Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fish Fillets in a Curry Sauce with Gulf Coast-Style White Rice Pilaf

I love Indian food, but some recipes can be really time consuming.  This dish, however, is perfect for a weeknight.  We got the recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.  All the recipes in this book are designed to be prepared in about thirty minutes.  I like Indian side dishes, so I often make those to go with plain baked chicken or tofu.  That way I am still making something cool but not expending a ton of effort.  In this case, I guess I paired an Indian main dish with a Mexican side dish.  The rice is from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless.  Plain white rice would have been fine too, since you have a curry sauce to soak it up, but Joe wanted to make this rice.  It has a really nice flavor that seems to complement just about everything we've made it with so far. 

Fish Fillets in a Curry Sauce
serves 4-5

Ideally, you would use dark, oily fish fillets from bluefish or mackerel, but any fish fillets - cod, haddock, halibut - will work.  We had a bag of frozen cod fillets from Costco so we used those.  Use the thickest fillets you can find, and it's optimal if the skin is removed.  I thought the curry sauce was quite spicy, so if you are a wuss about spice like I am, use half the amount of cayenne.  We used bread crumbs from the freezer; whenever I have extra crusty bread I made a big batch of bread crumbs and they can store indefinitely in the freezer.  They can be baked for a bit at a low temp in the oven if they seem moist when you remove them.    

2 pounds thick fish fillet or fillets
2 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
5 tablespoons bread crumbs, plus more if needed (made from dried bread, homemade or store bought)
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup curry powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Make sure you have a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to its highest temperature.  

Lay the fish in a baking dish.  Combine the milk, salt, pepper, cayenne, and tumeric in a large measuring cup or pitcher and pour over the fish.  Set aside for 15 minutes while you get the other ingredients ready.

Remove the fillets from the milk mixture and press into a plate of the breadcrumbs to cover all sides.  Five tablespoons wasn't really enough for us so we added more.  Reserve the milk (this will become the sauce, but don't worry, you'll boil it).  Put the fish into a shallow baking dish lined with foil.  Scatter two tablespoons of butter over the top of the fillets and bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the milk mixture into a small saucepan and turn the heat to medium-low.  You want it to heat but not boil in this step.  In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the remaining two tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat.  When bubbling, add the curry powder, and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.  Add the flour, and cook for two minutes, still stirring.  It should keep bubbling.  

Off heat, whisk in the hot milk.  Return the pan to the heat and turn it up to medium-high.  Stir with a whisk until the sauce comes to a boil, then let it boil for about a minute, whisking the whole time (If you don't whisk constantly, I predict that the milk will foam and overflow, creating a huge mess on your stovetop and burners, since that has happened to me when cooking other things like this).  Add the cilantro and lemon juice and stir to combine.  

To serve, place some fish on each plate and pour some sauce over the top.  Serve immediately.

Gulf Coast-Style White Rice Pilaf
serves 6-8

Note: Normally the recipe has you start the rice on the stove and finish in the oven.  However, since I was already using the oven for the fish, we cooked the rice completely on the stove-top, with great results.  We also added peas like his other rice recipe.  

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 1/2 cups white rice
1 small white onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (we are rocking the jar of bouillon these days)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

If using the oven, adjust the rack to the middle and heat to 350 F. Set a 3-quart oven-proof saucepan over medium heat.  When hot, add the oil, rice, and onion.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  The goal is to get the grains of rice to turn from translucent to milky-white.  If you care about appearance, try not to let the rice brown, but if you don't care, don't worry about it.  Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds, until fragrant, then add the broth and 1 teaspoon salt (or more if using low sodium broth).  Stir to combine, then let it come up to a boil.  

If using the oven, cover the saucepan and place in the middle of the oven.  Bake for about 25 minutes (If adding peas, scatter about 1 1/2 cups of them - still frozen is ok - over the top of the rice after it has baked for 20 minutes, then re-cover and bake 5 minutes longer).  Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes.  Fluff the rice with a fork (and mix in the peas), and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.  

If not using the oven, after the rice has come to a boil, turn the heat down to low and let it cook for about 20 minutes (just like you would normally make rice on the stove).  Add the peas over the top, and cook 5 minutes more.  Fluff with fork and sprinkle with parsley as above.  

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