Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cooking fish in advance and fast weekday dinners

Just got an excellent question from Kelly, one of my students.
I have a follow-up question from yesterday's fish class. I often cook on the weekend and freeze meals for use during the week. Are there any considerations to keep in mind when freezing/storing cooked fish?
Just don't do it! There is no way to freeze cooked fish, rewarm it, and have it taste decent. But here is what you can do. Cook extra fish on a weekend, and turn leftovers into fish burgers/cakes, salads, escabeche, appetizers, pâtés, fajitas, sandwiches, etc. Once cooked, fish will last in your fridge for up to 4 days, so that's dinners for most of the week.

I sometimes eat fish leftovers cold (depending on the dish). But never ever put fish to warm up in the microwave. You'll stink up your whole house.

Also keep in mind that most fish fillets cook in 5-10 minutes, so warming them up from a frozen state isn't any faster than cooking them. What I would do is cut fish into portions over the weekend and make something simple when you get home, like salmon teriyaki or trout in almonds (you might want to chop the nuts over the weekend). If you froze your pre-portioned fish, put it in the fridge the night before you plan to cook it to defrost. Just remember to only freeze fatty fish (salmon, arctic char, trout, bluefish, sable, etc.) and try not to keep it frozen for more than a month.

Another way to speed things up is to make all your herb butters, nuts, sauces, etc. over the weekend. The tomato sauce for swordfish can be used on most fish (except for maybe the salmon family) and a basic herb butter can go with absolutely anything. Then all you have to do before serving is dry the fish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and sear in a skillet (pop in the oven to finish for really thick fillets). You can garnish with herb butters, tomato sauce, different pestos, etc (but all those can be made over the weekend and don't need freezing).