I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need to leave my own kitchen and eat out to find new inspiration.
Fish in parchment, whitefish dumplings and pan sautéed fish with lemon-caper sauce are frequent ways I prepare fish. Ina Garten’s (Barefoot Contessa) salmon is another favorite. But sometimes I have to shake it up a bit. Recently eating out, several friends and I ordered separate fish dishes and I tried a bite of each. Inspiration all around!
Enter the new idea, a variation of an old favorite, but transformed more than enough to make it wholly new – Hazelnut crusted baked white fish. Hazelnuts oven-toasted and chopped together with fresh breadcrumbs and lemon sounds so simple, but it’s a natural compliment and added textural “crunch!” to fish that is also unexpected. And it’s a far cry from 1970’s trout almandine.
Where do you buy fresh bread crumbs, anyway? You can’t. Just take whatever fresh bread you have and pulse it in your blender or food processor until you get fine crumbs (a tip from cookingwithrosetta.com). You can even bag and freeze the leftovers. If push comes to shove, you can use store-bought dried bread crumbs, but they won’t brown or absorb flavors and moisture quite the same way as fresh bread.
Hazelnut-crusted baked whitefish is quick enough to make on a weeknight and “swellegant” enough to serve for guests.
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Hazelnut-crusted Baked Whitefish
- 4 white fish fillets (1-inch thick. Some whitefish that work well include Halibut, Cod, Trout, Sea bass, or Mahi Mahi. Thin fish like sole or tilapia won’t work, because it will cook faster than the crust has time to brown.)
- 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup finely chopped blanched (skins removed) hazelnuts
- 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 4 tablespoons mayonnaise, divided
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Pre-heat oven to 425F (218C)
- Toast the hazelnuts for five minutes in the oven on a baking sheet. Let cool, then finely chop
- In a medium bowl, combine fresh bread crumbs (make them by pulsing pieces of bread in a blender or food processor), hazelnuts, parsley, garlic, salt and lemon zest. Mix well with two tablespoons of olive oil
- Heat a heavy bottom saucepan or cast-iron skillet on your stovetop at medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat until it shimmers, but doesn’t smoke
- While the pan or skillet is heating, pat the fish dry, then coat each fillet with 1 tablespoon of real mayonnaise, or just enough to get the bread and nut mixture to stick. (Some people are afraid of mayonnaise, and I don’t know why… remember, it’s just egg, oil and lemon juice. And that is nothing to be afraid of!)
- Mound the bread and nut mixture evenly on the top of each fish fillet
- Place each fillet into the pan or skillet and cook for 4 minutes. Transfer the pan or skillet to the pre-heated oven and cook for another 14-16 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a knife into one of the fillets. If it is opaque, it is done. If it is still translucent, it needs more oven time, but check every minute until it reaches opaqueness.
- Remove from the oven and cover with foil and let rest for approximately 5 minutes before serving