Friday, February 13, 2009

Grouper - Who You Callin' Sweetlips?

The week started with a couple of rather intimidating slabs of pink grouper.  Like their cousins the sea bass, groupers have had their own share of scandal.  Apparently, restaurants have been known to substitute this hefty fish with imposters on their menus, secretly serving the likes of tilapia, bream, green weakfish, and painted sweetlips (yes, that's right, there's a fish called "painted sweetlips.") The experts say that it's best to only order grouper if it's served whole, since it has a pretty recognizable shape and girth.  Who knew?

Since it felt similar to red snapper in density and texture, I figured that grilling would be the best way to cook it.  Feeling brave at the beginning of the week, I decided to improvise and actually came up with a pretty good recipe.  I soaked the filets in vietnamese fish oil for a while rather than salting them, then coated the filets in a dry rub of turmeric, black pepper and cayenne pepper.  I finished by coating them with Lousiana fish fry (which is essentially finely ground corn meal and flour).  This gave them a nice crunchy, colorful, and flavorful crust.  I served them up with grilled onions and a shitake risotto that I made in my trusty rice cooker that I've had since the college days, and topped everything off with an asian-inspired salsa (I say asian in jest, since really the only thing asian about this tomato + cilantro + red chili concoction was the rice vinegar).  The creamy risotto went nicely with the spicy, meaty fish, and the light salsa moistened each bite.  As with the Nuh-uh Nola, Hello Chola fish tacos, this hot pink grouper went great with beer.

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