I understand the problem as well as anyone: we’re told to eat fish for its health benefits, but it’s a challenging ingredient that leaves us either nervous or unfulfilled. We’re afraid to eat it, and when we do we’re hungry later. Well I have the solution — trout paired with bacon.
I’d been following the FB posts of Dorothy Lane Market and tracking when the Copper River salmon was coming in. It was the king that was in the store Friday. Its brief season is only May and June. But it is so very, very worth making every effort to find and indulge in it the fleeting moments you can catch it.
This year, I did something I almost can’t believe I did with the costly pound I purchased.
I made gravlax.
Making true gravlax requires no smoking. It is, in essence, the purest Scandinavian method of preserving fish.
Only the best salmon, lovely coarse sea salt, pounded peppercorns, sugar, a handful of backyard dill. Wrapped tightly in clingfilm and flipped twice a day for two days.
The dry salt-sugar coat results in the fish giving up all its water content and producing a oceany brine that the fish luxuriates in for the duration of its cure.
Once removed from its bath, it is finely shaved and mounded on potatoes, or garden baby greens for the most precious of all culinary experiences.
But the most important aspect of all of this? You can do it. You don’t need any special equipment or know how. Make it and enjoy it. While it lasts.
Copper River Gravlax, made using the instructions from Rick Stein in Complete Seafood. If you don’t have this book, I don’t know what else to tell you except that you have to get it. You have to.
We all get stuck in a weeknight routine, I know. I’ve heard the complaints — “I don’t know what to make and I don’t have the time to make it anyway.”
Maybe all you need is to take something familiar and give it a little tweak.
Enter pork jowls. In Italian it’s guanciale, and it’s sliced and cured in a manner similar to bacon. But it’s a deeper, richer almost gamey flavor that brings something different to your weeknight plate. Fry them up, toss them with some familiar ingredients and you’ll have a pasta that’s delicious on its own. Add some slices of easily-prepared monkfish and you can serve your loved ones something wonderfully unexpected.
Just be sure to maintain the mystery: don’t tell them how easy it was.
Pork Jowl Pasta with Roasted Monkfish
For the pasta sauce:
1/3 lbs. of sliced pork jowl
Turbot has become my new favorite fish. At first blush, it’s light, mild, and delicate. But a heartbeat later you realize its meaty, dense, and packed with beautiful flavor. Pair it with this seasonal and politely assertive sauce and you’ll really get your loved one’s attention on a cold December night. Most importantly, the ingredients are familiar and the techniques are pretty basic. It’s a can’t miss weeknight meal that’s quick, healthy, satisfying and elegant. I can hardly believe something so simple could make such an impact. It’s a beautiful dish.
Turbot is popular on European plates, but lately it seems to be making its presence known in American eateries and grocery stores as well. If you can’t find it, ask your fishmonger. The success of this meal is directly related to the quality of the ingredients. Find the best mushrooms you can. These were from the Greener Grocer and perfection. This is a modified version of a dish found in Rick Stein’s Complete Seafood. You must own this book.
Early Winter Turbot with Chanterelles and Melted Parsnips, serves 2
2/3 to 3/4 of a pound Turbot fillet
Only available from mid-May to mid-June, this fish tastes nothing like a farm-raised salmon. This is a fish that’s done some work swimming. Tonight, Hades seasoned it with salt and pepper and a few drops of olive oil. He grilled it outside on an oak plank covered with fennel fronds, parsley and tarragon. A drizzle of tahini dressing (2 T tahini, 2 T olive oil, 1 T balsalmic, 1 T crème fraîche, 1 t lemon juice, pinch of brown sugar and S&P) finished off the fish before serving. I added a cous cous with orange water, cumin, tomatoes and backyard mint as the side.
We didn’t even break a sweat.
Playlist included Many of Horror, by Biffy Clyro.
So I haven’t really blogged dinner in as timely a manner as I’d like; but there you go.
This lovely dish was inspired by a restaurant we happened upon in Brussels the first night we were there. It was called Hemispheres and it was an ode to the southern hemisphere in all it’s diversity. From Indian curries to tagines, the menu ran the gamut. The sauce on the salmon was heavenly. I almost thought there was coconut in it, but it was simply the combination of cream with the deeply yellow colored spices that evoked that sweetness.
I had a lovely piece of sea bass that would have made a gorgeous steak all seared off and pretty, ready for it’s close up. But darn it if I couldn’t pry loose some stubborn pin bones. Many people wouldn’t bother with such a thing, but as it turns out, I have a thing. I really can’t stand bones in a fish. I know. Hush.
So, I poached it instead.
And after its warm bath, the fish easily gave up all those bones just with a bit of light flaking into a bowl. This salad is wonderful in its traditional forms: on a croissant (from Pistacia Vera?), over a salad of spring greens, on toast (from Omega Bakery?) or, as I did, in lettuce leaves that rolled up into little roulades. Add in a few strong, non-traditional ingredients (olives, capers, a brunoise of red bell pepper) and you’ve got something that a lady who lunches or a fish phobic person (I’m not fish phobic, I’m bone phobic) will really enjoy.
Sea Bass Salad Roulades, serves 2
2/3 pound sea bass (although salmon would also be just marvelous in this, come to think of it)
6 olives, sliced
1 T red bell pepper, minced
1 T capers, drained
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 T parsley, finely chopped
2 T olive oil, plus more to taste
1/2 lime, juice and zest
4 large lettuce leaves, washed and dried
In a small pot of simmering water add in the fish and cook at a gentle bubble for 10 to 12 minutes or until the fish flakes easily. Drain and let rest on a paper towel. While the fish is cooking, combine all other ingredients in a small bowl, except for the lettuce leaves. Flake in the fish with the dressing, gently stir to incorporate. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper or olive oil to taste. Divide the salad amongst the four lettuce leaves.
Playlist included Second Chance, by PB&J (Peter, Bjorn and John).