Vern’s Cooking & Tidbits: Enhance Your Fried Crappies with Sesame and Soy

Let’s cook some fillets and add a couple of fish-enhancing tastes; sesame oil and soy sauce.

Historically, sesame plants were cultivated more than 5,000 years ago as a drought-tolerant crop and grew where other crops couldn’t. These plants grew wild in sub-Saharan Africa and were one of the first processed for oil as well as one of the earliest condiments. Sesame was cultivated during the Indus Valley Civilization (north India) as their main oil crop. It was probably exported to Mesopotamia around 2,500 BC.

Sesame oil is composed of linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and other fatty acids in small amounts. Despite sesame oil’s high proportion of polyunsaturated (Omega-6) fatty acids, it is least prone, among cooking oils with high smoke-points, to turn rancid when kept in the open. This is due to the natural antioxidants, such as sesamol, present in the oil.

One type of sesame oil, a pale yellow liquid with a pleasant grain-like odor and somewhat nutty taste is used as frying oil. Light sesame oil has a high smoke-point and is suitable for deep-frying,

A second type of oil, amber-colored and aromatic, is made from pressed and toasted sesame seeds. Although popular in ethnic cooking, it is not suitable as cooking oil because it burns easily. Instead, amber sesame oil is normally added as a flavoring agent in the final stages of cooking.

 

Sesame-Soy Crappies

4-6 crappie fillets

2 teaspoons canola oil

1-2 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons sesame seeds (toasted)

2 scallions, sliced diagonally (green onions)

Heat canola oil in skillet over med-high heat (350 F). Pat fillets dry and fry 2-3 minutes on one side; turn over for another 2-3 minutes until done. Add soy sauce and sesame oil and gently turn to coat both sides. Place on serving platter, pour remaining hot oil/soy from skillet over the fillets. Top off by sprinkling with sesame seeds and scallions.

 

Soy Marinated Crappie

1 1/2 pounds thick slab fillets, cut into 2×2- or 2×4-inch chunks

1/2 cup chopped green onions

3 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger

1 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry Sherry

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Rinse fish and pat dry. Mix green onions, ginger, rice wine, canola oil and soy sauce in 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Add fish and turn to coat. Let marinate 1 hour at room temperature.

 

Sesame-Soy Sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry Sherry

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1 whole star anise

1 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry Sherry

1/4 cup chopped green onions

Bring first six ingredients to boil in small heavy saucepan, stir to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce is reduced to 1/3 cup, about 4 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and cool. Remove fish from the soy marinade and place on paper towels to drain; reserve marinade. Pat fish dry. Heat 14-inch-diameter flat-bottomed wok over high heat until drop of water evaporates on contact. Add remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil to wok, then fish pieces, spreading evenly. Cover and cook 30 seconds or less. Uncover and loosen fish pieces with a spatula. Reduce heat to medium and cook about 1 minute. Turn fish pieces over; cook 1 minute. Add remaining 2 tablespoons rice wine and reserved marinade from fish. Cover and cook 1 minute. Remove wok from heat; let fish stand covered until just opaque in center. Transfer fish and sauce from wok to plate. Drizzle with some of sesame-soy sauce and top with onions. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate to serve cold.

 

Pepper Butter

Compound butter is easy to make and adds a fiery tang to fillets. You can prepare the condiment in the blender. This butter is excellent with crappie fillets or any other fish. It also goes along splendidly with meat and poultry. Your fish must be hot so that it melts the butter. This butter preparation will last a few days in the refrigerator or several weeks in the freezer. It makes a tasty topping for vegetables as well.

1/2 red bell pepper, cored and stemmed

1 large clove garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1/2 teaspoon table salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature

Set pepper on a steamer rack over boiling water, cover and simmer. Steam until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove pepper and cool to room temperature or in refrigerator. Put cooled pepper, garlic, vinegar, hot pepper sauce and salt in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add butter and blend until smooth and very loose. Spoon about 1 tablespoonful onto each piece of fish. To save, roll into a log on parchment paper and refrigerate or freeze. To serve, slice off 1/4-inch-thick piece and place one on each fillet.