I am forever looking for ways to mix up the traditional holiday dishes. I want to color more or less inside the lines, but maybe vary the choice of shades or patterns a bit, just to keep things interesting.
That’s how I came up with this recipe. I was asked to do a column for Chanukah.
For us, Chanukah usually means a large gathering of friends and family, mountains of latkes, a big salad or some interesting vegetable dishes, and a sizable slab of animal protein like brisket, flank steak or turkey. But not this year.
I was noodling over how I could integrate the traditions of the holiday while adding a bit of creativity and came up with this fish coated with crispy shredded potato. It is a bit fussier than most of my fish recipes, which generally involve sautéing some aromatics and veggies to coat and insulate the fish and baking at a low temperature. But since there will be just two of us, or three, tops this year, I was willing to get my hands a bit dirtier, so to speak.
The dry/wet/dry coating process for the fish is the right move, despite the effort and dishes involved. It ensures that the coating will adhere, and that is critical for success.
OK, critical is maybe too strong a word because, let’s face it, even if the coating slides off and you have baked fish with a sort of latke on its side, that’s pretty darn good, too.
I made balsamic-glazed Brussels sprouts with this; I roasted the Brussels in the oven and then drizzled them with the reduced balsamic.
The flavor combo is nice; the sprouts have a sharp taste that is mellowed with roasting, and the sweetness of the balsamic syrup is a lovely complement/counterpoint. I tossed a salad with some carrots, baby turnips, late-season tomatoes and mustard vinaigrette, and Chanukah dinner was on!
I used my current obsession, lingcod, for this dish, but any sturdy white fish would work fine — haddock, cod, tilapia, halibut, snapper, fluke, et cetera, are all excellent choices.
And when I say “latke-coated,” I’m stretching it a bit. The fish was delicious and the coating crispy and yummy, but because I did not use onions, it didn’t really mimic a latke. If you want a more latke-ish vibe, you could certainly grate half an onion into the shredded potatoes.
Alternatively, try a quickie hack: Use onion powder in the flour mixture. And for a bit more aesthetic presentation, frizzle some finely sliced shallots or onions while the fish cooks to use as a garnish.
2 white fish filets, about ¾ pound
1 medium potato (about the size of your fist)
¼ cup flour (you won’t use it all, but to create enough mass to coat the surface of the fish you need some extra)
¼ teaspoon each of salt, garlic powder, pepper, plus additional salt and pepper for the fish and shredded potatoes
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
Grate the potato, then wrap the shredded potato pieces in a towel and squeeze to release as much water as possible. Place the potato shreds in a shallow bowl with a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
In another shallow bowl, mix the flour with ¼ teaspoon each of salt, pepper and garlic powder. In a third bowl, crack the egg and whisk it with a fork.
Heat your oven to 375 F.
Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high. While the oil heats, dredge the fish in flour, then the egg, then the potatoes; press the potatoes to adhere, and place the coated fish in the hot skillet.
Cook until the potato coating is starting to brown and crisp, about 3 minutes, and carefully flip. (I used 2 spatulas for this.) Allow the fish to start browning on the second side, about 3 minutes.
Place the skillet in the oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. (Ours was about 1-inch thick.) The coating should be brown and crispy, and the fish should flake easily and be opaque throughout.
Balsamic-glazed Brussels Sprouts
Cooking down the balsamic vinegar delivers a wonderfully rich syrup, but it goes from delicious to disastrous in a moment. As it gets closer to being done, it must be watched carefully, or you will be left with a smelly kitchen and a ruined pan.
You can use this syrup in a lot of ways — it is wonderful on any roasted vegetable or salad, with cheese or drizzled on braised meat. It can even be used as a dessert topping over ice cream, sorbet or pound cake.
You don’t have to use the most expensive balsamic here: Because you are cooking it down, the flavor will intensify and concentrate. So save the fancy stuff for another use and economize on this version.
¾ pounds Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Generous sprinkles of salt and pepper
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
Heat your oven to 375 F. Toss the Brussels sprouts on a parchment-lined baking sheet with the oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until lightly charred, about 40 minutes.
Just before the sprouts are done, make the syrup: In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar to a boil over medium-high heat and let it cook until reduced by more than half and thickened to a syrupy consistency. This will take about 6 minutes.
When the sprouts are done, place them in a serving bowl and drizzle the balsamic syrup over them. Stir and serve.