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You can’t beat a meal of fresh fish fillets.
Haddock and hake, which are often available where I shop for fish, are two of my favourites – delicious, quick to cook, healthy and versatile.
Any recipe or cooking method that works for one of these types of fish works for the other.
The easiest way to cook these fillets on top of the stove is to dredge them in flour that’s been seasoned with salt and pepper and panfry them in a little oil. Heat the oil in the pan over medium-high heat, until it’s hot but not smoking, and add the fillets. Cook until lightly brown, 3-5 minutes, turn the fillet to brown the other side and cook for about the same amount of time.
Turn them only once to keep them intact. You’ll know they are done when the flesh is opaque instead of translucent and flakes easily with a fork.
To add a crispy breading, use a three-step process. Prepare shallow dishes or pie plates and fill one with all-purpose flour, one with lightly beaten egg thinned with a few tablespoons of milk or water and the third with fine, dry bread crumbs, either homemade or commercial. Add more flavour, if you wish, by seasoning the crumbs with herbs or spices.
After you’ve prepared the three coatings, you are ready to coat the fillets. Blot each one dry with paper towel and then dip first in flour, then egg and finally crumbs. It will be less messy if you keep one hand dry, for picking up the fillet and dredging it with flour, and use the other one to handle wet ingredients, dipping the fish in egg and coating the eggy fillet in crumbs.
The first few times I tried this, I forgot midway through the process and made a colossal mess; that motivated me to keep my mind on what I was doing the next time.
It takes a bit more fat to panfry breaded fillets than to cook the ones that are dredged only in flour, as the breading absorbs some of the fat. Add enough oil to the pan to come about half way up the fillets, and warm it over medium-high heat before adding the fillets. Don’t crowd the fish in the pan; there should be a little space between the pieces. If you have to cook the fish in two batches, stash the first pieces on a platter in a warm oven while frying the others.
Panfried fillets, breaded or not, are good with a squeeze of lemon, a horseradish-spiked seafood sauce or tartar sauce. Tartar sauce, at my table, consists a mixture of mayonnaise, homemade relish and capers if I find some in the fridge, with a squirt of lemon juice. Various recipes call for chopped dill pickles, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, dried or fresh dill or chopped onion.
For a Mediterranean-style main, try cooking this easy dish. The recipe, developed by Canadian chef and food writer Eric Akis, originally called for snapper fillets, but I like to make it with locally available fresh haddock, cod or halibut.
I think I’ll add more little tomatoes next time, as I love the bright colour and sweet acidity that they add. There’s a picture of my version on Facebook.com/islandgusto.
Greek-style haddock fillets.Posted by Island Gusto: savouring life in Prince Edward Island, Canada. on Thursday, 25 February 2021
Adapted from Akis, Eric: Everyone Can Cook Seafood, Whitecap Books, Vancouver, 2004.
- 4 150- to 175-g (5 to 6 oz) white fish fillets (e.g. haddock, cod, halibut)
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 75 mL (⅓ cup) chicken or vegetable stock
- 75 mL (⅓ cup) whole black olives
- 125 mL (½ cup) coarsely crumbled feta cheese
- 8-12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 25 mL (2 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
- juice of ½ lemon
- 25 mL (2 tbsp) chopped fresh oregano, or 10 mL (2 tsp) dried oregano
Preheat oven to 220 C (425 F).
Arrange the fillets in a single layer in a shallow baking dish; season with salt and pepper. Pour in the stock. Top the fish with olives, feta and cherry or grape tomatoes. Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice; sprinkle with oregano.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
Divide the fish and other ingredients among 4 heated plates.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, writes this column for The Guardian every Friday. She can be reached by email at [email protected].