Recipes: Wok-Steamed Crappie with “Instant” Preserved Lemons, by Vernon Summerlin
A wok is a round-bottomed cooking pot, originating in China. But they work great for preparing delicious crappie in the USA.
The lemon, Citrus limon, is a species of small evergreen tree in the flowering plant family Rutaceae, native to South Asia, primarily Northeastern India. It is broadly use to enhance flavors in recipes. Sauces and foods containing lemon juice help in the digestion of fried foods. Lemons are also used in baked goods and desserts to provide a light, fresh flavor. They are also used as a garnish in the form of a slice or wedge added to the plate for squeezing juice on your fish.
The two kinds of lemons are sweet and acidic. If the lemon is sweet then it has no acidity. These lemons are also called sweet limetta, sweet lime and Mediterranean Sweet Lemon. The peel has a huge amount of lemon oil and these lemons can be eaten like any other fruit.
When we talk about regular or common lemons, we’re usually referring to Eureka or Lisbon lemons. These are the two most common varieties found in the produce section and they tend to be light or bright yellow and oblong with a thick, bumpy peel. Meyer lemons are juicy, sweet and thin-skinned. They are less acidic than regular lemons and lack the familiar punch of tartness. They also have a deep yellow skin and dark yellow pulp. Their skin is smoother, they’re smaller in size and rounder than Eureka or Lisbon. You can tell them apart at the market by their shape and peel.
- 2 whole crappies; scaled and gutted
- 2 lemons*
- 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Water for steaming
- 2 tablespoons canola oil**
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced lengthwise
*Supermarket lemons, unless they’re labeled organic, are probably waxed. To remove the unappetizing wax, blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds and then wipe them with a clean towel to remove the wax.
Make the “instant” preserved lemons by slicing and discarding all seeds. Stir slices with their juice, salt and sugar in a lidded jar or bowl. Don’t store in a metal container other than stainless steel: Think glass! Let the lemons sit at room temperature for about three hours; every now and then giving the jar a good shake and then refrigerate until ready to use. The lemons will last up to a week in the fridge.
Position the fish on a heatproof plate and insert several slices of the preserved lemon in its cavity Set the wok over high heat. Make a steaming platform grid with four chopsticks or other sticks, or else build a platform out of crumpled-up aluminum foil. The idea is to elevate the plate to keep it above the water. Add enough water to almost touch the platform. When the water boils, carefully lower the plate onto the platform and cover the wok. Steam the fish for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on size and thickness. Check the fish after 6 minutes by poking it with a fork or knife; it will flake easily when done. Carefully remove the plate from the wok and set aside, using the wok cover to keep it warm. Empty the wok completely, wipe it out and then return it to the heat. When the wok is hot, add the canola oil. While the oil is heating, sprinkle the scallions over the fish. If you have any preserved lemon slices remaining, top the fish with a few of those too. Now for the fun – but be very careful! When the oil is smoking (you want it to be dangerously hot), drizzle it onto the fish and enjoy the wild crackling sounds.
- 1 1⁄2 pound crappie fillets
- 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped sweet, dill or bread-and-butter pickles, plus some pickle juice
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large egg whites, beaten
- 1 cup finely ground cornmeal
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- Canola oil for frying
Make the tartar sauce in a small bowl by combining mayonnaise with the pickles and parsley. Sprinkle in some pickle juice to get a saucy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cut fillets into long, finger-like strips. Prepare an assembly line for breading the fish by setting out three bowls: Put flour in one and season generously with salt and pepper; egg whites in the second; and cornmeal in the third, also seasoning it with salt and pepper. One at a time, coat each strip of fish with the flour, shaking off any excess. Then dip it into the egg whites and allow the excess to drip off. Lastly, dip the fish into the cornmeal coating the strips thoroughly and shaking off any excess. Keep the fish on a plate until you’re ready to fry. Heat a large saute` pan over medium-high heat and add about 1⁄4 inch of oil. When the oil is hot, add as many strips of fish as you can fit without crowding the pan. Cook until golden on the bottom then turn and cook the other side the flesh is opaque. Serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.