Sunday, December 11, 2016

beer-batter salmon and hush puppies

I love the one curled piece of salmon that apparently decided it was actually a shrimp—"vein" and all:

The culinary experimentation continues. Tonight's dinner was generally a success, although the above photo doesn't reveal some of the near-failures among the hush puppies, a few of which ended up a tad overcooked and much more suntanned as a result.

I elected to fry the fish first. Using Alton Brown's beer-batter "chips & fish" recipe (see here), which I've used before, I cut the measurements down to a third of the original because all I had was a single 250-gram (9-ounce) slab of salmon, which I cut up into Brown's suggested 1-ounce chunks. I set up the dredging station, mixed up the dry ingredients, then brought the tall can of beer out only at the last moment to keep it as cold and fizzy as possible. The batter was perfect, and the salmon—from which I'd had to tweeze out some pin bones—fried up just fine. (One day, I need to make some beer-batter shrimp.)

The recipe I'd used for the hush puppies was a bit more finicky, and my frying wasn't as consistent as it had been with the fish. Some hush puppies came out a nice golden brown; others were too suntanned, but still edible. My use of ground-up corn chips as cornmeal was spot-on; that, at least, went perfectly right. I had heeded some warnings in the comments to the original recipe: some commenters said the liquid measurements were off, resulting in a too-runny batter. I scaled back on the liquid ingredients and added panko, but I now know that—as one commenter said—I should have added some sugar to make the mix sweeter. Hush puppies are basically balls of fried cornbread, after all, so they ought to be a bit sweet. Mine weren't. They weren't bad, but they still lacked a certain gustatory appeal.

Another problem may have been my use of mayonnaise instead of egg. I had run out of eggs, and the basement grocery was closed because it was the second Sunday of the month. This meant that other groceries were also closed: the neighborhood grocery up the street, the local Costco, the local eMart, and the Lotte Mart in Jamshil. I couldn't remember whether the convenience stores sold raw eggs; I knew they sold hard-boiled eggs, but I was too lazy to go and check their stock for the raw ones. Mayonnaise is a decent egg substitute in a pinch, but because it contains vinegar, it can add a sour note to whatever you're cooking. That could also have been a problem for my hush puppies.

The dipping sauce was just an echo of tartar sauce: mayonnaise, horseradish sauce, and a splash of pickle juice plus some chili flakes.

I had wanted to serve the fish-and-pups the classic way, i.e., in a basket lined with newspaper, but I didn't have a legitimate basket (I do have several basket-like containers made of plastic and simulating a wickerish weave), and I didn't have real newsprint—probably because, as I joked on Twitter, journalism is dying. I simply made do with what I did have: one of my oval bowls and some A4-sized printouts of newsprint, crinkled up for effect.

You might be wondering how the salmon came out, especially since a fish-and-chips recipe normally calls for cod or some cognate whitefish like tilapia. I thought it came out great: tender, moist, and delicious. If you follow Brown's recipe, it's hard to mess up, no matter the fish. Next time around, I'll do a wasabi-mayo dipping sauce for the salmon (assuming I use salmon again), and perhaps a yogurt-mayo-sriracha sauce for the puppies. Or maybe I'll take the dipping sauces in a Korean direction and do something with soy, vinegar, and sugar—sort of a Korean twist on the classic malt-vinegar sauce used in the States.

Thus ends my three-day weekend and my three days of culinary experimentation. My dragonfruit-pineapple tangsuyuk was an overall success; my chili came out great (spicier than last time, but still magnificent) and is now flavor-marrying in my fridge; the fish-and-pups came out pretty well tonight, even if the hush puppies weren't ideal. Live and learn.

Now we enter a week of penance for all our carby sins.

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