Fish ‘n’ Chips, New Orleans Style.
To-do lists for our move are dancing around in my head: ship the sofa, store the coffee maker, donate the skis, call the insurance company, work out the lease details with the renters. All of these reminders are coming together in my brain and creating a kind of impromptu frenetic jazz concert with musicians simultaneously playing their instruments of choice, loudly, with conviction, and competing for center-stage.
I note the diminishing time between today and our June 2nd move to London and all of a sudden New Orleans goes from a fairly nice place to live to a Utopia. The sidewalks, cracking and covered in green moss become artful mosaics. The park across the street from our house with the rambunctious dog meet at 4pm is now a neighborhood support group. The restaurants that serve crabmeat, crawfish and heavy cream on every flipping thing on their menu have elevated themselves from horribly out-of-date to doggedly preserving our culinary heritage.
I can’t stop the music. It keeps going getting louder and louder with one instrument playing off of another one playing off of another, joining together until they are in a wild circus of sound. I can’t pull the plug. I can’t put on headphones. All I can do is sit back and try not to let it all envelop me.
Powers, our youngest, is moving from a bedroom that is 400 sq ft (the same as my first apartment in NYC) to one that is 40 sq ft. A taller person than me could stand in the middle of the room and touch either wall with outstretched hands. Her bedroom will fit no toys. Few clothes. No shelves. No books. The other children are okay but my heart sort of breaks for her. She hasn’t started speaking yet and when she does it will be with an English accent. It will be adorable, I know this, but will she feel foreign to my father? To my friends? Will she feel a connection to New Orleans at all?
I want to be in London now so I can speed past the hurt of leaving New Orleans. I want to be there now because I love the city, its architecture, its style, its grandeur, its attitude. Mainly, though, so I can already be on the mend. Usually when I need to relax, to focus, to meditate, I head to the kitchen, but there, again, I am stymied. I have conflicting grocery lists in my heart: I want to make southern style fried fish and English mint pea soup. I want to have big piles of American pancakes and afternoon tea and scones. I want a cold beer on the front porch and I want a dark, creamy Guinness in a carpeted pub, covered in ivy.
I have a mantra: Be here now. Because I am here. Now. I can’t be anywhere else and the best thing I can do for myself – and for my family – is to Be. Here. Now.
So I step into the kitchen and begin my meditation by wiping down the counter and washing the vegetables and allowing myself to be in the moment while also sensing a whisp of what is to be, just above my reach, just enough to keep me marching forward and tracking my time. I am not in London. I am not leaving New Orleans. I am not leaving my friends or my family or the things I know so well. I am not walking into a new life. I am just cooking. Just simply cooking.
- 2 1/2 lbs Catfish
- 1/2 cup yellow mustard
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
- 2 cups cornmeal (Bob's redmill is my preference)
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Fill a heavy bottom frying pan with 3-inches of oil and preheat to 350F.
- Mix the yellow mustard and Worcestershire together in a baking dish.
- Rest the fish in the baking dish and rub all over with the mustard mixture. Let it marinate this way for 10 minutes.
- While the fish is marinating in the mustard, combine the cornmeal and spices in a blender. Blend for 60 seconds. Dump it out into a large baking dish. Whisk to break up any lumps. Set aside.
- Once the oil is at temperature, prepare a plate lined with newspaper or paper towels to drain the fish and set near the oil (but away from open flame!). Beginning with one fillet of fish at a time, remove it from the mustard mixture and then press it into the cornmeal mixture making sure the fish is fully coated with breading. Place gently into the hot oil and fry for 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the fish and then continue to fry until the fish begins to float - about 5 minutes. Remove with tongs and drain on the paper towels or newspaper. Check it for doneness then continue with the rest of the fish moving on to frying two fillets at a time but no more than that.
- Alternatively cut the fish fillet into 4-6 pieces before breading and then fry for slightly shorter time.
- Feeds 4 with plenty extra for testing the heat and snacking on while cooking.
- 2 pounds large baking potatoes cut into 1/2-inch thick "french fries"
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 450F (230C) with large baking tray in it.
- Bring a large pot of salty water to a rolling boil. Add the cut up potatoes to it and boil for 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
- In a large frying pan, over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and minced garlic. Quickly but gently add the potatoes and fold to cover the potatoes with the oil and garlic.
- Move potatoes to the preheated tray topping them with any of the remaining oil and garlic. Bake for 20 minutes until crispy and golden. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve immediately.