"Crab"-Stuffed Fish Fillets

The fresh fish at the local Try-n-Save was most excellent the other day, especially the branzini.   I never heard of this rather mild-tasting fish either until recently.  According to that authoritative source on sea creatures, Huffington Post, branzini (also called European sea bass) is a sustainable "green" fish with a mild flavor.  I would say it's about two steps up from tilapia in the flavor department, no great stretch since tilapia has as much flavor as water.  Usually I buy pre-filleted fish so as to not "bother" the fish monger.  But this day he finally convinced me that it's his job, that I was not bothering him, and the few minutes it takes to do the filleting is way more interesting than just spending the day wrapping fish and slapping on a price sticker.   So I took Mike up on his offer.  Dear Reader ... you may want to write this down ... freshly filleted fish is MUCH fresher than fish fillets filleted who knows how long ago.  Yes, a shocking revelation.

I also carted home a package of crab-like surimi (check out my explanation of surimi here) to make "crab" cakes or something.  Looked at the branzini.  Then looked again at the crab-like substance.  And suddenly thought fish-stuffed fish would be a grand idea.  Okay, technically this is fish-layered-fish.  But you get the idea.
 This recipe makes rather substantial servings, even with thin fillets.  To make daintier portions, spread a thin layer of stuffing across each of the 8 fillets, then roll up individually.   Reduce the cooking time to 15 minutes.  You might not need the broiling step.

Fish Fillets with "Crab" Stuffing
Yield: 4 large servings

2 Tbl. olive oil, plus additional to grease pan
1/4 loosely packed cup parsley leaves, chopped
1/ tsp. dried garlic
3 Tbl. mayonnaise
1 tsp. celery seeds
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbl. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1 (1 lb.) pkg.  crabmeat-style surimi, finely chopped or shredded
8 branzini fillets (or your favorite thin mild fish fillets)

 Preheat the oven to 350F.  Gently but thoroughly mix together 2 tablespoons of the oil, parsley, garlic, mayo, celery seeds,  mustard, lemon juice, bread crumbs and surimi in a 1-quart bowl.  Set aside.

Grease medium-sized shallow-rimmed baking pan with olive oil. Place 4 of the thicker fillets, skin-side down in a single layer in pan.

 Spread stuffing mixture evenly over 4 of the fillet, about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick.

Try to clean up the little bits of escaping stuffing ...

Cover with remaining fillets, skin-side up, pressing gently to adhere to the stuffing.

... to avoid unsightly burnt stuffing bits.

Place pan in oven; Bake 20 minutes (top fillet will not look done). Without opening the oven, turn the oven to broil; broil for 3- 5 additional minutes, or until skin starts to brown and just begins to blister.  Be sure to check that bottom fillet is cooked through before serving.

Deflated blister in center of fish.

Plate fish and and serve.


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