20 Easy Recipes for the Fish Novice

No more fish sticks. You're an adult now.
April 10, 2018, 7:00pm
20 Easy Recipes for the Fish Novice
Photo by Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott.

If you’ve only ever bought chicken breasts pre-cut and wrapped in plastic in the supermarket, you’re probably going to be a little mystified at the idea of butchering a whole bird yourself. Likewise, if you’ve only ever had fish sticks or cryo-vaced filets of salmon from the freezer section, you’re probably a little intimidated to try tackling a whole fish on your own. But it’s not as scary as it sounds. (You will have to get over your fear of talking to salespeople in the grocery store though—your fishmonger is actually your best friend and tbh, you probably can’t embarrass yourself in front of a guy with fish guts on his clothes.) We rounded up our favorite recipes to inspire you to get over your fear of the fish. Now to get over your fear of talking to strangers.

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There’s a reason the sheet pan meal is so popular: It’s easy as hell. This salmon dish cooks quickly in the oven, so you can spend less time cooking and cleaning and more time unwinding. We know, it’s been a long week.

You’ve had some bad tuna sandwiches. This ain’t that: Homemade mayo, pickled onions, and crisp cucumbers make this version anything but sad and soggy. This is a tuna sandwich worth showing off, not squishing into your lunch bag.

Pan-Roasted Cod Recipe

Grains of paradise, sometimes called alligator pepper, are peppercorn-like spices, with a similarly pungent flavor and hints of citrus. They're the perfect complement to cod, which is mild and flaky and perfect for beginners.

This does require a lot of salt, but this is a time-tested method of roasting a whole fish to absolute perfection. You can also watch chef Magnus Reid do it over on our series How To.

This easy, marinated mackerel dish needs barely any cooking and pairs well with whatever veggies you’ve got around—perfect for using up your bounty of summer tomatoes.

Nduja is an Italian spreadable cured meat, and now that you know that, you probably want to spread it on everything, right? Right. Start by stuffing a whole sea bass full of it.

Red mullet is a very popular fish in Mediterranean and European traditions, and while it’s flavor is still mild, it’s a white fish that stands up to strong flavors like tomatoes and chiles well. (Like acclaimed British chef Ruthie Rogers’ “Crazy Water.”)

Grilled Sea Bream Recipe

You can substitute regular olive oil and leave out the cannabis for this super simple preparation of sea bream, but you might find that it pairs well with the simple salad of herbs and foraged greens.

Drunken Fish Recipe

Former Mission Chinese chef Angela Dimayuga used a small dorade for this super flavorful dish, but you can use another tender white-fleshed fish like red snapper or black bass.

Trout and prosciutto with a little fried sage is a classic combination, but the fish can stand up to the flavors of something a little bolder than that. This version kicks it up a notch with jamón Iberico, chile de árbol, and a bit of vinegar made from a Spanish wine.

This recipe calls for red snapper fillets, so now’s the time to practice your over-the-counter spiel for your fishmonger. You can do it!

It’s great to know how to fillet a fish yourself or how to get the skin on a sea bass nice and crispy, but it’s also important to know how to perfectly execute a fried fish sandwich. White fish used in a sandwich like this—haddock or cod or whiting—is usually forgiving, and the breading will help keep everything nice and moist for you.

This simple but tasty risotto is perfect for the fish novice. It uses dried salt cod, which means you won’t have to worry about cooking the fish since you’ll just pop it in for a bit at the end.

Trout Almondine Recipe

This is the kind of dish that is such a classic it’s basically become a cliché, showing up on the menu of every bad banquet or wedding you’ve ever been to. But if you know how to execute it well at home, it’s an easy weeknight meal to keep in your back pocket.

Cod Chowder Recipe

Part of demystifying cooking with whole fish is that you need to learn what to do with all the scraps you don’t want to eat. Answer: make stock. Matty Matheson will show you the way.

Easy Seafood Chowder Recipe

Think of this as your quick and easy weeknight chowder, with white wine to boost flavor when you don’t have time to mess around with a fully homemade stock.

Durban Fish Curry Recipe

This rich, spicy curry calls for a firm-fleshed fish, like yellowtail, because it stands up well to stewing. Talk to your fishmonger about what they might have to fit the bill.

Kanpachi, or amberjack, is a buttery, flavorful fish that is delicious when served raw, but chef Travis Lett likes to hit the tops of these with a blow torch for a little texture.

Your basic fried rice, but with two kinds of fish. Anchovies add a nice saltiness, while hefty chunks of sea bream make it a full-on meal. To take this dish to the next level, grate on some bottarga for the briny savoriness you can get only from cured fish.

If you can cook a cutlet, you can make this easy twist on your favorite parmigiana. Skeptical about sardines? Don’t be—bread and fry them like a piece of chicken (or eggplant), top ‘em with cheese and tomatoes, and you’ll be a believer, we promise.