We enjoy eating fish, any variety, but I usually prepare it very simply and then fancy up the side dishes to make an interesting plate. Most of the fish we eat are heftier ones that lend themselves to grilling in summer and broiling in winter. Others, such as cod or halibut, I typically bake. Only fillets of lighter white fish, such as flounder, sole, or tilapia, are cooked on my stovetop. This week’s recipe for spice-crusted tuna pushed me to mix up and cross over my known boundaries. That’s part of what French Fridays with Dorie is all about, right?
I’ve discovered that frozen ahi tuna steaks are a regularly-stocked item at Trader Joe’s, so I only had to plan ahead for thawing. Fragrant spices are pounded with a mortar and pestle (so satisfying) to coarsely crush the peppercorns, cardamom and coriander seeds and turn the fresh ginger into a paste to loosely glue it all together. The tuna is lightly rubbed with oil, coated in the spice mixture, and seared in a hot skillet. The whole process from pantry to plate takes less than 10 minutes.
The mango chatini was a little more time-consuming because it involved a lot of chopping. It was not onerous, and it was definitely worth it. The chatini is like a salsa. In fact, it is very similar to the mango guacamole that Howard makes when Champagne or Ataulfo mangos are in season. His concoction includes avocado, which would have been at home in this chatini, and doesn’t use any ginger. Otherwise, they’re pretty much the same.
The chatini was the perfect topping/garnish for the spice-crusted tuna. I really liked the way the ginger flavors in both the chatini and the spice crust pulled the meal together. We ate the leftover chatini with tortilla chips, just like we do with guacamole.
Tuna is one fish that I’ve only cooked at home for French Fridays. I really enjoyed the spiced crust in this recipe. Even though I was the one who prepared it, the flavors popping in my mouth still surprised me. However, as much as I do like tuna, honestly, I prefer it as sushi (or canned, which is its own thing) rather than cooked.
This week, I’m enamored with this recipe for roasted root vegetables. I served the tuna with jasmine rice and these vegetables. To me, the key parts are the roasted vegetables and the honey topping. The honey topping makes more than you need for one batch, so I’ve already made it again. The bacon adds great flavor (of course), but I made my second batch without and it was equally delicious. Winter squash isn’t a root vegetable, but it would be perfect in your custom vegetable medley. As Mikey always said, “Try it, you’ll like it!”
I invite you to check out my friend Lisa’s new blog Hawley’s Food Path. Lisa is my (in-person) friend who I met at a Nantucket basket weaving class at least a decade ago. We also belong to the same local garden club. Lisa loves to cook, and recently, we were talking about French Fridays. She was inspired to order the book, create a blog, and jump in with us this week. She’s really excited. Please visit her blog and give her a warm welcome to our group! I know you’ll enjoy her warmth and humor as much as I do.
If I’m not sure what to make for dinner and I go to the store to figure it out, when I see mussels for sale I know the answer. I find them so versatile and easy. We’ve made mussels a few times already for French Fridays with Dorie: mussels with chorizo in February 2012 and, more recently, moules marinière in January 2014.
Sometimes Costco has 5 pound bags for sale at 99 cents a pound. Who can pass that up? Not me. Back in the September/October 2013 issue of Cook’s Illustrated, they had a recipe with several different flavor variations for steaming the mussels in the oven. I’ve tried a few of those, and they are excellent. I’d give you the link, but Cook’s Illustrated doesn’t share their recipes on-line. If you subscribe, check your back issues, or email me and I’ll send you a copy of the recipe.
I don’t know that I’ve ever made the exact same recipe twice. I do know that I typically use Mediterranean flavors, with or without tomatoes, always with garlic, herbs, and wine. I’ve also tried mussels with hard cider, which also falls in the European camp. The jump to Southeast Asian with curry powder was new territory for me with mussels.
Even with the seasoning relocation, this was as easy as other recipes I’ve made. Onions and shallots are sautéed in butter. Spices are added, and the heat allows the curry powder flavors to bloom. Finally, wine and herbs go into the pot to make the base of the sauce.
Time to add to the mussels. This time, I picked up Maine mussels at Whole Foods. They were pretty clean, so the effort to sort, scrub and debeard was minimal. After just three minutes, they were gaping open.
To finish, the mussels are scooped out of the pot and set aside while heavy cream is added and boiled for a few minutes to reduce the sauce. I wasn’t paying close attention to the recipe and skipped the step to boil the sauce for a few minutes before adding the cream. It seemed fine without it.
Dorie recommends serving the curried mussels with bread or French fries. I served with both: French fries for munching and bread for dipping. Dorie also insists that the mussels are eaten piping hot and with your fingers. I followed her instructions, but have to admit that the sauce kept flying out of the shells, onto me. I had to do laundry when I was finished with dinner. Did anyone else have that problem?
Howard isn’t wild about the taste of curry, but he was away for a few days, so I made a half of the recipe for myself. I really enjoyed it. The curry powder gave an exotic twist while the cream and shallots kept a tie to Europe. Soaking up the sauce with bread was the way to go. I bought a bag of frozen French fries, just like my mom used to make to go with Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks, though mine were organic. I was shopping at Whole Foods, after all. The fries didn’t stay hot for very long once they came out of the oven. Maybe my house is too cold. I think perhaps French fries are better as restaurant food.
There were plenty of mussels leftover. I plucked from the shells and stored them in the sauce. The reheated mussels were delicious served over jasmine rice and steamed carrots with chopped scallions sprinkled on top. Didn’t I tell you that mussels are versatile?
Next week, I’ll share photos of my next Dorista meetup: breakfast with Tricia of Tricia and Nana Cooking with Dorie and our husbands, happening tomorrow morning!