A New Way to Fish – Rosemary Potato Crusted Tilapia with Basil Oil

June 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

I really do love fish and I’m always looking for new ways to prepare it. I prefer salmon, grouper, and of course, sea bass, but sometimes you just need an economical alternative. Enter, tilapia. I’ve never really been a big fan of tilapia – I’ll eat it and I don’t mind it but I’ve never craved it. My husband has developed a strong liking for it so I’ve been looking for new ways to prepare it. So far, simply grilled with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a splash of lemon has been a good way to go. Another option is sauteed with a light flour coating and finished in a parsley butter sauce. I recently saw a recipe by Giada de Laurentis for a potato crusted tilapia that looked amazing. I’m in for any recipe that involves a potato! Giada’s version called for purple potatoes and a chive basil oil. I was making this for a nice little Sunday lunch at home so I had to deal with what I had on hand – no purple potatoes or chives, but I did have new potatoes and some fresh basil.

This dish is surprisingly easy and produces a really elegant meal that takes fish to a whole new level. Giada’s recipe calls for a mandolin for super thin potato slices – I don’t have a mandolin so I just sliced the potato as thinly as I could manage. This worked fine but I think a mandolin would have helped produce a bit crispier potato which would have been delicious. However, if you don’t have a mandolin, don’t fret – just slice thinly and you’ll still be enjoying deliciously sauteed potatoes.

Once the potato slices are done, assembly is very easy. Season the tilapia with salt and pepper and then top with the potato slices. A little more salt, pepper, and some rosemary and the fish is ready to go. In an oven-proof skillet heat equal parts butter and olive oil over medium high heat. You want the skillet to be pretty hot so it gives a nice sizzle to the potatoes. I thought getting the fish potato side down into the skillet was going to be tricky but it actually turned out to be pretty easy. I found that placing my spatula over the fish and then flipping it potato side down and sliding out the spatula worked best. Once the fish is in, you pop it into a a 375 degree oven for about 15 to 17 minutes until the fish is cooked through.

While the fish cooks, make the basil oil. Simply mix chopped basil and olive oil together and a little salt and pepper and set aside. I added some more rosemary to the oil and happened to have some roasted garlic on hand which I mashed into the oil as well for a little extra flavor.

Once you remove the fish from the oven, flipping over to serve potato side up is quite tricky. After a few tries, a food scraper proved to be the best way to accomplish the task – carefully slide it under the potato while holding the top of the fish with a spatula and flip. The potato doesn’t actually stick to the fish so if it’s not held together it will fall apart. Top the fish with some basil oil and serve. I found a generous squeeze of lemon finished the fish nicely, but you could try it first without and see what you think.

As I’m coming to find – I like my own cooking a lot more than what I find in restaurants. I can assure you, you’ll like this dish and it will be very different than anything you’ll see in a restaurant – at least from what I’ve seen. Enjoy!

Rosemary Potato Crusted Tilapia with Basil Oil 
Adapted from Giada de Laurentis
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 (4- to 6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 4 new potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary leaves or half dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • roasted garlic – optional
  • Lemon wedges to serve

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Season fish with salt and pepper and top each of the fillets with potato slices until completely covered. Season with more salt and pepper and rosemary.

Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the butter and heat until hot. Add the fish, potato side down and place skillet in oven. Bake until fish is cooked through, about 15 to 17 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the extra-virgin olive oil, basil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. If desired, add roasted garlic.

Place fish potato side up on a plate and top with the basil oil and serve with a wedge of lemon.

Click here for original recipe.

Update: Serve with lemon meringue pie for a truly decadent summer dinner. 

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Worth the Wait – Pappardelle with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Truffle Butter

April 8, 2011 § 6 Comments

When I started this blog at the end of last year, I became somewhat ravenous not only for my new culinary adventures but also writing about them. The project quickly sucked me in and I literally had to stop myself from going overboard – boring what few readers I probably have with multiple posts per week and adding unnecessary inches to my waistline. So the fact that I’ve not written in over a month (a month!) is beyond me. Granted, I’ve been quite busy. A new addition to our family, Chloe, a beautiful bassett/beagle has taken over what precious free time I had and used to devote to cooking and writing. She’s learning to dig and eat magazines and her latest adventure was eating a black ink pen on my beige couch which has been fun to deal with. Add on business trips every week followed by a nasty bout of the flu and voila – over a month has passed.

I’ve been dying to write this post since making this dinner Oscar night. I hadn’t planned on making this recipe for the Oscars, but I had truffle butter on hand that only had a few days left before going bad so I figured it was as good a night as any. It was just supposed to be my husband and me that night but at the last minute my whole family joined us so we went from 2 to 6. I’m glad too because the meal was so delicious and made plenty for the 6 of us with a little leftover to savor the following night.

