Noah recently bought a cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated, The New Best Recipe. It’s really cool – they test out all the factors that go into making each dish and share with you their process and results. For example when making chocolate chip cookies, they test how brown sugar vs white sugar affected the taste and texture, along with different ratios of ingredients, what type of baking sheets work best, etc. They even sometimes test out various brands of butter or some other ingredient.
Anyway, we’ve used a few of their recipes since, and last Friday Noah fried up some wonderfully crisp and light catfish using our new cookbook. It was really good, but we did think it was a bit wasteful. You end up using a lot of oil and flour, but maybe it was worth it?
The weekend before we had invited some friends over for a clambake (also using the cookbook, but we thought the recipe was just ok), and I used the leftover juices to make a soup.
Pan Fried Catfish
To minimize splatters and maximize safety, use a Dutch oven with sides at least 5 inches high (instead of a regular skillet) when frying the fish.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup fine cornmeal
- salt and ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable oil for frying, or as needed
- 2 catfish fillets (about 12 oz each), skin and dark fatty flesh just below the skin removed, fillets cut in half lengthwise
- lemon wedges
1. Place 1/2 cup of the flour in a wide, shallow dish. In another wide, shallow dish, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup flour, cornmeal, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper and the cayenne. In a third shallow dish, whisk the eggs with 1 tbsp of the oil until combined.
2. Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper to taste. Drop the fish into the flour and shake the dish to coat. Shake the excess flour from each piece, then, using tongs, dip the fillets into the egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing the excess to drip off. Coat the fillets with the cornmeal mixture, shake off the excess and set aside.
3. Heat 1/2 inch oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 400 degrees. (The oil should not smoke, but it will come close.) Place 2 catfish fillets in the hot oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 4 mins. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the oil between 385-390 degrees. Remove the fillets from the oil with a slotted spoon and lay them on a plate lined with several layers of paper towels; blot to remove any excess oil. Set aside. Bring the oil back to 400 degrees and repeat the cooking process with the remaining fillets.
4. Serve the fried fish immediately with either lemon wedges or dipping sauce.
Ok, so this isn’t really a recipe, but it was my first time making soup from leftover broth. Basically, add whatever you want, but make sure there’s enough liquid to boil everything.
I had about a cup of clam broth leftover, so I added 1 cup of chicken broth and boiled some diced potatoes and leftover shredded carrots. Before serving, I topped it with sliced scallions. It was super good!
For Noah’s birthday last month, I faced my fear of hot oil and made some fish ‘n chips. It turned out really well, except we didn’t have any relish so my tartar sauce came out a bit weird. But, otherwise, yum! I decided to avoid the hassle of making homemade fries, so I just used frozen and fried ’em up in a pot.
- 3 qt safflower or peanut oil (or some other oil that can withstand high heat)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 (12-oz) bottle cold beer (preferably ale)
- 1 1/2 lb haddock or cod fillets, skinned, pin bones removed, and fish cut diagonally into 1-inch-wide strips (5 to 6 inches long)
- Special equipment: a deep-fat thermometer
- Accompaniment: malt vinegar or tartar sauce
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 250°F.
Sift 1 1/2 cups flour into a bowl, then whisk in beer gently until just combined. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Pat fish dry. Sprinkle fish on both sides with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then dredge in remaining 1/2 cup flour, shaking off excess
Heat oil over moderately high heat until it registers 375°F.
Coat 4 pieces of fish in batter, 1 at a time, and slide into oil as coated. Fry coated fish, turning over frequently, until deep golden and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in lower third of oven, then fry remaining fish in batches of 4, returning oil to 375°F between batches.
Season fish and chips with salt.
*The tartar sauce I made was a mixture of mayo, lemon juice, chopped onion, salt, pepper and if I had had some, relish. You can also just eat your fish with malt vinegar or some other condiment instead, too.
I decided to buy hake fillets (on sale) from the grocery store and was at a loss with what to do with them. Suddenly I got the idea to attempt to steam them Chinese-style. The only problem was that we don’t have a steamer, so I improvised and decided to make my own using a pot, ramekin and plate (I had once seem Noah do this in a wok, so don’t think that I thought of this on my own). I’ve always longed to be able to make a simple steamed fish, but the lack of a steamer had always stopped me. Anyway, the result was great and it’s so easy to make! Next time I think I’ll cut the liquids in half, the fish was almost swimming in the juices.
Chinese Steamed Hake
2 6 oz hake (or other white fish) fillets
salt and pepper
1 tbsp chinese rice wine or sherry
1 1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp chopped green onions and/or cilantro
Place small cake rack or ramekin (upside down) in large skillet or stock pot. Pour enough water into skillet/pot to reach depth of 1 inch. Place glass pie pan or plate (preferable with edges) on rack (my plates were actually pretty small so Noah lay two chopsticks across the first plate and then stacked another one on top of it). Put fish in dish, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle wine, ginger, garlic and soy sauce over fish.
Bring water in skillet/pot to boil. Cover skillet/pot and steam fish until just opaque in center, about 1o minutes. Transfer fish to plates, top with juices from dish and sesame oil (optional), cilantro and/or green onions.
Apparently, February came and went and I failed to post a single thing on this page. If you must know, the month started with a trip to the picture-perfect island of St John in the US Virgin Islands:
When we travel, we try to stay in places with some type of kitchen so we can save some money and cook. So this vacation had us in a tent-cabin with a camping stove and later on, in a rented apartment with a kitchenette. We tried to keep things simple, so most of our meals consisted of rice, beans/corn/mixed vegetables (things that mostly came in cans) and fish.
