Having a blog is fun. It has an element of work to it, but it’s not really work. However, when you’re staring down the barrel of a 3,000+ mile move with a dog, two cats, a horse and two chickens, and you’re relying on the Army and some aging vehicles to get you there, and you’re trying to use up all your food and you’re limiting grocery shopping to, well, never… it’s kind of hard to blog.
Because blogging is part creativity and part hunger. You want to write about a creation, but you also want to eat it. And when you’re limited to the contents of your freezer and pantry, and those contents have been whittled down to too many cans of tomato paste to count, several half-used bags of pasta, and a container of pesto from last year that you didn’t find until you ate all the food on top of it in the chest freezer, well, no one really wants to read about pasta and pesto, again. Nor do I want to eat it, again.
But then an angel, cleverly disguised as a friend and neighbor, appears at your door with a package of line-caught wild red snapper. Then a bag of yellow cornmeal falls off the shelf into your waiting hands. Then a neighbor suggests sweet potato for your dog’s itchiness only to find out that your dog doesn’t like sweet potato. Then, then, you get to create something great. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.
Cornmeal-Crusted Red Snapper with Kale and Sweet Potato-Polenta Cakes
For the kale:
1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces (120 g +/-) kale, ribs removed and coarsely chopped
Zest and juice of one orange
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon molasses
For the cakes:
1 medium (8 ounces/320 g) sweet potato, peeled and cooked
2 cups (475 mL) chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (80 g) yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup (22 g) freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
For the fish:
3 cups (700 mL) buttermilk
1 large (8 ounces/320 g +/-) red snapper filet
1 cup (160 g) yellow cornmeal
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
For the kale: Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the olive oil. Over low heat, cook the onion, covered, until deep golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and stir, then add the zest. Pile in all of the kale and pour the juice over, then cover and let wilt until it’s a manageable volume but still bright green. Stir in the molasses and cook until the kale is tender. Season with salt, to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the cakes: Mash the sweet potato in a bowl and set aside. Bring the broth and salt to a boil and whisk in the cornmeal. Continue whisking to avoid lumps and until the mixture thickens slightly, then add the sweet potato and whisk to combine. Stir in the cheese and cook until the mixture is dense and creamy but not dry. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray and, using a spoon or small ice cream scoop, fill each compartment about halfway with cooled polenta mixture. Put in the freezer for 30-35 minutes until solid but not frozen. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Remove the cakes from the muffin tin and fry, four at a time, until the bottoms are golden brown and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully flip the cakes over and fry on the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from oil and let drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining cakes.
For the fish: Pour the buttermilk into a large, shallow dish. Cut the fish into two equal portions and place in the buttermilk to soak. Melt butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. In another shallow dish, whisk together the cornmeal, cayenne, and salt. Remove the fish from the buttermilk and drain briefly, then dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Fry on one side until golden brown and carefully flip to fry on the other side. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork.
To plate: Place a spoonful of kale and onion mixture in the center of a plate. Top with 2-3 cornmeal cakes and a piece of fish, then add another bit of kale to the top. Garnish with fresh orange slices. Enjoy.