Friday, January 4, 2013

Easy, Asian-inspired Fish

the fish (cod), and side of zucchini
I devoured Alyssa Shelasky's memoir Apron Anxiety in a matter of hours over the holidays.  On the face of it, it's a fun, juicy read about dating and messy love affairs.  Below the surface, it's a candid recounting of the author's adventures (and misadventures) as she learns to cook, and how in her quest to master the kitchen, she unearths a passion for cooking and embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

I couldn't help but feel a certain kinship with the author.  Some of my sweetest days have been spent in the kitchen, cooking up simple treats, elaborate meals, or something in-between.  Cooking is how I express my love to friends and family.  It's also how I nurture myself.  As Alyssa similarly discovers for herself, there is nothing I find more soothing than cooking, and nothing I find more comforting than eating a home-cooked meal.  Through the ups and downs of life and relationships, the joys of cooking (and baking) have been a constant for me.  The kitchen is where I find both inspiration and solace.

In one of the final chapters of her book, Alyssa writes about her time in Los Angeles, where she takes care of a friend and nurses her own broken heart.  That same, dear friend shares with her a simple recipe for baked fish, which she entitles "Easy, Asian-Inspired Fish."

I am always on the look-out for a good fish dish, as I love eating fish but don't make it often enough.  What also drew me to this recipe were two of its ingredients: panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs) and mustard powder.  I often associate panko with deep-frying.  While I love deep-fried foods, I have an aversion to deep-frying in my own kitchen (I picture the oil splatters and mess I would have to clean up).  Panko, as I discovered with this recipe, is much more versatile than I gave it credit for: it gives even baked dishes a great crunchy texture.  While I've cooked with mustard seeds before (mainly Indian dishes), I'd not come across a recipe calling for mustard *powder*.  Thinking that simply grinding the mustard seeds I have on hand wouldn't yield a fine enough powder, I went ahead and purchased some mustard powder, adding to my already bulging spice collection.

The recipe also calls for wasabi paste.  Being half-Japanese, I am almost embarrassed to admit I am not a fan of wasabi.  So I omitted it.  And I actually think the mustard powder yielded enough heat to the fish.  The taste of ginger was barely discernible, so I would add a bit more ground ginger the next time I make this dish.  Not having a lime on hand, I substituted a splash of lime juice for the lime zest.

Easy, Asian-Inspired Fish
Adapted from Apron Anxiety.  Serves 4.

1 cup panko 
2 tablespoons wasabi paste
4 tablespoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon lime zest (a splash of lime juice may be substituted)
4 tablespoons canola oil, plus more if needed
salt and black pepper to taste
vegetable oil spray
4 fish fillets (cod or mahimahi)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the bread crumbs, wasabi (if using), mustard powder, ginger, and lime zest or juice in a medium bowl.  Mix until everything is well incorporated.  Drizzle in the canola oil and mix again.  The crumbs should just barely hold together when squeezed.  (Use more oil as necessary).  Season the crumbs to taste with salt and pepper.

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray and lay down the fish fillets.

Lightly coat the tops of the fish fillets with the hosin sauce.  Top each fillet with the bread-crumb mixture, covering the tops entirely and gently patting it down.

Bake the fillets in the oven for 15 minutes or until the fish flakes when poked with a fork.

The results: delicious fish with layered flavors that belie the simple recipe.

No comments:

Post a Comment