Pan-fried halibut, sauteed pea tendrils, and roasted red potatoes from the Farmer’s Market
First, go check out the Wakefield Farmer’s Market Web site if you have not done so before! If you live in or near Wakefield MA or plan to visit before the middle of October, be sure to check out the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. See the Web site for directions, etc.
Globe Fish Co. had Gulf shrimp last week, and I was planning to purchase some this week. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any this time around, so I got halibut instead and, at my husband’s request, agreed to prepare it fried. I also bought a variety of produce from Farmer Dave and Flats Mentor Farm, which specializes in Asian produce, and decided on potatoes and pea tendrils to accompany.
I do not having a lot of experience preparing fish. I am now pretty comfortable baking it, and was successful my recent and first try at blackened salmon, but this would be my first time frying it. And, I was up against some stiff competition: Fried fish was apparently one of Steve’s Mom’s specialties and I was hoping to create at least a satisfying, if not perfect match to his memories. I am pleased to report that I was successful! Here is the recipe I followed:
PAN-FRIED FISH FILLETS
This is basic and can be used with any firm, white-fleshed fish, as well as shrimp, scallops and oysters. After trying many different types of coatings and methods, this is my preference. The resulting crust is always crispy and not too thick. In a pinch, you could use finely crushed low-salt saltines in place of the homemade breadcrumbs. I think that is a better choice than store-bought breadcrumbs which, in my experience, never yield a crispy crust and taste a little like cardboard.
* 2 pounds firm, white-fleshed fish fillets, such as flounder or catfish
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* Salt and pepper to taste
* 2 eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons water
* 1-1/2 cups homemade dried breadcrumbs
* Oil for frying, such as vegetable or canola
* Lemon wedges
* Tartar sauce (see recipe)
1. Place flour on plate or wax paper. Season with salt and pepper; mix well. Place breadcrumbs on large plate or wax paper. Coat fish lightly with flour, shaking off excess. Dip into egg wash and let excess drip off. Coat thoroughly with breadcrumbs, again shaking off excess. Place on wire rack. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to help ensure that the coating will adhere to the fish when frying.
2. Meanwhile, heat large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add oil, about 1/2-inch thick, or thick enough to come about half-way up the sides of the fish. Heat oil until hot. Remove fish from refrigerator and fry, in batches as needed, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side depending on thickness. Remove to a clean wire rack to drain. Season with additional salt, if desired. Serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.
[Note: I purchase two packs of the fish totaling just about 1.5 pounds, WAY more than needed for a meal for two. I actually held back a few pieces to freeze after breading and a few pieces to freeze after frying, just to see if this could be a viable “cook ahead/meal from the freezer” recipe. I’ll let you know later!]
Next, I made some tartar sauce – just a mix of sweet relish and mayo, with just enough prepared horseradish to add a bite, and put it in the fridge until dinner time.
While the coated fish was in the fridge chilling, as per the recipe, I sliced up the potatoes – a bit under 1/2 ” thick – seasoned them with a salt and a liberal amount of freshly ground black pepper, added a light coating of olive oil, and spread them out on a pan that I had sprayed with canola oil.
I put them in my toaster oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes to start – or, at least, I thought to start because recipes usually call for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. However, these were done in the 15 minutes – probable because they were freshly dug (higher water content is my guess) and also sliced thinly (about 1/2 inch or less.) Since I would be wanting things to be done at the same time, this worked out great. I left them in the oven and finished them off for 5 minutes at 400 degrees as I was frying the fish.
I also prepped for the pea trendrils while I was waiting for the coated fish to chill. First I flavored some olive oil by sauteing garlic slices then, once they were a bit browned, let them sit in the oil until I was ready to saute the pea tendrils. That way, I was all ready to quickly saute the pea tendrils once the fish was done and draining on a rack before serving.
I then went through the pea tendrils and removed the thicker parts of the stems and also the little twisty tendril strings because I read that they could be tough and “stringy” when cooked.
After the fish was chilled and all was prepped (or, in the case of the potatoes, pre-cooked) I took the fish from the fridge and put between a 1/4 and 1/2 an inch of canola oil in my 12 inch frying pan, turning on the burner to medium high. At this time, I put the toaster oven on to finish off the potatoes for 5 minutes at 400 – or was it 450?? degrees. Enough to crisp.
Once the oil in the frying pan was giving off an aroma and there was some movement, I tossed in a little bit of the fish batter until it sizzled very vigorously. Then I added the fish – carefully! That oil gets hot! I let it fry on one side for about 3 minutes and the other for about the same, until each side was a golden brown. Then I removed the fish to a rack to drain before serving. I also blotted with paper towel immediately before plating.
Once the fish was done, I quickly heated up the oil in the wok and added the pea tendrils for just a minute or two, until wilted. Then, dinner was served:
The verdict: The fish was a total success! REALLY good. According to Steve, as good as his Mom’s and, seemingly ironically, since I cooked the fish in more oil than he remembers his Mom using, less greasy. I think that using more oil enabled the fish to form a crust more quickly and sealed out the fat more efficiently. Something like that.
The potatoes were also delicious. I used a VERY liberal amount of black pepper and they had a nice punch to them, and the final roasting brown them nicely – just the right amount of crispness on the outside.
The pea tendrils, alas, were not as big a success. The flavor is lovely, but, as I suspected might happen, the stems were stringy while the tender leaves were cooked almost too much. I have this problem when sauteeing arugula and spinich, also. Now I am wishing I used the following recipe because, although I feared using the chicken broth would cook the leaves too much, it would have most likely have softened the stems. I will try it next time I cook this sort of green.
Sauteed Pea Tendrils with Garlic
Bon Appétit – March 2006
1 Tbs canola oil
2 small garlic cloves, smashed
12 oz fresh pea tendrils
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
1. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and sauté until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove garlic. Add tendrils; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth and sauté until greens are slightly wilted and heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
By the way, the pea tendrils are quite tasty with a delicate crunch to them when raw. I highly recommend them in a salad. Also, the woman selling them said that she often uses them in soup. I held some back and will see how they do in soup when I next experiment in the kitchen.
I still have corn, carrots, summer squash, and baby white turnips from my trip to the market, but I probably won’t do anything very fancy with them – I am sure they will taste super just as is or lightly cooked!
That’s it for now. Do let me know if you have any surefire tricks for sauteing greens without the stems getting stringy!