Seafood can be prepared a number of ways: steamed, poached, fried and/or marinated. When it comes to preparing dishes, quality counts, so be sure to use fresh seafood from North Carolina’s waters. For more information on selecting fish and shellfish, go to: or check the Mariner’s Menu blog at: The Mariner’s Menu seafood resource book is available in bookstores. To order a copy from North Carolina Sea Grant, call 919/515-9101.


Steaming offers one of the best preparation methods for accenting the natural tastes of seafood. The delicate textures and pure flavors are enhanced because the seafood cooks in its own liquid.

Steamed Snapper Fillets with Fresh Thyme

In small saucepan, melt margarine over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender. Add wine and cook, stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated. Blend in cream, sal and pepper. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove a small amount into a bowl and mix with cornstarch. Return to sauce. Add thyme and simmer, stirring constantly, until sauce is desired consistency. Keep warm.

Place about 1 inch of water in bottom of steamer. Bring to boil. Lightly salt and pepper fillets. Place on oiled steamer rack. Lay a sprig of thyme over each. Cover and steam until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 10 minutes.

Transfer fish to warm serving plates. Spoon sauce over fillets. Cut into service-size pieces. Serves 6 to 8.


Many people think that poaching is a mysterious and difficult way to cook fish. In reality, poaching is one of the easiest cooking methods. And it certainly produces some of the most delicious fish you’ll ever eat.

Simply defined, poaching is cooking in an aromatic broth. Fish are usually poached in court bouillon — a simmered mixture of vegetables, seasonings, water and wine or vinegar. But you can also use milk, fish or chicken stock or lightly seasoned water.

Poached Snapper with Dill Butter

Prepare dill butter and set aside.

Combine poaching ingredients (water through peppercorns) in a fish poacher or large, shallow pan. Bring to boil. Partially cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Gently place fish in poaching liquid. Cook, uncovered, until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, about 10 minuets. Carefully remove to serving platter. Serves 6.

Dill Butter

Place margarine in a small bowl. Add garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice and blend well. Gently stir in dill. Spread on hot fish.


“Frying” has almost become a dirty word in seafood circles in recent years, and much of the criticism is deserved. We know that grease-laden foods add fat and calories we do not need. But remember that our bodies need some fat.

Obviously, frying adds some fat and calories. But many of the calories and much of the fat added to fried seafood result from improper cooking. Cooking quickly with very little oil, fried fish and shellfish can be surprisingly light and tasteful.

Pan-Fried Snapper with Garlic Butter

Place milk in shallow bowl. Dip fillets in milk and drain off excess. Lightly salt and pepper, then dredge lightly in flour.

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons butter and heat to 375 F. Cook fillets until golden on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and repeat on other side. Remove to warm platter.

Wipe pan clean with paper towel. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons margarine, shaking pan until margarine foams and turns slightly brown. Add garlic and sauté lightly; do not allow it to brown. Sprinkle fillets with lemon juice and drizzle garlic butter over them. Serves 4 to 6.


An easy way to enhance prepared seafood is to use marinades, flavored liquids that enhance or add flavors to foods.

They usually contain an acidic liquid such as citrus juice, vinegar or soy sauce, along with seasonings. Marinades add variety to seafood, but they should be used to enhance true flavor, not mask or overcome it.

Orange-Marinated Snapper

Cut fillets in half.

In a small, nonreactive bowl, combine orange juice, lemon juice, salt, pepper wine and garlic. Place fillets in baking dish and pour marinade over them. Marinate in refrigerator 20 minutes, turning once. Remove excess marinade.

Brush fish with melted margarine. Bake at 400 F for 10 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Cut into halves. Serves 8.

This article was published in the Spring 2009 issue of Coastwatch.

For contact information and reprint requests, visit