Kitchen & Pantry

A few kitchen tips

casaveneracion.com baked fishThis isn’t a recipe entry. The photos are merely to help explain. This entry is about a baked fish, leftovers and cooking torta (frittata), with some tips on cookware. That’s a baked talakitok in the first photo. Talakitok is a non-oily and fleshy fish with a hard external bone on the skin just above the tail. It has very fine scales. According to one site, its English name is giant trevally and the scientific name is Caranx ignoblis. I was trying to look for other sources for the English name but couldn’t find much else.

Anyway, the average size of the talakitok would be 500 grams to around one-and-a-half kilograms. The one in the photo weighed two kilograms. I made some incisions on both sides of the fish, seasoned it with herbed salt, brushed it liberally with softened butter then I baked it wrapped in aluminum foil. Simple dish to prepare. We had it for dinner last night. But the size of the fish was too much for a family of four. I placed the leftover fish in the original foil wrapping in which the fish was baked, folded and pinched the edges of the wrapper to seal in the fish and put it in the fridge. At around ten o’clock this morning, I made a huge torta out of the leftovers.

casaveneracion.com cooking a frittata in the ovenTo make my torta, I flaked the leftover fish, added lots of cubed fried potatoes and slices of celery then stirred them into beaten eggs. I cooked the torta on the stove top until partially set then transferred it to a pre-heated oven. I have a convection oven. I set it on “grill”–top heat only with the fan off–and let the torta cook until the top and edges were slightly browned.

Why did I cook it twice? Well, this was a rather thick torta. And it was as big as the skillet in which it was cooked. The “normal” way to cook this would be to turn it over when partially set. But there’s always the risk that the partially set torta would break while being turned over. So, why not cook it over low heat without turning it over? With a cast iron skillet, that was what I used to do. But with a stainless steel skillet, the bottom of the torta would be burned before the top is fully cooked. So, the oven was the logical solution.

Let me amplify on the cast iron skillet discussion. As I mentioned, I used to cook torta in a cast iron skillet. Cast iron is thick and cooks evenly. I would cook my torta over very low heat, covered, then turn off the heat when the torta was partially set. The remaining heat of the cast iron would finish the cooking. But, alas, my cast iron skillet, more than a decade old, eventually rusted and I had to dispose of it. These days, all my cookware are thick-bottomed stainless steel. No plastic handles. They can go from the stove top to the oven. I don’t use non-stick cookware. They don’t last.

casaveneracion.com fish frittataTo avoid food sticking to the cookware, heat the cookware first before pouring in the oil. To test if the cookware is hot enough, sprinkle a few drops of water. If the drops sizzle and evaporate immediately, the cookware is hot enough. Then, make sure that the oil is hot enough before adding the food. Normally, the oil should start to smoke before the food is added. This way, your food does not have to float in oil. Just swirl oil to wet the entire bottom and sides of the cookware before adding anything.

The last photo shows the torta after it had been inverted onto a plate. The “top” is actually what was on the bottom of the skillet that I used. I wasn’t going to include this photo in the entry but I wanted to show that it is possible to cook torta–even a thick one as big as the skillet in which it was cooked–with very little oil. That’s a 12-inch dinner plate in the photo and the torta is about an inch-and-three-quarters thick. No sticking. And I only used two tablespoonfuls of oil.

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