Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rooting for a Copycat

This morning, I had a root canal. Honestly, it was a simple and almost painless procedure. I actually felt as if I spent more time in the waiting room than in the dental chair. Afterward, I took the recommended hefty dosage of ibuprofen and promptly crashed into an incredibly restful nap. I was still free of any major discomfort when I awoke and found myself feeling as if I would be missing out on something if I didn't take the opportunity to go out in the "Big City."

I hadn't made plans because I was unsure of how I would feel after my rendezvous with the dentist. I didn't want to burden any friends with my whining because let's face it, it is no newsflash that I can be a whiner when I don't feel well. I had thought it best just to be on my own. With Advil keeping my whining at bay, I grabbed my phone and made a call.

Luckily, a friend was up for a last minute dinner out. In less than half an hour, we were sitting at a local establishment sipping a glass of wine and catching up on our lives. When the waitress asked for our order, we had been chatting so much that I hadn't even bothered to look at the menu. It didn't matter. I quickly selected an entree that I have enjoyed on previous occasions. Jalapeno Garlic Tilapia is a spicy dish served over angel hair pasta. The fish is mild and flaky, but the creamy sauce makes your mouth burn with the pleasure of the jalapenos. This spicy tilapia is even brought into the lunch menu in the form of a panini. I have sampled that several times, as well, and am always extremely happy with the choice. In fact, I like it so well that I have developed my own copycat version of the recipe. No need to schedule a root canal and make the 3 hour drive to the "Big City." I now can make and enjoy a Jalapeno Garlic Tilapia Panini to land On My Plate any time, friends and wine always welcome.

Jalapeno Garlic Tilapia Panini

4 tilapia fillets
1 cup Club crackers, finely crushed
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1 small jalapeno, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup sour cream
8 slices hearty country Italian bread
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
2 roma tomatoes, sliced thinly
8 slices provolone cheese

For the tilapia:
Crush crackers and combine with pepper.
Dip fish fillets into beaten egg, and then coat with cracker crumbs.
Fry in 350 degree oil until breading is golden and fish flakes easily.
Remove to an oven-proof plate in a warm oven.
For the sauce:
Melt butter on low heat. Add jalapeño and garlic. Sauté until jalapeño is softened, but be careful not to burn garlic.
Add flour and stir while heating about a minute.
Add chicken broth and cook stirring until sauce thickens. Stir in sour cream.
Set aside until ready to assemble the panini's.
For the panini:
Preheat panini grill.
Brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil or spread with butter.
Assemble sandwiches with oiled/buttered side of bread to the outside, layering provolone cheese, sliced tomatoes, tilapia fillet, cream sauce and final slice of bread.
Place sandwich on grill.
Grill until bread is toasted and the cheese has melted. (Serves 4)
(To create the Jalapeno Garlic Tilapia with angel hair pasta, skip the breading of the fish and pan sear; double the sauce; add a handful of baby spinach leaves to the boiling pasta, just to wilt; layer pasta on the plate, then tilapia fillet, and top with sauce; garnish with chopped and seeded tomatoes and a grating of Parmesan cheese.)

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