Friday, January 13, 2012

Beer-Battered Fish Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Sauce

The first time I had fish tacos was just this past September, in while in Aruba with my sister Allie. One evening after being totally exhausted from a fantastic snorkeling trip and not feeling much like venturing downtown for dinner, we headed down to the hotel's sports-themed bar/restaurant for a quick bite. We were very, very pleasantly surprised. Despite the corny ambiance we were fully impressed by their fish tacos, made with perfectly fried local fish and fresh, yummy toppings on white flour tortillas. Delish.

So, for some reason, I decided that I wanted to make some fish tacos of my own while still here on the Cape. Adventure!

The sauce is based off of my recipe for the spicy chipotle dressing that I used in my black bean bowls with brown rice and sweet corn salsa back in June. Basically you'll want to make the dressing in a food processor and add sour cream until you are happy with the texture - probably around three quarters of a cup or more. Since this will also cool down the spiciness of the sauce, it may take a little fiddling with to reach the level of spiciness that you're going for, but it's totally worth it. Also, this way you can make a signature sauce that's all your own.
Crispy golden fried fish covered in sauce and toppings.
This recipe serves 4 people.

Ingredients
1 1/2 lb. fresh cod fillets, sliced diagonally into about 4 inch strips
White flour tortillas (Not corn. That is a mistake that I very nearly made.)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 12 oz. bottle of lager (I used Sankaty Light Lager made by Cisco Brewers on Nantucket, which I recommend.)
Oil for frying (quantity will depend on the vessel you're using)
1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning or a "house seasoning" mix

Oil for frying
Slotted or basket spoon, wok or cast-iron dutch oven for frying

Directions
1. Heat oil in your dutch oven or wok. If you have a thermometer for these purposes, you'll want it around 375 Fahrenheit. If not, you want it hot enough that if you add a drop of water, the oil sizzles and freaks out a little. Very scientific. (Another trick is to test the temperature with a cube of bread. If it browns within a minute, it's ready to go). Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
2. Wrap your tortillas up in some aluminum foil and place in the oven. In a large bowl, pour out the beer. Sift 1 1/2 cups of the flour into the bowl, add house seasoning and whisk until just combined.
3. Pat fish dry with a paper towel, season on both sides with salt and pepper and coat with beer batter. Dredge fish in remaining flour and slide into the oil.
4. Fry fish until deep golden and cooked through, about 4 - 5 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet lined with paper towels and keep warm in oven, frying the remaining fish in batches.
5. Serve fish with toppings and sauce on a small pitcher, gravy boat, or with a ladle, and the warmed tortillas.

This batter is, in a word, fantastic. With the Sankaty Light Lager we used our batter came out light and crispy, without overwhelming the delicious, flaky white fish. I would recommend this for any kind of fried fish or seafood that you feel like beer-battering. The toppings are up to your own artistic license. I served them with shredded red cabbage, thinly sliced red onion, guacamole, a wedge of lime and the chipotle sauce, but they would also be delicious with a corn salsa, diced peppers and onions or even cucumber, if you're feeling adventurous.

My only caveat with this dish is the work involved. There is nothing difficult about the frying - the battering and cooking are all pretty simple - but you will almost certainly want an extra set of hands to help scoop out the cooked fish strips and transfer them to the baking sheet. Fortunately my Mom was there to (enthusiastically) do everything that my batter-covered hands were much too gunky to do. So grab a friend or two, some fresh fish and a beer and make some yummy, crispy tacos!

Quote of the Day: Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish. ~ Ovid

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pastitsio from Amy Sedaris' book I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence

I sometimes describe pastitsio as "Greek lasagna," since it has all the principal parts: pasta, tomatoey sauce, ground meat, cheese, and rich creamy goodness holding it all together. But pastitsio, in all of its Greek fabulosity, is something special. The name comes from the Italian pasticcio, a type of baked savory pies which may contain meat, fish, or pasta. Many Italian versions include a pastry crust,  and some include b├ęchamel similar to the cream sauce in pastitsio. The word pasticcio comes from pasta and means 'pie.' Anyway, it's great for potlucks and get-togethers, and is a great cold-weather comfort.

