Sunday, January 09, 2011

Snacking State-by-State Mashup 1: Nopal and Cedar-Roasted Catfish Stir-Fry

One problem I have found with this Snacking State-by-State series I am doing is the plethora of leftovers. While some do store or freeze well (catfish AND sockeye salmon in the freezer), I only have so much room in my freezer, fridge and pantry. I mean, let's face it: that jar of nopal cactus is going to sit in my fridge for quite some time. I'll probably have it when I get to my New Mexico post sometime in early 2012.

So it behooves me to do something creative with these disparate ingredients. Inspired by the otherwise irritating show Chopped, I will take a bunch of ingredients that I have leftover from my first four State-by-State posts, and put them together in a recipe. Sort of a state by state mashup, minus the douchebag hotshot contestants. Or douchebag arrogant judges.

The first one seems best suited to a stir-fry.

The mash-up recipe: Nopal and Cedar-Roasted Catfish Stir-Fry

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as an appetizer

Ingredients (state flag indicates State-by-State post where ingredient was featured. Ingredients with no flag were not specially found for any one post):

1 catfish fillet

1/2 cup nopal cactus, minced

1/2 cup long grain white rice per person, cooked

meat from one ham hock (optional: skin & fat from ham hock)

1 tablespoon parsley-lemon compound butter

1 poblano chile, roasted, skinned and minced

1 cedar plank, seasoned

1 flour tortilla, cut into strips and fried until crisp (optional)

1 small onion, sliced
1 - 2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 small handful parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons olive or peanut oil

Prepare the cedar plank for baking in the oven, and lightly smear the compound butter on the catfish.

Like so.

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes at 350 degrees, taking care not to cook through (you will finish cooking it later). Remove and cut the catfish fillet bite-sized into pieces, and set aside.

This is not catfish.

Heat oil in wok or saute pan, then add the following in succession:

1) optional fat & skin from ham hock for 30 seconds. Then remove it if you use it.

2) onion and garlic for 30 seconds

3) meat from ham hock for 1 minute

4) nopales, tomato and poblano chile for 1 minute

5) catfish for three minutes or until cooked through

Serve with rice. As an optional garnish, add flour tortilla strips and parsley.

I found this stir fry to be a little on the goopy side, specifically due to the nopal. Again, the nopal flavor was more muted than I remembered from the last time I ate it, but it was a bit more distinct this time than in the recent egg dish I made when I looked at Arizona cooking. What I found with the catfish was the same with the salmon: the cedar flavor was extremely subtle, but still there, even though I only roasted the catfish for 7 minutes, and then stir-fried it with so many different ingredients. The one disappointing thing about this dish, for me, was that the cedar-flavored catfish didn't really blend in with the vegetables, or viceversa. They both fight for attention. I don't consider the dish a failure per se. Everything tasted good and at least the catfish had a very nice texture, if not the nopal (but that's more the fault of the ingredient). I probably wouldn't make this again, but if nothing else, it was a good way to use up some ingredients. Now the ham hocks, nopal and poblano chiles are all used up!