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Fish, Fresh from the Gulf, Hungry for Louisiana, Lent

Fridays are getting’ fishy: succulent salmon en papillote for Lent

February 11, 2016

Lent in the Bayou State cracks me up.

Here in heavily Catholic south Louisiana, there’s a rush to self-sacrifice every Ash Wednesday, the day after Fat Tuesday. Lots of people give stuff up — from chocolate to gossip to alcohol — to signify their piety and, for sure, to make up for the sins of Carnival. And the other big part of the Lenten experience is the Friday meat fast, when burgers and pepperoni pizza are out, and fish of all sorts is the seasonal rockstar.

What this means for all of us, Catholic or not, is that Friday restaurant menus are dripping in delicious, creative and indulgent seafood dishes using local crawfish, crab, seafood and fin fish.

What sacrifice. Poor us.

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Fish, Louisiana

Summer supper: Dijon encrusted fresh fish

June 1, 2015

Mild, white fish needs a little help to shine. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is by painting one side of the fillet with Dijon mustard before breading and pan-frying. The tangy mustard is a great foil for the fish’s neutral flavor, lacing it with punchiness and locking in its juices.

This is a dish designed to please modern families. It’s affordable, flavorful, appealing to children and ready in 10 minutes. You can dress it down with Cole slaw and baked beans, or up with fresh asparagus or broccoli rabe. And its preparation requires only a few dishes.

Serves Four

4 mild, white fish fillets, such as flounder, tilapia, catfish, grouper or speckled trout
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
½ cup corn meal
½ teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil for frying
Fresh lemon and herbs for garnish
Mango salsa (optional)

Place fillets in a pie plate and pour milk over them, ensuring each is wet on both sides. In another pie plate, or on a large dinner plate, add bread crumbs, corn meal, salt and pepper. Blend with a fork. Place mustard in a small bowl. Lift each fillet from milk, slather one side with about a tablespoon of mustard, then dredge fish in bread crumb mixture on both sides, starting with the mustard side. Gently shake off excess, and place fillets on clean plate.

Heat about 3-4 tablespoons olive oil to medium high in large skillet, or enough to thoroughly coat bottom of pan. When oil is hot, add fillets. Cook for two minutes on one side, then carefully flip and cook two minutes on the other side.

Serve immediately with fresh lemon, chopped herbs and a side of store bought or homemade mango salsa.