Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fresh Fish.... the smell and taste of the Ocean in your mouth.....

I love fish and seafood or should I say I love FRESH fish and seafood. It's said this is the best source of protein and the one we assimilate the best. Full of the things our bodies need to keep it healthy and lean, amazing delicate taste and texture..... BUT in these times and unless you live right by the water (ocean or river) your access is limited by the quality and price. Yikes!

This happens to us here in the middle of the desert and many a time I've found myself debating about wild caught or farm raised, fresh or flash frozen, a good deal or price so high it's outrageous.... whenever the need arose to have some fish or seafood. Of course, in one sense we're lucky to have all the casinos in town with so much purchasing power that allow food vendors to make daily runs to Sin City which gives us variety, but then on the other hand they have to fly them in, treat them with tremendous care which drives up the price so most people on a budget simply can't make them part of their diet anymore. Plus there are lots of people that simply don't like fish at all.

Sure, we have some of the best celebrity chefs in the world with restaurants here but when you're looking at an average check of around $75-$140 per person or more, not including drinks, tax or tips, it tends to limit your options, right? Very unfortunate for most, so I poach their menus and reproduce their offerings at home which makes these dishes affordable (if you can find quality fish/seafood at decent prices that is, which does happen but not that often). I remember going fishing with my dad in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, California, Mexico and anywhere we could, to this day I love it still and am sad I don't have the chance to do it anymore... well, maybe someday....

Got some pretty decent Red Snapper Fillets on sale at my local Smith's which is part of the Kroger chain, we've been partial to them for many years especially due to their penchant for excellent meat and steaks, great prices and their specials. This time it was fish and shellfish week so we get to indulge a little bit which is what brought me to this post. So I've got these two monster fillets of Red Snapper waiting to be turned into something amazing and I'm looking everywhere for inspiration..... here are some:

Greek Style Fish.- You can use almost any fish with this recipe, it's an old standby and always amazing, easy and quick.

1-2 lb fish steaks
Kosher salt
1 cup flour for dredging
1 Tblsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 Tblsp Asian fish sauce, or 2 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tblsp olive oil
2 Tblsp honey
2 Tblsp ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueur (I'm using Tequila)
1 Tblsp chopped fresh oregano
Freshly ground black pepper

Make sure the fish looses the cold of the fridge for about 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle kosher salt on them. Mix the 2 tablespoons olive oil, the honey and the fish sauce together by whisking vigorously for a minute or so. Mix the garlic powder in with the flour.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat for a minute or two. Add most of the 1/4 cup of oil. Start with a little more than half. Turn the heat down to medium-high and let this heat up for 2 minutes. Dust the fish with the seasoned flour, shake off the excess and sear in the oil. Let the fish sear to a golden brown. You might have to cook the fish in batches if your pan is too small. Set aside the finished fish as you do the rest. Add more of the reserved olive oil if you need it.

Remove all the fish to a paper towel and let drain. Pour in the ouzo and scrape off any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add the honey-fish sauce-olive oil mixture and mix everything well. Let this cook down until the whole surface of the pan is a mass of bubbles. Turn off the heat. Add the fish back into the pan and coat with the sauce. Serve over rice, garnished with the oregano and the black pepper.

Sichuan Sweet and Sour Crispy Fish.- Doesn't that just sound amazing! This is such a great recipe you have to try it so you too can see.....

2 whole (but scaled and gutted) rockfish or other pan-sized fish
3 green onions, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 Tblsp Chinese cooking wine (or Japanese Mirin)
1 Tblsp soy sauce
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut in julienne (very thin strips)
1/2 medium onion, cut in very fine half moon slices
3 cloves garlic, sliced very fine
1/2 habanero chile, or 1-2 Thai chiles or 1 serrano, very finely sliced
5 Tblsp water
5 Tbsp tomato sauce or catsup
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine (or Japanese Mirin)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp corn starch
1 Tblsp finely chopped cilantro
1 Tblsp finely chopped green onions or chives
4 cups peanut or vegetable oil
2 cups flour for dredging

Prepare the fish. Cut off the fins of each fish with kitchen shears or scissors. Remove the gills of the fish if they are still attached by cutting them out with the kitchen shears. Make three vertical slices along each side of the fish evenly spaced along its length. If you have a long fish, make four slices. Rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry.

