One smart tip plus a fool-proof technique equals the most flavorful weeknight fish the whole family will like.
Confession: I don’t love fish. Or, rather, I don’t love fishy fish. Give me your groupers, your tilefish, your long-line cod. But mackerel, sardines, even salmon—yikes.
I’m not proud about these preferences and I want to love all the fishes in the sea, really really I do. In fact, this year, I’m on a mission to get more fish into the home diet and last night I discovered the perfect way to do it.
Before I tell you about the easiest, tastiest poached fish ever, I want to tell you the secret to really good fish: freshness. Obvious, though it might seem, it’s really hard to determine the freshness of fish when you’re standing in front of the potentially smelly fish counter. From which fish exactly is that odor emanating? Who could say?
There's an easier solution than asking to smell every single specimen (although that's an option). The solution? Buy frozen. It might seem counterintuitive, but frozen fish is often flash frozen on the boat from which its caught preserving texture, flavor (no stinky fishiness) and freshness. No more wondering when that fish arrived, how and at what temperature (cold, guys, you want to keep it really cold). Instead, the frozen fish stays as good as it was when it was plucked from the sea and wait for you to defrost when you’re ready to cook it.
Look for individually wrapped filets in the frozen food section of your supermarket. That way you can pull out exactly how many pieces you need, soak them (still in the wrapper) in a bowl of cold water, until defrosted (about 30 minutes).
What’s that I hear? Thirty minutes of inactive time? Well, that’s just the right amount to build a flavorful base in which to poach your fish. Here’s how to do it:
Easy Poached Fish Recipe
Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. If your skillet has a lid, great; if not, don’t worry about it.
Add 1 sliced onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, cook, cook, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 4 to 6 smashed garlic cloves to the skillet and cook, cook, cook, until beginning to soften, another few minutes. Add a splash of white wine if you’re drinking it and cook until almost completely evaporated. Add 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, squishing them up with your hands as you add them. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
Remember, you can adjust the flavors of your tomato sauce the same way you’d adjust the flavors in a box of broth (remember?): add ground cumin and oregano for Latin vibes, crushed red pepper and basil for Italian flare, curry powder and chopped fresh ginger for streamlined Indian flavors, etc.
Meanwhile, season your fish, a 6-ounce filet per person, with salt and pepper. Gently nestle the fish into the tomato sauce. Make sure the sauce is just simmering—lots of active small bubbles—the fish should look relaxed not like it’s sitting in a massage chair.
Cover the skillet with its lid, a baking sheet, or a piece of foil and set the table, empty the dishwasher, make some couscous, anything that takes 6 to 8 minutes. Uncover and serve.
I like couscous because it only takes five minutes, but last night I served this over a piece of toasted crusty bread. Smashed potatoes would soak up the poaching liquid nicely as would rice or whatever leftover grain or grain-like thing you made on Sunday.