Trust me officer “Baked” is a relative term…

I am sorry but yes, it is yet another fish recipe and this after I thought it was going to be “chicken week”. However this is a very easy recipe and won very high marks from one of my most discriminating critics (my daughter). The name of the recipe was kind of joke because nobody would EVER cook while they were fully baked…right? Not that I have ever been that way but I was just referring to the state of the fish at the end of the recipe…Yah, that’s the ticket. You believe me right? Okay, even if you do not believe me, this is still really good fish.

This recipe was born while I was watching chocolate chip cookies being made at the same time I was trying to figure out how to make faux fried fish for dinner. I think I was watching Alton Brown on the Food Network, but that is neither here nor there, and as I was watching the vanilla extract being added to the cookie batter (after Alton’s requisite aside on actual vanilla beans, where they come from, how they grow, what we do with them, etc.) I wondered how it would taste on breadcrumbs and ultimately the fish. I quickly made a crumb test batch to try out on my family first. The test was a success and the rest, as they say, is history. The best thing about grouper is that it takes on virtually any flavor you put on it and the better the outside flavor the better the fish. I know that grouper is expensive right now but if you get the chance you should try this recipe. Haddock or most any other mild, flaky white fish would also work.

I’m Totally Baked
Vanilla Grouper
(makes 4 – 5 servings)

2 ½ lbs – Grouper fillets (skinless, about 8 ounces per person)
1 ½ cups – Canola Oil
1 ounce – Pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp – Sugar
7 ounce package – Panko breadcrumbs

Combine canola oil, vanilla extract and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk together thoroughly and set aside (for now). Next, in a big ass skillet, pour about half of the oil/vanilla mixture in the bottom and start it on low heat. After about 2 to 3 minutes of letting the oil/vanilla mixture heat up add about 1/3 of the breadcrumbs and mix together until the breadcrumbs absorb the oil. Repeat this same process until you have run out of breadcrumbs and the oil/vanilla mixture. Move the heat to just below medium and toast the breadcrumbs for approximately 3 to 5 minutes, then lower heat and toast some more at low for another 2 to 3 minutes. After this remove the breadcrumbs from the heat and set aside to cool.

After the breadcrumbs have cooled a bit, wet grouper fillets (I did it with water but you can also use buttermilk but if you do I would soak the fillets for the entire time you are making the breadcrumbs) and roll them in the mixture fully coating them. Spray the bottom of a 9 X 13 baking dish with a non-caloric cooking spray and arrange the fillets in the bottom of the pan. Bake the fish at 380 to 400 degrees for about 35 minutes or until the fish starts to flake easily. The breadcrumbs should have a “toasted marshmallowesque” look to them. (I always start checking my fish at the 30 minute mark because sometimes fillets can be of different thicknesses and the thinner ones take less time. You do not want to overcook them.)

I served this with steamed fresh green beans garnished with almond slices and wild rice pilaf with Cremini mushrooms and petite peas.

Enjoy!

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