The secret is in the sauce, of course.
Nothing wrong with a fish sandwich from your favorite fast-food restaurant. Nothing special about it either.
If you want a really scrumptious fish sandwich for supper or a Sunday brunch you’ll have to put it together yourself, using fish of your own catching and sauce of your own mixing. And your own, or my, fish sandwich recipes.
A slab of redfish, grouper or some other pet variety from your cooler or freezer will be the centerpiece of your creation, but the other components should be special, too. A hamburger bun will hardly do it justice. Instead try a favorite roll or a section of baguette, Cuban bread or French bread, cut to the length you think you can handle and then sliced in half horizontally.
If you want to take the trouble, you can fry your fillet in some crunchy coating, but it will be equally sandwich-suitable if simply grilled or pan-fried in a little olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder, or with some commercial seasoning mix you especially like.
Although lettuce and sliced tomato add to the effect (and might help ease any dietary guilt), the really important fixin’ for a fine fish sandwich is a savory tartar sauce. I repeat—savory. The typical tartar sauce, as served in a fast-food joint, is probably just mayonnaise and relish. At home you can start with those but you’ll add all sorts of goodies according to your taste or mood. Minced olives, grated onions, horseradish, capers, various herbs and spices—all await your command.
If you don’t feel secure about freelancing your own custom tartar sauce, try one of these.
SAVORY HERB TARTAR SAUCE
1⁄2 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic salt
1⁄4 cup lemon juice
1⁄2 cup chopped parsley or
1 tbsp. dried parsley flakes
1 tsp. ground oregano
1 tsp. ground pepper
1⁄2 cup orange juice
Combine the ingredients and marinate the fish for up to 30 minutes. Too long in the marinade can make fine grained fish mushy.
Now here’s one with a little more kick:
1⁄3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 tsp. horseradish
1 clove garlic, chopped
1⁄2 tsp. ground oregano
1⁄2 tsp. dried basil
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄4 tsp. pepper
1⁄3 cup olive oil
Although all ingredients may simply be mixed together well, I prefer to use a blender, blending the first eight ingredients together quickly, then gradually blending in the oil.
TARRAGON TARTAR SAUCE
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. lemon juice
¼ cup dill relish
1 tbsp. capers, drained and minced
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped (or 1⁄2 tsp. dried)
1 clove garlic, minced
With either recipe, the instructions are simple. All you need do is whisk the wet ingredients together then stir in the dry ones.
Making sandwiches is also one of my favorite things to do with leftover fish. For instance, by using a thick spread of flaked, white-meat fish mixed with special tartar sauce, you can turn out an open-faced brunch or luncheon treat that will please even a mean mother-in-law.
SUNNY FISH SANDWICHES
½ English muffin
¼ cup fish spread (flaked fish with tartar sauce)
2 asparagus spears (canned OK)
1 slice sharp processed cheese
Butter or margarine
Recipe makes one sandwich; use it in multiples as needed. Toast and butter muffin half. Spread liberally with fish mixture. Place asparagus spears on fish and top with the cheese slice, cut into four triangles. (Of course you can use small slices of real dairy cheese if you prefer.) Place under broiler or in toaster oven until cheese melts.
Still sandwich-hungry? Well, a nice piece of cold grilled or broiled fillet can be quickly re-seared on both sides in a very hot skillet and then treated as described earlier. Heck. I usually skip the reheating and treat the fillet as if it were just another “cold cut.”
In not much more time than it takes to open a can, you can fork-mix any cold fish with a special tartar sauce and build salad-type sandwiches that outshine any you could make with canned tuna. Boneless fillets, of course, are the easiest to flake. You need only operate on them with a fork. You can even use cold fried fish. Scrape away the breading if you like, but I seldom bother. It just becomes part of the filling.
Finally, whenever I’m lucky enough to find leftover chunks of white flesh still clinging to the skeleton of, say, a baked snapper or redfish, I gleefully dig it away from those bones (using a fork if someone is watching; my fingers if not) and sandwich it between bread slices with mayonnaise, lettuce and sliced tomato. Beats a sandwich made of cold turkey breast any old day—and I mean carved turkey breast, not deli-sliced.
First published in the March, 2011 Florida Sportsman.