Though there are many variations on pastitsio originating from the Mediterranean region (and even from Egypt), this recipe is Amy Sedaris' Greek family recipe. And I think its fantastic. For many other fantastic recipes and lots of vintage-themed humor, check out her book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. As you probably would have guessed, I wasn't paid to say that.


As you can tell, pastitsio is NOT light on fat or calories, but that's why it's so great for sharing with a crowd. With a salad or a veggie, a small piece is plenty satisfying. This recipe makes a large dish; enough for 6-8 people, I would say.

Ingredients

Macaroni
1 (16 ounce) package ziti pasta
5 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup parmesan cheese or kefalotiri
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Meat Sauce
1-1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 crushed garlic clove
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
8 ounces beef broth or stock
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper

Cream Sauce
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 egg

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. In a large pot, boil and drain your ziti, return to pot. Melt butter. Pour over ziti and toss. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese, the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Save a little of the cheese to sprinkle over the top before baking. Toss again and set aside. Let it cool a little before adding the eggs. Toss well.
3. To make meat sauce, brown meat in a frying pan until almost fully cooked. Drain off the fat and set the meat aside. Fry onion and garlic in oil. Add meat and remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. To make the cream sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour and cook until smooth. Add milk all at once and bring to a boil, stiring constantly. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Let it cool, then stir in th beaten egg.
5. Add 1/2 cup of this cream sauce to the meat sauce and mix.
6. To assemble, use a 13x9x3 inch oven dish, buttered. Spoon 1/2 of the macaroni evenly on the bottom, then top with the meat sauce. Cover that layer with remaining macaroni. Pour on cream sauce and spread over the entire top. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake until a little brown, about 45 minutes.


We had our pastitsio with steamed veggies, and a salad with Greek vinaigrette (made by Mom) and a sprinkling of Feta. I followed Amy's winning recipe exactly, except for one thing. Instead of using ground beef alone, I used a "meatball mix" - a combination of ground beef, pork and veal that imparts a slightly more complex flavor. I'm not hating on the all-beef version, though. It's a classic, and I'm sure somehow my mixed-meat-method is offensive to the authenticity of the Greek dish. Overall I wouldn't even say that the difference is noticeable, so I would use what I hand on hand. Either way - Yum. I recommend pairing it with a robust red wine.

Quote of the Day: Tomato and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French; sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon makes it Greek; soy sauce makes it Chinese and garlic makes it good. ~ Jenny Morris

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Somewhat Belated "Happy New Year" from the Guerilla Kitchen

Hello and Happy 2012 to you all! I'm a little late to the party, I know, but better late than never, I hope. (And it's still 2012, after all.) I hope you had a festive holiday season with friends and family, and that you watched A Charlie Brown Christmas at least as many times as I did. (Four).

As for many of you, the holidays were a busy, yet enjoyable time for Brady and myself.
Allie and I traditionally spend Christmas Eve with our Dad, Vince, the zany-looking fellow you see here. Naturally Allie's manfriend Sebastian is the guy taking the picture.
Some of these packages contained fun, fabulous new kitchen gadgets for the GK. Like a hand mixer! No more creaming butter and sugar by hand for THIS lady!
New Year's was spent in Boston with our dear family friend Kathy, who has been gracious enough to host us in all or multitudes (Allie, Sebastian, Brady, Dad and myself) for four straight years now. Between all the visiting, gifting and eating, we've been fairly booked solid until just recently, but we wouldn't have it any other way. Though we are still on the Cape with my family for the time being, we will be heading back to western MA within a week, so we are enjoying the best of the place while we can.
We've taken some great walks through woods, marshes and colonial cemeteries. 
Cape Cod is lovely in the winter, don't be fooled by its summer-only reputation.
Obviously, "the best of Cape Cod" involves seafood, so expect some fresh food posts for the brand new year! Coming soon: fish tacos (probably beer battered), Amy Sedaris' killer pastitsio (not seafood but still fab), and basically anything that I can cook in my extremely glamorous new lidded three-ply aluminum Le Creuset saute pan. And as always, I'm open to requests and suggestions, so have at it!

All photo credit for this post goes to my very talented future brother-in-law, Sebastian Ebarb of Sebastian Ebarb Design.