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Asian Fish Platter

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Our household has been prepping madly for Ironman Lake Tahoe.

This means that every spare moment of my husband’s time is devoted to getting in as many open water swims as possible, doing as much maintenance on his bike as can be conceived, testing out new gear, nailing down nutrition, roping friends into riding next to him while he runs so that it isn’t so mind-numbingly boring, and, like he did Saturday, riding the Ironman course as much as he can.

After only a few interrupted hours of sleep, Mr. Pre-race Madman and I get up at some ungodly hour, and start getting ready. Now I know what you’re thinking. He’s choosing to get up and do this. Why am I going? Well, dumbass me thought it’d be a great way to spend the day.

So we get up, throw stuff in the car, and head up into the hills with our friend Don riding shotgun, and of course, the Monkeybear. About an hour outside of Truckee, however, we have to stop, because mornings, winding roads, and Monkeybears are NOT, as we say in our household, “an excellent combination.” I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, we will be driving up Highway 80 to go to Tahoe from now on.

So now I have to wrestle with a pukey Monkeybear, while exhausted and increasingly round-bellied, in a town I’ve never been to, earlier than most normal establishments are open. Joyous.

I park Monkeybear and myself in a hole-in-the-wall diner. I down a few cups of full-caffeine coffee, a bowl of fruit, and the portion of the pancake that Monkeybear didn’t eat. He, his stomach obviously empty, devours two sausages, some pancake, and half a Pemmican bar. The coffee only serves to heighten the rawness from the fatigue, and put me on edge. I have known for years that caffeine and I are not friends, so this is entirely my fault. Thankfully, the waitresses are very friendly, flirt with the Little Sir, and I have a few moments to mentally prepare myself for the rest of the day.

Truckee is a very pretty town, and by mid-morning, I am ably to consciously recognize that. We get to see lots of bike riders, dogs, and a train come into the station. Around that time, Don decides that he is done with his ride, and Mr. Madman continues on.

Don and I talk for a few hours about a wide variety of topics; he is from a Criminal Justice background like I am, so the topics bounce all around there, and head off into his current job, which has absolutely nothing to do with either his bachelor’s nor his almost-master’s degree. We talk recipes, flavor combinations, and meatloaf in a mug (yes, this is, in fact, a thing. Look it up, and be appalled).

I tell him about the current creative rut I am in. I have made a lot of really good things lately, but nothing that has really impressed me, or if it has, it is blatantly not mine. And he encouraged me to write anyway. To write the things that go well, and the things that go wrong. To write to keep people interested. To not let what critics say about my zucchini brownies get me too down.

This blog post is for Don, who encouraged me to keep posting, even if I am feeling less-than-inspired as of late. And for talking food with me for an afternoon.

So, I mentioned in a prior post that I would share my version of the Seared Ahi Platter from Ashland’s Dragonfly restaurant.  I shall deliver now. The reason I am calling it a “fish” recipe rather than an “ahi” recipe is because of the simple fact that fresh, sushi grade ahi is not easy for your everyday Madman’s wife to come by. That, and I’m not supposed to be eating raw fish for another 7 ½ months.

I will warn you: This is definitely not a weeknight dinner. This is very much a special occasion recipe. This is a dish to impress. It may give you a panic attack. It has several different components that have to be prepared separately, but the end result is one of the best culinary experiences I’ve had the pleasure of having. I will also note here that I am writing this for Swai, a nice, mild white fish. If you can get your hands on some sushi-grade ahi, absolutely use it. Marinate it the same way you do the Swai, but sear it on a high heat instead of cooking it all the way through.

I still haven’t QUITE achieved the greatness of the dish that inspired it, but it’s pretty damn close.

