Friday, December 12, 2008

Pumpkin Seed-Crusted Goujons of Chilean Hake w/ Butternut Squash, Leek and Turnip Saute

One reason I started freezing some meals in quantity was because other dinners are not even good reheated at lunch the next day. Fish, particularly fried fish, is one of those. Generally awful reheated, plus your coworkers will hate you for stinking up the kitchen. After consuming a lot of heavy stews lately, I was really needing to cook and eat something a bit more delicate.

I had a butternut squash that My Uncle and his wife grew in their community garden plot at the Schuylkill Center. I consulted the Silver Spoon cookbook, which has a recipe for every possible animal and vegetable. There, I found a recipe for pumpkin, leek and turnip w/ thyme and sesame seeds sauteed in olive oil. Since a butternut squash is pretty much the same thing as a pumpkin, I gave it a go. I didn't follow the recipe though - that book isn't long on detail. They wanted you to roast sliced squash in a foil packet. I gave it 90 minutes in the crock pot instead, and followed the recipe from there. I also saw a recipe for some kind of fish fried with crusted almonds. I had some kind of fish but I did not have almonds. I did have some tamari-flavored pumpkin seeds a bit past their prime, which actually worked with the theme better anyway.

I served it all with some fresh spinach salad.

Butternut Squash, Leek and Turnip Saute (serves 6, so I am serving it again tomorrow)

1 Squash, 1 turnip, 1 leek, olive oil, fresh sprigs of thyme, some sesame seed (optional)
  • Peel Squash, cut in half, scoop out the junk and slice 1/4 inch thick.
  • Toss squash with tsp olive oil, the leaves of one sprig of thyme and some salt.
  • Precook squash in one of the following ways: wrap in foil packet and roast in oven at 350 for 30 minutes, place in slow cooker on high for 90 minutes or steam until just softened.
  • Julienne turnip (cut into matchsticks)
  • Slice white part of leek from the green part. Discard green part. Separate layers, wash them a lot, and slice thinly.
  • Heat 2 tbs olive oil in hot frying pan on high heat. Toss in veggies. Allow to brown just a bit underneath and then toss a few times and cook until the turnips retain just a bit of crunch.

Pumpkin Seed-Crusted Goujons of Chilean Hake (serves 2)

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but there is a lot about cuisine, especially seafood, in which a name can make a $5 meal into a $20 entree. Such it is with my title of this dish. Hake is a fish I had to look up when I saw it in Silver Spoon. Turns out it is what people in England call the fish we call whiting (they have their own fish called whiting). Whiting is a dirt-cheap fish caught off the coast of Chile, sold frozen and filleted, $6 or less for a 2# bag.

1/2 pound hake/whiting filet (or other white-fleshed fishie), 1/4 cup soy sauce (preferably thick style, sold in Asian stores but nearly impossible to ID as such), 1/2 cup hulled pumpkin seed snacks (or almonds. pistachios might work too).

  • If filet has skin on the bottom, take it off or leave it on. Up to you. I took it off, somewhat mangling the delicate filet in the process. That's how the filets became goujons, which is like a chicken finger, only with fish. In fact, some of them became nuggets. It's all good. So slice your fish into goujons if you haven't mangled it into them already.
  • Coat fish with soy sauce, put on a plate
  • Crush the seeds to a course texture (pieces smaller than rice). I used a mortar and pestle, but a small food processor or blender is just as good. You can use a chef's knife if you've got all day to chop.
  • Coat fish in the crushed seeds, pressing firmly to adhere.
  • In a non-stick pan, add oil to a depth of just under 1/4 inch and heat to almost smoking (peanut oil is best because it is great with high heat. Apparently grapeseed is too, but I'm too frugal to buy it).
  • Carefully transfer fish to pan and fry for 2 minutes. Flip, cook for 2 more minutes. Remove fish to paper towel to absorb excess oil. Serve.

Frugal Factor: The fish (2 servings) was $5 for a 2# bag w/ 4 fillets. I used only one fillet. The pumpkin seeds were in my pantry for a year, but roasted shelled ones are sold for $2.29 for a 10oz bag. I used 1/2 cup (4 oz), so that's $0.92 (plus I ate some, so $1). Add .25 for the oil and soy sauce I guess. Price per portion: $1.25

Leeks are sold three to a bunch for $3. I used 1 (the rest will be used later). Turnips are $1/pound and the one I used was 1/3 pound. The squash was a gift but would have cost $2. This made 6 portions, at $0.55/portion.

The bag of prewashed baby spinach was $3.30 and I used about 1/3. $1.10/portion.

Total: $2.90/portion.

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