Fried Fish Filet with Polenta and Garlic Sauce

I’m so behind on posting recipes, it’s not even funny! I’ve just discovered that making them is the easiest part (especially when somebody else makes them and you’re just taking pictures.) Duh! Processing pictures, posting them on Flikr, coming up with words that have sense when put together – that’s where the real work is. So, I’ll try to be short and sweet today, while convincing you to try an alternative to Brit-style fish ‘n chips.

This recipe is presented to you courtesy of Adrian, the fish-preparing-master in our residence. Like all our weeknights recipes, this takes no more than half an hour, and even less if there’s two people working on it. This fish is a much healthier choice than your regular fish and chips: first of all, it doesn’t get bathed in batter (which subsequently absorbs a ton of frying oil); second, it’s pan-fried not deep-fried; third, it has polenta on the side, not deep-fried excuses for vegetables. Your mom would be proud of you for cooking your omega-3s and eating them without fries!

Pan-fried fish

Ingredients (2-3 servings):

  • 6 small fish filets (we used basa, but any cod, trout, snapper would do just fine)
  • 1 cup medium ground cornflour
  • 3-4 Tbsp vegetable oil for frying
  • salt and pepper to season

What to do:

  1. Preheat oil in pan to medium-high.
  2. Season filets with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Dredge fish filet through cornflour to cover thoroughly.
  4. Add flour-covered fish to pan and fry on both sides until golden-brown (about 6-7 minutes per side).
  5. Take fish and place on a paper-towel covered plate to absorb excess oil. (If you want to check for doneness, gently insert a knife or fork in the middle of the filet and pry apart. The meat should be white, not translucent.)
  6. Serve hot.

Polenta / Mamaliga

I should point out that this is more of a cooking guideline than a recipe, because we never measure when making mamaliga, which is a traditional Romanian sidedish, probably eaten more regularly than bread in the countryside. In addition, I use a mixture of organic and medium-ground regular cornflour, because I found the regular one to be too mealy. The organic flour is very coarsely ground and gives much more body and texture to the mamaliga.

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup medium-ground cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil

What to do:

  1. In a saucepan (preferably non-stick) bring water with salt and oil to a boil.
  2. Turn heat to medium and start adding cornmeal, while stirring constantly so as not to have lumps.
  3. Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes until the mixture thickens. Be careful when taking the lid off, because it bubbles and you might get burned.
  4. When mamaliga has a thick consistency and can hold its shape somewhat, turn on a large plate.
  5. Serve hot.

Garlic Sauce

Warning: not for the faint of heart – this garlic sauce is very strong!

Ingredients (for 2 brave servings):

  • 6-8 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 4 Tbsp water, or, for a less ferocious bite, use same amount (or more to dilute) mayonnaise or sour cream

What to do:

  1. Using a rasp or a garlic press, mince garlic and put in a mortar.
  2. Add Kosher salt (coarse salt helps garlic become creamy). Using the pestle, grind until smooth. This is very important, and can save your stomach, your night sleep, your relationship, and your life.
  3. Start adding oil little by little as if you were making mayonnaise. Every time you add a bit of oil, incorporate it completely into the garlic before adding some more. The garlic sauce should become creamy and resemble a mayonnaise.
  4. Add water, little by little, or mayo or sour cream.
  5. Enjoy cautiously!
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4 responses to “Fried Fish Filet with Polenta and Garlic Sauce

  1. Great step by step photos. Loved your post.

  2. we’ve made the fish & garlic sauce several times now – so delicious! thank you very much.

  3. Looks great. I spent some time in Romania in 2000. Was pleasantly surprised to see you use the word mamliga. The garlic mayo is also a nice touch. We ate it a lot on homemade fries. Thanks for posting. I’ll have to look through your blog for more Romanian recipes.

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