Eating fish during Lent is not as big a deal for Catholics as it used to be. It’s certainly no sacrifice. So many more people are in the habit of eating more fish often, and many people are vegetarians, or vegans. (Someday, I’ll sit down and figure out the difference. Right now, I’m still a meat lover.)
Good quality fish and shellfish are so easy to come by these days, even in regular grocery stores, even in the boonies. You don’t need a fish monger. “Lenten Specials” are everywhere. There’s hardly a restaurant or fast food place that isn’t featuring some fish favorite, and around here, they’re all pretty much under $10. This week, we saw a gang ad in the local paper that highlighted no less than 50 area restaurants advertising fish specials of some kind. And all the churches that are hosting fish dinners! We could make a Lent full of minor road trips just by traveling to all the different churches having fish, shrimp, even crab dinners on Fridays!
I guess the same was true when I was a child, mostly because people didn’t cook fish at home much. I hated Lent back then. It was either fish sticks or tuna fish salad or an outing to the local Knights of Columbus hall for fish dinner, which I didn’t like back then. I also think I was one of those rare kids who didn’t like macaroni-and-cheese from the box. I do remember once when my mom got creative a la Sandra Lee and poured a can of condensed Manhattan-style clam chowder over frozen, unbreaded fish fillets (a rarity, then) and baked them. I thought that was great, but I don’t remember it being repeated. Dad must not have liked it.
The first time I had fish that I really liked was when my husband cooked up some freshly-caught crappies for my birthday dinner. We were on a fishing trip in Black Lake, New York, with his parents and a couple of their friends, and it happened to be over my birthday. My husband decided he’d treat me to a fresh fish dinner, my first. I was really overwhelmed by just how good the fresh fish were. (It also could have been the fact that he was cooking.) He just cooked the fish, lightly dipped in beaten egg, then dry pancake batter seasoned only with salt and pepper, in butter. Not exactly a low-cal meal, but definitely delicious.
I’m now used to cooking a lot of fresh fish myself, thanks to over a decade’s worth of fishing trips to Canada where we’ve always caught our limit of walleye, and then ate our limit as well. The picture at the top of this post is one day’s catch! My sister-in-law Lori and I are pretty proud of all the different ways we’ve come up with to cook the walleye. Cajun, with lemon and garlic, with bacon, blackened, grilled, pan-fired, broiled – you name it, we’ve done it.
This morning on our walk, I talked to my husband about this post and asked him about his childhood memories of Lenten meals. They were much the same as mine: peanut butter sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, cheese pizzas, fried fish from the local tavern. (None of which sound bad at all!)
Times have changed, though. When I asked what he’d like for dinner tonight, he was thoughtful for a minute, then said, “How about that grilled shrimp and scallop dish I like, or the shrimp fettuccine, or, maybe the Thai thing.” Now I was thinking about a maple-glazed salmon, but I guess we’ll go with the Thai Shrimp. After all, he found the recipe while breezing through magazines in a hospital waiting room. (I did have to adapt it some.)
Here it is:
1 cup chicken broth
1 T cornstarch
3 T rice vinegar
2 T soy sauce
2 T water
1 T sriracha hot chili sauce*
1 T minced gingerroot
1 t minced garlic
1 pound uncooked, peeled shrimp
2 t sesame oil
1 can artichoke hearts, drained (not in oil)
3 T green onion, chopped
1 head bok choy
1. In bowl, place chicken broth and add cornstarch, stirring until smooth. Then stir in soy sauce, water, chili sauce, ginger, garlic. Set aside.
2. In large skillet, stir fry shrimp in sesame oil until pink. Remove from pan and keep warm.
Stir soy sauce mixture. Add to pan and bring to boil. Cook stirring about 2 minutes until thickened. Add artichokes and onions, top with bok choy. Reduce heat. Cover and cook 5 minutes, until bok choy is wilted. Return shrimp to pan and heat through.
3. Serve with rice.
* The original recipe called for Thai chili sauce, which I could not find. I’ve also added fresh mushrooms, about ½ pound, cooked with the shrimp.