Fish and I have always had a special relationship.
Fish, especially crispy, fried fish, is quite nostalgic for me. It reminds me of Friday nights in Boyne City, Michigan, the nights where I’d shovel all-you-can eat fried fish in my mouth until I was blue in the face. Topped with malt vinegar, that crunchy, cold blooded little swimmer, most likely plucked from the lake mere hours before, tastes better than any fried fish you’ll find at your local fish fry, regardless of how wretched it may make you feel afterwards.
I’d then fall into my grease-induced deep sleep, only to awaken the next morning to my dad making fluffy blueberry pancakes, having just returned from fly fishing where he wore waders that were taller than me.
Then boys would spend hours standing out on the rocks, just hoping to catch a little sunfish for the fun of it from a slimy worm that petrified me just enough so I wouldn’t come near. The “boys” being my brothers, whom I tortured that morning to the point that they were more annoyed than I am each night at 3am when I wake without any covers.
I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep since I got married, just to let you know. Not since 2008. 29 months. But who’s counting?
Perhaps it is the rarity in which I get to eat that delicacy that always sends me on the hunt for a fish sandwich so good that it takes me back to hot days and cool nights, sandy beaches and sunscreen in my eyes, bubbly glasses of Vernors that shoot tickles up my nose and sunsets so deeply pink they make your heart hurt. Or maybe I just really love food. It could be that too.
Either way, ever since my brother Will told me that he ate a salt and vinegar potato chip crusted piece of fish last week, nothing else has been on my mind. And I mean nothing. Except for the piece of bacon I dipped in salted caramel yesterday. Why yes, that was lovely.
But besides that, nothing else. See, potato chips aren’t really my thing. I would much rather immerse myself in a square slice of tiramisu so creamy and caffeinated that it makes my head spin. But give me salt and vinegar chips and I’m your new best friend. The golden retriever that won’t leave your side. The peanut butter to your jelly. The bacon to your caramel. That’s right.
I’ll tell you a little secret: I used to take 3 or 4 chips out of the bag when I was younger and pair them with a few pieces of lacy alpine swiss cheese. It exploded with loads more flavor than a boring ham sandwich did, thought I’m not sure the tang-scorched taste buds on my tongue would agree. So as I plucked a bag of salt and vinegar kettle cooked chips from the grocery store shelves on Monday, it was only a matter of minutes before I had the deli slicing me some paper-thin alpine swiss.
But I left the cheese to my own devices and got to work on the fresh cod I brought home, smothering it with crushed chips so tangy that my eyes began watering. After a crispy bake in the oven, I planted it on a toasted whole wheat bun lathered with old bay mayonnaise. I bit into one of the best fish sandwiches I have ever tasted, and surely the best I have ever made at home. And it was then that I was transported to a hot summer day on an old wooden dock, wiping water droplets from my eyes, because, well… food is memories friends.
Oven Fried Fish
4 fresh cod filets (frozen will probably work too, just thaw and dry completely)
2 egg whites
2 cups crushed salt and vinegar potato chips
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay a wire rack on top, spraying it with non-stick spray. Add potato chips to a ziplock bag and crush them into fine pieces.
Season the cod filets with just a touch of salt (not too much, the chips are salty) and black pepper. Dip each filet in the egg white (I use only egg white as I feel that whole eggs make the delicate fish taste too “eggy”) then dredge through potato chips mixture, pressing so the chips stick. Lay on the wire rack and spray each filet with non-stick spray or olive oil. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until fish is golden brown.
6 cups of raw kale, torn into pieces
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or salt, pepper and parmesan cheese)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lay kale on a baking sheet and spray with non-stick spray or olive oil. I highly recommend using a spray or misto as it coats the kale perfectly. Top with nutritional yeast (you can find this at Whole Foods or any nutritional/healthy store. I find that the flavor is incredible!) and bake for 10 minutes. Flip once, then bake for 10 minutes more.
I can only imagine the memories that bacon and salty caramel will invoke one day. Note: it won’t involve the beach and bikinis.