When in Fargo, I try to make three stops before heading back west to Bismarck:
1. A cute (and cheap!) downtown clothing store, Little Black Dress
2. My favorite patisserie, Nichole's Fine Pastry
3. The Asian grocery store
As my conference concluded early on a Monday afternoon, I cruised to downtown Fargo to pop into each one, giddy at the idea I had no child with me so I could do simple adult things that have become so rare and treasured, like browse clothing without chasing a two-year-old through the racks; sip a latte in a quiet, clean environment rather than finishing my kid's apple juice at our kitchen table covered with toast crumbs and squished peas; peruse shelves of spicy sauces and exotic ingredients rather than standing in the supermarket debating between honey or cinnamon grahams.
You don't debate between honey and cinnamon grahams? It's a constant tug-of-war in my mind, can't decide which I like better.
Yes, I need a life.
So back to Fargo, imagine my disappointment when I pulled up to Little Black Dress and saw this:
Closed. Monday. Dang. I pressed my nose to the glass, hoping it was a mistake. It was not a mistake. Who knew a mannequin in a store window could be such a tease?
That dress is too adorbs. I'm such a sucker for stripes ever since I watched that Chanel movie with Audrey Tautou. Which made me think French. Which made me want quiche. Which made me think...Nichole's!
Yes, the little slice of European café heaven that is Nichole's with lovely tarts, the smell of deliciousness wafting in the air, the whole thing just making you want to tie on a mock-Hermes scarf and sip a real cappuccino out of a real cup while eating real, real good pastry.
Odd. It looks a little dim in there. Oh no. No, please don't tell me...
Although I understand bakers need rest too, my heart breaks a little deeper.
So no new dress. No buttery, savory quiche. But I brighten up, knowing I have one last stop on this Monday afternoon and fortunately, the Asian market is reliably open.
I heart the Fargo Asian market. It's right on Main near downtown. As reader friend mentioned when she picked up some curry paste for me, it smells a little funky in there. But just dive in - it won't kill you.
I love the amazing array of rices that always reminds me there is an entire world beyond "white" and "brown." I love the jars of sauces and pastes and oils and spices, each one brimming with potential to tickle my taste buds in ways I've never experienced before. I love the freezer case filled with mystery meats that I haven't dared to try yet (cow uterus? baby octopus?). And I really, really love the fresh produce section, the only place in North Dakota that I've found where I can reliably find baby bok choy, fresh oyster mushrooms, lime leaves, Japanese eggplant, and a whole host of other fruit/veg/egg products I don't readily recognize. I'm sure most everything is imported, or at least transported from far outside of North Dakota, but this is my big city indulgence. Just like really small town people get all excited when they shop at Kohl's. The Fargo Asian grocery is my Kohl's. Trader Joe's is my Menards. Byerly's (in Minneapolis) is my Bloomingdale's. Whole Foods is my Nordstrom.
So when hubby came home from the first fishing trip of the year with walleye freshly caught from the mighty Missouri River that rolls by Bismarck, you have to pardon me if I had Asian flavors on the mind. With a some recipe direction from Mark Bittman, I cracked open my new bottle of sesame oil and drizzled it over the fillets, rolled the fish in some toasted sesame seeds, and fried 'em up in a cast iron pan of hot oil. Texture was awesome - I've never had walleye with such a crunchy, crispy coating - but the taste was plain. After all, it was just fish, sesame seeds, and oil.
But then we dipped them in the sauce.
Yes. That was exactly what it needed. Perfect. Maybe, just maybe, better than quiche.
Sesame Crusted Walleye
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I buy sesame seeds in bulk from Penzey's; I'm willing to bet that the Asian market has them too. As always, when frying fish, beware the vicious oil splatter.
1 or 1-1/2 pounds fresh walleye fillets (can substitute other firm fleshed white fish)
1 cup white sesame seeds
Salt and pepper
Dark sesame oil
Canola oil for frying
Toast sesame seeds in a saucepan or cast iron pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until they start to appear golden brown and smell fragrant. Pour into a shallow dish.
Rub fish with 1 Tablespoon dark sesame oil. Season fillets with salt and pepper.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 2-3 mins. Add at least enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, more is preferable, up to ½” deep in the pan (more hot oil = crisper coating). Dredge the fillets in the toasted sesame seeds, patting to help the seeds adhere, and carefully add them to the hot oil. Raise the heat to high and cook until golden on each side, about 5 mins total.
While the fish is cooking, mix up the sauce: 3 Tablespoons soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil. Serve with hot fish.