Coconut Poached Catfish with Baby Bok Choy

 

 

This dish was inspired by the classic Thai dish, Tom kha gai. Tom Kha Gai is a coconut-milk-based chicken soup scented with galangal (or ginger), lemongrass, chilies, fish sauce, makrut lime leaves, lime juice, and cilantro. The combination of sweet, salty, and sour flavors balanced in a creamy broth felt ideal for pairing with a mild, firm white fish like catfish, halibut, or cod. Using just one pot, this dish couldn’t be easier to assemble, and its beautiful presentation makes it look like you spent a lot longer on dinner than you actually did. The poaching liquid does double duty by gently cooking the fish and wilting the bok choy. If bok choy is unavailable, another sturdy green, like kale or Napa cabbage, can be substituted. Serve with steamed jasmine rice to soak up some of the fragrant coconut milk broth.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 (6-ounce) catfish fillets or other flaky white fish, like cod or halibut
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
1 tablespoon lemongrass, thinly sliced (from about a 1 trimmed stalk)
1 fresh Thai or Serrano chile, thinly sliced
2 (13 1/2-ounce) cans coconut milk
1 ½ teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon light brown sugar or to taste
7 ounces baby bok choy, ends trimmed and stalks separated Flaky salt (optional)

For Serving:
Fried ginger
Pickled chilies
Lime wedges
¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro, both leaves and tender stems
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens

 

Directions:
On a clean cutting board, thoroughly pat both sides of fish dry. Season the fish with sprinkle with salt on both sides and set aside.

Pickle the chilies: In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons lime juice and chilies. Set aside until ready to serve.

To Make the fried ginger topping: Set a paper towel lined plate aside for the fried ginger. In a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet set over medium-high heat, add the oil. Sauté the ginger in oil for 30 seconds to 1 minute until it appears golden brown. Err on the side of caution here, as there will be some residual carryover cooking, and the ginger will continue to darken in color (if the ginger burns, you will need to start over).

Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the ginger and oil mixture into a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Evenly scatter the strained ginger from the sieve to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Reserve the ginger oil.

Using a clean paper towel or a kitchen towl, wipe the pan clean, removing any residual browned bits of crisped ginger. Add strained ginger oil back into the pan and set to medium-low heat. Add shallot, garlic, ginger, green curry paste, chile, and cook, stirring often until the shallots become translucent and the rest of the ingredients become aromatic, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.

Add coconut milk, fish sauce and brown sugar to the pan. Whisk together until combined and sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer. Carefully add the catfish fillets and turn the heat down to low. Cover and cook until the fish is just cooked through and opaque, about 6 to 8 minutes. When cooked, the fish will transform from translucent to opaque and gently flake when prodded with a fork. You can also use a thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should be between 140°F and 145°F. Using a slotted spoon or a fish spatula, gently remove the fish from the pan and divide among the serving bowls. Note: The thinner pieces will cook faster than thicker ones. The liquid should be just barely simmering, with small bubbles so make sure to adjust the heat as needed.

Add bok choy to the coconut milk broth and turn heat to medium-low. Cook bok choy until leaves are wilted and stems are tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Simmer the coconut milk for an additional 3 to 5 minutes on medium heat until it thickens and reduces slightly. The broth should not appear watery at all—it should coat the back of a spoon like a thick curry. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning with more fish sauce, brown sugar, or lime juice as needed.

To serve, divide bok choy evenly alongside the fish and ladle coconut milk broth over each portion. Top with the fried ginger, pickled chilies, chopped cilantro, scallions and a good squeeze of lime, and serve with remaining wedges on the side. Garnish with flaky salt, if desired.

 

 


Chilean Sea Bass with Shiitake Mushroom Broth

 

 

This dish is the kind that, with a little experience, many good home cooks could assemble from scratch, without consulting a recipe. The aromatic triumvirate of garlic, ginger and scallions is matched with soy sauce, rice vinegar and fish sauce. Shiitake mushrooms give substance and flavor, cornstarch thickens and sesame oil adds a taste of toasty richness.

You can spoon the sauce over the poached fish, but it will also work just as well with grilled, pan-seared or broiled fish, or on stir-fried strips of chicken breast, slivers of pork or beef, shrimp or scallops. Steamed rice could help soak up the sauce as well.

 

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ⅓ pounds sea bass or gray sole fillets
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • ½ cup chopped scallions
  • 7 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, or snipped chives (Optional)

 

 

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 175 o F. Place chicken stock in a wok or skillet, and bring to a simmer. Cut fish into pieces about 3 inches square, place in stock, and simmer until just cooked, about 5 minutes. Use spatula to transfer to heatproof platter, cover loosely with foil, and place in oven. Drain and strain stock, and reserve. Wipe out pan with a clean paper towel.

 

Heat peanut oil in pan. Add garlic, ginger and scallions. Sauté briefly, and add mushrooms. Sauté until wilted. Add soy sauce, vinegar and fish sauce. Cook 30 seconds, then add reserved stock. Bring to a simmer. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tablespoons cold water, and add, stirring. Simmer until sauce has thickened. Add sesame oil.

