Who doesn’t love all the crispy bits that form in a pan when frying food? The other night I opted to fry fish rather than barbecue it as I don’t have a hot plate and imagined it would fall through the grill once tender. I also knew I would get it gorgeously golden and crunchy in the pan. After cooking it, I slid the fish with all the bits and bobs unceremoniously onto a plate and thought it looked pretty tempting, so I photographed it. It’s hardly a recipe, but there are some good tips to point out.
I prefer to fry fish and chicken in a mixture of oil and butter, rather than oil alone. Oil is good for frying as it maintains its heat, it’s easier to control than butter and is less likely to burn, but it doesn’t brown food or form delicious crispy bits in quite the same way as butter does. Cooking in butter alone can be problematic. Get the pan too hot, and food will burn. And it’s hard to cook another batch of fish or chicken in the same pan unless you wipe out it out and start again with fresh butter. But mixing the two gives a great result. Always heat the oil in the pan first. Have the food ready to go – if coating fillets with flour or crumbs, shake off loose mixture which otherwise will collect on the bottom of the pan and burn. When the oil is hot – and you want a medium to high heat – drop in the butter and add food once it sizzles and foams. The butter should melt and foam up within seconds of being added to the pan. If it quickly turns dark brown, the oil was too hot; your food is going to burn (sorry, remove pan from heat, cool and start again). If the butter swims around in the oil and doesn’t melt, remove it with a spoon and get the oil hotter, before adding it again.
It doesn’t matter whether you flour+egg+crumb fillets or chicken breasts, or dust them with flour, or, as I did in the photo, simply coat them with crushed panko crumbs (crush crumbs with a rolling pin between paper towels), the result should be golden brown and appetizing.
Once I had turned the fish over I added a medium-heat sliced red chilli and a handful of lime leaves. I finished the dish with a generous sprinkle of sea salt and served it with lime wedges. It tasted as good as it looks.
Leftovers were trotted out the next night and served on tostadas with diced avocado and chipotle sauce (I use New Zealand’s Tio Pablo brand Tostadas and Culley’s Chipotle Sauce). I thought about making a quick cucumber pickle, but didn’t. I thought about dicing the gorgeous tomato I had and mixing it with chopped shallot and lemon juice, but I didn’t. I thought about mayo, capers, chopped coriander (cilantro) and other things, but in the end I just ate four tostadas as they were: fish, avo, sauce and lime. It took about 3 minutes to prepare my dinner and not much longer to gobble it up.