‘One Pot Recipes’ yields big flavor without a big mess. $24.95.

It’s almost unfair that Ellen Brown’s “One Pot Recipes,” in particular her crispy fish taco dish, was reviewed by this Mexican-food-loving gringo. Living near the Maine coast, my partner and I also enjoy seafood every chance we get and so have become fish taco aficionados.

The flavors in Brown’s crispy fish tacos made them better than any other we’ve had, but in texture, they seemed to be lacking. In some ways, so was the cookbook on the whole.

What drew me to “One Pot Recipes” was the colorful cover photo of a hearty, flavorful stew and the fact that this is Brown’s third book about quick-and-easy recipes for skillets and pressure cookers. Clearly, she knows the genre.

In the introduction, Brown offers compelling reasons to embrace one-pot meals – namely that you’ll never have to scrub more than one pot or pan.

“That’s why this book was born. It offers you maximum flavor with minimal cleanup,” Brown writes.

She also gives the history of slow cookers, including an interesting statistic: 90 percent of households have one, about as many as have coffee pots.

Unfortunately, the 231-page cookbook was light on photos, with one for every four or five recipes – in some parts fewer, some parts more. It’s a small thing, but I favor cookbooks that offer that immediate visual image of the vegetables, textures and meats in a dish. Plus, I like striving to make my dish look exactly like the one in the book.

The book has a variety of recipes throughout the seven chapters, primarily main courses, but no desserts. But with such an assortment, who needs sweets? There were meat recipes from an array of cultures, like Caribbean veal stew, chipotle pork and Spanish lamb shanks, as well as ample fish recipes like lobster risotto, herbed clams with linguine, curried fish stew and monkfish with cabbage, pancetta and potatoes.

Making Brown’s crispy fish tacos marked my first time cooking with halibut. What a treat it was to use this firm, meaty fish.

The best part of this recipe was the delicious combination of seasonings in the breadcrumb coating and the taco sauce, both of which were as light and flavorful as I’ve had. My partner prefers to taste more of the fish and not coat it, but I’m all for the slightly spicy and bold flavors in the bread coating that is made, in part, with panko, pine nuts, chili powder, cumin, Mexican hot sauce and garlic. The fish sauce was perfectly simple, calling only for hot sauce, sour cream and lime.

Together, both took 15-20 minutes to make.

We agreed the bold flavors along with the sliced avocado and jicama gave this fish taco the makings for a great party dish. It just felt to us that it needed something more – some cabbage, coleslaw or carrots for a bit more crunch.

In the end, we decided we will use Brown’s crispy fish taco recipe again, but tweak it to our liking.

Given the ease with which this dish came together and the memorable combination of flavors, we will experiment with this cookbook again. And if only one vessel needs to be scrubbed? All the better.

CRISPY FISH TACOS

Serves 4 to 6 / Time: 25 minutes

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup pine nuts

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1 1/2 pounds firm-fleshed fish fillets, such as scrod, halibut or striped bass

2 large eggs

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon Mexican hot sauce, such as Cholula, divided

2 garlic cloves, minced

Vegetable oil spray

12 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Sliced avocado, for serving

Sprigs of fresh cilantro, for serving

Shredded jicama, for serving

Lime wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the rack in the upper third of the oven and line a sheet pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Combine the panko and pine nuts in a heavy, resealable plastic bag. Crush the mixture with the flat side of a meat mallet or the bottom of a small skillet. Transfer the crumbs to the baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Wipe off the sheet pan with a paper towel.

While the crumbs are baking, cut the fish fillets into 1-inch-wide strips. Combine the eggs, mayonnaise, chili powder, cumin, 1 teaspoon of the hot sauce, garlic and additional salt and pepper in a mixing bowl, and whisk until smooth.

Place a wire cooling rack on the sheet pan, and grease it with vegetable oil spray. Dip the fish pieces in the mayonnaise mixture and then roll and press them gently into the crumbs, to help them adhere to the fish. Arrange the fish on the wire rack.

Bake the fish for 15 to 18 minutes, or until it flakes easily. Soften the corn tortillas by wrapping them in foil and baking them during the last 10 minutes that the fish is in the oven. While the fish bakes, combine the remaining hot sauce, sour cream, and lime juice in a bowl and stir well.

To serve, divide the fish among the tortillas and pass around bowls with the sour cream sauce, avocado, cilantro, jicama, and lime wedges.

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: FlemingPph

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