Something that even people who know me well in my day to day life are somehow unaware of – not because we’ve kept it a secret at all or anything – but I think they maybe just don’t believe us when we say it…
John, typically, has done at least half – and oftentimes WAY MORE – of the cooking when it comes to the dinner hour.
There – it’s out there. My husband, who rises before the crack of dawn to slave away at his job, oftentimes comes home and prepares our evening meal.
He’s a good cook.
Some things he does WAY better than I do.
During this season of illness I’ve been through – and particularly through the first weeks during my NPO (nothing by mouth) and TPN (IV nutrition) it was not at all out of the ordinary for me to be far, far away from the kitchen.
Have I mentioned lately how amazing my husband is?
How blessed I am to be his wife?
How thankful I am that he is the kind of guy who loves his family well?
Just in case I haven’t – let me just say the words: I ADORE MY HUSBAND! I AM SO THANKFUL FOR HIS TENDER AND KIND CARE OF ME! I SIMPLY DON’T DESERVE HIM!
I am so glad God saw fit to bring us together – John McBride and me. J
Anyway… yes, I’m still NPO. Yes, it’s been eight weeks since I’ve had anything to eat or drink. The strangest thing has happened, though, a few weeks ago all of a sudden I had this overwhelming desire to get in the kitchen and do some cooking and baking.
Not only that – I started going through some of my collection of cookbooks – looking for recipes to try out on my family. I figured if I couldn’t eat – they should!
Thursday night I tried out a new recipe on the fam – and today as I was reflecting on the outcomes I thought, “I should blog about this!” And not only that, I thought further, “I should blog about this sort of thing regularly!” And so I shall.
This category will be called “What’s for Dinner?” and if, per chance, I am trying out a new recipe for dinner, I’ll likely post my thoughts about the recipe I tried, and what the outcomes were.
So here goes…
Thursday night we had Tilapia on the menu. I heard from the boys – individually – that one of the reasons they’re not so thrilled about having Tilapia on the menu is because – well, it’s bland. So I started doing some looking, and came across this recipe: Crunchy Oven Fried Fish. You can find the recipe at Cooks Illustrated – which is a subscription web site for some of the content, and unfortunately, this particular recipe is in that category – so I can’t post the recipe. I will say – that it’s not a subscription I mind paying – it really is worth every penny! Anyway… suffice it to say that this recipe includes…
4 pieces of some thick white fish fillet – of course, I used the Tilapia
The process of making bread crumbs tossed with minced shallot and fresh parsley
And some seasoned flour.
It calls for things like prepared horseradish, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Not a wimpy or bland recipe at all!
Okay – there are some things you should know about the kids who eat food in this house. The boys pretty much just avoid vegetables at all cost. Jessica, on the other hand – much like her parents – loves vegetables.
If a dish has any particular flare that inches outside the “resembles pizza” or “resembles tacos” genres – well, then, you can pretty much guarantee that the boys won’t happily eat it.
Yes, this can make meal preparation quite frustrating!
So… back to the recipe. I thought – “Perfect! Uses a white fish, has some kick – I’m going to make this for dinner on Thursday!”
I ended up running to the store to pick up a shallot and fresh parsley. I looked for prepared horseradish, but couldn’t find any without soy or canola or HFCS in it – so I skipped that. I figured I’d substitute Dijon mustard for it – it has horseradish in it, right? By the way, I found out later that John actually had kosher prepared horseradish in the fridge – no icky stuff in it! Sheesh! I should have looked!
I started with the bread crumbs – much like the instructions on the recipe. Only, I thought…. “Hmmmm… shallots, huh? Gosh, the boys are going to balk at that!” I pondered the thought of finely minced shallot and knew I’d never get it fine enough to sneak it past the boys if I chopped it with a knife! So I pulled out the Cuisinart – well, I needed it anyway for the breadcrumbs, so no wasted effort there!
Being me… I thought, “I should chop the bajeebers out of the shallot and the fresh parsley FIRST, and then add the bread for the crumbs.
It made for pretty soggy and distinctly GREEN breadcrumbs. Uh oh. I quickly scraped them onto the baking sheet and shoved them in the 350° oven – hoping the “browning” would, indeed, bring some brown! (And yes, I did wonder what the green and brown together would end up looking like! EGAD!) Okay – so those were in the oven doing their thing, I moved on.
Lesson learned: I should have done the bread first, transferred it to a bowl, then minced the onion and parsley, then transferred it to the same bowl, then tossed them together before transferring them to the baking sheet and oven. I will do this next time!
Next, I moved on to the batter part of the recipe. The recipe says to mix the batter in the pie tin you’re going to use, but that kinda bugged me, so I pulled out a small bowl that I like whisking stuff together in and used it instead. In went the two eggs, Dijon mustard, homemade mayonnaise, paprika, cayenne pepper (I used only 1/8th of a teaspoon, rather than the 1/4th that they recommended – I know my wimpy kids!), and black pepper. I whisked that all together – and I gotta tell you – I was surprised at how lovely this turned out. I guess I shouldn’t have been – but wow! Not only pretty – but smelled amazingly wonderful! At the end you add 5 tablespoons of flour and whisk until they’re smooth. I was surprised by that step – but it did have a nice result – a velvety, smooth batter.
Lesson learned: I would probably have either eliminated or cut the 1/8th teaspoon cayenne at least in half. It was still too spicy for my crew. And I would definitely have used the horseradish, had I known we had it. Or would I have? Would the kids have freaked out? John and I would have liked it – but I’m not eating, and well… I bow to the pressure of trying to get my kids to actually eat and LIKE stuff, I admit it!
I should note that I used the frozen Tilapia filets that we buy at Costco. I pulled them out at the beginning of all of this to thaw – but they didn’t seem to thaw very quickly, so I ended up putting them in the microwave on defrost to get them to do so. They were still a tad frozen in the center – but I didn’t want them to actually cook in the microwave, you know?
Essentially – the whole idea with this recipe is to get the fish filets floured, battered, and then bread crumbed. It’s a little messy, but honestly, totally doable.
I liked that they recommended cooking the fish on a rack over a baking sheet – no soggy sides of the fish! All sides nice and browned and crispy. It really was lovely. And just to clarify – my green breadcrumbs browned up very nicely. But once again – I would totally do it the other way next time!
Verdict: William thought it was too spicy. Plus, he prefers his fish without breading. In fact, he’s known to order sweet and sour shrimp when we go out to Chinese, and painstakingly remove the breading from each steaming hot little shrimp. Go figure. My kid! (I *love* the breading!)
Jonathan didn’t really like it either. I never could get a straight answer out of him exactly why.
Jessica likes Tilapia because it is a bland dish – and she likes those. She thought this dish was way too spicy for her.
John thought it was “Okay.” But recommended halving – or eliminating – the cayenne pepper. He, too, would have preferred much lighter breading – or no breading at all.
Will I make it again? Hmmm…. Maybe. But I’d wait quite a while before trying to slip it past these guys again! LOL!
Just so you know – I feel pretty certain I would have liked it! But remember that’s coming from a woman who hasn’t had anything to eat or drink for eight weeks!