Since the mahimahi we bought was freshly caught, it made for the most tender mahimahi I’ve ever had. For taste, we found some of Tony’s Creole Seasoning and sprinkled that on our fish. We also discovered canned sardines on this trip – pretty tasty and sardines are actually really good for you and are probably one of the most environmentally friendly fish out there. We came home and promptly stocked some in our pantry. Anyway, those were our cooking adventures in the Caribbean.
I’ve been reading the book Four Fish (subtitled “The Future of the Last Wild Food”) by Paul Greenberg, which gives a history of salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna and of course details the environmental aspect of eating, fishing and farming all of them. As someone who loves fish and the ocean, I actually find it riveting. It really makes me wish I stayed an extra quarter to get that minor in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. Perhaps that teeny credential would have come in handy now as I contemplate switching careers in the veeery long term future. I just finished reading the section on sea bass, and the author describes the delicate, white, tender flaky meat of sea bass to explain why it’s so popular. Did you know sea bass has many names, which if you live in New York City, you most likely have seen: branzino, loup de mer, bar, spigola. My mouth immediately began to water, and I continued reading as he details the highly complicated human engineering that goes on in the farming of sea bass, as well as the accompanying pollution and disease. He achieved his intent of making me feel guilty for wanting sea bass. But, then in the last few pages of the chapter, he mentioned a new kind of sea bass whose natural biology is conducive to being farmed, and therefore it’s sustainable and not detrimental to the environment — that sea bass is called Barramundi! Naturally, this would be my next meal.
I headed over to the Lobster Place, where I knew for sure they must have this Barramundi. Sure enough, they even had Barramundi from the same “farm” in Turner Falls, MA where the author had done his research. I had intended to buy a filet or two, but the whole fish was 1/2 the price (per pound), so I got that instead. The entire fish wouldn’t fit in the pan, so I tried and then Noah succeeded in chopping off the fish heads (sorry to you sensitive readers out there, but this is just how your food gets to the plate).
I proceeded then to adapt this recipe for Barramundi. The recipe has you make a sweet potato puree and brussel sprout chips (from each leaf), but I opted for the easier task of simply chopping and roasting them together. I also made the vinaigrette called for in the recipe, but I think the fish tastes great simply just pan fried with salt and pepper. So, I saved the vinaigrette for a future salad. Also, during this adventure, I learned how to beautifully pan fry a whole fish – so easy and so delicious! The skin is so yummy and crisp.
Pan Fried Barramundi
2 barramundi fish, cleaned (or 4 5-6 oz filets)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 lbs brussel sprouts
salt + pepper
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Wash sweet potatoes. Cut brussel sprouts in halves. Quarter and slice sweet potato into 1/2 inch pieces. Combine vegetables in baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vingegar, salt, pepper, dried rosemary and thyme. Mix to combine. Arrange brussel sprouts with cut side down. Bake in oven for 30-35 mins.
Since we’re leaving for Seattle on Friday (and because we like their company), we invited some friends over to help us eat our vegetables and fruit.
Last Night’s Dinner Menu:
- Juice & Seltzer (thanks to the Hsus, I wonder I never discovered this sooner)
- Babaghanoush with crudites of green bell pepper and terrachips
- Summer squash sauteed with tomatoes, onions and basil (accompanied with pasta)
- Whole baked fish (Black Sea Bass and Blackfish) stuffed with lemon and leeks, and encrusted in… salt
- Arugula salad with cherry tomatoes, strawberries, walnuts and goat cheese
- Bowl of donut peaches and nectarines
I think when I planned this meal, I wasn’t entirely thinking straight. I think I was so consumed with using up all the produce that I didn’t consider whether the recipes I found would actually be appealing. I guess I just relied too much on people’s ratings of the recipes, without taking into account personal tastes. I mean, everything was palatable, but I think I really should have rethought the fish.
(the only produce I store-bought was the arugula and strawberries)
1) The babaghanoush. I usually don’t like babaghanoush, except for maybe two times, where it was just the perfect blend of flavors. Grace used her eggplant from last week to make an amazing babaghanoush. Mine was ok, but I think if I ever have another eggplant, I’ll ask for her recipe.
2) The Fish. Encrusted in salt – really? Weber seemed to really like it, but I think everyone else was just… eating it because it was on their plate, myself included. It. Was. Just. So. Salteeey! If I had been actually thinking through the recipe, I would have foreseen this problem… sigh.
3) The summer squash was good, but I think I added too much pasta, which was a concern of mine before making the dish, but then in the midst of cooking I stopped thinking about that for some reason. It made the dish a bit bland, which actually was a nice respite from the intense saltiness of the fish. I like that I got to put fresh basil into this dish, but next time would add it later, so the taste doesn’t get all cooked away since it simmers for 20 minutes.
4) The salad. I liked it! I had intended to put wedges of nectarines in the salad but then realized slicing strawberries was much easier than halving, seeding and cutting nectarines. I made a red wine vinaigrette instead of my usual lemon vinaigrette, which was good, but that lemon vinaigrette is just so excellent. And, anything is wonderful when you can add goat cheese to it!
5) Peaches & Nectarines. Nothing simpler than just washing and serving. 🙂 Yum! Carrie also made some homemade chocolate covered toffee and brought some ice cream. Excellent end to the meal.
Thanks friends for being polite and spending an evening with us! I kind of felt like Ina Gartner or Giada prepping and cooking for friends. 🙂
My best friend Angela is visiting this week and today we stopped at Chelsea Market for groceries and then made a home-cooked family dinner. The following is reposted from her blog:
our last stop of the day was at chelsea market to pick up some fresh fish + veggies to cook dinner at home. peter and i picked out some tilefish and pollock (2 kinds of white fish we have never had before) for noah and cathy to cook for all of us. =) we put together a salad, and cathy also made some amazing roasted potatoes! we’ve been drinking a lot of lemon + mint water to keep cool. now it’s time to play scrabble!