2000s Archive

Book Review: Fish Without a Doubt

June 2008
Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore's book is inspiring, informative, and user-friendly—which is why we made it the first selection of the Gourmet Cookbook Club.
Fish Without a Doubt

We’re always searching for new insights in the ongoing dialogue concerning seafood. How to weigh the health benefits of consuming fish against the risks of eating those from contaminated waters? What about overfishing and sustainability? And what about readers who might not have access to a fish we recommend in one of our recipes? In Fish Without a Doubt, chef Rick Moonen, of Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood, in Las Vegas, and coauthor Roy Finamore have drafted a blueprint for minimizing hand-wringing in the store and kitchen and maximizing pleasure at the table.

They address environmental and health concerns head-on, but perhaps the book’s best feature is its flexibility, which mitigates the fundamental challenge pertaining to seafood: Sometimes you simply will not be able to find the kind of fish you’re looking for (rarely a concern with chicken or beef). Moonen not only lets you adapt but teaches you how to intuit what kinds of fish are interchangeable, if not in flavor, then at least in preparation.

More basic concerns are dealt with as well. If you spend a fortune on wild Pacific king salmon, for instance, you want insurance against undercooking or, even worse, overcooking. Tips cover all the usual worries—how to choose fillets, fish that sticks, even the dread of a fishy-smelling kitchen.

But let’s talk recipes. Here, we see the professional chef’s influence, to be sure—Moonen’s recipes aren’t always stripped down to the fewest steps, and you might be tempted to cut corners based on your own experience. But we did find that if you do things Moonen’s way, you will definitely be rewarded. Take linguine with clams: I had always gone the Italian route of tossing the raw clams right into the sauce, then serving them tangled up in the pasta, shells and all. Moonen’s method of steaming the clams open first felt fussy by comparison. But he wields his cheffy techniques wisely—reduced with olive oil, garlic, and red-pepper flakes, the steaming liquid becomes a powerful broth that packs a deliciously briny punch. And I have to admit that twirling linguine onto the fork and catching some clam without having to pry it from the shell made for a welcome change of pace. The offerings range from fish tacos to dishes that dazzle.

Most important, Moonen takes the fear out of serving fish whenever the mood strikes—which, with this book in hand, may be a lot more often.

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