Sunday, October 17, 2010

Of loaves and fishes.

Balik emek. © Ryan Schierling
I was driving. An English gentleman on the radio was talking about the most transcendental sandwich he'd ever eaten, so I was all ears and stomach. 

He described the sun setting on the banks of the Bosphorus, where fishermen would grill freshly-caught mackerel, place it in a lightly-toasted crusty loaf and garnish it with thinly-sliced onions, sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. The last rays of daylight, the smell of fresh sea air mixed with smoke and grilled fish, this simple preparation and sublime sandwich… I'd been transported. 

I was salivating. I was exceeding the speed limit. I'd forgotten where I was going, so I turned and went home. I told Julie that we needed to go to Turkey, or Istanbul, or wherever the banks of the Bosphorus were, because I needed to experience this sandwich, this brilliant sandwich that changed this man on the radio's life. 

Julie said that, as much as she'd like to, we were not going to Turkey, or Istanbul, or wherever the banks of the Bosphorus were. She also said she didn't want to eat mackerel, an oily little smack of a fish with lots of tiny bones to choke on. But she decided she would compromise, so we went to the grocer instead and bought a pound of fresh cod filets, fresh-baked sandwich rolls, a sweet onion, a pair of lemons and a bag of charcoal. 

The cod was oiled, lightly seasoned and grilled to flaky perfection. The sandwich rolls were split open, toasted on the grill, swiped with paprika mayo, and stuffed with fish and thinly-sliced onion – then finished with a hit of lemon juice and a pinch of kosher salt. 

There was no better balik emek (fish on bread) anywhere that night, except maybe on the banks of the Bosphorus. 

Fish on bread 

Serves four. 

1 lb. fillet true cod, cut into two portions (thick end, thinner end) for even grilling
4 sandwich rolls
1 c. real mayonnaise w 1tbs. sweet paprika mixed in
1/2 sweet (Walla Walla, Vidalia or a Texas 1015) onion, cut into half rounds and sliced thin
2 lemons, wedged
kosher salt and black pepper 

Plate the cod, and pour a good 1/2 cup of olive oil over it. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Start your charcoal in the grill. Take 1 cup real mayonnaise and mix in 1 tbs. of Hungarian sweet paprika. Cut the onion in two, then thinly slice into half-rounds. Place the onion half-rounds into a small strainer and rinse with cold water. Slice two lemons into wedges and set aside. 

Grill the cod over medium-heat coals, watching for flare-ups from the oil on the fish dripping down onto the hot coals. Flip once. When the internal temperature of the fish is about 125-degrees and it is flaking nicely, remove to a clean plate and tent with foil. 

Split the sandwich rolls and grill them lightly until toasted inside, and just a little crunchy on the exterior. Generously spread the paprika mayo on the bread, flake the grilled cod into the bread, and cover with the thinly-sliced onions. Squeeze lemon juice onto the sandwich and sprinkle with kosher salt.

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