Cary, N.C. — Doctors often recommend eating more fish, especially for people who are obese or have elevated cholesterol levels, but fresh fish can be pricey and difficult to prepare.
Many people avoid eating it unless they order it in a restaurant, and then, it's often deep-fried.
Scott Crawford, executive chef of Herons at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, said there are quick and simple ways to incorporate fish into one's diet.
"Fish is by far my favorite protein," Crawford said. He uses different cook techniques – grilling, sauteing and poaching – to get the most nutritional value and best taste out of a wide variety of fish.
"Flounder is very thin. You don't want to overcook it," he said.
So he used a "shallow poach" technique – cooking the delicate filet in olive oil and fish stock. White wine or sake are an optional addition.
"It's in the liquid but not completely submerged," Crawford said.
Crawford then added ginger, scallions and basil and let the fish finish cooking in a hot oven.
A fresh fennel and citrus salad completed the meal. It was delicious and light – and light on calories, too.
Next, Crawford took a sea bass filet and breaded it lightly in a flour, salt and pepper mixture. He got a saute pan very hot on the stove.
"Drop those in. See how it's cooking right away. That's good, if you drop it in too cold, you're not going to get the same effect," he said.
He added cauliflower and shallots and cooked until it was "just a little brown."
"And then we'll add our mushrooms," Crawford said.
White wine or fish stock will deglaze the pan and create a rich sauce, he said. Fish should be cooked until the flesh is firm, but never overcooked.
"That's the most common mistake people make with cooking fish," he said.
Grilling salmon will also yield delicious results. Salmon filets with visible marbling are rich in "good fat," Crawford said.
Sprinkled with a pinch of salt, the salmon filet was ready for the grill. Crawford cooked his filet medium – just a little pink inside – about a minute on each side.
Yellow and red mini tomatoes tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh herbs were the perfect companion to the grilled filet – and a cinch to prepare.
Fish can be expensive, but fileting it at home cuts out the cost of butchering and packaging.
Crawford suggested buying a whole fish, just one to four days out of the water, and just getting it cleaned and gutted.
See Crawford demonstrate fileting a fish here.