Saturday, May 24, 2008

Another Fish Story

The bad part about experimental cooking is that occasionally things go horribly wrong and you're stuck eating your mistakes.

The good part about experimental cooking is that occasionally things go really well and you get to eat your victories.

Case in point, last night's experiment with Tilapia. I thought I'd try a more western style dish using many of the same or similar ingredients from last November. Since that one turned out reasonably well (except for the peanut butter incident, which I'm still trying to live down) I thought I'd try a variation on the theme. Here, try it yourself:

  • 2 good-sized, fresh Tilapia fillets, split and divided. (Hint, most fish fillets have a thick side and a thin side, divide these out so you can ensure that they cook evenly - meaning, cut them length-wise to separate the top from the bottom of each fillet)
  • 2 sprigs fresh Rosemary
  • 1 lb fresh Snow Peas
  • 1 pkg Portobelo mushrooms
  • Sea Salt
  • Lemon Juice (your choice of 1/2 lemon or lemon-in-a-bottle)
  • Olive Oil (Better get Popeye's permission before you mess with his woman!)
  • Whole Peppercorn medley (I cheated and picked up the McCormack brand peppercorn medley with the built-in grinder)
  • 1 box Mushroom & Herb Rice Pilaf (cheating again, I know. If you want to make your own, have at it. I'll be experimenting with my own homemade version as well. I'll let you know how it turned out.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Start the water a-boilin' for the rice pilaf. I was able to time my prep and cooking based on the prep/cook time of the rice since it took the longest. In this case, boil water, dump in box contents, cover, simmer for 18 minutes. So while the water is heating up, do the rest of the prepwork and if you've timed it right, you can start cooking right as the rice goes on. If you insist on doing everything from scratch, you're on your own for timing.

Wash the 'shrooms under cold water in a colander, drain well, pat dry and lay out on paper towels. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Sprinkle with sea salt liberally to help draw out any remaining moisture. Set aside.

Wash the snow peas in cold water and drain. Set aside.

In an 8-inch round baking dish, pour in just enough Olive Oil to cover the bottom of the pan. I'd estimate this at about 1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp. Sprinkle Sea Salt and grind up the peppercorns (about 1 tsp each I suppose, just use your own judgment and do what looks good). Lay the fillets on top of this, arranged so that the thick fillets are on the OUTSIDE and the thin ones are in the CENTER. There's a reason for this: The thicker fillets will have more surface area exposed to the heat while also protecting the thinner ones from cooking too fast.

Now, squeeze lemon juice over the fillets as evenly as you can, also avoiding getting it in your eyes or into finger cuts. That hurts. Trust me. If you want, you can brush or baste some of the olive oil over the top of the fillets, just be sure to do this after you've added the lemon juice, otherwise you're just shielding the fish from the vicious onslaught of citrus-from-above. Sprinkle more Sea Salt and Pepper grindings and pinch off the leaves from one of the Rosemary sprigs and sprinkle them over the top of the fillets. You can throw away the denuded sprig unless you collect them or something.

Put the fish in the oven for 15 minutes, right as the rice goes into the pot to cook. Timing is everything.

At about 8 minutes before the rice is done, you can start sauteing the peas and 'shrooms. Fire up a nice, wide skillet with about 2 Tbsp Olive Oil over medium-high heat. Break the remaining Rosemary sprig in twain and drop both parts in with about 1 tsp sea salt and 1 tsp coarse ground peppercorns when the pan is good and hot. Dump in the snow peas and saute until they start to turn bright green, about 5 minutes or so. Drop in the mushrooms and saute another 5 minutes or so, turning, stirring and otherwise mixing things up constantly.

About this time the timer should go off for the fish. You did set the timer, didn't you? Check the fish to see if it's done, if not, back in for another 2-5 minutes while you finish off the peas and 'shrooms. You'll know they're are done when all the peas are bright green and the mushrooms turn dark and slightly soft - but not mushy! Sauteed mushrooms should still have some firmness to them. You can remove the Rosemary sprigs now, but if any leaves are left behind that's okay. Adds flavour. Ding! Rice is ready. Fluff it with a fork and make sure it's all done.

Plate everything, serve hot.

Wine pairings: Oak-aged Chardonnay or a dry Gewurztraminer.

Dessert: Lemon or Lime Sorbet


Bluejeangirl said...

No one in my house would even try this except for me. *sigh*

Tim said...

I ate my mistakes last night. I tried doing mahi mahi fillets on the grill.

I wrapped up each fillet in tinfoil with a sprig of thyme, a slice of lemon and a slice of orange.

I've never done fish on a grill, as I am not really a fish guy. I wound up overcooking, so the meat was dry.

The thyme was way too strong as well, and wound up overpowering everything else.

I think next time, I'm going to try using dill instead.

Larriken said...

Yeah, grilling fish is tricky. I've made the same mistake before using tuna or shark steaks. I use a very high heat and make sure the grill is well cleaned so I can get it off easily. The high heat sears the outside to keep the insides juicy, and it doesn't take long to cook - the longer it cooks, the more likely fish will dry out.