Browsing articles in "Main Course"
Jun 12, 2012

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

From the kitchen of: Isabel  Makes: 6-8 servings
Total time: 10 min to prep, 15 min to fry

My very first recipe on Pretty Tasty Things was a Tilapia Fish Taco. It’s been a year and a few months since then and I still consider it one of my favorites. A few weeks ago when I asked my mom what she wanted for Mother’s Day, she replied “All I want is a meal cooked by you.” That is one thing I can certainly do. Plus, I’d rather make her a great meal than buy her something she’ll never wear or most likely return. Haha. Sorry Mom, you’re just very particular!

She came into town for Mother’s Day, and I made her, my sister who became a mom earlier this year, and my brother a throwback meal of my first recipe, but done slightly different. If you’ve been following Pretty Tasty Things, I’ve made a number of different tacos such as Carne Asada Tacos and Carne Adovada Tacos. They’re just so versatile that you can incorporate your own flavors and style. This time, I made my family Beer Battered Tilapia Fish Tacos topped with a sweet roasted corn salad, spicy chipotle aioli and red cabbage. Oh, speaking of beer, I definitely should drink less of it and include it in more of my cooking. The beer made for a crispy outer shell allowing the fish to stay moist and juicy.

Ingredients:
6 fresh Tilapia fillets, or any firm white fish
1 1/2 cup flour, for batter
1/2 cup flour, for fish
1/4 cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bottle of beer, preferably an ale or lager
vegetable oil, for frying
salt + pepper
flour tortillas

Directions:
1. Prep the fish.
Slice each Tilapia fillet into 8 equal portions. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

2. Make beer batter. In a medium-size bowl, add the dry ingredients — 1 1/2 cup flour, cornstarch, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in one bottle of beer. I used Fat Tire since that was already in my fridge. The batter’s consistency is similar to pancake batter.

3. Fry the fish. In a large pot or dutch oven, add vegetable oil about 2 inches deep. Heat oil to 350°. Meanwhile, lightly flour the seasoned fish portions in 1/2 cup of flour. Pat off the excess flour. Taking one fish at a time, dip it in the batter. Slowly drop the coated fish into the hot oil cooking 5-7 pieces at a time. Fry each side for 1 minute or so until the batter turns golden brown. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel lined tray. Season with salt and pepper while the fish is still hot. Repeat process with the rest of the fish portions.

4. Assemble tacos. Warm flour tacos either by microwave or oven. Add about 3 fish portions to each taco and top with roasted corn salad, chipotle aioli and red cabbage. Enjoy!

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May 8, 2012

Red Snapper with Vegetables Baked in a Parchment Pouch

From the kitchen of: Isabel   Makes: 2 servings
Total time:
15 min to prep, 15-20 min to bake

This technique of cooking isn’t new at all. It’s been around since I can remember watching cooking shows on PBS. Yes, before the Food Network and all those cooking channels we have now, all the cooking shows were on the one and only — Public Broadcasting Service. Well, this particular technique has stuck with me since then because it’s one of my favorite ways to really impress people. I’ve prepared fish in this manner several times before, and I think the best thing about this recipe is the flexibility of ingredients. I’ve used salmon previously, but today I’m using red snapper. I’ve also used a variety of different vegetables in season. The end result is like unwrapping a present. When you remove the pouch out of the oven and unfold the creases, the steam escapes. You peak inside to find a perfectly cooked fish sitting on a bed of vegetables cooked al dente with a salty and rich broth. Best present ever.

Ingredients:
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 zucchini, julienned
4-6 crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 filets of red snapper, or a fish of your choice
1/2 lemon, juiced
soy sauce
olive oil
salt + pepper

Directions:
1. Prep the vegetables.
Thinly slice the red onion, julienne the zucchini (aka cutting into long thin strips) and slice the crimini mushrooms. Just a tip, be sure to just slice the vegetables uniformly so they all cook fairly evenly. Set the vegetables aside for now.

