Whitefish & Fried Polenta – Made at Home


Any fool can pile ingredients so high that the sandwich is evacuated when you try and hold it. When given the chance to make their own sandwiches young children will often exercise little restraint with condiments. Grape jelly and relish do not compliment each other and if you employ both on the same sandwich you will have failed to achieve what I consider to be the most important element of a sandwich: Balance. In a truly great sandwich every element relates to the others. The flavors of any condiments play off the flavors of the main ingredient, contrasting textures come together to form a whole, and any strong ingredients like cheese or bacon are properly restrained into their supporting roles. It is a delicate harmony but any great sandwich must have balance.

If balance is a delicate harmony, my friends, then I am sad to say that this sandwich was a tepid bleat. I am being harsh, both associates who enjoyed this sandwich with me indicated it was tasty, but I feel to be fair I must be as harsh on my own creations as I am on those served to me elsewhere. The origin of this sandwich was the simple sun-dried tomato. In order to temper their bold flavor a bit I toasted some garlic and roasted a few red peppers and combined everything into a loose paste. Fish suggested itself and so the final major question was that of texture. Now, I believe contrasting textures are important in a sandwich but to always run to diametric opposites is a mistake. To put light, flaky fish on a hard, crusty roll would leave me with a sandwich that all but disintegrated while I tried to eat it. The classic ‘grinder’ ideal has its place but it wasn’t on this sandwich. The roll would have to be soft though in the end I toasted it a bit so that it would have a light crunch before giving way. I decided that my contrasting texture would come from fried polenta and I’m afraid that is where I went wrong. My experience working with polenta is limited and I just didn’t get it to fry up to the crisp I needed for this sandwich. It browned a bit but I was aiming for something more like polenta chips, something with true crunch to sit opposed to the soft fish and a soft roll. The crunch was absent and into its absence fell the entire sandwich.

The sandwich came together like so: The sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and toasted garlic were processed into a paste. The rolls were lightly toasted in the oven. The polenta was fried in a rosemary/lemon compound butter, the fish fillets simply got a little salt & pepper and were pan-fried in olive oil. A bit of mozzarella cheese was added though not too much, as I am ever wary of cheese overpowering the rest of the sandwich. In the final analysis I think that light hand might have been my undoing. The sun-dried tomato paste that I set out to highlight wasn’t as flavorful as it could have been, I included no vegetables and in general went for the minimal sandwich. With polenta fried up right and some bigger flavors I think this might be quite a sandwich. As it stands, though, this was a bland sandwich.