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Bland fish challenge

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Dale Williams

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Bland fish challenge

by Dale Williams » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:18 am

So tomorrow I need to make dinner. Leaning towards fish, as we haven't had in a few days. But I am in opposite direction from any of my usual fishmongers during day. I will be right by Stew Leonards (huge dairy/grocery) so I looked at their specials (with seafood outside of quality fish mongers my theory is buy what's on special -turnover helps). Shrimp (we just had) or tilapia. Oh, tilapia, the queen of bland fish. I had never been impressed when served, and think I've never actually bought. OK, I confess, I use tilapia as a pejorative. But maybe that's me. So maybe I should expand my horizons (its cheap, widely available, and if from US farms a good choice for sustainability). So looking for ideas. Here are my criteria
1) I have at most one hour from time I get in door with groceries before I need to have on table (Betsy leading a meditation group at 7:30)
2) I'm never going to be offered a stage at a restaurant. I'm at best a middling cook. So nothing TOO complicated
3) have some Korean banchan as sides, so Asian prep a plus but not requirement.

Ideas? I can always say the hell with it and head to get "real" fish, but though maybe I should overcome my tilaphobia.
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Jeff Grossman/NYC

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Jeff Grossman/NYC » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:08 am

I don't know a damn thing to with tilapia, either. Fish sticks?
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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Rahsaan » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:17 am

Dale Williams wrote:3) have some Korean banchan as sides, so Asian prep a plus but not requirement..


Do you have any pre-made sauces on hand? I have an Asian chili sauce that I use for bland tofu dishes that whacks gutsy delicious flavor all over everything and is perfect for this kind of situation. I don't normally use these types of things, but with tilapia you can't go delicate and you can't let anyone actually taste the fish!
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Frank Deis

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Frank Deis » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:58 am

I shouldn't bother even mentioning this -- but I can't eat Tilapia.

I had some good friends in grad school who were Tilapia Macrocephala. Minnie the Mouthbreeder was a fish who acted like a dog, excited when I came home, would jump out of the water for a treat of hamburger meat. I had dreams about her and was pretty broken up when she died.

So it feels like cannibalism. I know everyone else eats Tilapia but most of my friends don't order it when they are with me.

FWIW the African cichlids are some of the smartest and most evolutionarily advanced fish. There are quite a few species sold for aquariums, the Jack Dempsey is a popular example. A lot of the speciation happened in places like Lake Victoria.

I'd just get some flounder...
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Fred Sipe

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Fred Sipe » Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:00 am

Sauce Veracruz?

Or baked very simply on a bed of thin sliced onions in olive oil with minced shallots, capers and a few thin sliced green olives then top the fish halfway through with a mixture of melted butter and tomato paste.
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Mark Lipton

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Mark Lipton » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:25 pm

I'd probably make fish tacos out of it. You could just pan fry or grill the fish, slap pieces of it in a corn tortilla with some sliced avocado, shredded cabbage, lime juice, cilantro and a vinegar-based salsa. The flavor of the fish is mostly irrelevant as the other ingredients' flavors dominate. You could give it a more Asian spin by substituting kim chee for the shredded cabbage and a sweet-spicy Asian chili sauce for the salsa, a modification that's not uncommon in SoCal.

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Jenise » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:37 pm

If they're long enough, you could combine bread crumbs, butter, and some chopped shrimp, shallots and fresh or dried herb (tarragon would be great, or thyme for a scampi-like flavor so maybe you make a garlic-vermouth-butter sauce to go over ) into a filler that you could spread on the fish, roll up, secure with a toothpick and roast.
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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Karen/NoCA » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:51 pm

I use this recipe a lot. Done in 25 minutes, one skillet. I have it rated as excellent.
Prep the sauce the night before or in the morning to save even more time. I add capers and fresh lemon zest.

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/tilapia_with_pimiento_sauce/
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Carl Eppig

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Carl Eppig » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:58 pm

It sounds like you are assuming it is U.S. raised. We have never seen such in these parts; it all comes from China. Maybe Stu has better connections. I would used any oriental sauce I had in the fridge. Hoi Sin would be my first choice.
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Dale Williams

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Dale Williams » Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:58 pm

Rahsaan (and Carl), I'm sure we had some garlic chili sauces, hoisin, etc - may try next time I get up tilapia-nerve. Or maybe a miso marinade.

