I eat fish a lot. I’m especially fond of buying fish that are deemed “Best Choices” from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. This is a bi-yearly report on the most sustainable species of fish to eat. They even have an App so you can check the guide from your phone when you’re at the store! I love this. I also loved the fact that May handed out the latest version along with our class recipes.

When you buy fish, it’s important to make sure your fish is fresh. Fish is highly perishable because of its high moisture content and high protein content. Fish should smell like the ocean. If it has a strong, ammonia-like smell, run away! A good fish department will have all fish stored on ice, and that ice should be fine, as larger pieces can pierce delicate fish skin.
Speaking of skin, this should be shiny and tight, with all fins are intact. The eyes should be full and round. Eyes that look sunken are a sign of dehydration. If you’re looking at fillets, these should be compact and dense and spring back when touched. I always find chatting with the people behind the counter a good indicator of how well the fish is handled. If the people are knowledgeable, the fish is probably fresh.

May brought up the term “Sushi-Grade Tuna.” What that means isn’t what people usually think. Most of this type of tuna is pre-frozen, as freezing kills off some of the bacteria and parasites, so that if you consume it raw, it’s most probably good to eat. For most of us though, it’s not a fabulous idea to freeze fish. Basic home freezers aren’t cold enough and the fish can become crystalized. Fresh fish only lasts 24-48 hours, so if you want to keep it, put it over ice on brown paper in the back of the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

Here’s another fun fact about fin fish-the more active a fish is, the firmer and darker the flesh will be. These fin fish include salmon, swordfish and tuna. Guppies are pretty active! I wonder if they’re too small to fillet? These fish taste best grilled, sautéed, poached, steamed or roasted, but are not great for deep-frying.

The less active fish are the ones with a more delicate flavor, like sole, flounder, catfish and cod. Now THESE you can fry, both in deep fryer and pan. They’re also great sautéed and broiled.

There are three kinds of fin fish: round, flat and non-bony. Round fish have eyes on each side of the body and are, y’know…round. The flat fish have a flat body and eyes that are on the top part of their head (like a flounder). Non-bony fish have no bones, only cartilage. Sharks, swordfish and skate are all non-bony.

No matter how you cook your fish, it will cook quickly. You want to keep as much moisture in as possible. There is no “absolute” timing with fish. If you press on it, it should feel like it is separating.

Here’s a tip. if you’re not sure if your fish is done, take a skewer and stick it in the thickest part. The tip should be hot on your tongue. You might not be able to talk after this, but you’ll be eating! If you have a very thin tail portion, tuck it under itself so that part doesn’t get overdone.

Before we started cooking ourselves, May gave a demonstration of three types of cooking techniques using salmon. She poached some using a piece of paper called a “cartouche,” which is cut into a circle to fit into the pot you’re poaching in. The paper keeps moisture in the fish. You can use bouillon or stock to add flavor to the poaching stock. Never boil poaching liquid, as higher heat tightens fish muscle. Keep the heat low instead, so it just simmers.

Next, she pan seared a piece. Put it skin side or presentation side down first and don’t move it a lot, just let it cook to get that nice crust on it. Then she finished it by roasting it at 375 degrees for about five minutes. 

The third demonstration was grilling. Many people have trouble with fish sticking to the grill. Don’t move it. Don’t keep flipping it over and over. Just put it there and let it cook. When the fish is just about done (touch the top), THEN flip it. It shouldn’t stick.

I wanted to fillet a salmon, but I only got to skin some black cod. Cathy worked with some beautiful pieces of tuna with a great rub on them.

Here’s what I had to cook:

Black Cod with a Miso Glaze with Stir Fried Bok Choy

Black Cod with Miso Glaze


1/3C white miso paste
¼ C mirin wine
2 T unseasoned rice vinegar
2 T minced peeled fresh ginger
2 t toasted sesame oil
Four 6 oz black cod fillets

Whisk the miso, mirin, vinegar, ginger and sesame oil in a small bowl to blend. Place the fish in a glass baking dish or non-reactive pan. Pour miso sauce over, turn to coat. Let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature. 

Ginger Stir Fried Bok Choy


2 lbs bok choy
2 T peanut oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½” piece of ginger, minced
2 T low sodium soy sauce
1 t coarnstarch mixed with 3 tbsps water
¼ t red pepper flakes
1 t toasted sesame oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice off the bok choy stems and cut them into 1 inch pieces. Leave the leaves whole. Transfer fish to flat sheet. Brush fish with 1 tsp peanut oil. Pour the marinade over it. Roast until the fish is cooked through, about 7 minutes per inch of thickness.

Set the wok over high heat. Add the peanut oil and roll it around the sides. When hot, add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the bok choy and a few pinches of salt and stir fry until wilted and glossy. Add the soy sauce, cornstarch slurry and red pepper flakes and stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the leaves are shiny and glazed. Toss with the sesame oil and serve with the fish.