Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy Birthday to Knives, Fire and Fun!

First off, I'd like to thank all my readers for sticking with me over the past year. Especial thanks to Beki, Squid, Heather, Sarah and Andral who are among my first subscribers, frequent commenters and generally supportive human beings. 

When I first conceived of this blog, I thought I'd be doing product comparisons as well as critiquing recipes in my own (hopefully) inimitable style. As I look back over the last year, I see some critiques, but more often, I see my own take on things, and a lot of recipes from the Wing-It school. I never did get around to comparing any products, and I'm okay with that. I've had a lot of fun, and I've decided to keep this going. I hope you'll stay with me.

Today's recipe comes from The Perfect Pantry. I came across it randomly browsing food sites and the Mexican Spiced Fish intrigued me (so did a pork roast recipe that will be next week, assuming I remember to take the pork out of the freezer).

I liked the looks of this because it was a very different take on fish--I'm so used to citrusy blends. It also used cinnamon in a savory fashion. So let's have a look:

3 1/2 lbs striped bass, cod stead or any non-oily white fish, cut into six portions. I used Chilean Sea bass, which was very rich and cut in very thick pieces. Next time, I'm thinking of using cod. I think it might take the marinade a little better.
2 T canola or vegetable oil 
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
12 oz tomatoes sliced I actually cut some cherry tomatoes into chunks
2 drained canned jalapeno chiles, rinsed and sliced, or 2 fresh jalapenos, seeded, ribs removed, rinsed.  I went with fresh
a few flat parsley leaves, for garnish

For the marinade:
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground annatto  I have not been able to find ground annatto, but I did come up with some seeds. They are very oily and very hard to pulverize, either in a mortar with a pestle or in my Cuisinart chopper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup mild white vinegar I used white wine vinegar which may have been a mistake
Kosher salt, to taste

Arrange the fish in a single layer in a shallow dish.
Make the marinade: With a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic and peppercorns. Add the oregano, cumin, annatto and cinnamon, and vinegar, and mix to a paste. Add salt to taste, and spread the marinade on both sides of the fish. Cover and leave in a cool place, or in the refrigerator on a very hot day, for one hour.

I don't know if my technique was off today, but I did not end up with a paste, but a liquid. Maybe more time with the mortar and pestle? I'm not quite sure.

In a flame-proof pan large enough to hold the fish in a single layer, pour in the oil and spread it to cover (use more oil if necessary). Place the fish in the dish, and top with the remaining marinade. Arrange the sliced onions, garlic, tomatoes and jalapeƱo over the fish.
Cover and cook over a low heat on the stovetop for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish is no longer translucent. Garnish with some flat-leaf parsley, if desired, and serve hot with rice.

 . . . . 

This was my second attempt at this dish. The first, I misread the amount of vinegar and added too much. It still made a tasty dish, but it wasn't the perfection I was seeking.

Today? Maybe I was off my game, I don't know. As I mentioned above, I didn't get a paste, I got a heavily spiced liquid. I also added more garlic than called for, and it didn't seem to be enough. The fish didn't absorb very much of the marinade and the flavors never quite gelled for me.

I'll try this again, but not for a while. If anyone tries it, I'd love to hear the results. Maybe I can figure out where I went wrong.

I do have to say the appetizer came out rather well. I roasted orange, red and yellow peppers along with an onion in a mix of olive oil, oregano, several grates of mixed peppercorns and a touch of salt. I served these with corn torillas and manchego cheese. 

Other comments? Questions? Birthday wishes? Let's hear them!

and as always, thank you for your support.

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