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Friday, January 7, 2011

Piccata-Style Fish Fillets with Thin Pasta and Wilted Spinach

I tried really hard to get my husband involved in picking our meals this week.  He was all for leaving the decisions entirely up to me, but finally I was able to talk him into choosing one recipe for each "category"--beef, chicken, vegetarian and fish.  This was his fish choice, a recipe that first appeared in Every Day with Rachael Ray.  I found some of the directions were confusing and other parts of the recipe didn't work, so I've adjusted accordingly

Picatta-Style Fish Fillets with Thin Pasta and Wilted Spinach

Salt and pepper
1/2 lb thin egg pasta or angel hair pasta
4-8 thin white fish fillets, like tilapia, snapper or flounder
Old Bay seasoning
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp butter
2 large garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 lemons
1/4 cup drained capers
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
3/4 lb fresh spinach, cleaned and trimmed
A little freshly grated nutmeg

1.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with tin foil, lightly spray with cooking spray and set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.  Meanwhile, pat the fish dry and season with salt, pepper and a little Old Bay.  On a plate, mix the flour and cornstarch.  Coat the fish in the flour mixture.

2.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil, over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tbsp butter and let it foam up, then add the fish fillets and cook, turning once, until golden-brown and firm, 4 to 6 minutes.  Place cooked fillets on the cookie sheet and place in the oven to keep warm.  Wipe out the pan and return to heat.  Add 1/2 tbsp oil and the remaining butter to melt.  Stir in the garlic for 1 minute, then stir in the wine for another minute.  Add 1 tsp grated lemon peel and the juice of 1 lemon.  Thinly slice the other lemon and stir the slices into the sauce, along with the capers and parsley. 

3.  Remove fish from the oven and place on a platter or large plate.  Spoon the sliced lemons and half of the butter sauce over the fish.  Cover with foil.

4.  Add the reserved pasta water and the pasta to the skillet.  Add salt and pepper; toss.  Transfer the pasta to another platter or large bowl.  Add the remaining 1/2 tbsp oil to the skillet.  Add the spinach, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook to wilt.  Serve the fish with a little pasta and spinach alongside.

The Verdict:  Good choice, honey.  This was a pretty delicious meal.

The original recipe called for four thin fish fillets.  If all you need is four, use only four.  I bought frozen fish and wasn't sure how it had been packaged; it ended up that there were eight very thin fillets of flounder.  The flour/cornstarch mixture makes a lot of coating, so if you're going for the smaller number of fillets, you may want to reduce the portions of flour and cornstarch.  I didn't use it all even with the eight. 

Also, the original recipe said just to move your fish to a plate and tent with foil.  If you can cook quickly and know this recipe well, you could do it that way.  But what I found is that tenting the fish made it sweat, therefore it's crispy batter turned mushy.  It still tasted good, but when you're adding a liquid sauce on top of that, you might not be happy with the consistency.  I highly suggest leaving them in the oven until the very last minute to avoid that softening. 

Otherwise, the taste of this dish is fantastic.  Lemon and butter with fish is always a hit, so the addition of the capers and garlic only enhanced the already great taste.  All together, it makes a classic piccata sauce, which you generally find on veal or chicken.  Fish was perfect.  Pasta is a no-brainer side and the spinach, especially when coupled with lemon and garlic, put it over the top.

It wasn't an easy 30-minute meal, but it was worth the effort.  Everyone enjoyed it, including the little guy.  (I preemptively picked off all his capers, though, as to avoid the "I no like the green stuff" conversation.)

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