Now, I’m not really a mushroom fan so the fact that I made this with a truffle sauce may be surprising – there are certain traditional dishes with mushrooms like Chicken Marsala that I love, I don’t like the mushroom itself. I think it has to do with the mushroom’s spongey texture. While I avoid most mushrooms, a few years ago I had pasta with truffle sauce. I was actually in Ljubljana, Slovenia, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I’d spent the week going through Slovenia and Croatia (a logistical nightmare but that’s another story) and saw more meat than I cared for – the traditionals and the unusuals (horse and buffalo, no thanks). Needless to say, given that I’m not a big meat lover, I saw lots of pizza – cheese pizza to be exact. We were nearing the end of the trip and we were at a little pub that had a menu full of items I didn’t eat – the only thing that even remotely caught my eye was the pasta with truffle sauce. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but it was my only option. The plate arrived, and not only was it beautiful, it was delicious. I really enjoyed it but hadn’t had it again since it’s not something you see much in the states. Sure, you see plenty of fries with truffle oil which I’ll always order if a restaurant has them to remind me of that afternoon in Ljubljana.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve this year, and we were in Whole Foods looking for something special to make for dinner. We rarely go to Whole Foods so when we do its like a mini-adventure. I picked up little splurges like Mascapone cheese, fresh roasted garlic, and a Truffle Butter. I hesitated with the Truffle Butter at a whopping $9 for a 2 ounce tub but I’d recently seen Ina Garten prepare it with Tagliatelle which looked so good, so I figured, might as well start the New Year with a little indulgence! January and February seemed to fly by and every day I’d open my fridge to see my precious $9 delicacy just waiting to be eaten. So, when it was Oscar Sunday, I figured I’d waited long enough. It was time to give this pasta a shot. I decided to add the asparagus for some veggies but the shrimp was a total last minute decision after my husband requested some protein for dinner – man was it good though. The delicate pasta with the sweet shrimp and earthy, creamy sauce was divine.

I used homemade pasta for this but store-bought pasta would work nicely here as well. The delicacy of the pasta complimented the sauce very nicely so look for a thin flat pasta. I followed a different pasta recipe than I’ve made before – this time I used Giada’s recipe which calls for more egg than usual, plus olive oil and salt. The resulting pasta was golden and silky with tons of flavor. After rolling out the pasta into the thinnest sheets on my pasta roller, I hand sliced it to make the pappardelle. The easiest way to do this is to fold the sheet a few times and then cut – make sure you flour the sheet before doing so to prevent the dough from sticking together.

Once the pasta was ready to cook, the recipe was actually really easy. If you choose to use bought pasta this cooks in just about 10 minutes after getting the water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, salt it and add the trimmed asparagus in just for a few minutes until tender. Remove the asparagus and add the pasta. Meanwhile, heat a pan over medium heat with some olive oil and garlic. Let the garlic infuse the oil for a minute and then add the shrimp with salt and pepper. While the shrimp cooks, cut the asparagus into one-inch bites and add to the shrimp. Increase the heat, add 1 cup heavy whipping cream (or the amount you prefer), and let boil slightly. Add in the entire tub of truffle butter – I know it sounds like a lot, but remember this is a treat! – and it will melt quickly. Turn the heat off and transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce. Top with fresh chives, parsley, and parmesan.

They Called Me Martha – The Perfect Roast Chicken

January 16, 2011 § 9 Comments

A perfect roast chicken starts with a delicate, crispy skin and ends with moist, juicy meat inside and this recipe achieves both. The skin is beautifully golden in color and flavor by brushing the chicken with a little melted butter before roasting and the pan juices from the chicken, sweet carrots, fennel, and onion keep the meat moist upon serving.

This recipe is from Ina Garten, whom I just love. Almost any recipe I make of hers is a sure win – and what’s better, she eats mostly chicken so she always has some inspiring recipe for me. I’ve now made her Perfect Roast Chicken several times and I can say, it is actually quite perfect. In fact, I recently hosted a holiday party for my girlfriends and when I pulled out my two beautiful roast chickens from the oven, one of them even called me “Martha” – as in the infamous Martha Stewart.

What makes this chicken so perfect is not only the tender, juicy meat it yields, but the simplicity in making it. Aside from chopping up some vegetables and applying easy seasonings, it requires very little effort. I think my favorite part of this dish is the fact that you stuff the chicken cavity with lemon and garlic without even a need to chop, peel, or squeeze! A simple cut in half and if it fits, it works. This chicken calls for a lot of fresh thyme, which adds a very perfumed flavor to the vegetables and sauce. If you’re not a fan of thyme you could easily substitute with rosemary or a combination of herbs of your choice.

Now, I will say – one area where Ina let me down: directions on cooking time. I am one of those “is the chicken really done?” fanatics. You’d think with as much chicken as I eat and cook I’d pretty much know when a chicken is done, but sadly I do not and I end up having to cut my chicken breasts in half when cooking to ensure they are really cooked through. So, when I watched Ina make this on TV, she made it sound so simple to determine if the chicken was done – just cut between the leg and the breast and if the juices run clear – voila, its done.

