There’s Something Fishy Going On

October 18th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Fresh fish has always been expensive but now that our ocean fisheries have been nearly decimated, prices are getting a bit nutty. Good, wild caught, fresh and unfrozen salmon, tuna, swordfish and halibut hover around $29 a pound. HG feels that paying that much for a simple piece of fish is a bit self indulgent. Therefore, HG is opting for moderately priced, farm raised fish like tilapia and catfish. Older fish farms were ecological disasters — pumping filth into the environment and shipping out muddy tasting, chemically processed product. Some modern farms have really cleaned up their act and become more environmentally sound with the result that the fish are healthier and quite palatable. Make sure to seek out fish from these type of farms (Whole Foods has very strict guidelines for their farmed fish purveyors — so buying through them is a good bet).

Here’s a very good way of cooking them. Coat the fish in a mixture of Hellman’s mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Roll the fish in Louisiana Fish Fry or Zatarain’s Fish Fry or panko (crushed fine). Fry in a mixture of grapeseed oil and brown butter. After taking the fish out of the pan, melt a bit more butter with lemon juice, capers and a few drops of Tabasco. Pour this flavorful sauce over the crispy fish.

During HG’s college days at the City College West Harlem campus, HG enjoyed very cheap and very good fried catfish sandwiches. The breaded catfish was fried in lard (like cast iron pans, a staple of Harlem fry cooks), doused in a blazing hot pepper sauce and served between two slices of Wonder or Silvercup bread. It was accompanied by cole slaw or potato salad. HG’s version of fried fish is just a little bit fancier.

La Mamounia

May 20th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

La Mamounia in the magical, mysterious Moroccan city of Marrakesh, is the best hotel in the world. At least it’s the best hotel HG and BSK ever stayed in. Art Deco deluxe. Don’t take HG’s word for it. It was Winston Churchill’s favorite hotel and he spent happy times painting in the hotel’s lovely gardens. When not rummaging in Marrakech’s souks, bargaining for rugs and inspecting masterpieces of Islamic architecture and garden planning, HG and BSK swam in the vast hotel pool and sun bathed on the comfortable chaise lounges. The pool area was populated by pert young Frenchwomen. Topless, of course. Their nervous husbands paced around puffing on large cigars and conducting staccato conversations on their cell phones. For HG, the charms of the poolside buffet far outshone the French damsels. Inventive Moroccan salads. Grilled lobster and shrimp. Kebabs of tender lamb fragrant with North African spices. Couscous, certainly. And, much,much more.

HG was reminded of all of this by Florence Fabricant’s baked fish recipe in the New York Times food section. The writer had tasted the dish at La Mamounia and gave it a rave. BSK cooked the dish last night and it will become a household perennial. Essentially, some reasonably firm fish fillets (BSK used catfish) are smothered in a variety of spices; showered with garlic, cilantro, flat leaf parsley; doused with olive oil. vinegar and lemon juice. The fish rests on a bed of sliced potatoes and is covered with sliced red peppers, plum tomatoes and kalamata olives. Baked in the oven for some 30 minutes (or less). Super stuff. HG gave his substantial portion a shot of harissa, the Moroccan fiery condiment composed of chile peppers, olive oil and garlic. The lily was gilded.

Tilapia: The Surprising Fish Brings Family Harmony.

February 10th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Tilapia is a farm raised fish, and like farm raised salmon, has been scorned by HG. As HG’s massive public knows, HG is a fancier of batter fried catfish (rolled in flour, dipped in beaten egg and rolled again in panko or cornmeal and first soaked in buttermilk). Well, here’s the problem. BSK doesn’t like catfish. Says it tastes muddy. HG believes BSK’s distaste was caused by eating wild, bottom feeding catfish in her youth. Today’s farm raised catfish (an exception to HG’s quickly disappearing No-Farm-Raised rule) does not taste muddy. Emphatically not. But, BSK won’t change her mind. So, what to do? A number of culinary authorities (including Mark Bittman) have said you can substitute tilapia for catfish when you’re hovering over the big, sizzling cast iron pan. HG bought a pound of tilapia. No buttermilk bath, but followed the usual procedure. The result was sensational, Even BSK had to agree. Crisp crust covering juicy, firm white fish. A treat. BSK cooked up a mess of southern greens. Had a few boiled fingerling potatoes. There was lots of hot sauce and lemons. Once more, family culinary harmony prevails.

Farm Raised Fish.

December 15th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Farm raised salmon. Despicable. Farm raised bass. Nasty. Haven’t tasted farm raised tilapia. Any opinions? The fish from the Spanish farm Veta La Palma is said to be delicious.

Farm raised catfish is excellent however. HG does it this way: Brief soak in buttermilk. Dredge in flour. Dip in beaten egg. Dredge in black pepper seasoned matzo meal. Fry in a big cast iron pan with plenty of sizzling canola oil. Pass the lemon, Frank’s Hot Sauce and cold beer. HG ate plenty of wild, bottom feeding catfish in Harlem cafes during his college days. Always had a slightly muddy taste effectively masked by super-peppery crust crisped in bacon fat or lard. Today’s catfish has a nice, fresh texture. BSK, once a catfish hater, has been converted.

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