When jittery cooks confess their fear of cooking fish, I recommend a foolproof, tried-and-true method I perfected decades ago: Slow-Roasting. It renders fish tender, succulent and evenly cooked. The heat is low and gentle, so it won’t overcook easily, hence, timing is not critical. And it’s not THAT slow. Because of its delicate protein structure fish fillets takes only 15 to 30 minutes to cook: fast by anyone’s standard. Food52 designated my Slow-Roasted Fish Method a “Genius Recipe” (One commenter called it Like a comet through a night sky! A sky filled with dry fish but NO MORE!
The simple formula, below, works fine for a variety of fish from salmon, to cod to monkfish to striped bass to snapper. When I’m under-the-gun, I pair slow-roasted fish with a simple sauce. Five favorite Quick Sauces for Fish are below.
Method: Slow Roasted Fish
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds fillet of salmon, striped bass, red snapper or cod, in one large uncut fillet or four 6-ounces fillets
A small bunch of fresh thyme (optional)
Prepare the fish for roasting. Preheat the oven to 275′. Brush an ovenproof dish lightly with olive oil. Arrange the fish fillets skin side down in the pan. Rub the top with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Tuck half the thyme sprigs under the fish and arrange the rest over the top.
Estimate the cooking time. Gauge the cooking time according to the thickness of the fillets, figuring about 5 to 6 minutes per 1/4 inch of thickness.
-Fillets less than 3/4-inch thick, such as striped bass and red snapper: about 15 to 20 minutes
-1 1/4-inch thick salmon or swordfish fillets: 25 to 30 minutes.
If you are unsure, test the fish early, then continue cooking until done.
Roast the fish. Roast until a two-pronged kitchen fork inserted in the thickest part of the fish meets with no resistance, and the flesh separates easily from the skin. An instant thermometer should read 120F’. (Don’t worry if he top of the fish still has a slightly translucent “raw’ look).
Prepare a sauce while the fish is roasting.
Assemble the dish. Transfer the filets to each of 4 warm dinner plates. Drizzle with fine, extra-virgin olive oil, or serve with any of the sauces below.
5 Simple Sauces for Fish
Fragrant Fennel Oil
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
One 2-inch strip of lemon zest
In a small heavy skillet, toast the fennel seed over low heat until fragrant. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and cook 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the lemon zest and set aside to infuse.
Fresh Chive Oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Chive oil is one of the easiest oils to make since chives are tender and release their flavor very quickly. Its delicate oniony flavor complements many foods, especially fish and shellfish dishes, and vegetables. A teaspoon of chive oil will go a long way to dress a baked potato. Since snipped chives are lovely to look at and are extremely flavorful, you don’t even need to pound them in a mortar. Thinly slice or snip 2 tablespoons chives and mix with olive oil . Set aside to infuse for one half hour before serving.
Extra oil and be stored covered in the refrigerator up to four days.
Cool (Meyer) Lemon, Basil and Olive Oil Sauce
Meyer lemons are mildly tart, intensely perfumed citrus fruit that taste like an exotic lemony tangerine. Once a rarity outside of California, they are widely available in supermarkets year-round. Here, both flesh and zest are mixed with fine extra-virgin olive oil to make a vibrantly-flavored sauce that seems to enhance just about any simple fish preparation. If you are unable to find Meyer lemons, substitute 3 medium navel oranges and 1 large lemon; omit the zest.
Makes about 2/3 cup.
2 medium Meyer lemons
1/4 cup fine extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 to 1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoons salt
freshly ground white pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
With a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from one lemon in thin strips. Slice the zest crosswise in the thinnest possible slivers. Place in a small bowl.
With a thin sharp knife, cut the stem and flower ends crosswise off the zested lemon. Place the lemon with one flat side down on the work surface. Working from top to bottom, carefully cut the skin and white pith in strips off the flesh, so that the flesh is intact. Then, holding the peeled lemon over the bowl, cut along each side of the membrane to release the lemon sections into the bowl. Squeeze the membrane to extract any juice and discard. Repeat with the remaining lemon.
Add the olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper; toss gently. Set aside until ready to serve. Just before serving, stir in the basil. You can make the sauce up to 6 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate until you are ready to roast the fish.
Brown Butter and Caper Sauce
White fish, such as striped bass, red snapper and grouper are delicious with browned butter sauce – butter that has been cooked until it gains a rich nutty flavor – made piquant with vinegar, capers and parsley.
The vinegar you choose will greatly determine the character of the sauce. I find a combination of balsamic and sherry vinegars produces a rich complex nutty-flavored sauce that has a good balance of acid and sweet. Banyuls or Cava vinegars give a more delicate effect and need 1/2 teaspoon sugar to balance their acidity.
Makes 4 Servings
The sauce takes only a couple of minutes to make, you can begin it when the fish comes out of the oven.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed and drained (if using salted capers, soak them in warm water for 5 minutes; rinse and drain).
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
pinch of sugar to taste.
In a small saucepan cook the butter over moderately low heat until it is golden brown and smells like roasted hazelnuts. Pour in the balsamic and sherry vinegars into the pan; stand back, it will splutter upon contact. When the spluttering has died down, add the capers. Boil until the sauce looks slightly creamy and thickened, about 30 seconds. Add the parsley, salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Spoon the sauce over fish and serve at once.
Yogurt Sauce With Toasted Spices, Lime Peel And Basil
This is one of my favorite sauces for slow-roasted salmon.