Cook the Book: Cookwise Teaches Us How This Horseradish Meringue-Crusted Fish Packs in Flavor Sans FatMay 17, 2017
Cooking is as much a science as it is an art. While creativity still stands as a major driving force in cooking up the most delicious dishes, having a good grasp of the “hows” and “whys” is key to solving problems and getting the best results. For this, we turn to Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed by Shirley O. Corriher. Marrying her background in chemistry with her love of all things gastronomical, Corriher presents a masterpiece that is part-textbook, part-cookbook, but all parts informative. Each chapter focuses on an important ingredient or category: ‘The Wonders of Risen Bread’, ‘Eggs Unscrambled’, ‘Sauce Sense’, and so on, covering a wide range of topics from how adding crushed ice before kneading bread can aid in better liquid absorption and gluten development, to how to salting meat makes for better browning. More notably, Corriher explains the technicalities in a way that is thorough, sans the hardcore jargon or pretense, that it can be easily understood even by those of us lacking a scientific background.
In the chapter “How Rich it is!”, Shirley explains the different types and roles of fat. Fat can help leaven, tenderize, and thicken sauces—and as many say, fat equals flavor. “Fats coat the mouth and holds flavors for complete and rounded tastes,” she writes. “. . . This flavor releasing, carrying, and holding ability is difficult if not impossible to replace.” Without fat, she adds, food that can be flavorful “will taste flat without a little fat to release and prolong some of its taste components in the mouth . . . You can have an intense water-soluble flavor, but it lasts only an instance.” But how would you go about if (for whatever reason) you needed to cut fat back from your diet? One option is to use a bit of alcohol in its place (“some flavors are alcohol-soluble,” she says, “ . . . and whiskeys and liqueurs have intense flavors on their own.”) Another option? To up the use of already (and naturally) intense flavors—like horseradish, lemon zest, and dill, as she does in this one-of-a-kind recipe.
Inspired by a recipe from the magazine Cooking Light, Shirley ingeniously pairs white fish fillets (we used Pangasius on this one) with a ricotta-infused savory “meringue”. Yes it sounds crazy in theory—the latter component is usually something you’d find in dessert, not lunch, and we sure were skeptical (or at the very least, intrigued). But once out of the oven, we found that it worked in a way that the result resembles a savory soufflé. The topping on ours didn’t brown as much as expected (we suggest bringing up the temperature or having it bake on the top rack of the oven) but turned out as a pillowy-soft, ultra-delicate cloud with a delightful airiness paired with just enough creaminess from the ricotta. The taste? Vibrant and brimming with life, just as she had promised—there’s the pungency of horseradish brightened by the lemon and rounded out by oh-so-fragrant dill, all of which pair well with the more neutral white fish. Though good as is, we found that a squeeze of lemon upon serving takes its spirit-lifting facilities up a notch—and we highly recommend it. Whichever way you take it, you won’t miss the fat on this one.
Horseradish Meringue-Crusted Fillets
Adapted from Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed by Shirley O. Corriher
Yield: 4 fillets
Time: 25 minutes
- Nonstick cooking spray
- ½ cup part-skim milk ricotta
- 1 jar (5 oz) grated horseradish, well drained
- ½ tsp. salt
- 4 egg whites, large
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ lemon’s zest, finely grated
- 8 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
- 4 mild fish fillets (3-4 oz. each)
- Preheat oven to 425˚F. Spray baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a food processor with the steel knife, process the ricotta until creamy. Add the horseradish and salt and process with a few quick on/off pulses to blend.
- Beat the egg whites in a separate, clean bowl until they form soft peaks. Whisk in the sugar and continue to whisp until they form stiff peaks.
- Stir several spoonfuls of beaten egg whites into ricotta mixture to lighten, then gently fold in lightened ricotta mixture into the beaten whites. Fold in lemon zest and chopped dill.
- Place fillets in prepared baking dish and spread with meringue. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until topping is puffed and lightly browned.
- Remove to a serving platter, garnish with fresh dill sprigs, and serve immediately.