Fish for convenience or entertaining

Fish is the original convenience food. Faster than a frozen dinner, you can prepare an entire fish dinner in under 20 minutes with scrumptious results. Unlike meat, fish does not require tenderizing. Fast cooking at high heat is essential.

As the holiday season approaches, fish recipes are especially popular entertaining items as they are easy to create. These recipes exemplify the versatility of fish, fancy enough for company, simple enough for a weeknight dining.

Oven Poached Fish Fillets

Perhaps the simplest of all recipes, this works well for a simple weeknight meal but is equally appropriate for entertaining a crowd.

Allow one 6 oz/350 g portion of boneless, skinless fish fillet per person. Salmon, halibut and sole work well for this recipe, which multiplies easily for up to 20 servings. For four servings:

1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh lemon juice or lemon juice (1 lemon)
2 tbsp (25 mL) Olive oil or melted butter or mixture
1 tsp (5 mL) Sea salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) Fresh black pepper
Sprigs fresh dill, tarragon
Additional lemon wedges and dill sprigs for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Use an oven-proof baking dish large enough to accommodate fish in single layer. If you are doing a large number of fillets (up to 20) you may need to use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or several ovenproof dishes to accommodate the fish.

Arrange fish in a single layer in baking dish or on baking sheet, tucking any thin ends under to make a more consistent thickness. Drizzle with olive oil or mixture of oil and melted butter, and fresh lemon juice or a mixture of lemon juice and dry white wine. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Arrange sprigs of dill or tarragon on top of fillets. Cover with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily.

Serve immediately on heated plates with lemon wedges and dill sauce (recipe follows).

Baked Stuffed Fish

This makes an eye-catching buffet item with a minimum of effort. Trout, whitefish and salmon work well for this recipe. Serve with a large green salad and your favourite rice pilaf or use the following recipe.

1 4 lb (2 kg) fish such as trout, salmon or whitefish
1 each, lemon and orange sliced
Rice stuffing (recipe follows)
Sea salt, fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C).


Use an oven-proof dish large enough to accommodate fish and spray with baking spray. Rinse fish with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Season fish inside and out with salt and pepper and fill cavity with orange and lemon slices, or use rice stuffing (just enough to lightly fill – remaining rice should be heated in a casserole dish with fish as it cooks.)

Truss fish with metal skewers placed perpendicular to opening and wind dental floss around the skewers the same way as you would skates, tying in a bow at the end. Measure the fish at the thickest part and allow 10 to 15 minutes per inch of thickness. Brush fish with melted butter and place in baking dish; cover with foil and bake according to thickness. For instance, if fish is three inches (7.5 cm) thick it will need 30 to 45 minutes of cooking at 450°F (230°C), or until fish flakes. Remove foil the last 10 minutes of cooking to allow fish skin to crisp. Serves about eight to 10 people.

Lemon Rice Pilaf

This may be used as a stuffing for the fish or served as an accompaniment to any fish dish. It may be made a day ahead and re-heated in a casserole. If you wish, substitute brown rice for white rice.

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) long-grain par-boiled rice, cooked according to package directions (should make 3 cups – 750 mL)
½ cup (125 mL) butter, melted
1 each, large onion, chopped and garlic minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 tbsp (15 mL) grated lemon zest (1 lemon)
¼ cup (50 mL) fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
2 tsp (10 mL) dried tarragon
½ tsp (2 mL) dried thyme
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
¼ cup (50 mL) fresh chopped parsley

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Cook onion, garlic and celery covered until onions are soft and limp. Stir in rice, lemon zest, lemon juice, tarragon, thyme, salt, pepper and parsley. Spoon into 8-cup (2 L) casserole dish sprayed with baking spray; cover and refrigerate until ready to re-heat on own at 350°F(180°C) for 40-45 minutes, or use some as stuffing and re-heat. Makes six to eight servings.

Dill Mustard Sauce

Seafood needs the tang of citrus and dill or tarragon to complement its delicate flavour. This sauce is yummy with both fresh and smoked fish or shellfish and keeps well refrigerated for up to two weeks. In our home, this sauce is a must for fresh and smoked salmon!

1 bunch of fresh dill, wash and dried, stems removed
¼ cup (50 mL) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (150 mL) vegetable oil
½ cup (125 mL) Dijon mustard
¼ cup (50 mL) red wine vinegar

In a food processor, combine dill and granulated sugar. Process until dill is chopped. Add oil, mustard, and vinegar. Process until smooth. Spoon into jar; seal and refrigerate. Makes two cups (500 mL).


Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer  ~

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