Home News Vision Comfort food and books for comfort: Getting hooked on fish and a...

Comfort food and books for comfort: Getting hooked on fish and a fictional Chicago mob book

0
Book review: "Unremarkable," by Geoff Habiger and Coy Kissee.

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

When you think of German food you most likely think of sauerkraut, potatoes and sausages; you hear Thai food and you think of spicy green or red curry dishes; you hear England and you think bland food and Sweden flashes Smørrebrød in your subconscious, likely caused by a puppet chef from “The Muppet Show” on TV.

What do all these countries have in common? They are connected to the ocean and while the typical food I mentioned may be served inland, coastal areas have a different cuisine that circles around the fruit of the sea: fish.

I have a love/hate relationship with fish. I love the taste of fresh fish, but the bones would drive me nuts. I grew up inland in Germany, but we would get fresh fish from the nearby ocean. Living in Germany everything is nearby, after all, Germany, with 137,903 square miles, is just a little bit larger than New Mexico with its 121,697 square miles.

On Wednesday mornings, I would go to the open air market to buy the fresh catch. I would buy the entire fish, not deboned or cleaned. Why? Because you can’t tell if fish is fresh until you look it in the eyes and see and smell its skin. The worst thing you can tell a fisherman is that his booth smells like fish — you better run fast, or you get hit with said fish by the insulted fisherman or fisherwoman. Fresh fish doesn’t smell, its eyes should be clear, not cloudy and the skin/scales should not be slimy.

Fish is complicated to clean and tricky to correctly debone. Each fish is a little different. It is no surprise that Germany’s first “fast food” restaurants were “Fischbuden,” which literally means fish cabins. You could get Fischfrikadellen (fish patties) on fresh buns to go or entire plates to eat in or to take out. The most popular time to get fish was during the 40 days of lent leading up to Easter, when Christian Catholics would not eat meat.

Here in Roswell, we are lucky to get fish thanks to flash-freezing technology, and the fish is deboned for us. While there are many fast food restaurants offering fish burgers, the best way to prepare it is doing it yourself. Here are some of my favorite fish patty recipes:

German Fischfrikadelle/fish patty

Ingredients:

2 Tblsp fresh lemon juice

1 pd fish (cod or salmon)

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup of parsley, chopped

1/4 cup of mixed herbs, chopped (chives, sage, rosemary and/or thyme)

1 large egg

1/2 cup finely grated breadcrumbs

salt, pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup flour

Preparation:

Steam the fish until done. Separate the flakes and mix with the lemon juice and add the garlic.

Wash the herbs and dry well. Chop the herbs very fine and mix in the fish mix with the egg and bread crumbs. Blend and add salt and pepper.

With wet hands form eight small patties and lightly coat with the flour on all sides.

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and fry the patties at medium heat 3-4 minutes until it is lightly brown. Fish spoils fast, but you can store the finished patties for one day in the fridge.

Traditionally these patties are served on a bun with a leaf of lettuce and a little tartar sauce.

You can add potato or cucumber salad with it or skip the bun and put the patty on a bed of mixed green lettuce with a salad dressing of your choice.

English Fish burger with caper sauce

2 slices cod or tilapia

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup flour

1 egg battered

4 slices sharp cheddar cheese

4 lettuce leafs

1 tomato, sliced

4 brioche buns

For the sauce:

1/2 jar capers with 1 tsp of its brine

1 spring onion (or wild onion)

3 Tbls mayonnaise

1 tsp malt vinegar

2 Tbsp olive oil

Preparation:

Cut the fish slices in half to get four portions.

Pour the panko breadcrumbs on a plate, beat the egg and and pour it into a shallow bowl and put the flour on a third plate.

Coat the fish first by pressing each side into the flour, then the egg mix and finally the panko breadcrumbs. Careful that you have the fish pieces evenly coated.

Heat a large, wide-based pan over medium heat and fry the fish on each side 3 minutes. Cover the pan and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Sauce:

Chop the capers and the onion and mix with the mayonnaise, malt vinegar and olive oil.

Cut the brioche buns in half and toast. Put a dollop of the caper sauce on each side of the bun, add the lettuce, a slice of the tomato and the warm fish burger.

