The recipe, from Nigel Slater, sounded like a fancy version of fish and chips: Fat, meaty fillets of haddock are coated in bread crumbs and shallow-fried until brown and crisp. I substituted cod, but what intrigued me especially about this recipe was the coating, which is a combination of bread crumbs, tarragon leaves, and minced anchovies.
Tarragon is a powerful herb that is best used in small doses, and for the same reason also perfumes the whole dish. Even better, though, are the anchovies, which melted away during the frying but left their nutty signature, deepening the dish's flavor to amp up the relatively mild flavor of cod. Meanwhile, the cod's flesh itself was meaty and dense, offset by the breadcrumb crunch. I was amazed at how much flavor the recipe was able to achieve with just a few ingredients and a short time.
- 2 fillets cod or haddock, about 3/4 pound
- 5 slices slightly stale white bread
- 8 anchovy fillets, minced
- 2-3 dense sprigs tarragon
- 1 egg, whisked
- 1/2 cup flour
- Peanut or canola oil for frying
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
Spread the flour and the egg separately on two plates large enough to hold the fillets.
Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a skillet just large enough to hold the fish. As it warms, add the butter. Dip the fish fillets in the egg, then the flour, then the breadcrumbs. If necessary, lay the fish out and pat the breadcrumbs onto the fillets by hand. Lower them carefully into the oi, which should have a healthy sizzle, cooking 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels briefly, and serve with lemon wedges and a simple salad.