After surviving another Feast of the Seven Fishes here in Italy (the meal typically celebrated in Italy and now all over the world for Christmas Eve with many seafood dishes) I wanted to jot down some quick tips on cooking seafood many different ways. Everyone always seems puzzled as to what to make and how to make it. These are some quick, easy tips to help, but not only for the Feast of the Seven Fishes all year round seafood dishes too! These are the principal 5 ways to cook specific types of seafood and fish.
Alla Brace (usually refers to cooking in a fireplace or wood burning oven -over wood or coal)
Fish that has firm meat inside like tuna, are perfect for cooking this way,not all fish can hold up to this cooking method.
You can add a sort of aroma and splash with white or red wine or seafood broth to reinforce the perfume of the herbs/spices added. Choose a double sided grill that will make turning the fish easier.
Alla Griglia ( grilled)
If you are going to grill fish you shouldn’t scale it, the skin protects the delicate meat of the fish from the intense heat of the grill. Before placing on the grill, dry the fish well with paper towels.,even if it has been soaking in a marinade. Don’t overcook the fish. For example, sardines cook for only 1 minute on each side, for a sea bass-10 minutes per side. A large fish should be cooked slowly and drizzled with oil every so often to keep it moist.
Alla Mugnaia (a la meuniere- a French cooking term that means lightly dusted with flour and sauteed with butter)
A whole fish or one that has delicate meat inside like Sole should first be sauteed in a saute pan with butter, then cooked over medium heat. In general, most fish can be lightly salted and breaded before cooking. The cooking time varies from between 2-3 minutes per side.
Fish best fried are small fish or those cut into smaller pieces or those like cod and sole. Always dry the fish before frying, coat with flour and dust with breadcrumbs. Oil should be hot but not smoking and should also be in an abundant quanttity. Avoid keeping the breaded fish in the pan for too long a time, After cooking remove and place on absorbent paper or paper towels to absorb the oil.
Al Forno (Baked) best to cook medium or large fish this way. You can also flavor the fish with flavorful spices and/or herbs or herb butter,broth, white wine. And if the fish is big enough you can also bake it stuffed with bread crumbs or shrimp or crab meat. In the oven, you can also cook smaller fish in parchment paper
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For more recipes and Holiday stories get your copy of the Award Winning book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions-2nd edition