Sunday, December 8, 2013
I did it. I cooked a fish! And I ate it! My roommate ate it too and we're both still alive today to talk about it, right Nichole? ...Nichole?
It was, without a doubt, the best fish I ever cooked and ate.
I consider it one of the greatest achievements of my cooking career. The last time I brought a fish home it was alive - and it stayed that way for weeks until it went belly-up in the bowl I kept on my dresser. I didn't eat it. I flushed it down the toilet. That's what one does with fish, no?
Clearly this fish-cooking expedition has been a long time coming. I've avoided fresh catches and fish tacos for too long. I'm tired of this life of chowder-dodging and lobster-evading. It's time to take the fish by the fins. I mean, this is Maine for carp's sake.
So I boldly bought fish for the first time yesterday, with help from the folks at Browne Trading Market in Portland. I went with the halibut, and did not restrain myself from saying, "Just for the halibut," which apparently everybody says.
At home in my kitchen, I unwrapped the halibut. I gave it a once-over - a few times. The halibut scanned my kitchen, wary at first, but managed to relax after spotting the jar of Seven Seas Seasoning. If it was going to get eaten, at least it was getting a sweet rub down first.
The halibut got its rub down. And some green beans got tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. If only I'd known sooner that with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, you can roast just about anything. And it will be awesome. I threw in some yellow wax beans, too, because I've always thought they were funny looking. And I'm into that.
And just in case the fish goes south, at least there would be potatoes, also tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper.
I heated grapeseed oil in a pan on medium-high heat. I put the halibut steaks in one at a time, cooking them for two and a half minutes on each side. I accidentally broke one in half in the excitement.
But I stuck to the suggested timing. And right as I worried that I was under-cooking them, I stopped cooking them (more advice from Browne Trading). I pressed the fish with a finger and could see it begin to flake, as fish apparently does when it's cooked (and now I finally get what the term "flaking" actually means."
The fish: perfectly cooked! The sauce: excellent! The roommate: pleased with her free meal! And me: plump with fish-cooking pride. And potatoes. I was also plump with potatoes.
I ate more fish in one sitting than I likely have during the past 33 years combined. I ate it because it was really good, sure, but it was really good because I cooked it myself. A sense of accomplishment makes a savory seasoning.
And, as my roommate said, "We had a halibut time."
Shannon Bryan is a feature writer for the Portland Press Herald and content producer for MaineToday Media's entertainment website, www.mainetoday.com.
And here's a well-known truth: Shannon can't cook. She's also ostroconophobic (in Maine?!?), but in a foodie place like southern Maine, she's determined to learn how to cook, eat, and order with the best of them. Read about her culinary crusade:
Pans on fire
She's also an investigator into all that's strange and entertaining to do around here. Those findings are gathered here:
Out Going: Things to do in southern Maine