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Fish Fillets with Herbed-Crumb Topping

January 27, 2012

People seem to just know how to prepare fish or state they don’t and never make it. Years ago, I used to be one of those people shy about preparing it but I started playing around and eventually got the hang of it.

I tend to pan saute, broil or bake it. (And every now & then, I prepare a chowder).

Sure, you can fancy it up, but the best, most flavorful fish is one that’s of high quality and prepared very simply.

True cod

That trick is LOSE that old-fashioned notion of: it’s done when it flakes. That will give you OVER-done fish. Fish is delicate, please treat it with some delicacy. It continues to cook out of the oven.  It should flake on your plate, not in the baking dish. It  is so packed with good things for our bodies, we would do well to eat more of it. (Oh, come on, try it, Lulu- don’t be stubborn.)

Hello little zester, you’re one of my favorite things that lives in the utensil drawer.

I love using fresh bread crumbs. Whenever you have some leftover bread, challah, whatever, cut it up into bite-size chunks and give them a few seconds in your food processor or mini-food processor (for a small amount). I love my mini-Cuisinart -they’re not pricey -put it on your list if you don’t have one. Store crumbs in an an airtight container and use whenever you need it – directly from freezer – for toppings, meatloaf, burgers.

But there is something else I love to use and that’s PANKO.

A bit of crumby business

Panko are Japanese-style bread crumbs and are available in either the Japanese section of your market or in the bread crumb section. Mix them with garlic, fresh herbs, and/or something in the onion family and you’re there.

herb line-up

Peaches  Crumbs with Herb

(did I need to explain that musical reference?)

Panko are hands-down superior to all other store-bought crumbs. They are cut in a special way to maximize crunch and are not laden with nasty preservatives like other types (that shall remain nameless). Buy them, buy them, buy them and store them in your pantry! But once you open them,  keep them in your fridge so that they don’t go stale on you. Stale bread crumbs, blegh…

No stale crumbs here

What's under the tent

OK, let’s go get some fish!

Fish Fillets with Herbed-Crumb Topping


1 1/2 lbs. fish fillets (cod, flounder, halibut, salmon), cut in 4-5 pieces
zest of 1 lemon
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 c. bread crumbs or Panko
1 T. olive oil (may need a smidge more)
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 T. Italian parsley,  chopped
2 T. cilantro, chopped (delete if you’re one of those who don’t care for cilantro; use dill if making salmon; other fresh herbs are great too-like basil, oregano, thyme)
salt & pepper to taste
1 t. Dijon mustard


Zest lemon and add to bread crumbs (or Panko) in a small bowl. Add oil and fresh herbs/scallions. You should have just enough oil to moisten the mixture. Add salt & pepper. Lay sliced lemon (the one you just zested) in a greased baking dish in a single layer. Lay fish fillets over lemon, also in a single layer. Place small amount of mustard over each fillet and spread over fish with back of teaspoon. Spread herbed-crumb mixture evenly over fish.

Bake at 375° for 10-15 minutes until just browned. (Place under broiler for 1 minute, if you like, but DON’T do this if using a glass dish, trust me.) Remove from oven and loosely tent with a piece of aluminum foil…that will continue the cooking process very gently.

Makes 4 servings

bb tips:

When baking fish, a good rule-of-thumb is to bake for 10 minutes per inch of  thickness of fish. I heard this a long time ago and it’s one of those things that’s very good to know and should be included in a Life’s Instructions Handbook. That’s why it’s a good idea to get fish of similar thickness. BUT, if they’re not, arrange fish in baking pan so that thicker pieces are placed around perimeter and thinner pieces are closer to center.

Tenting dishes like fish and chicken right after it comes out of the oven, by making a crease down the middle of a piece of a aluminum foil and placing it over the pan like it’s a roof, is a super-effective way to gently continue the cooking process without over-doing it or making your dish soggy.

I always used to rinse fish from the market and it always seemed soggy afterward. Then I consulted with highly reputable fishmongers around town (Santa Monica Seafood, anyone? Love that place! Pricey though, go for the specials.) And the advice was unanimous – do not rinse the fish. And no one has ever had a tummy ache. Do you disagree? bb would like to know.

There is a trick to preparing fish. Remove it from the oven just before it flakes. If you need to, use a fork to break a piece off to check, it should be just barely cooked through. Then, have a piece of aluminum foil ready-to-go and loosely tent it as soon as you remove it from the oven.

This is a highly adaptable recipe. You can omit the mustard and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon over the fish before spooning on the topping.

Sometimes I add a garlic clove, minced, to the crumbs or 1/4 small red onion, chopped or 1/2 shallot, minced.

When I’m in a big rush, this is what I sometimes do with fish – insanely quick with surprisingly flavorful results: I grease the baking dish, lay down lemon slices and fresh herbs (stems with leaves -enough to spread over pan). I always include parsley and add one of whatever you want/have: oregano, thyme, dill, cilantro, basil, even mint. Then lay fish down over herbs, drizzle top with oil, add  salt & pepper and maybe a spicy seasoning (or Mrs. Dash or lemon pepper) and bake at 375° for 10-15 minutes. Discard leaves and serve. Done Done Done!

Couldn’t resist including this – our friends came over and they know I love fresh herbs. Ain’t this sweet? Thanks, E & S!


From → Fish

  1. Karen permalink

    yummy! i am going to make fish this week!

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