Simple fish cookery
I love fish cookery more than any other, even game. I especially love simple fish dishes, the sort where the quality of the fish is showcased rather than the ego of the chef.
The Europeans have got it right, the seafood dishes of France, Spain and Italy are really quite special and much of it is thanks to us Brits who give our neighbours all the fish we won’t eat. It really is tragic that we don’t embrace other species with the same fondness of our counterparts. Why this obsession with cod, haddock and plaice, God only knows.
This year I am making a determined effort to win over my customers with alternative seafood. Hake, pollock, megrim, flounder, dabs will all feature in a variety of guises and so far the response has been encouraging.
I sometimes wonder if a plate of simple shallow-fried seafood with some fresh lemon and a glass of Sauvignon blanc isn’t the greatest thing in the world. Hardly anyone shallow-fries anymore and it’s a shame. Forget the diet for an afternoon and have some fish fillets cooked in breadcrumbs and you’ll be glad you did. I tucked into some fried hake with a squeeze of lemon and a blob of salsa verde the other day, my sous chefs got stuck in and I wished they hadn’t!
Shallow-frying fish requires some attention during the cooking process. The fish fillets should be washed and patted dry before going through a coat of well seasoned flour and egg wash. I like to add plenty of chopped herbs to my breadcrumbs along with another good turn of the pepper mill. Give the fillets a good, even coating of crumbs, making sure there aren’t any gooey lumps anywhere.
Cover a frying pan with a centimetre or so of vegetable oil and a lump of butter, swirl it all around over a medium heat, when the butter begins to melt add your fillets, laying them down gently and away from you. Keep the heat constant but not fierce. Leave the fillets to take on the oil and butter before turning them over. Patience is key, young chefs insist on buggering about with food. Let them be! turn over once nicely browned on one side and continue cooking for another couple of minutes.
Don’t let them get too dark, fish shouldn’t be overcooked, if it is slightly undercooked then don’t panic-stick them in a hot oven to finish if you’re butter is too dark, or, like me eat as is. Drain your fish quickly but gently on some kitchen towel and serve straight away, it should always be the last thing you do, fried fish waits for nobody.
What do you serve with fried fish? Well, all sorts really. Salsa verde is a classic as is tartare sauce, mayonnaise, remoulade or any number of Asian dipping sauces, a really good ketchup wouldn’t go amiss either.