During these last few months while my beautiful new kitchen was taking shape, I often imagined what I would do when it was finished. I was sure that I would immediately embark on a cooking frenzy, relishing the view of my chopping boards on the cool green granite countertops and the very chef-like heaviness of the burners on my new stove. As it turns out, the exact opposite occurred. When the kitchen was finally ready, I couldn't bear to defile its pristine perfection. The idea of a simmering pot on the stove or splash of sauce on the counter seemed dreadful, and I could not stand the the thought of a dirty dish in that beautiful new sink.
However, after at least three dinners of salad and bowls of Panera's broccoli cheddar soup (my one true pregnancy addiction), I decided that I needed to snap out of it. A kitchen is meant to be used! We didn't spend all of that money for looks alone! I figured that rather than branch out with a bunch of new recipes, it might also help if just went back to some tried-and-true stuff, which inevitably meant turning to Rachael Ray.
This most WONDERFUL fish dish is one of the best things that I've made from 365:No Repeats, which is also by far the RR cookbook that I've used the most-sections of it have fallen out of the binding and it's a bit water-logged. I've prepared it a few times, but not for at least a year or so, and I had almost forgotten how good it was.
As I have confessed on many, many, occasions, I adore things with a "crust," especially when it's made of cornmeal. Cornmeal in particular makes for a very low-maintenance crust-no soaking in egg or flour is necessary. It clings quite well to fish, though to be honest, I'm not quite as sure about chicken. Catfish is a cheap, delicious option, and also quite safe for pregnant women, so a win-win for me.
The pilaf, though a bit more time-consuming than you might like, is totally worth the effort. My SH was out of town when I prepared the dish, so I had to resort to the light and easy-to-carry blender instead of my ginormous and heavy food processor when it came to making the spinach puree. It worked like a charm, and reminded me that I really should be making smoothies more often. It was highly satisfying to pour the bright green puree, smelling sweetly of basil, into the herb-flecked rice, and the lovely green pilaf goes perfectly with the fish. I suggest a generous squeeze of lemon.
P.S. The picture I've included is obviously what one might call a "pregnancy-sized portion." Although I could easily see my non-pregnant self devouring that same amount of green rice. It is very, very good.
Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish and Green Rice Pilaf, adapted from 365: No Repeats, by Rachael Ray
5 tablespoons EVOO
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (from 4 sprigs)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used extra chicken stock)
3 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (a couple of generous handfuls)
1/2 pound fresh spinach leaves, trimmed and cleaned
20 fresh basil leaves
1 lemon, 1/2 juiced, the other half cut into wedges
4 6-8 ounce catfish fillets
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Bring a medium sauce pot filled three-quarters full with water to a boil.
2. Heat a second medium saucepan or pot over moderate heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the EVOO (once around the pan), the butter, shallots, thyme, salt, and pepper. Saute the shallots for 2 minutes, then add the rice and lightly brown, 3-5 minutes. Add the wine and allow it to evaporate entirely, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover the rice and reduce the heat. Cook for 18 to 20 minutes, until tender.
3. Salt the boiling water in the other pot and add the parsley, spinach, and basil. Stir to submerge the greens for 30 seconds, then carefully take the pot to the sink. Use a slotted spoon or a spider to remove the greens to a colander. Discard the water. Rinse the greens under slow-running cold water to stop the cooking process. Give the greens a gentle squeeze to get rid of the excess water. Transfer the cooled, drained greens to a blender or food processor. Add about 2 tablespoons of EVOO and the lemon juice. Puree until completely smooth. Reserve the puree for finishing the cooked rice. (*I was very lazy when I made the dish this time-I didn't use a colander, simply the lid to my pot, draining it as best I could. There were no ill effects!)
4. Preheat a large oven-safe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Season the catfish with salt and pepper and coat evenly and completely in the cornmeal. Add the coated fish to the hot skillet and sear for 2 minutes on each side, then transfer the skillet with the fish to the oven and continue to cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the fish is firm to the touch and opaque.
5. Once the rice is cooked, add the reserved greens puree and stir with a fork to combine and fluff the rice. Pile the rice onto dinner plates and serve the cornmeal-crusted catfish on top. Pass the lemon wedges at the table.