White Wine–Poached Fish

Awards Season
My daughter is graduating from high school at the end of the month. For those of you who have been through it, you know that this means that the last month of school is filled with AP Tests, Ditch Days, and plenty of awards banquets. It is a lot of fun, but also just…a lot. Throw in birthdays for four of the five members of my family and, yeah. We are busy, y’all.

I am a weirdo in that I love awards nights/banquets. I mean sure, of course, you are going to enjoy seeing your kids and their friends succeed at something and achieve their goals. But, it extends into other areas for me as well.

The morning they announce the Oscar nominations I am right there making a list of the movies I have and have not seen so that I can make a point to seek the films I missed before the big night. I try my best to see them all. And, I am alarmingly disappointed when I can’t manage to do it. Life tends to get in the way of my fixation.

I am equally as obsessed about the James Beard Awards.

My anticipation of the James Beard Foundation Awards might seem obvious to most people since my days consist of talking about food, writing about food, and selling food. So, my interest in awards which honor talking about food, preparing food, and writing about food is rather on the nose. I anticipate their release every year and use the lists of nominees, semi-finalists, and finalists to educate myself on who and what is hot in the industry. And, let’s be real, create a wish list of new cookbooks or future dinner reservations.

If you are curious, this year’s list of James Beard Foundation Awards Finalists can be found here. Get your planner out before you click…and don’t do it when hungry!

Lest we forget, James Beard himself was a force in the culinary world. And, he eventually came to be known as the Dean of American Cuisine. If you don’t have a copy of his American Cookery in your library, consider seeking it out.

White Wine–Poached Fish Recipe
Adapted from James Beard
Yields 4 servings

I am all for drinking and cooking with simple wines that don’t cost an arm and a leg, said James Beard. In this simple and comforting recipe, the wine gives the sauce its subtle delicacy. Read more…

Fish a la Spetsiota

Photo of Greek Cookbooks on a bookshelf for Fish a la Spetsiota

It’s Greek To Me
If you ever feel like you’re in a cooking rut, take a Saturday and go through your cookbooks. As you weed out the ones to be donated, you will discover books you forgot you had. The ones you loved at one time but since have languished on the shelf are desperate to see the light of day.

This was me last Saturday.

Because my love of cookbooks (read: addiction) exceeds the amount of room I have to store them, it became necessary for me to cull the herd, as it were. Some books were easy to remove. Those were the books I acquired as editorial copies during my Barnes and Noble days and frankly never really used.

Then there were the books you never get rid of even if you don’t use them on a weekly basis. The Art of French Cooking (my grandmother’s copy) for example or The Joy of Cooking. Anything by James Beard or the 1941 copy of The Escoffier Cookbook (also my grandmothers…you get the gist).

The hardest decisions were made with the regional cooking books. I was shocked to note that I have just as many Cajun/Louisiana cookbooks as I do Mexican cookbooks, and I have a lot of Mexican cookbooks. I couldn’t bring myself to part with any of those. There were a few French ones that I just didn’t really need anymore but France is still well represented as are Spain and Italy. I was surprised, given the fact that I love the cuisine, that I didn’t have a wide selection of Greek cookbooks. I have a number of Mediterranean cookbooks but only a few that are specifically Greek.

One of the books I do have is The Glorious Foods of Greece by Diane Kochilas. It is a fantastically comprehensive collection of recipes from across all of Greece and its many islands. I recommend it highly. Diane Kochilas is an authority on Greek and Greek American cooking and her books are a must-have for any well-rounded library.

Apparently, I need to do a little work on my well-rounded library….

Maybe it’s because spring is right around the corner or maybe it’s because it’s been a while, but after my spring book cleaning I find myself with Greek food on the brain. The bright fresh flavor of lemons, olives, and olive oil are calling to me in a big way. But first, I need another Greek cookbook or two…I wouldn’t want all that new shelf space to go to waste….

Fish a la Spetsiota
Adapted from Diane Kochilas
Yields 4 Servings

This classic Greek Fish a la Spetsiota recipe comes from the island of Spetses off the eastern coast of the Peloponnese. This dish has many versions and this simple one is a favorite. Read more…

Beer Battered Fish

Crispy Beer Battered Fish served on a plate with a wedge of lemon.

Batter Up
One of life’s more underrated joys is a basket of really good fish and chips. I love fish and chips. If there is even a whisper of it on a menu, I will order it. The problem is, just because it’s on the menu doesn’t mean it’s good. You would think it would be easy to make good fish and chips. Just batter some fresh fish and fry, right? The fact is that really good fish and chips is a bit of an art form.

The first issue is what batter to use. After much study and deliberation, I have decided that my favorite is beer-battered fish. There are plenty of other options out there including tempura, breaded, soda water battered like in our recipe for English Style Fish and Chips, and plenty of other options. I like the depth of flavor that the beer adds.

Second, no matter what batter you use, make certain your oil is hot. If your oil is not hot enough, the final result will be too greasy and not very appetizing. If the oil is too hot, you risk burning the crispy coating and having raw fish on the inside.

Also, don’t put too much in at once. Too many pieces at once will lower the oil temperature which we have established is a no-no. Depending on the size of the fish and whatever you are frying them in, start with a couple of pieces to give them plenty of time and room to get crispy. It is also very important to make sure your fish is dry and seasoned before dipping it into the batter. The batter will stick to the fish better if it is dry and at room temperature.

Third, do not drain your fish on paper towels or newspaper. Doing so will trap the steam and make the coating soggy. Use a cooling rack set in a sheet pan to keep the fish crispy.

Lastly, your choice of fish matters. Cod, more specifically Alaskan Cod, is traditional and has the best flavor in my opinion. Although, Halibut is a very close second but can be cost-prohibitive. But, you can make this with whatever you choose like tilapia, bass, and definitely with shrimp.

Beer Battered Fish Recipe
Yields 6 Servings
Adapted from I Wash You Dry

This crispy Beer Battered Fish Recipe is made with ingredients you can find in your pantry. The batter creates a crunchy coating around flaky, tender white fish. It’s delicious served with French fries. Read more…

Opening Oysters

Opening Oysters — photo of open oysters in their shell on a black plate with lemon

Coming Out Of Their Shell
I have come to the realization that no matter how long you do something or study something there will always be those moments that surprise you. For example, I was today years old when I found out that you can open an oyster without using a shucking knife and potentially losing a finger. Mind Blown.

I have had oysters on the brain lately which makes sense because of Valentine’s Day. Although, honestly, after 23 years of marital bliss, I think my husband and I will celebrate over a bucket of chicken. We’re fancy that way. Never fear, my love and I will be celebrating with dinner out on Friday when it’s not such a scene…

Anyway, back to the oysters.

I am one of those people who loves oysters. I love them raw. I love them baked. I do not however want them anywhere near the Thanksgiving stuffing. (I think that’s weird.) The issue is, I have a fear of shucking. My hands are covered with scars from cuts and burns I have earned over the years. And I know, I just know, that I would be the one to injure myself greatly while shucking. So, what’s an injury-prone gal to do?

Turns out there are a few ways to open an oyster sans oyster knife. They are listed below. And to all of those oyster-loving, ten-fingered Valentines out there, you’re welcome!

Opening Oysters
Read more…