2. Start assembling the pouch. Lay 2 20-inch parchment paper slices flat on the counter. Place half the veggies on one side of the parchment creating a bed for the fish, and do the same for the other parchment paper. Season the vegetables with a heavy drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the red snapper (be sure the fish is skinned) on top of each bed of veggies and then season the fish with olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, salt and pepper.

Season the fish!

3. Create the parchment pouch. Fold parchment over the fish and vegetables. Start at one corner of the fold and continue to fold and crimp the edges tightly to seal and enclose the filling completely.

4. Bake and serve. In a preheated 350° oven, place the pouches directly on the rack and bake for 15-20 depending on thickness of the fish. Remove the pouches from the oven and open them carefully. Enjoy with brown rice, which I’ll show you later this week!

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Apr 24, 2012

Carne Adovada Tacos

From the kitchen of: Isabel   Makes: 4-6 servings (depending on size of beef chuck)
Total time:
20 min to prep, 24 hours to marinade, 6-8 hours to cook in a crock pot

Having taken six years of Spanish during my middle school and high school years, I still had to Google the Spanish term, “Adovada.” All that learning gone to waste! Haha. Well, the term “Carne Adovada” (also known as “Adobada”) in Spanish means marinated meat. It’s a New Mexican cuisine, which typically uses pork and marinates it in a red chili sauce with garlic and several different spices.

The chili is key. It is what actually gives the meat all that yummy flavor and heat. For my tame taste buds, I went for a dried medium-hot chili called “New Mexico Chili,” packaged in a big plastic bag I found at Latino Village on 6003 W. Broad street. You are welcome to go hotter if you like. There’s usually a “hot” indicator scale on the front of the bag.

I also decided to use beef chuck, for no good reason. Just felt like eating beef that day, I’ll certainly try it with pork another day. I only have Nat from Nat’s Taco Truck Stop to thank for introducing me to my first Carne Adovada, which was in the form of a taco. I just had to learn how to make it at home when his newest restaurant didn’t carry them. Bring them back, Nat!!

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs beef chuck (boneless pot roast)
8 New Mexico chili pods
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper
2 cups water for boiling, 1/2 cup water for marinade, 1 cup water for crockpot

flour soft tortillas
salsa
diced avocado
shredded cheese
sour cream

Directions:
1. Prep the New Mexico chili.
First, preheat the oven to 350°. Then, slice the tops of the chili pods and discard the tips. Place the chili on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 6-8 minutes. Meanwhile, bring to a boil 2 cups of water on the stove top. Once the chili become slightly toasted, remove them from the oven. Slice each one down the middle to remove all the seeds. Place the de-seeded toasted chili pods in a medium-size bowl and pour the boiling water over them allowing the chili to soften for 3-5 minutes.

2. Blend the marinade. In a blender, add the soften chili pods, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper and just 1/2 cup of chili infused water. Blend together until the chili pods has been broken down into a thick paste. Take the marinade and cover the beef chuck completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, if possible. If not, at least 4-6 hours.

3. Crock pot the marinated beef. Place the beef with all the juices and marinade in the crock pot. Add a cup of water so the meat doesn’t become dry. Cover and allow to cook on low for 6-8 hours, turning at least once. The meat should be fork tender. Once it is, shred with two forks. To make tacos, scoop some of the carne adovada in a heated flour tortilla. Top with salsa, diced avocados, shredded cheese and a drizzle of sour cream. Enjoy!

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Apr 13, 2012

Meatball Sub with Fresh Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella and Basil

From the kitchen of: Isabel   Makes: 4 servings   Total time: 45 minutes

The other day I had a huge craving for a meatball sub. Don’t lie, I’m sure you’ve had one too. I’m not pregnant or anything, I promise! Haha. I don’t particularly mind this craving since it could be worse, ya know? I certainly satisfied it with my go-to recipe for homemade meatballs and tomato sauce. I’ve made these meatballs a million and one times, and each time the meatballs come out so juicy and tender. I sauté them over the stove since I enjoy those delicious crispy brown parts, but you can bake them if you prefer a “healthier” method. The meatballs and tomato sauce goes well with pasta, trust me, I’ve tried it! So whatever your craving is, a meatball sub or spaghetti with meatballs, this recipe will satisfy that ultimate craving.

