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Perfectly Cooked Fish Doesn't Flake

July 26, 1990|ABBY MANDEL

Cooking fish continues to be a challenge to many home cooks. Making sure that the fish is just cooked but still moist is difficult. And the old idea that you should cook fish until it flakes with a fork is totally misleading, resulting in overcooked, somewhat dry fish. Mark Grosz of Oceanique has some good advice: let the fish finish cooking off the heat after it's just barely cooked. That gives you more control--and leaves you less likely to overcook the fish.

Here's how:

* Whether sauteing fillets in a skillet or poaching them in liquid, always wash and dry very well with paper towels. Season well to taste with herbs, salt and pepper, rubbing seasonings into the filleted surface (as opposed to the skin side).

* To cook in a skillet, a non-stick surface is recommended. Heat olive oil (a nicely flavored oil but not extra-virgin) in non-stick skillet. When hot, place skin side down first to crisp fillet. (If fish is skinned, place filleted side down.) Cook over medium high heat, uncovered, until golden brown on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Use flat spatula to carefully turn over. Turn heat off. Cover skillet. Depending on thickness of fillet, let stand about 2 to 4 more minutes to finish cooking.

* To poach in liquid, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub olive oil on seasoned surface of fish and bottom of non-aluminum pan that is just large enough to hold the fish arranged in a single layer. Place filleted side down, add cold poaching liquid and cover with piece of parchment paper. Place in oven, and bake until fish is barely cooked, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. Remove from oven and let finish cooking for 5 more minutes.

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