The recipe was from the 2nd edition of Lucky Peach, a food quarterly written by David Chang and Peter Meehan. Call me a Momofuku fan girl and it's true; I am a huge fan. My first stumbling block was in the blackening spice. It called for Grains of Paradise (below); what? Aframomum melegueta, a spice of the ginger family. Fine, there are shops online that sell it. Pure tomato powder? Also tricky, but not impossible. Chang's recommended shop sells both but ships to the US only, so I managed to combine this with my New Year New York trip.
But what's this, KONBU POWDER? Good lord. A spice grinder was purchased. It was no easy feat, the toasting and grinding of 6 different spices, and then dry roasting a piece of konbu seaweed too, before grinding it into oblivion. At one point I cursed the day I set eyes on the recipe.
Bluefish. What is bluefish? Not something I'd seen before at the fishmongers. I wearily swapped in mackerel instead, beautiful shiny fillets glimmering with freshness.
Finally I could set about making my sandwich. The only thing left to do was to make the miso mayonnaise. It was described as 'one of the standout parts of the dish' so, you know, it was quite essential. Of course when I got to making the mayonnaise the bloody thing split and I, arm limp from constant whisking, had to chuck it all away and start again. Even an extra egg yolk wouldn't save this demonic sauce. I gritted my teeth and got to it.
Bread toasted, miso mayo smeared, gherkins balanced carefully atop the shredded lettuce and mackerel slid on top, AT LAST. I took a glorious bite and then it was all worth it. The fish was spicy and crispy and moist, the grains of paradise giving it a little lemony tartness. The miso mayo was nutty, rich and luxurious. The pillowy ciabatta held it's bounty well, pickles snapping under the teeth and the lettuce cooling the mouth. Thank Christ.
I watched my housemates devour theirs, all beady-eyed like a hawk for their reactions. This was my baby. I was too attached to make an informed decision.
"That was freaking delicious."
And then I realised I'd forgotten about the potato chips, also dredged in blackening spice and layered into the middle of the sandwich. !*&%!
For the sandwich
1 loaf of ciabatta
4 mackerel fillets
A couple handfuls of shredded Iceberg lettuce
4 pickled cucumbers (I bought these, dill pickles. Chang includes a recipe to make them. No way man.)
Slice the loaf into 4 sandwich sizes. Split in half, smear with butter and grill inside up to toast. Meanwhile dredge the mackerel fillets in the spice mix and fry on both sides for 2 - 3 mins in hot oil.
Smear the toasted bread with the miso mayo. Add shredded lettuce, then the gherkin and the fish fillets. Place the other side of bread on top and slice in half to serve. The recipe also recommends making crisps and then sprinkling them in the blackening spice. I forgot and it was still awesome.
Enough to make this recipe a couple of times
This is in teaspoons, tablespoons and cups. Sorry. I know we don't use cups but I forgot to convert them.
3 tbsp grains of paradise
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seed
4 tbsp mustard seeds (the yellow kind)
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp whole allspice
1/4 cup of ground konbu - cut a sheet of konbu up into small pieces and then toast in a dry frying pan. You'll need more seaweed than you think. Grind to a fine powder once cooled.
3 tbsp onion powder
6 tbsp cayenne powder
1/4 cup of tomato powder
1/2 cup sweet Spanish smoked paprika
Toast and grind the whole spices, then mix with everything else.
1 egg yolk
250ml neutral oil
2 tbsp white miso
1 tbsp cider vinegar
A pinch of salt
Use your best mayonnaise making technique and add the miso. I won't tell you mine because it failed once. Chang recommends a food processor, pureeing the egg yolk while adding the oil in a slow steady stream. Add the miso and vinegar and pulse to combine.