by Preston Brady III, Herbscapes .com 2023
Preferring wild caught fish, I found a few fillets of Alaskan Cod at a local grocery store and decided it would be pan seared, following the fries. I used one large russet potato, thoroughly washed with skin on, which was sliced vertically and sprinkled with salt, black pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper, a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper and paprika. These were shaken in a paper bag and set to the side while I shaved carrot off a stick and plucked two rosemary stem tops from the garden. I removed the outer peel from two garlic cloves but did not slice or chop the garlic. The pecans were store bought chips in a bag, ready to use as sprinkles for cooking.
The plan was to semi-deep fry the potatoes and then use some of the oil for the entrée – to use the same pan. I rinsed the cod under cold water and pat dry. Everything was ready to put in the pan as soon as the fries came out. It’s not easy for me to overcook “French fried” potatoes because I like the skin to be very crispy. To assure that the interior potato is moist and not greasy a few things have to happen. First, of course, the oil should be very hot but don’t overheat the oil to the point smoke signals are flaring up from the pan. I did not deep fry the potatoes because I did not want to completely submerge them in oil. Gently place one fry in the pan and it should sizzle immediately. I placed all fries in the pan and used a large spoon to spread them across the pan. Then I left them alone.
Don’t use a fork to turn the fries because if you jab the fries grease gets in, and if you are serving guests you may find they have politely left several or more fries on the plate following the meal. One or two of them might be so bold as to tell you the fries were greasy – a culinary review no chef wants to receive because if you can’t fry potatoes properly you probably will not be receiving that coveted Michelin star you have been craving.
I gently shook the pan while the fries were still frying as placed in the pan. I did not want to turn them over before the one side was fully cooked. After about 10 minutes I used the large metal spoon to turn the fries. They were crispy brown on the cooked side and actually I had enough oil in the pan so that the top side of the potatoes were also cooking. The fries needed about 5 more minutes of cooking and there is no guess work at this point because you can see the dark golden color of the skin and be confident the potatoes are cooked but moist inside. I removed the fries and placed in a metal colander with a few layers of paper towels. I am not saying it’s rocket science to fry potatoes but I will say that it’s not hard to end up with soggy fries, which I will not eat per advice from Gordon Ramsey.
I removed all but a thin residue of the oil from the pan and put in a tablespoon of butter, immediately followed by the cod filet skin down. I gently pressed the fish with the spoon and heard the sizzle I wanted. Now the remaining ingredients were placed in the pan: the two cloves of un-chopped garlic, the slivers of carrots, and the pecans. The rosemary was placed on top of the fish. I waited 3 minutes and turned the fish ( onto a different section of the pan, a trick I learned from cooking shows, that the section of the pan the fish just cooked will now be less hot since the heat was absorbed by that side of the fish.) and put the rosemary stems on top. The skin was nice and crispy. I constantly stirred the rest of the ingredients over medium heat because this dish was about to be done, which is one of the beauties of pan seared fish – how quickly it will cook to perfection. After 3 minutes I removed everything from the pan and plated the carrots, rosemary and pecans on their own, with a few sprinkles of pecan and rosemary on top of the fish. I put the garlic cloves to the side as they were used only to add a hint of flavor and not take over this particular dish. I don’t know about you but it’s rare I eat fish without a squeeze of fresh lemon, so I lightly showered the fish with fresh lemon and squeezed the obligatory squirt of ketchup on the plate near the fries. The fries would not need any additional salt or pepper and remained as they came out of the pan.
The Alaskan cod I cooked was actually half of what was left from a meal I cooked the previous night (another recipe, another time!) The 3/4 pound of fish cost under 8 dollars at a grocery store I like for it’s seafood. You can see the remaining ingredients were less than a few dollars so this one meal rings in at about 5 American dollars. For me there is nothing like planning and preparing your own meal exactly the way you like it, and with complete control over the process so that it does come out as imagined. The low cost of the meal is a plus.