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Microwave . . .

Fish Is Ideal as a Flavorful Calorie-Watcher's Entree

November 13, 1986|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving

With a microwave, one of the best and easiest ways to trim calories from a meal is to choose fish as an entree. A cooked three-ounce serving of a lean fish has only about 120 calories.

Also, cooking fish in the microwave preserves the natural flavor and juices because it doesn't require as long a cooking time as conventionally cooked fish. No fat is needed to keep the fish from sticking to the pan--a calorie saver.

Although lean fish is low in calories, it is high in nutritional value. A three-ounce cooked portion of white fish contains almost half the recommended dietary allowance for protein. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, yet low in saturated fat.

The most popular form of fish we buy is fillets. Since it's deboned and dressed there's no waste. Cooked in the microwave, there's little shrinkage, so one pound of fillets will serve four.

Uneven in Thickness

Fish fillets are prepared by cutting the fish lengthwise from either side of the backbone. Since fillets often are uneven in thickness, you can compensate by arranging the pieces so the thickest areas point toward the outside of the cooking dish. Or, fold the thinner end of the fillet so it is doubled over. This will make the fish about as thick at one end as the other.

At HIGH (100%) power, microwaved fish cooks in about four to eight minutes per pound, depending on thickness.

Fish is delicate and can toughen if overcooked. Due to the difference in fillet shapes, check both the thick and the thin areas after cooking to determine doneness. The thin areas will look opaque and the thick areas will be firm and translucent. Let the fish stand a few minutes to finish cooking the thickest parts.

Defrosting fish fillets in paper packages also is easy in the microwave. Use the DEFROST setting (30% to 50% power) and cook four to eight minutes per pound. (Timing depends on oven wattage.) After half the time, rotate the package and turn it over. After the minimum defrost time, open the package and inspect the fish. It should be cool and even slightly icy. Rather than cook it in the microwave, it's best to run the fish under cold water until you can separate the pieces.

Here are a few good ways to enjoy microwaved fish.

DILLED FISH FILLETS AND VEGETABLES

2/3 cup Rhine or Sauterne wine

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill or 1/2 teaspoon dried

10 whole peppercorns

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

2 large stalks celery, sliced

1 small onion, sliced

1 pound orange roughy or flounder fillets

Place wine, lemon juice, salt, dill and peppercorns in 8-inch square microwave-safe dish. Stir to dissolve salt. Add carrots, celery and onion and stir again. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 8 to 11 minutes until carrots are still slightly firm when pierced with fork.

Add fish fillets, arranging thickest areas to outer edges of dish. Spoon vegetables over top. Cover and microwave on HIGH 2 minutes. Turn fish over, spooning vegetables over top. Cover and continue to microwave on HIGH 1 to 3 minutes until thin areas turn opaque. Let stand several minutes, covered, to allow thick areas of fish to finish cooking. Discard peppercorns and serve fish and vegetables with poaching liquid spooned over. Makes 4 servings.

My family likes cod fillets in this recipe. If you use ocean perch or other fish with skin, remove and discard the skin before eating.

PEPPERY FISH FILLETS WITH LIME

1 pound cod or other whitefish fillets

2 tablespoons or more lime juice

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Dash salt, optional

Arrange fish in 12x8-inch microwave-safe dish, tucking thinner areas under, if necessary, to create even thicknesses. Top with lime juice, cayenne pepper, black pepper, thyme, parsley and salt. Cover dish with wax paper and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 6 to 10 minutes, rotating dish half-turn, if necessary, every 3 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

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