Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fish 'n Chips

on august 20, 2003 i got married.  it was a beautiful day.  everything i wanted it to be.  skip and i asked my sister, her husband and their 3 year old daughter to accompany us at 11am down to city hall to witness the big event. we all jumped in a cab, did the deed then afterwards came straight back to our apartment in the west village and immediately did 2 things. we opened a bottle of proseco and rang our local "a salt & battery" to deliver fish 'n chips.  it was promptly and lovingly delivered via vespa by a lovely young man from doncaster who joined us for a toast, wished us well and collected his $25 plus tip for our wedding day lunch.  cod dipped in beer batter and fried to a golden perfection, chips (some soggy & some crunchy). pickled onions, tomato & tartar sauce. nothing makes me feel more at home than this comforting meal.  it doesn't hurt that my husband is from australia and has had his fair share wrapped in paper and brought home for friday night meal.   we both love fish 'n chips.

i fondly remember a romantic trip with my husband the first time he took me home to australia.  we drove down to the queenscliff sorrento ferry for a drive down the great ocean road to apollo bay and a stay in a motel on the water.  when we got to sorrento we had a little bit of a wait till the ferry came and my husband asked me where i would like to go for lunch.  i did not even have to think. i was at the water and i wanted....that's guessed it. fish 'n chips. and boy oh boy was that some good tucker! i will always remember that meal. the simplicity and perfection.  the flavor and the emotion.  the love and the falling in love over and over again down by the seaside. 

today when i crave fish 'n chips i stop myself.  i remind myself how i feel after i eat fish 'n chips.  not so good.  and i think about why that is.  let's diet is really clean.  i do not eat any processed, industrial foods at all. i rely on traditional foods and traditional methods of food preparation. i know why... most restaurants and fish shops fry their fish 'n chips in vegetable oil.  specifically: soya oil.  that stuff is a killer.  why do they do this? because its cheap. tragic but true.  they can make lots more money frying not so fresh (and even frozen) fish in rancid oil as opposed to what traditional fish 'n chips used to be fried in...good old fashioned beef tallow.  some shops used lamb fat - that rocks too!  for those of you who are not familiar with beef tallow, it is the rendered fat from around the kidneys of a good grass fed cow.  a stable animal fat that has been used in cooking for hundreds of years and no one my knowledge, no one ever got sick from it either.  

passing on our love of fish 'n chips to our children was a given.  how could we hold back on our passion for comfort food?  why would we want to? as a matter of fact my son henry loves chips so much that he asks me all the time if we can get them at a restaurant.  unfortunately i always say no. bad mommy? nah...i love my kids and i don't want them to get sick.  french fries are fried guessed it...vegetable oil in this silly country.  and what's more, most french fries are made from conventional idaho potatoes and if there is one thing you should always buy organic, it's potatoes.  those fat tubers do nothing but absorb everything that they are growing in - under the ground.  pesticides abound in conventionally grown potatoes.  do yourself and your family a big treat and leave those spuds alone.  also,  have you looked at the label on ketchup lately? in restaurants you will get heinz 57. one of those 57 is high fructose corn syrup. again, not something i want my kids/family to eat.  

so, what's a fish 'n chips loving mum to do? make it at home! and make it awesome delicious and cool by frying in beef tallow, using fresh fish from a local fisherman, using organic potatoes, dipping in homemade fermented ketchup and tartar sauce and creating a beautiful new batter by using sprouted flour and homemade ginger kombucha! i must say that this was the best fish 'n chips we ever ate. everyone agreed and i will definitely be making it again and again.  it takes a while and is a labor of love but hey....when we call our Family2Table isn't it always a labor of love? i know it is at mine. enjoy!


1. bring beef tallow up to temperature (325)
2. make batter using 8 - 10oz. raw kombucha added to 1 cup srouted whole wheat flour, 1 tsp. of aluminum free baking powder and a generous pinch of sea salt.
3. cut and fry chips in batches, draining on a paper towel and then adding celtic sea salt.
4. portion the fish into "bites" - we used flounder. you can also use cod, hake, scrod or sea bass.  feel free to play and use squid as well!
5. season fish with sea salt & pepper.
6. dust fish in plain sprouted flour, dip in batter and then drop carefully into tallow. allow 3 minutes per piece but watch the look of the fish. it should be golden. you might need to turn it with a spider.  please don't crowd the pot - fry in batches.
7. drain on paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt.

4 small jars of organic tomato paste 
1/2 cup pure grade B maple syrup 
1/4 cup sauerkraut juice (this ferments it)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon celtic sea salt 
2 cloves of garlic minced or pressed through a garlic press 

mix together or burr with a hand blender
let stand at room temperature 24 to 48 hours 
put in refrigerator.
will last for a month, well sealed.

let's start by making mayo - you will need a buttery, mild olive oil. i recommend chaffin family orchards - late harvest oil (order now).

