I'VE HEARD both sides of the argument, that it's okay to freeze fish and that it's definitely not okay. Which is correct?"
A basic fact of life: Fresh is better than frozen.A contemporary truth:
We love our freezers. How do we reconcile these conflicting realities?
Freezing is perfectly acceptable if done correctly, but be especially careful and exacting in freezing fish.
Its journey from sea to shining freezer should be a short one. Find a reliable fishmerchant or market, learn what day the fresh fish arrive and buy on that day. The first commandment of fish freezing is to know, beyond doubt, that the fish is fresh, fresh, fresh. This does not preclude holding him hostage in the refrigerator for a good two days prior to a freezing decision. You can, but this must be done intelligently. Wrap the fish in plastic, place it in a bowl filled with ice cubes and replenish the cubes once or twice daily.
Have you, for years, been skirting piers and fish markets to avoid that "fishy" smell? Actually, what your olfactories were absorbing was "eau d'ocean." Fish, although redolent of the briny blue, should be otherwise odor-free. If it does have an unpleasant smell, consider it over the hill.
Paradoxically, dead though it be, the fish should appear zesty and robust. Bright, bulging eyes, shiny scales, ruby red gill interiors and resilient flesh are positive signs. If it is already fileted, then make sure the cut edges are moist, not dry. Yellowish patches or a rusty streak down the center are bad signs.
Once assured of the fish's credentials it would be helpful to, via a freezer thermometer, determine the actual temperature of your unit. If it's over zero, forget it -- the fish will lose all flavor. It is happiest at -5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Anti-freezers are biased for the wrong reason. When fish does lose flavor, the caused is most often improper defrosting not improper freezing. Foresight is crucial. Plan a fish meal a good 24 hours in advance for whole fish and 12 hours for filets, since the key to correct defrosting is a slow thaw under refrigeration.
That sadly familiar, flaccid, flabby texture, the tip-off to tastelessness, is the result of a too-rapid defrost at room temperature. When this occurs, the ice crystals do not melt slowly and succeed only in puncturing the fragile flesh; hence, mushiness.
"My green vegetables are always limp, gray and watery. Why?"
The reason from limpness is too much exposure to water. Here are two methods for preventing this malady:
First follow the Italian prescription for pasta-cook until "al dente" (a palpable chewiness). The striking feature of all fresh vegetables is a singularly crunchy texture. Why destroy that precious quality by cooking them into early senility?
If your family is accustomed to vapid veggies, you must initiate them slowly into the joys of "al dente" vegetables, cooking the vegetables less and less until they have achieve that state of nirvana known as crisp-tenderness. Green vegetables should not be covered and should always be plunged into vigorously boiling and lightly salted water. Test during cooking and remove from heat just as soon as you are satisfied that they are done, not overdone.
The second way to combat limpness is to utilize the technique known as refreshing. You could be timing vegetables perfectly, but the residual heat continues to affect them. If, however, they are immediately transferred to a colander and drenched in a shower of cold water they will, instantly, stop cooking. This refreshing process actually intensifies the color, making the vegetables more verdant than ever. You've washed that gray away!
Once the chosen greens are refreshed and lovely, return them to their new empty kettle. Hover over them, shaking the pot brisky 3 to 4 minutes or until all their moisture has evaporated. At this point, they are dry and thirsty and additions such as butter, margarine, lemon juice, salt and pepper will be welcomed.
You've done them proud. HADDOCK CHANTICLEER (4 servings) 2 pounds haddock filets, skinned Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1/2 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/4 cup chopped shallots or 1 large scallion, chopped 1/4 cup chopped parsley 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1/3 cup grated Swiss cheese 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs combined with: 1/4 teaspoon rosemary 1/2 teaspoon tarragon 1/2 teaspoon thyme 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Dry the fish well and season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Marinate in the olive oil, lemon juice, chopped shallots or scallion and parsley for 4 to 5 hours, refrigerated. (Do not use a metallic container for marinating the fish, since this often imparts a metallic taste). Turn the fish over in the marinade at the halfway point.
Transfer the fish from its marinade to a buttered baking dish. Spread the mustard over the top and sprink with the cheese. Dust over the crumb/herb mixture. Do all over with the butter. The dish may be covered and refrigerated at this point -- remove from refrigerator and allow casserole to return to room temperature before proceeding.
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until the fish is almost cooked through. Then, run it quickly under the broiler to brown surface. SAUTEED BROCCOLI WITH GARLIC (4 to 6 servings) 1 large bunch fresh broccoli 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped 1/4 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons chopped parsley Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cut off the tough butt end of the broccoli stalks. Peel back the dark green skin on the stalks to expose the tender, light green flesh. If the stalks are large, cut them, lengthwise, into 2 to 4 pieces, leaving the flowerets attached.
Plunge the broccoli in plenty of boiling, lightly salted water. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the stalks can be pierced easily with a knife. Drain, refresh and set aside.
Saute the garlic in the olive oil over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Once it is lightly colored add the broccoli, parsley, salt and pepper. Saute gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn it over two or three times while cooking. Serve hot.