Lemon Caper Aioli

(Aug. 2, 2019) Have the words “what if” ever crossed your mind?

The proverbial expression is very telling and can change the path of life in a split second.

Even the most unassuming choices can produce variables of different degrees and influence the possibilities of probability.

Cooking is no exception and the philosophy of cultural progression encourages one to explore the countless facets that define the secrets of gastronomy.

When every option has been thoroughly explored, it is then and only then, that “what if” ceases to be a consideration and finality comes to the forefront.

That being said, do not be fooled by the straightforwardness of fried fish. Simplicity can be complexity in its most infantile state.

Fantastic fried fish is a subject all to itself and details must be reviewed for fabulous results.

If one does not own a deep fat fryer, no worries. Pan frying is a method that depends on conduction and convection.

The layer of oil between the pan and food is very thin, so the path for convection currents is very minimum. Pan frying will take a few extra minutes, but the end result is just as good.

There is a bit of confusion when it comes to the dredging process. Following is the proper setup for frying fish.

Rinse the fish in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Dredge the fish in flour. This acts as a glue so the egg wash will adhere better.

The egg wash consists of one large egg and one teaspoon of cold water. The ratio is (1:1). The water helps thin out the egg and produces a lighter batter.

The final step includes a combination of unseasoned panko bread crumbs, cornmeal and flour. The ratio is (3:2:1).

Panko will yield an extra crispy crust, the cornmeal gives the fish flavor, and a touch of flour helps bind the mixture.

Once the filets are in the pan, cook the first side for approximately 3 minutes. When the bottom side turns a golden-brown color around the edges, it is time to turn the filets.

Cook for another 2 to 2 ½ minutes or until the other side has achieved a golden-brown exterior.

Do not overcrowd the pan with the filets of fish. Overcrowding the pan causes the temperature of the oil to drop which will cause the fish to soak up the oil as opposed to forming a crispy foundation.

Once the fish are cooked, place them on a cooling rack as opposed to a plate lined with paper towels. Do you really want your crispy fish resting on a mound of greasy paper towels?

Whether to toast your rolls is up to the individual chef. Personally, I think the softness of an untoasted roll is a nice contrast to the crispy fish.

The White Marlin Open is here, and celebrations are in full swing. A buffet of fried fish sliders that includes a smorgasbord of toppings and side dishes is a fun way for your guests to personalize their slider.

Tomatoes, fried tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, fresh herbs, assorted cheeses, pickles, sweet peppers, hot peppers, hot sauce, French fries, chips, coleslaw and potato salad are just a few suggestions for your buffet.

Be creative and allow personal preference to be your guide.

Lemon caper aioli is a refreshing twist to traditional tarter or cocktail sauce. The acidity of the lemon and capers pairs beautifully with the fried fish.

A touch of goat cheese adds creaminess and stability to the condiment.

Fried fish sliders with lemon caper aioli are finger-licking good. The two combined are quite a catch! Enjoy.

Lemon Caper Aioli

½ cup good quality mayonnaise

1 tablespoon goat cheese

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon capers, chopped

1 teaspoon shallots, minced

1 small garlic clove, minced to a paste

kosher salt to taste

1. In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, goat cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, capers, shallots, garlic and salt. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Fried Fish Sliders

6 small filets of favorite fish

canola oil for frying

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

2 cups flour

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons cold water

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus extra

3 cups plain panko breadcrumbs

2 cups cornmeal

6 slider rolls

1. Rinse fish in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

2. In a large cast iron skillet, preheat oil and bacon drippings to 350 degrees. You want enough oil to cover at least one-half of the fish.

3. Place 1 cup of flour in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, whisk eggs and water until fully combined.

In a medium bowl, combine garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, 1 tablespoon of salt, panko, cornmeal and remaining cup of flour. Mix thoroughly.

4. Dredge the fish with the flour and shake off any excess. Dip the fish into the egg mixture and allow excess to drip off.

Place the fish in the panko mixture and gently press so more bread crumbs adhere to the fish. Repeat this process for the remaining 5 filets.

5. Gently lower the breaded fish into the oil and fry until both sides are golden brown. This will only take a few minutes. Place filets on a cooling rack and add an extra dusting of salt.

6. Place filet of fish in the slider roll. If the sliders are going to be eaten right away, add lemon caper aioli. If the sliders are going to be part of a buffet, serve aioli on the side.

Secret Ingredient – Competition. “The only competition worthy of a wise man is with himself.”

–Washington Allston

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