Josh Niland is a young Australian chef who trained and works in Sydney. His take on how to cook, eat and think fish is inventive, thoroughly grounded, lucidly presented and beautifully photographed in The Whole Fish Cookbook. Niland champions preparing and eating the whole product, which is much in style these days among young chefs. I, however, remain firmly in the ‘offal is awful’ school. Nonetheless, this is an important contribution to fish cookery. Why? Niland’s dry aging fish is a new idea. While it is equipment intensive, the home cook will learn here to keep fresh cold but dry–not on crushed ice. I’ll try it.
He devotes a third of his book on sourcing, storing and prepping fish. Then moves on to cooking with five techniques: raw, poached, fried, BBQ and baked/roasted. He prefaces each technique with a page of essentials–“Raw Fish Essentials, Poached Fish Essentials, etc.. Niland shines here. The reader can and should takes these essentials to the stove top. For example, to poach: “heat poaching liquid to 185F, add the fish, cover, and poach off heat until done, about 6 minutes or 120F.” To fry: “be sure fish is ambient.” To bake: “Preheat to 212F . . . stand the fish up . . . bake for 8-10 minutes or 131F. The accompanying recipes look good and the photos are enticing.
Published in 1977, A.J. McClane’s The Encyclopedia of Fish Cookery is still the canonical reference on fish and its preparation. I have a first edition received as a Christmas present that year. Not surprisingly, it’s still in print.
There are three other fish cookbooks on the shelf that I’ll now toss. It’s McClane and Niland. That’s All, Folks!