Geek Chef

Panko & Coconut Crusted Escolar with Grilled Baby Bok Choy

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I’m not a fish eater. I like Salmon every once in a while and filet of sole (or flounder) in Franchaise sauce, but that’s pretty much it. And the second I eat something “fishy”, I’m off fish for a month or so before having the stomach to try, try again. I’ll happily eat sushi and I’d love to indulge in grilled rare tuna steaks more often…provided someone else wants to foot the bill.

One affordable fish I do love, however, is escolar, also know as Butter Fish. Boy oh boy, is it delicious, BUT there is a reason sushi restaurants serve it in limited quantities when they serve it at all. I’ll get into that later. Escolar is rich, super delicate in flavor, fresh, and almost sweet. It’s much less expensive than Tuna, but, like it’s red relation, it’s excellent for those who swear they “…don’t like fish.”

Inspired by Ming Tsai, I wanted to make a version of crispy fish without having the added calories and heaviness that comes with frying. Using his cooking method combined with my own flavors ended in crispy, summery, deliciously bright fish that was perfectly complimented by smokey grilled baby bok choy and a spicy lime cream sauce.

The recipe:

Two 4oz. center filet cuts of escolar, no blood line and as uniform in shape and thickness as possible.

1/2 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup panko

1/3 cup coconut flakes

3 TBSP olive oil

Cream Sauce, served under fish and on the side:

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

3 TBSP sour cream

The juice and zest of 1 lime

1-2 tsp red pepper flakes or wasabi paste/powder

1/2 avocado, optional

1 tsp salt

Grilled Baby Bok Choy:

6 heads baby bok choy, split in half the long way

2 TBSP olive oil

2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 TBSP ginger, ground into paste

1/2 tsp chili oil, optional

1 TBSP ponzu

For the sauce, combine everything in a bowl to a smooth consistency and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

For the fish, rinse and pat dry your filets. Set up the flour and beaten eggs in two separate shallow bowls. In a third bowl or dish combine the panko and coconut flakes. Lightly coat all sides of the escolar in the flour, gently shaking of the excess. Dip into the beaten eggs and then into the coconut/panko mixture, making sure each side is coated. Place to the side.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a medium oven safe pan (I used cast iron) heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Once the oil is nice and hot turn the heat down to medium and put the fish top side (serving side/pretty side) down in the pan and cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Once nice and tan, flip the fish and place the entire pan into the oven to cook the fish through, about 7-8 minutes.

To complete this dish with grilled bok choy, pre heat your grill on high. Take the liquid ingredients and ginger, and whisk together in a bowl. Paint the mixture liberally over the cut sides of the baby bok choy. Place on the grill cut side down, and grill for 2 minutes. Flip bok choy and continue cooking one minute on other side.

To plate this dish, I did a zig zag drizzle of the creamy sauce on one side of the plate, piled the bok choy high on the other side, and placed the Escolar right onto the sauce. It was light, bright, crunchy, summery, smokey, and well balanced. I can’t wait to make this again in the near future.

Now, 4oz doesn’t seem like a large serving, but if you’re still hungry have some sticky rice or a salad, NOT more fish! It’s nicknamed Butter Fish for good reasons: It’s rich, indulgent, and so fatty that too much of it will make your body be unable to digest it, expelling it opposite your mouth rather quickly. Yes, over 5 oz of the stuff can turn it into the Olestra of the fish world, so definitely partake, but do so within reason. Besides, 4 oz is a healthy serving of any protein; we’re just used to HUGE sizes that are unnecessary.

Chicken Soup Can Go to Hell: What My Soul Needs is Tom Yum Goong

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A while back a few friends had us over for a dinner party. After spending a few weeks in different areas of Indonesia and Thailand, these friends had picked up different local recipes they wanted to try out on their home turf. Delan was kind enough to share one of the recipes on to me, and I’ve finally built up the guts to make it myself.

It’s Tom Yum Goong, a spicy and sour soup served with lemon grass and shrimp. From the first bite (or slurp), I realized this soup was what my life had been missing. I had had cravings for the multi-layered flavors in this soup my entire life, yearning for the freshness, the sweet, the nasal clearing spice, and never even realized it until that first moment of taste.

Chicken soup can go to hell. What my soul needs is Tom Yum.

