Eric Akis: Pecans add crunch to saucy fish dish

Eric Akis

The process of creating today’s fish recipe began in my living room, when I sat in my favourite comfy chair with a stack of cookbooks. One of them was the late Paul Prudhomme’s classic tome Chef Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen.

That book is rich with Louisiana-style, Cajun and Creole recipes. Flipping through it, I came across a recipe for fish with pecan butter sauce and meunière sauce. The photo looked delicious: a large fish fillet heavily topped with not one but two sauces and a mound of roasted, chopped pecans.

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During the holidays, though, I’d had my share of rich food, so I’ve been trying to lighten things up a little. After reading the recipe, I determined it would definitely not achieve that goal, as it used about a cup of pecans and both sauces were loaded with butter.

But I liked the idea of topping fish with a nicely spiced sauce and pecans, which would add richness and crunch. So I decided to create a recipe where beautiful B.C. lingcod fillets were roasted and topped with just one sauce and a more modest amount of pecans.

Unlike Prudhomme’s, my sauce was butter-free and more Caribbean/Asian in style, blending such things as citrus juice, honey, fresh ginger, spices and a splash of soy sauce.

Some of that sauce was used to glaze the fish as it roasted; the rest was spooned over it once plated. The fish was then topped with pecan pieces, which I had toasted in a skillet.

It was obviously quite a different dish than Prudhomme’s, but it was still richly flavoured and nicely spiced. I served the fish with bright green snap peas and quinoa pilaf flecked with a mix of finely chopped vegetables.

Just so you know, I’ve bookmarked Prudhomme’s recipe and will try it one day, perhaps in February, when my New Year’s resolutions slip away!

Roasted Ling Cod Fillets with Honey, Citrus and Pecans

Here’s an easy-to-prepare fish dish with pleasing sweet, sour and spicy flavours, enriched with pecans. Serve it with quinoa pilaf (recipe below) and steamed snap peas.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 14 to 16 minutes

Makes: two servings

2 Tbsp honey

1/3 cup orange juice

1 Tbsp lime juice

1 1/2 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1 tsp cornstarch

1/8 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp ground coriander

• tiny pinch ground cayenne pepper

• salt, to taste

2 (5 to 6 oz./140 to 170 g) lingcod fillets (see Eric’s options)

2 Tbsp pecan pieces, toasted (see Note)

2 sprigs Italian (flat leaf) parsley or mint (optional)

Make sauce for the fish by whisking and combining the honey, juices, soy sauce, ginger, cornstarch, cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt in a small pot. Bring sauce to a simmer over medium, medium-high heat. Simmer 30 seconds. Remove sauce from the heat and cover.

To cook fish, preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Place the cod fillets in the pan. Spoon and spread 1 Tbsp of the sauce over each fillet. Bake the cod 12 to 14 minutes, or until cooked through. When the cod is almost cooked, uncover remaining sauce and return to a simmer.

When it’s cooked, set a piece of cod on each of two dinner plates. Top each fillet with the rest of the sauce and the pecans. Garnish each plate with a parsley (or mint) sprig, if using, and serve.

Note: To toast pecans, place them in a non-stick skillet and set over medium heat. Heat, swirling the pan from time to time, until aromatic and lightly toasted, about three to four minutes.

Eric’s options: Other fish fillets, such as other types of cod and halibut, could be used in place of the lingcod in this recipe.

Quinoa Pilaf

Here’s a light and appealing side dish to serve with fish made with nutritious quinoa and a mix of vegetables.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 22 minutes

Makes: two generous servings

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup finely diced onion

1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely diced celery

1/4 cup grated carrot

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup quinoa

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 green onion, thinly sliced

Place oil in a small to medium pot set over medium, medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, carrot and garlic and cook and stir until softened, about three to four minutes. Add the quinoa and cook and stir one minute more.

Add the stock, salt and pepper to the pot, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Now cover the pot, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook, undisturbed 15 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Fluff quinoa with a fork, mix in the green onions and serve.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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