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Kirk Spencer’s Peached Tilapia

I asked around for some peach recipes and Kirk sent me a list of things he could do with peaches and asked me to choose.  I decided the fish sounded like a good idea.  I like using fruits with meats, fishes and poultry, so this one appealed to me.  Here’s Kirk:

OK, let’s start with editorial comments. Tilapia is a fish with almost no flavor of its own. Worse, the odds are you’re going to get farmed tilapia, which is going to be even blander. When you make tilapia, then, you’ve got two choices. You can go for extreme subtlety to tease out the taste of the fish. Or you can go for any darn flavor you want and let the fish provide texture. Here, I’m taking the low road. We’re going to end up with PEACH flavors on a tender fish texture.

Second editorial comment. I’m in the process of returning to cooking for just two. As a result that’s what you’re going to get for recipes – serves two adults who don’t pick at their food. A whole Tilapia is one to two pounds, of which between half and 2/3s is food for most USians (ie, we don’t pick the bones or eat the head — and we might leave the skin alone as well.)

  • Two whole (cleaned [ means gutted ] and scaled) tilapia – heads optional.

Glaze:

  • One peach, peeled, pitted, and crushed, measured.
  • 1/2 measure brown sugar.
  • 1/2 measure white sugar.
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper.
  • Dash of salt.

Filling:

  • One peach, peeled, pitted, and crushed.
  • 4 ounces crushed pecans.
  • 4 ounces butter.
  • 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder.
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder.
  • Dash of salt.

Overview: Soak some toothpicks or skewers. Make the glaze. Make the filling. Stuff the tilapia and seal cavity closed. Grill for three minutes. Turn, spread glaze over finished side, grill for two more minutes. Move to finish plate with glazed side down and glaze the unfinished side. Let rest under heat trap for three to five minutes.

Details.

Glaze. Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until peaches seem translucent — about 20 minutes. Beware, the high sugar content is easy to burn. By the way, this is basically a homemade peach preserve. Remove from heat, but it’s fine to use this warm.

Filling.

Brown butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in pecans, cocoa and cayenne, and cook for another 30 seconds or so till it’s all hot and the pecans begin to brown. Add the peaches and remove from heat.

Make sure your tilapia are cleaned and scaled. Stuff half the filling into each fish’s belly. Use toothpicks or skewers that you’ve soaked in water for a few moments to close the bellies.

Heat your grill, and either oil the grate or oil the griddle on which you’ll hold the fish. Put the fish over direct heat about three-four inches above the coals for three minutes. Turn, and spread about half the glaze over the two fish’s upward sides. Let cook for two more minutes and move to a plate or pan, glaze side down. Yes, it’s going to stick to that pan. Glaze the side that’s now up, and put a lid or foil over the top to trap the heat. Let the fish rest for three to five minutes. Uncover and serve.

A service trick. Instead of using a pan for the rest, you could put the fish on the plates off which you’re going to eat. That way you don’t lose the bottom glaze to the pan. If you do this I recommend prewarming the plates.

RECOMMENDED SIDES:

A vinaigrette fruit salad – the easy way is a standard fruit salad tossed with a basic vinaigrette dressing, but the bananas usually used might be peculiar to some tastes. Alternatively any pickled, cold dish such as a vinaigrette slaw or sweet and sour red cabbage or carrot-daikon slaw. The sour will help balance the sweet of the fish, the cold will handle both the stove heat and the cayenne heat (not that there’s much in this.) Steamed greens of some sort – in this case I’d prefer steamed nettles, but any earthy green (kale, mustard greens, etc) will do.

Alternatively, buttered small beets will serve the same purpose. The earthy taste grounds the meal and helps make it seem more filling. Crisp, lightly toasted bread (such as a baguette) with a parmesan butter (1 part parmesan, three parts butter, whipped together) as support.

Kirk

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Baked Chicken with Peaches

This turned out well.  It’s very sweet, I added some crushed red pepper to give it a bit more balance and I think next time I’d use red wine vinegar instead of lemon juice and maybe 2 tbsps.  Baked potato and greens would make good sides for it.

Baked Chicken with Peaches

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 fresh peaches – peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

8×8 glass baking dish, well oiled

Place chicken breasts in the baking dish. Sprinkle with ¼ cup brown sugar, cover with peach slices, sprinkle with remaining brown sugar, spices and lemon juice. Bake for 30 minutes, basting frequently (about every 10 minutes) at 350º.

Tangy Yogurt Chicken Marinade

Spring didn’t last long and winter seems to want to linger.  But here’s a great recipe to grill (or broil if you have to) – the tangy yogurt marinade keeps chicken moist and creates a great outer coating with a flavor that zings.  Serve with couscous and citrus chunks for a winter break.

 

Yogurt Dill Chicken:

  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp dry dill, crushed
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded*

large shallow covered dish

broiler or grill

 

Mix together yogurt, mustard, dill, thyme.  Place pounded chicken in dish, spoon yogurt mixture over, cover and let marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight.  Grill or broil for 10-15 minutes each side, until fully cooked at center.  If you’re broiling, place rack one level from the top most setting.

 

*The easiest way to pound chicken is to wrap in plastic wrap and pound with the smooth side of a meat mallet.  Keeps meat from splattering.

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