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Old 08-14-2008, 09:28 PM   #1
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Question Nut-breaded fish...suggestions?

so, once upon a time in a restaurant, i had a filet of white fish that was coated in a crunchy-sweet nut topping, predominantly made up of pistachios. i've been pondering re-creating this, or some improved variant thereof for quite a while now, and i got around to it tonight.

(as per my usual m.o., no real measurements, just an eyeball-ballpark sort of estimation.) in my mortar, i ground up a handful of pistachios and a few pinches of coconut. the coconut is yet another of the miraculous findings i acquire at the asian market...it's basically been chip-tified, where it's very thin-cut and super crunchy, but not at all oily as a deep-fried food would be. the dry crunchiness means that it can be ground into as small of pieces as you'd like, so to re-create the concept without the same product, i think that mincing regular dried coconut would work ok. to this mix i added a couple of croutons, since i thought the flour/breadedness would bind things better. a generous dash each of dill & garlic powder completed the ground-to-coarse-meal mixture, which was poured onto a plate that received egg-coated previously-frozen tilapia after their dunk. diced garlic was roasted in butter on medium-hi heat, the fish were seared on both sides, and then covered to finish on medium-low.

the experiment was a pretty solid success as far as the flavor goes - things were savory with a hint of sweetness, but not overpowering to the natural mild flavor of tilapia. however, the presentation, not so pretty. most of the coating fell off quite quickly, leaving only a light smattering here & there on the fish. in some places, it continued to cook as a solid sheet, like a thin pastry in the pan, which tasted great but didn't look as nice as it would have as a breading/coating ON the filet. it easily lifted from the pan when it was time to eat, so i'm not worried that the fall-apart problem was all due to sticking. additionally, the crouton portion ended up burning quite quickly, so while the nuts & coconut were toasty brown, the in-between-bits were unpleasantly blackened (i.e., burnt, so sad!).

so, question: should i have used something else, or nothing, to bind the nuts & coconut to the fish? was the tilapia filets' previously frozen nature to blame for the lack of adequate sticking of the breading? any thoughts or suggestions?

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Old 08-14-2008, 10:04 PM   #2
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did you dip in egg, the lightly coat it. i do four, egg, coating and it seems to work just fine.

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Old 08-14-2008, 10:06 PM   #3
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yep, one coating in egg, then into the nut/coconut/crouton mix. i thought most of the mix would fall off into the egg, since it's so much thicker/heavier than a standard flour breading, so i only did one egg-then-batter cycle.
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Old 08-15-2008, 05:17 AM   #4
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Takes me back...Oh, about ten years!!

Your answer is simple. First, I have only ever done this with chicken, but I see no reason why a firm fish like tilapia cannot be used...

I think you might call it broiling? We in the real world of true blue Aussie-land call it grilling...Either way, it's a salamander.

Your coating is not "cooked" on, but rather placed on then browned under a salamander.

The flavours you are looking for with garlic etc, I would suggest is something done with the cooking of the fish and not with the nut coating. However, I can't think of any reason not to include the herbs and spices you mention...In fact, I might even try them myself!

How it's done...Grind or blend your nuts to whatever size you like. A course breadcrumb size is good. Keep-It-Sensibly-Simple...KISS, if I am allowed to say that? Don't add anything else...Just nuts!

Your pistachios are great. But also great is haslenuts or even peacans or walnuts are good too!

Cook your meat...Be it fish or chicken or whatever. Just cook it the way you like it. Then when cooked, place on a tray...If your serving plate is "oven proof" you can put it straight on the plate. Use your hands to smother the meat with nut crumbs to about half inch thick (12mm for us Aussies). Use your hand so that you can feel and press the crumbs on. Then under the salamander to brown.

BE WARNED...Browning is very quick!!

The nuts are oily and brown very quickly...I am talking seconds...15 seconds maybe 30 for dark...So don't put it under and do something else...Put it under the salamander and stand there watching! (for a domestic salamander maybe 60 seconds).

Oh...PS...The nut crumbs only go on the top of the meat.

I hope that is of help
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Old 08-15-2008, 07:22 PM   #5
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hmm, kiss, that IS a good alternative. my bf is a huge fan of cooking with the broiler...since we had an electric stove rather than a gas range when i was growing up, we rarely used the broil function, and i just don't think of the drawer as much more than a place to stash spare pans from time to time. he's changing that opinion with his wonderful cooking, but i still just don't think of it first-shot.

the particular recipe i was modeling it off of, however, did indeed have the nut-crusting all over, as for a regular battered & fried sort of fish, not just on one side.
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Old 08-16-2008, 02:50 AM   #6
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You said you covered the pan to finish on medium low, that probably played a part in it as the steam created would act to release the binder of the coating due to moisture. Because the crust is different from say, chicken cutlet, you have to treat it more gently to prevent separation from the fish. You also didn't mention dusting the fish in flour before dipping in the eggwash. That's also important because it creates a "glue" which helps the breadcrumb mixture adhere to the fish. Additional and unwanted moisture also prevents a good breading and crust, so making sure that the fish or other protein is dry before the breading process starts is helpful as well.

As far as cooking, for this method of breading, the best way is to get a nice color on one side, flip, and about halfway done to getting that nice color on the second side, finish it in the oven in the same pan. You want to use dry heat, which will help prevent the crust from falling off.
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