Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fish Piccata

I love getting the food magazine Cuisine at Home, not to be confused with Cuisine. I do not get the Cuisine magazine (I'll look in to whether I need to get this one). I really do enjoy the Cuisine at Home series however. They publish little magazine style cookbooks in addition to their bi-monthly publications. Each recipe in both the cookbooks and the magazine has a picture and a recommended side dish. I have really enjoyed almost all of their recipes along with their recommended side dishes.

Tonight's entree came out of one of my Cuisine at Home for Two (I actually have 3 of these) and once again we were not disappointed. The original recipe called for halibut fillets (or other firm white fish) and since haddock was on sale this week, that is what I used. The fish fillets were coated in a mixture of panko, cornstarch, and Parmesan after having a quick dip in beaten eggs.

After the fish was sauteed, a quick pan sauce was made in the same skillet with galic, shallots, white wine, lemon juice, capers, tomato paste, and butter.

Our side dish was Honey-Lemon Broccolini which is the perfect vegetable for two people since it comes prepacked in an 8 ounce serving. It was cooked in a saute pan and the sauce was made right in the pan as the broccolini was cooking.

Since dinner was so simple, I decided to splurge on a big dessert tonight. I have never been able to make a decent cake from scratch for dessert in the many, many years that I have been cooking. A few weeks ago, I had some success with Red Velvet cupcakes made from scratch and today I tackled Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Layer Cake which was absolutely superb! The cake was moist and very dark with chocolate flavor but the overall cake with the layers of filling and the chocolate frosting was not overly sweet. It was very rich without being two sweet. The cake recipe came from Annie's Eats blog which I have really been enjoying lately.

Adapted from Cuisine at Home for Two - Parmesan Fish Piccata (Serves 2)

For the Fish:
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon each cornstarch and grated Parmesan
1 egg, beaten
2 halibut fillets, or other firm white fish (6 oz. each) - I used haddock fillets
Salt and Black Pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Sauce:
2 teaspoons each minced garlic and shallots
1/2 cup dry white wine
tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

For the fish, combine panko, cornstarch and Parmesan in a shallow dish. Place egg in another shallow dish. Season fillets with salt and pepper.

Dip fillets in egg, letting excess drip back into the dish. Dredge fillets in panko mixture, coating all sides.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add fillets and saute until golden brown, 4-5 minutes per side. Remove fish from pan and keep warm.

For the sauce, add garlic and shallots to the skillet and saute until softened about 2 minutes.

Deglaze skillet with wine and simmer until reduced by half, 3-4 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, capers, and tomato paste. Simmer until slightly thickened; whisk in butter until melted. Season with salt and pepper and stir in parsley.

From Cuisine at Home for Two - Honey-Lemon Broccolini

1 bunch broccolini, trimmed, thick stalks removed (8 oz.)
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Dash red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and black pepper to taste

Blanch broccolini in water in a saute pan, covered, over medium heat, 2 minutes. Uncover and cook until water evaporates, 2 minutes.

Melt butter in the same pan; add garlic and pepper flakes. Saute until broccolini steams soften, 3 minutes, stirring to prevent garlic from burning.

Stir in lemon juice and honey; cook until broccolini is crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.

From Annie's Eats website - Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Layer Cake

For the cake:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2¼ cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2¼ tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. brewed coffee*
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 cup sugar, divided
¼ cup water
¼ cup heavy cream
Generous pinch of sea salt, such as fleur de sel
4 large egg whites
1½ cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the frosting:
12 oz. good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¼ cup very hot water
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. (18 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt

Fleur de sel, for finishing

*Note – Coffee is used as a flavor enhancer in many chocolate cake recipes. Even if you are not a fan of coffee, don’t be afraid of this – it’s still chocolate cake, and you don’t taste the coffee.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease and flour the edges of 3 8-inch baking pans, shaking out the excess. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low speed to blend. Add the vegetable oil, buttermilk, coffee, eggs, and vanilla to the bowl and mix on low speed until well blended and completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans about 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Remove the parchment paper.

To make the caramel buttercream filling, place ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Mix in the water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stop stirring and let the caramel cook, gently swirling from time to time, until it is a deep amber color (test a drop on a white plate or bowl if necessary), watching it carefully to avoid burning. Remove the mixture from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream and then the salt. Set aside and let cool.

Combine the egg whites and the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer - don’t worry, it will come together!) Blend in the cooled caramel until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

To make the frosting, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and water and stir until smooth. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, gradually blend in the melted and cooled chocolate until well incorporated. Blend in the cocoa powder-water mixture until smooth.

To assemble the cake, level the cake layers if necessary. Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving platter. Top with half of the caramel buttercream and smooth in a thick, even layer. Place a second cake layer on top and smooth the remaining caramel buttercream over that. Place the final cake layer on top. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the chocolate frosting and smooth with an offset spatula. If desired, use additional frosting to pipe decorative accents on the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, sprinkle with fleur de sel.

My rating for both dinner and dessert:

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