Out of the frying pan, onto the fire – cooking for SWMBO
Monday – Sunday (May 21 – May 27, 2018)
Monday: Warm Mushroom Salad
Tuesday: Kale and Sausage Pasta
Wednesday: Grilled L. A. Burgers, Grilled Artichokes and Cole Slaw
Thursday: Dunnings Night with the Boys
Friday: Fried Fish Sandwiches with Pickled Cucumber and Tartar Sauce
Three old freinds: Ben, Andrew and Marc in Lecce, Italy for Seena’s and Cosmo’s wedding
Saturday: The Abbey – Lawrenceville (Unusual space – mediocre food – fine drinks)
Sunday: Grilled Pork Chops with Pineapple Turmeric Glaze, Spring Greens, Rice Pilaf , Dressed Greens. App of DIY Caprese with toasted baguette, tomatoes, mozzarella, Bayonne Ham, Meski Olives in Harissa, Pepperoncini. Dessert of Cheese, Raisins, Nuts.
The invention of frying is one of the great achievements of the human race, just after the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, the limerick and McClures Spicy Pickles.
Frying correctly, by the way – and this is directed at those of you wearing earth tones and comfortable shoes – does not impart any greasiness to food. What it does is to lock in the food’s moisture and its natural taste beneath a crisp, flavored crust. And it makes food very pleasantly hot.
In spite of which, I have lived in fear of frying for much of my adult life. Which is to say that I worry about the reaction of the other person in the house. Frying usually has She Who Must Be Obeyed shouting at me to turn on the fan over the stove, open all of the windows on the first floor, rent a wind-tunnel and direct the draft through the kitchen.
What I’m trying to say, in my typically understated manner, is that I rarely fry anything unless Beez is out of town. But a suggestion from bon apétit magazine has changed all that. Their last issue (“Summer Grilling”) contains a recipe (which I’ll share) for fried fish that involves heating the frying oil in a pan on top of a grill. Now this is grilling only in the sense that the grill heats the oil, there being no smoky flavor imparted to the fish. But it removes the smell of frying oil from the house and the sword of Damocles – I mean the threat of Beez’s wrath – from over my head. It is one of the two or three greatest things I have learned in 2018.
Three old friends again: Andrew, Seena and Marc in Lecce for Seena’s wedding
Last week was in many ways, the best of the year, except for Barbara’s sore foot and the removal of another lump from my now smoother but increasingly blank face. But we’ve learned to take the good with the bad and the good was rather phenomenal last week. Andrew is on a magical trip to Italy (destination wedding for his friend Seena Ghaznahvi and an extra week-and-a-half of vacation in Rome, Priano, and wherever else he and his friends decide). We’ve scattered some pictures of Andrew’s travels throughout the blog. Billy and Emily were in Beantown for a music festival and to catch up with Kevin and Katie and their youngsters. And we had great food and a fine time alone during the week and an even finer time eating with UFR, Greg and Kelei on Sunday.
Drew’s friends Atticus and Joan at the Villa in Priano
The warm mushroom salad was the healthiest dish – incredibly tasty and filling for such a light meal. The first grilled burgers of the year were spectacular. And the rice pilaf was to die for. But the winner, hands down, was the fish that I fried for dinner on Friday with the calmness of a man who knows that he will not be scolded. And, because I’m feeling energetic, we’ll throw in the mushroom salad as well.
FRIED FISH SANDWICHES WITH CUCUMBERS & TARTAR SAUCE
(adapted from bon appétit, June/July 2018 “Summer Grilling”)
Drop your ‘healthy eating’ prejudices for a moment. Think of what eating a great fish sandwich is like – ask your British friends. Steady yourself, you’re about to outdo them.
