harissa and white fish

I’m realizing quickly that the best seafood preparations seem to be seasoning/sauce + not overcooked fish.  Which is great because it allows me to experiment more with seasoning and sauces, of course.   The idea to make harissa to coat a white fish came from wanting a spicy seafood stew, but not wanting to actually make a stew, because its summer and very hot.  It turns out broiling a fish makes your kitchen pretty hot too.  Anyway, home made harissa also sounded fancy, and you know how much I like the fancy.  The recipe here comes from Saveur with some modifications.

Harissa and white fish

3.5 -4 oz dried chili peppers (I used a combination of new mexico and california chilies, because that’s what vons had)

1⁄2 tsp. caraway seeds
1⁄4 tsp. coriander seeds
1⁄4 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. dried mint leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

5 cloves garlic

Juice of 2 lemons

salt to taste

Oh and some 1″ thick white fish fillets, bones removed, skin on or off

1. Cut of the stem of the chilies, but leave the seeds.  Put chilies into a large enough bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit for 20-30 minutes to soften.

2. Put caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds in a small saucepan (don’t use non-stick, unless it’s all you have) and toast for 4 minutes or so on medium-high heat.  They should be fragrant.  Don’t burn them, duh.  Then add to a spice grinder and grind to a powder (along with the mint, if your dried mint isn’t already powdery (to make dried mint, hang a mint bundle upside down in your closet for a week, then painstakingly remove the dried leaves and grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (as I did, because, again, I’m fucking fancy)).

3. Drain chilies.  Add everything to a food processor and puree for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides if you need to.  At this point you may want to add more olive oil or some water.

4. Saveur says to store that you “transfer to a sterilized 1-pint glass jar and fill with oil until ingredients are submerged by 1⁄2″. Refrigerate, topping off with more oil after each use.”  Really, Saveur?  You can just store it in a tupperware container and put it in your fridge for five weeks or so.  But then my landlord installed a new fancy dishwasher in my apartment, one that has a ‘sanitize’ option, so I ‘sanitized’ a jar and did the whole bit with the olive oil.  This makes quite a lot, so you can feel free to have some with anything you make, just like any hot sauce.

5.  To make the fish: easy.  Cover your fillets in a generous amount of harissa, then put a couple more spoonfulls of harissa in a plastic bag along with the fish.  Close, making sure to take out all of the air, and jumble up.  Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Once marinated, put a cast iron pan 3″ under your broiler preheat on high for five minutes, until the pan is really really hot.  Remember not to burn yourself.  And *then* put in the fish skin side down (or up – varying opinons on this) and broil for four minutes.  A good way to check doneness is to insert a skewer.  If it doesn’t meet any resistance, you are good to go.

I would agree with my friend VH that most times you make food, and you’ve bought things from the farmer’s market and you are a somewhat competent home cook and yeah, it’s good, but nothing really special.  I feel like I’ve made this point before.  But this was tasty enough to surprise me with an always fun “I made that?” moment.  The harissa was spicy and flavorful, and broiling gives the outside a nice crust.  The skin, which again I placed against the surface of the pan, was also good; I suppose if I put it facing the broiler it would have gotten very crisp.  Either way, I liked it.  The inside of the fish was very tender and flaky and not overcooked, which, again, is the goal.  While eating, you will surely have to fend off your jealous cat.  Peeky is still a little sore at being mostly confined to science diet, which I do understand.  On the other hand, most people who see pictures of her ask if she is a fat cat (not that one has to subscribe to normative cat-body images).


One Response to harissa and white fish

  1. Pingback: Harissa Chicken and Golden Beet Salsa « ducks & turtles

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