Americans seem to be fascinated with the Cajun cooking technique for ``blackened redfish'' - but a cooking teacher from Texas says blackened fish of any kind is one of her pet peeves. Ann Clark, a food consultant and teacher in Austin, Texas, says it's a terrible way to cook fish of any kind. There's little good about cooking fish in a flash and making a mess at the stove, she says.
``First of all, the method calls for bringing an iron skillet to a state of white heat - which is dangerous, especially for a home cook,'' she says.
``Second, the amount of smoke generated is definitely a hazard, as well as being unpleasant. And third, any delicacy associated with fish is totally obliterated by this fiery concoction. The noble denizens of the deep deserve better treatment.''
Six years of living and working in France and Germany, a college degree in Italian, and travels in Italy, plus three years as private chef and years in catering and teaching, ``have given me courage to experiment,'' says Ms. Clark, who has put the results in a new cookbook.
``Ann Clark's Fabulous Fish'' (New American Library, $17.95) shows the use of ethnic seasonings such as Mexican salsa, cumin for Moroccan flavors, and saffron and capers. The collection includes updated and traditional French and regional American fish dishes that reflect the influence of the '80s style.
The author, who has for a dozen or more years operated La Bonne Cuisine School in Austin, Texas, avoids bizarre combinations such as Pineapple Beurre Blanc or Sole With Kiwi Fruit or the ``plainly unhealthy blackened redfish.''
``Enough of bake, broil, and fry and serve with carrots, heavy butter sauces, and plain rice,'' she says. ``I perceive that the contemporary American cooking public wants cookbooks that reflect the simplicity and ease in the kitchen, the excitement of new seasonings, quality ingredients, and of course, a sophisticated but casual style of entertaining.''
Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., says that Ann Clark has ``a real intuitive understanding of how to cook fish.'' Ms. Waters applauds Clark's ``special instinct for choosing herbs and spices and for enticing aromas and tastes of fish cooked right.''
The appeal of this unusual combination of colorful ingredients is its sharp, clean, fresh taste. It is fat- and dairy-free, and takes very little time and effort to prepare.
Fish Fillets With Orange, Red Onion, and Fennel 1 pound red snapper fillets, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick (see note below) 1 teaspoon virgin olive oil Pinch of salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice 1 navel orange, peeled and sliced, each slice in quarters 1 large fennel bulb, rinsed, finely chopped 1 large red onion, halved root to stem end, very thinly sliced 1/3 cup fresh fennel greens, finely chopped
Slice fish into 2 or 4 equal pieces; place in a small oiled baking dish. Season with salt and pepper; sprinkle with the lime juice.
Mix together orange, fennel, and onion and scatter evenly over the fillets. Bake in a 400-degree F. oven about 15 minutes, or 10 minutes per inch of thickness including vegetables.
Test with fork to determine if fish is opaque, milky white, and cooked through.
Serve immediately on warmed plates. Serves 2.
Note: Redfish, striped bass, halibut, grouper, rockfish, drum, porgy, lingcod, bluefish, or monkfish can be substituted for red snapper.
These crusty, rosemary-flavored potatoes are especially delicious with any kind of fish baked in a sauce or with any grilled fish. (Allow one medium potato per person.) Quick Oven Potatoes With Rosemary Baking potatoes Virgin olive oil Dried or fresh rosemary, pulverized Freshly ground black pepper
Scrub potatoes well. Cut each potato in half lengthwise or crosswise, then slice into 1/3-inch slices.
Pour a little bit of olive oil into a large bowl. Turn the potato slices in the oil so that all sides are covered, then place on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with pepper and rosemary.
Bake at 400 to 425 degrees F. until lightly browned on both sides, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Note: A delicate garlic flavor can be added by crushing to a pulp 1 or 2 garlic cloves in the olive oil before tossing the potatoes in it.
The glaze in this quick-and-easy recipe gives salmon a rich, wonderful flavor.
Ginger-Glazed Grilled Salmon 2 salmon steaks or fillets, 1 inch thick, about 6 to 8 ounces each
Ginger Glaze 2 tablespoons vinegar 1 tablespoon sugar 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon water 1 tablespoon squeezed juice of chopped
fresh ginger 1 tablespoon slivered shallot
Combine all ingredients except salmon. Brush it on both sides of salmon and let sit at room temperature while coals burn down. Brush again and grill 5 to 8 minutes on each side. Brush again just before removing fish from grill. Serves 2.
Phyllis Hanes is the Monitor's food editor.