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Spicy Pecan-Crusted Dolphin Fish

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When I was a kid, our family friend, Captain Fred Cates, used to take us fishing on his beautiful sports fishing boat.  Capt’n Fred was actually my grandfather’s friend.  The former mayor of Hillsborough, he is a bastion of hilarious stories about my parents and grandparents.  He also spent all of my elementary and teen years trying to set me up with his grandson, Chase.  Who, as I was frequently reminded, has a four door truck.

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On these fishing trips off the coast of North Carolina, into the gulf stream, there was an award system.  Golden hooks were awarded for biggest fish, most fish, so on and so on.  I rarely won, and when I did go home with a golden hook it was usually because my father or uncle had helped me reel in the fish.  Mostly I remember fishing for dolphin fish, but I’m sure we were after other game as well.

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Dolphin fish, also known as mahi mahi (which I refuse to say, seeing as how I am not Hawaiian), is a delicious fish.  It is also, in my opinion, a beautiful fish.  It has this incredible shimmer to it, changing from yellow to green to bright blue, depending on how the sun hits its scales.  The meat is light and full of flavor, not fishy at all.

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For this recipe, I was looking for a good winter twist on a fish dish.  Usually I like dolphin served with lime and cilantro.  But, since it’s winter, I thought something a little heavier was fitting.  So, I made a quick pecan breading, with a little spice to add a kick.  I served it with lightly cooked asparagus that I topped with lemon and parmesan.  It was scrumptious.  Dan suggested that these might make a great appetizer, on toothpicks served with spicy mustard.

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Spicy Pecan-Crusted Dolphin Fish

1 dolphin filet

1 cup of pecans

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp chipotle pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 cup peanut oil

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk

Salt & Pepper

Rinse your filets in cold water, and pat dry.  If your filet still has the skin on it, peel the skin off before you rinse.  For instructions on how to filet a dolphin see here.  Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.  I sliced them into squares to increase the breading surface.  Also, cutting them makes the filets go further portion wise.  Dan and I split one filet, and combined with the asparagus, we were full.  I actually didn’t even finish my half.

In the food processor, blend pecans, flour, sugar,  salt and spices.  In a heavy nonstick skillet or cast iron pan, heat the peanut oil.

Dip your filets in the dry mix, then in milk, then in the dry mix.  Set aside.

When the peanut oil is hot to the touch, drop your filets in.  Cook for two to three minutes on each side.  Use tongs or a fork to drop the fish onto a paper towel.  Allow to cool at least a few minutes on the paper towel (which will also absorb some oil) before plating.

 

Asparagus with Lemon and Parmesan

1 bunch of asparagus

1 lemon

2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Fill your saute pan 1/4 to 1/2 of the way with water.  Add 1 tbsp olive oil and bring to a simmer.  Rinse your asparagus and place in the pan.

Slice your lemon in half.  Squeeze half of the lemon over the asparagus, and place the lemon half in the pan.  Cook the asparagus for 10 minutes, or until it has become a darker green.

Plate your asparagus, then squeeze the other half of the lemon over it.  Grate parmesan over the asparagus and serve.

Serves 2.

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Iced Maple Sugar Cookies

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So after making Dan’s birthday cake, I had a lot of left over icing.  And since it took me ages to finely chop all those strawberries, I certainly didn’t want it to go to waste.  So, I made sugar cookies, and iced them with my leftover strawberry icing.  I will also note that Dan loves iced sugar cookies, so this counts as extra birthday baking.

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For Christmas, Dan’s mom gave me a book of Christmas cookie recipes, and this was from the book.  It’s a recipe from April Gadoury, and she titles it “Best-Ever Sugar Cookies.”  And she does not lie.  The maple syrup adds an extra sweetness, but the cookies aren’t overwhelmed with the flavor of maple.  They also iced really nicely, I just popped them back into the fridge after I iced them so everything could solidify.  My only tweak would be that instead of trying to roll them out and use a cookie cutter, I think next time I’ll form them into a log before putting in the fridge so that I can just slice and bake them… much easier!

