Growing up, pretty much any time I ate fish it was prepared in one of two ways: steamed whole, then drenched with julienned ginger, scallions and soy sauce. Or, pan-fried whole, then drenched with spicy, garlicky bean sauce. Later on, I would grow to love dipping fried fish sticks into ketchup and savoring every juicy bite of a Cajun-seasoned catfish fillet. But at the beginning, it was all about whole. Head, tail, cheeks, eyes, fins—the whole shebang.
Breaded, frozen fish sticks were a fairly staple kids’ food in my time. (Are they still now?) Bland and inoffensive logs of cod, the ads for them always promised they’d be crispy, with an ethereal, ear-chattering canned crunch sound so elusive from any food, let alone fish. Short of this satisfaction, they always needed something — they needed some help — but I can recall only dipping the finger-shaped nuggets in ketchup as a kid. This does not sound very appetizing, I … Read More
I’m not averse to wheat or gluten myself (knocking on wood), but I’m well aware of friends and general masses of folks who are looking for that delicious diversion from eating such products. So, for the crispy, crackly “crust” on a fish fillet, I crushed a grainy mixture of aromatic spices instead of looking to starch-based solutions. Then, since we’re creating such a textural complement to the otherwise tender fish, why not make fish itself the crusty crouton for a … Read More
If you’re familiar with the dry-style stir-fries of Sichuan cuisine — Kung Pao chicken, or beef with cumin — this is its soupy antithesis. Translating literally to “water-cooked fish,” it’s fish slices gently poached in a not-so-gentle broth. No, it’s not just water in there. Infused with dried chilies, Sichuan peppercorns and chili bean sauce, it’s a tingly, vermilion bath loaded with slivered vegetables like cabbage and celery, flavors melding. And because of its stew-like consistency, it’s perfect for winter … Read More
A distinctive, crisp, and very bitter green, puntarelle is a real sign that fall has arrived. This member of the chicory family is typically harvested in fall through the winter, although it’s widely eaten fresh, in salads. If you’re not quite ready to fully embrace the food of this chilly season yet, then a refreshing salad–with a unique, seasonal ingredient–is a great compromise.
Oh happy day — midsummer has arrived, and all my favorite foods like peaches and sweet corn are now in season. My life is finally complete. I thought I’d celebrate with a confetti of those things, splayed across a delicate-tasting canvas of fresh flounder fillets. Nothing too crazy at this party, except for that crack-pow-pop! like fireworks in the sky of flavor–juicy, crisp, tender and sweet. Man, I wish the Fourth of July came a little later into the summer … Read More
I love the idea of popping a whole fish in the oven, to roast until sizzling sounds are heard, and the flesh is juicy and opaque. But I don’t love the idea of just plunking the whole fish down on a baking sheet, as it’ll stick to the pan, becoming slimy and weird. The fish’s natural juices will get totally wasted while cooking, spilling onto the abyss of a blank sheetpan that you’ll have to scrub well soon. So I … Read More
I don’t get the hesitation over darker, oilier, “fishier” sort of fish. Bluefish, mackerel, herring, sardines — these are the flavorful dark meats to bland white meat chicken (of the sea). If you’re one who prefers full-flavored, juicy cuts like chicken thighs or pork shoulder instead of loin, you might find common ground in these highly undervalued types of fish. Then again, the fillet of bluefish I broiled here was so fresh, it tasted clean and just faintly of the … Read More
Does anyone remember “buddy burgers” from Burger King? I think that this retired menu item from the fast-food chain must have appeared sometime in the mid-to-late 1980s. As little kids, my brother and I enjoyed the novelty: two little hamburgers attached by virtue of a conjoined bun. I didn’t really have a taste for hamburgers then, but we liked pulling them apart and each getting a burger (for what that was worth). Here I’ve revamped the memory by making two … Read More
For my last week in San Francisco, I went a little bit off the deep end, with food. I staged at two restaurants (Chez Panisse and Bar Tartine), took a cooking class, went to a supper club, volunteered at an Edible Schoolyard benefit called OPENEducation at the Berkeley Art Museum, and threw an epic dinner party on the boat. This was our first course: a tangy medley of fresh peppers, tomatoes, onions, grilled corn and fish piled inside a hollowed … Read More