Serve with vinegar potato chips or fries. The English eat their fries with salt and sprinkled with malt vinegar.

Thai Fish burger

Ingredients:

1 lb. cod, roughly chopped

1⁄4 cup Thai red curry paste

2 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro, plus 2 cups cilantro leaves

3 kaffir lime leaves*, finely chopped

3 Tbsp. roughly chopped roasted, salted peanuts

2 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. olive oil

4 hamburger buns, split

Salad:

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 garlic clove

1 Thai chile, stemmed

2 Tbsp. fish sauce

1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1 English cucumber, thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

*You can simply substitute lime zest to get a wonderful fresh lime scent and citrusy flavor that adds zing and freshness to your dish. A regular “everyday” Persian lime, like the kind you find at grocery stores, will do just fine. Better yet, use a combination of lime and lemon zest. Generally, about 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of finely chopped lime zest can be used in place of one kaffir lime leaf. Try one teaspoon of lime zest and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest, and then adjust to your taste.

Instructions:

Combine cod, curry paste, cilantro and kaffir lime leaves in the bowl of a food processor; purée until combined, then transfer to a bowl. Add salt. Divide mixture into 4 patties about 1-inch thick; transfer patties to a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to grill.

Light a grill. Brush buns with olive oil; grill until lightly toasted, 1-2 minutes, and transfer to a serving platter. Grill burgers on hottest part of grill, flipping once, until cooked through, 5-7 minutes, then transfer to a serving platter and keep warm.

Meanwhile, place 1⁄2 Tbsp. sugar, garlic, and chile on a cutting board and roughly chop everything together. Using the side of the knife, scrape the garlic-chile mixture into a rough paste. Transfer the paste to a medium bowl and whisk in remaining sugar and 1⁄2 cup warm water; continue whisking until sugar dissolves, about 30 seconds. Whisk in fish sauce and lime juice. Toss with cilantro leaves, cucumber and red onion.

To serve, place fish burger on bun and top with 1⁄4 of the salad.

Book review:

“Unremarkable”

I found an indie author from Albuquerque and requested his book, “Unremarkable”, for review. It sounded intriguing, being set in Chicago during the height of prohibition. A film noir kind of mob story. The cover shows the famous St. Valentine’s Day massacre scene where Al Capone’s gang murdered members of a rival gang execution style.

The book has a quote from the famous mob boss Capone, “This American system of ours, call it Americanism, call it capitalism, call it what you will, gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if we only seize it with both hands and make the most of it.” A chilling beginning.

In 1920s Chicago, postal employee Saul Imbierowicz is unwittingly swept up in a city-wide conflict between rival gangs, federal agents and supernatural forces beyond his control.

A telling quote is, “Yesterday morning my life was great; I had a new job and a beautiful girlfriend. Then I end up in the middle of a gunfight, my girlfriend dies, and I find out that not just one, but two of the biggest gangsters in Chicago are both after me to steal the same thing for them from the Feds. What the hell is happening to me?”

The book is written by lifelong friends Geoff Habiger and Coy Kissee. Habiger lives with his wife and son in Tijeras, Kissee lives with his wife in Lenexa, Kansas.

The writing style is gritty and flawless; the story of the meek Imbierowicz makes one feel for this unlikely hero. His inner monologues with a Yiddish mom he can’t escape are hilarious. Right from the start you get pulled into his predicament starting with him thinking, “Al Capone murdered me tonight,” while getting questioned by a Federal agent in a hospital. The story unfolds with colorful expressions, vividly set scenes and personalities that gave me flashbacks to Humphrey Bogart movies. I somehow see his red-haired girlfriend Moira as a Bonnie, but the hero is no Clyde.

I don’t want to give anything away, but this story has more twists and turns than the streets of corrupt Chicago. The supernatural element surprises the reader in a brutal hit-over-the head kind of way.

This book is for a mature audience because of the theme, it is well-written, well-researched and has the right touch of mystery that keeps the reader guessing.

The book was published by Shadow Dragon Press and is available in hard copy and as an eBook at all the usual book stores.

For more information, visit shadowdragonpress.com or email info@shadowdragonpress.com.