Tilapia with Chile Butter and Ricotta Grits Cakes

This is Part 3 of the Dining at Bar Americain series.
Part 1: Chocolate Crepes with Rum Whipped Cream
Part 2: Shrimp and Grits
Part 4: Molasses Mustard Pork Chops
Part 5: Roast Chicken with Honey Mustard Black Pepper Sauce and Hatch Chile Spoonbread

This was the entrée I ordered at Bar Americain.  It’s actually supposed to be made with skate wing, not tilapia.  That was how I had it at the restaurant, and that’s how it is written in the cookbook.  Skate is related to sting rays, and the edible part is its wing.  I really enjoy skate; it looks a lot like a thin white fish, and the taste is very similar.  It’s a flavor blank slate, so you can spice crust it, sauce it up, marinate it lightly, whatever you want.  The texture is what makes skate so awesome.  It’s lighter and almost airier than white fish, if that makes sense.  It is moist and tender and all around amazing.  I love it and I don’t hesitate to order the skate dish on restaurant menus when available.  However, it can be difficult to locate in grocery stores and fish monger stores.

Case in point – I couldn’t find it at Fairway.  I asked the seafood counter manager if they happened to have any, and he quite literally asked me if I was crazy.  While you might initially think he was being very rude, he actually knows Matt and me since we’ve been shopping at Fairway for years now, so it’s okay.  But, no, they didn’t have any skate.  So I subbed in tilapia, and I think it worked well.  Matt even said he liked the tilapia better than the skate.  I told him I think he’s crazy. 🙂

So let’s talk grits cakes.  Those are just little round bites of perfection if there ever were any.  These use ricotta and parmesan, which is very tasty, and inspiring: it got me thinking of all the Cheddar and pepper jack possibilities that now must be in my future.  The book instructs to drain them on paper towels, which we did, only to find them sticking to said paper towels.  I’m not sure what the more elegant solution is.  They did come off, but slowly and with a few small tears.  If anyone knows a better way, please share in the comments section.

Moral of the story: if you can find skate, please do use it instead of the tilapia.  But tilapia is a fantastic sub.  Treat skate exactly the way the tilapia is written out in the recipe, except that you may have to adjust cooking times as it will likely be thinner.  Otherwise, proceed as directed and enjoy!

Source: adapted from Bar Americain Cookbook, by Bobby Flay

TILAPIA:

Ingredients:
4 tilapia fillets
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup flour or Wondra flour
3 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbs capers, drained
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
2 tbs chopped fresh tarragon

Directions:
Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. Spread out the flour on a large plate and season it with salt and pepper. Dredge the skate on both sides in the flour and tap off any excess.
Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Cook the fish on both sides until light golden brown and just cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
Add the wine to the pan and boil until reduced by half. Remove from the heat. Add in the capers, lemon juice, and tarragon and stir to combine.
To serve, place a fish on a plate with a dollop of Chile Butter on top and two Ricotta Grits Cakes alongside.

RICOTTA GRITS CAKES:

Ingredients:
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup fine white cornmeal, plus 1 1/2 cups for dredging
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbs unsalted butter, chilled
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup ricotta cheese
Canola oil

Directions:
Line a baking sheet with parchment and spray it with cooking spray.
Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the cornmeal a little at a time, whisking constantly. Pour in the cornmeal slowly or you will get lumps in the finished product. Once the cornmeal is added, turn the heat to low and continue whisking for 25 to 30 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the grits are creamy.
Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, butter, salt and pepper. Fold in the ricotta. It’s okay if it’s a little streaky.
Spread the mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet to a thickness of half an inch. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap onto the grits, and chill in the refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
Spread 1 1/2 cups cornmeal onto a large plate and season with salt and pepper. Cut the grits into eight 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter. Dredge each cake on both sides in the cornmeal. Heat about 1/4 cup canola oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Saute 4 of the cakes until golden brown on each side, 1-2 minutes per side. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels (?) and season scantily with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining oil and cakes until they are all done.

CHILE BUTTER:

Ingredients:
8 tbs unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 tbs chopped chipotle in adobo
2 tsp honey
Kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:
Combine the butter, chipotles and honey in a small bowl. Mash with a fork until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper and continue mashing until perfectly smooth.

5 responses to “Tilapia with Chile Butter and Ricotta Grits Cakes

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