"Don't tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish." Mark Twain
In 2012 I had the pleasure of working closely with Marietta Sims. She has a great biography and serious culinary chops. She came in two days a week and tested recipes, offered great suggestions, prepped food for photography, and kept me in my place. We worked together for several weeks trying to perfect an herb blend for fish, with my ideas leading us down several wrong paths. She got this one on the right track and polished it highly. I've used it on a wide variety of fish since then and it works wonderfully. So I asked her to write about it:
"I have fished since I was a child. My Dad taught me how to fly fish and we caught flashing rainbow trout in cold mountain streams in the Rocky Mountains. We caught coho and steelhead salmon in Lake Michigan; walleye, bluegill, bass, and the elusive large Northern pike in the boundary waters of Minnesota. I have caught a bit of bounty from the ocean while aboard charter boats and catfish while cruising down the Mississippi river on a lazy afternoon in a houseboat. I have used everything from a piece of bacon on the end of a bamboo pole to chum while fishing with many lines attached to downriggers. I have dusted fish in corn flour and fried in bacon grease, cooked it in foil packets on a campfire, grilled, sautéd, baked, broiled, in stews both French and Italian.
"I don't fish much anymore but I still love to eat it, so I go to a market where they carry a nice variety of very fresh fish. Most is frozen right on the fishing boats. It is thawed out at the store and placed in display cases or kept frozen and put in the freezer cases. Always check to be sure that on whole fresh fish the eyes are not sunken in or cloudy. Fish should smell fresh, like the ocean, and not that funky, fishy smell that makes so many people dislike fish. Gills should be bright red."
If the fish isn't perfectly fresh, submerge it in milk for an hour or two. It will pull out much of the funk. Whatever fish is your pleasure, this flavor enhancing herb mix is not the only fish rub in the ocean, but it is mighty good.
As background for this recipe, please read my article on the Science of Rubs.
1 tablespoon dried chives
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried chervil
1 tablespoon freshly ground dried green peppercorns
1 tablespoon dried lemon peel, ground
1 teaspoon garlic powder
About the peppercorns. If you can't find green, you can substitute black. The taste is significantly different but it works fine.
About the herbs. This recipe calls for dried herbs so you can mix a batch and store it. You can use fresh, but they taste very different. Use 2 to 3 times as much fresh as dried because dried is more concentrated.
1) Crush all the ingredients so they are about the same size. You can crush them in a mortar and pestle, or in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Combine all of the ingredients and store in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. It will keep for a few months.
2) When ready to use, salt the both sides of the meat lightly. We want the salt to hit the moisture and dissolve and get sucked in. If you can, salt it at least an hour in advance. Now sprinkle the rub on the flesh side of the fish. For a filet about the size of a business envelope, use about 1 teaspoon. If you plan to eat the skin, season it too. Then sprinkle on the rub. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.