Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Deviled" Catfish

My fiancee Kristin is a big fan of deviled eggs.  They're not really something I experienced much of, growing up, and it would be generous of me to say that I could take or leave them - I'm just still not much of an egg person.  I'm working on it, though.  It never even occurred to me that the flavors of the sauce on this fish are essentially the same as in deviled eggs - but it was the first thing that Kristin pointed out when I had her taste-test the sauce.  

The combination of the deviled-egg-flavored sauce with panko breadcrumbs makes this a baked fish dish that manages to both stay moist and feature a satisfying crunchy element without frying.  Since I like this fish so much, maybe I owe it to deviled eggs to give them a second chance.

More or less any whitefish can shine in this recipe.  I used catfish this time, and have used tilapia and cod to similarly good effect.  The rest of the ingredients are largely pantry staples: panko breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, paprika, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper.

First, we'll make the sauce that tops the fish.  Combine equal parts dijon mustard and mayonnaise in a small bowl, then mix in the seasonings: a generous quantity of paprika, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Stir it up well, give it a taste, and add more of whatever strikes your fancy.  You can spice the mustard-mayo base in any number of ways, so don't hesitate to experiment.

Pour some panko onto a plate or other convenient flat surface.  Season the breadcrumbs with plenty of salt and pepper and a sprinkle of whatever else you added to the sauce.  Now you're ready to coat the fish.

Egg wash?  Where we're going, we don't need egg wash.

Coat the top of your fish generously with the "devilish" sauce - breadcrumbs will be more than happy to stick to it.

Press the fish, sauce-side down, onto the plate of seasoned panko, then place the coated filets in a greased baking dish.

Bake at 400 degrees 8-12 minutes until the fish is fork-tender.  Cook-times here will vary quite a bit depending on the thickness of your particular fish, so check early and check often.  My catfish took more like 12 minutes this time around.

Serve hot with fresh vegetables.

Recipe: "Deviled" Catfish
Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 12 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 4

  • 4 catfish (or other whitefish) filets
  • 1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup Dijon Mustard
  • 1/3 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Ground Thyme
  • 2 tsp Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Combine mustard, mayonnaise, paprika, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Stir well to combine.
  2. Place breadcrumbs on a plate and season with salt, pepper, paprika, and thyme.
  3. Cover tops of fish filets generously with sauce mixture.
  4. Press sauced-side of filets into breadcrumbs to coat.
  5. Bake coated filets in a greased baking dish 8-12 minutes (by thickness) at 400 degrees until fish flakes easily.
  6. Serve hot.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Simple Cinnamon Apples

This is one of those recipes - you start with things that are good all by themselves, and they come together into something more than the sum of its parts.  Better yet, it's a recipe that many enjoyed as a kid - childhood comfort food.  Cinnamon apples are just wonderful - sweet, spicy, and nostalgic.  And did I mention they're easy?  Make them today!

Here's all you need: apples, a bit of butter, some brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and nutmeg.  That's it!  You probably have all of these things in your pantry right now, so there's no excuse not to get started on this recipe.

Apple-wise, I used Golden Delicious to great results.  These can also be really nice with something more tart like a Granny Smith.  Really, any apple will work, so try a range and see which you like best.  Do it for science!

First, peel and slice your apples.  I like slices about 1/2 inch thick so that the finished product doesn't go all to mush.

With the apples slices in a large mixing bowl, toss with cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, and vanilla until all of the slices are coated.

In a large skillet, melt a tablespoon or two of butter over medium heat.  Add the coated apples and 2-3 tablespoons of water and cook, stirring every minute or two.  You'll need somewhere between 8 and 12 minutes of cooking, all told, depending on the thickness of the apples and how soft you like them.

That's it!  Wasn't that easy?

Serve warm alongside just about anything, or just as a snack by themselves.  Be ready to eat more than you thought you would and dejectedly realize that they're all gone.  You'll want to make another batch soon!

Recipe: Simple Cinnamon Apples
Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 15 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 4-6

  • 6 medium Apples
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 3 tbsp Water

  1. Peel and slice apples and place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla to bowl of sliced apples and toss to coat.
  3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add coated apple slices to skillet, add water, and cook 8-12 minutes until tender, stirring often.
  5. Serve warm.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Barbecue Sauce

I haven't counted the exact proportion, but a whole lot of my recipes on this blog involve barbecue sauce.  I love it.  It's an addiction.  I won't even pretend that I can quit any time I want to, because I can't.  I will forever be hooked on barbecue, and I'm okay with that.

However, I've always eaten barbecue sauce right off the grocery store shelf.  I've tried lots of kinds, but tend to come right back to the same couple of varieties - mostly Masterpiece and Bullseye.  For as much as I love barbecue sauce, you would think I might be more adventurous with trying new brands.  Rather than look for a new favorite brand, though, I think the time has come to just create my own uber-sauce.

I like my barbecue sauce sweet and smoky, with a touch of spice and not too much acid.  There are as many philosophies on what constitutes the ideal sauce out there as there are barbecue-eaters, but that's how I like mine, so that's what this sauce aspires to be.

