Monday, June 15, 2009

Fish poached in fresh chile oil

My post, back in March, about slow poaching fish in butter was no doubt received with a chorus of yawns. You guys can read the New York Times as well as I can and don't need me to tell you that adding a handful of scallions to their recipe is a good idea.

This is a variation on that technique using a recipe from another NYTimes article--this one about cooking over wood fires:
"That smoke is a guilty pleasure. It gives so much flavor, it makes most marinades and rubs unnecessary. But a bright and balanced sauce, like the honey-sweetened gremolata in “Seven Fires,” adds a note of sophistication.

"So does the fresh dried chili oil from Russell Moore, the chef and an owner of Camino, in Oakland, Calif., a restaurant where almost everything is cooked with a wood fire. This time of year Mr. Moore grills asparagus and spring onions, then tops them with a chili oil he makes from mild dried New Mexican chilies, pounded garlic and chopped mint. The result has so much body and flavor it’s more salsa than sauce. Mr. Moore describes it as “a super-rough harissa.”

"The recipe is really a template — you can use any mild chili, such as chihuacle or mulatto, and any herb — and drizzle it over whatever vegetable looks good that week, from artichokes to new potatoes to escarole to summer chanterelles. “You want all the freshness of the seasons in there, and three strong flavors,” Mr. Moore said."

I'm not drizzling it over grilled vegetables so at least I've got something original to contribute here.

I used:
2 ancho peppers [Dried poblanos. Quite mild.]
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup mixed fresh oregano and cilantro leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

I crushed the peppers by hand in a small bowl and added just enough boiling water to cover--no more than a Tablespoon or two--and let it hydrate for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I crushed the garlic and finely chopped the herbs. When the time was up, I added both the the peppers, mixed in the olive oil and a couple big pinches of salt and let it rest in the refrigerator for a couple hours.

The fish I used was whiting, but something a little firmer would be a better choice. I changed the technique a little this time since I, on a whim, made hash browns while the fish was defrosting and the chile oil's flavors maturing. That meant the pan was hot and had some residual olive oil in it. I took it off the heat and added half an onion coarsely chopped so it could get a little head start in cooking before I added the fish. When it stopped sizzling and the heating element had cooled down I put the pan back on the heat, added about half the chile oil and a couple fillets of the fish, cubed. I let that cook over very low heat for ten minutes, stirring a couple times, before I was happy with the doneness of everything. I spooned a serving over the fried potatoes and added a little fresh chile oil over top.

The fruity flavor the peppers blended with the fruity olive oil and melted into the buttery soft fish which itself blended out into the oil to create a rich sauce. There's no heat, but there's warmth from the peppers that rounds out the flavors nicely. The herbs are subtle--there more as an aroma than an actual flavor. I wouldn't mind if they were stronger. I'd add more next time and maybe warm the mixture up over a low flame briefly to help the flavors infuse. Still, quite nice as is.

Maybe I should have had this with rice or bread to sop up the sauce, but serving it over hash browns actually worked. The fish and onions never browned or crisped so it's nice to have a little caramelized flavor and a bit of crunch. The onions were perfectly al dente, but you want some real crunch too. Also, the potatoes retain their separate flavor while everything else has blended with only minor emphasis if you're eating a piece of fish or onion and it's nice to have a little more variation bite to bite.


LaDivaCucina said...

I'm curious Bill, why did you chop the fish up instead of leaving it as a fillet?

billjac said...

Chopping it up wasn't my first choice. The half dozen fillets in the pack were all frozen into one big chunk and I didn't want to defrost them all so I had to pry one off as best I could. And as it turns out, the best I could wasn't very well at all.

The fillets all had a bit of a glaze on them so you could tell they were originally frozen separately, but they must have warmed up at some point during their travels. I really should stop buying fish at Publix.

LaDivaCucina said...

Shame we live in Florida and can't get a better variety and quality of fish here. I hate buying fish that comes from Thailand or Vietnam!

If you go to Garcias or Casablancas or any other supposed "fish" market you get to choose from a mere handful of varieties. It's maddening esp. after living in Australia and California.

billjac said...

We're all supposed to be eating less fish anyway, what with the dwindling stocks, environmental side effects and mercury and all. Lousy selection just makes that easier to do.