Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Star Fish Gluten-free Crispy Battered Halibut (and Haddock) Product Review

This week for What's for Dinner? Wednesday blog carnival I'm doing a simple rice recipe and a review of some battered halibut and haddock from Starfish. For more dinner ideas go see Linda at the Gluten-free Homemaker.

Eric over at Starfish asked me to sample his new breaded fish products and let him know what I think. That's right - he gave me free samples, meaning that I've been bribed. In spite of this I will try to give you the most objective review I can possibly muster. After all, if someone tried to "bribe" me with inedible food I'd have something to say about that. As my fair readers may know by now, I take food very seriously.

There are two sets of instructions on the box: one for cooking in the oven, one for deep-frying. I appreciated the fact that there are no microwave instructions. Who wants to eat microwaved fish? In the name of science, I should have tried it anyway, but I couldn't bring myself to it. I'm more of an eater than a scientist.

First I tried the baking option. The instructions say to bake at 450 for 13-14 minutes or "until golden brown." The fish remained more golden than brown. I was surprised that the batter didn't brown more readily, considering that corn flour is a key component of the recipe. However, it doesn't contain any tapioca starch which would help in the browning department. I don't have any pictures of the baked ones. You'll just have to trust me on this one. They were kind of pale yellow, even when cooked through.

I liked the halibut best. They were made of whole pieces of fish, not shredded product, so they got points for that. The breading was crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, just how I'd want it. The fish itself was moist and tender. The flavoring was just right - very classic deep-fried fish seasoning, without being too heavy.
The haddock was a little on the dry side. Haddock is a fish normally used as a filler or a generic white fish, so it makes sense that it was not quite as tasty as the halibut.

I also tried the deep-fry method of cooking. I don't have a deep fryer, so I wasn't sure about the temperature in my makeshift deep fry pan. I suspect that I didn't have it hot enough because the fish didn't float. However, it came out great. The batter turned a nice deep golden brown. Again the halibut was by far the better texture, but deep frying improved the haddock's texture quite a bit. I noticed that with both cooking methods the haddock became too firm and dry with even the slightest over-cooking. With the halibut I could over-cook it by quite a bit and it was still very good - especially with the frying method.

If I had one quibble I would say that it would be that the batter was not very thick. It wasn't too thin, though, so I can't officially complain. All in all, I'm not sure I would know that these were gluten-free if no one told me. I probably wouldn't buy the haddock for texture reasons, but the halibut was an excellent battered fish. This line of GF battered fish products, including codfish, will be available in Whole Foods across the country. You can read a review of the codfish version on the Gluten-free Portland site. They also have a response from Eric about how they prevent cross-contamination in their facility.

It was so warm I ate outside today.
I ran out of viable food options, so I had to resort to serving rice with the fish. While plain rice is fresher, lighter, and probably healthier to serve with deep-fried fare, I'm not really into those qualities in rice. Instead, I made it like my Costa Rican friend taught me while I was living there when I was in college. It makes a simple but very savory and hearty rice dish that you can serve with most meals or use to make other rice dishes.

If you are me, you will start this recipe by burning some onions until blackened, throw the whole concoction out, and start over from scratch. I recommend skipping this step - it's faster and easier, and better for your pans.

Heat in saucepan or in your ricemaker:

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

Chop into small pieces, then add to the hot oil:

1/4 small onion
1/2 carrot, julienned (optional. I didn't have carrot, so I ommitted this)

Sautee until brown. Add:

Several sprigs' worth of cilantro leaves

Sautee for 30 seconds then add:

1 cup rice
1 3/4 cup water salt to taste

Bring to a boil, then cook on low for 20 minutes. Serve!


Rebecca said...

Thanks for the tip about not burning the onions and ruining the pans. You're right; that will be a big time-saver!

I can't believe you don't like microwaved fish. Perhaps you are forgetting some of the finer dinners of our childhood. (Fish ala Veracruz, for example.)

You may want to stay away from the Green Baby Guide today. Double threat: wheat and beets!

Anonymous said...

I've been hearing that this fish was available lately and wondering if it was worth a try. Thanks for the review.

Kelly said...

Your rice recipe sounds amazing! I love finding new things to do to plain rice. Thanks for the idea!

Linda said...

Thanks for the review. I've been thinking about giving it a try. I just have to get to Whole Foods one of these days.

thewholegang said...

I just bought these yesterday at Whole Foods. I can't wait to try them now after reading your comments.

Heather @CeliacFamily.com said...

The fish looks good. I'll have to give it a try. I'm really anxious to try the rice. I've been thinking lately my plain rice could use a little more flavor. Thanks for sharing.

Dave said...

Great review as always. Ours ended up kind of pale out of the oven, too. Good idea on how to deep fry them. Maybe we'll have to try that!

Babyfro said...

Love the onion comment, haha.

I miss breaded fish, wonder when I'll get to get my hands on some of that. Thanks for the review, and humor.

Cheryl Pitt said...

That look delicious! I need to get back into that meme! I've tagged you for a get-to-know-you game. You don't have to play if you don't want to though. I posted it on my mama blog but the link is for the orignal post on my food and allergy blog :)


Anonymous said...

Bought this from QFC and cooked per specifications.

Was absolutely DISGUSTING, and had both a fishy taste and smell.


Anonymous said...

Just bought the Haddock, EXCELLENT. I miss having my Haddock from the UK, I don't find it often here in CA. I plan on buying all of the boxes of Haddock my local store has lol