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Cooking with what’s on hand: How to make great dinners with frozen fish or canned seafood

Cooking with what’s on hand: How to make great dinners with frozen fish or canned seafood

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During this health crisis, or anytime, you can utilize your freezer to ensure a convenient supply of fish and poultry, as well as to stock up on the season’s best fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Frozen fish in many cases proves far superior to the “thawed for your convenience” items at the supermarket. I prefer to have control over the defrosting. Thawed properly, in the refrigerator, seafood maintains its flavor and texture all the way to the dinner table. I regularly stock frozen salmon, cod and halibut fillets as well as shrimp and scallops.

Look at the labeling for frozen fish: Ideally it says frozen at sea. That way, you’ll know the fish was frozen at its peak flavor and texture. Always, and I mean always, thaw fish in the refrigerator — never at room temperature or under running water as this quick-thawing seriously destroys the final texture.

We look forward to a variety of Alaskan fish arriving on our porch from community-supported fishery Sitka Salmon Shares ( Another good mail-order source is

I like boneless fillets of wild Alaskan sockeye in the sauteed fish recipe that follows. Other options include flounder, cod, tilapia, haddock, snapper or halibut. Nearly any fish fillet will work as long as it’s not too thick or too thin; ¾-inch thick cooks beautifully in a skillet.

Always check the fillets for bones by running your finger over the fillet; use tweezers to remove the bones. Remove the fish skin if you wish. To enjoy crispy skin, start the cooking skin-side up to brown the flesh, then flip the fillet skin-side down to finish the cooking. Start the reduction for the butter sauce before cooking the fish, then finish the sauce by whisking in the butter after the fish is cooked.

Slow-simmered nutty farro makes an excellent companion to mild, tender fish. Farro, a type of wheat high in protein and fiber with lots of minerals and vitamins, proves more nutritious than white rice or refined grains. Farro cooks easily by simmering in water or broth until tender. To season it, stir in a generous amount of any fresh herbs — new spring chives, parsley, cilantro and dill, or simply the tops from green onions.

I use tinned fish when the freezer stocks are low and to avoid a trip to the store. Canned clams, seasoned with white wine, garlic, Parmesan and a bit of cream, make a restaurant-quality pasta dish we enjoy all year long. Optional tinned green chiles and anchovy fillets add salt and umami satisfaction.


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