I've clearly been on a fish kick lately. Eating lighter seems to just be a natural part of the changing seasons, and almost like clockwork, I begin to get loads of questions about the best ways to cook fish.
While it's definitely a great healthy eating option (so long as it's not battered and fried), fish cooking can be a bit tricky. Due to the tender, flaky texture of the meat, some cooking techniques seem almost impossible if you want to avoid total devastation of the fillet. That's where broiling comes in.
Broiling is a direct-heat cooking method, where the flame cooks the food from above. Think of it as, basically, the upside-down version of grilling. Most ovens have a broil setting regardless of electric or gas heat. With electric ranges, the heating element is usually in the form of a coil, whereas with gas ranges, there is a central flame strip. Some broilers are in the form of a drawer or lower compartment where the flame is still actually below the food.
Regardless of heat type, the key is to make sure the rack for cooking is on the closest setting possible to the broiler. Using a timer is also important, as broiling is a really quick cooking method, and 30 seconds can mean the difference between perfectly cooked and burnt to a crisp in some of the more powerful broilers.
This technique is best for naturally tender foods, thin cuts of meat, fish, and fresh veggies.
The bonus of a broiler is that you can also use it alongside other cooking methods to get a beautiful, golden-brown crust on your food at the end of cooking.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer, chef instructor and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville. Follow her at http://blogs.lowell sun.com/yourpersonalchef.
Broiled White Fish with Almond Crumb Topping
4 6-oz. white fish fillets
olive oil, as needed
2 cloves garlic, pasted
1/2 c. bread or cracker crumbs
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 tbs. dried herbs (i.e., basil, oregano, parsley)
fresh cracked pepper
1. Place the fish fillets into a baking dish. Rub or brush each fillet with a bit of olive oil and a bit of the pasted garlic, just so they are shiny. Season each with salt and fresh pepper. Place the baking dish with the fish into the oven about 6 inches below the broiler. Broil on high for 6-8 minutes, until fish begins to turn from slightly opaque to solid white in color.
2. Combine bread or cracker crumbs, almonds, parmesan cheese, herbs and 2 tbs. olive oil in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse in 1-second increments until blended together to the consistency of wet sand. If mixture is too dry, add more olive oil until it holds together, like sandcastle sand.
3. Remove the fish from the broiler, and spread the topping over the top of all the fillets. Place back into the broiler on high for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until topping is golden brown, and fish is easily flaked with a fork.