Battered Cod with Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Of all the meals posted this month, this one was the closest to ecstasy, but also the most painful, because I burnt the ever-loving shit out of my finger while making it. It all started when Sprouts put nearly a pound of Alaskan cod on “manager’s special”, and I thought, “Isn’t that what British pubs use for fish and chips?”
Marinating the Fish.
I cut the cod into five pieces and soaked them in the juice of one Persian lime mixed with one take-out packet of soy sauce. I don’t know what’s special about Persian limes other than that they were on sale, and the ones I bought were seedless, which is convenient. The fish marinated in the fridge for about an hour while I worked on everything else.
Potatoes Like a Boss.
The secret to great mashed potatoes is realizing the potatoes are merely the vehicle for flavor. Potatoes are neutral, like blank pages in a book. Your mission is to write a flavor masterpiece on those pages.
I started with roasted garlic butter. The last time I made garlic butter, it didn’t have enough garlic flavor for me. This time, I upped my game. Instead of regular garlic, I roasted two entire bulbs of elephant garlic, which is convenient because of the bigger cloves (which means less peeling).
Roasting garlic is easy: get rid of all the papery skins, chop off the hard tops of each clove, rub the cloves in plenty of olive oil, and bake them at 350F. The bigger cloves in elephant garlic take a little longer to get completely tender compared to the smaller cloves in regular garlic, around 20 minutes.
While the garlic cooked, I melted a stick and a half of unsalted butter in a sauce pan on low heat.
I also chopped a gigantic Russet potato, peeling and all, and boiled it until it was super tender. This potato must have weighed a pound or more; it was a real beast. It ended up in 32 small chunks so it would cook quickly, which took about 20 minutes. When the potato was tender, I drained off the water. Easy stuff.
Right about the same time, the garlic was tender and smelling so good! I removed the hard skins from the cloves and used an immersion blender to puree the garlic and butter together. That’s it. Now you are a garlic butter expert.
I poured off half of this butter mix for later meals, then combined the remains with the potatoes, a generous pour of half-and-half (not milk, you savages—get some cream in the mix!), a splash of sea salt, a sprinkle of dried rosemary, and an “Italian blend” of grated cheeses (parmesan, romano and asiago). I pureed it all with the immersion blender, pouring in some more half-and-half when it seemed too thick for my little blender to handle.
The result was so good that I could have stopped right there and just eaten mashed potatoes for dinner.
It’s not my revolution if I can’t put toppings on it. I didn’t want boring brown gravy (though I do love that), so I made a chopped veggie topping by dicing a Roma tomato and a bit of red onion. I added diced, pickled jalapeños for heat and color, and a generous heap of dried rosemary. I shook it all up in a plastic container so the rosemary would soften a bit in the veggie moisture.
The Fish Fry of Doom.
I made a breading by whisking together flour, chili powder, black pepper, and sea salt. I suspect the “flour” was leftover waffle mix from last year, in an unmarked container. But waffle and pancake mixes are mostly flour anyway, so why not? I worried this would screw things up, but the breading tasted great.
I love coconut oil, but olive oil is better for a fish fry since it has a higher burning point. Once the oil heated up in my frying pan over medium heat, I started coating the fish chunks in the flour/spice mix and placing them in the pan.
Here’s where I fucked up. When setting the fourth chunk of fish in the pan, one of my fingers dipped into the hot oil with it. I suggest you don’t repeat this step, because I’m typing this three hours after I finished my meal, and if I take off my ice pack for more than five seconds, my finger screams like a motherfucker. So, unless you really enjoy physical pain that will give you the vocabulary of Samuel L. Jackson in a Quentin Tarantino movie, I have a suggestion for you. Put the goddamned fish in the motherfucking pan using TONGS!
Chalk this up to lessons learned. It’s difficult to cook fish, photograph it, eat it, and type one-handed. Somehow, I held my ever-so-manly pink Hello Kitty ice pack on my finger, reduced the heat a little on the fish fry, and flipped all the pieces once. They came out perfectly, and I saved three of the five chunks for leftovers.
I can’t tell you how many times this Hello Kitty ice pack has rescued me from total agony.
Fish and potatoes on a plate! Drizzle with some of the still-warm garlic butter and the diced veggie topping, and dinner is ready! Ice Pack Optional!
This may be one of my top ten tastiest meals of all time. The fish turned out great, despite the medical emergency in the middle of frying it. The improvised veggie topping surprised me by being the perfect flavor bridge between the fish and potatoes, without traditional gravy. I’ve made mashed potatoes many times, but it’s been a few years, and this batch made me fall in love with them all over again. I’ll send you a postcard from our honeymoon.