Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cajun Tilapia with Praline Sauce Over Dirty Rice

This recipe was shared on one of my favorite food blogs, Annie's Eats and I immediately pinned it to be made later. I'm married to one of those strange people that doesn't like nuts in their food (not even brownies!) and he especially dislikes pecans (even pecan pie!). But, I refused to let that stop me from enjoying this meal; I simply left the pecans large so they were easy to work around when spooning sauce on his dish.

Let me tell you, he totally missed out. I'm sure it was tasty without the pecans but the pecans took this dish to a whole other level. The sweet and spicy, along with the crunch, work great together. I'm fairly sensitive to spice and didn't find this hot at all - you could always up the heat easily if that's your thing. I'm not even normally a sausage eater and it was delicious in this dish.

The original recipe calls for halibut but it was ridiculously expensive so I went for the basic, ever versatile, and cheap tilapia. Worked great! This meal actually comes together in less than 30 minutes. While the rice cooks, you can easily whip up the praline sauce and grill the fish. Great for a weeknight, but nice enough for a dinner guest.

Cajun Tilapia with Praline Sauce Over Dirty Rice
For the dirty rice:
1 link Italian sausage, casing removed (I used more than that)
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup diced onion
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup long grain white rice
1½ cups low-sodium chicken or veggie broth
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped scallions

For the praline sauce:
½ cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Pinch of coarse salt
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. whiskey (or apple juice) (I used bourbon, actually, all I had!)

For the fish:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tbsp. fresh thyme
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4-6 tilapia fillets (1-1.5 pound)

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

To make the dirty rice, crumble the sausage into a skillet or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until starting to brown, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the olive oil, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook until just softened, 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute. Mix in the broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper. Stir in the scallions. Fluff with a fork and serve.

While the rice is cooking, make the praline sauce. Toast the pecans in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the pecans to a plate and set aside. Return the pan to medium heat. Combine the sugar and water, bring to a simmer, lower the heat and cook until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the toasted pecans and salt, and cook 1-2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and whiskey until smooth. The sauce may thicken upon standing, but can be rewarmed over low heat.

To prepare the fish, combine the oil, paprika, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to blend. Pat the mixture over both sides of the fish.

Oil the grates of the grill. Grill until the fish is cooked through and the fillets release easily, about 3 minutes per side. Serve over the dirty rice and topped with the warm praline sauce.

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