So how does a fish-hater deal with fish at home? I keep all my fish recipes interchangeable. If I smother haddock in maple syrup and Dijon mustard, I will apply that same technique to salmon or cobia or sole.

I hate fish. There, I’ve said it.


Having put that thought out there, I need to qualify the statement. I make exceptions. First, to me shellfish doesn’t qualify as fish. So when I say I hate fish, I mean fin fish. The kind that actually swims around in the water rather than living in a shell. Give me a plate of fried clams any day, although it might take some cajoling to get me to eat a scallop.


Second exception, I will actually eat fin fish if it is a.)battered and deep- fried, b.) coated with spicy Cajun seasoning, or c.) smothered in tomato sauce laced with olives and capers. Also, I don’t want to see the head or the tail, no matter how trendy. Basically, I like fish if it doesn’t look or taste like fish. But I’d rather handle the cooking myself at home rather than leave it to a restaurant. Given the choice between broiled haddock or a big, fat, juicy burger when eating out, the burger gets the nod every time.


So how does a fish-hater deal with fish at home? I keep all my fish recipes interchangeable. If I smother haddock in maple syrup and Dijon mustard, I will apply that same technique to salmon or cobia or sole. (Dirty little secret: I am not above using this technique on shrimp or scallops.) If I can buy a great product, like a Key lime-and-cilantro salad dressing or a Thai marinade, I will use that for cooking. Maybe I’ll mix it up with some lime zest, white wine, flat beer, or lemon-flavored liquor. So, basically, I use the fish as a canvas, painting the taste away with varied flavors.


As far as the taste — and smell — of fish is concerned, it should not be fish-y. Fish should be as fresh from the water as possible. I always buy fish from a reputable fish market. The key term here is “fish market,” a place where the owner buys off the dock or fishermen deliver their catch. It will likely be fresh that day or the previous day, but not a week ago. A reputable market stores fish on ice where you can see it. The whole ones have bright eyes, not sunken, wrinkled ones. The counter person will not grumble or roll his eyes if you ask to take something out of the case to smell it. (If they do, take your business elsewhere.) Fresh fish smell like the ocean, bright and clean and briny. After that, the seller should be willing to skin, bone, or fillet your fish and package it nicely for the ride home.


Once there, you might want to use one of the suggestions below. But don’t use them rigidly. Feel free to substitute. Interchange flavors — lime for lemon, tomatoes and capers and fresh oregano for mustard and tarragon. And use any kind of fish you want. Maybe you’ll like it. Maybe I like fish after all.


 


MAPLE-MUSTARD CRUSTED FISH FILLETS


4 servings


 


4 fish fillets (light fish, e.g. halibut or other)


4 tablespoons mixed Dijon mustard and maple syrup, whisked together


2 cups panko crumbs


coarse salt, ground black pepper, to taste


2 tablespoons OO


1/2 cup white wine


1/2 stick unsalted butter


 


1. Baste one side of each fillet with 1/2 tablespoon of the maple syrup-mustard mixture.


2. Mix the panko crumbs with salt, pepper. Dip the maple syrup-mustard coated side of each fillet into the panko mixture to coat. Heat a skillet on medium-high for 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and allow the oil to warm, 30 to 60 seconds.


3. Place the fish in skillet, coated side down. (It will sizzle.) Cook until golden brown and crisp, lifting an edge with a spatula to check for doneness, about 3 minutes. Flip the fillet to the un-crusted side, lower the heat; cook until done, 4 minutes.


4. Deglaze the pan with wine, scraping any bits from bottom. Whisk in 1 tablespoon each mustard and maple syrup, and butter. Transfer the fish to a serving platter pouring the sauce from the skillet over the fish fillets.


 


ROASTED SALMON WITH MUSTARD, TARRAGON, & CHIVE SAUCE


8 to 10 servings


To do this, buy a whole fillet or “side” of salmon. Cook it and bring it to the table whole for a spectacular presentation.


 


2/3 cup mayonnaise


1/2 cup spicy brown mustard


6 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon


6 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


2 tablespoons brown sugar


2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


3 tablespoons lemon zest


Salt, ground black pepper, to taste


3-1/2 pound side of salmon, skin on


 


1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or stick-free aluminum foil.


2. Whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, tarragon, chives, sugar, lemon juice, zest. Season with salt and ground black pepper.


3. Place the salmon, skin side down on the sheet pan. Spread 1/2 cup of the mustard sauce to completely cover the top.


4. Roast the salmon until it is opaque in center, about 15 minutes. To serve, transfer to platter, cut crosswise, and nap with remaining sauce.


Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at KitchenCall@aol.com