I’ve been wanting to post this recipe since Paul and I dreamed it up years ago, when we first moved to town and started enjoying the local seafood…and the Eat Local Challenge month is the perfect time to cook it up again! Of course, since it’s a sandwich (built on real, floury bread), you’ll need to include the bread as one of your non-local foods for the day. But of course, buy the bread from a local baker! I got my French boule from the Thursday Mid-City farmer’s market. It’s rustic, but still a good all-purpose bread that makes great toast and sandwiches. And if you don’t want to include bread, just make the other components of the dish and eat them on a plate, sans bread, or over some cooked rice or grits.
This sandwich has several parts: a fruit salsa, for sweet & spicy flavor; caramelized onions, for richness; sauteed greens, for earthiness and color; and the fish, which you can season heavily or lightly, depending on your preference. I don’t remember exactly what it was that caused Paul and me to put all of these things together, but it could have been trying to use everything we’d picked up at the farmer’s market that day, or it could have been the influence of all the great restaurants we’d been visiting. Our tastebuds were not okay with the same old, run of the mill sandwich. It had to be elevated. ELEVATED, baby!
A panful of onions becomes…
…this! And delicious.
Four handfuls of spinach becomes this, in seconds flat!
Cooking fillets in a pan with butter and Cajun seasoning like this is, essentially, bronzing them. Look for a deep golden color and just the slightest hint of a “crust” of spices on the outer surface.
- [for the salsa:]
- 2 large peaches or nectarines
- 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced bell pepper
- 1 teaspoon vinegar (I used Steen's Cane vinegar)
- drizzle of pecan or olive oil
- salt to taste
- [to complete:]
- 3 medium white or red onions, or a combination
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or oil of choice, divided
- 4 large handfuls fresh baby spinach (or kale)
- 2 fresh black drum fillets
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning blend, such as Tony Cachere's (optional)
- 4 slices hearty bread or French bread, toasted
- First, make the salsa: peel and dice the nectarines or peaches and place them in a small bowl. Add the jalapeno, bell pepper, oil, vinegar, and salt. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate to blend the flavors.
- Halve and slice the onions thinly. In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium high heat, then add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir until the onions become translucent, then reduce the heat to very low and continue cooking until the onions have shrunk down quite a bit and are golden brown and sweet-smelling, about 30 minutes.
- When the onions have about 10 minutes left to go, heat another medium skillet over medium-high heat, and melt one tablespoon of butter in it. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt and stir until the spinach is bright green and wilted, about 4 minutes. Squeeze the excess liquid from the spinach by pressing a spatula against it on the side of the pan. Set aside.
- Season the fish fillets on both sides with Cajun or Creole seasoning if using, or with salt and pepper if not. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in it. Add the fillets and cook until done, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness.
- To assemble the sandwiches, place a portion (half or a little less than half) of the onions on one slice of bread (the juicyness of the onions will also act like a spread). Top the onions with one of the fish fillets. On another slice of bread, layer half the spinach, then a generous scoop of fruit salsa. Repeat with the other two slices of bread. Top the fruit salsa bread with the fish bread, and smash together and eat it all up!