1. Place 1 egg plus 2 yolks into a food processor
2. add the juice of one half lemon
3. add a generous pinch of salt
4. add 1 tsp. dijon mustard
5. add 1 TBS. fresh liquid whey
6. turn on and slowly drizzle in 1 cup of olive oil till emulsified.
7. place into a glass container and let sit out on the counter for 6 hours to ferment.
8. take out 1/4 cup of mayo and add to it 2 TBS chopped cornichon, 1 TBS chopped capers and fresh grated pepper.

dropping the fish into the tallow.

draining on paper and salting with celtic sea salt.

the final plate.

henry going in for the chips while i cook.

all this deep fried fish from 2 fillets that cost $12.25

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Art and Joy of the Sandwich

if you build it they will come. they will come and enthusiastically eat, enjoy and be happy. there is something about that hand-held crowd pleaser called the sandwich that makes all who indulge feel jubilant & satisfied.  add a cup of delicious soup and you have just defined "comfort." visit another country and you can generally tell a lot about the place by eating a sandwich. in italy i had some of the best sandwiches of my life. even at a gas station. in italy, sandwiches are serious business. usually served for lunch, the sandwich is, architecturally speaking, the perfect meal.  meats, cheeses, vegetables, savory spreads and fresh baked bread all brought together in a symbiotic, sensual dance of flavor, texture and delight.  ask anyone who has been to defonte's in brooklyn and you will see what i mean. quite simply,  the sandwich is the stuff that culinary dreams are made of. 

yes, i know, many of us (myself included) do not partake of our daily bread these days but that does not mean we cannot substitute and reinvent the sandwich in another form. lettuce wraps, brown rice tortillas, rice paper wraps, apple slices ( i like mine with chicken liver pate), etc. all make a tasty platform on which to arrange our favorite, fresh ingredients and create our own individual masterpiece.  

my family loves a good sandwich. i pack them for their school and work lunches. i often serve them for breakfast and sometimes we even eat them for dinner! sandwiches can be very special and quite far from the old days when mum would say "nothing fancy tonight, just some cold sandwiches in the icebox."  warm toasted sandwiches like croque madam, rubens and the ever popular post thanksgiving feast known as "thanksgiving on a roll" (fresh roasted turkey, stuffing, sweet potato and cranberry relish) have taken the sandwich into a new realm, elevating it to meal status.

after all, who can deny that good ole' stand-by the grass-fed hamburger when its been crafted to perfection. our family burger, "burger with the lot," is made of grass-fed bison and has a huge knob of cold butter jammed inside the patty when cooking, is served rare on a sourdough roll and is topped with melted cheddar, sliced beet root, bacon, caramelized onion, a fried egg, fermented ketchup and homemade pickles....and that has been trimmed down. it used to include a ring of fresh organic pineapple as well but the kids can't handle it when it's that big.  because i don't eat the bread roll, i usually wrap mine in a neat parcel made from a large romaine lettuce leaf. i have been experimenting with grinding different meats to make the best burger flavor. 50/50 grass-fed beef & bacon seems to be a popular burger recipe ratio these days. mmmmmm, good eats!  

when people ask me about my sandwiches and what i use to make them i always tell them to please cook their own meats.  lunch meats from a deli counter are dodgy.  that means, not to be trusted. processed meats can contain additives and most probably are not as fresh as they can be. i generally stay away from deli meats except for prosciutto and dry italian salami which i am not making at home.....yet.  i have gotten into the habit of roasting a well seasoned, herb stuffed turkey breast every saturday morning (i buy it from di paola's turkey stand at the market).  this usually provides delicious turkey sandwiches for the entire week which is about two or three times per week for three or four people.  same goes for chicken. roast or poach a whole pastured chicken each week. use the meat one night for dinner, use the leftovers to make chicken salad (meat, celery, red onion, tarragon, homemade mayo, sea salt & pepper) and then the bones to make broth for soups and sipping. that one pastured chicken will take you far. i hand slice my sandwich meats but i like the idea of having a small electric meat slicer in the home kitchen for getting the most value out of your meat.

other sandwich meats i cook are skirt and ny strip steak, bacon, uncured ham steak, lamb shoulder (my favorite with mint mayo) and grass fed, well peppered beef (RARE) - that always goes well on sandwiches with a thick layer of grass fed butter or horseradish mayonnaise & whole grain mustard with arugula or watercress.  this one is beautiful on german style black bread or pumpernickel.  and don't forget that all sandwiches are great "open-face" style.  some call this tartine but i generally refer to them as danish style open sandwiches and my favorites are goat cheese & cucumber, smoked salmon on thick butter with capers and thin sliced red onion or herring with curried cream sauce and dill. isn't pizza just an open-face sandwich on thin crust bread? a quesadilla, a mexican grilled cheese sandwich? a summer roll, a thai veggie sandwich wrapped in rice paper rolls? i think so.  remember, a sandwich can be anything you want it to be. fresh, delicious, mostly hand held and easy to decide.

