KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Cook by the Book: Fish Forever
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Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Cook by the Book: Fish Forever

Not long ago I had dinner at a place that specialized in fish. But oddly enough, there wasn't that much fish on the menu. Weird Fish in the Mission is committed to serving "sustainable" fish and that limits what's on offer. Catfish and tilapia are mainstays. But sustainability isn't the only issue. While we tend to think of eating fish as healthy, concerns about PCB's and mercury have also made choosing fish more challenging.

There couldn't be a better man to set us straight about fish than Paul Johnson, a former chef and advisor to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program, he is best known for having founded the Monterey Fish Market. He has supplied fish to local chefs and restaurateurs including Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, Michael Mina, Traci Des Jardin, etc.

Fish Forever has almost 100 recipes, but also describes each fish in detail, how they are fished, their health benefits and how to find the best sustainable options. It's written in a wonderfully clear and engaging manner by someone who is absolutely passionate about the subject. I was thrilled to see sardine recipes, tips for how to make tilapia more tasty, a recipe for albacore confit, and clear instructions for how to prepare every fish for cooking. Consider it a bible for anyone who eats fish.

Sand Dabs with Fried Capers, Parsley and Lemon
Serves 4 as a main dish

1/4 cup mild olive oil
2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and patted dry
8 pan-ready sand dabs
Seasoned flour: 1/4 cup all-purpose flour mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers.
2. Add the capers and fry until slightly crispy and a shade darker, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.
3. Dredge the sand dabs in the seasoned flour and carefully add them to the hot pan. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
4. Pour off any oil remaining in the pan. Add the white wine and lemon juice, stirring to scrap up the browned bits form the bottom of the pan. Cook to reduce the liquid by two thirds. Turn off the heat and add the parsley. Whisk in the cold butter, a bit at a time, until the pan juices become silky and thick. Pour the sauce oven the sand dabs and garnish with the fried capers.

Reprinted by permission from Fish Forever, by Paul Johnson. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright © 2007 by Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

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