Smoked, frozen or canned: Chef Kathy Gunst delves into winter fish recipes

Most cooks think of eating fish and seafood in the spring, summer and early fall. But there is plenty of great fish and seafood available all winter long, often in places you least expect to look.

I called “Seafood Evangelist” Barton Seaver, the author of many excellent books including “The joy of seafood” and “American seafood“, a massive and comprehensive catalog of American seafood.

Seaver spoke about many types of regional fish that are worth looking out for in winter, including:

  • West Coast Dungeness Crab and Redfish
  • Pollock, skate, monkfish, scallops and smelts from the east coast
  • Red mullet and mackerel from the southern Gulf of Mexico and porgy from the southern Carolinas

Seaver then discussed frozen seafood. Yes, I said frozen seafood. And we’re not talking about fish sticks here!

Technological advancements in freezing fish and seafood have been huge in recent years, he says. Many fishermen and women invest in processing equipment at sea so that they can freeze the fish immediately after harvest. Fish are frozen at lower temperatures, which, he says, can “lead to lower costs, reduced waste and fish that is ultimately cheaper to transport.”

I recently tried cooking with frozen redfish of Beaver Street Fisheries in Jacksonville, Florida. They sell a variety of frozen fish and I was shocked that the frozen fillets were just as good as the fresh, if not better. I then went to my local fish shop and bought two frozen snapper fillets and was delighted with the quality. Frozen fish is no longer second-rate.

Seaver then said: “Winter lends itself to revisiting preserved seafood, like haddie Finnan, smoked salmon, canned tuna, anchovies and sardines.”

Frozen fish, smoked fish, canned fish and locally sourced winter fish offer a wide choice for winter consumption. Try these three recipes to get you started. And always look for sustainably raised fish and seafood. For more information on sustainability, see the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and Seafood watch.

Scottish smoked haddock and leek chowder (cullen skink)

Smoked haddock and leek chowder. (Jesse Costa / WBUR)

Smoked haddock, also known as Finnan haddie, is a lightly smoked haddock fillet. It is often found in the freezer section of many fish stores. I use it here to make this rich chowder, perfect for a cold winter day.

This recipe is taken from my book Soup exchange (Chronicle Books). My friends Rebecca Mitchell and Ben Harris served this chowder at a supper and we all went crazy for the smoky, sweet and delicate flavor. They found the original recipe in a UK magazine called Country Living. This is my adaptation. Serve this rich soup piping hot, with hot crusty bread or cookies.

For 8 people


  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 pound of smoked haddock, also called Finnan haddie
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
  • Grind black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 medium leeks, dark green section discarded and light green and white sections cut lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 cups of fish broth (look in the freezer section of your local fish store)
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, haddock, bay leaf, parsley, onion and pepper. Bring to a boil over low heat. Remove from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes. The smoked fish and the herbs will infuse and flavor the milk. When it is cold enough to handle, remove the haddock and crumble the meat, removing the skin or bones; Reserve.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the oil and butter over low heat. Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper and stir. Cover the pot and sweat the leek for 8 minutes, stirring once or twice. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Pass the milk over the leeks and the flour, stirring well. Discard the milk aromatics. Add the fish stock and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are almost tender. Add the reserved haddock and the cream and heat over very low heat for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chives just before serving.

Broccoli “Caesar” style with anchovies and miso vinaigrette

As far as I’m concerned, anchovies – small oily fish found in the Mediterranean – are the best canned or jarred food in the world. They are salty, with a strong, pronounced flavor that adds a wonderful umami flavor to any food. Anchovies are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and an excellent source of protein. Use them in salads, to garnish a pizza, melted in a tomato sauce with capers, pitted olives, basil and chili flakes (to serve over pasta or fish) or serve them on buttered bread lightly toasted. White anchovies are slightly sweeter and can be easily replaced.

The inspiration for this simple salad came from a dish at Fox & the Knife in South Boston. Chef Karen Akunowicz’s Broccoli Alla Grillia “Caesar” features grilled broccoli in a rich anchovy vinaigrette. My adaptation uses thinly sliced ​​broccoli sautéed in a cast iron skillet over high heat with olive oil. You can make the dressing a whole day ahead, but don’t toss it until you’re ready to serve.

Serve as a salad or as a starter with breadsticks or warm, crispy bread. The anchovy miso dressing is also delicious on mixed salads, potatoes or grilled fish.

For 2 to 4.



Anchovy-Miso vinaigrette:

  • 1 tablespoon of white miso
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets (depending on how much you like the anchovies), plus 2-4 anchovy fillets for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons anchovy oil (from tin or jar)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, from 1 small lemon
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan


  1. Heat a large pan (preferably cast iron) over moderately high heat. Add the olive oil and cook the broccoli, flipping it side to side for about 10 minutes, or until golden and just tender, not soft. Remove and place on a serving platter.
  2. To make the sauce: place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and stir. Taste for seasoning. Do not add salt because the anchovies are quite salty.
  3. Just before serving, gently toss the broccoli with the sauce and place 2 to 4 anchovy fillets crossed in an “X” on the salad.

Pan-fried red snapper with blood orange, caper and brown butter sauce

Red snapper with blood oranges and brown butter.  (Jesse Costa / WBUR)
Red snapper with blood oranges and brown butter. (Jesse Costa / WBUR)

I found some wonderful frozen fillets of red snapper at my local fish store. Snapper is an American fish caught in the wild and managed in a sustainable manner. It is a beautiful white fish with a pinkish skin and a firm texture that comes from the Gulf of Mexico and southern Carolinas.

This simple fish stir-fry can be made with any firm whitefish, such as sole, plaice, rockfish, dogfish, etc.

For 2.


  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound of frozen red snapper or other firm white fish
  • 2 blood oranges or mandarins
  • About 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • About 2-3 tablespoons capers, drained


  1. Put the flour on a plate and season well with salt and pepper. Lightly dip the snapper fillets in the seasoned flour.
  2. Remove the zest from the orange and set aside. Squeeze an orange, set aside and cut the remaining orange into small wedges or cubes.
  3. In a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron), heat 1 tablespoon of butter and the oil over moderately high heat. When the butter foams, add the fish and cook skin side down for about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. The skin should be golden. Gently flip the fish. Brown for another 3 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle the zest of the blood oranges over the fish flesh and cook for another minute. Add the orange juice and remaining butter to the pan and let sizzle until golden brown. Add the capers, season with pepper. Arrange the fish and pour the sauce over it. Decorate with the blood orange quarters.

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