Roasted Turbot in a Tomato-Masala Curry

This is it, my last day at home before venturing off to the Big Bad University for another semester's worth of adventures. I'm in a very mixed-emotion mood as I put off packing the rest of my things, essentially permitting a state of mild denial to settle over me. If I can just get through this semester, I keep saying to myself, because this one is going to be a killer as I reach the pinnacle of my academic career's challenging science courses. So, today, I'm in much need of the kind of recipe that I'm about to share with you: something I don't get to eat much at school, something that I can associate with home as I gear up for the apartment life again. There are really only two things that truly fit this bill: grass-fed beef, and fish.

The fish recipe I have for you today is not so rigid. I mean, it doesn't have to be a turbot recipe. It doesn't even have to be a fish recipe. You see, the spices and the curry play the starring roles here, and I don't care what you slather it onto - tofu, chicken, fish, veggies - it will be nothing short of awesome. I chose turbot because the wonderful workers at Whole Foods informed me that although their Halibut - what the original recipe used - was still in the freezer, Turbot was among the types of white fish that were pretty similar. I had never had Turbot before, it was wild caught, and it was a couple bucks cheaper than the other suggestions they made (not that a couple bucks is any true bargain when you're talking about fresh fish), so I went for it.

I was a little nervous making this, since my family does not worship Indian cuisine and although some members enjoy spice, others shy away from it. However, everyone loved it. It's not spicy; it's smoky. And while I would have enjoyed a little bit more of a kick (okay, a lot more of a kick), it was delicious in its own right. I mean, talk about flavor complexity! Roasting the Turbot in a masala rub just lets the fish pop with savory-ness, and the whole house smells like garam masala - which, I may not buy a candle in that scent, but I certainly enjoyed in conjunction with my cooking. And then you get this curry to serve alongside of it that has sweetness from the tomatoes, a tart-sweet oomph from some ginger, creaminess from the addition of some milk and a wonderful, deep smokiness from all of the other spices. If you like heat, though, throw in some extra chili peppers or sneak in a little dash of hot sauce. I don't know how authentic that is (something tells me at least the hot sauce thing would be a bit untraditional), but it sure would be something.

Roasted Turbot in a Tomato-Masala Curry, courtesy of Closet Cooking
Yield: 4-5 servings

The Ingredients - The Spice Rub
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
20-24 ounces turbot

The Ingredients - The Curry
1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped (I used minced)
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
2 small green chilies, finely diced (I seeded mine; for extra heat leave some or all of the seeds in)
28oz. crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup coconut milk*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 handful cilantro, chopped, plus more for presentation purposes

The Method
Clean the fish and place into a baking dish; I used a 9x13. Combine the oil, masala, and turmeric in a small bowl and brush over the fish to coat. Cover the dish and allow it to marinate for at least twenty minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Add the oil and onions to a medium-large saute pan over medium heat, and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic, ginger, and chilies for another minute or so, until fragrant. Finally, add in the tomatoes, milk, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and pepper and allow the mixture to simmer. Continue simmering for 15 or so minutes, allowing it to reduce down and thicken. While the sauce is thickening, cook the fish in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, looking for the juices on the fish to be white.

Just before serving, remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cilantro and garam masala. Spoon the curry onto individual plates or a serving platter and top with the fish. Sprinkle extra cilantro over the top and optionally serve along with rice.

*A lot of people swear by coconut milk, and since that's a discussion for a whole other time, let's leave it at I substituted in soy milk. I would imagine it was a little thinner, which just means a little bit of extra time should be allotted for reducing and thickening. Other milks and creams should also work without issue.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of packing football watching, restaurant frequenting, and award show oogling to do. See you on the other side.

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