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For those who don’t know me, my background is as a civil engineer. While this gives me some very useful real world skills, the ability to stray from black-and-white thinking isn’t one of them. As all who know me will attest, I like to be given explicit directions and I follow them to a T. There’s no gray area for this girl.
As you might imagine, this means that I prefer to have a recipe to follow rather than making things up, and I tend to favor baking over cooking because there isn’t much room for ad-libbing.
However, I’m happy to report that since beginning this blog and reading about recipe contests that require creativity, I’ve been much more open to switching things up. I’m starting to create my own flavor combos and recipes!
I’ve found that the easiest way to begin the process of creating a “new” recipe is to rework an existing one by swapping one or more ingredients for other similar ones, or others that go equally well with the rest of the ingredients called for.
Last week my coworker sent me a recipe for a potato-wrapped fish. It involved slicing super thin slices of potato and actually wrapping the fish with it, then frying it, creating a beautiful little package.
I’m really not too fond of changes in general. I mean, I know my mom always told me that changes are usually for the best, but let me just tell you that in this particular cooking experiment, this was not the case.
My first change was to use sweet potato instead of potato…just make it a little more gourmet and colorful. These thin slices of potato were meant to be sliced with a mandoline because a knife wouldn’t get thin enough slices to have them flexible enough to wrap around the fish fillet.
I don’t own a mandoline so I attempted to do it with a cheese slicer. FAIL. Not only did it take me forever, but as careful as I was, I still managed to slice open my finger. I bandaged myself up and managed to salvage enough slices to cover four fillets. Lesson learned: DO NOT MAKE THIS WITHOUT A MANDOLINE!
I had some leftover rosemary from my tart the other day, so I made a sort of rosemary, parsley, olive pesto/tapenade to spread between the potato and the fish. It was a yummy choice. My mom warned me that sweet potato might not crisp up as well as a regular potato. In this instance, Mom, I know you may not believe your eyes as you read this but you were right. It got kind of brown but when I went to flip it, it just stuck to the pan and shredded. I could have left it to brown more, but it was already sticking a lot so I was afraid to. I mean it wasn’t horrible but certainly wasn’t as presentable as I would have liked. I served it along with a simple beet salad.
Nate enjoyed the fish, but he pretty much likes anything I make. I, however, think I would benefited from some sort of balsamic reduction to serve over it because the pesto/sweet potato/fish combo was slightly rich and I would have liked something acidic to cut it (or maybe add more olives to to pesto?). I squeezed lemon on top but it wasn’t enough.
When I had it for leftovers the next day, I decided it was better than I had thought. That being said, by all means give it a try and make your own changes to my recipe…they might just be for the best :)
Sweet Potato-Wrapped Cod with Rosemary Tapenade
Recipe by Me
1 Tbsp rosemary
1/4 cup parsley
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
1-2 cloves garlic
4- 5 oz. cod fillets
1 large sweet potato, the longer the better
Put rosemary, parsley and lemon juice in food processor and blend til finely chopped. Add rest of tapenade ingredients and blend til it becomes a paste.
Peel the sweet potato. Using a mandoline, cut sweet potato into thin slices lengthwise. You will need at least 8 slices per fish fillet.
Pat fish dry; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a large piece of saran wrap on work surface. Set 4 to 5 slices of sweet potato on saran in row, overlapping long sides. Make another row that overlaps short ends of first row, forming 6×5-inch rectangle (see photos above). Sprinkle rectangle with salt and pepper. Set 1 fillet across overlapped short ends of slices. Spread 1-2 Tbsp of the tapenade evenly over the top of the fillet.
Fold short end of rectangle over fish one side of fish. While holding potatoes to fish with one hand, use saran to help to pull other side of potatoes up and over the fillet and wrap the fish fairly tightly in saran (see photos above). Repeat with other 3 fillets. Put fish “packets” in fridge and chill 1 hr.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in each of 2 large skillets over medium-high heat. Remove saran and set the wrapped fish fillets, seam side down, in each skillet. Cook until golden on bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn; cook until fish is opaque in center, 2 to 3 minutes longer.
Simple Beet Salad
Adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 3-4 side dish portions
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
3 medium beets, roasted and peeled
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup toasted pecan pieces
Combine oil thru pepper and whisk to blend.
Toss beets with dressing and parsley.
Before serving, sprinkle beets with blue cheese and pecans.