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Nancy Leson's Quick And Easy Tips On Serving Up Fish

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
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"Stein, do you cook much fish?" Nancy Leson asked me.

To get a rise out of her, I answered, "No, never!" 

The Gilbert and Sullivan fan that I am, I was hoping she'd sing her reply as: "What neverrrrr?" To which I could have answered, "Well...hardly ever."

Instead I just got, "Oh, c'mon, really?" Actually, no, not really. I do love shellfish of all kinds. It's the ones with the fins I'm not too nuts about. But Nancy loves 'em all.

“If I had to eat just one thing for the rest of my life, that would be it,” she said of her love of seafood. And she had plenty to say about her favorite kinds and preparations.

First, A Note About Salmon

I had no idea that the difference in salmon pretty much revolves around fat content. Pricey King, Nancy's favorite, has more of it than the less exorbitant sockeye. But Nancy says sockeye can be plenty good 'n fatty, too, "depending on where they caught it, and how much fat it had to wear to get from point A to point B."

Quick-Searing Fish

One of the things Nancy likes to do is quick-sear her fish in some olive oil in a pan, as she did with a piece of sockeye just the other night.

“I like to put a little bit of flour on the fish. Just dust it with flour, put it top side down, turn it around and finish it in the oven," she said.

Let it cook for about 8 minutes at 400 degrees.

I’ve never tried this with seafood; I have done it with meat, and it’s a good way to cook a steak on the range. But Nancy says this is great for salmon, halibut and even lingcod.

Two Sauces

Nance has an easy recipe for a sauce: “Melt a little butter, squeeze some lemon on it and even put some capers on it. Really simple.”

Ready for something more? Grab a mango, says Nancy.

“You should get yourself a mango and some cilantro, maybe a little red onion, some red sweet pepper. Chop it up and put a little lime over it,” she said. “Grill yourself a piece of fish in the good old summer time, and throw that nice tropical kind of sauce over the top.”

But fish and mangoes is a combination I find as nightmarish as the fellow pictured to the left.

“Ohhhh, what am I going to do with you, Stein,” said one exasperated Nance when I told her I wouldn’t eat any mangoes, let alone the fish.

Though I do like the very delicious pork chop fish, which is now very rare and depleted due to overfishing. And there’s the meatloaf fish and the hot dog fish, which are both very good.

How do you like these fishies? A word of advice: Don't get off the boat.

“I've never really wanted to go to Japan. Simply because I don’t like eating fish. And I know that's very popular out there in Africa.”

– Britney Spears

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.
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