Saturday, February 05, 2011

Baked Stuffed Fish Recipe

This is a modification of a baked cod dish* my college room mate (and cousin) would make. Any white fish will do, but cod is really good. Haddock is really nice too--the key is good quality fresh fish.

*It has been a long time, but the main differences (that I can remember) are that he did not pre-cook the onion and used bread crumbs instead of cracker crumbs.

First: Make the stuffing by dicing and then cooking one medium sized onion till golden, Then add fresh parsley and/or celery--the leafy top parts are best. This is done in a fair amount of olive oil, butter, ghee (clarified butter) or some combination of these.

Next, cover the bottom of a well oiled metal baking pan or ceramic dish with crumpled (just crush in your hands) Ritz crackers. Choose a vessel just large enough for the fish to fill it in one layer. It is easiest to entirely fill the area available if the fish is cut into roughly 2 oz pieces.

Prepare a coating for the fish by mixing (this is for around one pound of fish) 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sour cream and a tablespoon or two each of mustard and mayonnaise. Coat the fish on both sides and lay gently onto the crumbs in the bottom of the pan.

Crush Ritz crackers into the cooked onion stuffing in the pan you cooked the onion in and gently mix with your fingers. It should take around twice as many crackers for the stuffing as it took to coat the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the fish evenly and then bake at 330 F for around 30 minutes.

You can test if the fish is done by looking to see if the flesh is opaque. The dish should be very moist but not soupy and the topping just starting to brown. Serve with fresh lemon. The mustard and sour cream give a bit of tartness, so you may find yourself using less lemon or skipping this condiment for this dish.

Luxury and Necessity

Everything I did at the start of today was stuff that really doesn't need to be done--at least not by me, but for various reasons I did them anyway.

First, I released the hound. Well, our Caviler King Charles Spaniel, from her crate and took her for a walk. Normally my wife does this as it is primarily her dog, but it is nice for her to sleep-in every once in a while.

While everybody was sleeping, I set about roasting coffee. Yes, I am aware that it can be purchased pre-roasted but it is far better, in terms of the cost of quality beans and freshness to do this yourself. It does smoke-up the house and is a pain and is still well-worth the extra effort.

After breakfast, my wife had plans to make a few ground beef intensive dishes and so I did my part by grinding the meat. Again, it is cost and quality; nice chuck roast is inexpensive and makes a far superior hamburger than what the store grinds for you, also it is fresher when you do it yourself.

There is some definition of luxury as having things done for you and I can see the logic in that. But for me, a more important kind of luxury is having a superior experience; a perfectly cooked meal or a great tasting cup of coffee. Work provides rewards. If you work hard at your job, you will generally make more money, with which you can get more or nicer things. By the same token, extra work in your home life pay off in the same way. The effort of being a skilled cook pays-off in inexpensive yet fancy eating.

Necessity intrudes though. The unremitting snow this Winter has resulted in ice dams and a bit of leakage into the house. Today was relatively warm and drizzly, a combination which will transform the two and a half feet of snow on the roof into an even larger problem. The situation demanded action! Up on the roof I went, snow shovel in hand.

Nothing could be closer to civilization than the roof of a suburban house. Yet, in the thigh-deep snow, I felt like a wilderness explorer. The work was very physical in that it took a lot of strength as well as aerobic effort. It is also a two story house, so mortality was on my mind. As it was, the troublesome ice dams provided a flat surface along the edge of the roof. The slope helps but the huge volume and mass of the snow to be removed has left my body in a jelly-like state almost 6 hours later.

Necessity is reactive and sucks. All the effort is just to avoid consequences which are greater than the effort it takes to prevent them.