As a Chef I find it very difficult to spend long periods of time without cooking. I don’t mean to sound egotistical when I say cooking is what I do well. In fact, it is the only thing I do well. I can’t really do anything else at quite the same level. I also cook because I like it and because it relaxes me.
What better time to do it than now? I am home with my wife and two kids and am officially in charge of food shopping, cooking, and dishwashing. I am basically running a small restaurant with a limited audience of four. Given the financial struggle I am facing since my restaurant is currently closed due to COVID-19, like many of you, I have to cook creatively without wasting food. There is also the issue of limited ingredient availability when I must head out to the store.
In a restaurant kitchen you have your core menu and then you have the specials, which the Chef creates by incorporating a few new and fresh ingredients not present in the menu with some of the regular menu items that are not selling and therefore at risk of spoiling if not used in time. I understand that this is not a romantic approach and doesn’t sound very appetizing; however, it is true. It is how most restaurants operate. An important point to remember, however, is that some of the best recipes were born out of necessity-pasta e fagioli, polenta and bread pudding to name a few. This is essentially what I am now doing at home.
A few days ago I made pan seared codfish for dinner and today used the leftovers to make a wonderful sandwich. Before I tell you about the sandwich, however, let’s take a minute to discuss the original dish. It is important to note that cod fish is very delicate and may fall apart during cooking. Unless it is either deep fried in a tempura or cornmeal batter, the only other way that it will come out well is by pan searing it on medium heat with vegetable oil and butter. Remember not to cook it on high heat as it will burn on the outside by the time it cooks inside. It is necessary to salt it first and then dredge it in flour. Let it sit in the flour for few minutes until it absorbs the starch and becomes sticky, then flour it again and pan sear it slowly on medium heat until it gets crispy golden. It will not take long, probably 5 to 8 minutes on each side. Don’t mess with it; don’t touch it too much otherwise it may fall apart. Just be patient and delicately flip it over only once when it is nice and golden and doesn’t stick to the pan anymore.
Now, onto the leftovers… when I was ready to make the sandwich, I took the cod fish out of the refrigerator and sprinkled it with Cajun seasoning. I have all different kinds of dry seasonings and herbs in my pantry, so I decided to give it a Creole twist. While the fish was baking on high heat in the electric convection oven (my oven is nothing fancy and any small electric or toaster oven will work as well), I made a spicy spread by adding Sriracha sauce and old bay seasonings to mayo. I then chopped a few cherry tomatoes and some Spanish onion. For bread I used hot dog rolls I had floating around in the back of the refrigerator. I toasted those in butter in a nonstick Teflon pan. I assembled the sandwich by placing the fish on one side of the bread and spreading the spicy mayo over it. Finally, I added the tomato and onions. I wish I had some fresh romaine lettuce to give it a fresh, crunchy bite. Anyway, family approved! Unfortunately, at the time I made the dish I didn’t know I was going to write about it, so I didn’t take a picture. A photo from my archive will have to suffice this time.