$8 Meals: Whiting Fish

What?! A fish dish for $8 dollars? Yes, you read correctly. There are numerous types of fish which are relatively unknown and unpopular and, therefore, very easy on the wallet. Take, for instance, whiting. It’s always sold whole and has a somewhat ugly physical appearance, which, at first glance, turns the average fan of those denizens of the deep to the opposite side of the fish counter. Their loss; your gain. Whiting is absolutely delicious, and a good choice for someone who is inexperienced in cooking whole fish, as there are very few bones to deal with. Whiting has a very interesting, triangular backbone, which pulls away from the meat of the fish easily after it is cooked.

Whechoosing a fish to buy, always look for visible signs that the fish is fresh. Just because you are told that the store received the fish in the morning, doesn’t always mean that they are as fresh as they could be. For instance, the eyes should be clear, without looking cloudy, and blood in the eyes and around the gills is also a good sign that they are fresh. Of course, the fresher the fish, the less “fishy” it should smell, so feel free to ask for a sniff before you buy.  I have yet to see a farmed whiting being sold in the supermarket, so rest assured that you will be buying a wild and sustainably caught fish. At my local fish monger, whiting comes in at $3.99/pound. For a family of four, two large, or about four small whiting will work nicely as a main dish, which usually amounts to about $6-$7. I always ask for the insides to be cleaned, and leave the head and tail in tact.

If you happen to be a whole fish cookery novice, do not fear! Once you do it, you may never go back to cooking those dried-out fillets of fish ever again. Not only is cooking a whole fish a less expensive option, as the price per pound is much less than a fillet, the meat also tastes better, as the bones release a delicate flavor and help to cook the fish from the inside out, saving you from having to concoct a fancy sauce to replace some much-needed moisture. Also, the meat  retains all its natural juices, producing a moist, succulent fillet. You can stuff the cavity of the fish with just about anything you fancy. I tend to add slices of garlic and whatever fresh herbs I have lying around in the fridge.

Usually I make some sort of rice dish to accompany the whiting, such as a mung bean and rice combination. However, if you prefer, you could simply make a salad and serve it along with some fresh bread. I hope you take this opportunity to try what may be to you a new fish and a new cooking method. We would love to hear your comments. You can always post a comment directly onto this post, or write to us at: twodancingbuckeyes@gmail.com  Happy eating!

Yield: 4 main course portions

two 2.5-3 lb. whiting (or four 1 lb. whiting), cleaned with head and tail in tact

handful of fresh herbs, such as tarragon, thyme, parsley, or dill

2-3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 lemon

olive oil

pinch of dried oregano (optional)

salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to broil. In an oven proof pan or tray, place your fish upside down, with inside open. Sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the sliced garlic and herbs inside the cavity and fold the sides of the fish back down. Lay the fish on one side, sprinkling the outside with salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Splash a bit of olive oil onto the skin. Flip the fish over to the other side gently, as not to spill out the contents of the cavity. Repeat seasoning and oil. (With most fish, I usually slice the skin with two diagonal cuts to facilitate the cooking process, however, because whiting is such a small fish, and the skin is very thin, I do not perform this particular step.) Gently pour some water into the bottom of the pan, or tray, but do not pour directly onto the fish, as all your lovely seasonings will wash off.

Place the fish in the broiler. After about 2-3 minutes, open the broiler and check on the fish. If it has started to brown, baste some of the cooking juices onto the fish with a brush. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice onto the fish. Allow to cook for another 3-4 minutes before flipping the fish over. I usually perform this task with a spatula and a spoon, but however you can accomplish this step while keeping the fish in tact, I say go for it! If there is not enough water in the pan (about 1/2″), pour some more water into it. You want to have some of those delicious cooking juices to spoon over the cooked fish. Allow the new side to cook for another 2-3 minutes, basting when the skin begins to brown and bubble. After another 4-5 minutes, the fish should be cooked through. Take a fork and insert it into the flesh. If it goes in easily, the fish is done.

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