Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vertical Cuisine

If you have gone out to eat much lately, you will have noticed that stacking is in. So last Saturday night I decided to give it a try with some new favorites. If you substitute a less expensive fish, this dish can be beautiful and economical. Green beans can be used in place of the asparagus.

First layer, risotto. I have only tried this a couple of times, but I think I have a basic method that you can add your own twists to (sauteing other vegetables in the beginning, adding small pieces of blanched or slightly pre-cooked vegetables with the wine, or stirring in fully cooked items at the end). Now since the kids have moved out, I make smaller amounts of things. This will make plenty, with leftovers, for two. If your crew is larger just double it.

Layer One - Risotto with Mushrooms

2 T. olive oil/butter
1/4 C. diced onions
1 C. arborio rice
3 C chicken or beef broth (needs to be hot)
1/3 C white wine (optional, but does give a nice acidic flavor; you could try a bit of lime juice)
1/3 C parmesan or asiago cheese
Variation in picture: 1/4 C sauteed mushrooms)

Saute the onions in your oil. Lately, I have been sauteing things in a half and half mixture of olive oil and butter to take advantage of the advantages of both. Add rice and brown for a few minutes. Add about half of your hot broth and cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally (every four to five minutes). Add the wine next. After the wine is absorbed (3-4 minutes), add the remaining broth, 1/2 C at a time, until the rice is done. (When you pull back the rice and little or no liquid shows on the bottom of the pan, it is time to add more liquid.) You will probably not use all your broth. When making risotto, you are trying to bring out the starch, so you do all the things you are normally not supposed to do when making regular rice, like stirring often and adding hot liquid. When the rice is done, stir in your cheese and serve. I had precooked my mushrooms and just stirred them in when the rice was done also.

Layer Two - Vegetables

I was planning to steam the vegetables but instead I just boiled them in water for about 10 minutes. Since I was serving this stacked, I decided not to do anything else to the vegetables.

Layer Three - Oven Baked Halibut

I used a concept I had gotten from my daughter. I used frozen halibut that had been flash frozen in individual portions and vacuum sealed. The next best thing to fresh, which is hard to get even in the Pacific Northwest at this time of year. Basically, I dipped the thawed fish in 3 coatings and baked in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. You can use any white fish and adjust cooking times as needed.

First, pat the fish dry with a towel, salt and pepper, and dip in flour.

Second, dip in an egg wash of 2 eggs beaten, 3 T. mayonnaise, 2 t. horseradish, 1/2 t. paprika, 1/4 t. cayenne pepper, and 1/4 t. black pepper. (I didn't have horseradish, but I did have a horseradish sauce. I used a tablespoon of that and 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise.)

Third, dip in seasoned bread crumbs. Place fish on a cooling rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. This allows the air to circulate all the way around the fish, and yields a crisper coating on your fish. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

You can make a quick tartar sauce by mixing mayonnaise and relish to taste. I had some zucchini relish that I had canned last summer. I'll share that recipe later. You could also add different seasonings to the egg wash or with the bread crumbs to your own tastes. Serve by candlelight for a lovely Valentine's dinner.

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