HOW TO COOK FISH
By Alain Braux
Does cooking fish intimidate you? It used to intimidate me too. But ever since I learned how it’s done in professional kitchens, I’m not afraid anymore.
Before I became a nutritionist, I was (and still am) a pastry chef and baker by trade, so cooking fish was very far from my area of expertise. To make matters worse, I grew up with my grandmother on a small farm in Normandy—far from any big city or the sea coast. Even though my grandmother, Mamie, taught me some rudimentary cooking skills, she didn’t have access to fish and never prepared it. Other than fish sticks, my mother wasn’t much of a fish cooker either—probably because it intimidated her, too.
Everything changed, though, when I began working at the highly rated Le Moulin de Mougins near Cannes, where I met my friend Daniel Boulud. Daniel and I were part of a group of up-and-coming, ambitious young chefs. I worked on the pastry side of the kitchen and he worked at the fish station at the time. One day I asked him to explain a good way to quickly cook fresh fish. He showed me how they did it using what’s known in the restaurant business as a salamander—basically, the professional version of a broiler. Voila! Mystery solved.
My favorite fish to cook using this method is salmon. I love wild-caught salmon for its flavor and beneficial health attributes, but any other dark-meat fish like Gulf-caught tuna, mahi mahi or even grouper will work as well. (Note: you may have to adjust the cooking time depending on the size of the fillet. This method does not work well on thin fish fillets like Dover sole or other flat fishes; they are too dry and will fall apart.)
Ma Façon Rapide de Préparer un Filet de Saumon
Alain’s Quick Way to Prepare a Salmon Fillet
2 salmon fillets or tail slices
4 oz. vinaigrette or 2 t. extra-virgin olive oil
Herbs or spice blend
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the oven rack at the highest position and preheat the broiler (if your oven has a high or low broiling option, choose high) for 10 minutes. Place an enameled cast-iron pan, a regular cast-iron pan or a heavy stainless-steel frying pan on the rack and allow it to heat for 10 additional minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the salmon one of two ways: either brush the fillets on both sides with the vinaigrette and place in a plastic bag to marinate for 10 minutes, or brush with olive oil. Press the fillets into your favorite herb or spice blend and let sit for 10 minutes.
When the pan is very hot, carefully remove it from the oven and quickly place the fish fillet in the hot pan. Immediately return the pan to the top rack and close the oven door. Cook for 2–3 minutes, or more depending on the thickness of your fillets.
Chef’s tip: If you don’t mind the bones, get a slice of the salmon tail and cook it this way. It’s fattier, thus moister, and it costs less.