Steaming: A Quick and Easy Method for More Seafood

By Barton Seaver

Steamed fish is fast, easy, and delicious. It takes less than 30 minutes from refrigerator to plate and you need just two dishes to cook the fish and make the sauce. Just as a hint of perfume adds allure to an evening out, this technique imbues beguiling aromas to seafood. Steaming infuses subtle scents into delicate and stronger-tasting fish alike, all the while keeping cooking times short and allowing the fish to retain its own natural moisture.

Steaming is a moist-heat cooking method in which seafood sits atop a makeshift vegetable raft, in a bamboo steamer, or on a metal rack above a small amount of scented, simmering liquid. When the pot is covered, the seafood is gently cooked by the captured, aromatic heat.

The small amount of liquid used to steam seafood can be stock, coconut milk, water, or wine (my preference). Adding aromatics gently accents both broth and seafood. The aromatics can be selected based on what is in the pantry, herbs, and spices that strike a seasonal chord or fit a cultural cuisine.

Simply combine your choice of aromatics in a large pot or skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Make a raft of vegetables and/or fruit, add only enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan and bring the liquid to a simmer. Place the fish on the makeshift raft, cover, and wait about 7 minutes for the fish to cook. The steaming liquid can be strained of its solids and used in a sauce to serve with the fish.

Steaming fish is a quick, practical method for getting more seafood on your family’s table more often. Please take the pledge to eat #Seafood2xWk at

Steamed Mahi Mahi with Orange, Star Anise and with Butternut Squash Sauce
Serves 4
4, 5-ounce Mahi Mahi fillets
Kosher salt
1 orange, thinly sliced
2 star anise pods
1 cup cooked butternut squash
2 tablespoons butter
Fresh herbs, such as chervil, parsley, or watercress

Season fish with salt and let rest 15 minutes. Arrange orange slices in the bottom of a 10-inch pot or skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1/2 cup water and star anise pots. Bring to a simmer. Place seasoned fish on top of orange slices. Cover. Steam fish until cooked through, about 7 minutes.

Transfer fish to a warm plate. Strain solids from steaming liquid. Combine steaming liquid, butternut squash, and butter in a blender. Puree until smooth. Season. Serve butternut puree alongside steamed fish and garnish with watercress.

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