Marinate. Mix the 3 green onions, the finely chopped ginger, the tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine, the tablespoon of soy sauce and the black pepper together, then pour the mixture into a glass or plastic container, or Ziploc bag, with the fish and make sure the marinade surrounds the fish. Let this sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Prepare the vegetables. Have the julienned ginger, the 1/2 onion, the garlic cloves, all ready. Pour the oil into a wok and turn the heat on to medium. If you do not have a wok, use the largest, deepest skillet you have. A wok helps here, since its shape prevents the tail fin from burning. Take care in a pan and make sure your fish fits.

Make the sauce. Mix the tomato sauce, sugar, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, water and corn starch and stir vigorously to combine. Set it aside. Take the fish out of the fridge and check the oil temperature. Should be about 300-325 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, the oil is ready when a drop of water is dropped into the oil fizzles immediately.

Fry the fish. Remove the fish from the marinade and dredge in flour. Shake off excess, and when the oil is hot, slip the fish into the oil. Do one fish at time. Turn the oven on to "warm." Fry the fish for at least 5 minutes per side. You want it to be crispy, golden brown. With 300-degree oil, a 1-pound fish is fried for 8 minutes on the first side, 5 minutes on the other side. Larger fish will need more time so keep an eye on it. When the first fish is done, remove it to a plate and put the plate in the warm oven. Fry the second fish the same way as the first, etc.

Finishing up. When the fish are done, take out all but about 1/4 cup of the oil, reserve the rest (you can filter through a coffee filter, cool and save in a jar for another fish fry). Toss in the ginger, the onion, the chiles and the garlic and stir-fry over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the sweet-and-sour sauce and stir well to combine. Bring this to a rapid boil and stir well. Cook for 2 minutes. To serve, place the fish on a plate, sauce on top of it and garnish with the finely chopped chives and cilantro. This dish goes best with simple steamed white rice.

Parmesan Baked Fish.- Easy, quick and wonderful, what more could you ask for?

1/4 cup milk
2 tsp salt
2 lb fish fillets
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs (I use old bread, all kinds of bread, in a blender)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a rectangular baking dish. Blend together the milk and salt in a shallow bowl. Combine bread crumbs, paprika, and Parmesan cheese in another bowl. Dip fish fillets into milk mixture then into crumb mixture. Arrange in the prepared baking dish. Drizzle melted butter over fillets. Bake for 25 minutes, depending on thickness of fillets. Fish should flake easily with a fork when done.

Easiest and Crispiest Fish Fillets.- A basic recipe that yields great fish. Economical, practical and done in no time flat! I also like corn flakes for crispy pork chops and chicken.

1 to 1 1/4 pounds fish fillets
2 tblsp butter, melted
2 tblsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dried dill weed, optional (dill is amazing with fish & potatoes)
2 cups crushed corn flakes (in the blender but just pulsed so it's not all fine)

Grease a 13x9 inch baking dish. If fish fillets are large, cut into serving-size portions. Combine butter and lemon juice; set aside. Mix salt, pepper, and dill weed. Dip each piece of fish in butter and lemon mixture. Sprinkle salt and dill mixture over each side of fish. Coat with the corn flake crumbs. Place fish fillets in prepared pan and bake in a 350 F oven until fish flakes easily with a fork, 20 minutes, depending on thickness of the fish fillets.

Salmon with Champagne Sauce.- So simple yet so elegant, very fast and impressive!

4 salmon filets
1 cup flour for dredging
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup Champagne or other dry sparkling wine, like Prosecco
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprigs of parsley

Add salt and pepper to the flour. Flour the filets and shake off the excess. Melt the butter in a broad skillet over medium heat and cook the filets for 4 minutes, turning them after 2 minutes. Sprinkle half the champagne over them and continue cooking until it is reduced by half. When the filets are done, remove them to a heated serving dish and keep them warm.

Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the rest of the champagne to the pan and bring to a boil. Add the cream to the pan, season to taste, and continue to cook until the sauce becomes creamy. Taste to adjust seasonings. Spoon the sauce over the fish, garnish with parsley, and serve at once.

As always, for more recipes about fish or sauces you can use to complement a dish, please search through the blog, ok? Lots of tips, preparations and ideas for one thing can be adapted to suit other needs and you might just find something that will give you an amazing dish.

Don't forget that if you need help with a recipe or want to serve something special and you need more info, drop me a line and I'll be glad to help any way I can. Hoping everyone's weekend has been restful and lovely, we'll talk soon....

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