Baked White Fish With Tomatoes and Potatoes
I happen to love fish. Just about all fish-with the exception of bluefish. This aversion came on First Avenue in NYC over 30 years ago after a “blue fish special” made the olfactory rounds one warm evening. I am still able to imagine the smell of that fish-I can live without bluefish. But fish is the protein of choice for me both at home and when dining out and I am lucky I love it because most fish is low in calories and high in nutrients. But many people are afraid to cook fish at home. I can understand that because, like eggs, it is one of the most difficult proteins to cook properly since it is so delicate that a minute or two of cooking makes a big difference. I am sure you’ve make either rubbery or runny eggs for breakfast-probably overcooked or under cooked by only a minute. But you learned to cook eggs the way you like them and so you can fish-it’s just a matter of practice.
Start with a thin lean white fish-flounder, sole or tilapia. This fish is easier to overcook, that’s true, but it is easier to gauge done-ness with a thin fish than with a thick fish. Keep in mind as well, that when you cook any protein, you are cooking to please yourself, not chefs with opinions (like me). So, if you like your fish on the drier side or your meat well done-go for it. I won’t be at your dining table to offer an opinion. On that note, I must say, it does drive me crazy when I am served a piece of fish that is half raw. I like sushi, but sushi is sushi and cooked fish is cooked fish. Make up your mind fancy restaurants! If I hear one more server ask how I want my salmon done, I’ll scream: “COOKED!” (but not dry). That’s medium, by the way. The way it SHOULD be served, by god! Breathe.
When you cook fish, you can’t walk away from it as you might a steak. Think eggs. Do you walk away from scrambling your eggs? Well it’s the same with fish. It’s delicate, lean(white fish) and cooks very quickly. The most forgiving method to cook fish is steaming-either in a steam oven, sous vide or en papillote (in paper). However, most people do not yet own a steam oven-the new kitchen craze-or sous vide equipment and the paper-cook method can be a bit tricky, so I offer a delicious very easy recipe for baking fish. Look for the fish to turn opaque, firm up and flake easily. Test your piece the first couple of times (yeah, when I was learning, my serving sometimes looked a little mangled) and soon you will know a perfectly cooked piece of fish just by looking at/touching it.
- 1 ¼ lbs. new potatoes (waxy white, red or small assorted) potatoes, cut into ½ “ pieces
- 1 TBL. plus 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 TBL. unsalted butter
- 3 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped or 1 ½ tsp. dried thyme
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Cooking spray
- 2 C. cherry tomatoes, cut in ½
- ¼ C. pitted Kalamata olives, cut in ½
- 2 TBL. capers drained and rinsed
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- ¼ C. balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 4 6oz. fish filets (Flounder, Sole or Talapia)
Preheat oven to 400°
Toss the potatoes with 2 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. thyme(1/2 tsp. dried) and some salt and pepper.
Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, and add the potato mixture.
Cook until browned and crispy-tossing half way through-about 30 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, toss the tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic with 1 tsp. olive oil, 2 TBL. vinegar, 1 tsp. thyme (1/2 tsp. dried).
Spray another baking sheet with cooking spray and add the tomato mixture to it.
Cook for 15 minutes or until soft.
Mix 1 TBL. butter, 2 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. thyme (1/2 tsp. dried), 2 TBL. vinegar, salt and pepper together. Brush on the fish.
Place the fish over the cooked tomato mixture and return to the oven.
Cook until fish is firm and flakes easily-about 10 minutes. Check it at about 7-8 minutes. Cook time will vary with fish thickness.