Are you looking for a fast but elegant fish dinner to serve unexpected guests? No? Well then, are you looking for a fast but elegant fish dinner to serve your family?
Whether you’re seeking to impress or just hungrier than a cormorant, you can’t present a delicious, distinctive entrée-plus-dessert any easier than with the recipes to follow. And since the key (pun!) ingredient for both of them is Key lime, your dinner will bear a Florida stamp as well.
The entrée I speak of is sautéed fillet of fresh Florida fish, with a Key Lime sauce. Side dishes aside (another pun!), this treat can be placed on your table in under 15 minutes. The dessert—you guessed it—is Key lime pie.
Now I’ll admit that Key lime pie, although it can be put together easily and in only a few minutes’ time, can’t be made ready nearly as fast as sautéed fish. What you’ll have to do is make the pie in advance. You could prepare it a couple of days ahead and store it in the freezer. That is by far my favorite approach. Obviously, however, it doesn’t work—except by sheer luck—when you have unexpected guests. In that case you’ll have to make the pie a couple of hours before dinner, giving it time to cool before serving.
Thanks to the constant availability of Key lime juice in bottles, and the frequent availability of Key limes in markets, today’s housewife (or house-husband, or even the kids) can whip up much the same pie as the one “invented” in Key West about 100 years ago. Most of the recipe variations you might run across have to do with the crust and the topping, not with the filling.
Key Lime Pie
9-inch pie crust (ready-made Graham cracker crust usually chosen)
3 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
10 or 12 Key limes OR
1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup bottled Key lime juice
Whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping
Lime peel or lime zest for garnish, if desired
If pastry shell is used, pre-bake at 350 degrees until brown. Squeeze fresh limes to yield 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup of juice. Thoroughly mix egg yolks, condensed milk and lime juice. Pour into pie shell. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool to room temperature.
If serving the whole pie soon after it cools, apply a generous trimming of pressurized whipped cream around the edges and add a squirt of cream to the center of each slice. Alternatively, you might spread the whole pie to a depth of about a 1⁄2-inch with whipped topping, or even be traditional and make a meringue out of the unused egg whites, as did the early Key Westers.
It’s a pretty safe bet that those Key Westers also established the wonderful tradition of topping off a seafood dinner with a hefty slice of Key lime pie. So let’s get on with the entree:
Key Lime Fillets
1 lb. boneless, skinless fish fillets
Melted butter or olive oil (or mixture)
1 tbsp. dried dill
1-2 tbsp. Key lime juice
Zest of 1 Key lime (optional)
Salt, pepper and garlic powder
Using a nonstick skillet large enough to handle all fillets at once, melt butter and/or olive oil to cover the bottom. Heat pan for a couple of minutes on medium high. Add dill and lime zest. Stir until blended. Place fillets in pan and cook for about two minutes per side, until the thickest portion can easily be penetrated with a cooking fork. Note that the fish will be more golden than brown. Remove fish to a platter. Pour lime juice into pan and stir well. Sprinkle fillets lightly with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then pour pan liquid over fish.
There’s no point in pondering what kind of fish to use. Any of your white-meat favorites will do just fine. I’ve made this dish over the years with snapper, yellowtail, redfish, snook, grouper, sheepshead, grunt and croaker; also with fillets of freshwater bass and large freshwater panfish. For both speed and flavor, I prefer my fillets to be no more than a 1⁄2-inch thick, at most. The thick “shoulders” of species such as grouper, snook or redfish should be thinned by slicing that thick slab into thin medallions.
And if, for some strange reason, you don’t have any self-caught fish at all, tilapia fillets from the neighborhood supermarket will serve quite tastily.
FS Classics, June, 2011 issue.