Fried foods are prepared during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah as a symbol of the oil that burned for eight days in a Jerusalem temple while the supply was believed to be enough for only one day.
This recipe for Fried Fish With Garlic Mayonnaise or Egg-and-Lemon Sauce from ''Sephardic Flavors: Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean'' (Chronicle Books, $35) by Joyce Goldstein aims to capture the sweetness of the fish. Sole, snapper or cod, or boned whole smelt are recommended for the dish.
The fish can be served either alone, with just a squeeze of lemon at the table; with a dollop of ''ajada,'' the Sephardic garlic mayonnaise; or with ''agristada,'' an egg-and-lemon sauce.
Fried Fish With Garlic Mayonnaise or Egg-and-Lemon Sauce
For the fish:
2 pounds fresh fish fillets
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Sweet paprika (optional)
Place the fresh fish fillets on a plate, sprinkle with salt, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Spread the flour on a plate and season with salt, pepper, and the paprika, if using. Beat the eggs in a wide, shallow bowl. Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 2 inches into a deep saute pan and heat to 375 F on a deep-frying thermometer.
Working in batches, dip the fish fillets into the eggs and then into the flour and slip them into the hot oil. Fry, turning once, until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes total for the fillets. (Cooking time is a little less for smelts.)
Using a slotted spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain briefly. Keep warm until all the fish is fried.
Arrange the fish on a platter and serve piping hot. Pass the sauce at the table.
For the garlic mayonnaise:
5 or 6 cloves garlic, green sprouts removed and minced
Kosher or sea salt
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil, or mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Combine the garlic and salt on a cutting board and mash with the side of a knife to a fine puree. Transfer to a blender or food processor, add the egg yolk, and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the oil, drop by drop, until a thick emulsion forms. Then add the remaining oil in a very slow, steady stream and process until the mixture has the consistency of mayonnaise. Add lemon juice to taste, and thin with a little cold water if the mixture is too thick. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until serving.
For the egg-and-lemon sauce:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups fish stock or water, or mixture of stock and water
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Juice of 2 lemons (1/3 to 1/2 cup)
In a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch with a few tablespoons of the stock or water and stir to make a smooth paste. Add the remaining stock and/or water and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly so no lumps form. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring often until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a bowl, beat together the eggs and lemon juice until quite frothy. Whisk in a little of the hot stock to temper the eggs, then gradually stir the eggs into the liquid remaining in the pan. Simmer over very low heat, stirring often, until the sauce thickens, just a few minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt.
Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm, or let cool and serve cold. When the sauce is served cold, it has the consistency of mayonnaise.