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.
the drum roll
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
- 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!
makes 2 generous servings
One thing I've learned about bread-baking is that the baker must adapt to whatever the dough has decided to do...but that it's really not a big secret how to make a good dough. It usually comes down to starting with a small amount of flour and adding more only if you need it (I usually do, because I live in such a humid place). Really good bread recipes will give you that small amount of flour to start with and advise you to add flour in small doses if necessary. I used to shy away from recipes that said anything about "adding more if needed," because I didn't trust myself to know if it needed it or not. But working through some of the stickier doughs in The Bread Bible, plus experiencing Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, has helped me relax more, and realize that stickiness can be a great thing. In fact, the smallest amount of flour you can get away with is usually what will turn out a tender, airy loaf. It is important to start with a good recipe, though.
This bread is a real winner! But first, we have news:
Thanks to everyone who left a comment last week on my first ever giveaway! I'm happy to announce that the winner of the Louis Armstrong recording is John Mark! John Mark, send me your address at email@example.com and I'll get this on its way to you.
Yesterday I read a great article on alternet.org that my friend Meredith highlighted on her blog, The Boiled Down Juice: it's called Compost Cuisine, and it's full of really interesting ways that a few chefs in California are using "whole vegetables" in the same way other chefs use whole animals, or in other words, using all parts of the animal, from head to tail. They're doing things like stuffing squash stems and slow-cooking kale stems until they're soft like pasta, and reducing lemon and carrot peels into flavor-packed "ash" in the oven. I don't know if I'm up to ashing my vegetable peelings, but it's fun to see what possibilities there are in cooking things that we would otherwise throw out, or if we're more sustainability-minded, throw in the compost pail. It's good to find creative, delicious ways to use up what's old.
Tagged with: leftover, onions, olives, rosemary, easy, bread, italian, garlic, pasta, old, Chicken
I guess you could say I'm a bit obsessed with po-boys lately. In the weeks leading up to the po-boy festival, I visited a couple of my favorite po-boy spots to reminisce, to remember how good the basics can be. I had fried shrimp at Parkway and shrimp and oyster at Crabby Jack's, and then those wonderful little odd po-boys at the fest. I thought I'd had my fill for a while, until Paul told me he'd overhead someone talking about a blackened shrimp po-boy. My interest was piqued. Then, he said, "It'd be good with a little bacon sprinkled on it." Yes, it would. Then, "And maybe some goat cheese?" I almost fainted. Yes, blackened shrimp with bacon and goat cheese would be good--very, very good. If it sounds bizarre or even blasphemous to load a seafood po-boy down with extras like bacon and cheese, consider the Peacemaker, that ultra-delicious po-boy of fried oysters, bacon, and American cheese. Sounds crazy, but it's fantastic. If American cheese can't hurt a po-boy, then for sure goat cheese couldn't.
Tagged with: crabby jacks, peacemaker, blackened, po boy, parkway, goat cheese, oyster, easy, bread, cabbage, tomato, shrimp, sandwich, bacon, seafood
The other day I was behind a lady buying two full loaves of po-boy bread, and the check-out guy said, "You making some po-boys?" And she said, "Naw, I'm gonna feed the ducks." You should've seen the sad look on that man's face. But I started dreaming about duck po-boys...because I had Po-Boy Fest on the brain! Seriously, I'd been waiting for it for months, because I'd never made it out to that particular fest. The whole thing lasts a mere 9 hours, so you've got to get up and get yourself there, and the earlier the better, before the booths sell out. I went looking for po-boys I don't see on menus, for some new experiences. I could only handle two, but they were mighty tasty. Below, One's pate and pickled vegetables (rich & vinegary):
Tagged with: red gravy, parkway, liuzza's by the track, oak street, crabby jack's, parran's, po boy fest, debris, casamento's, charlie's, boucherie, Mahony's, remoulade, catfish, Ferdi, roast beef, French bread, Duck, new orleans, oyster, bread, festival, mother's, shrimp, one
When I get a hankering for something, I become a relentless researcher. In a way, it's a hindrance--I believe there is one perfect way to make what I want using the ingredients I already have, and I look through every book and website I can find, sure that it will appear. That rarely happens, but that's how I end up making my own versions of things. (Sometimes it would be nice to just look up a recipe and buy what it calls for, though.)
Paul has been busy lately re-seasoning the cast iron skillet, and it's more beautiful than ever; it's got that slick, midnight-black, nonstick coating that it never really achieved before the last time it got caught in a little flood in the basement. We were anxious to get some good cracklin' cornbread going in that thing, although we didn't have cracklins, we just had bacon. And I didn't have milk, I just had buttermilk. And I wanted a little tiny bit of sugar and some flour along with the cornmeal, so we didn't have to eat cornmeal hockey pucks. The search was on. I never found a recipe that used the exact size of skillet we possess (9") and hot bacon drippings and buttermilk, etc., so I ended up adapting John Besh's recipe from his book My New Orleans. Luckily--and it was truly lucky, because I never really know what's going to happen when I alter recipes for baked goods--it was just what we wanted. A little chewy, very savory, and crispy on the edges from the screaming hot skillet.
Tagged with: skillet, cracklin, besh, iron, Buttermilk, baked, corn, bread, comfort, southern, butter, bacon
Soup weather, a.k.a. my favorite season, has arrived! Once the high dips below 90 for several days in a row, I consider it official. There are so many delectable soups to rustle up and dig into, though, and it's really hard for me, as a devoted soupster, to choose which to make first. This year, I settled on minestrone for its calming, vegetableish effects, but I had an ulterior motive...I wanted to try frying some chickpeas, and I decided they'd come in handy as a crunchy crouton for the soup. I'd planned to include chickpeas in my minestrone, so what could be easier than reserving a few chickpeas from the can and frying them up?
Tagged with: chickpea, Minestrone, kidney, crouton, Bean, broth, thyme, carrot, basil, parmesan, celery, onion, Soup, bread, autumn, fried, cheese, bacon, fall, WEATHER, Chicken
Before the intense heat of this summer drives us all inside to eat nothing but cold sandwiches and ice cream, and before every last tomato has been incinerated by the sun, I want to share a special creation with you that we concocted at the beach: shrimp and okra stew with a secret. The secret is chipotle pepper. (Italics is the typist's whisper). Not that chipotle peppers in adobo sauce haven't been popularized in recent years--they're showing up in everything from hot wing sauce to salad dressing--but they're not indigenous to New Orleans cuisine. But they really put this shrimp and okra stew over the top, I tell you! Wowza!
Tagged with: Chipotle, jalapeno, grits, okra, Stew, pepper, onion, bread, tomatoes, garlic, shrimp, cheese, rice, summer
Fact: smoothie + bread = breakfast.
I love a good smoothie. And I love me some homemade bread. I think there's some kind of law against baking during the summer in New Orleans--when I ask for parchment paper at the corner store, they look at me like I'm nuts. I guess I am a little nuts, but darn it, I'm gonna keep making bread because I love it and this is when I have the time.
Smoothie A: My classic, all-around go-to blend of vanilla yogurt, orange juice, a banana and frozen strawberries. Blip it up and drink it down.
Tagged with: kiwi, storm, egg, Homemade, bread, breakfast, Banana, blueberry, mango, yogurt, white, butter, cheese, beach, summer, bacon, orange, toast, smoothie, juice, strawberry, Fruit