To make this soup even more special, most of the ingredients must be purchased from specialized Asian markets – especially when you live in Texas. Ironically, the closest one to me is a place called MT Market. The first time I heard of the place, I wondered why anyone would name their shop “Empty”.

Here’s the shopping list:

1lb prawns/shrimp cleaned and deveined. I like a larger shrimp, but what ever your preference will work.

7-10oz. stalk mushrooms. When you get enough of these deliciously thin stalk fungi swirling around in the broth, they act just like noodles.

3 stalks lemon grass cut into 2 inch segments.

4 lime leaves, torn.  I couldn’t find these any where, but if you can find it don’t chop these suckers. Just tear them.

1/2 cup galangal in slices. This is from the ginger family and the stuff we get here is usually grown in Hawaii.

1 cup cilantro. The recipe actually calls for a bunch of coriander. Do you know what fresh coriander leaves are? They’re cilantro.

3 TBSP chili oil/paste. Normally I’d use Srirachi, but this particular recipe noted Nam Prik Pow. I couldn’t find that, so I used 2 TBSP of chili oil and 1TBSP of srirachi. And it was spicy. Burn-your-lips spicy. So keep your own heat tolerance in mind when you make this.

1/4 cup lime juice. Limes are cheap – Get your self 4-6 limes and use the fresh stuff!

1/2 TBSP lime zest. I used this because I couldn’t find lime leaves, but the original recipe does not call for it.

5 tsp fish sauce. If you don’t have fish sauce you can use salt, but fish sauce is available everywhere, even Walmart, and it’s flavor in this is worth it.

1/2 cup coconut milk

4 cups water. Austin water is pretty questionable what with the mold and all. I don’t mind using it for pasta, but for this I used bottled stuff.

Put the water on to boil. Once it’s rolling, throw in the galangal, lemon grass, mushrooms, lime leaves (if you found them, other wise use the lime zest), and the fish sauce.

Bring back up to a boil and toss in the shrimp and coconut milk.

Bring to a boil again; this all doesn’t take long at all. Once it reaches a boil again, turn off the heat.

Add the chili oil/paste and the fresh chopped coriander-better-known-as-cilantro. Just before serving, add the lime juice.

The lime juice must be added right before serving to create the fresh and sour flavor.

I love the way the chili oil dances around the edges and top of the soup. You can make it with chicken, but if you follow the directions you simply can’t cook the shrimp wrong and they go so well in this. Make it when you’re sick to perk you up and clear your sinuses. If it’s too spicy for you, drizzle an additional tablespoon or two of coconut milk over your serving and stir to quell that fire right down. Chip actually dumped his rice right into the center of his bowl, making it a bit like a gumbo. And I looooove the mushrooms; they’ve got the perfect texture and are like uber healthy noodles.

This amazing, fresh, sour, and spicy concoction stands beautifully on it’s own or serve it with a bit of sticky rice and a beer on the side to quell the heat.

Also, don’t eat the galangal or lemon grass; I suppose you could, but they’re really just for flavor and quite woody.

 

Honey Butter Almond Pancakes

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This all started because I woke up wanting waffles. We have no waffle iron and I find most experiences of getting waffles out at a restaurant ultimately disappointing. Be that as it may, I crave waffles no less than 164 times a year. I eat them maybe once a year. And, generally, only in the lobby breakfast area of a Holiday Hotel Inn “continental” breakfast nook.

Inevitably, I wind up making pancakes for myself at home approximately bi-monthly. It soothes the rage of Waffle-Want, but only for a brief period. So, low and behold, before long I wake up wanting waffles.

“I want waffles!” I demanded, sitting straight up in bed.

“Make pancakes…” moaned my ever patient husband, used to the tumultuous need for waffles ever present in our marriage.

I padded down the hall to the kitchen, threw open the cupboards and found – NO Bisquik.

Shit.

I stomped back to bed and crawled under the blankets, defeated.

“Why don’t you just make pancakes from scratch?” My smart ass husband interjected into my moody undercover bitching.

“What am I : a lumberjack?!” I snarled back.

“My father used to make pancakes from scratch all the time,” Chip defended.

“YOUR FATHER WAS A LUMBERJACK!” I roared. His dad really was a lumberjack, I wasn’t kidding.

“So? It can still be done,” answered my husband quietly smiling, like the personification of The Little Book of Calm.

Well, since he put it that way, I thought maybe it can be done. And so that’s what I did: I bucked up and made some pancakes from scratch.