 

Asian Fish Platter

Serves 4

Ingredients:

40 Wonton wrappers (homemade are best, but you can and probably should use store-bought for convenience)

2 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded, and halved

4 cups edamame in the pod, steamed

Coconut Rice:

                2 cups rice

                1 13 oz. can full-fat coconut milk and enough water to make 4 cups of liquid

                Salt to taste

Swai:

                ¼ low-sodium soy sauce

                 1 tsp garlic, pressed

                ½ tsp ginger, finely grated

                1 tsp sesame oil, plus additional for cooking

                2 tbsp sugar

                4 Swai fillets

Wasabi Cream:

                2 tbsp unsalted butter

                ½ c. heavy cream

                The juice of 1 lemon

                1 tbsp. wasabi

                1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

Sweet Soy Sauce:

                Reserved Swai marinate

                3 tbsp sugar

                ¼ c. water

 

Method:

1.  Start your coconut rice. Add all the coconut rice ingredients to a large pot over high heat. Stir to combine, and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce to the setting just above the lowest one on your stovetop, and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat and keep covered for an additional 10-15 minutes minimum.

2. Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of sesame oil on medium in a large skillet. Cook the wonton wrappers until crispy and golden brown, about 1-2 minutes total. Add more oil as needed. Drain on some paper towel, and reserve.

3. Start on your Swai. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and sugar to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat until it just simmers, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.

4. Place your Swai fillets in a heat-proof dish. Pour the marinade over the fillets, and let them soak while you work on the rest of the platter.

5. Make the wasabi cream. Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Whisk in the soy sauce, cream, and lemon juice, then bring to a boil. Cook until thick, and remove from the heat. Whisk in the wasabi. Set aside for later use.

6. Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Remove your Swai fillets from the marinade, and reserve the marinade for later use. Place the fish into the hot oil, and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the fish is cooked through and flaky.

7. Meanwhile, pour the reserved marinade, sugar, and water into a small saucepan to finish the sweet soy sauce. Bring to a boil, and reduce until just thickened. Remove from the heat, and let cool.

8. Final Assembly:

                Slice each avocado half into strips, keeping the shape intact. Place onto the platter.

                Stack 10 wontons into a small tower next to the avocado.

Press the coconut rice into a measuring cup, and then turn out onto the platter, keeping the rice in the shape of the cup.

                Pile one cup of edamame onto the platter.

                Place one fillet of Swai onto each plate.

                Repeat with the remaining platters.

                Serve with generous amounts of sweet soy sauce and wasabi cream.

 

If you have made it this far, I congratulate you. And beg you not to hurt me.

Caramelized Mushy Peas

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I understand that the name itself isn’t all that appetizing. Caramelized sounds good, but mushy? Mushy peas? But hear me out on this. Trust me. I gave you zucchini brownies. Have I lead you astray yet?

In the days before Monkeybear and Baby-to-be, Mr. Two-Ironmans-in-a-year-is-a-GREAT-idea and I went to the British Isles for our honeymoon. We’d already been to England once when I was still in high school, but this was to be a three week getaway, and our first as a married couple.

I sincerely disliked fish at the time. Now that is not the case, but at the time, I really didn’t care for it. But I decided one evening, before seeing Spamalot (which was a riot), that I would try traditional Fish and Chips.

The fish was decent. I didn’t have any trouble eating it. The chips, which to us are really steak fries, I enjoyed. On the side of the plate, however, was this green almost-mashed potatoesque lump of…what was it? Oh. “Mushy peas.” Already out of my comfort zone, I took a bite.

I love peas, but I was in heaven after that. Words cannot describe how marvelous these were.

A few years later, watching a YouTube video on how to make fish and chips, (which in and of itself was interesting. The recipe called for pureed bell pepper instead of egg) I saw them again: the mushy peas. I was instantly reminded of my experience with the real thing in England, and had to make them again.

Now, this is a recipe that has been conglomerated from a few different ones, and I in no way, shape, or form claim that these are anywhere near traditional. But these are one of the few things I have been able to eat during my first trimester, and I have never had my mushy peas turn out anything less than brilliant.

I dare you to try these. Once you see the ingredients list and method, I think you won’t be nearly as turned off by it. I hope.

 

Caramelized Mushy Peas

 

3 cups peas (either fresh if you can get them, or thawed from frozen if not), patted dry with paper towel

1 tbsp butter

1-2 tbsp milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

1. In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter until it is just turning light brown. Add the peas, and stir to coat the peas in the butter. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Some of the peas should be caramelized by the end. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

2. Add in one tablespoon of the milk, and mash using a stick/immersion blender. Some peas should be left intact, but not many. Add more milk if necessary; it should be about the consistency of mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.