Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Something Fishy

Since I've recently developed a major love-hate relationship with Jillian Michaels (trainer from The Biggest Loser, for those who don't know), I decided to subscribe to her daily newsletter. She gives advice on workouts, debunks health and exercise myths, sends recipes, and other helpful info. I'm not a huge fan of daily subscriptions, but I've read hers almost everyday since they're short, applicable, and interesting! But, this is not an ad for her newsletters, so I digress.
Last week, one of her emails included a recipe for Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Asparagus and Lemon. I am not a big seafood fan, but Tilapia is one type of fish that I actually like. Plus, I love asparagus and everything else in the recipe was easy to find in Malaysia, so I figured I'd give it a try.
And then THIS happened:
Now, I love going fishing. But, my idea of fishing is usually someone else baiting my hook, me casting and reeling, and then someone else unhooking my fish. Then, if we choose to keep it, someone else preparing it (and usually eating it) for me. [Read: The only part of fishing I like has nothing to do with the actual fish.] I've never bought fish in America, so I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure this isn't how they sell it, is it? Also, whenever I've bought salmon here, it's already nicely filleted. Needless to say, I wasn't sure how to proceed.
There was one man already at work dissecting what I think was a baby shark for another customer, so thankfully a friendly employee came over to help. He, of course, didn't speak much English, thus the conversation that ensued was half charades and crazy facial expressions and half overly-emphatic and shouted words.
Me: "Can I have one fish?"
Him: "Yes."
Me: "Can you cut it for me?"
Him: "Yes. Which one?"
Me: "I don't care."
Him: "Which one?"
Me: "I have no idea."
Him: "Big or small?"
Me: "Small, I guess?"
[He picked looked at two and then chose one. I'm pretty sure the looking at the first was all for show. I saw nothing different about them.]
Him: "This one?"
Me: "Yes. Can you cut it for me, please?"
Him: "How many pieces?"
Me: "Ummm. Two?" [Thought going through my head: "Isn't there a protocol for this? Like, can't I just say "Cut it for me, please" and have you present me with a couple of nice, fresh fillets? Why is this so difficult?"]
Him: "Do you want the head?"
Me: "Ew. No way. NO." [Remember what I said about charades, facial expressions and over-emphasis? There were lots at this point.]
Him: "Stomach?"
Me: "Nope. No stomach. Just the fish."

He was actually the beef and chicken grinder, so he gave the fish and instructions to the shark guy and walked away. A few minutes later, I walked away with...

Right. So.. Now what? The recipe called for a few fillets, not a whole fish tail. How exactly is one supposed to get from one to the other? Thanks to my friends Google and Youtube, I figured it out. And, 30 minutes, fish guts, cracking fish bones, a couple of almost cuss words, and some disgusted facial expressions later, I had 3 minuscule pieces of tilapia to fry up. Haha. By this point, I was borderline between "THIS IS NOT WORTH IT" and "I WILL EAT THIS FISH IF IT'S THE LAST THING I DO." And since my momma didn't raise a quitter, I went ahead and cooked up the recipe. Here is the final result:

Yes, it was delicious. Yes, that is a salad plate. The recipe was supposed to make enough for 4 adult servings. Mine made 1/2. However, it was delicious, so I went to the import store, bought 4 huge frozen fillets for $5 and plan to make this again soon...the right way (why I didn't do this in the first place, I'll never know). At least now I can say I've filleted a fish...kind of, at least. :)

Here's the recipe if anyone else is brave enough to try it. (Chef's note: Buy already filleted tilapia.)

Chili-Rubbed Tilapia With Asparagus and Lemon
  • 2 pounds organic asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 pound tilapia, Pacific sole, or other firm white-fish fillet
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

1) Bring an inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Put asparagus in a steamer basket, place in the pan, cover, and steam until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large plate, spreading out to cool.
2) Combine chili powder, garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt on a plate. Dredge fillets in the spice mixture to coat. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook until just opaque in the center, gently turning halfway, 5 to 7 minutes total.
3) Divide among 4 plates. Immediately add lemon juice, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and asparagus to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the asparagus is coated and heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve the asparagus with the fish

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