Fried Peanut Butter!
The other day on one of my many rabbit holes along the information superhighway, I ran across this gem of a Howcast video featuring unusual uses for peanut butter. My eyebrows perked up when I saw this, as I couldn’t think of any better way to use peanut butter aside from shoving it in large spoonfuls into my mouth. Most of them were kind of out there (erm, shaving cream?), but one of them particularly caught my interest.
Peanut butter air freshener. I kid you not.
Apparently peanut butter cuts the stink of cooking fish if you add it into the pan while cooking. (I know, I was as surprised as you are now when I had read that.) I wondered how could that ever possibly work without becoming an absolute mess. Wouldn’t the peanut butter just spread all over the pan and gunk up whatever the catch of the day was? Why not just use peanut oil, wouldn’t that work?
So, I decided to try it out in the least scientific way possible: by doing it myself.
Not only did I decide to try this out on my own, I also decided to try it out on one of the hottest, most humid days of the summer WITHOUT air conditioning. To top that off, I got the nastiest, stinkiest fish I could think of- day old, Atlantic coast farm raised salmon portions with color added. (I mean, really, if I was going to do this I was going to turn the dials up to eleven.) I traipsed on back to my apartment, quietly wondering if my roommate would move out in the dark of night after this potential Hiroshima.
In order to get the full experience, I decided to try two versions of the same dish. One pan would feature
this waste of aquaculture the salmon fried in one tablespoon of grapeseed oil and one tablespoon of peanut butter. The other pan would have the fish fried in one tablespoon of peanut oil. Both pans were cast iron and similar sized. Both fish portion sizes were the same 75 gram weight. The temperature was the same for both pans. I rolled up my sleeves and got to experimenting.
I lightly seasoned each fillet with salt and pepper (as that is the only thing that good fish ever needs pre-cooking, thankyouverymuch) then placed them, skin side down, in the pan. They hissed and spat, drowning in the excessive amount of oil that I had chosen to use. Here’s how they looked.
Take a look at pan number two, the one with the big glob of Skippy in it. Isn’t that amazing? The peanut butter doesn’t budge! I could definitely foresee more experiments involving deep fried peanut butter coming into my future.
Anyways, I let those puppies go for a minute or two in the pan until they’d have a chance to fully bloom in their fragrance profile. Then, in the name of science, I got down real close to the pan to breathe deep and…
Holy Mary on the half shell, tiny droplets of sizzling hot oil and fish fat burn like a thousand raging suns. Yet I persevered so that you guys wouldn’t have to suffer the nettle-like barbs of science. I discovered that the peanut butter pan did actually smell much less than the peanut oil pan did, although both were surprisingly low odor overall.
I continued to let them sizzle on that side for a little while longer, then I flipped them over. While flipping, I inhaled (from a distance this time) to see if I could catch another fishy whiff as each fillet was turning. Again, I noticed almost nothing wafting through the thick air of my apartment. I let the interior go for a minute of two, then fished (get it?) each fillet out of the pan and let the carryover heat do its thing. I removed both pans from the heat, seeing if there might be anything to sniff out later.
So here’s where it got really real, real fast. I know that I’ve mentioned in the past that I will occasionally eat seafood, but I really don’t try to make it a regular habit and ESPECIALLY not for shitty Atlantic salmon from a farm. But I had to know, did the goopy pan-mate make a difference in the flavor? Also, how would the peanut oil fare on taste?
Shockingly, the peanut butter salmon didn’t taste peanutty at all. It was bland (for sure) but no peanut flavor whatsoever. The peanut oil salmon, however, had a faint bouquet of Mr. Peanut permeating throughout- which was actually quite nice considering that the styrofoam tray it came on could have possibly have tasted better.
Fifteen minutes later, I also checked the pans to see if any lingering odor remained. There was not. When my roommate came home an hour later the first thing that I had him do was stop and inhale deeply. He quizzically asked if I had been cooking eggs, which I considered a victory and a far cry from fish stank.
So! Next time you’re about to fry up a big old fillet of whatever, the moral of the story is to buy quality fish whenever you can from your local monger.. er, use a spoonful of the good stuff in the pan. It works.