Ever wonder why a recipe recommends slashing a fish before cooking? Slicing through the skin and flesh of a whole fish before cooking helps the heat (of a grill, oven, etc.) to enter the fish more easily, allowing the fish to cook evenly. Slashing the fish also allows for your seasoning to penetrate the fish evenly, and makes it a little easier for you to visually tell when the fish has reached proper doneness.
The number of slashes and depth of each slash will vary from fish to fish and recipe to recipe, but a good rule is to slice the thickest part of the fish, spacing the slashes every inch or so and making a clean slice through most of the flesh with each slash so the heat can evenly penetrate.
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Steamed fish with pea shoots
Total time: 25 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4
Note: Tai snapper and loup de mer (branzino) are the most commonly available whole fish; wild striped bass and rockfish work fine too. Cooking times vary with size.
1/2 ounce piece peeled ginger
2 green onions
1 (1 1/4- to 2-pound) whole fish, cleaned
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 pound pea sprouts or pea shoots
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1. Fill the bottom of a steamer (or a roasting pan fitted with a rack) with at least half an inch of water and bring to a boil. Cut the ginger into shreds by slicing it lengthwise into thin sheets; stack the sheets and slice lengthwise. Scatter half the ginger on a heat-proof plate or platter large enough to hold the whole fish.
2. Trim the dry ends of the green onion tops and then cut about 3 inches of green tops. Shred these lengthwise as thinly as possible. You should have about one-fourth cup of shredded green onion tops. Scatter half of the shredded onion tops over the ginger.
3. Lightly season the fish inside and out with salt and place it on the plate. Scatter the remaining ginger and green onion over the fish. Place the plate on the steamer rack and cover tightly. Cook until a knife easily penetrates the flesh and the top fillet begins to lift easily, 6 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the fish.
4. With the steamer still in place, drizzle soy sauce over the fish, mound pea shoots on top and drizzle with sesame oil. Cover and cook until pea shoots have barely wilted, about 1 minute. Remove steamer from the heat and let the fish stand, covered, for a few minutes before serving.
Each of 4 servings: 209 calories; 33 grams protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 grams fiber; 5 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 53 mg. cholesterol; 323 mg. sodium.