Oct 22, 2009

Crisp Crusted Catfish & Potato Gratin with Goat Cheese and Garlic

As you're about to see, this wasn’t the most visually stunning meal to prepare. No fresh colors or interesting ingredients, just shades of tan and a lot of liquids. But then again, there are many foods that lack color and visual grace, but still reign victoriously when it comes to taste. Like deep fried candy bars. Not that this meal tasted anything like a fried candy bar. One could only wish that low-fat, un-fried foods could end up tasting like the divine concoctions of county fairs.

But doesn’t it seem like the foods we crave are usually the least beautiful? Sure, that salad is nice and colorful. And that sushi looks like art. But sometimes you just want a corn dog with a side of corn dogs. When I worked at Applebee’s, I remember one commonly ordered dish was the chicken fried chicken, which comes with mashed potatoes, garlic bread, and broccoli. And of course, people would always replace the broccoli with fries. Part of me felt guilty delivering that heaping plate of greasy brown carbs to the table. But just a small part. The largest part felt mostly jealous.

One thing I did get to do for this meal was visit the fresh seafood counter, which is always fun. It’s stuff like fresh seafood, and gourmet cheese and exotic produce that really make you feel like you’re going home to create something wonderful. Quite opposite to the feeling that’s induced after grabbing some mass produced, just-add-water, box of preservative-filled powder. Plus, fresh seafood is so exciting, with all those bright colors and crab legs spiking out everywhere, and huge slabs of salmon. I wish I could have snagged a few photos to liven up this post. But I did manage to snag the last four catfish fillets. Supposedly they’ve been selling like crazy.

At home, I started with the potatoes, which I predicted would cause a few problems because I don’t have a potato slicer or a Cuisinart or anything with the power to quickly and uniformly slice. But in actuality, they were a cinch. (Mother’s note: hold them steady with a fork. Those suckers are slippery!) The sauce was equally easy, which I layered between potato slices, then threw into the oven to forget about for an hour.






Next, the fish. Dip it, dredge it, then throw them in a hot pan of oil until golden brown. Don’t I wish! Instead, I sadly baked them. I think sadly is an appropriate descriptor because what I was really doing was denying the fish its right to be fried. And my right to eat it fried. There’s just something magical about the combination of fish, a bowl of batter and a vat of oil. That’s why no one ever hosts a fish bake. Or goes to Long John Silvers to order that one lonesome non-fried item on the menu.

But to my surprise, the fish came out looking deceivingly fried. And the potatoes came out looking deceivingly… pinkish. And rather void of life. I know it's hard to tell from the picture, but it looked kinda like potatoes in salmon pâté.





Baked fish and pink potatoes. Not quite the beg-for-seconds meal I’d set out to make. But I sucked it up and served it up, aside a salad and a couple Irish beers and…pretty good. Despite their lack luster appearance, the potatoes were actually very tasty. Very creamy and peppery. Much better than scalped potatoes from a box, and practically as easy. I'll make them again. The fish was good, too. Although, I couldn’t help but wonder out loud if frying them for a just a little bit might be worth the added calories. But the raised eyebrow from my husband kept me in my seat. So I just squirted on more lemon, and pretended it was oil.

I was going to say it was just an “eh” meal, as in good, but not something I’m all crazy about making again. (Like I am with that chicken from last week.) But Luke loved it, and kept hinting that I should make it soon. So, I guess I’ll say it’s a winner. At least in his book.

Crisp Crusted Catfish
Yield: 4 servings

2  tablespoons  light ranch dressing
2  large egg whites
6  tablespoons  yellow cornmeal
1/4  cup  (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
1/4  teaspoon  ground red pepper
1/8  teaspoon  salt
4  (6-ounce) farm-raised catfish fillets
Cooking spray
4  lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine the dressing and egg whites in a small bowl, and stir well with a whisk. Combine the cornmeal, cheese, flour, pepper, and salt in a shallow dish. Dip fish in egg white mixture; dredge in cornmeal mixture.

Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; bake at 425° for 12 minutes on each side or until lightly browned and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 313 (26% from fat), Fat: 9.1g (sat 2.8g,mono 3.6g,poly 3.3g), Protein: 87g, Carbohydrate: 14.3g, Fiber: 1.1g, Cholesterol: 87mg, Iron: 1.2mg, Sodium: 348mg, Calcium: 101mg. Source: Cooking Light Complete Cookbook, 2008.

Potato Gratin with Goat Cheese and Garlic
Yield: 9 servings (serving size: 2/3 cup)

1  cup  half-and-half, divided
1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
1  cup  (4 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
1  cup  1% low-fat milk
1  teaspoon  salt
3/4  teaspoon  black pepper
1/8  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
1  garlic clove, minced
5  cups  thinly sliced peeled Yukon gold potato (about 2 1/2 pounds)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine 2 tablespoons half-and-half with flour in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the remaining half-and-half, cheese, and next 5 ingredients (cheese through garlic), stirring with a whisk. Arrange half of the potato slices in a single layer in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour half of the milk mixture over potato slices, stirring the milk mixture immediately before adding. Repeat procedure with remaining potato slices and milk mixture. Bake at 400° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender and golden brown.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 193 (27% from fat), Fat: 5.8g (sat 3.8g,mono 1.6g,poly 0.1g), Protein: 6.4g, Carbohydrate: 28.4g, Fiber: 2.4g, Cholesterol: 20mg, Iron: 0.7mg, Sodium: 341mg, Calcium: 90mg. Source: Cooking Light Complete Cookbook, 2008.


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