Friday, February 20, 2009

Not your everyday fish dishes

by Ralph Brennan

These recipes are a continuation of the Party Planner article (page 16) of the February 2009 issue.


This mahi-mahi recipe calls for a couple of ingredients that are unusual for fish dishes. One is andouille, the lean and spicy smoked sausage found in many parts of southern Louisiana. The other is panko breadcrumbs, which are made from a very dry wheat bread, and are coarser, flakier and lighter than other breadcrumbs. When cooked they take on a lovely golden brown color and also stay crisp longer. They're available in specialty food stores, Asian markets and online grocers.

Recommended alternative species include catfish, cod, grouper, haddock, sea bass or tilapia.
Two small batches of the fillets are cooked simultaneously in separate skillets to allow sufficient space for even cooking. Each batch is cooked in fresh clarified butter to achieve the best flavor and color of the finished dish.

Garlic is a defining ingredient in aïoli, the bracing mayonnaise from the south of France. Basic aïoli can be used on its own as a mayonnaise or dip, or with a variety of seafood and meat dishes.


Mahi-Mahi with Andouille Crust and Creole Mustard Aïoli

Yield: 30 servings

2 1/2 c. whole milk
5 large eggs

10 c. panko crumbs

1 1/2 lbs. andouille sausage,* casing removed and sausage minced in a food processor

2 1/2 T. Creole seasoning (recipe follows)

30 mahi-mahi fillets (8 ounces each), about 1 inch thick at the thickest part

2 1/2 T. kosher salt

1 1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

4 1/2 c. clarified butter, divided
1 3/4 c. Creole-mustard aïoli (recipe follows), for serving

Method (1)
In a large mixing bowl, lightly whisk together the milk and egg for the egg wash. In a separate large bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs, andouille and Creole seasoning, mixing well. (2) Evenly season the fillets on both sides with the kosher salt and pepper. One at a time, dip the fillets into the egg wash, shaking off any excess, then coat them with the panko mixture. (3) Heat 1/2 c. clarified butter in each of two heavy 10-inch skillets over medium-high heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat under each skillet to medium, and add 3 fillets to each skillet. (4) Cook the fillets until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, about 8-12 minutes total. The cooking time will vary according to the thickness of the fillets. To test for doneness, transfer one piece of the fish to a plate, and insert the tip of a thin-bladed knife into the thickest part of the fillet for approximately 10 seconds. Remove the knife and lay the tip of the blade flat against the inside of your wrist. If the tip feels hot against your skin, the fish is done. (5) Serve immediately. Serving suggestion: Use a broad, large and sturdy spatula to transfer a fillet to each heated dinner plate, and top each fillet with about 1 T. Creole-mustard aïoli. Serve remaining aïoli on the side.

Creole Seasoning (scant 1 cup)

1/2 c. sweet paprika
1/4 c. kosher salt

1 T. freshly ground black pepper

1 t. onion powder

1 t. garlic powder

1 t. ground cayenne pepper

1 t. dried thyme leaves
1 t. dried oregano leaves

Method (1) Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Place the mixture in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.

Creole-Mustard Aïoli (scant 1 1/2 c.)

3 large eggs
2 T. minced fresh garlic
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 t. Dijon mustard
3 c. canola oil
1 1/2 t. kosher salt, plus to taste
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper, plus to taste
1/4 c. Creole mustard

Method (1) In a blender, combine the egg, garlic, lemon juice and mustard. Pulse about 3 times to blend well. (2) With the blender's motor still running, very gradually add half the oil in a thin, steady stream, blending just until all is incorporated and the mixture is the consistency of mayonnaise. Turn off the blender, and push the sides down with a rubber spatula. (3) Turn on the blender again and very gradually add the remaining oil, blending just until all is incorporated. Do not over-mix or the oil will separate and rise to the surface.
Season with 1/2 t. kosher salt and 1/8 t. pepper. (4) Add 1/4 c. Creole mustard, blending just a few seconds until well incorporated. (5) Before using, refrigerate overnight in a covered, nonreactive container to let the flavors develop; then season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Keep refrigerated, and use within four days.


At Ralph Brennan's Bacco restaurant in New Orleans, the crawfish mixture in this recipe fills pillows of ravioli pasta. Here won tons are used instead. The sauce complements the won tons beautifully, adding a richness and pleasant acidity.



