We love Peep’s around here.
No, not PEEPS. Peep’s.
It’s a marinade that John’s mother, Isabelle, loved to make. Last night, with a thick swordfish steak that needed dressing up, he pulled out the ingredients and told me the Peep’s story.
For years, John’s parents vacationed in the Caribbean on the island of Anguilla. (Ahhhhhh.) One of their favorite restaurants was owned by a man that everyone called Peep. He’d serve them fabulous chicken sandwiches. Peep would grill up the chicken outdoors on an open wood-fire grill and serve it simply on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, and raw onion.
It was generally served with a large glass of stiff rum punch, as the story goes.
John remembers a family trip to Anguilla when he was in college, which naturally included multiple visits to Peep’s place. Something about the smell of the outdoor grill, the tangy and delicious sandwich, and how much his mother adored it burned Peep’s marinade into John’s brain.
Somehow, Isabelle finagled the marinade from Peep, no doubt charming him with her laugh to do so. John grew up eating Peep’s chicken, a little taste of Anguilla at home in Connecticut. He’s made it for me often over the years. Once, he made me Peep’s chukar with birds he brought home after a day of hunting. The marinade works for poultry OR fish, and with a little tweak becomes an incredible sauce that warrants licking your plate. Last night, it was ideal with grilled swordfish.
The best recipes are the simple ones, aren’t they? There’s not a lot to the Peep’s marinade, but the flavors are strong.
In a shallow dish, John started with a few swirls of olive oil. Into the oil, he squirted a few tablespoons of Dijon mustard. About this time, it became clear that Cholula’s kitchen assistant contract is not exclusive to me.
I find John’s method for juicing a lemon adorable. He slices it in half and sticks a fork into the lemon, squeezing and twisting the fork. One lemon’s worth of juice is whisked into the oil and mustard until it’s combined.
All that’s left is the seasoning. Garlic salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and the key– a palm full of dried tarragon. A dip of the finger reveals a tart, tangy flavor with an earthly bite from the herb. This isn’t a subtle marinade.
Into the sauce went the swordfish steak. John was careful to coat all sides of the fish, flipping it a few times, before wrapping it tightly with plastic wrap. With fish, it only needs to marinate for about an hour. With poultry, longer is better- even overnight. Cholula took careful mental notes.
Kindly ignore the rest of my fridge.
Last night, we served the fish with a parmesan-pea risotto and asparagus. While I got to work on those things, John grilled up the swordfish. The marinade is thick enough that it clings to the fish, which makes it delectable with a little char from the grill.
Please note John’s grill marks. He is quite proud of them.
The leftover marinade makes a fantastic sauce. A bit of white wine and a few minutes on the stove to reduce and it’s done!
Truth: I stand on chairs to get food photos. At least I got a pedicure recently.
Swordfish is pretty meaty, and can stand up to the strong flavor of Peep’s sauce. I scooped my risotto into it. I dragged my asparagus through it. When I was done, there was not a drop of sauce left on my plate.
In John’s mind, Peep’s sauce will forever be linked with his mom. Every time we enjoy this dish, we think of her. I was lucky enough to meet her before she passed away almost 10 years ago. And while it sure would be nice to be sitting on the beach on Anguilla, enjoying a Peep’s sandwich by the ice-blue water, I’d trade it in a heartbeat to be dine just once with Isabelle.
I’d tell her that I take good care of John. I’d tell her that she did an amazing job raising a good man. She’d wink at me (because I just KNOW that’s where John gets the skill).
And then we’d clink our glasses of stiff rum punch and dig into our Peep’s.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
- (minced garlic optional- tends to burn on the grill)
Whisk together the oil, Dijon, and lemon juice. Stir in seasonings. Marinate fish or poultry, flipping to coat with the marinade. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator (1 hour for fish, up to 24 hours for poultry).
For serving sauce:
Pour remaining marinade into a small saucepan over a medium-heat stove. Add a splash of white wine (1/4 cup or so) and simmer until sauce has reduced a bit. Serve over fish or chicken and be prepared to lick your plate.