Eastern Mediterranean countries grew thyme, an aromatic herb in the mint family Lamiaceae, for centuries before modern times. Now, dozens of varieties are available but those interested in the best culinary thymes have only a fistful of choices. The most commonly cultivated for culinary purposes is Thymus vulgaris. Those best for flavor, as well as ease of use, are the low-growing, shrubby ones known as English thyme, summer thyme, winter thyme, French thyme, lemon thyme and garden or common thyme. The most commonly cultivated for culinary purposes is Thymus vulgaris.
Ancient Egyptians used it for embalming. Ancient Greeks put it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples believing it was a source of courage. The spread of thyme throughout Europe was thought to be by the Romans who used it to purify their rooms and to lend an aromatic flavor to cheese and liqueurs. In the European Middle Ages the herb was placed under pillows to assist with sleep and to ward off bad dreams. In this period, women also often gave knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves to bring courage to the bearer. Thyme was also placed on coffins to assure the deceased of passage into the next life.
Before the advent of modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used to medicate bandages. Today, the essential oil of common thyme (T. vulgaris) has medicinal uses. It contains 20–54 percent thymol, an antiseptic, and is an active ingredient in various commercially produced mouthwashes such as Listerine.
Thyme is sold both fresh and dried. Fresh from the garden or greenhouse it is more flavorful but storage life is rarely more than a week. However, the fresh form can last many months if carefully frozen.Fresh thyme is commonly sold in bunches of sprigs. A sprig is a single stem snipped from the plant. It is composed of a woody stem with paired leafs or flower clusters.
A recipe may measure thyme by the bunch (or fraction thereof) or by the sprig, or by the tablespoon or teaspoon. Depending on how it is used in a dish. The whole sprig may be used (e.g., in a bouquet garni) or the leaves removed and the stems discarded. Usually, when a recipe specifies “bunch” or “sprig”, it means the whole form; when it specifies spoons, it means the leaves. It is perfectly acceptable to substitute dried for whole thyme. Thyme retains its flavor after drying better than many other herbs.
So, after all that info, it’s time cover crappie nuggets with thyme.
- 2 pounds fillets cut into 1 1/2-inch nuggets
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
- 1 cup spicy brown mustard
- oil for frying
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Place fish pieces into a plastic bag or mixing bowl and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Toss until the nuggets are evenly coated. Mix in the mustard with your hands. Seal bag or cover bowl to refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, whisk in flour, salt, black pepper and baking soda. Dip the nuggets one at a time into the flour mixture and shake off the excess. Fry fish in batches until they are golden brown (3 to 4 minutes). Let the oil come back up to temperature between batches. Drain the nuggets on a paper towel-lined plate and serve with a dipping sauce.
Some of these sauces may float your boat and they can all be purchased for quick and easy serving. Tartar Sauce–Ketchup–BBQ Sauce–Nacho Cheese–Cocktail Sauce–Buffalo Sauce–Honey Mustard–Ranch.
If you prefer to make your own condiment and give your taste buds an extra kick, whip up one of these:
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup Sriracha (or more to taste)
- Salt & pepper to taste
Mix items together and serve in individual small bowls. Chill if desired.
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
- 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- Salt & pepper to taste
Peel ginger (scrape skin off with a teaspoon) and chop or grate finely. Combine with soy sauce, chili flakes, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper. Mix well.