If you want to make barbecue sauce from scratch, it just seems misguided to me to start from ketchup - so I won't do it!  This recipe won't completely free you from bottles off a supermarket shelf, but why it just seems like cheating to take a bottle of ketchup, add spices, and call it "my own" sauce.

For this sauce, you'll need canned tomato sauce, canned tomato paste, molasses, onion, garlic, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, a bit of olive oil or butter, and some salt and pepper.  When summer comes and fresh tomatoes are at their peak, I'll likely revisit this recipe and make it from fresh tomatoes rather than canned, but this one should be easy to make year-round with ingredients that are more or less omnipresent, at least in my kitchen.

First, finely mince the onion and garlic.

In a bit of olive oil or melted butter, sweat the minced onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onions are translucent and tender, but not browned.

This next step is complicated.  Are you ready?

Add everything else.  Everything.  Mix it up well.

Simmer the sauce on low heat for about 20 minutes until reduced slightly, darkened in color, and thickened.

That's it.  Taste the sauce after it's reduced and adjust your ingredients to your own particular taste.

The sauce should keep for up to a month or so in the refrigerator, or much longer if frozen or canned.

Brush the sauce onto meats as they finish cooking, make some barbecue chicken pizza, or just eat by the spoonful.  Okay, maybe not the last one.  Unless you really, really want to.

Recipe: Barbecue Sauce
Prep Time: 5 Minutes | Cook Time: 25 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 1 Quart

  • 1 large Sweet Onion
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic
  • 2 cans (15 oz.) Tomato Sauce
  • 6 oz. Tomato Paste
  • 1/3 cup Molasses
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1-2 tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tbsp Ground Mustard
  • 2 tsp Cumin
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Finely mince onion and garlic.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil or butter in a pan over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and sweat 4-5 minutes until onions are translucent and tender, but not browned.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and stir.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes until sauce is reduced.
  4. Taste to check seasonings and adjust as needed.
  5. Brush over meat in last 5-10 minutes of cooking.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Raisin-Bran Muffins

Kristin and I were talking about family recipes yesterday.  I mentioned that I was glad her family recipes were good ones - and they are!  When somebody has a long-standing family recipe that's not all that good, it's a tough situation.  This seems to happen especially with baking.  There have been times where I've tried banana bread or cookies from someone's long-standing family recipe, but the finished product is just mediocre.  Thankfully, Kristin's family doesn't have this issue (nor, I daresay, does mine!).

These muffins are a family recipe from Kristin's grandmother, and they're mighty tasty.  They're a little lighter and sweeter than a typical bran muffin, but still far from the overbearing sweetness of some muffins that seem to just be cupcakes in disguise (Cupcakes in Disguise, by the way, is a major motion picture collaboration between Michael Bay and Paula Dean coming out next summer).  They're easy, they're tasty, and that's all one can ask when it comes to muffins.

The ingredients are more or less what you would expect, when it comes to muffins.  Flour, sugar, eggs, oil, baking soda, and salt form the basics.  Raisin bran gives the muffins their name.  Finally, that large bowl is filled with buttermilk of my own creation - you can buy it from the store, but it's so easy to make your own.

For each cup of buttermilk you need, use just shy of a cup of milk, and add one tablespoon of lemon juice.  Give it a stir and wait 15 or 20 minutes and you've got buttermilk in exactly the quantity you need.

First, combine the buttermilk, cereal, oil, sugar, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Use the largest bowl you've got - this recipe makes a lot of muffins.  My biggest bowl was near to overflowing by the end.

Next, create an exciting bowl full of nondescript white powder - combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in another mixing bowl.

Slowly and carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet.  I did this in three or four portions, mixing well between each addition of the dry stuff.  This more or less minimized the mess and ensured that the batter is actually mixed.

Important: Cover the mixed batter and rest in the refrigerator at least 6 hours before baking.  The raisin bran and other starches need some time to absorb all of the liquid.  An overnight rest works great, too, and will leave you ready to bake your breakfast first thing in the morning.

When the batter has rested at least 6 hours, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Apportion the batter into lined muffin tins about two-thirds of the way full.

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, making sure to check after 15.  Ours are generally just about there after 15 minutes, and after 16 or 17 have the perfect amount of color.  Take care not to overbake, or you'll have dry, sad muffins.  Sad muffins are a crime.

These are fantastic while still warm from the oven, so if you can, try one right away.  You know, for science.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Raisin-Bran Muffins
Prep Time: 6 hours 15 minutes | Cook Time: 15-20 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 4 dozen muffins

  • 1 box (15 oz) Raisin Bran cereal
  • 1 quart Buttermilk
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 1/2 cups White Sugar
  • 5 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 4 Eggs, lightly beaten
  • 5 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp Salt
  1. If needed, make buttermilk from 3 3/4 cups milk and 1/4 cup lemon juice, stirring and resting 20 minutes.
  2. Combine cereal, buttermilk, oil, sugar, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a second mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients slowly, in 3-4 portions, mixing well after each addition.
  5. Cover and rest batter at least 6 hours in the refrigerator.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Fill lined muffin tins 2/3 full with batter.
  7. Bake 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees, checking after 15 minutes.
  8. Serve warm.