Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mr. Johannsen’s Righteous, Righteous Yucatán Fish

I clipped this recipe out of the New York Times the summer that Finding Nemo hit the theaters. The flames of Nemo-mania were fanned with the bootleg tape I purchased in the back room of our corner bodega, just before the entire shop went out of business with no warning. Jeez, what if I inadvertently hipped the Feds to video speakeasy by writing about it in The East Village Inky? Well, anyway, as kid’s movies go, I think Nemo’s pretty righteous. The the only thing I felt critical of was the surfin’ sea turtle. If he’d have been toking away on a big old doobie, I would have loved him to pieces, but without some tasty bud to shore up his character, he was just annoying. (After ten or so viewings, I’ve made my peace with the bias against overt stoner references in children’s films and now look forward to the way Crush screams, “Righteous! Righteous!” when the East Australian Current grabs him.) Dang, if only every movie had such a memorable cast! Greg’s favorite is Bruce the Great White Shark, Inky has pledged allegiance to the seagulls, and Milo digs the nameless barracuda who eats Nemo’s mother and all of her eggs. As for me, I’ve got a special place in my heart for Mr. Johannsen, a flounder who’s pissed that the kids won’t stay out of his yard. He’s only in one scene, but I just love the idea of a character who’s doomed to a life of constant frustration because he’s only got eyes on one side of his head. Like, he always ends up looking the wrong way.

So, you can make this recipe with any flat fish– last night I used gray sole – but I named it in honor of Mr. Johannsen because the first time I made it, I used flounder. Look, children, we can extend our enjoyment of the movie even further, by eating the flesh of one of our favorite characters! Originally, the recipe called for cilantro and grape tomatoes, but I’m just laying down the basics because that Nemo anecdote puts me at risk for carpal tunnel.

Mr. Johannsen’s Righteous, Righteous Yucatán Fish

Slice 5 cloves of garlic and fry them in two tablespoons of canola oil in a heavy little skillet over medium-low heat. Everything will work out like it’s supposed to if you treat it like popcorn. Shake it back and forth, lift it off the burner every now and then, and the second you think it’s done, remove from the heat, and sprinkle with salt (and pepper, which is not very popcorn-y, unless you think of it as black salt.) Now that I think about it, there’s nothing to stop you from eating it like popcorn, though you’ll probably want more than five cloves. The finished product should be a nice, crispy Coppertone tan. Set it aside.

Oh and speaking of garlic, do try the garlic fries the next time you find yourself drinking beer at Mo Pitkins. You’ll never want to eat anything else.

Now put 2 more tablespoons of canola oil in a big heavy skillet and give it a second to heat up on medium high and it’s Adios, Senor Johannsen! A pound and a half ought to do you for four people. To save time, pick skinny fillets. They need to cook in a single layer, so you may just need two skillets. For god’s sake, it’s not a crime! Toss in a couple of dried red chilis and tend to your limes. Do not attempt to flip Mr. Johannsen. There’s nothing you can do for him now. Haven’t you done enough, already?

Actually, no you haven’t. Did you forget about your limes? Let’s go! Squeeze them! Both of them! (That’s right, both means two!) Pour all but a couple tablespoon’s worth over Mr. Johannsen and put that spatula down! There will be no flipping tonight. If you need something to occupy your hands, turn the flame down to medium, or toss in some grape tomatoes.

When the fish (I can’t bear to call him Mr. Johannsen any longer. All he wanted was to be left alone to live a quiet life with no dang kids in the yard.) is cooked through – you’ll be able to tell because the flesh will be white and depending on how thin it is, possibly even pulling apart, transfer it to the serving platter. You can put some cilantro in the pan juices before pouring them over, but no need to. Perhaps you don’t even like cilantro! Distribute the reserved lime juice and the crisp-fried garlic (unless you ate it all while you were watching Finding Nemo for the forty-zillionth time).

F*ck the DaVinci code! Like that guy doesn’t have enough publicity? My new book,
Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste snuck onto the shelves this week. If it hasn’t hit your local indie bookstore yet, by all means request a copy (or ten)! Why should Amazon hog it all to themselves? Speaking of Amazon, a popular question seems to be, “Where should I buy the book in order to give you the most benefit?” My answer is, you buy it where you want to, and then, if you like it, please take a moment to post a positive customer review on Amazon. Come on, I know you know how to use a computer, I think you know how to read, and it’s only a matter of time until the folks who considered No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late a blight upon our country’s reputation figure out that I’ve got a new baby for them to bash!

And furthermore!
Looking for Friends With Benefits? Or maybe just someone who can help you navigate modern high school sexual mores? My friend, Mrs. Lindsay-Abaire is only TOO happy to help! Tune into Law & Order SUV, excuse me, SVU, tonight to see her strut her stuff as school pyschologist, Barbara Collins. That's a pocket warmer in her pocket, by the way, though I'm sure she would have been happy to see you, had she noticed you ogling her from the other side of the tube.


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