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Iced Maple Sugar Cookies
Source: Christmas Cookies, April Gadoury

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 cup butter, softened

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tbsp vanilla extract

3  cups all purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Strawberry Icing (recipe here)

Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl.  Mix with an electric mixer until fully incorporated.  Add in eggs, syrup, and vanilla, and mix.

Whisk together  flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually beat into sugar mixture.  Divide the dough in half.  Roll each half into a log, and wrap with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight.

Slice hardened log into 1/4″ thick cookies.  Bake at 375* for 6-10 minutes.  Let cool, then ice.

Makes 15-20 cookies.

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White Cake with Chocolate and Strawberries

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While I would consider myself a pie person, I also really enjoy cakes, both baking and eating.  I think that my penchant for pie comes from my July birthday.  Because my birthday is usually in the summer, the ideal celebration dessert is a blueberry mountain pie, a recipe I’ll share for my birthday this year.  It’s a hot cobbler served with vanilla ice cream, and it epitomizes the feel of my birthday, for me.

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But, this weekend is Dan’s birthday, not mine.  So, I made a cake.  I prefer chocolate cake with thin chocolate icing , but Dan is a vanilla cake person, and since it’s not my birthday, that’s what I did.  I made a white cake with strawberry icing between the layers and chocolate icing on the top.  Strawberries were on sale at the market, so I bought two packs and garnished the cake with sliced strawberries.

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Now, for the embarrassing part.  So this cake was supposed to have three layers.  In fact, I MADE three layers.  But as I was pulling the pans out of the oven, I (typical) dropped the pan.  It slid out of my oven mitted hands and onto the bottom of the oven, cake side down.  I’m not beyond using food that I’ve dropped, but the cake completely feel out of the pan and crumbled at the bottom of my oven.  It was devastating.  And since I have to work today and didn’t have time to repeat the laborious process of making a white cake just for one layer, Dan’s birthday cake was stunted.

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I also forgot to add the extracts.  I was skimming the recipe a little too fast, I guess, and just never saw the part of the instructions where they mentioned extract.  The cake still tasted good, and with all that icing you couldn’t really tell the difference.  All in all, it turned out well.  The strawberries jazzed up what I would usually consider kind of a boring cake, and I love the strawberries and chocolate combination!

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Basic White Cake
Source: Southern Living, July 2008 

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

2 cups sugar

3 cups cake flour (or 2 1/2 cups all purpose)

4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 tsp almond extract

6 egg whites

Beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer, at low to medium speed.  Beat until creamy, then gradually add sugar.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Combine milk and water.  Alternate adding dry and wet ingredients to the butter, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Use a silicon spatula to fold together.  When you’ve combined all three mixtures, stir in extracts.

Beat egg whites at a high speed until stiff peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the batter one third at a time.  Grease your baking pans, and split the batter between them (3 8″ baking pans)

Bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes.  Cool for fifteen minutes.

Spread out a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter.  Turn one of your pans upside down onto the wrap, so that the cake is touching plastic.  Use your hands to gently hit the bottom of the pan.  Don’t get violent, but you want to hit the pan hard enough to dislodge the cake.  Move your hand around the bottom of your pan until you hear the cake plop down.  Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the freezer.  Repeat with other two layers.

Freeze for 4 hours.  Unwrap frozen layers, spread on icing.  Allow to stand at room temperature for two hours.  Garnish and serve.

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Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
Source: Southern Living, July 2008

1 cup butter, softened

1 32-oz package powdered sugar

1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries

Use an electric mixer to beat butter until fluffy.  Add sugar and strawberries, beating until creamy.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to put onto the cake. 

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Milk Chocolate Frosting
Source: Southern Living, July 2008

1/2 cup butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/4 cup milk 

Use an electric mixer to beat butter until creamy.  Add the remaining ingredients, one at a time, beating until smooth.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to ice the cake.

 


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