How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Haddock from The Sea! The Sea!

Tonight was a quick meal and therefore a mercifully short Nueva Receta entry. As readers of this space might have noticed, I often stop at Kyler's Catch when visiting New Bedford as a participant in Whaling City Rowing. Often I quip that I'm going whaling -- which of course I would never do, though that is what our hobby looks like -- or that I'm headed out to The Sea! The Sea! I have become only slightly nautical rather late in life, so I'm making the most of it.

Similarly, I am sharing a fried-fish "revelation" that is probably knowledge real New Englanders are born with, but it came together today in a way that was entirely new to me.

Anyway, I often bring back cod, which is delicious but breaks apart the way I usually cook it. Until I find out what that is -- I have a whole book on the subject, so it should not be hard -- I have tried halibut a few times. Just for the halibut. (Sorry about that one; you saw it coming.) I choose this because I sometimes see it on the menu if an actual species is offered for fish 'n' chips (as opposed to scrod, which is New England for "whatever we got the best deal on today.")

At Kyler's this morning -- after a 6 a.m. row around the hah-buh and an exploration of the magnificent Charles W. Morgan -- I stopped in and took my number. I asked the fish monger for "about a pound" of halibut and we were both impressed when the filet he chose for me weighed in at 1.00 pounds. Close enough. I put it in the cooler that I always take with me this time of year, and brought it home.

I've had some success with halibut, but today a lack of preparedness led to even greater success. I usually start by beating and egg and mixing it with a little water and Tabasco, because I had a recipe (from our friends on Avery Island) that suggested this is a way to wetten the fish before dredging it in flour, and it has worked pretty well. But I had no egg, so I just used a little local, organic milk, with a healthy dash or three of the splendid hot sauce.

I had already whisked together about (meaning I did not measure at all) 1/2 cup white flour, 1/4 cup corn meal, one teaspoon baking powder, and a vigorous dusting (Maryland-style, meaning overhand) of Old Bay. I heated enough olive oil to have about 1/8 inch of oil puddling in the indispensible cast-iron skillet and got it hot. Then I cut the fillet into two fillets (doubling the dinner!), drenched the fish in the wet bowl, dredged it in the dry bowl, and plopped it -- with a bit too much splatter -- into the pan.

Once cooked almost through, I turned each fillet, and found that the batter had a wonderful texture, something I had never managed at home. I served it up with a salad built mostly from our CSA farm box and a red wine that was not an ideal match but that worked very well because it was chlled and we were not. We both agreed that it was the best fried fish I had made so far, and that I should write down how I did it!

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