 

To serve, transfer fish to a shallow bowl and spoon mushroom sauce over the fish. Gransih with a scattering of with cilantro or chives. Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

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Nikki Giovanni’s Butter-Fried Chicken

Great food, a bottle of wine and great literature go hand in hand…….

New York Time journalist Elizabeth Harris interviewed the poet Nikki Giovanni for an article that appeared in the newspaper during the week of December 14,2020. Giovanni, 77, whose 19th collection of poems, “Make Me Rain,” came out this Fall. In the course of their discussion, Giovanni told  Harris about the butter-fried chicken she makes for dinner sometimes. That recipe didn’t make it into the final copy of the interview, but Harris did share Giovanni’s recipe with the rest of us in a .a brief excerpt found in the NYT Cooking column on-line.

It’s not so much a recipe as it is a no-recipe recipe, like the one’s our Grandmothers would hand down by word of mouth, and it results in an excellent chicken dish. The texture of the outer layer is crispy and the inner part is juicy and tender.  And in Giovanni’s own words:

“I’m a Southern cook so I use whatever is around. Cut the chicken up or if you are lucky and working purchase wings. There is no such thing as too much butter. A half stick is usually good, though. Put a couple of cloves of garlic in the skillet to let them simmer. I like to rub the wings with ginger but I forgot to tell you a shake or two of nutmeg really helps. If summer, get your rosemary from the garden or your tarragon or whatever is green growing. Do not roll a lot of flour on them. Just enough to cover then shake off. Do not batter them. You are not, after all, a chef trying to stretch your money.”
“Cook that floured chicken slowly,” Giovanni emphasized. “If you don’t have time to slowly fry,” she wrote, “then remember the old blues song: ‘Come back tomorrow and try it again.’   

It really takes the hand of an experienced cook to fry chicken in butter as it is a slow and tedious process. Scientifically, it is possible to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts in butter, provided the temperature is kept below the 350° F frying point without danger of burning the chicken and the milk proteins found in the butter, as you find in Italian cuisine. As for bone-in chicken with the skin on, butter helps the skin to go brown because the milk solids in the butter brown, but it doesn’t make the chicken crispier by any means. Butter is used for colour and flavor. For that very reason, we adapted Nikki Giovanni’s recipe and we recommend frying the chicken in a combination of vegetable oil and butter, after thoroughly drying your bird, and reducing the temperature while frying the chicken to a slow simmer. This slow simmering of the chicken in butter is reminiscent of the term, à la meunière, which can be roughly translated as, in the manner of miller’s wifein reference to a French cooking technique in which a whole fish or  fish fillets are lightly dusted in flour and then sautéed in butter. The technique is easily adapted by replacing the main ingredients or incorporating additional elements.

Try it for dinner and see if it doesn’t suit your taste. We think it’s delicious, warm and fragrant, and is most  excellent when paired with  a nice Chardonnay! 

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
One 3-4 lb chicken cut up, or 3 pounds of thighs, drumsticks and wings
1 cup all purpose flour
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 garlic cloves
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 stalk of celery
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 stick of unsalted butter
 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 175 º F.

To prepare a draining station, set a wire rack in a rimmed baking pan. lined with paper towels; set aside.

Using clean paper towels, pat the chicken dry. Season with salt and pepper and set aside on a clean plate.

In a large bowl, add flour, salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg, allspice and oregano. Mix them well until it is all incorporated.

Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour mixture. Shake off the excess flour and set aside on a rack to dry. Repeat the same dredging process for the remainder of the chicken pieces.

Add the  vegetable oil to a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the  oil  to 350 ºF. Add the butter, garlic cloves, rosemary and celery stalk. Add the chicken, and shallow fry for 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to fry the chicken for 15 to 20 minutes. Using tongs, turn and rotate the chicken pieces every few minutes to ensure even cooking and prevent the skin from burning, until the chicken is golden brown in color and the internal temperature of the chicken is 165° F (See Cook’s Notes Below).  

Transfer chicken to the prepared paper towel lined tray, and drain the chicken. Transfer the chicken to the oven to keep warm and repeat frying the rest of the chicken.

Serve immediately with your choice of tabasco sauce and side dishes, like potato salad, coleslaw, collard greens, or green beans.

 

Cook’s Notes:

As an alternative to using a mix of vegetable oil and butter, you can also use Crisco Butter Flavor Shortening. For the record, Crisco shortening has 50 percent less saturated fat than butter and 0g trans fat per serving. It is excellent for frying, and great for baking – giving you higher, lighter-textured baked goods, in addition to adding  a rich buttery flavor to foods.

While frying the chicken, cook slowly of medium-low heat, just about to a simmer, to prevent the flour from burning.

Use thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken, being careful not to touch the bones. Don’t be afraid to break the chicken’s crust to take the meat’s internal temperature; it should read 165 ° F.  Drumsticks/thighs are also done at 175 ° F.  Being on the safe side, a broken crust is vastly preferable to undercooked chicken. Plan on the whole process of  frying chicken to taking around 15–25 minutes, keeping in mind that white meat will cook faster than dark.

 

Recommended Products:

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Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose by Nikki Giovanni 

Butter Flavor Crisco All Vegetable Shortening, 48 oz.

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Combo Cooker, 2-Piece Set 

Saferell Instant Read Digital Food Thermometer

 

 

Hello Friends!

All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you!