Cod help me

And now for a photo essay on the making of my dinner last night. What do you do when you have a nice, thick piece of cod fillet? The thought of it just sends me into a tizzy.

You can do a lot of things with cod, from baking it with a crumb topping, to broiling it with some butter and paprika. Last night I was in the mood to saute it with a nice, crispy crust. So easy, and delicious. Here’s how:

You start out with a beautiful cod fillet. Any other thick white fillet will do. This was mine. I actually bought it a couple of weeks ago and froze it. If you’re not into going to the market every day, when you are there, just buy a bunch of fish and freeze it, and stick it in the fridge the day before you’re going to cook it to defrost.

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Cut the fillets to about a half-pound in size. Season with salt and pepper, and dredge in flour.

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Yikes – if I’m going to do photo essays, should I get better lighting in my kitchen?

Then dip it in a beaten egg, then bread crumbs. The egg acts as a glue to help the bread crumbs stick. I happened to use matzo meal I had left over from my matzo ball soup. This will give the fish the nice, crispy crust. For a bit of a softer crust, leave out the egg and bread crumbs, and just use the flour.

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Heat a skillet and add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. When hot, drop in the fillets, and cook until you achieve a nice, golden brown on each side. The fish is done when its lost its transluscence and a thin-bladed knife passes through the fish with little resistance. The general rule of thumb is it will take 8-10 minutes to cook per inch of thickness.

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I garnished with a sweet potato and some broccoli, and gave the fish a shpritz of lemon to finish.

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Offing the lobster

Thinking about what I posted yesterday, I am reminded of an essay by the late author David Foster Wallace about the life and death of a lobster, titled Consider the Lobster (the title essay of his 2005 book of essays). He asks us to think about whether the lobster feels any pain when you cook it in the traditional manner of dropping the live creature into a pot of boiling water.

Some of you have no problem whatsoever with it (like me, but actually I do feel a twinge of regret sometimes; I’m not totally heartless). Some of you can’t even stand to be in the same room when the deed is done. One thing certain, though – it has to be killed live. It spoils quickly if it dies before you cook it.

[Note: if you don’t want to do anything fancy like broiling or grilling the lobster, you can cheat by having the fish counter steam it for you while you are off squeezing your melons.]

It’s a debate that even the experts have differing opinions on. Many scientists believe that lobsters are nothing more than “sea bugs” and that, based on their primitive nervous systems, they can feel no more pain than a fly might if you swat it to death with the New York Times. Others think there is evidence that lobsters do, in fact, feel pain – the “evidence” being the gyrations the lobster makes upon contact with the scalding water (I have to admit, I’d make gyrations too if I were in that situation). Proponents of this theory also point to a perceived hissing, or “crying” sound when it starts to cook, as proof the lobster is being tortured (to this point, I say, get a life – it’s actually moisture being released as steam from the animal’s interior).

Whatever you believe, if you’re worried about it, it’s generally accepted that the most humane way to slay the lobster is to plunge a chef’s knife into the top of the lobster, and slice through its eye stalks, which kills them instantly.

This guy apparently has no reservations about any of this.

Surprise at the fish counter

At the fish counter, I saw that they were selling lobster for $3.99 per pound. $3.99! I’d never seen it so low. Why is it so cheap right now? Here’s one analysis, from Newsweek.

I didn’t even have lobster on my mind coming in to the store. I was going for fish; salmon a likely choice. I didn’t have a chance to worry about it – there were no lobsters in the tank. Sold out. Why wouldn’t they be, at 3.99 a pound?

But lobster may stay cheap for a little while. So if you or your kids don’t like lobster, or have never tried it, now is a perfect time to start. Sweet, chewy, slightly briny, the taste is similar to crab, and to a lesser extent, shrimp. It’s a great way to have “fish,” without having fish, if you know what I mean.

If you don’t want to go hardcore lobster right away (like, a lobster sitting on your dinner plate staring back at you), you can do the old “hide-it-in-your-food” trick. Commonly utilized with vegetables with funny sounding names, there are many “hide-it” recipes that are quick, easy, and delicious. Here is one:

Lobster mashed potatoes, from Sheila Lukins’ cookbook “Ten”

Makes 6 to 8 servings. Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active)

2 live lobsters (1 1/2 lb. each), or 3 pounds lobster tails
2 1/2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 cup whole milk, or more if needed, warmed
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, or more if needed, room temperature
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

If your lobsters are not cooked, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Holding the lobsters by the tail, plunge them head first into the boiling water (this will kill them instantly) and cover the pot. Once the water returns to a boil, cook the lobsters until they are bright red and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the lobsters from the pot and set aside for 4 to 5 minutes. Crack the lobsters and remove the meat from the tails and claws. Cut the meat into 1/2-inch pieces. Cover and set aside.

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by about 1 inch. Salt the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Shake the pan over low heat for 10 seconds to dry the potatoes. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl, then add the milk and butter. Mash the potatoes, adding extra milk and/or butter if desired.

Season the potatoes generously with salt and black pepper, then mix in the lemon zest. Gently fold in the lobster meat and the chives. Fluff with a fork, and serve immediately.

To reheat the potatoes, place them in a double boiler over simmering water. A microwave will toughen the lobster.