East Indian Sablefish

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    Nicole, Cedar and I just dined on some amazing sablefish the other night. It was so good I thought I would share the recipe. I have done a lot of East Indian cooking in the past (Nicole and I cooked Indian food at a farmers market in Homer, Alaska one summer) and I really like the elaborate, yet still accessible nature of the prep, and complex flavors. I also like that virtually all the spices involved in this type of cooking are almost totally unknown to the average Western dish. The ingredients seem exotic and new and everything smells so good! Although I have done a lot of Indian cooking, oddly it only occurred to me recently to try it with my fish (besides a few salmon curries…). This is my first attempt. Try it and let me know what you think. Oh, and never pay the outrageous spice prices at grocery stores. Either buy them from a locally owned place or from the San Francisco Herb Co. where 1 lb. of cardamom goes for $10!

    When I cook fish, I always keep the fish simple and include lots of side dishes and sauces so eaters of all persuasions can enjoy the meal. If someone just loves the fish by itself, they can eat it that way. If someone wants to bring in some interesting flavors (or even mix and match and make their own) they can with the many sauces and side dishes. Or, if someone doesn’t even like fish (not sure why you invited this person to dinner in the first place…), they can still enjoy the meal by partaking in the side dishes alone. The following is simple version of this ideal.

    This meal consisted of:

    Sablefish – salt and pepper with slices of mango on top cooked in a Pyrex in the oven at 400 for 15-20 minutes.
    Fragrant Rice Pilaf Banaras Style – I was missing a lot of the ingredients so I just added what I had. I have included the complete recipe below but don’t give up if you are short on ingredients. Go for it!
    Sweet Potatoes – I just made this recipe up with what I had: sweet potatoes, tomatoes, coriander, cumin, garam masala, etc.
    Mango Chutney – Like the rice, I was missing most of the ingredients so I just added what I had and it was amazing. I have included the complete recipe below but don’t give up if you are short on ingredients.

    Recipes:

    Sablefish

    Sablefish ready to go in the oven.

    Sablefish ready to go in the oven.

    Ingredients:

    • Coarse salt
    • Pan roasted and lightly ground black pepper (or regular coarse pepper works too). Use a mortar and pestle.
    • Unfiltered olive oil
    • Mangoes

    Preparation:

    1. Defrost a piece of our sablefish overnight in the fridge.
    2. Cut from package over the sink and carefully rinse once under cold tap water.
    3. Pat dry with a paper towel.
    4. place in Pyrex dish. The smaller the dish the better so the delicious  juices that come out of the fish are retained.
    5. Place thin sections of mango on fish, drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    6. Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes or until 130-135 deg. F inside. I baked my for 20 minutes but my oven runs a little cool. You can also turn on the broiler at about 12 minutes to crisp the top a little.
    7. Done! Easy!

    Fragrant Rice Pilaf Banaras Style

    This is what is looks like when you finally take the lid off.

    This is what is looks like when you finally take the lid off.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups basmati rice, the best you can get.
    • 3 tbsp light vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
    • 8 green cardamom pods
    • 10 whole cloves
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 3 inches cinnamon stick
    • 24 black pepper corns
    • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger root
    • 2 tsp salt

    The spices that go into the rice.

    The spices that go into the rice.

    Preparation:

