Friday, March 13, 2009

If It's 3 AM, That Must Be The Refrigerator Calling

I have been stress-eating (which now that I type those words, it sounds like I'm identifying myself as a stress junkie, shoveling as many anxiety-inducing experiences into my life as possible.)

Not the case. I suppose I could say "I have Stress Eating," because it is indeed a condition. In fact it was a much-publicized, very trendy condition that was all the rage about a year ago. It's been most recently associated with the type of nocturnal binging that is a reaction to certain sleep aids and anti-anxiety drugs. 

My stress eating and nighttime cravings are not related to any sort of drug reaction.

No, this is Recession-related Refrigerator Foraging. 

We all handle stress differently and I have been finding comfort in my kitchen, usually sometime around 3 AM. Armed with two spoons - one for the jar of almond butter, the other for whatever jam or preserves or jelly is on hand (which this week has been the incredible pomelo marmalade that Lon made) - I dip and dive into each container until I am fully sated, then I twist lids and snap covers back into place, put the spoons in the sink, and head back to bed feeling euphoric and giddy. It's only in the morning when I see the remnants of my overnight dining that I cringe (and mentally add another fifteen minutes on to the tread mill that day.) 

The past two nights, though, I added another item to the menu: Semi-sweet chocolate chips. So it was a spoonful of almond butter, followed by a spoonful of pomelo marmalade, followed by a handful of chocolate chips. And then I washed it all down with - I kid you not - a swig from the container of Half & Half. 

I am powerless against my condition: My name is Steven, and I am a stress eater. 

Stress eating is caused when levels of cortisol are raised by our body's reaction to prolonged periods of stress. To counter that we crave foods - like carbohydrates - that will dope our systems with a soothing rush of Serotonin. 

This is probably why I'm posting another recipe that is anything but heart healthy for the second day in a row: I'm craving fat, and the deeper the fry, the higher the high. 

Actually this recipe isn't that bad, all things considered. And it's simple. The time investment to enjoyment ratio is off the charts in my opinion as it is ridiculously easy to execute. The most energy you exert might be searching for chick pea flour a.k.a. garbanzo bean flour at your grocery store. (I suggest Whole Foods since they seem to have an array of hard-to-find flours and meals.) 

I started using chick pea flour around the holidays this past December and was instantly smitten. I credit the indispensable "1000 Indian Recipes" by Neelam Batra for turning me onto it and the secrets of its sweet, nutty goodness. I was looking to make fritters when I found the recipe for Pakora Fritters (pg 113 in the book.) I've adapted this and have used it to coat fish, chicken, vegetables, and I've even served deep-fried dots of the batter itself (called Boondi) over salads. 

You can use frozen cod fillets for this recipe, just thaw them and wash them off before dropping them in the batter. I don't even bother with a flour-to-egg-to-batter dredging. I simply plop them into the bowl, coat them, and drop them in the oil.

I don't use a deep fat frying thermometer. I test the oil by putting a drop of batter into the oil and when it floats immediately upon being dunked, then I know we're cooking with gas. So to speak. 

Finally, make sure your oil is hot. If it is you'll be gifted with golden crisp fish. If it isn't you'll have a greasy waste of good food. 

Without any further yapping, here's my recipe for... 

Oh My Gawd Battered Cod 
The fish.... 
1 1/2 lbs Cod fillets (frozen or fresh), cut into 2 inch pieces. Think chicken tender-sized portions and you have the right idea.

The batter... 
1 cup chick pea flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup of water (or more as needed. A splash of beer - like a tsp - wouldn't hurt either.) 

The oil...
16 oz Canola oil (plus more as needed)

1. Heat your oil in a dutch oven or cast iron skillet. (The latter might absorb the fishy smell and flavor for a few weeks afterward, so be careful.) Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper, preheat the oven for 250 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the pan inside the oven. You'll want to transfer the cooked pieces of fish onto here as the other pieces are frying. 

2. Mix your batter by sifting the chick pea flour, salt and baking soda together into a bowl. Thoroughly mix the dry ingredients, then begin adding water, stirring to form a smooth batter. If it's too wet, it won't stick to the fish. If it's too dry you'll end up with gummy lumps. Add extra flour or water as needed. When the mixture plops off of a dipped spoon, you're ready.

3. Place the pieces of cod into the batter and toss to coat, using your fingers. Allow the fish to sit in the batter as the oil heats. 

4. With a spoon, drop a small bit of batter into the oil. If it immediate bobs to the surface and begins sizzling, the oil is ready. If it's not hot enough the fish will sink so make sure you've reached a temperature somewhere close to 375 (if you're using a thermometer. I don't know.)

5. Using a slotted spoon or pair of tongs, place the fish in the oil. Allow it to cook two to three minutes then turn over. It should be a gorgeous golden brown. Remove pieces and place on pan in oven as remainder of fish is fried. 

Blot the fried pieces of fish with a paper towel if necessary, squeeze a lemon over them, and serve with a slaw of cabbage, granny smith apples and carrots tossed with rice vinegar. You'll want something on the astringent side to cut the fried batter. 

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