Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chef Matt's Pecan Crusted Fish & Spinach Salad with a Strawberry Vinaigerette - Video

It's a family affair, in the latest 99 Cent Chef recipe video. My nephew, Chef Matt, picked the spinach from his garden, Lacee caught a whopper in the stream behind a powder blue trailer, and their cute kid, Miles, picked the pecans scattered at the base of a pecan tree in the front yard! And the Chintzy Chef was in Gonzales, Louisiana to record it all.

Uncle Tightwad sticks his toe back in the swamplands for his latest culinary tale. And I'm as pleased as Mom's Pecan Pie to bring you this tasty recipe from Cajun Chef Matt: a Pecan Crusted Fish & Spinach Salad with a Strawberry Vinaigerette.


This is a country club expense account recipe where Chef Matt cooks, rattling copper coated pots and laying out real silverware. While his entree is on the fine dining end of the scale, anyone can easily afford to do it now that The 99 Cent Chef  has run the recipe through this chintzy food blog.


I get my small fish fillets from the frozen discount case in local markets and 99c only Stores. As I've mentioned before, unless you catch it yourself (or are lucky enough to personally know who hooked them) most fish are put on ice and refrigerated when caught, so don't feel you are getting a inferior fillet, just because it's frozen. This recipe works best with a firm fish like: rockfish, tilapia, catfish, salmon and swordfish. If you have a local catch you like them by all means use it.


Pecans are harder to come by, but every time I go back to visit Mom in Louisiana she always locally shelled, and frozen pecan meat in the refrigerator. You can use any cheaper local dried nut that is special to your area. Here in Los Angeles I can get small $1 packages of nuts from my local 99c only Store, including: cashews, almonds, pistachio and peanut. You could even use a cheap small packaged of nuts from the corner liquor store. Just be sure of wash off the salt and pat dry the nuts.


Strawberries in season are certainly cheap enough and pre-washed packages of spinach are too. If it's cheaper, then use any favorite greens you have locally.


The preparation is simple and straight forward. Just soften some strawberries with a small amount of vinegar and water over medium heat and blend it all with some olive oil, for a tasty Strawberry Vinaigrette. I have the feeling you will come back to make Chef Matt's Strawberry Vinaigrette recipe many times and add it to all manner of salads you come up with.


As for the Pecan Crusted Fish, it's simple to do. Just crush some peeled pecans (or favorite nuts) in a blender or use Chef Matt's outrageous beer bottle method! Mix in a little flour and coat the fish for a quick saute. Assemble the salad with strawberry dressing and add the fish, that's it.


So watch my video below and try out Chef Matt's Pecan Crusted Fish & Spinach Salad with a Strawberry Vinaigerette -- and impress your date,  family, or friends.

Pecan Crusted Fish & Spinach Salad with a Strawberry Vinaigerette  - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 9 minutes, 17 seconds.

99 thanks to Chef Matt, Lacee, Miles and my Cajun family.
My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Ingredients for Pecan Crusted Fish (serves 2-4)
  • 2-4 fish fillets - best to use a firm fish, like: catfish, salmon, halibut, swordfish, bass, cod or almost any local catch. Chef Matt coated one side only, but you could do both for extra coating.
  • 1 cup pecans - if you are using a small cheap package of nuts you can reduce other ingredient amounts by half.
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon oil per fillet - as needed for sauteing fish.
  • 1 teaspoon butter per fillet - optional. For a lighter meal, okay to leave it out.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


Spinach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette Ingredients (serves 2-4)
  • 5 large strawberries - quartered or roughly chopped.
  • 1/4 vinegar - any type, Chef Matt used red wine vinegar.
  • 1/4 water
  • 1 cup of olive oil - It's okay use half the amount for a lighter vinaigrette.
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar - or favorite sweetener
  • 1 bunch of spinach or favorite greens - clean spinach if necessary. Set greens aside until fish is cooked.


Directions for Strawberry Vinaigrette
Remove green tops from strawberries. Quarter or roughly chop them. Add to a pot along with 1/4 cup each of water and vinegar, and 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar. Low boil over medium heat until strawberries are soft, about 3-5 minutes.


You can let the strawberry mixture cool down for a couple of minutes, then add to blender. Pulse blend until smooth, about 15 to 30 seconds. Now bring it all together by slowly adding a cup of olive oil while blending. This will emulsify and create a thick soup-like salad dressing. For a lighter vinaigrette it's okay to use half the amount of oil. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


Directions for Pecan Crusted Fish
Crush 1 cup of pecans. You can easily place pecans in a plastic bag and use a hammer, rolling pin, or like Chef Matt, the bottom of an empty (beer) bottle. Okay to use a food processor or blender, just be careful not to pulverize pecans into powder. Pieces should be similar to bread crumbs when done.


Add a 1/4 cup of flour to crushed pecans. Mix well.

If a fish fillet is too dry, do a quick rinse with water to moisten it, so the pecan mix will stick to the flesh. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper to taste. Press fish fillet onto a plate of pecan and flour coating.


Add a tablespoon of oil to a frying pan over a medium to medium/high heat. When oil is hot place fillet with the pecan coated side onto the hot pan -- okay to add a few fillets to fill the pan. Chef Matt just coated one side of the fish, but you could do both, for extra pecan flavor.


Allow the pecan coated fish to saute for a minute before moving the fillet -- this allows time for the coating to stick to the fillet and not the pan. After a minute check to see that the pecans are nicely browned, then flip the fillet and cook on the other side for another minute or two. Add a pat of butter for a luscious finish -- this is optional of course if you want to keep it lighter. And watch the video to see how Chef Matt deglazes the pan and bastes the fish in it's own buttery juices.


Cooking time will vary depending how thick the fish fillet is, or how well-done you like your fish. Better to finish cooking on the uncoated side, so you don't loosen pecans from fish. But if a few pecan pieces come off during cooking, it's okay to set them aside, then put them back on when plating the fish.

While the fish is cooking, time to finish the Spinach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette. Over cleaned and washed spinach, drizzle on the cooled Strawberry Vinaigrette. Add as much as you like, about 2 tablespoons per salad. Mix well.


When Pecan Crusted Fish is done, place it on the Spinach Salad. Drizzle on some of the Strawberry Vinaigrette and chow down! It's also okay to leave off vinaigrette and serve fish with pecan coating only -- it's a little extra crunchy that way.

You could also just place the cooked fish on the plate and serve the salad on the side.

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