Those who read my blog on a regular basis know that I prefer eating whole fish rather than fillets. This preference is not an inflexible rule and nor does it mean that one cannot enjoy a fish fillet.
Today’s dish features a fillet sliced off of a whole sea bream (porgy). The main reason why I prefer (and encourage you) to seek out whole fish is so that you may be assured of eating the freshest fish possible.
A whole fish will allow you to smell the fish (should only smell of the sea), touch it (should be firm and a little slimy), the eyes should be bright and not sunken in or grey. Finally, take a look under the gills – they should be a bright red.
What’s the best fish? Why…it’s the freshest fish. If you don’t have sea bream, fillets of soul, cod, basa or tilapia will work well here too!
The the idea of topping the fish with a potato crust came from a recipe I shared last year in a seafood pie. In that instance, I topped the pie with grated par-boiled potato and I thought to reproduce that combo but with a fish fillet.
This dish is delicious, quick to make and I’d be comfortable serving this on a weeknight or weekend (family or friends). The cooking procedure is pretty straightforward: par-boil your potato, season your fish and pre-heat your oven.
All that you have left to do is decide upon a side dish and perhaps a starter – like a soup or salad. I’ve made this dish twice: one one occasion with some baked chickpeas and last night with some baked mushroom rice.
The baked rice again is very simple: pre-heated 400F oven, 2 1/2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock, 1 cup of long grain rice, 1/4 cup olive oil, pinch of black pepper and about a cup of sliced mushrooms. Mix in the baking vessel and uncovered in your oven for about 40 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff the rice and serve.
The potato crust is very reminiscent of a potato Skordalia – a Greek dip often served alongside battered and fried cod. My selection of potato is a fluffy Russet potato and I’m sure a Yukon Gold would work well here too. Just avoid any waxy, red-skinned potato.
Sea Bream Baked With a Crispy Potato Crust
4 fish fillets (sea bream or other European sea bass), rinsed and patted dry
1 large Russet potato
4-5 cloves of garlic
zest of 1 lemon + 2Tbsp. of lemon juice
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. of paprika
2 Tbsp. of chopped fresh parsley
Pre-heated 400F oven
- Rinse and pat-dry your fish fillets. Drizzle each fillet with some olive oil and rub all over to coat. Now squirt some mustard on the top-side of each fillet. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Place your large Russet potato (with skin on) and garlic cloves into a pot of water and bring to a boil. Season with salt and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain the hot water and replace with cold water and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins and place in a bowl. Mash them with a fork.
- Use the back (dull end) of a knife and peel off the skin (the potato will still be warm). Now take your box grater and grate the potato on the side with the largest hole with a bowl underneath to catch the gratings. Add your zest, lemon juice and chopped parsley and gently toss until amalgamated.
- Divide the grated potato mixture and spread on top of each fish fillet. Drizzle some olive and sprinkle the paprika. Place in your pre-heated oven (one level above middle rack) for 15 minutes. Now move the rack into the broiler position and set your oven to broil. Broil the fish for another 2 minutes or until the potato crisps-up and becomes golden-brown. Carefully remove from oven.
- Serve with a rice pilaf or baked chickpeas and a Pavlou Estate Xinomavro Rose.
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