Or not… In Ina’s fairness, her recipe calls for a larger chicken so I had assumed using a smaller chicken would significantly cut down on cooking time. Thus, when I made this the first time for my family, they arrived hungry and eager, I pulled these impressive looking chickens out and they all “oohed” and “awed”. I made the cut as Ina instructed and once I saw that it was only clear juices running out, I happily covered it and let it rest for 20 minutes while waiting anxiously to try it. When I went back to carve what I was sure would be my new masterpiece, I was devastated to find nearly raw chicken at the bone. Back in the oven it had to go and my family was left waiting for another 40 minutes for dinner. In the end though, it was a delicious chicken worth the wait.

I’ve made this chicken multiple times now so I’ve pretty much got the cooking time down but the lesson learned is: Stab your chicken! No, not really. But I do like to make several cuts around the chicken just to be sure – better safe than sorry, especially when entertaining. The reason this is so important is because you really want the chicken to rest 20 minutes, so you’ve got to know its finished cooking. Once you do have the cooking time down on this chicken though, it’s indeed worth it. As I said, it takes minimal effort and yields a very elegant meal perfect for a quiet dinner at home for 2 or for entertaining for several friends. If you’re feeling really motivated, you could serve with crispy roasted potatoes or garlicky mashed potatoes, which would be a nice accompaniment.

For this recipe I have found a 3 pound chicken to work best. If I’m cooking it just for me and my husband I’ll do one chicken but if I want leftovers or cooking for several, I’ll buy two chickens. This is a great recipe to do with 2 chickens (double the veggies) and have extra leftover for a chicken noodle soup or enchiladas the next night. What’s even better is I’ve found a little market near my home where I can buy all my ingredients for about $10 – that’s for 2 chickens and all the veggies – you can’t beat that!

Preheat the oven to 425. Rinse the inside and outside of the chicken and pat dry. Cut any excess fat. Sprinkle the cavity with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Cut a lemon and head of garlic in half and insert in the cavity with a good bunch of fresh thyme. Once the cavity is stuffed, tie the legs together with twine. Meanwhile, melt a tablespoon of butter. Once melted, brush the outside of the chicken with the butter making sure to reach the sides and legs. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with more salt and pepper.

Peel and chop 4 carrots, 1 yellow onion, and 1 bulb of fennel. If you’ve never worked with fennel before, it’s got almost a licorice-like smell and adds a nice flavor to the sauce. Cut the top of the bulb so that you’re left with something that resembles an onion. I like to remove the outermost layer then just cut as you would an onion.

In your roasting pan mix all the chopped veggies with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Note: If you don’t have a roasting pan, you could put this in anything that will hold it, such as a large casserole dish or lasagna pan. Now, a word on the thyme – if you don’t mind it being really rustic, you could just throw a handful of thyme in whole with the veggies. My husband isn’t such a fan of this method so I skim the leaves off the stems and chop it up. Finally, add the chicken on top of the veggies.

That is it! Your chicken is done and ready to go into the oven for about an hour and a half. Keep an eye on it that the skin doesn’t burn – if the skin is getting too brown you can cover with aluminum foil. Baste a few times while it’s cooking to add flavor to the skin.

When you’re sure the chicken is done, remove from the oven and cover the pan with foil to let it rest for 20 minutes. After resting, carefully remove the chicken and lift vertically to let all the juices inside the cavity come out and into the pan. If you love lemon, you can pull out the lemon from the cavity and give it a squeeze into the sauce – be careful as it will be exremely hot.

To carve the chicken, start with the legs and wings and remove. Then cut at the center near the bone and follow your knife down the bone to remove the breast. Slice the breast as desired. Make sure you pour the sauce from the pan over the chicken as that is the key to keeping it moist and giving it unbelievable flavor. Serve hot and enjoy!

Ingredients

1 3Ib. fryer chicken
4 carrots
1 yellow onion
1 fennel bulb
20 sprigs thyme
1 tbsp. butter
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Rinse inside and outside of the chicken and pat dry. Cut any excess fat. Sprinkle the cavity with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Cut a lemon and head of garlic in half and insert in the cavity with half the fresh thyme. Tie the legs together with twine.
  2. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush outside of the chicken with the butter making sure to reach the sides and legs. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with more salt and pepper.
  3. Peel and chop 4 carrots into bite size pieces, about 1 inch long. Cut 1 yellow onion and 1 bulb of fennel in slices. Add vegetables to roasting pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, and remaining thyme.
  4. Place chicken on top of vegetable mixture in pan and roast in oven for an hour and a half or until done.
  5. Remove and cover chicken with aluminum foil for 20 minutes. Carve and serve with pan sauce over the chicken.

For the original recipe from Ina Garten, click here.

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