Prosciutto-wrapped tilapia

Cured pork + flaky fish = a tempting culinary equation

Originally appeared in the October 18, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

This is one of those recipes that might appear or even sound complicated; but please, dear reader, if this happens to be the case, perish the thought.   Just take a look at the ingredient list: 2 simple items along with a bit of seasoning—that’s it.

On the other hand, if I had to place emphasis, or at least a culinary caveat, with this dish it’d be in the execution.  You want to prep your roll in leisurely yet fastidious fashion, and make sure you tighten this device when rolling it in plastic (you can use your work counter to create traction which helps a great deal).  And take your time on searing the exterior.  You’ll want to be very aware of the heat of the pan; add a bit of vegetable oil to the hot sauté pan as a bit of insurance, because you want this delicious device to be crispy, not stick to the pan.

And when it comes time to slide it in the oven, don’t go overboard—in other words: fish cooks quickly, and it only takes a few minutes exposed to high heat to create a product that’s ready-to-eat.  Good luck, have fun, and see you next week.


Prosciutto-wrapped tilapia

Serves 3 – 4

  • 1 pound of tilapia fillets
  • 5 – 6 thin slices of prosciutto
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 375° F.  Slice fish lengthwise and place one piece on top of the other, anticipating a more rounded roll later.  On a clean work surface, unroll a sheet of plastic wrap.  Place four slices of prosciutto in a shingle pattern (staggered slightly to overlap) on plastic wrap, then place fish on top of prosciutto; wrap the prosciutto around the fish.  Use the sheet of plastic to wrap and tighten the stuffed breast.  Repeat steps for the second breast, and allow them to rest for a couple hours (this will firm them up a bit).

2.  In a large, oven-safe sauté pan, heat oil to medium-high.  Unwrap plastic from prosciutto-wrapped fish and place in pan, searing the wrapped fish on all sides until prosciutto is crispy before transferring the sauté pan to a 375° F oven for fifteen minutes (or until fish feels firm when pressed).  After removing from oven, allow fish roll to rest for about ten minutes before slicing and serving.

Orecchiette with pan-fried pancetta

Lend me your “ears”

Originally appeared in the September 20, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

With fall-like temperatures sneaking in lately, my mind is already gearing up for comfort grub.  Pastas, of course, are ideal ways to accommodate complex and hearty flavors without getting too “heavy.”

Here’s a what I believe is a seldom-used pasta among food enthusiasts:  orrechiette, the indented-disc shape of which resembles a small ear.  In fact, the word has its root in the Italian “orecchio,” meaning ear, and “etto” meaning small.  Pancetta is the Italian, salt-cured version of bacon.  You may not readily notice this savory selection at your local market, but go to the deli counter and ask.  In other words, if it’s not up front under glass, sometimes they have it in the back.

I like adding peas for their sweetness and color, but one of the unique features of orecchiette is its ability to cup or cradle vegetables and sauces.  It would be easy to go overboard under that guidance, but keep things simple—a few meticulously handled ingredients with a user-friendly execution.  This dish makes for a great, midweek snack, or a gray-day comfort food.  So, friends, readers, culinarians, please allow me to lend you these ears.


Orecchiette with pan-fried pancetta

Serves 2

  • 1 ½ cup dry orecchiette pasta
  • ½ cup chopped pancetta
  • 1 cup chopped baby bella mushrooms
  • ¾ cup frozen peas
  • ¼ cup sherry wine
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 – 5 grape tomatoes, halved
  • As needed, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • As needed, grated parmesan (for garnishing)

1.  Being a medium stockpot of salted water to a boil; add orecchiette pasta, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

2.  Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add pancetta and sauté until crispy; add mushrooms and sauté until slightly tender; add peas.  Once peas have warmed, add wine and allow to reduce.

3.  Strain orecchiette and add to sauté pan.  Add in butter and stir to incorporate.  Add tomatoes, adjust seasoning, toss with parmesan and serve.

Published in: on September 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Parmesan-crusted pork with asparagus pasta

A little boiling, a little broiling

Originally appeared in the June 7, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

For this week’s installment, you’ll be employing a little boiling and a little broiling—the former with the pasta (fettuccine), the latter with the parmesan.

While the protein centerpiece of this dish is the pork (a thick-cut loin cutlet), my favorite part is the pasta.  Here, it’s fun to exercise a bit of friendly deception with the asparagus, which is meant to mimic the shape of the fettuccine.  This is easy to accomplish:  simply place your asparagus (about 6 – 8 pieces for a 2-serving portion) flat on a cutting board, and use a vegetable peeler to shave long ribbons away from the stalk.  (I have taken to using vegetable peelers with fine, serrated teeth, which are good for gripping your product; but a good old fashioned peeler should do the trick.)  Cut off the delicate tips and incorporate them into the pasta.

Now, on to the pork.  After grilling or pan-searing you pork, arrange your oven rack closer to the broiler, and crank the broil temp up to about 500° F. before prepping the parmesan along with rest of your ingredients.  The parmesan pork makes for a nice pairing with the lighter, fresher, asparagus pasta.

Parmesan-crusted pork with asparagus pasta

Serves 2

  • 2, thick-cut  pork loin chops
  • ¾ – 1 cup hand-grated parmesan
  • 6 ounces fettuccine noodles
  • 6 – 8 stalks of asparagus
  • As needed, olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ tablespoon chopped, fresh basil
  • As needed kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  Season pork chops with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.  Using a grill pan or sauté pan, sear pork loin on both sides; afterwards, place in preheated oven (if needed) to finish cooking to desired doneness.  Cover chops with aluminum foil and allow to rest as you finish prepping remaining ingredients.

2.  Boil fettuccine in salted water.  Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to shave ribbons of asparagus.  Drain pasta.  In a sauté pan, gently heat olive oil; add in asparagus and cook briefly; add in pasta, adjust seasonings; add in basil and toss in butter, coating the noodles and asparagus.

3.  Evenly sprinkle the parmesan over the top of the pork and place under the broiler.  Allow to melt and get crispy.  Serve pork over bed of fettuccine and asparagus.

Published in: on June 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chicken and smoked sausage gumbo

Go-to gumbo delivers hearty Fat Tuesday

Originally appeared in the February 16, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

This upcoming Tuesday is of the “fat” variety.  Next week is Mardi Gras, and what better way to celebrate than stewing up a batch of that gastronomic delicacy know as gumbo.

As with many dishes in the canon of Cajun cuisine, there are two fundamental components with gumbo:  1) trinity and 2) roux.  Popularized by native Louisianan chef Paul Prudhomme, the trinity—or “holy” trinity—is a riff on the French mixture known as mirepoix, an aromatic trio of onion, celery, and carrot; but here, the Creole variation replaces carrot with bell pepper.  More after the jump: (more…)

Published in: on February 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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