Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lingcod tempura with kiwi cucumber salsa

This weekend we had a burst of activity--we ventured out to the International District on foot, taking public transportation, with our 8.5 month old. Since Max decided to take an impromptu nap in the carrier, we had some time to kill--hey, if a baby gives you half an hour of leisure time, you take it, even if it does mean hauling around his 18 pound body on your torso.

The lingcod from Alaska at Uwajimaya looked especially fresh, and I remember it getting a pretty good rating on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. (I have been known to eat shark fin soup, but I've since turned over a new leaf!) I thought it'd go well with some sort of fruity sauce, so we picked up some kiwis too. When we got home, we debated how we should make it--grilled? steamed? sauteed? Something that would keep in the moist juiciness without overdrying.

"I know, how about you do a tempura?" my husband asked. I responded with a shudder. Anyone who's ever done it knows that making tempura is very laborious and a big pain, especially with a baby still awake and curious to know everything that mommy is doing. But, I agreed that it would be damn delicious and we should break out the old Japanese cookbook and do it.

When you're making tempura, your technique can't be like you're just frying anything. It's essential to keep those little fluffy pillows of flour crisp and open in the end--otherwise you just get very plain fishsticks. So set everything up in advance, work very quickly and don't let your batter sit around!

Here's my recipe:
1 cup flour
1 cup ice water
1 egg yolk
A little salt

Once you have all your fish pieces cut and de-boned, set aside a cup of ice water, and let it chill. Meanwhile, clean your pan, lay out some paper towels and heat about 2 inches of light oil. (Don't use olive oil--it burns at high heat.) Separate your egg yolk, and mix with your ice water. Dump in your flour all at once, and here's the hard part--run a chopstick through to mix exactly once--no more. Add in a little salt.

Dip your fish in the batter quickly and gently lay into the oil. It should be hot enough so that it sizzles. Keep working in your pieces but don't over crowd your pan. Ideally you should only flip them once to avoid handling them too much. So flip after a minute or so, or when one side is light brown. When they're light brown all over, transfer to paper towels. Shake on some shichimi togarashi, a mixture of pepper, orange peel, sesame, seaweed and ginger. Yum!

For the salsa, combine 2 diced kiwis, 1/2 diced cucumber, chopped jalapenos (to taste) some salt and about 1 tbsp rice vinegar.

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