A light, steamed fish dish with big, bold flavors


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Posted Online: Jan. 08, 2013, 10:15 am
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By Sara Moulton
The first time I had to test a recipe for steamed fish was back in the '80s, when I was working in the test kitchen at Gourmet magazine. And truthfully, the very idea seemed preposterous.

Steaming anything over water always had struck me as boring. And the idea you could count on a good result by applying such an intense method to a protein as delicate as fish seemed highly unlikely.

But the recipe in question relied on the Chinese method of steaming fish, and I became a believer the very first time I tried it. As is typical in Chinese cuisine, the secret is in the seasoning. Given their blandness, fish are a wonderful canvas for intense ingredients such as ginger, chilies and toasted sesame oil. Steaming them concentrates and amplifies their flavors. And an added bonus is steaming requires very little fat.

This recipe works wonderfully using any thin fillet of fish, including char, catfish, trout and striped bass. And if you increase the cooking time, you can swap in any number of thicker fillets, including cod, sablefish and halibut. How do you know when the fish is cooked? Stick a knife through it. If it goes easily through, it's done.

For this recipe I chose tilapia because it is a sustainably-raised farmed fish. I prefer American-raised, as the quality is much higher than imported.

Ideally, you'd cook this fish in a Chinese bamboo steamer. But if you don't have one of those, you can use a collapsible metal steamer lined with foil. I love those steamer baskets. They are great for steaming vegetables as well as meat, fit into most saucepans, easily store and are virtually indestructible. I'm still using one I bought during my college days.

This recipe is quick, healthy and delicious. You might want to think of it as a jumping-off point for other steamed fish dishes. In fact, if — like most of us — you're recovering from a month or two of holiday overindulgence, this little gem could enter your regular rotation as a lighter dish for the new year.

Chinese-Style Steamed Tilapia
Start to finish: 40 minutes (10 minutes active)
Servings: 4
5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/4 pounds tilapia fillets, cut into 4 portions
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
3 scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 large jalapeno chili or 1 serrano chili, very thinly sliced crosswise


In a small bowl, whisk together three tablespoons of the soy sauce, the sake or sherry, ginger, two teaspoons of the sesame oil and the cornstarch. Transfer the mixture to a zip-close plastic bag, add the tilapi, then shake to coat the fish with the marinade. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

Fill a medium saucepan with about one inch of water. Fit the pan with a steamer basket, then line the basket with foil. Coat the foil with cooking spray. Bring the water to a boil.

Remove the fillets from the bag, then arrange them on the foil, folding if necessary to make them fit. Pour the marinade over the fish. Cover and steam the fish for three to six minutes, or until just cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over high, heat the vegetable oil until hot. Reduce the heat to medium, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, three to five minutes. Add the scallions and chili and cook for another minute. Stir in the remaining two tablespoons of soy sauce and one teaspoon of sesame oil. Transfer the fillets to plates and spoon the mushroom mixture over them. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving: 330 calories; 170 calories from fat (52 percent of total calories); 20 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 70 mg cholesterol; 9 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 30 g protein; 830 mg sodium.

















 



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  Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Col. H.F. Sickless informs us that there will be new organization of troops in this state under the call for more men.
1889 -- 125 years ago: James Normoyle arrived home after graduating from West Point with honors in the class of 1889. He was to report to Fort Brady, Mich., as second lieutenant in the 23rd Infantry.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Austria Hungary declared war on Serbia. Germany and Austria refused an invitation of Sir Edward Grey to join Great Britain at a mediation conference.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Dr. William Mayo, the last of the three famous Mayo brother surgeons, died at the age of 78.
1964 -- 50 years ago: One of the biggest horse shows of the season was held yesterday at Hillandale Arena on Knoxville Road under the sponsorship of the Illowa Horsemen's Club.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Davenport is like a gigantic carnival this weekend with the Bix Arts Fest taking over 12 square blocks of the downtown area. A festive atmosphere prevailed Friday as thousands of people turned out to sample what the Arts Fest has to offer.








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