Monday, April 17, 2006

Honey Mustard Fish Failure

I know. It's been 5 days since I've reported anything. I'm not dropping off in the cooking level. Let me tell you, I wanted to cook something new and write about it but the Potato and Kalamata Olive Stew and Kidney Bean and Vegetable Chili lasted us so long that there was no need to cook anything. And if I had, something would have gone to waste and I hate waste. I think I have to make things in smaller quantities so that have the excuse to cook more.

Anyhow, last night I tried a new recipe. I was so excited about this recipe because I love fish when it's crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It had the added bonus of being a new flavor and way of preparing the fish. Sadly, I have to report my first failure in the last 3 months. I'm a bit miffed that this did not work out partly because of my unblemished cooking record but also because I was not assertive enough in the kitchen. I should have listened to my gut.

I'm going to list the ingredients and preparation, and then tell you where I went wrong.

Makes 4 servings
Time: 35 minutes

- 4 catfish or salmon fillets (5 to 6 ounces each)
-1 1/2 tbsp honey
-1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
-1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
-3/4 c fresh bread crumbs or 1/4 c cornmeal
-1/2 tsp dried thyme
-salt and ground black pepper to taste

My modifications
I bought a pound of catfish because there are just two of us and I used cornmeal. I did not halve the sauce amount because we had a little over a pound of catfish (2 fillets together weighed 16+ ounces) which is almost 20 ounces of fish (or what 4 fillets at 5 ounces would be).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse fillets and pat dry; set aside. In a bowl, whisk together the honey, mustard, and lemon juice. In a separate bowl, combine bread crumbs or cornmeal with the thyme and a few shakes of salt and pepper. Dip each fillet into the honey-mustard sauce and then dredge it in the bread crumb or cornmeal fixture to coat both sides evenly. Places fillets in a sprayed or lightly oiled baking pan and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until thoroughly hot and tender.

So I was a little concerned that the recipe called for 20 minutes of cooking time because I've cooked catfish on the stove for 10-12 minutes total. The preparation itself was simple and easy. The dredging was a little sticky from what I observed of my partner. One fillet nicely coated, nicely sticking to the fillet. The second fillet looked like it might have had too much cornmeal. I surmise that this may have happened because we dredged the fish in the honey mustard sauce by using our hands. The hands get sticky, you touch the cornmeal, and it's a mess. I think next time, it might be worthwhile to use a basting brush to get the sauce on the fish or to wash and dry the hands before coating with cornmeal.

I suggested that we put the fish on the top rack but my cooking partner suggested the last rack so that's what we ended up doing. After 20 minutes, the fish was not crispy. In fact, it still looked wet from the dredging. So we moved it to the stop for another 5 minutes and then another 5 (10 additional minutes total). At this point it still looked 'wet' but we had to take it out for the fear of overcooking.

The flavor was good but the fish was not crispy and slightly over done. And you know how it is when you expect one result and don't get it, it's disappointing. As an aside, that's why it's sometimes good to have low expectations so that you are pleasantly surprised. The next time I make this, I think the fish should be placed on the top rack so that the fish gets crispy on the outside for 10-15 minutes.

The mashed potatoes that went with this dish were creamy and awesome, if I do say so myself.

I really wanted a picture of the fish so that you could see what went wrong but the flash card decided go kaputz on us.

No comments: