Special thanks to Bethany Winter, photography
It doesn’t have to be that hard.
Top Chef contestant and Smoke & Pickles author Edward Lee makes a stellar remoulade. It has 20 ingredients. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that hard. And frying doesn’t have to be that hard either. I’ll make a 3-ingredient remoulade that will do just fine for weeknights. And instead of using the standard breading procedure to fry fish (which includes seasoning, then flouring, then egging, then breadcrumb-crusting the fish before frying), I’ll just sprinkle the filets with Cajun seasoning and dredge in cornmeal. Both of these shortcuts allow you to enjoy yummy homemade fried fish with remoulade without the hassle.
Meanwhile, we’ll use a couple of other ingredients that effortlessly elevate standard weeknight fare to something you’ll actually enjoy making, serving and eating.
The first ingredient is citrus. Whether adding a splash of fresh lime juice to a cocktail or opting for fresh-squeezed orange juice in a marinade, there’s no denying real citrus brightens and freshens virtually any dish. We’re pepping up our cabbage and kohlrabi slaw with lemon juice in our vinegar-free “vinaigrette.”
The second way to easily elevate flavor is to incorporate fresh herbs into almost any dish. In this dinner we’re using fresh thyme with our roasted potatoes. They’re simply roasted but topped with super savory, delicious thyme leaves. It’s hard to go wrong with thyme.
Obviously there are plenty of other ways to make your life in the kitchen a lot easier. Since most of my meals are a three-part harmony consisting of protein, starch and veg, my favorite way to simplify a meal without sacrificing flavor and quality is to take all of the difficulty out of one of those elements. For example, using protein that’s already cooked (ham, deli meats, etc.), veg that requires no cooking (prewashed salad greens) or, my favorite, using the rice cooker to prepare my starch perfectly while only requiring one minute of my time. If you don’t have a rice cooker and you enjoy rice, you should definitely invest in one. I’m on my third, and I don’t regret any of those three purchases. Once you know how to do it I’d be willing to bet you’ll be eating rice at least twice a week from now on.
Also, do everything you can ahead of time. I’ve learned to think of naptime as my prep time. Anything I can get done a few hours (or even days) ahead of dinner time reduces my stress so much. So totally make the remoulade and slaw hours or a day ahead if you can. After the potatoes are tossed in the oil they can be refrigerated for a couple of hours, or cooked a little early and held in a 200 degree oven for up to an hour. If you choose the latter, you might consider waiting to toss in the thyme until you’re ready to serve. Fried food has to be cooked and served immediately, but if that’s the only thing you have to do at the last minute, I think that’s a pretty easy hour leading up to dinner.
But enough chatter. Let’s get cooking!
Roasted New Potatoes with Fresh Thyme
- 4 Lb new potatoes
- ½ C olive oil
- 1 bunch fresh thyme, leaves removed
- 1 t freshly ground pepper
- 1 T salt, or more tt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oil, salt and pepper.
Cut potatoes in half, thirds or quarters if large and add to bowl. Tiny guys can stay whole. Basically, cut them so they’re all about the same size. If you have a hard time approximating the size of odd shapes, you might find it helpful to use a scale to weigh each piece til you get a feel for it.
Toss to coat, then transfer to a sheet pan and roast 35-50 minutes, scraping pan with a fish spatula a couple of times to keep potatoes from sticking.
Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your potatoes. Test potatoes with a paring knife or bamboo skewer. If it enters easily and comes out even more easily, they’re done.
Return to the bowl, add thyme, toss to coat, taste for seasoning and serve.
Cabbage & Kohlrabi Slaw
- 2 T Dijon mustard
- 1 T sriracha
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 T sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced
- ½ C olive oil
- 1 small head green or Savoy cabbage, shredded
- 2 small heads kohlrabi, peeled and julienned
- 1 small yellow onion (or 5 scallions), thinly sliced
- salt and pepper, tt
In a large bowl, whisk together first 6 ingredients.
Add cabbage, kohlrabi, onion, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Leave at room temperature 30 minutes, toss again and check seasoning, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
- 1 C mayonnaise
- ¼ C chile-garlic sauce
- 2 T Worcestershire sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- 8 (5-6 oz) filets of firm white fish (I used sculpin/scorpionfish*)
- 2 C coarse-ground cornmeal
- Creole seasoning
- Vegetable oil, for frying
In a large sauté pan, pour in enough vegetable oil to come ½” up the side of the pan. Bring to 350 degrees over medium heat. Line a plate with paper towels (to drain the fish after frying). If using frozen fish, thaw completely (preferably in the refrigerator overnight, but under running water for 30 minutes if rushing the process), then pat dry with paper towels and place on a clean plate.
Place cornmeal in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate. Generously dust both sides of each filet with the Cajun seasoning, and rub it in with your hands to ensure it sticks.
Then press each filet into the cornmeal, shaking off excess. Discard any remaining cornmeal, and don’t feel bad about it. It has fish juice on it. No recycling.
Gently place each filet into the preheated oil and cook until golden-brown, turning once with a fish spatula, about 4 minutes per side.
Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate to drain the oil.
Serve with the remoulade, slaw and potatoes.
*This is what my fishmonger recommended for the preparation I described to her. Tilapia, cod, snapper and catfish are all good choices.