Frank, you've sapped any possible enjoyment out of dinner (sorry about Minnie!)

Mark, good idea, thoughBetsy makes a mean fish taco, and I tend to avoid comparisons.

Jenise, sounds like a nice idea, though I might save that for a fish I'm more excited about.

Carl, previous time they had US, this time it is Honduras, but that is listed by Monterey BA as a "good alternative". The supermarkets have the previously frozen Chinese/Taiwan, I'll just avoid those.

IN the end I think I'm doing a Veracruz as Fred suggested (and might use Karen's recipe as a base, as to me that looks pretty much like a Veracruz prep minus the peppers & capers and with mushrooms added)
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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Mark Lipton » Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:10 pm

Dale Williams wrote:IN the end I think I'm doing a Veracruz as Fred suggested (and might use Karen's recipe as a base, as to me that looks pretty much like a Veracruz prep minus the peppers & capers and with mushrooms added)


Hey, I thought that you didn't want to challenge your cooking skills! :D You might want to tart up the Verzcruz sauce a bit as the traditional sauce isn't terribly assertive (a good thing IMO since it's used traditionally with Huachinango aka Red Snapper, a glorious fish). A few flavorful chiles in it would add an interesting dimension. Maybe some anchos or chipotles en adobo? I think dried chiles would add an interesting bass note to the sauce.

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Fred Sipe

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Fred Sipe » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:09 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:
Dale Williams wrote:IN the end I think I'm doing a Veracruz as Fred suggested (and might use Karen's recipe as a base, as to me that looks pretty much like a Veracruz prep minus the peppers & capers and with mushrooms added)


A few flavorful chiles in it would add an interesting dimension.

Mark Lipton


Yeah, what Mark said. :P
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Dale Williams

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Dale Williams » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:41 pm

yes, we have quite a few types of dried chiles, but I need to check relative heat. Don't want to interfere with my wine. We definitely have canned chipotles in adobo, which (along with capers) were my planned additions to the recipe Karen posted (which definitely is within my simple skills range)
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Frank Deis

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Frank Deis » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:39 am

Snapper Veracruz is a wonderfully tasty dish, regardless of whether you use the "right" fish.
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Dale Williams

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Dale Williams » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:09 pm

So I basically followed Karen's link, but added some leftover chipotles in adobo (about 1/2 or less of one of those little cans), one ancho (just left whole to flavor sauce),capers, and about a 1/2 cup or less of some shrimp stock. Got sauce part going early and then simmered for extra time (about 30 minutes) to get flavor out of the ancho. So sauce was the star, nothing bland about the dish, I can eat tilapia like that. Thanks to everyone for input.
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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Mark Lipton » Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:59 pm

Dale Williams wrote:So I basically followed Karen's link, but added some leftover chipotles in adobo (about 1/2 or less of one of those little cans), one ancho (just left whole to flavor sauce),capers, and about a 1/2 cup or less of some shrimp stock. Got sauce part going early and then simmered for extra time (about 30 minutes) to get flavor out of the ancho. So sauce was the star, nothing bland about the dish, I can eat tilapia like that. Thanks to everyone for input.


Glad that it worked out so well for you, Dale. May your future be filled with more interesting fish than tilapia, the much maligned.

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Mark Lipton » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:07 pm

Frank Deis wrote:
FWIW the African cichlids are some of the smartest and most evolutionarily advanced fish. There are quite a few species sold for aquariums, the Jack Dempsey is a popular example. A lot of the speciation happened in places like Lake Victoria.


Frank,
My wife when I met her had a brackish water tank filled with African cichlids (mostly from Lake Tangyanika IIRC). They are indeed smart and often quite dog-like in certain of their behaviors. The ones I remember the best were julidochromis transcriptus, which are very entertaining mouthbreeders with very interesting faces. The most beautiful were the neolamprologus brichardi ("lyretail cichlids") but they weren't nearly so entertaining to watch. Our son is now militating for a fish tank, so we might get back into cichlid husbandry soon.

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Re: Bland fish challenge

by Bill Spohn » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:15 pm

Like Frank, I was heavily into aquariums and cichlids when a youngster and wouldn't feel quite right eating them, but the best argument against it is that for me, anyway, Tilapia just doesn't taste that good.

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