One of our members told me a few months ago that he often puts his fish straight in the freezer when he gets home and then cooks them over the week- straight out of the freezer! I'm a big fan of my freezer- so much so, I wrote a blog about it. But I've never cooked a fish that's frozen solid before.
I wanted to give it a go, so dutifully froze some leftover dabs in preparation. I forgot to scale and rinse them, which would have been a good idea. Something to keep in mind if you're planning on doing this kind of thing on the reg reg.
I had three dabs, so tried three different approaches- grilled, baked and pan-fried.
This is how I normally cook smallish fish. The skin crisps up nicely, so you get some nice Maillard flavours and it's the quickest way to cook a whole fish. I was slightly nervous about grilling a frozen fish though. Normally I turn the grill up to 11, but was worried I might char the skin, without the heat penetrating down to the bone. So I had the grill up to two-thirds.
It took a little longer than usual (no surprise there), but actually worked a treat. The skin blistered and had some lovely charred bubbles. If I'd scaled the fish first, I think it would have worked out much better. The flesh has a drier taste and feel, like cooking on wood or charcoal. Although there was a slight hint of burnt taste, which might have come from the charred baking parchment.
I rarely pan fry fish. Mainly because I don't like washing up. Baking tray and parchment are my friends. I oiled the pan and had it over a low heat. After five minutes, there wasn't much going on. I turned the heat up a bit and put a lid on. After another 8 minutes it was good to go.
Not so firm as the grilled fish (mainly because it had steamed under the lid), but perfectly tasty.
The third dab went into an oiled roasting dish and into the oven at 220C. It took 15 minutes to cook and had I not known it was frozen when it went in, I wouldn't have guessed it. Great flavour and texture.
For frozen dabs, grilling wins. There is a caveat in this though. I probably shouldn't have used the smallest flat fish there is to test out cooking from frozen. I think anything plumper, like a portion-sized plaice, wouldn't have cooked in quite the same way. The skin would char and the frozen bones would keep the innermost meat from cooking. That's a guess though.
I think a hot oven (220C), would cook most flatfish under 700g, pretty nicely. Sure it'll take longer, but certainly not longer than the 24 hours in the fridge you'd normally spend defrosting it. Something to remember when you've got nothing in the fridge to eat.