Poached Tilapia

Poached fish is a simple technique for can cooking lean fish like tilapia, cod, sole, haddock, snapper or halibut, as well as fatty fish like salmon or trout.  Poaching preserves moisture and adds flavor without adding fat — though you may want to serve poached fish with a sauce made from the leftover water.

~POACHED TILAPIA~

Ingredients:

  • Filet of fish
  • Large skillet
  • About 4 cups of water, fish stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 Lime (1/2 sliced and the other 1/2 left for juice)
  • A few sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 White Onion (sliced into “coins”)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of either Sea Salt or Kosher Salt

Preparation:

  1. Start by making a series of shallow, diagonal cuts on the skin side of the fish fillets. These cuts prevent the fillet from curling during the poaching process.
  2. Heat the liquid on med-low until it reaches the point of almost simmering– the liquid should be hot but NOT boiling.
  3. Add the fish to the hot liquid, skin side down.  The fish should be covered completely by the liquid.
  4. To this, add the sliced onion, minced garlic and lime slices.
  5. Cook for about five minutes or until the fish is just done without being overcooked. (It should just have reached the point of becoming opaque and is no longer translucent.)
  6. Carefully remove the fish and the onions– set aside. Cover the fish to keep it warm while you do the next step of preparing the sauce.
  7. Remove the lime slices and discard.
  8. Cook the liquid over high heat until it has reduced by half.
  9. To the reduced liquid, add 1-2 Tablespoons of butter and whisk into the liquid.
  10. Next, add the same amount of all-purpose flour to the mixture (equal amounts flour to butter)
  11. Whisk until flour is cooked and mixture has thickened (it should smell more like toasted bread rather than “doughy” when the flour has reached the point that it is cooked).
  12. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Place the fish on a plate and garnish with the onions that you set aside.
  14. Top fish with the sauce, garnish with some freshly chopped cilantro, lime juice and an extra pinch of salt (sea salt if you have it; if not, then Kosher salt will do.)

*Instead of making a white sauce to top the Tilapia, you could instead top with a Roasted Salsa Verde (or a Basic Salsa Verde) which you can make ahead of time.  You can serve the fish with rice, pasta or on top of a bed of fresh spinach.

fish

Roasted Salsa Verde

This salsa is great with chips, as a topping for grilled fish, as a base for chicken enchiladas– it’s a MUST-HAVE, GO-TO Tex-Mex sauce that can be used in a variety of ways!  This particular recipe is a rather involved process starting from scratch and roasting all the vegetables.  For a simpler version, try the Basic Salsa Verde.  If you DO decide to the time to make this roasted version, you’ll come to appreciate complexity and layering of flavors!

Ingredients:salsa-ingredients1

  • One pound of fresh tomatillos
  • 8-10 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Juice of 4 limes (or about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 1-2 Tablespoons ground cumin*

*I suggest toasting whole cumin seeds in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes (making sure to keep the seeds moving around so as not to burn one side) and then grinding the seeds with a mortar and pestle– this will give you more of smokey flavor than just using pre-gound cumin. But, if you’d rather not take the time, regular ground cumin will work just fine.

tomatillosalsa9Preparation:

  1. Start by peeling and rinsing the tomatillos– they will be sticky, so be sure that all the mud/dirt is rinsed off of them.
  2. Peel garlic cloves (trying to keep them intact if possible)
  3. Peel the onion and quarter it.
  4. Wash the jalapeño pepper– don’t feel the need to take the stem off or the seeds out; just leave it whole.
  5. Place all of the prepared vegetables in a roasting pan, drizzle with vegetable oil, and sprinkle with salt.
  6. Roast vegetables at about 425°F for approximately 30 minutes (or until the vegetables are starting to brown and are softened to the point that they could easily be punctured by a fork).
  7. Once the vegetables are done roasting, take the stem off of the jalapeño pepper (it should be so soft that it can easily just be slipped right off), and put all ingredients into a blender.
  8. To the vegetables, add cilantro, lime juice and cumin.
  9. Blend until smooth.

