JEFF TIEDEMAN: Meatless & loving itLenten season offers good opportunity to dive into fish, seafood.
I knew what Pat Phaneuf wanted as soon as he identified himself on my voice-mail.
Pat, the athletics director at Sacred Heart School in East Grand Forks, was calling to ask if I would be the guest host of the first Friday night fish fry during Lent, which starts today — Ash Wednesday. Of course, I gladly accepted his invitation to work the event, which is a fundraiser for the school’s Athletic Club.
Pat’s call wasn’t my only indication that it’s the season of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. Just walk through the meat department at the supermarket or pick up one of the fliers that come as newspaper inserts to see all the fish and seafood specials.
I’ve already taken advantage of sales at Hugo’s, grabbing a few cans lower-priced tuna and salmon, which probably will end up either on sandwiches, in casseroles or combined with bread crumbs or oatmeal in a baked loaf to be served with creamed peas and potatoes.
When I mentioned the purchases to Mom, she asked if the salmon was Deming’s. She said my grandmother bought that brand and always served it cold with mashed potatoes and peas, which was the way my grandpa liked it.
Those were the days when Catholics couldn’t eat meat on Friday, not just the ones during Lent. So, I can imagine there was a lot more fish eaten then. That probably would bring a smile to the faces of nutritionists and dietitians, who recommend that people eat at least two to three servings of fish each week.
The cooking techniques we employ for fresh fish or seafood are baking or grilling, since they probably are healthiest ways to do it. Here is a look at those methods, as gleaned from “Fish & Shellfish” by James Peterson and “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook” by Braiden Rex-Johnson:
n Baking: Place smaller pieces of fish in a lightly oiled baking dish. Larger pieces or whole fish can be set into a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet that has been first lightly oiled, pan-sprayed or lined with aluminum foil. Moist fish such as halibut or fish with a higher fat content such as salmon can be baked on a broiling pan so the excess liquid or fat drains off. Measure the thickness of the fish at its thickest point. Cook in a preheated 450-degree oven, about 12 minutes per inch of thickness for fillets and steaks. Whole fish may take 14 to 15 minutes per inch of thickness.
n Grilling: Fillets and steaks should be at least ½-inch thick. To prevent sticking, fish that’s been marinated should be drained and dried with paper towels. The grill should be very clean, lightly oiled and very hot before setting the fish on it. Leave the skin intact, which stabilizes the fish and seals in juices. Tuna, halibut and salmon are great choices.
Of course, I would be remiss not to mention shrimp, America’s favorite seafood. Shrimp lend themselves to countless dishes, from curries to gumbos to kebabs to stir-fries. My favorite shrimp recipe is called Sunday Shrimp Pasta Bake, which might not be deemed the healthiest with its pound of Velveeta cheese.
That’s the bad news. The good news is it doesn’t contain meat.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.