    1. Wash rice 8-10 times in cool tap water or until water is clear. I run my finger through it as the water fills the bowl. The water will be milky then get clear as you get close to 10 washes.
    2. Soak the rice in 4 cups water for 30 minutes. This “relaxes” the grains.
    3. Drain the water from the rice and keep the water for later use.
    4. Put oil in heavy deep skillet (I use a deep large cast iron with lid) over medium heat.
    5. Add all spices (not the ginger) once the oil heats up.
    6. Cook until the spices browns slightly (this can happen fast if the pan is too hot), about 2 minutes. Don’t allow the spices to over toast.
    7. Add the rice, mix with spices and oil, and fry for for about 3 minutes.
    8. Add the reserved water, ginger, and salt and mix well. Do not stir past this point.
    9. Reduce heat to very low, partially cover and simmer for 8 minutes or until surface water is gone and tiny holes cover the surface.
    10. After 8 minutes, cover with the lid, lift pan 1 inch off burner, reduce heat to the lowest possible setting and cook for another 8-10 minutes. It can be a trick to lift the pan 1 inch above the burner. I take one the burner grills from another burner and place it over the burner grill I am using so there are two stacked together. This does the job. Or, you can use two pan lids on either side of the burner and balance the pan on those. It doesn’t have the pretty!
    11. Take the pan off the heat and let stand for a further 5 minutes without removing the lid.
    12. Remove lid and fluff with two forks. Be very careful with it at this point because it will be delicate and cooked to perfection. it’s good form to not break many of the rice kernels.

    Notes:

    The best East Indian cook book on earth is Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni. Julie’s writing is so colorful and descriptive and she gives a brief background on each dish, how and when the locals eat it and what to eat with it. She is very warm and always excited about everything–she’s like the Lynne Rossetto Kasper of the east!

    Sweet Potatoes

    All done.

    All done.

    Ingredients:

    • 3 tbsp ghee, vegetable oil or coconut oil
    • 3 tsp whole coriander seeds
    • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
    • 3 tsp garam masala. I make my own and keep it around, but it can be purchased as well. 
    • 2 tsp pepper flakes. The ones I have are not hot, they just add a little something and look nice.
    • 2 tsp salt or to taste
    • 1 tsp chili powder or to taste
    • 3 tsp fresh ginger finely chopped or grated
    • 1 onion diced
    • 2-4 cloves garlic
    • Tomatoes–1 can crushed or 4-5 fresh deseeded
    • 2 sweet potatoes, skinned and boiled, steamed or microwaved until just cooked
    • 1/2 cup plain yogurt

    Preparation:

    1. I really faked it on this on this one so no reference or recipe was used. I listed volumes of each ingredient but honestly I didn’t keep close track, I just went for it. I have the feeling this will taste amazing in almost any combination.
    2. Heat oil in heavy pan over medium heat.
    3. Add onion and brow just slightly.
    4. Add garlic and good for 30 seconds. Always cook garlic very lightly.
    5. Add all spices and lightly toast, another 1-2 minutes.
    6. Mix in tomatoes and ginger.
    7. Add cooked sweet potatoes and mix carefully so they don’t break up too much. A little breakage is OK as this will help make the sauce.
    8. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes. Most watery liquid should be gone.
    9. Add yogurt, mix, and cooked a minute or two longer.

    Notes:

    Mango Chutney

    Adding the mango to the hot oil and spices.

    Adding the mango to the hot oil and spices.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 ripe but still firm fresh mangoes. Remove from the seed, remove the skin, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. I like Philippine mangoes as they are never stringy and taste fabulous!
    • 1.5 tbsp coconut oil.
    •  3 tbsp apple cider vinegar.
    •  3 tbsp raw sugar. Or any sugar really.
    • 3 tbsp fresh ginger grated or chopped fine.
    • 1 tsp curry powder
    • Salt to taste.

    The mango cooking with the oil and spices.

    The mango cooking with the oil and spices. You can see it has a way to go before it really forms a sauce.

    Preparation:

    1. I also really faked it on this one. But I am confident that almost any combination of ginger, vinegar, mangoes and sugar will be pretty good. At the end you can add more vinegar or sugar to make it sweeter or more vinegary.
    2. Heat the oil in a pan.
    3. Add the spices and cook for a minute, browning slightly. I added some garlic but I don’t think that was an important part of the flavor and I would probably skip it next time.
    4. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over low heat until the sauce thickens. You can crush some of the mango pieces to help create the sauce.

    Everything is done except the sablefish!

    Everything is done except the sablefish!


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