Cooking For Others: Fish, Chips, and a Farewell
EVENT: Whitney’s Leaving For London
VENUE: Phoebe ‘s Apartment, Flatiron
PARTY SIZE: 6
TYPE: Weeknight Eat-Away-Our Sorrows Sob Fest
MENU: Baja Fish Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Crema; Mixed Greens with Creamy Mango Vinaigrette; Guacamole (Steph); Chips and Salsa (Dos Caminos, by way of Rodrigo)
This post marks my exit from a profound state of denial, and a newfound peace with life as I’ve known it since finishing off those last bites of fish taco back in May. Yes, it’s taken a few months for me to stomach Whitney’s departure. And it was with a heavy heart that we all gathered at my apartment that night for her farewell meal before she crossed the pond and left us for good.
I met Whitney about two years ago, just a few weeks after graduation, on a street corner outside Grey’s Papaya. It was about 3 in the morning, and still in college mode, I was hankering for a late night grease feast. After fully ensuring I would have a stomachache the following morning, I wandered over to join my then-boyfriend—and the pretty brunette he was talking to. Once jealousy had subsided, my first impression was of how polite and articulate this girl must be for having just spent 4 hours at Joshua Tree getting spilled on and pushed around by some of the worst people on earth. I asked her where she was from, and she said Kansas. A few minutes later I cursed and felt the immediate inclination to apologize.
There’s very little I can do to hide when I’m a total mess, so I felt I could learn a lot from this girl, who always appears to have it together. After two years, I’m no closer to knowing how to do this. But I am lucky enough to have found a great friend in her, a fellow Scorpio no less, to help me pick up the pieces when life does take those occasional nosedives. Now, with her coping with a move to London and a major life change, the tables have turned a bit, and I’ve gotten a small peak into Whitney’s life when things are just shy of tidy. And it was in those few weeks leading up to this meal, when her own vulnerability was left unhidden, that I truly learned what an amazing friend I had found on the corner, and what a mess my life would once again become when she left.
For a week we played out Whitney’s departure with epic style and gusto. The last night before her flight, though she had yet to finish packing (a mess, indeed), 6 of us came together for one last meal. To celebrate all great things to come (fried fish, pubs, and rainfall), and lament those small aspects of New York life she’d be leaving behind (Mexican takeout, weekend brunch, and us), I whipped up some Baja Fish Tacos as a last culinary hurrah. Steph made delicious garlicky guacamole, and her boyfriend, Rodrigo, who just happens to be Mexican too, stopped by Dos Caminos en route and managed to swindle 1 quart of New York’s finest salsa for free. Though the meal was a bittersweet one for all involved, I’m sure in the coming months Whitney will have her fair share of sunny days, Fish and Chips straight from the newspaper cone, and a few new friends to lend her a helping hand or, say, a napkin, when she starts to make a mess.
From my kitchen, where life is a little bit messier without the help of a friend, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Baja Fish Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Crema
Makes 4 servings
For the Fish:
1 lb mahi mahi, cut into strips
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 cup flour
2 cups cabbage, finely shredded (about ¼ head)
1 avocado, sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges
6 soft flour tortillas
Hot sauce (optional)
NOTE: if the seafood counter doesn’t have fresh mahi mahi, you can use another flakey white fish like cod or tilapia.
For the Cilantro-Lime Crema:
1/2 lime, juiced
4 ounces sour cream
1 garlic clove, pushed through a press
1/4 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp cumin
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp chives, chopped (optional)
Fill a deep skillet or dutch oven with about 1 ½ to 2 inches of vegetable oil and heat it over a high flame.
In a shallow bowl, whisk the egg together with a few tablespoons of water. Set aside two additional shallow bowls and fill one with the breadcrumbs, and the other with the flour. Dredge the fish strips, one at a time, in the flour, shaking off any excess. Pass the floured strips through the egg wash and then roll in the breadcrumbs until fully coated. Repeat with each strip.
Fry the breaded fish strips in the hot oil until a dark golden brown on both sides. Remove the fish and set aside on paper towels to drain.
In the meantime, wrap the tortillas in a tight packet of foil and place in a 300 degree oven until heated through, about 5 minutes.
Combine all ingredients for the crema in a food processor and blend until fully incorporated.
Arrange the crema, sliced avocado, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, and tortillas buffet style on a counter top. When the fish is no longer piping hot, set along side the condiments and allow guests to serve themselves.
Mixed Greens with Creamy Mango Vinaigrette
Makes 6 side servings
10oz mixed greens
½ mango, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 avocado, diced (optional)
For the dressing:
1/2 mango, peeled and cored
1 cup cilantro
½ cup sour cream
1 small shallot
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
1 lime, juiced
¼ cup olive oil
salt to taste
In a small food processor, combine all ingredients for the dressing. Toss together with the greens and sliced avocado. Serve alongside the fish tacos.