Just like chicken and meat, we often forget that delicate foods like fish can benefit from a little time in a flavorsome marinade. If you keep the marinating time short and the acid low, marinating a whole firm fish or a fish fillet like amberjack, halibut or cod, will add flavor and firm-up the fish at the same time.
The marinade will infuse the fish with all sorts of mouthwatering flavors. It will also keep the fish juicy while protecting it from sticking or drying out during the baking process.
So if you’re wondering, “what’s the best way to bake fish without drying it out?” simply marinate the fish before cooking.
I used amberjack (but another fish such as cod, halibut, or salmon will work). The fillets sat in the fridge in a slightly citrus marinade made with herbs, garlic, and orange juice for only 30 minutes.
To bake, I added the fish and the marinade over a bed of colorful vegetables and baked for about 20 to 25 minutes, it’s that easy!
What’s in the fish marinade?
Dried herbs and spices such as oregano, lemon pepper, and paprika.
Garlic, 4 garlic cloves, minced.
Orange, juice and zest of 1 orange, which is about 4 tablespoons of citrus. If you like, you can switch it out for lemon, white wine, or a mild-tasting vinegar (but only use 2 tablespoons).
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 4 tablespoons.
You’ll notice that I kept the citrus portion equal to the olive oil, using juice of 1 orange (4 tablespoons of citrus). If using lemon or vinegar I’d cut back to 2 tablespoons of acid and keep the 4 tablespoons of smooth olive oil.
Keep the marinating time to around 30 minutes (this will not start the cooking process, but is enough time to add flavor and tenderize), unless you have thick tuna steak or salmon steaks, then I’d leave it for 1 hour in the marinate.
How to make this Baked Fish Recipe:
There really are only two steps to this fish dish.
- Season and Marinate Fish
Pat fish dry and season with salt.
Place the fish in a large zip-top bag and add herbs, spices, garlic, olive oil, zest and orange juice. Seal shut. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Tip: Be sure to squeeze the air out of the zip-top bag before sealing. Place the bag flat on a plate and refrigerate. Turn the bag occasionally to keep the marinade distributed evenly.
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Bake – it’s that simple!
January Baked Amberjack
Serves 4 to 6
1 ½ to 2lb amberjack (salmon, halibut, red snapper or your favorite firm fish)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried lemon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 Oranges, Juice and zest of 1 orange, the other peel and segments
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 basil leaves, rolled and sliced into ribbons
3 bell peppers any color, sliced thinly
2 red Cipollini onions or 1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
Pre-heat oven to 400’F
How to make:
Pat fish fillet dry and season with salt on both sides.
Place the fish in a large zip-top bag. Add the herbs, spices, minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, zest and orange juice. Zip the bag shut and massage to be sure the fish is evenly coated in the marinade. Marinated for 30 minutes.
Arrange bell peppers, onions and orange segments in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Remove the fish from the zip lock, place the fish on top of the vegetables and pour the marinade over it, then scatter over the basil leaves.
Bake in pre-heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until fish is done and flakes easily.
How to know if your fish is cooked? To be sure your fish fillet is cooked, use an instant read thermometer to check at the thickest part of the fish. Internal temperature should register 145 degrees F and your fish should be opaque and should flake easily with a fork.
Recipe: Chef Mark Allison