Have you ever fallen in love with a sandwich? Maybe one where the mix of ingredients might otherwise say, "No, I am so wrong for you!" And yet ... it's delicious.
That once happened to chef Marcus Samuelsson in Barbados. He has a ritual whenever he travels to a new place — ask the cabdriver, "Where do you eat?" On that trip he ended up at a tiny fish shack called Cuz, named after its owner.
"It's about 20 yards from the beach; it looks like any good fish shack should be looking — it looks like it's gonna fall down," he says. "And everyone on the island comes to this fish shack."
The original sandwich was constructed with hot sauce, "trash" white bread soaked in oil, cooked egg, "bad mayo," questionable lettuce and tomato and cheese so bad it "would be considered glue in France," he says.
But of course the main event was the fish.
"This is where Cuz does not go wrong, he does not compromise," he says. "The local fish is fresh. And that's why this sandwich is king of all fish burgers."
To make it at home, Samuelsson says it demands two things of you: "some discipline and keeping your trashy side." Meaning, don't fancy it up.
Sure, swap good cheddar for the bad cheese and mix a little Sriracha together with some mayo (or, if you must be fancy, follow the recipe for his Bajan mayo below). For the fish, Samuelsson says you can use snapper, halibut, mahi-mahi, swordfish or even catfish.
But perhaps the most important step to re-create the island original: toast the bread and cook the egg in the same pan you used to cook the fish, just like you would if you were making it in a cramped shack at the beach.
Recipe: Cuz's Fish Burgers With Bajan Mayo
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Colman's dry mustard
2 pinches sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon wasabi paste
4 drops sesame oil
4 dashes Tabasco or other hot sauce
4 (4-ounce) skinless fish fillets (halibut, mahi-mahi, swordfish and snapper are all good choices)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 sesame buns, split
4 slices cheddar cheese
1 tomato, thinly sliced
4 slices red onion
4 romaine lettuce leaves
About 1/4 cup pickled cabbage
4 large eggs, prepared over easy
Whisk the egg yolk, salt, mustard, and sugar together in a glass bowl. Combine the vinegar, lemon juice and Tabasco in a measuring cup.
Whisk half the liquid into the yolk. Then begin whisking in the oil, a few drops at a time, until the mayo begins to emulsify. Continue whisking in the oil — you can add it more quickly now — until the mayo is very thick. Add the rest of the liquid and whisk until well-combined. Cover and refrigerate. It will keep for about 1 week.
Stir all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over high heat.
Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Spoon the vegetable oil into the hot pan. Add the fish, brush the top with the glaze, and sear for 3 minutes. Turn the fish over, paint it with glaze, and sear until the fish feels firm when you prod it, about 3 minutes.
To assemble the burgers, spread a thin layer of the Bajan mayo on both sides of the sesame buns. To each, add a cooked fillet, a slice of cheddar cheese, a piece of tomato, a slice of onion, a lettuce leaf, and a tablespoon or so of the pickled cabbage. Top with an over-easy egg.
Reprinted from Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook At Home. Copyright © 2014 by Marcus Samuelsson. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And now, a story about a top chef who fell in love with a lowly sandwich. The bread was cheap, the cheese questionable, the tomato and lettuce probably not the freshest.
MARCUS SAMUELSSON: But it's just so delicious. Right? It makes no sense.
SIEGEL: That's Marcus Samuelsson. When we asked him to share his story for our Found Recipe series, we were expecting something from his Swedish background or his Ethiopian roots, or from one of his New York restaurants. Instead, Samuelsson wanted to tell us about a fish sandwich he had in Barbados.
SAMUELSSON: I have a ritual when I come to any new place. I always ask my cab driver, where do you eat? Right? So here I am, in Barbados. And he drives me to this tiny shack called Cuz. It's about 20 yards from the beach. It looks like any good fish shack should be looking - it looks like it's going to fall down. And everyone on the island comes to this fish shack. Cuz is the man that runs this fish shack. You ask him for a fish sandwich with everything on. And then he just turns around - you get that half-a-second stare - and then, can you really take everything? And you sort of nod and then he puts it together. You take the first bite, the hot-sauce is spicy. And it's just all these ingredients that should be so wrong, are just so right. The bread - when I say this bread is trash, it would make Wonder Bread bread of the year and feel organic. I don't even know where - what machine makes this bread up because it cannot be a human. But he soaks it in the oil, which doesn't sound delicious, and it just gets all sort of the flavor from the previous fish sandwich that's been cooked. It's toasted. It's delicious. On top of that, Cuz is using this really bad cheese. In France, this wouldn't even be considered cheese. This would be glue for the door. But it has some salty component to it. He puts a cooked egg on top and then really bad mayo, a tomato that sometimes is fresh and sometimes not. The lettuce is delicious. I don't know if it's been washed, but who cares? But the star of the sandwich - and this is where Cuz does not go wrong, he does not compromise - the fish. The local fish is fresh. And that's why this sandwich is king of all fish burgers. So to cook up a sandwich like this at home, it demands two things of you - some discipline and keeping your trashy side. And what I mean with that is, don't fancy this up. Do this with a piece of snapper or even catfish. You're going to cook everything in the skillet - the bread, the fish, the cheese and the egg. If you do that, you have the highest chance of making this an incredibly good fish sandwich. That's it.
SIEGEL: That's Marcus Samuelsson, author of the cookbook "Marcus Off Duty." If you can't get to Barbados for Cuz's fish sandwich, you can find out how to attempt it at home on our Found Recipes page at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.