sometimes a sandwich contains no meat at all.  my husband calls this a "salad roll." he likes cheese on his but you needn't do that either if you are on an animal-free diet (please say you're not).  greens, tomato, onion, shredded carrot, beet root, sprouts, cucumber, roasted veggies (peppers, squash, eggplant, onions, etc) and herbs. go for it!  these sandwiches are a little bit of farm fresh heaven and reflect what's coming out of the ground wherever you are.  the key here is in the condiments which should be homemade whenever possible.  a simple vinaigrette to soak the bread, fresh mayo, fermented mayo, herb mayo....start with mayo. here is a simple recipe.....

1 whole pastured egg
1 pastured egg yolk
1 tsp. dijon mustard
the juice of half a lemon
a generous pinch of salt

1 cup of good quality, buttery tasting, late harvest xtra virgin olive oil (chaffin family orchards is really good)
blend the first five ingredients in a food processor.
SLOWLY add in the olive oil in a thin stream - i hold mine way up in the air & drizzle so the stream gets really thin, almost trickling in drop by drop to emulsify.
this basic recipe can be played with in many ways. it is also a great base for a caesar salad dressing, have fun.

other delicious sandwich condiments are olive paste (pit and puree your favorite olive - nicoise, kalamata, picholine, etc. add olive oil - garlic if you want - and store in the fridge), herb and olive oil purees (like a pesto), roasted vegetable puree (red peppers, squash, eggplant, onions, garlic, mushrooms, etc),  spicy honey mustard, horseradish cream sauce, curried lentil or lentil & tomato spread,  sundried tomato paste, chunky salsas, nut butters, avocado & lemon puree, white bean get my drift, yes?  

now the bread. the floor and ceiling of our construction.  no pressure there.  the bread is almost the most important piece of the sandwich puzzle. truly great sandwiches start with great bread. "a symphony of crackle" as colette said in my favorite movie, "ratatouille." we are fans of the upstate NY bakery bread alone. we buy them at the markets and they are also available at whole foods. wherever you are located, please source out a fresh, well baked, loaf from a good bakery. we prefer the french levain but sometimes go for the sour rye with caraway seeds.  we also like the sourdough rye from hawthorne farms and the levain at le pain quotidian.  as far as ready made breads go we keep berlin bakery's sprouted spelt bread in our freezer at all times. my kids relate to this bread and i like the fact that it is sprouted.  if you are eating bread please make sure that they are traditionally prepared with only the freshest few ingredients. most packaged breads will have a huge list of ingredients i wouldn't feed to my worst enemy. and please don't be afraid of good bread. if you are not diagnosed with celiac disease or an allergy to grains, please enjoy a life filled with delicious, well prepared bread.  the best case scenario would be to bake your own traditional sourdough bread each week.  

so there you have it. sandwiches are cool. whether its a bacon egg and cheese sandwich for breakfast, a fresh roasted cold lamb sandwich for lunch or a grilled cheese quesadilla with salsa & raw sour cream for dinner, a sandwich is usually a good idea.  make your ingredients yourself whenever possible (even breads) and only buy the freshest cleanest food to put on your sandwich and in your body. be creative, play with variations and experiment with flavors to see what you and your family like.  The next time you call your Family2Table serve them a sandwich and see if they don't all light up with joy!  

some our family's favorite sandwich combinations:
tarragon roasted turkey with fresh mayo & arugula 
wild salmon salad, green onions & celery with fresh mayo and pea shoots
sardines on buttered bread with thin sliced red onion and dill
goat cheese & scrambled egg on bacon fat toasted sourdough bread
prosciutto de parma and fresh mozzarella with black olive paste
sliced ham and raw swiss cheese with spicy whole grain honey mustard
bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado with chipotle mayo
rare lamb with mint mayo and roasted red peppers
salad roll with roasted vegetable mayo
smoked mozzarella with arugula & sundried tomato paste
dark meat chicken salad with wild watercress
crispy pork and vegetable thai summer rolls with sweet chile sauce
hummus & roasted red pepper with shredded carrot and raisin salad
bison sausage and cheddar quesadilla with fermented salsa, sour cream and guacamole
crispy roasted cod with roasted tomato relish 
sweet italian pork sausage, balsamic roasted red onions & peppers

what are some of your favorite sandwich combinations?