with few splashes of dry white wine off the heat and then REDUCE over a high flame until thickened. 

My first culinary teacher, Jim Ledue up in Portland, Maine -who owned Alberta's called this lagniappe.

Pour this reduction over the fish, garnish with some charred scallions for flavor and color and then serve immediately with the cocktail. 

Hopefully the sun will be setting on one of those rare warm days up in Maine, when you enjoy this drink with your dinner.