Crawfish Ravioli with Roasted-Tomato Butter Sauce

Yield: 30 servings

1 c. olive oil
7 c. finely chopped onions
3 3/4 c. finely chopped green sweet peppers
3 3/4 c. finely chopped red sweet peppers
3 3/4 c. finely chopped yellow sweet peppers
3 3/4 c. finely sliced green onions, white and green parts
5 lb. peeled crawfish tails, coarsely chopped
10 T. Creole seasoning (recipe follows)
5 T. Crystal pepper sauce or other relatively mild Louisina pepper sauce
6 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
2
1/2 c. very dry fine breadcrumbs
2 1/2 c. cornmeal, divided
5 eggs, any size
300 won ton wrappers, 3 in. squares
1 recipe Roasted-Tomato Butter Sauce (recipe follows)
1 c. very finely sliced green onions, green parts only, for garnish
30 whole boiled crawfish, for garnish (optional)


Method (1) In a heavy-bottomed Rondo, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until just short of smoking, about 2 minutes. (2) Add the onions and saut
é until they start becoming translucent, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. (3) Add the sweet peppers, green onions, crawfish Creole seasoning and pepper sauce, stirring well. Sauté until the peppers are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (4) Remove the filling from the heat and set it aside at room temperature until cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (5) Stir the eggs into the filling. Gradually add the breadcrumbs, mixing thoroughly. Refrigerate in a covered container until the breadcrumbs have absorbed the other flavors, at least 2 hours or overnight. (6) Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, then sprinkle the paper generously with cornmeal, using at least 1/3 c. (7) In a small, shallow bowl, beat the egg with a fork until smooth. Lay a won ton wrapper on a work surface. Using a pastry brush, moisten the top of the wrapper all over with some of the egg. (8) Mound 1 level T. of the filling in the center of the wrapper. Line up another wrapper over the top, and gently press down around the filling, working outwards to remove air pockets. Repeat to prepare the remaining won tons. (9) Place the finished won tons on the prepared baking sheet as formed. Once all the won tons are formed, sprinkle the tops lightly with cornmeal. (10) Refrigerate the won tons for up to 4 hours. If made further ahead, lay them out on a sheet pan between parchment paper, and freeze until firm, then gently transfer them to a self-closing freezer bag, being careful not the break the edges. The won tons may be kept frozen up to one month. (11) Boil salted water in a large pot. (12) Meanwhile, prepare Roasted-Tomato Butter Sauce. (13) Ease small batches of the won tons (chilled or directly from the freezer) into the boiling salted water, and cook uncovered until the won tons begin to float (indicating they are done), 2 to 3 minutes. Only cook the number of won tons you will be serving. (14) While the won tons are cooking, spoon roughly 2 T. sauce in the bottom of each heated pasta bowl. As cooked, transfer 5 cooked won tons to each bowl with a slotted spoon. Serving suggestion: Serve immediately with the remaining sauce spooned over the won tons. Garnish with green onions and whole boiled crawfish.

Creole Seasoning (scant 1 c.)

1/2 c. sweet paprika
1/4 c. kosher salt

1 T. freshly ground black pepper

1 t. onion powder

1 t. garlic powder

1 t. ground cayenne pepper

1 t. dried thyme leaves
1 t. dried oregano leaves

Method (1) Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Place the mixture in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.

Roasted-Tomato Butter Sauce

10 lbs. (about 20 medium size) very ripe Creole* tomatoes
*southern Louisiana's Creole tomatoes are preferred for this recipe; although other good, peak-of-season regional varieties can be used also.
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 c. shallots, minced
1 1/4 c. good-quality sweet vermouth
3 oz. rice vinegar
2/3 c. heavy cream
5 lbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into pats, at room temperature
1
1/2 T. kosher salt, or to taste
1 T. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste


Method (1) Preheat the oven to 350
°F. (2) Rinse the tomatoes, and roast them in the oven on a rimmed baking sheet, core-side down, until the skin starts to separate from the tomato pulp but hasn't yet burst open, 20-25 minutes. (3) Remove the tomatoes from the oven, and set aside until cool enough to handle. (4) Peel and core the tomatoes, holding them over a bowl to catch the juice. Chop the pulp, and add it to the juice. If prepared ahead, refrigerate in a covered container. (5) In a heavy, nonreactive saucepan, heat the olive oil over high heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. (6) Add the vermouth and vinegar, and cook until the liquid in the mixture reduces by half, 1-2 minutes. (7) Add the cream; drain the tomatoes and add them to the pan, mixing well. (8) Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the mixture reduces by about half and is fairly thick, 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The time will vary according to how juicy the tomatoes are. (9) Add the butter cubes one at a time, constantly whisking until all the butter is incorporated into the sauce. Each addition of butter should be almost completely melted in before adding more. Remove from heat, and whisk in the kosher salt and pepper. Serving suggestion: If not serving the sauce immediately, transfer it to the top of a double boiler, and serve as soon as possible (definitely within 2 hours), keeping the sauce warm, uncovered, over hot (not simmering) water.

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