It’s Father’s Day time again, and so naturally The Big Buddha has been on my mind. More than once in recent memory he’s popped into my subconscious in the wee small hours of the morning and thus stuck with me all day, which gets me thinking of all the memories from years past. This will be our fifth Father’s Day without him and this time of year, part of me starts to pang a little bit more than normal.
It’s not that I don’t think of him often. All the things I’ve been up to, the places I’ve been- I want to tell him, even though I know he somehow knows. I started playing tennis again for the summer; a hobby that I hated from age 4-13, but now love, and I’m forever grateful for all those years of lessons. After the French Open, I wonder what he would have to say about Wimbledon? Also, I have two friend weddings this summer and will have watched two father-daughter dances by the end of it. That’s something I’ll never get to do. I wonder, what song would we have picked? Probably something by James Taylor or Dean Martin or something Motown, if I had to guess. Things like that I can’t help but ponder.
Might as well fry up some veggies while we’re at it…
Anyway, I’m currently working my way through some of my favorite novels by Kathy Reichs, purposely avoiding the one that I need to read for book club next week (note: Do NOT read these or similar crime novels before bed if you live alone. I often find myself wide awake and hearing “noises” which cause me to lurk around my apartment with my night weapon only to discover there is nothing there. Yup…) These novels are often set in Charlotte, and as the protagonist describes the ambience and laissez faire attitude of southern living, I find that I have been wishing myself down to “my” part of the south. Florida. Actually, that was The Big Buddha’s part of the south. I’m definitely a Midwest sort of girl and actually dislike much about the land of Dixie, but he loved Florida, and it was because of him that my little family of four kept returning.
Despite my distaste for it, there are parts of life down there that I can’t strike from my memory and yes, some things I miss. For example, a backyard pool. I do miss that this time of the year. Also, the ocean. I lived less than 15 miles from it for the first thirteen years of my life and while I appreciate the beauty of Lake Michigan every day from my office, it lacks the easy rhythm of the crashing waves, the constant squawk of those pesky gulls and the sheer expanse of the Atlantic. My dad used to love that- going to the beach, even though he was never much of a sunbather.
We left the hustle of Miami when I was 11, and settled in a tiny retirement town about 20 miles south of Daytona Beach. At that point, during middle school, we had what seemed like almost a weekly tradition of going to our favorite seafood restaurant, the now defunct Sea Harvest. If you could call it a restaurant. It was little more than a shack on the docks, a sheet metal sided hut that boasted some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever tasted. There was no ceremony to the place at all- we ate our meals, styrofoam containers filled to the brim with fried clams, shrimp, oysters and hush puppies- on weathered picnic tables that overlooked the Intercoastal waterway while sipping pink lemonade or sweet tea. Often times we came straight from the beach or tennis courts, brows drenched in sweat or toes filled with sand. It didn’t matter, because in those moments the conversation flowed with ease and our moods were at an all time high. Beach bums for moment in time.
I was trying to think of what to make for Father’s Day after making peanut butter cookies last year, and with my yearning for life back on the docks, a fry up seemed just what the Dr. Buddha ordered.
Now, remember how I don’t fry things? Aside from the paczkis, that was my one and only fry day. As I thought about just baking everything, I decided that if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right.
No baked shrimp and oven fries today.
It wasn’t as scary as I thought, but did take quite a bit of time just for a lowly dinner for one. Still, it’s the thought that counts.
I wanted to remake the fish fry from the UK that I did bake and see how things turned out fried. And because you can’t eat shrimp naked, a spicy dipping was also in order. I tried to replicate the sauce that Sea Harvest used to serve with its conch fritters (the best. BEST.) unsuccessfully, but I did end up with a wonderful spicy aioli, based on the one I made for the Pescado a la Plancha. It served my purposes well.
All it needed was some sea air. The Big Buddha would approve.
- 1 pound of whatever sort of mixed seafood you want (I used shrimp and bay scallops)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 TB cornstarch
- 2 TB cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2-3/4 cup bottled beer
- 1 cup vegetable oil, enough for 3” in whatever pot you’re frying in
- French fries, to serve
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 whole egg
- 1/2-1 cup olive oil
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp sriracha
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 tsp chives
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large Dutch oven, heat about 3” of oil to about 325F.
- While that’s heating, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, cornmeal, baking powder, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Dredge each bit of the seafood in the flour, shaking well to remove excess. Set the seafood aside.
- To the flour mixture, add the beer, enough to make a thin batter until it fall sin a thin, steady stream. Dip the seafood into the batter, letting the excess drip off.
- Fry in the hot oil, about 2 minutes per shrimp/scallop, until each piece is golden brown. Drain on a cooling rack lined with paper towels. Serve with the aioli.
- To make the aioli, add the eggs, chives and seasonings into a blender. While the blender is on, slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin, steady stream until a creamy sauce forms. Add the lime juice in the end, keeping the blender on until the sauce stays smooth.
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