The Milk Street rule for fish: cook slowly, high season


Following on from his James Beard Award winning cookbook “Milk Street: Tuesday Nights” in 2018, Christopher Kimball’s latest book is “Milk Street: The New Rules”, which challenges us to rethink the way we cook.

Kimball is one of the co-founders of America’s Test Kitchen and in 2016 founded Boston-based Milk Street, which features a TV show, cooking school, and magazine. In the cookbook, he comes up with 75 new rules that he says will simplify time spent in the kitchen and at the same time improve results.

The rule for this steamed fish recipe is “Cook gently, season hard: a gentle, even heat is best to keep the delicate flesh of the fish tender.” Steaming is ideal because the heat surrounds the fish, cooking it from all sides without movement.

“Lean white fish has a mild flavor, so before we steam the fillets, we boldly season them with garlic, ginger, oyster sauce and sweet, fiery sriracha. For a little heat, drizzle the fish fillets with a drizzle of chili oil before sprinkling with green onions. Or sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve with steamed or sautéed greens and jasmine rice. Do not uncover the pot before 8 minutes of steaming have passed. Opening the lid releases steam and cools the pan.


3 tablespoons of oyster sauce

1 T. Sriracha

1 T. grape seeds or other neutral oil

8 medium garlic cloves, finely grated

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

4 6 oz. skinless cod, haddock or halibut fillets (each about 1 inch thick)

8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, hulled and thinly sliced

2 T. unseasoned rice vinegar

1 T. packed light or dark brown sugar

2 green onions, thinly sliced

In a shallow bowl or pie plate, whisk together the oyster sauce, Sriracha sauce, oil, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add the fillets and turn to coat, rubbing gently into the sauce. Add the mushrooms and toss until evenly coated. Marinate at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Place a steamer basket in a large Dutch oven. Add enough water to fill the bottom of the pot without touching the basket. Remove the basket. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, spray the steamer basket with cooking spray. Arrange the fish in an even layer in the basket and garnish the mushroom fillets, arranging them evenly. Return basket to pot, cover and steam over medium heat until fish flakes easily, 8 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce and ¼ cup water. When the fish is cooked, use a thin metal spatula to transfer the fillets and mushrooms to a dish. Sprinkle with green onions and serve with the sauce on the side. Makes 4 servings.

(From “Milk Street: The New Rules” by Christopher Kimball. Used with permission from Little, Brown and Co., New York. All rights reserved.)

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