Found Friendship in the Weeds
By Joe Farrell
Over the last month, I have been so fortunate to cook with a buddy whom I hired a year and a half ago at a restaurant in Toronto’s Distillery District. Right from the start there was an immediate connection, mutual understanding, and comradeship between us. This buddy’s first shift in, he was put on one of the busiest stations; the grill. Not far into his shift, this line cook, now friend, found himself deep in the weeds. In the restaurant industry “being in the weeds” refers to being really busy, where the orders keep coming in non-stop.
Some folks get themselves in the weeds due to poor organization, a lack of experience, sometimes it’s due to a lack of training and or being new, and other times it’s just because the restaurant got slammed. In my buddy’s case he was in the weeds due to a questionable kitchen management decision of putting a new guy on an important station before he was well acquainted with the kitchen on a busy night. Let it be known that I was not there managing the kitchen on the evening of this fine line cook’s debut.
Over the course of our working relationship at this particularly busy Distillery District eatery, my fellow cooking friend and I found ourselves in the weeds many a time. Often we’d be in the weeds on Sunday brunches for reasons mostly beyond our control. In working those busy and challenging shifts together our appreciation grew for one another in witnessing hard work ethic, patience, cooking skills, and grace under fire. To this day I have a deep respect and maintain friendships with those fellow kitchen staff and sometimes front of house staff, who are reliable and who I can count on when the restaurant is in the weeds.
This week’s recipe is a dish that he and I collaborated on this past month. It’s a summer dish in honor of local fish and the fishing season that’s upon us.
Quick Pickled Local Fish
Make per side or filet of chosen fish; white fish or pickerel are nice choices.
Mixture of equal parts salt and sugar by weight; enough to evenly coat each side of your fish filet. Option dress with fresh herbs of your choice, such as dill.
Tightly wrap in cheesecloth and place on a wire rack. Place a plate on top of the wrapped fish to weigh it down. Place fish in fridge at least 24-hours or until the fish flesh is firm.
Once fish has cured overnight and flesh is firm, rinse the fish and pat dry.
Heat a frying or cast iron pan to high heat. Coat pan with cooking oil. Lightly sear each side of cured fish on high heat until golden.
Prepare equal parts of your favourite vinegar, water with a pinch of salt and other seasonings of your choice – examples peppercorns, dill seeds, garlic, onion. Bring the pickling liquid to a boil, let cool and pour over top of seared fish in a container. Make sure there is enough liquid to just cover the fish and place the pickled fish in the fridge for at least over night. Enjoy the next day and for days to come. Pairs well with a bitter green salad tossed with olive oil and lemon juice.