Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hack of all Trades #1 - Fish Sticks

Dear Umami Mama,

Everytime I fry fish, it sticks to the pan and I don't know what to do.  I try to turn it over and end up having half the fish stuck to the pan and the rest crumbled on the plate.  I need help!


Stuck in Sausalito

Dear Stuck in Sausalito,

YOU STUPID HACK!!! It sounds like your pan wasn't hot enough.  Get your pan hot (set it on the heat and wait until you can feel heat coming from the pan and not just the burner), then add some oil to just cover the pan (too much oil will make the fish oily, and if it's not hot enough, will end up steaming the fish). The oil should start to "wave".  By this I mean that you should be able to see the heat radiating through the oil as the oil is now a conductor for the heat coming from the pan.  If you put oil in the pan, and it starts smoking immediately, then your pan was too hot and you should start over, otherwise the fish you cook will probably end up getting burned on one side.  

Make sure your fish is dry and seasoned with salt and fine ground pepper (extra moisture on the fish will cause the oil to splatter and can cause the oil to ignite).  Gently lay your fish in the pan presentation side first.   Presentation side means the side that will be showing up on the plate.  If your fish has skin, this means that you would lay skin side down first, but if there is no skin, lay the side that looks nicer (it doesn't take a genius).  Once the fish is in the pan, DON'T TOUCH IT!   You need to get the fish to sear that one side first so that it won't stick. Depending on the kind of fish, this can take a few minutes, but you should be able to see a sear line along the edge of the fish turn a light golden brown.  Once this happens, put the fish into the salamander or oven (350 F for you home cooks), and let it continue cooking to desired doneness.  Again this depends on type of fish, but once it's to your liking, take it out and if you seared it correctly in the beginning, it should not stick and come right off with your fish spatula.  Lay it on some paper towels to drain off excess oil, then sprinkle with a little kosher salt for added flavor and crunch.

If your fish is still sticking, put it back on the heat and let it sear, careful to not let it burn, then use your fish spatula to gently scrape under the fish and against the pan.  It's even better if your fish spatula has a sharp edge, then you can shuffle the spatula in a quick side-to-side motion under the fish and against the pan.  Remember, the spatula edge should be scraping against the bottom of the pan so that the fish ends up laying on top.  If your spatula edge touches the fish, then you'll end up with half the fish stuck in the pan, and half the fish on the spatula.

If this still doesn't work, they sell a nice selection of fish sticks in the freezer case at the grocery store.  Buy the ones that are microwaveable.


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