*Make sure to taste the salsa and add more salt if needed.  Also, if you would like to tone down the spice of the salsa, you can add plain yogurt or sour cream to the mix and blend it in– this will make the salsa creamy as well!

salsa-verde-3-602x399

Flavor Profile: TEX-MEX

Tex-Mex+Neon+Sign

~ Essential Spices and Herbs ~

Cumin Powder
◦    This aromatic spice is of the carrot family and can be described as a rich, earthy flavor. Cumin, originating in the Mediterranean, is used in almost every Tex Mex dish, from taquitos to refried beans. Sprinkle cumin powder on tortilla chips and pop in the oven for a delicious seasoning.  **Try toasting whole cumin seeds in a skillet and ground with a mortar and pestle– it will bring out a smokey flavor!


Chili Powder
◦    This flavorful spice varies in taste from mild to extremely hot. Chili powder has little aroma, but can pack a punch in soups, taco meat or sauces. Made from grinding various dried red peppers, chili powder can also have a smoked flavor to complement pork or carne asada.

Paprika
◦    Paprika is Hungarian for “flavor.” A mild spice, this deep red powder is cultivated from a variety of red capsicum peppers. Sweet to taste, paprika can be used as a Tex Mex topping on pizzas or tortillas or mixed into chili to even out the hot flavor.

Adobo
◦    The word adobo means marinade in Spanish. Sprinkle on Mexican cheese for adobo topping, use to spice Tex Mex pasta or pizza recipes or marinate meat for spicy adobo main meals. Combined adobo is mixed in many different ways and can include parsley flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin powder, achiote powder from annatto seed and lemon or lemon pepper.

Chipotle
◦    Chipotle spice is a mixture of spices used for seasoning fajitas, tacos or meats such as poultry or pork. It is a combination of chili powder, dried cilantro, cumin, Mexican oregano, basil, garlic powder, thyme and crushed chipotle pepper. This spice can also be mixed into salsa for a more mild, earthy condiment.

Azafran
◦    Otherwise known as Mexican saffron, azafran possesses a pleasantly bitter flavor, and most dishes require only a small amount. To use, dissolve first by crumbling a small amount in hot water. Frontier European saffron is an excellent substitute in dishes that call for azafran.

Coriander
◦    The dried seeds of the coriander plant yield a different taste than coriander (cilantro) leaves. Ground coriander seed is used in breads, cakes, and other desserts, as well as in savory dishes such as soups and stews (especially chili), and with meat and game. The whole seeds are also used; dry roast them to enhance their flavor.

Cinnamon
◦    Cinnamon was first introduced to Mexican cooking by the Spanish, and it’s most often used in beverages (such as chocolate drinks). You’ll also find cinnamon in rice pudding and chorizo sausages. Mexican cooks use both the sticks and ground cinnamon, (Remove the sticks before serving.)

Cilantro
◦    Cilantro, although an herb, is used to spice many Tex Mex dishes. With its fresh, pungent flavor, cilantro’s green leaves are a key ingredient when making salsa and Tex Mex vinaigrette salad dressings.

Mexican Oregano
◦    Different from Greek or Italian oregano, the flavor of Mexican oregano is somewhat more savory-like, instead of the piney hint of rosemary flavor in “regular” oregano. The flavor complements many dishes including pinto beans and soups. **Oregano leaf is more desirable than powdered oregano, and in some recipes, the directions call for lightly toasting the oregano leaf before adding to dishes.

Thyme
◦    Thyme has a dry, fresh, pungent flavor that complements the heat in many Mexican dishes. You’ll find it in Mexican soups and sauces, salads and dressings.

Basic Salsa Verde

This is a simpler version of the Roasted Salsa Verde that can be used in a pinch when you need to whip up a green salsa with only a little bit of time.

Ingredients:hatch tomatillos

  • One can of crushed tomatillos
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons granulated onion
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 Cup of chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 2 Limes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (optional)

Preperation:

It’s pretty straight-forward: combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Remember to add salt at the end only if needed– many times the canned tomatillos are already salted.  The flavor of the salsa will develop as it sits, so set aside for a while if you have time.