As a general rule, I prefer to cook with recipes that use measurements that I understand. But once in a while, instead of a teaspoon of this or a half cup of that, one has to be content with the allocation of “some.”
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Recipes with “some” come best to those at least somewhat experienced with the ingredients at hand, or the method. If you tell me to put “some” black pepper, parsley and onions in a chicken stock, for instance, I know what that means. Tell me I need “some” juniper berries in my fruit cloud, well I probably won’t get that right. (To be clear, the Juniper Fruit Cloud on this site is quite specific.)
And so it went with Meen Porichathu (Fried Fish), a surprisingly delicate and flavorful take on fried fish, absolutely compatible for the weeknight cook.
A little background: my husband agreed to join me at the Farmers Market, which is a little like me agreeing to join him at Baylor homecoming week, except that I won’t. Almost tingling with the thrill of this, as we stood before Vernon the fish man, I suggested that he should do the honor of picking from the board. “I want fried fish,” he said. “So get something that fries.”
On one level, an exhortation to prepare lovely fresh fish in the least healthful way possible seemed like a bit of punishment for dragging him to the market when there was an obscure soccer match on, but he also inadvertently made a point. The days of fresh herbs at the market are largely behind me, so from time to time, I need to simply turn to spices. Plus, um, I like fried fish, too.
So, marching home with my cod, I began fantasizing about this dish by pauljoseph, remembering that the last time I cooked one of his recipes it turned out great. Then I suddenly had to go to Moline, Illinois, which is really not of your concern except to tell you that I was forced to freeze my fish, then defrost it and get it all together on a Friday night when there wasn’t enough beer in the world to inspire me to get to frying.
Realizing the entire thing was written in grams, I pulled out my scale, normally reserved for baking chocolate, but was quickly frustrated. Have you ever tried to measure 3 grams?
So I went a different way. I added “some” chili powder, “some” turmeric, “some” black pepper (referred to within the recipe as “pepper powder”), the juice of a small lime and some very finely chopped ginger and garlic smashed together to form a paste. I salted my cod a bit, rubbed it with the spice mix and tossed it all in a Ziploc bag for about 30 minutes. Maybe you will choose to marinate it longer; but that was my interpretation of “some” time.
Then came the revelation: rice flour. Who knew? The incredibly light fry that this flour makes, the way it refuses to stick to the pan, the lovely gold it turned this fish -– seeing this was worth all my worrying. I cooked my cod about 4 minutes a side –- you can cut into it and make sure you are not overcooking.
One thing I didn’t plan for: my fish sort of fell apart in the pan, perhaps because cod is a bit soft for the task (“any fish” is also a rather open-ended suggestion) or maybe because my frying technique is not what it should be, as I rarely do it. (A&M tell me it's because the fish was frozen and defrosted -- those two like to have their theories!)
No matter: I cut it further into small pieces for Indian-inspired fish tacos. All it needed was cilantro, which our author does not call for but which I think is a nice flavor addition. I believe you know exactly how much to use.
1. Clean, cut and wash the fish. Prepare a thick marination with the above ingredients & apply to the fish and keep it aside for some time.
2. Coat the rice powder into the marinated fish & shallow fry in oil and remove.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).