Tag Archives: crumb

Mission “Learn to like Tilapia” – Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

For some time now I have been wrinkling my nose at tilapia. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sustainability factor of conscientiously farmed raised fish; I do! It’s the taste and the texture of most tilapia that turns me off. In my experience tilapia often has an unpleasant earthy (or muddy) taste and the texture can be mushy even when it’s perfectly fresh and flawlessly prepared. I don’t mean to be a food snob, really I don’t! But compared to all the fresh Atlantic seafood I have the opportunity to catch (well sometimes), or purchase here in South Florida, tilapia just seemed second rate.

Last night however, I decided to give tilapia another chance. Why? Because tilapia has taken over the market in leaps and bounds becoming one the most popular seafood products in the U.S. today. Everywhere I look, from restaurant menus, to grocery stores tilapia has become a recognized value and a very popular request. Hey, what was the old adage…If you can’t beat them, join them? So I picked up a package of fresh tilapia fillets and set out to prove myself wrong.

According to Cooks Illustrated the muddy taste in tilapia is caused by a naturally occurring compound called geosmin which is Greek for “earth smell”. (Go figure!) They said this compound is abundant in the blue-green algae found in the bottom of the man-made ponds that catfish and tilapia are raised in and that the flavor can be diffused by acids. They went on to recommend soaking in buttermilk for an hour before cooking which of course, I didn’t take the time to do.

My thinking in using this recipe was that the yogurt, garlic, and vinegar in the tzatziki would provide enough acid to overcome any unpleasant taste in the fish and indeed it did…somewhat. While the recipe is a keeper that I will definitely use again, I might opt for pre-soaking the tilapia in buttermilk next time (if I don’t use snapper, grouper, or mahi-mahi instead).

Hang on now…don’t fret! I haven’t given up on tilapia yet. After all, I still have 3 big fillets left from that package last night. I think I might try it with an acidic marinade, a Cuban mojo perhaps or some other citrus blend. I’ll keep you posted as mission “Learn to like Tilapia” continues!

Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

2 to 4 – Tilapia fillets (preferably pre-soaked in buttermilk for one hour)
¾ Cup – Japanese Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp – Olive Oil
Zest of one whole lemon
½ Tbsp – Large grind, fresh ground black pepper
Kosher Salt
Tzatziki Sauce (Recipe below)

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat the fillets dry and place them on a lightly oiled, foil covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle the fillets with kosher salt and set them aside while you mix the crumb topping.

In a medium bowl combine the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and pepper then drizzle in the olive oil while stirring. Continue stirring and fluffing the crumbs loosely until the oil, lemon, and pepper has been very well distributed, about 5 minutes.

Spread an approximately 1/8 inch thick layer of tzatziki evenly on top of each fish fillet then sprinkle the crumb mixture over the tzatziki to form an evenly thick coat. Bake for 10 minutes then broil for 1 minute to crisp and brown the topping. Carefully remove from the oven and plate the cooked fillets.

Serve with additional tzatziki and a lemon wedge on the side.

Tzatziki Sauce

2 Cups – Greek Yogurt, plain non-fat
1 small (or 1/2 large) – Cucumber, seeded and grated  (about 1/2 cup)
1 Clove – Garlic, grated fine
1 Tbsp – Red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp – Olive oil
1 good pinch – kosher salt

Grate the cucumber and place it on a paper towel or dish towel, sprinkle it with the kosher salt and let it sit while you prep the other ingredients. In a medium bowl stir together the garlic, vinegar, and olive oil then stir in the yogurt. Finally, gently squeeze any excess moisture out of the grated cucumber and stir into the yogurt mixture until well blended. Taste for seasoning and chill until ready to use.

Enjoy,

Randy

Turkey Croquettes with Pan Gravy

Making the salmon cakes last week brought another old favorite to mind, Turkey Croquettes. The original recipe called for making the gravy with cream of celery soup and although I was tempted I opted for cleaning this one up a little bit and making it fresh. The recipe looks involved but I would honestly consider it intermediate to easy. That reminds me that I have been meaning to mention one of my favorite kitchen tips.

Kitchen Tips: To boost your confidence a little it is always a good idea to read a recipe through start to finish at least once if not twice before you begin preparing it.

Speaking of cleaning it up a friend mentioned possibly converting this recipe into an Atkins Diet version and I think it would be fairly easy to do. For a lower carb gravy you could 1) use almond flour instead of whole wheat flour or 2) eliminate the flour altogether and simply thicken the gravy by boiling it a little longer and allowing the broth time to reduce.

For the croquettes my first thought was simply to eliminate the bread crumbs but that might result in too dense of a croquette. One of the things I really like about this recipe is the lightness of the final product so I think I would prefer to use a cup pork rind crumbs instead of completely doing away with the filler. I know that may sound like an odd substitution but I have tried it in other (low carb) recipes and it works quite well for this type of diet.

Notes: The easiest way that I have found to form these croquettes is to use the lid from a Ball mason jar as a ring mold. To do this, simply set the removable “top” of the mason jar lid aside and lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the ring shaped threaded part of the lid. Now, with the lid sitting top-down on a flat surface use a wooden spoon to press in just enough of the turkey mixture to fill the lid completely, flatten and level off the top, then turn the lid over to gently pop out your formed patty.

Turkey Croquettes with Pan Gravy

For the patties…

1.25 Lbs – Lean ground Turkey
1 Cup – Soft Whole Wheat bread crumbs
1 – Small onion, diced small
1 – Large branch of celery, diced small
1 – Small carrot, grated
1 – Small clove of garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp – Tomato paste
1 Splash – Worcestershire sauce
1 Cup – Chicken stock, divided into ½ cups
1 – Egg, lightly beaten
½ Tsp – Dried tarragon
½ Tsp – Rubbed sage
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil

For the gravy…

2 Tbsp – Whole Wheat flour
2 Cups – Chicken stock
1 Tbsp – Plain yogurt

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrot for two minutes then add the tarragon, sage, and 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Continue cooking stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn translucent then stir in the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in ½ cup of chicken stock and allow the mixture to cook until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the second ½ cup of chicken stock and the minced garlic, allow the mixture to come back to a boil then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl gently break apart the ground turkey then fold in the bread crumbs, egg, and the onion mixture. Gently fold the mixture until all the ingredients are incorporated but not over-mixed. Form the mixture into 10 to 12 equally sized patties and placing them on a foil or wax paper lined cookie sheet as you go. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 10 – 15 minutes to firm up the patties before browning.

In the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and warm over medium heat until the oil is shimmering hot. Swirl the pan to evenly distribute the oil then gently place half of the patties (do not crowd) in the pan. Shake the pan a little to prevent sticking and brown 3 to 4 minutes on each side. When the patties are browned remove them from the pan and place on a cooling rack or paper towel to hold. Wipe the pan and repeat this process until all of the patties are browned. Do not wipe the pan after the last batch saving the oil and browned bits for the gravy.

After the last batch of patties are browned and removed from the pan add two tablespoons of whole wheat flour to the pan and stir to create a roux. There should be just enough oil and flour to create a smooth, almost liquid, paste; add a little more olive oil if the roux seems too dry. Cook, stirring until the flour begins to take on some color, about 5 minutes, then whisk in 1 cup of the broth. When the first cup of broth is incorporated, whisk in the second cup of broth and continue whisking slowly until the gravy begins to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and check the gravy for seasoning. Add kosher salt & fresh ground pepper if needed.

Return the croquettes to the pan coating each one with the gravy, then simmer 10 minutes more. Serve croquettes over rice, egg noodles, or toast points as desired.

Enjoy!

Randy