Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Paiche Recipe and Giveaway


It’s not everyday that you get the chance to try a fish you’ve never even heard of before. Last week I cooked paiche (pie-chay) a fish from the Amazon, also known as arapaima or pirarucu. Freshwater paiche are huge, growing be up to near 500 pounds, and breathe through lungs rather than gills. Considered a prehistoric fish, the flesh is very firm, but also rich and high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Endangered in the wild from overfishing, paiche is now raised commercially in ponds so wild fish remain protected, and free of any antibiotics or mercury. It’s one of the top fish farmed in Peru, and you may find it on restaurant menus or at Whole Foods, the only retailer currently selling it in the US.  It’s easy to cook paiche for a couple of reasons, because it’s dense and firm it won’t easily fall apart and because it’s rich it doesn’t get dry, even if you overcook it. It has a very clean, buttery slightly sweet flavor and is somewhat similar to sea bass or cod in texture.  I prepared the dish simply with a tangy sauce that held up well to the flavor of the fish, and served it with a winter salad of fennel, radishes and lemons with fresh mint.

If you'd like to try paiche, leave a comment telling me how you'd choose to prepare it. I will pick one winner at random who will receive a $50 Whole Foods gift certificate. One entry per person, and you must leave a valid email address (don't worry, only I will see it) and have a US mailing address. I will pick the winner on January 27th, 2014. Whole Foods offers a few recipes to consider such as Lime-Roasted Paiche with Sweet Potatoes and Pan-Seared Paiche with Spicy Avocado Sauce. I think it would be fantastic in this ceviche.

Note: The salad can also be served separately. A tiny pinch of sugar brings out the sweetness in the fennels and lemon. I used California Olive Ranch Limited Reserve olive oil, which is seasonally available only after the harvest. Like the Italian "olio nuovo" it's very fresh and best used while before it mellows. 

Paiche with Miso Butter and Fennel Radish Salad
Serves 4 

Ingredients

4 paiche fillets, about 6 ounces each about 3/4 inch thick 
2 teaspoons oil

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons white miso 
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into about 5 pieces 

1/2 fennel bulb
5 radishes
1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (olio nuovo recommended)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
20 mint leaves, thinly sliced

Instructions

Using a mandolin if you have one, or a very sharp knife, thinly slice the fennel, radishes and half a lemon, removing any seeds.  Toss the slices with olive oil, salt and mint. 

In a small saucepan combine the lemon juice, miso, mustard and sugar with a whisk. Heat very gently over low heat and whisk in the butter, allowing it to melt and emulsify the sauce. 

Sear the fish in a hot non-stick pan coated with a little oil, and cook about 4 minutes on each side. The fish should be cooked through and white, not pink. 

One each plate serve a fillet of fish, topped with a tablespoon of the sauce and with some salad. 

Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: My thanks to Whole Foods for supply a gift card so I could try the fish and also for one lucky reader.