Posted by: fireweaver | August 13, 2008

experiments with fish & nuts

cross-posted in DC…if any good answers come up there, i’ll share with you guys here.

so, once upon a time in a restaurant, i had a filet of white fish that was coated in a crunchy-sweet nut topping, predominantly made up of pistachios. i’ve been pondering re-creating this, or some improved variant thereof for quite a while now, and i got around to it tonight.

(as per my usual m.o., no real measurements, just an eyeball-ballpark sort of estimation.) in my mortar, i ground up a handful of pistachios and a few pinches of coconut. the coconut is yet another of the miraculous findings i acquire at the asian market…it’s basically been chip-tified, where it’s very thin-cut and super crunchy, but not at all oily as a deep-fried food would be. the dry crunchiness means that it can be ground into as small of pieces as you’d like, so to re-create the concept without the same product, i think that mincing regular dried coconut would work ok. to this mix i added a couple of croutons, since i thought the flour/breadedness would bind things better. a generous dash each of dill & garlic powder completed the ground-to-coarse-meal mixture, which was poured into a plate that received egg-coated previously-frozen tilapia after their dunk. diced garlic was roasted in butter on medium-hi heat, the fish were seared on both sides, and then covered to finish on medium-low.

the experiment was a pretty solid success as far as the flavor goes – things were savory with a hint of sweetness, but not overpowering to the natural mild flavor of tilapia. however, the presentation, not so pretty. most of the coating fell off quite quickly, leaving only a light smattering here & there on the fish. in some places, it continued to cook as a solid sheet, like a thin pastry in the pan, which tasted great but didn’t look as nice as it would have as a breading/coating ON the filet. it easily lifted from the pan when it was time to eat, so i’m not worried that the fall-apart problem was all due to sticking. additionally, the crouton portion ended up burning quite quickly, so while the nuts & coconut were toasty brown, the in-between-bits were unpleasantly blackened.

so, question: should i have used something else, or nothing, to bind the nuts & coconut to the fish? was the tilapia filets’ previously frozen nature to blame for the lack of adequate sticking of the breading? any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to add ’em.

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