April 23 marks the beginning of series 6 of Doctor Who, and I couldn’t be more excited. For those of you who (like me) are anxiously awaiting the Doctor’s new adventures, I’ve created a few dishes inspired by the show which would be perfect for a Doctor Who viewing party.
First up: My twist on the Doctor’s fish fingers and custard from the Eleventh Hour episode.
Matt Smith certainly made an impression in his first episode as the Doctor! From his quirky personality and old-fashioned 1950′s professor costume, right down to his taste in food, I knew that series 5 was going to be a lot of fun. Who can forget that moment when the Doctor, after having tried everything in poor little Amy’s cupboards (I still can’t believe he didn’t like bacon!), settled on fish fingers and custard?! Most people probably saw that and thought “oh my, that’s disgusting,” but I have to admit that the foodie in me was curious. I know I’m not the only one however, after reading on many Doctor Who fansites and even on Reddit that many other fans with fearless tastebuds and a keen sense of adventure had tried it themselves. For those of you who read my blog but haven’t seen Doctor Who, here’s the scene I’m talking about:
The funny thing is that sweet and salty actually do work together! Although most people usually enjoy the sweet/salty combo in different ways (salted caramel, peanut butter and jelly or chocolate etc.), fish sticks- as we call them here in America- really would pair well with a semi sweet sauce. Though actual custard would (to me) be too sweet for the fish, I immediately thought of vanilla aioli. Vanilla what??? Aioli is like a type of garlicky mayonnaise. Usually served as a condiment with fried foods, aioli is egg yolk-based (like custard) and pairs very well with seafood. I looked around the internet for a vanilla bean aioli recipe and found this one on ZD Wines’ site. This recipe isn’t particularly sweet, and really relies on the other ingredients in the dish it’s served with for flavor, but it was a good start in finding a good custard substitute to serve with the fish.
I made a few changes to make the flavor stand out a little more. The first thing I did was heat the oil a little longer than the ten minutes suggested on the site. I wanted to make sure to really get as much of that vanilla flavor as I could without overheating the oil. I think I did 15 minutes on low heat. Be sure to stay close by and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t get too hot. Another thing I did was increase the amount of lemon juice. I started out with the recommended amount and found that it was a little bland and needed a bit of extra zing. Unfortunately, I don’t have an exact amount to recommend. My advice is to start off with 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice and taste it to see what you think. To make the aioli a little sweeter I added a few pinches of light brown sugar. Again- start out with a pinch or two and taste it to see if you need more. Here’s my adaptation of the recipe:
Vanilla Bean Aioli
1/2 garlic clove, peeled and crushed (I used the tiniest clove I had. Garlic adds great flavor, but I didn’t want it to be overwhelming)
3 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cup canola oil
1 vanilla bean
salt, to taste
1. Using a sharp knife, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the tip of the knife. Set the seeds aside for later.
2. Put the seed pod in a small saucepan with the canola oil and heat on low for 10-15 minutes until fragrant. Take the pan off the stove and cool the vanilla oil to room temperature.
3. Once the oil is cool, remove the vanilla pod from the oil. Place the egg yolks and garlic in the food processor or blender, and as it’s running, slowly add the vanilla-infused oil. The mixture will turn opaque and thicken. It’s really cool to watch!
4. Once all of the oil is incorporated into the mixture, pour it out into a mixing bowl, using a rubber spatula to scrape it all out of the food processor bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice, sugar, vanilla seeds, and salt. Be sure to taste it.
Keep it covered in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it; just give it quick whisk before serving.
As for the fish fingers, you could use the frozen fish sticks from the grocery store- but why go through all the trouble making a gourmet vanilla aioli if you’re just going to dip mass produced store bought fish and God-knows-what else in stick-form in it? Exactly. That’s why I decided to fancify (wait…is that a word?) fish sticks/fish fingers and make fish croquettes.
Croquettes are little breaded and fried (or baked) rolls or disks of fish, potatoes, veggies, or meat. They’ve been around for a long time and originated in France, where “croque” means crunch.
For my version, I added mashed potatoes as a binding agent and they were delicious! I also breaded them in panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) instead of regular breadcrumbs for a little extra crunchiness. Though they’re usually fried, I made up for the…ahem….unhealthiness of the aioli by baking the croquettes. They were still good, but I’m thinking the next time I make them I’ll fry them. Here’s my recipe:
1 pound fresh Tilapia
salt and pepper (to taste)
3/4 to 1 cup mashed potatoes (I used potato flakes-don’t judge me!)
flour (for dredging)
1 egg, beaten, with a splash of milk added
oil for frying (if frying)
If baking, a baking pan sprayed with nonstick spray
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Season the tilapia with salt and pepper and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked. Don’t overcook though, as you will be cooking the fish again once you roll it into croquette form.
2. Remove the fish from the oven and cool enough to be able to handle. As the fish is cooling, make your mashed potatoes. You can either make them from scratch, or use packaged potato flakes. If you use the packaged flakes, make enough for two servings using the instructions on the box. You won’t use it all, but you can save the extra or snack on it while you’re waiting for your croquettes to cook
3. Once the fish has cooled enough for you to handle it, use a fork to flake it- or break it up into bits. Don’t break it up too much, a little texture is a good thing. Yum!
4. Mix the fish with the mashed potatoes, first mixing 1/2 cup in and adding more until the fish and potatoes come together into a dough. Cover the potato/fish mixture and cool in the fridge.
5. Form the dough into “fingers” by rolling, and dredge each one in flour. You don’t want too much flour on the croquette, just a light coating. Then, dip each croquette in the egg/milk mixture and roll in the panko breadcrumbs.
6. If you’re baking the croquettes, lower the temperature on your oven to 400 degrees F and bake until golden brown. If you’re frying, heat a pan with two inches of oil to 375, using a deep fry thermometer to check the temperature. Fry two or three croquettes at a time (not too many or it will cool the oil down too much and they’ll turn out greasy) for two to three minutes until golden brown. Remove them from the oil and place on paper towels to drain excess oil. Season lightly with salt as soon as they come out of the oil.
To serve them, I stacked the croquettes on a plate, spooned some aioli into star-shaped silicone baking cups, and garnished with a twist of lemon.
I hope you enjoyed my version of the Doctor’s “fish custard.” For my next post I’m going to show you how to make a salad inspired by the doctor himself (hint…bowties are awesome!) and his TARDIS. Stay tuned!