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Santé Et Nutrition

This Entry-Level Whole Fish Recipe Made Me Who I Am Today

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Welcome to Never Fail, a weekly column where we wax poetic about the recipes that never, ever let us down.

I’m not sure why people buy expensive throw pillows or work 80 hours a week when you can impress people just as much by cooking a whole fish. A whole damn fish! WOW!

That includes impressing yourself, Lonely Joe. On a Thursday.

I love the ceremony of it all. The shiny scales, the actual head, the tender meat, the requirement to own a platter, the interactive picking-around while eating that slows things down a bit. (When did we start eating so fast anyway?)

Reasons that might be keeping you from cooking a whole fish at home: Bones. The actual head. The big, weird shape. The fishy smell that threatens to take over your entire living quarters. It seems hard. It seems mysterious. It seems expensive.

Quick Pan-Roasted Salmon with Miso-Honey Sauce

Well, I’m here to tell you: RELAAAAAAX! Did you know the fishy smell can go away? (It’s called incense and an open window.) The bones, yeah, you might be dealing with some of those (more on that later!), but again, it slows you down and makes you appreciate every bite. Regarding size, you get to pick the fish with your own eyes, so just get a small guy, something that you know will fit in a pan you own, like branzino or red snapper—don’t overthink it. The head, well, the head just sits there, judging you! You don’t have to pluck out the eyeballs and eat them like Skittles, but you definitely can. You can tease out the cheek flesh and brag to everyone at the table that it’s the best part, actually. The cost really depends on your store and the type of fish, but it’s still cheaper than steak, so there’s that! And mysterious? With this whole fish recipe, it won’t be anymore.

Fried Whole Fish with Tomatillo Sauce. Sounds fancy, no? But it’s from our Simple Issue a few summers ago, which required every recipe to be under five ingredients (not counting salt or cooking fat). It also sounds fried as in « deep-fried, » but it’s a shallow fry (and it’s less scary in your Dutch oven versus the called-for cast-iron skillet), and when I had only a cup of oil instead of three, it still totally worked. Fried here = crispy skin all around, fast cook time. The whole fish-frying process takes around 8 minutes. Yep.

You heat oil until it’s shimmering, and then lower the fish in slowly, head first (you’re holding it by the tail.) Maybe the tail is out of the oil, no big deal. It sizzles and fries for four minutes-ish, until the skin on the bottom is browned and crispy. Then get in there, Operation-style, with a fish spatula (aka the only spatula you need) and tongs and slowly turn it to the other side. While you’re standing around, use your time wisely and baste hot oil onto the fish head and tail, which makes sure that those get some love if they’re not making direct contact with the oil.

That’s the fish part. You’ll grab it out with the spatula + tongs technique, and put it on a wire rack to stay crispy, sprinkling it with salt. (I honestly think I’ve skipped that and put it on a cutting board, and everything was just fine.)

pickled-jalapenos

Christopher Testani

Pickled jalapeños, FTW.

Part two is a ridiculously easy, lime-green sauce that doubles as salsa. I make this recipe on its own all the time: tomatillos, cilantro, pickled jalapeños and some of their juice. Blended, done. (I’ve also riffed on it by adding a clove of garlic, and fresh jalapeño instead of pickled for more heat—do you!)

SERVE TIME. If you’re entertaining, serve the fish on a platter of the green sauce alongside a kitchen towel stuffed with warmed tortillas. For my nuclear family, we do side bowls of green sauce so we can spoon it on every bite, or uh, just dip the fish right into it. Everyone will say things like: Such crispy skin! Tender, moist fish! Spicy, bright and zesty sauce! Pass me another tortilla!

Okay: About those bones.

You don’t need to know the names for the parts of the fish, but it’s true, cutting into this thing is awkward and messy. Sometimes I don’t have time for ceremony and we hack into it, grabbing chunks of fish flesh, every woman for herself. If you’re serving this to 80-hour workweek dinner guests, watch a few YouTube videos and then slice it all nice. Basically you make a cut between the head and the rest, another cut down the top, and you can do a third down the center, where the spine and THOSE BONES are. You pull up the skin and can spoon the flesh off the spine, taking note of the bones that might be coming with. You can even remove the head, pull the spine out of there entirely, and serve only the cut fillets, which is very restaurant-y of you. This is where the medium of video, with its revenue-generating mid-roll ads, is better than any written description.

But know this: It’s NOT A BIG DEAL, and YOU’VE GOT THIS!!

Get the recipe:

fried-whole-fish-with-tomatillo-sauce.jpg



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Santé Et Nutrition

These Well-Crafted Chile-Chicken Nachos Take Every Component Seriously

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There are impulse nachos—do I have chips? Do I have cheese?—and then there are Super Bowl nachos. Beautiful, loaded-up, fancy nachos with elaborate toppings, thoughtful construction, nay, architecture, and fresh cilantro sprigs dispersed just so. Just so… you can dive bomb into it with your greedy fingers.

When nacho expert Rick Martinez was assigned to develop a recipe that excels in every category (the stakes were high—it’s nachos), he delivered. And yes, he was wearing his signature Lucha Libre apron while doing so.

