Tropical fish for wintertime |

Tropical fish for wintertime

by Brian Shaw
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Crab-Stuffed Ling Cod with Macadamia Crust in a Mango-Lime Butter Sauce, as prepared by Brian Shaw.

Ever wonder what causes lumps in mashed potatoes, or what’s the best way to get seeds to stick to seed bread? Why is some turkey meat pink, no matter how long it cooks, and which soy sauce has the best flavor?

For Christmas, I received a subscription to “Cooks Illustrated,” a magazine designed to feed on people’s increased interest in food with a heavy dose of minutiae.

The majority of articles in this issue start out something like, “You wouldn’t think that a dish with only three ingredients could be difficult, but …” Then they proceed to spend as much time as it would take one to master bypass surgery, dissecting every angle of pound cake, fudge and mashed potatoes.

The editor describes his readers as those who are “fundamentally curious.” It’s a great gift for the person who thinks he knows or wants to know everything about food.

In the same spirit of curiosity, today’s dish is useful because it illustrates a different technique for breading fish.

Traditionally, breading involves three steps. The fish is first dredged in flour, then tipped in beaten egg, and finally rolled in bread crumbs. You can start cooking anywhere along the line (for example after the flour and egg, known as “dore”), but they have to be done in that order to achieve a nice crust.

The alternative approach gets rid of the flour and egg by substituting mayonnaise. The interesting thing about this approach is that it allows you to add different things to the mayo that compliment the breading. Today we are adding a little Mae Ploi sweet chili sauce to accent the chopped macadamia nuts.

We run a special at Del Rio that has chopped capers added to the mayo before pressing it into shredded potatoes then sautéeing. How about minced orange zest then chopped pecans or minced green chilies then ground-corn tortillas? You get the idea.

I’ve included a recipe for mango-lime butter sauce and a simple crab stuffing. Together with the macadamia nuts, it keeps everything in the tropical mood, which is a nice change after weeks of traditional holiday fare, New Years’ resolutions of deprivation and cold winter days.

Check out to find out the ideal temperature butter should be before creaming and answers to other culinary mysteries. I wonder if they’ll do a swimsuit issue?

• Brian Shaw is the owner of Cafe del Rio in Virginia City.

Crab-Stuffed Ling Cod with Macadamia Crust

Serves 8

Crab stuffing

1 pound Dungeness or Lump crab, well drained and picked for shell

2 serrano chilies, seeded and minced

1/4 cup minced scallion, white and tender greens

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and minced

1 oz fresh lime juice

2 T. minced fresh basil

2 T. minced fresh cilantro

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup Japanese Panko bread crumbs

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Make sure the crab is well drained, squeezed if necessary.

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the bread crumbs and toss gently to combine. Add the crumbs and toss gently to combine. Taste for salt. Store refrigerated, ready to use.


Eight 6 ounce portions of cod, halibut or sea bass

Mix 4 T. of Mae Ploi chili sauce with one cup of mayonnaise.

Rough chop 2 cups of macadamia nuts.

With the skin side of your filet on the cutting board, cut a horizontal pocket in the fish and stuff with about 2 ounces of crab. Sprinkle the fish with salt then paint the top side with a thin layer of the chili mayo. Press the painted side of the fish into the chopped nuts. Repeat with remaining portions.

Heat a large sauté pan to just over medium heat. Add a little clarified butter or olive oil. Place the fish, nut-side down, in the pan and cook for about a minute or until the nuts just begin to brown; macadamia nuts brown quickly, so watch it. Turn it over and sear the other side for a minute. Remove the filets to a baking sheet. Repeat until all the filets have been lightly browned.

Finish cooking the fish in a 375-degree oven for about 5 – 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of your filets. They should feel firm when squeezed from the sides. Place a small pool of the mango butter on warmed plates and place the fish on top. Serve with a little steamed jasmine or basmati rice.

Mango-Lime Butter Sauce

Serves 8

1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped, or 1 1/2 cups frozen

1 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 T. chopped fresh ginger

Juice from 3 limes

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into bits

Place the chopped mango, white wine, rice vinegar, sugar, ginger and lime juice in a small saucepan and cook until the liquid is reduced to the consistency of syrup. Pour cooked mixture and heavy cream into a blender and blend just until smooth. The sauce can be prepared up to this point and stored refrigerated for a day or so.

For service, place the purée in a small saucepan. Cook the sauce over medium heat until it thickens slightly. Lower the heat and add the cold butter about an ounce at a time while whisking constantly. Remove from heat and taste for salt and tartness. Add a little fresh lime juice if you like it more tart; use a little warm water if it’s too thick. Strain and serve warm.

• Brian Shaw is the owner of Cafe del Rio in Virginia City.