You know it is not the healthiest thing to serve, but everyone loves it – Fish Fry.  For years I’ve been frying away different white fish – Dover Sole, Pacific Cod, Tilapia, and Skai – and have finally perfected the recipe.  Eat this with something healthy like steam asparagus and a green salad (don’t forget your SaladSuccess shaker to make the dressing).  Since we are coming into spring, perhaps a strawberry and rhubarb cobbler to top off the meal.  The two tricks to this recipe are using baking powder and beer.  I’ve tried all beers from Coors Light to weird lagers that my husband has collected in the fridge and the result is similar – great beer batter.  Anyway, enjoy and don’t feel too guilty.  Use vegetable oil to fry to fish – it is lighter and less expensive than olive oil.

Best Beer Batter for Fish Fry Bonanza – Prep time: 5 minutes, cooking time: 15 minutes.  Makes enough batter for 2 lbs of fish.

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs or less of white fish such as cod, sole, tilapia, skai

½ cup flour

½ tbsp baking powder

1 – 2 lemons, grated for lemon zest, quarter the remaining lemon

½ cup beer

1 large – extra large egg

1 tsp (or less) Kosher salt

½ tsp freshly grounded pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Whisk in beer and egg until mixture is smooth.  Add fish and gently mix so that fish is covered with mixture.

In a large frying pan (medium high to high heat) pour enough oil to cover bottom by approximately ¼ inch.  When oil is really hot (add a couple droplets of water to oil and see if it sizzles and evaporates) carefully add pieces of fish.  Cook fish for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and serve with lemon quarters and tartar sauce (mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce or Dijon mustard couple finely chopped pickles or relish, salt & pepper).

We are in the middle of the rainy season here in central California and sniffing the air has become an art form.  I was driving my little daughter to a play date and just as I pulled into the driveway, I smelled it everywhere.  What was that delectable odor, what was that perfume?”  Finally, it dawned on me; and field of bay leaf trees growing wild.  So, as a good little cheap bitch, I quickly tore off a few branches, thus saving myself a small fortune in bay leaf purchases.

There are other freebies that are located in my garden and grow all year ‘round; parsley, mint, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Rocket (arugula,rockette, roquette), mache (rapunzel, field salad, or lamb’s lettuce), and chives are free too, since they reseed themselves.  We call them volunteers.  When I am in the grocery stores I’m stunned how much they are charging for a small packet of herbs and forget buying mache, it’s exorbitant.  And they are all so easy to grow.  So the next thing I am putting on my gardening list, is to buy a bay tree starter.  Just think of the years of enjoyment we’ll get from this one small purchase.  And it’s a real cheap bitch purchase.

Now talking about cheap, white fishes such as Dover sole, tilapia and skai are very inexpensive at the moment.  I found both skai and tilapia on sale at my market for $3.99 a pound and decided that for under $8 dollars we would eat regally, all 5 of us.  So instead of pan frying, I want this delicate white fish to be cooked in its juices with wine, lemons, onions and herbs.  To do that, and to have an easy cleanup, I cooked the fish “en papillote” or less elegantly, in parchment paper.  This is the best and healthiest way to cook a fish other than grilling which can dry out a low fat fish.  Parchment paper from the grocery store is expensive, but a large roll (don’t worry, it’s no larger than the 200 ft of aluminum foil at the grocery store) is cost-effective and I found it at Costco.

I also made a chicken and rosemary flavored polenta which is so more exciting than rice and once again, cheap.  Polenta is one of the simplest grains to cook, but if your cupboard is bare, okay, bring out the rice.  Of course don’t forget a nice salad – greens, rocket, mache, feta crumbles with a shallot vinaigrette and a glass of Reisling (if you want to go nuts, spend the wad on Jos. Meyer’s family of Reisling wines – they are from the Alsace region of France and totally to die for).

Poisson Blanc en Papillote (White Fish cooked in Parchment Paper – sounds better in French):  Prep – 5 minutes: Cooking time: ½ hour:  Serves 4-6

2 lbs of a white fish – Tilapia, Skai, Dover Sole

¼ cup of white wine – I use 2 buck Chuck from Trade Joe’s

¼ cup chicken broth

3 -4 bay leaves

1 -2 lemons

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Set oven to 375 degrees. Place fish on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut a similar sized piece of parchment paper.  Pour chicken broth and white wine over fish, place onion slices, lemons and bay leaves on fish.  Sprinkle salt and pepper.

With the 2nd piece of parchment paper, place over fish and fold 2x both edges of parchment papers together and staple edges so that it makes a sealed package.  When complete, pop into the oven for 30 minutes.

Chicken and Rosemary Infused Polenta: Prep – 5 minutes,  Cooking time – 20 minutes, Serves 4 – 6

4 cups water

1 cup polenta

1 tsp. of chicken broth –  Better than Bouillon found at Costco or better grocery stores. (If you have liquid broth, substitute 2 cups of the water for 2 cups of the chicken broth).

1 sprig of rosemary

Boil 4 cups of water (or 2 cups with 2 cups of chicken broth, bouillon, or stock) with “Better than Bouillon” in a medium size pot.  At full boil, gently add polenta, lower heat to a simmer and whisk mixture until there are no lumps.  Add sprig of rosemary. Serve in 20 minutes.