Fluffy Honey Butter Pancakes

The trick to fluffy, light pancakes to to leave your batter void of any eggs. You want thin, dense pancakes? Good for you; add an egg or two. Me? I like my pancakes about as dense as I like people, i.e. not at all.

  • 1  cup milk
  • 2 TBSP white vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 TBSP honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
  • 1 TBSP Almond butter, if you got it/want it. It’s totally optional.
  • 2 TBSP butter, melted

Combine the milk and vinegar and set aside. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder & soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Then whisk in the milk and vinegar mixture, butter, honey, extract, and almond butter if using. If the mixture seems to dry, add milk at a tablespoon at a time, up to an additional 1/4 cup. It should be relatively thick, but smooth, and pour slowly, but smoothly off the whisk. Heat a pan, skillet, whatevs, over medium-medium high heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray even if the pan is non-stick. Once bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake and the first few pop, check the underside with a spatula. If the bottom is golden brown, flip and continue cooking an additional 1 minute to 1.5 minutes.

This will feed two ridiculously hungry adults, but they will have to take a serious nap in order to digest it. I recommend making this for 3-4 people.

Then keep your breakfast classy by serving with bacon and Aunt Jemima, but only if you’re out of Mrs. Buttersworth.

Please excuse the poor quality of this photo. As I was setting it up, I noticed my super chubbs kitty (Polly) suddenly hiding behind our mini plant in an attempt to score some bacon and maple syrup.

Chicken Scampi Twist: Creamy & Spicy!

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I made shrimp scampi last weekend and it was A. May. Zing. This is not that recipe, but I will add that soon.

Since the shrimp, however, I’ve been craving scampi again, but my boyfriend isn’t much of a seafood guy. So, I relent: I get to make scampi and he gets to eat it with chicken.

The thing about Shrimp scampi is that it’s lighter to accentuate the natural flavor of the shell fish. Chicken is versatile because it’s natural flavor is next to nil. The simplicity of the basic shrimp scampi sauce is too delicate and and dry for chicken, so I decided to make a bit of a creamy base and a dash of red pepper to give the chicken a bit of an oomph.

My first pet peeve of standard chicken scampi: ghostly chicken. I like my chicken browned.  On top of being more visually appetizing, browning the chicken will leave delicious brown bits in the pan that I can add to flavor sauce. This doesn’t cook the chicken through!I I’m just browning it. As I’ve mentioned in other recipes, I also don’t like when things are needlessly oily or fatty. Yes, butter is totally marvelous, but that doesn’t mean we have to drown in it. I’m not even referring to this in a healthy way; too much is just not appetizing. With this recipe I reduced  the oil and butter significantly: Your average scampi calls for 2 cups of butter or 1 cup butter with a 1/4 olive oil. This recipe uses a mere 4 TBSPs of butter and 1 TBSP of olive oil. And it was freakin’ awesome.

I took…

8oz chicken tenderloins, rinsed and dried

2/3 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 TBSP olive oil

I mixed together the salt, pepper, and flour, and dredged the chicken tenders in it, shaking off an excess. I then browned the chicken over medium high heat in oil, about 2 minutes per side.

After my chicken was golden and piled high, it was time to start on the sauce!

1/3 cups milk

4 TBSP butter, tossing two TBSPs in the left over flour dredge

3 cloves crushed garlic

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 lemon

salt

black pepper

I Then deglazed the pan in a way I’ve never done before: Turning off the heat I poured 1/3 milk into the pan, whisking constantly – I wanted to deglaze, not cook my milk. Once the bubbling subsided, about 30 seconds, I whisked in the butter coated in flour. This was the start of my sauce. Turning the heat back on to medium I added the rest of the butter. Immediately followed the wine, stock, garlic, red pepper, and parsley. Then I reincorporated the chicken to continue cooking through while in the the tweaked scampi.

After 7 minutes, I removed the chicken, now cooked through, and reduced the sauce. I whisked in the Parmesan cheese, squeezed in the juice of 1/2 lemon, and added salt and pepper to taste. Served with 8oz pasta, garlic bread, and steamed asparagus, this was an exciting, flavorful, and filling twist on basic scampi. It was so delicious, I’m not sure I’ll have scampi with with shrimp again.

*Side note: Seriously, this was fantastic. It came out so good that even 24 hours later I can’t stop thinking about it.

*T-Rex also enjoyed the scampi