One of my pet peeves is “bad buns”. No—not necessarily beachgoers who don’t suit up in front of mirrors, but fried or grilled fish sandwiches whose buns ruin a perfectly good meal. Forget soggy fries or wilted salads—they can be ignored. Just don’t give me a piece of fish on what’s essentially a stale piece of white bread!
I’m not saying that it’s easy to make a spectacular fish sandwich, but if you’re going to take the time to catch, clean and cook your fish, why not take the time to make a worthy bun? Soft and tasty pretzel rolls, in spite of the boiling and baking necessary to make them, are an excellent choice. The ingredients are simple and there are no special tools involved. And they add extra pizazz to what could be just an ordinary lunch or dinner.
As with any bread recipe, you’ll need to measure your ingredients carefully and pay attention to the ambient temperature of your workplace. Yeast breads can be finicky, but after the first rise is complete and successful, the only thing you’ll need to do is follow the instructions and take bows at the table.
I prefer grilled fish for these sandwiches and usually keep it simple. Just a sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning and a hot grill is all you need for perfect fish. Add some of my “special sauce” and dress the sandwich with slaw and tomato and it’s time to eat.
Soft Pretzel Rolls
2-3/4 cups high-gluten bread flour (King Arthur®)
1 packet quick-rising yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1-cup warm water
8 cups water
1/4-cup baking soda
2 tbs. sugar
1 egg white, beaten (for glaze)
coarse salt (optional)
Combine bread flour, yeast, 1-teaspoon salt and 1-teaspoon sugar in food processor and blend. With machine running, gradually pour warm water through feed tube, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Process 1 minute to knead. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.
Lightly grease and flour a baking sheet. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball. Place dough balls on prepared sheet, flattening each slightly. Using a serrated knife (or razor blade) cut an “X” in top center of each dough ball. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Then, using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging “X” side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.
Brush rolls with egg white glaze. Sprinkle rolls lightly with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Serve rolls warm or at room temperature. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. If so, let stand at room temperature and re-warm in 375°F oven 10 minutes.)
Capt. Tommy’s Special Sauce
For a tangy, quick and easy sauce that’s good with almost any fried or grilled fish, mix the following:
1 tbs. sweet pickle relish
Tabasco® sauce (to taste)
Juice of 1/2 lemon