Ingredients:
Tomato Sauce
1 – 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (this made a lot of sauce, you can use half the can)
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
olive oil

Meatballs
1 lb of ground beef
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (heaping!)
1/4 cup shaved or grated Parmesan cheese (heaping!)
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
olive oil

Sub
Ciabatta bread
fresh mozzarella balls, halved
olive oil
fresh basil for garnish

Directions:
1. Prepare tomato sauce.
Add a drizzle of olive oil to a saucepan and heat at medium temperature. Sauté the diced onions, chopped garlic, dried parsley, salt and pepper, stirring occasionally. Cook until translucent for about 5-7 minutes. Afterwards, add the crushed tomatoes and allow to simmer on low temperature while you’re preparing and cooking the meatballs. Stir occasionally to prevent sauce from sticking to bottom of the pan.

2. Prepare meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, egg, milk, dried parsley, dried basil, salt and pepper. Add the ground beef and combine until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Make golf ball size meatballs by rolling each one in the palm of your hands. Makes about 12 meatballs, 3 per person.

3. Cook meatballs. In a large, non-stick pan, add a heavy drizzle of olive oil and heat over medium temperature. Carefully place each meatball in the pan once the oil heats up, meatballs should sizzle. Cook for 10-12 minutes, rotating every 2-3 minutes four times in order to brown all the sides. Remove the meatballs and place on a plate. Discard the excess oil and add the tomato sauce to the large pan. Add the meatballs into the sauce and simmer for an additional 10 minutes on low.

4. Broil meatball sub. Cut 8 slices of Ciabatta bread and place on a cookie sheet. Drizzle each bread with olive oil. On four of the slices, add three meatballs and top with the tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. Broil the subs on low temperature in the oven for several minutes until the bread is toasted and the mozzarella has melted. Keep an eye on them, they broil up quick! Garnish with basil and serve hot!

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Mar 20, 2012

Korean-style Marinated Grilled Chicken

From the kitchen of: Isabel   Makes: 4 servings
Total time:
10 min to prep, 4 hour+ to marinate, 30 min to grill 

The best part about an early Spring is this amazing grilling weather. These current temperatures in the past week have been ridiculous — 70s during the day, 50s at night — can’t get any better than that! Needless to say, I am on cloud nine with the fact I can finally grill! Another way of cooking, grilling allows a different flavor profile from the charred smokiness from the gas or charcoals. I definitely have my parents to thank for my love of grilling. My parents certainly didn’t cook just hot dogs (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). My dad’s infamous beef skewers first introduced me to grilling, as well as, my relentless TV watching of Bobby Flay. I am a grilling machine, so lets kick off this grilling season with grilled chicken in a Korean-style marinade.

Ingredients:
1 package chicken legs, 1 package chicken thighs (total 10 pieces or so)
1 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup water
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 green onion stalks, chopped
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Directions:
1. Prepare the marinade.
In a zip lock bag, combine the chopped green onions, garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Zip the bag shut and shade the marinade around.

2. Marinade the chicken. Add the chicken legs and thighs to the marinade. Close the bag, mix well and allow the chicken to marinade in the refrigerator for at least four hours, or overnight if you make this the day before. Be sure to lay the bag flat in the refrigerator so the marinade coats all the chicken pieces.

3. Grill the chicken. Whatever your preference is, heat up your gas grill or charcoal grill. When the temperature reaches about 300-350°, place the marinated chicken on the grill. Cook each side roughly 15 minutes. Brush on some of the marinade to keep the chicken moist. Because of the sugars in the marinade, it might smoke up a lot, but don’t fret, the skin on the chicken is getting some nice flavor. Serve hot!

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