I serve fish on the dinner menu three times each four weeks at work. Its popularity varies from month to month as residents come and go from the program. One month, they eat all 25 servings. The next I can't give it away.
When fish is on the menu, many residents go out of their way to tell me how much they hate fish. Sixty to 75 percent will not eat a baked fish fillet, even when I pare it with tarter sauce. Serve an oven baked breaded fillet and around 80 to 90 percent of the residents will eat it. (Safety considerations prevent me from deep-frying at work.)
I find the secret to boosting acceptability is to prepare fish in new and interesting ways. Until last October, I baked the talapia fillets. To increase the popularity of the fish, I dredged thawed fillets in seasoned flour. I browned them in several skillets and transferred the fish to waiting hotel pans.
I went to work on a quick pan sauce after placing the fish in a slow oven. I sweated minced shallot in one of the skillets, then reduced chicken stock and lemon juice over high heat. To finish the sauce, I tossed in capers and a bit of fresh chopped parsley. The sauce was poured over the fish and served.
Given the unique population that I work with, 100 percent of the residents may never like fish. I come close with pan seared talapia with lemon caper sauce.
PAN SEARED FISH FILLET WITH LEMON CAPER SAUCE
Use flounder, sole, haddock, perch, grouper or talapia fillets for this dish. If desired, thicken the sauce with a cornstarch slurry.
25 (5 to 6 ounce) Fish fillets
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup minced shallot
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 ounces capers, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
If frozen, thaw fish under refrigeration. Dredge fish in mixture of flour, salt, paprika, cayenne and pepper. Set fish on a wire rack to let flour coating set. Saute until golden brown in oil, about 3 minutes each side. Place in two 12x20x2-inch hotel pans.
Sweat shallots until softened. Add lemon juice to skillet; shake pan gently and cook 3-5 minutes, until sauce is slightly thickened. Add capers and parsley to sauce; shake skillet to combine and pour over fillets. Serve at once or place for a short time in uncovered hotel pans in 250°F oven until service.