Fish bits ‘fritto misto’ and real tartar sauce
“Fritto misto” is a lovely little cover all meaning lots of things fried. I like to do this in breadcrumbs, and shallow fry in a pan with a light oil or a little butter or a mix of the two. I prefer this to battering and deep frying in this instance as it makes it less of a faff and more of a crunchy joyous experience, lighter, more continental as it were.
You can use regular breadcrumbs made from stale bread in eth usual way but I rather like the Japanese style extra crunchy breadcrumbs called Panko. Season your little bits of fish – these could be anything from drained oysters or sliced Cuttle, to odds and end of plaice, halibut – whatever you have and the 400g fish bits bags are perfect as a place to start, but do experiment a little, it’s part of the fun.
Lightly dust the things to be fried in a little well-seasoned plain flour and then drop them into some egg wash. Egg wash is miss understood, the idea is to coat the lightly floured surface of whatever is to be dipped in crumbs to make things sticky. The problem is that plain beaten egg is a bot thick and this makes things a bit tricky to keep light, you can end up with more crumb than fish and end up wondering why you bothered. My tip, exclusively revealed here for you today, is to add a little water to the egg when beating it, up to but not more than equal quantity to the egg you are using. This makes the whole thing a little thinner, makes it easier to handle and stope you ending up with too much crumb.
Another good tip is to use a fork to lift things out of the egg wash and drain them a little before placing them into the breadcrumbs for coating – surprising how simple things can seem so much more complex when you really think about it a bit and apply some sense to make them really special.
Now, once crumbed fry them in enough oil to make them golden and crispy, turning once in the pan and drain them well on kitchen roll – make sure the pieces of fish are not too thick, as they will take too long to cook and we want them just done, the texture of the fish should be steamed and just cooked inside the crispy outer casing.
I often just serve these sorts of things with a little lemon and a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley but if you want to push out the boat, a good quality, home-made tartar sauce is hard to beat.
First you need to make a mayonnaise – you could use shop bought, but then, you could use frozen fish fingers.
A good, basic mayo recipe is below:
1 large fresh egg yolk
1 dessert spoon full of French style mustard
½ dessert spoon full of cider vinegar
A good pinch of salt
A dash of tobacco
A pinch of ground white pepper – or just mill in some black, I know I often do.
150ml (ISH) of good quality but light oil – Sunflower, olive etc.
Mix everything except the oil together in a mixing bowl using a small whisk, add the oil a drizzle at a time to thicken the dressing and make it emulsify – you may get this wrong, it may take a bit of practice to get it right, remember, if it’s not thick enough and if it has not split (looks curdled) you can add more oil to thicken it BUT, of you add too much oil it will split then you will be back to the start again, so take it steady and don’t over thicken it.
Now you have a successful mayonnaise, you can make a myriad of other sauces all based on this classic emulsion. Tartar, is a classic mayonnaise derivative flavoured with Caper, Parsley, Shallot and gherkin – as a minimum. I also like to add a little chopped Dulse and I use the finely chopped parsley stalks and garlic as well as the leaf as described below….
For half a batch of mayonnaise:
1 teaspoon capers, well drained, lightly squeezed out and finely chopped
3 small cornichons or 1 larger gherkin, finely chopped
1 small sprig of parsley, stalks finely chopped, and leaf finely chopped
1 small shallot, very finely chopped
¼ of a small clove of garlic, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon of dried, soaked and finely chopped Dulse seaweed – you can leave this out no problem
1 Anchovy finely chopped (Optional)
Simply mix everything together, it should be thick, and more a sort of mixed dressing rather than lots of bits in mayonnaise – aim for a balance, erring on the side of more garnish and less mayo if it looks a bit non-committal.
Many people add chopped hard-boiled egg, but technically this makes the sauce a Gribiche not a Tartar, and you should add fines herbs in place of the parsley, but that’s just semantics really.
Once made your fresh tartar should keep fine in the fridge for 2 or 3 days, and the same for the base mayonnaise.