Makin' Hake in the Kitchen: How to Spice Up Your Fish Relationship Without Getting too Saucy

Last night was my first time - making fish, that is. It was actually a night full of fish firsts: my first cooking bout, my first rendez-vous with Hake at all, and - get this! - my first time getting dinner on the table in 30 minutes flat. Okay, maybe close to forty, but still! My days of slaving away in the kitchen, toiling and panicking for an entire afternoon just to get food on the table by 7:00, are over, thanks to this recipe for spiced white-fish-of-choice in a lemon butter sauce.

The original recipe called for Tilapia, but Tilapia is farm-raised and really not that to-die for anyway; so, the lovely gentleman at Whole Foods suggested the mild, wild-caught, super-food-fish, Hake. This baby has just 75 calories and .9g fat (without skimping on the protein, either - 18g!), so even if you multiply that by 2 to get a hefty hefty serving, you're looking at a pretty slim meal. I did my research and discovered that Hake is, not-so-coincidentally thanks to the knowledgeable employees of my new favorite grocery store, perfectly paired with a lemon-butter sauce, making it an excellent substitution for the tilapia in this recipe. However, any mild white fish would probably work - coming from me, the oh-so-expert recent-fish-convert.

My dish did not, surprise surprise, turn out as the recipe was intended, but it remained delectable in my book. The chili powder and cumin give a nice, almost demure kick in the butt to the almost blank canvas of Hake, whose flaky, smooth texture pairs perfectly with the complexity of the spice. As for the sauce, mine kind of backfired (more on that to come), so I'm not really sure how it would have worked, but whatever topping I wound up with was a perfect flavor enhancer. You get all of the spices lost to the bottom of the pan, picked up by white wine and lemon juice. It really is a nice meal - not too spicy, but certainly not bland, and in no way fishy (blech, trust me on this one - I will never give you a fishy fish recipe). I served mine with roasted tomatoes (which I will post the hardly-even-a-recipe recipe for soon) and bulgur, which probably could've used a little lemon flavoring itself, but let's not get carried away here. Or get ahead of ourselves. Back to the fish: what I posted here is the recipe as I made it. Follow the link below for the original, which calls for tilapia and results in a much, um, saucier sauce.

Spiced White Fish & Lemon Butter Topping, courtesy of
Chocolate Broccoli
Yield: 4-5 servings
The Ingredients

1 1/2 lb. / 20oz. hake fillets
3 tsp. canola oil
2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. onion powder (ideally, you would use 2 Tbsp. minced onion, but I can't see the point of smelling up the whole fridge because a recipe only calls for a smidgen of an onion.)
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 C dry white wine
4 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. fresh & chopped / 1 scant Tbsp. dried dill
2 tsp. butter

The Method
1. Combine the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and pepper and rub over both sides of the fillet.
2. Saute the fish in the canola oil over medium-high heat, roughly 4-5 minutes on each side. When the fish is cooked, it will flake easily.
3. Remove the fish from the pan and reserve on a plate to keep warm. If you're not using your oven, you can keep it at around 100-200 degrees and place it in there. I just covered a plate with aluminum foil and vented the sides so it didn't steam too much.
4. Add the garlic (and onion if using fresh minced) to the pan and saute until translucent. Here, additional oil may be added to the pan. Add the wine and lemon juice and then remove from the heat. Stir, making sure to scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Finally, stir in the butter and the dill (or, if you're me, just the butter because you haphazardly threw the dill in with the rest of the deglazing agents).
5. Top the reserved fillets with the mixture, and serve.

Now, my sauce deglazed rapidly and with a vengeance. What I had when I was done my balancing act of plating all of the side dishes and what-have-you, was much less of a sauce and more of an amalgamation of spices and dug-up remnants of fish bits and chili powder. There was no drizzling in the Floptimism kitchen last night, but there was darn good fish! If you're looking for a legitimate lemon butter sauce, I would be careful during the deglazing process and potentially up the butter to a full tablespoon. Maybe up the lemon, too. Why not, right?

The entire meal worked well together, and I will post the recipe for the (Martha Stewart!) roasted tomatoes within the next few days. After at least one good night's sleep. I promise.

By the way, did you notice my beautiful picture today? A wonderful sister of mine showed me the macro setting on my modest digital camera - you can thank her for (hopefully) no longer having to bear with my unforgivably amateur photos.

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