So I need to share some feelings with all of you concerning weeknight cooking. For the last few years, I have been combing this site, popping “chicken breast” or “Domaine de Canton” into the recipe search function, and coming up with stuff, much of it gathering panko dust in the archives, to share with you. We’ve had our hits and misses together, but how high the highs! Butter chicken! Filet of sole! Salmon pasta!
But lately, the FOOD52 folks have been nosing around, making all sorts of inferences and suggestions, all in the name of, I don’t know, efficiency and good taste or something. How about this? What about that? I confess I felt crowded, even a tiny bit misunderstood. After all this time, don’t they understand, Jenny doesn’t make carrot soufflé?!
But after standing in line at Whole Foods on a Sunday night, where I grumbled to myself about the people who stare straight ahead, apparently unseeing, as they push their carts into the ankles and baskets of others, then coming home and feeling all dictated-to, I had to sheepishly admit that Lime and Tarragon Aioli with Panko-Crusted Fish Sticks was a pretty find.
First I will tell you that on a Sunday night, after two birthday parties – one of which, DC-style, could only be reached via a long and pothole-filled drive along Military Road (which if you don’t live here means nothing, but trust me it is the driving equivalent of being nibbled by Tsetse flies) – and a fairly dramatic meltdown over which song from “Once Upon A Mattress” is most suitable for the play tryout, I just could not bring myself to pull out a blender.
So commercial mayo it was, doctored with the lime zest and juice and tarragon and a dose of salt and pepper. The mayo, now citrus-infused and the color of young pea shoots, was a burst of spring in a monkey dish.
For the fish, I chose cod, because as much as I love my family, no one gets $27-a-pound fish sticks in this house. Plus, with the sea bass option, you’d be pulling off some skin. I didn’t try to make lovely, symmetrical sticks, but rather cut the fish in nice, even chunks, dipped them in the egg and panko and -- voila -- into the pan of sizzling grape seed oil they went, to be turned a minute or two later, golden brown and crispy.
I set them down on everyone’s plate, and announced, “So listen I need some feedback……..” WHOMP. Those fish sticks were gone, people. G-O-N-E. And everyone was mad there were not more. I gave my last bite to bacon girl. We have to admit, that sdebrango knows what she is doing. And so to the people who forced me to cook her recipe, sheepishly, I say: “Yum.”
2 large cloves garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup + 2 tbs garlic infused olive oil
1/2 cup minus 2 tbs vegetable oil (canola)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest (the zest of one whole lime)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper (3 turns of the pepper mill)
Panko-crusted Fish Sticks
1 pound firm to semi-firm fish (I use cod or wild Chilean Sea Bass)
1 cup panko
2 beaten eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for deep frying
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
Photo by Joseph DeLeo