Timing: 20 minutes, plus the time it takes to get cooking oil to 375F
Ingredients: Feeds Four
4 5-oz. pieces of skinless, boneless firm white fish fillets (we used black sea bass and had to skin it ourselves – haddock, cod, tilapia, grouper, snapper would also work)
2 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp. baking power
1 tsp. cayenne
¾ cup all-purpose flour divided into ½ cup and ¼ cup
¾ cup cornstarch, divided as above
Vegetable oil for frying (we used canola)
3 or so mini cucumbers (we used seedless English – about 1/3 of a full-sized cucumber)
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar (we used unseasoned)
4 sandwich buns (potato rolls, sesame buns, etc.)
1 large egg, beaten
¾ cup of beer (pilsner or other light beer)
½ cup coarsely chopped dill
Lettuce (we would use iceberg or romaine for their moisture and crispness, but you are welcome to use limp leaves if that makes you feel more au courant)
For the Tartar Sauce: ½ cup of mayonnaise, ¼ tsp. lemon zest, 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. sweet relish, 1 Tbsp. chopped, drained capers, 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard, 1 finely grated small garlic clove.
Prep and Make Ahead:
Tartar Sauce – Combine all the ingredients (see above) in a small bowl. Season with salt.
Start a fire to get your grill very hot.
Slice cucumbers or cucumber sections (3” long) lengthwise. Toss with vinegar, massaging gently to soften, and let sit.
Whisk Old Bay, baking powder, cayenne, and ½ cup each of flour and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Whisk remaining ¼ cup of flour and ¼ cup of cornstarch in another bowl and set aside for dredging.
Whisk Egg and beer in a large bowl, then whisk in the Old Bay Mixture in 3 additions.
Fill a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven with 1” of oil. Set this on your grill to heat. You will be ready to cook when a thermometer in the oil registers 375F. To do this will take a good amount of charcoal and good oxygen flow through the grill – open all of the vents and, if you have a front panel that opens, set it ajar.
When oil is nearing 375, dredge fish fillets in dry mix, shaking off excess, and then dip into the batter, letting excess drain off. Place gently, you do not want to splash yourself, into hot oil. NOTE: the oil temperature will drop and probably stay below 375 – don’t worry.
Fry fish, turning it over once, for about 9 minutes. It will be a dark, golden brown. (If you like, you can test with an instant-read thermometer – should register 125-130F – but if you got your oil up to 375 to begin with, the fish will be cooked).
Transfer to a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet to drain.
Toast buns on grill during last minute of cooking.
Drain the vinegar from the cucumbers and toss with dill.
Build sandwiches as follows: cucumbers with dill, fish, lettuce, tartar sauce.
EXTRA – Warm Mushroom Salad (adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot in Paris)
You will be astonished at how meaty and filling this salad is. And the taste – well, make it and you’ll see.
Timing: 10 minutes
1 pound cremini mushrooms
T Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt – more to taste
½ teaspoon ground black pepper – we used more
Enough Arugula for 4 salads
8 slices of prosciutto – we used Bayonne ham and toasted it for 2 or 3 minutes in a 400F oven. The prosciutto we get is too moist and chewy to our taste, and we find that heating in the oven dries it out, takes away the chew and brings out the saltiness we like.
2 Tbsp. sherry wine vinegar
Parmigiano, Reggiano for shaving onto salads
8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and julienned. NOTE: Sun-dried cherry tomatoes are now available in most stores and are sweeter and less leathery than the traditional sun-dried tomatoes. We used the sun-dried cherry tomatoes.
Italian Parsley leaves
Clean mushrooms and slice 1/4 -1/2 inch thick.
Arrange arugula on 4 plates and cover with prosciutto or Bayonne ham.
In a large sauté pan, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium until bubbly. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and sauté for about 3 minutes over medium, tossing frequently.
Reduce heat to low and cook for another 3 minutes.
Now add the sherry vinegar and remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil.
Spoon the mushrooms and sauce on top of the salad. Shave Parmigiano on top and sprinkle with sun-dried tomato slivers, parsley leaves, salt and pepper. Serve warm.
Andrew at Tailor Shop in Rome
View of Tyrrhenian Sea from one of the terraces at the Villa in Priano