The Chile-Chicken Topping

The nachos hinge on this chile-chicken recipe that you can steal and use for tacos, burritos, rice bowls, salads, whatever. A maxed-out chile sauce (ancho and chipotle in adobo) that the shredded rotisserie chicken soaks up, transforming into something that Kroger rotisserie oven never saw comin’. Hot, sweet, and smoky chicken that stays juicy thanks to chicken stock, especially since it’s going into the oven next. It takes 30 minutes to make the chile chicken, which you can do ahead, FYI.

chicken nachos 2

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Kate Buckens

The chicken, ready for nachos (or whatever!).

The Cheesy Corn Topping

This is the sneaky best part. A corn salad with salty-crumbly cotija cheese, onion, and a poblano chile (or jalapeño). It brings a pop of sweet and acts as a sort of unexpected salsa that isn’t wet, and therefore won’t sog up your chips. Since it’s not corn season, you have Rick’s permission to use frozen corn, thawed and drained. Thanks, Rick!

chicken nachos

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Kate Buckens

The Construction Manual

This is a two-layer, two-sheet tray operation, as opposed to one tray of 50 layers. It’s easier to eat than the nacho mountain, and you can delay cooking so the second one goes in after the first tray is inhaled, ensuring “a hot, melty batch” right when you want it, which is the most sensual recipe instruction I’ve ever read. Riiiiick! You can assemble about an hour ahead and wrap the trays in Cling Wrap to really make sure you’ve concentrated all of your creative energy into the nachos before you. Now here’s the order you SHALL NOT STRAY FROM:

  1. Sturdy tortilla chips
  2. Chile chicken
  3. Corn salsa
  4. Shredded sharp cheddar
  5. Repeat
  6. After baking, fresh toppings like radishes, cilantro, pickled jalapeños, more cotija cheese

The cheddar (sharp to stand up to the spicy chicken) wilt melt and envelop everything, holding it all together under a cheese roof. It’s also your indicator for when to take the nachos out of the oven, when the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.

green-pico-de-gallo

Linda Xiao

Green pico de gallo!

The Side Salsa

Keep the salsa on the side (I repeat: NO SOGGY NACHOS). And sour cream, if you’re my dad and have never missed a sour cream opportunity. We have amazing recipes for smoky cashew salsa, pico de gallo, tomatillo-avocado salsa. Make ‘em ahead!

Then Serve Move

When we tasted these in the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen (yeah, somebody’s gotta do it), we served them with tongs because too many people had colds and this was our attempt to not spread germs. It works great, though! So if you’re having a ton of germy people over, use this technique and give everyone their own little party plate of nachos. Aww!

Get the recipe:

chicken-nachos-1.jpg



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Santé Et Nutrition

Chile Chicken Nachos Recipe | Bon Appetit

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Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high until shimmering. Cook garlic and half of onion, stirring occasionally, until tender and beginning to brown, 6–8 minutes. Stir in achiote paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until brick red, about 1 minute. Add ancho chiles, chipotle chile, stock, cumin, and 2 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit until chiles are very soft, about 30 minutes.



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Santé Et Nutrition

You’re Probably Using Too Much Black Pepper

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Can somebody please tell me when salt and black pepper became automatically, inevitably linked together? At what point in the long history of cooking did someone taste a peppercorn and think to themselves, “Hey, this reminds me a lot of that salt stuff we harvest from the sea and have come to know and love. Maybe we should henceforth use them in tandem in everything we cook! Never again shall a salt crystal stand alone. Salt AND pepper, forever and always! »

I mean, that sounds nuts, right? When you think about what these two seasonings actually do to food, they could not be more different. In a nutshell: Salt makes food taste more like itself; black pepper makes food taste like black pepper. So why do so many people automatically follow a pinch of salt with a couple of cranks of the pepper mill?

Learning how to season food effectively is one of the cornerstones of good cooking. When novice cooks ask me why their food doesn’t taste as good as they want it to taste, the answer is almost always that they aren’t using enough salt. I recommend the following exercise: Make a bowl of buttered pasta using no salt at all. Taste it straight out of the pot. Then add a good pinch of salt to it, toss it, and taste it again. Repeat. Taste again. Repeat that process until suddenly the flavor pops, your mouth beings to water, and things start to get really friggin’ tasty. THAT is the power of salt. It makes food—any food, every food—taste more.

But that isn’t the case with black pepper. If you were to repeat that same challenge using pepper, you’d add and add and add and never experience that magical, ah-HA moment. That bowl of pasta will start tasting spicier, and more floral, but it will never start tasting like the platonic ideal of noodles and butter. And that’s because pepper does not possess the same magical flavor-enhancing qualities that salt does—it makes food taste like it was seasoned with black pepper.

Don’t get me wrong—that isn’t always a bad thing! Black pepper is delicious, and brings a whole range of different flavors to the table that can be truly bangin’ when applied to the right dish (a properly salted one, of course). I love freshly ground black pepper. Like, love-love it. It brings a subtle background heat to some of my favorite dishes (helllloooo cae sal!). On a blank canvas, like a plate of scrambled eggs, you can really taste the floral, earthy notes that good pepper has to offer, and a big bowl of cacio e pepe just wouldn’t be the same without it. I have zero hate and nothing but R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the humble yet mighty peppercorn. But please please please, people, let’s start to honor it for what it is—an incredible and versatile spice—and use it when it’s really going to get a chance to shine.

Let’s let salt be salt, and pepper be pepper. When you stop putting the latter on everything you cook, you’ll learn to love it even more. You know what old people are always saying: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

You want a recipe that really wants some black pepper? How about these wings:

basically-crispy-peppercorn-wings.jpg



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