Enthusiastic about fish

I am enthusiastic. That's even an understatement. At the end of high school, someone wrote in my year book that they couldn't understand how someone could contain so much enthusiasm and not explode, or perhaps they said spontaneously combust. Wow.

Well, the tradition reins on. And tonight, I made fish. Libby has put up with my ranting about wanting to eat fish for two weeks. Well, I'd say it's been really bad for about five days. I wake up and I see fish; I taste the moist, pan-fried crispiness, butter and lemon juice, a sprinkling of herbs. On my bike I imagine poached salmon covered in Bearnaise sauce. Running in the park I think about pecan-crusted halibut. I dream about going to the market and talking to the fish monger, asking them what's good, how I should cook it, sniffing the fish to check for that clear sea-salt water smell. And so, today I did it, braving the rain on my bike, barely able to contain my ecstasy.

And I bought some Orange Roughy. The guy said it was awesome, showing equal exuberance to that I was trying to contain. After complimenting me on my awesome red helmet, he dove into a long explanation about how to cook the fish, just in butter, salt + pepper, then lemon, waving his arms around, excusing himself, it was hilarious.

Why have I waited so long to fulfill my craving? Well, to be honest I can take daily life rather seriously (a little too so in fact). And over-fishing problems cause stomach pains, fish farms give me migraines, not to mention the fact that I don't live near the sea..... (results in insomnia). I've been giving myself a hard time, but I'm starting to hate tofu and beans. It's not fun. Well, not on repeat. And I eat tons of peanut butter and hard-boiled eggs, which are delicious! Don't get me wrong. I just don't see why I have to take it so far. So extreme.... I worry about the quality of the fish, where I buy it, the price, the transportation costs. All good things to consider, yes, but there are other ways to go about this, as in just going to the right place and swiping the plastic. So yesterday I bought a new summer dress (dark blue wrap-around) and tonight I made fish.

Here's my plate (yes I stopped 1/4 of the way through to take a picture) of orange roughy which I first pan-fried and then smothered in brown butter sauce with roasted pecans. To accompany, I cooked polenta with parmesan, rosemary, and salt and pepper, roasted broccoli with leeks and steamed kale. Oh my. Oh my.

So here's a little note about cooking fish.

First, get a good piece of fish. One that smells like the sea. Fishy odours begone! That's a fillet that's been around for a while. Before cooking, take the fish out of the fridge so it is at room temperature when you put it in the pan. Heat up a heavy-bottomed, well-oiled skillet until smoking hot, and place the fish bottom side up so the top gets nice and brown first. If your fillets are really thick, you might want to just brown the outside, transfer it into an oven-proof roasting pan and cook it at 350 degrees F for 5-7 minutes. Mine were thin enough to pan fry and they took about 3 minutes on each side. The best test is to take a peak inside. The fish is ready when the inside is still slightly glossy, or somewhere in between opaque and transparent. It will finish cooking on the plate while you make your brown butter sauce. Over-cooked fish is rubbery and disgusting. I've seen too many fish haters in my time and it's a crime (though perhaps a plus for the over-fishing problem, but a downer for the fishermen; there are two sides to every problem.) Mastering this skill takes practice, so that's important to remember. I am trying to be kinder to myself and not spend the whole time worrying whether or not I've screwed it up. Positivity is the new word here.

For the sauce, and before you fry the fish, toast whole pecans in a skillet, chop them coarsely and set aside. When the fish is done, melt 1/3 C butter in the same pan you cooked the fish in, scraping the bottom to incorporate all the crispy crunchy bits. The butter will foam up and begin to brown. Keep stirring it around and turn the heat down to medium so it doesn't burn. This all happens really fast, so add your nuts, stir them around in the butter until it turns slightly golden. Pour the sauce into a bowl you have already waiting beside the stove. Dish up the rest of dinner, spoon the brown butter and pecan sauce onto the fish and don't forget to squeeze a quarter of a lemon on top!

I actually yelled with excitement. Which looked something like this:

The realization I've come to is this: I'm going to live frugally in other areas of my life. I will go to the library to check out books, I will not spend 100 dollars on CD's at a time (a favourite pass-time of the tree-planter lady with a comfortable bank account), I will not waste my money on silly activities like getting wasted at the bars on St. Laurent (a favourite pass-time of many people, why I'm not too sure). I know I just bought a dress, but it was a graduation present to myself and a tribute to my new positivity, so fault me if you wish. Instead, I will buy good ingredients. My smoked paprika! I put it in everything, and it's awesome. Like into the hummus I made today. Delicious.

Well, I can't wait for breakfast!

- chef murph


  1. Monetary restraints are a bummer. But yes invest in things that are useful and long lasting - like bacon. (chop it up, put in the freezer, adds flair to just about anything).

    And Spring is coming which means lots of affordable produce! Whoop.

  2. Orange Roughy is a great fish. It was first marketed in the early 80s. I was working for Burhop Seafoods in Chicago. Customers thought the name was exotic, which it is. Nice work Judy!

  3. Thanks for commenting John! What a treat to hear from you. The guy at the fish store was more than enthusiastic (hence the title) about me trying this fish, and although the picture doesn't quite capture the compete ecstacy that I went through while eating it, the photo just below of me celebrating sure does!


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