Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tilapia with Leeks and Bacon

First let me show you some pictures of my girls enjoying our asparagus soup from a few nights ago:

Tilapia with Leeks and Bacon

Tilapia is a mild, white fish that's very versatile and a good place to start if you're not sure how to prepare fish, or if you think you don't like fish.  Leeks are a mild green onion, like a giant scallion.  They can be a little frustrating because they do require some preparation and a lot of the veggie goes to waste, but they're great in sauces and soups.  Bacon, well....who are we kidding, bacon is good on everything.

This sauce is taken from an original recipe by Rachael Ray, called Super-Herbed Sauteed Salmon with Creamy Leeks and Bacon.  I find the flavor of Salmon to be a little strong for the sauce, so I prefer to use Tilapia, and I just season it lightly instead of "super-herbing" it.

You'll need 3 to 4 medium-sized leeks.  Pick out leeks with the largest portion of light-green on the stalk.  You can't eat the white part or the thick leafy green part, so cut those parts off and slice the rest of it in half down the length of it.  Then slice the leeks into half-moon shapes.  See all those layers in the leek?  The leeks grow up, from the root of the plant up through the dirt, and the dirt gets trapped in between all those layers.  You don't want to eat the dirt; so you need to rinse the leeks.  Put your sliced leeks in a bowl of cold water.  The leeks will float, but the dirt will sink to the bottom.  Swish them around in the water for a few minutes, or just let them sit while you make the bacon.  When you fish them out, you should see a fair amount of dirt in the bottom of the bowl.  Place them on a clean, dry dish towel and pat them completely dry.

Chop half a pound of bacon and crisp it up on the stove, preferably in a non-stick skillet.  You want it as crispy as you can get it without burning it.  Remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate.  Pour most of the grease out of the pan (into whatever receptacle you usually dispose of bacon grease) but save one or two tablespoons and put the pan back on the heat.

In a separate skillet, melt two tablespoons of butter and add the leeks, then start your fish (below).  When the leeks are softened and turning translucent, add 3/4 cup of dry white wine and bring to a boil.  Reduce it by half, then add about a half of cup of cream, or up to a cup.  Reduce it again by about half, then taste and season as desired.

Season both sides of 3 or 4 tilapia fillets with salt, pepper, and thyme.  You can also use cayenne pepper if you think you'd like it a little spicy.  Add the fillets to the hot pan with the bacon grease in it (the burner should be at about medium to medium-high now) and brown both sides of the fish.  I say to use a non-stick pan for fish because fish is very likely to stick to the bottom of another style pan, and you want to be able to flip it gracefully and without leaving chunks of fish in the bottom of your skillet.  To flip the fish you will need to use two spatulas.  Turn it over gently so as not to break the fish.  This should take about 3 or 4 minutes per side, and it should also be cooked through by this time.  If your sauce isn't quite done, turn the heat off of the fish a little early to let it finish cooking more slowly.

The original recipe calls for the bacon to be stirred into the sauce at the last minute, but my husband likes it to remain as crispy as possible, so we sprinkle it on top at the table.  Serve the fish on top of a scoop of white rice (made well ahead of time in my handy-dandy rice cooker), then top with the sauce and the bacon.  Enjoy!!

Remember if you'd like the sauce a little thicker, you can make a roux and use it to thicken the sauce as much as you'd like.  You can also serve another vegetable alongside the main dish if the leeks won't be enough for you.  And if you're really opposed to cooking with animal fat, feel free to omit the bacon and bacon grease altogether; the fish will be fine cooked in butter (still animal fat) or olive oil.

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