Author Ernest J. Gaines grew up in Pointe Coupee Parish just northwest of Baton Rouge and is one of Louisiana’s most accomplished writers. I’m so mad at myself for not having read his work before now. Parental exhaustion and bedtime Netflix have snaked their way into my pleasure reading habit, but I’m rectifying that. I just finished A Lesson Before Dying this week, and now I’m floating in the good book fog. Good, but painful.
It’s been so much fun to connect with old friends and meet new folks at the various book signings and events featuring Hungry for Louisiana. THANKS to everyone who has come out and chatted with me about foodways (I’ve learned a lot!), and check out my Events page for upcoming events.
Fulfilling my pledge to teach my children to cook this summer, I grabbed the youngest (the only one I could find at the time), and said, “let’s cook chili!” He was game. Doing something without his older brother and sister to boss him around sounded appealing, so off we went into the kitchen to make our family’s signature four-ingredient chili. It’s fast, simple and homey, and we eat it year-round, even in stifling 90-plus degree weather.
San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, each one offering a different vibe and, if you know where to look, incredible grassroots food. On our recent trip, we situated ourselves in the Mission District because of its reasonable housing for a group of six, and its proximity to authentic affordable eats. John and I have been to San Francisco several times, but this was the first time we brought our children (ages 13, 11 and 8) and my mother-in-law. Here are a few highlights that might be helpful if you’re headed that way.
Mild, white fish needs a little help to shine. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is by painting one side of the fillet with Dijon mustard before breading and pan-frying. The tangy mustard is a great foil for the fish’s neutral flavor, lacing it with punchiness and locking in its juices.
This is a dish designed to please modern families. It’s affordable, flavorful, appealing to children and ready in 10 minutes. You can dress it down with Cole slaw and baked beans, or up with fresh asparagus or broccoli rabe. And its preparation requires only a few dishes.
4 mild, white fish fillets, such as flounder, tilapia, catfish, grouper or speckled trout
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
½ cup corn meal
½ teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil for frying
Fresh lemon and herbs for garnish
Mango salsa (optional)
Place fillets in a pie plate and pour milk over them, ensuring each is wet on both sides. In another pie plate, or on a large dinner plate, add bread crumbs, corn meal, salt and pepper. Blend with a fork. Place mustard in a small bowl. Lift each fillet from milk, slather one side with about a tablespoon of mustard, then dredge fish in bread crumb mixture on both sides, starting with the mustard side. Gently shake off excess, and place fillets on clean plate.
Heat about 3-4 tablespoons olive oil to medium high in large skillet, or enough to thoroughly coat bottom of pan. When oil is hot, add fillets. Cook for two minutes on one side, then carefully flip and cook two minutes on the other side.
Serve immediately with fresh lemon, chopped herbs and a side of store bought or homemade mango salsa.