Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Recipe Testers

I have been trying, in various ways, to post comments on recipes that have been tested for my upcoming book. On occasion I have posted a link to a blogger who did an extensive post and pictures for you to see. We are getting down to the wire, so I want to remind all recipe testers to send me their comments, as well as blog addresses and snail mail addresses (for a complimentary copy of the book), as soon as possible. And if I have missed posting a comment, please remind me!

Todays post is for Sate Lilit tested by Maureen Hargrave. The original recipe is:

Sate Lilit
Minced Seafood Satay
Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer

Spice Paste (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons peanut oil, palm oil or other mild oil
1 pound fresh boneless firm white fish fillets, such as snapper, mahimahi or catfish
10 ounces fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1 egg white
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 kaffir lime leaves, cut into very thin slivers
4 teaspoons palm sugar or firmly packed brown sugar
Kosher salt
24 fresh lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed or wooden skewers soaked in cold water for 1 hour
1 large bunch cilantro, rinsed

Prepare the spice paste.
Pour the oil into a heavy sauté pan set over medium heat, add the spice paste and sauté, stirring continuously, until dark and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, use a very sharp knife to mince the fish and the shrimp. Alternately, cut the fish into chunks and put it, along with the shrimp, into the work bowl of a food processor and pulse until almost smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Fold in the cooled spice paste, the coconut milk, egg white, 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, kaffir lime leaves and sugar.
Set a clean sauté pan over medium heat, add a small amount of the fish mixture and sauté for 1 or 2 minutes, until just done. Cool slightly and taste; it should be full flavored and slightly tangy. If it is flat, add more salt to the fish mixture; if it needs acid, add the remaining lime juice. Cover the fish mixture and chill it for at least two hours and as long as overnight.
To form the satay, line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Divide the fish mixture into 24 equal portions. With your hands wet, take one portion of the mixture in one hand and hold a skewer (lemongrass stalk or wooden one) in the other. Mold the mixture around the skewer, so that it looks like a sausage about 3-inches long. Press it firmly in place and set on the lined baking sheet. Continue until all 24 satays have been made. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook but no longer than four hours.
To cook, heat a stovetop grill to high or prepare a fire in an outdoor grill. Make sure the grill or grill rack is clean and brush it lightly with a mild oil. Cook the satays until they golden brown all over, rotating them a quarter turn about every 2 minutes. Use a thin metal spatula to loosen the satays before turning them.
Spread the cilantro over a serving platter and set the cooked satays on top. Serve immediately.

Spice Paste
4 large shallots, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 Thai or serrano chiles, thinly sliced
4 macadamia nuts
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1-inch piece fresh galangal, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Black pepper in a mill
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
Kosher salt

To prepare the spice paste, put the sliced shallots in a large mortar and use a wooden or granite pestle to grind nearly to a paste. Add the garlic and crush until smooth. Crush the chiles into the mixture, add the nuts and grind them until they are mixed in finely with the other ingredients. Add the ginger, galangal, coriander, and turmeric and mix until smooth. Season with several generous turns of black pepper. Stir in the fish sauce and 3 or 4 generous pinches of kosher salt. Set aside until ready to use.

Her comments:

First, thank you for letting me test the Sate Lilit. This recipe is
a winner!

Ingredients - I had no trouble finding the ingredients. The seafood came from a small local fish restaurant that sells fresh seafood for home use. I used mahi mahi and shrimp. The rest of the ingredients I either had on hand or found at Ranch 99. The one item I have always had a problem finding was palm sugar - but was able to locate it this time. Because one of the individuals eating this satay had a problem with spicy food I used only 2 Thai chilies instead of 3. Other than that I followed the ingredients and quantities precisely (unusual for me but I wanted this to be a real test). I did use the full 2 Tbp of lime juice.

While I had read the recipe a couple of times before starting to cook, I was so concerned with the ingredients that the step where once mixed "chill for at least 2 hours and as long as overnight" totally escaped me. I know I read those words but nothing sunk in. Once I discovered this we were too hungry to wait. Since the satay was not the only item on the menu (steak wrapped in bacon and salad were the other items) I divided the batch putting half in the refrigerator for the next night and went ahead and grilled up what I had. Since the recipe is supposed to serve 6-8 as an appetizer, this seemed a safe bet when there were only 3 of us eating. So, from beginning to end on night 1 this mixture was never chilled.

Night 1 - the seafood mixture did not really adhere well to the skewers and quickly pulled them all out and threw them away. I ended up with oval sausage-like patties, some broke apart a bit (those were mine) but otherwise they grilled up nicely. I served them on a platter chopping the cilantro, sprinkling them on top of the patties. I love cilantro and wanted a little bit on each piece which I was afraid would not happen if the patties just sat on top of the cilantro.

Night 2 - the seafood mixture chilled for 24 hours. I still had a problem with the mixture adhering to the skewers even with chilling them a second time before grilling. Half way through grilling I just pulled them out and served them as patties. In the future I will make patties (like crab cakes) and forget skewers completely. In fact I think I would mix up the batch, form patties on a tray, cover with plastic wrap and chill then take them directly to the grill eliminating one whole chilling step.

The aroma and flavor was divine. There was not a patty left either night. In fact we would have continued to eat them rather than the entree had I grilled the whole batch at one time.

We were wondering about a dipping sauce or something to lightly drizzle over the top or around the plate. Most satays have a dipping sauce usually something with peanuts and chilies. We discussed this while stuffing our faces but could not come up with what kind of sauce and all voting against anything with the peanut flavor for the seafood. What do you think.

So, from 3 friends who love to cook and eat together - thank you for this lovely opportunity. I had a great time preparing this Thai appetizer. We enjoyed the layers of flavors in every bite, the fact that this traditional Thai dish could be made using seafood instead of always having to use meat, ingredients were readily available, and now that I have "chilling" ingrained can do the majority of the work the day before serving for dinner. I will make this again many times.

THANKS AGAIN MAUREEN. You and all the rest of the recipe testers are real troopers and your assistance in this endeavor us very much appreciated.

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