Cornmeal Crusted Fish with Mint Chimichurri

You know you’re pregnant when you seriously consider going to the grocery store in your underwear.

We’ve had 40+ days of 100+ temps here in Texas and with that heat, combined with my HOLY CRAP hot flashes, I have basically stopped getting dressed and stopped cooking. Usually I’d suck it up and turn on the oven anyway, driven by my incessant need to cook, but the thought of doing it in overpriced-yet-still-made-of-polyester maternity pants in an already hot house while standing on swollen feet has put the brakes on my usual inclinations. Hence the total lack of blog posts lately.

Which all leads me to this recipe — a summer dish if there ever was one. This dish needs no simmering, no reducing, no baking, and unlike many “summer” dishes, no standing over a hot grill outside wondering if you might actually live on the surface of the sun. Summer grilling is for folks up north. We do that stuff in the fall.

Chimichurri sauce is a common condiment in Argentina, usually made with parsley, vinegar, onion, oil, and some source of heat like cayenne. This one uses mint, green onion, serrano pepper, lime juice, honey, and no oil, so is it really a chimichurri? I’m not sure but it sounds good anyway so I’m sticking to it. There’s a (apocryphal?) story that the original is named after an Irishman in Argentina — a hurried mispronunciation of “Jimmy McCurry” turns into “chimichurri” — so I feel a bit of leeway is built into the culture of the thing.

You’ll get to use a whole mess of mint for this sauce, which will please anyone who grows mint in the garden and has been frustrated with the fact that it grows like a weed and yet its most prevalent use is as a single sprig of garnish here and there. On a side note, does anyone else imagine that the little bugs on the mint leaves must all have minty fresh breath?

Additionally, this is a perfect meal for bikini season as it’s quite low in calories. (I suppose if you’re a dude in a Speedo you’ll like that too, but dude, really, ditch the Speedo.) You need very little oil to cook the fish and the sauce is practically calorie-free.

Now, I must again consider…we definitely Keep Austin Weird around here, but can Austin handle a sweaty preggo buying milk in her giant undies? We’ve had a thong-wearing homeless transvestite run for mayor, so why not?

Cornmeal Crusted Fish with Mint Chimichurri
A chopped herb sauce of mint and green onion warmed with serrano pepper, brightened with lime juice, and sweetened with honey makes a light summer condiment for pan-fried fish fillets with a bit of cornmeal crunch. You can use any thin white fish fillets for this dish; I’ve chosen catfish this time around.

Adapted from: Cornmeal Crusted Scallops with Mint Chimichurri, Cooking Light magazine, May 2005

Serves 3

for chimichurri:
1 1/2 cups fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup green onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 1/2 Tbs. fresh lime juice (about 1 1/2 limes)
4 tsp. honey
2 tsp. serrano pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp. salt
black pepper, to taste

for fish:
3 (6 to 8 oz) white fish fillets, such as catfish
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, for dredging
1 Tbs. canola oil

For chimichurri: In a food processor, combine all of the chimichurri ingredients with 1 Tbs. water.  Process until finely minced, stopping to scrape the sides down with a spatula.  If the herbs aren’t making good contact with the blade (and stop getting more finely minced) add a little bit more water, a teaspoon at a time, to loosen the mixture so that the food processor more easily combines the ingredients. Don’t add too much water or you’ll have a watery chimichurri.

Adjust honey, lime, salt, and pepper. If your mint was bitter you might need more honey.

For fish: Pat fish dry. Season with salt and pepper. Place cornmeal in a shallow container with sides, like a pie plate.  Dredge fish in cornmeal, shaking off any excess.

Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place fish in skillet; if the pan is hot enough you should hear a gentle sizzle. Cook 3 minutes, flip, lower heat to medium, and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Times will vary by thickness of fillets; the fish is done when golden brown and the thickest part of the fillet flakes easily with a fork.

For best color, do not move fish while it’s browning and avoid overcrowding your pan.  If three fillets don’t easily fit (with room to spare) in one skillet, divide them into multiple batches. Use 1 Tbs. oil for each batch and wipe out the skillet with a paper towel between batches.

Approximate nutritional info: 305 calories, 10g fat, 31g protein, 24g carb, 5g fiber.

Do you have a recipe that uses a lot of fresh mint? If so, you should post it in the comments here.