Friday, April 2, 2010

213. Crispy Oven-Fried Cod (p. 301) and 214. Tartar Sauce (p. 885)

For a lot of folks, Fridays in Lent means fish for dinner. In fact, the seafood place in my neighborhood does so much business on Fridays in Lent that they need to hire a police detail to direct traffic. I'm not kidding. And it's with good reason ... they make the best fish and chips this side of the beach. Or, at least I used to think that they did. Thanks to this recipe, though, I think that honor goes to me now.

The secret to this dish is that the fish is double-coated, and you start it on the stove top and finish it in the oven. It gets just the right amount of crispiness, but it's not as greasy as deep fried.

First, I combined some plain store-bought bread crumbs and some yellow cornmeal in a zip-top bag with a little bit of salt and a tiny bit of cayenne pepper. I lightly beat a couple of eggs in a shallow dish. Then working one piece at a time, I put good-sized pieces of fresh cod into the bag, shaking gently to coat. Then I dipped the fish in the egg, and shook it to coat a second time.

To cook, I heated a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in my big cast iron skillet. Once it was good and hot, I arranged the fish in the pan. After just a couple of minutes on each side, the fillets were nicely browned. (I got to use my fancy new fish spatula! Having the right tools makes all the difference.) To finish the cooking, I added a bit more oil, and put the skillet in a very hot oven (500 degrees) for a few minutes more.

This fish was excellent. Crispy and flaky, without being greasy. The breading was just right, too. Sometimes, batter-dipped fried fish can be just too much.

I served this with some Roasted French Fries and Creamy Slaw (both repeat recipes) and this recipe* for Tartar Sauce to create the complete fish and chips experience.

The Book says that "if you've never had homemade tartar sauce, this will be a revelation." I'm not so sure about that. I used to think that tartar sauce was nothing more than a little bit of pickle relish mixed into mayonnaise, and for all I know, the tartar sauce at the seafood place down the street is just that. This tartar sauce was a bit more involved, and not as good. It starts out all right....mayonnaise mixed with finely chopped sweet and dill pickles. The finely chopped onion and capers are unnecessary, but unobjectionable. The chopped hard-boiled egg yolk gives the sauce a bit more richness and substance, which I did like. Where The Book lost me was with the addition of the herbs. Parsley, dill, and tarragon. The last of these, the tarragon, was so strong that it overpowered all of the other flavors in the sauce, and turned me off a bit. I'm not saying that this tartar sauce was bad ... it wasn't. It just wasn't the "revelation" that it was sold as.

Overall, though, this was one of my favorite meals of the project so far. And, who would have guessed ... my little foodie baby gobbled it right up!

Date Cooked: March 27, 2010
Degree of Difficulty: Pretty Easy
Rating: Fish: A; Tartar Sauce: B-

* The recipe for Tartar Sauce is not on ... no big loss, as far as I'm concerned.

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