Friday, July 29, 2011

Chilean Seabass: You So Ugly! But You Taste So Beautiful.

I'm in a ponderous pickle: According to Seafood Watch, Chilean seabass is currently on the list of fish that sustainability-minded American consumers should avoid due to illegal overfishing.

Am I sustainability-minded? I like to think I am, and yet...

Chilean seabass is a cook's dream. You'd have to be a total kitchen dufus to ruin it. Sigh, sigh, sigh. What is one to do? It's the age-old question... The fish is in the case, the fur is on the rack, the latest idiot has been captured on YouTube -- it's too late to save them, shall we just turn away? Or eat, wear & watch? It is a real-life dilemma. I don't want to support bad practices, or bad behavior. But what's done is done, to some extent. Oy, then I'll be that hypocrite shown in one shot eating the fish and in the next shot picketing. How embarrassing.

But how delectable!

I have to assume my fish wasn't illegally caught. Legally caught fish are regulated by the FDA. I doubt that Wegmans is buying its fish from the back of an old Pontiac. Well, for now, let us not cry over spilled milk. I bought the fish with a happy heart, and with a happy heart I cooked it, and with rapture and delight I ate it.

Yow! That was the sound of some serious ass-slapping with a spatula, the cook's equivalent to a high-five. You know it, baby. Tonight's chow has earned a TEN from the judges across the board. Okay, it's just me & my husband, but we were euphoric.

So here's the lowdown. It's so simple I'm blushing as I type.

Keep an emergency box of TRUE lemon (crystallized lemon) in your cupboard. We've all fallen victim to the "3-for-$2" lemon scam at the market:  Buying 3, using half of one, and witnessing the remainder rot in the bottom of our veggie bins. So keep the TRUE lemon crystal packets on hand.

Oh, don't be such a snob. Just get some.

On the TRUE lemon box is a recipe for lemon chicken something-or-other. This is also a dynamite recipe for fish, as it turns out. Here's how I modified it:


2 portions of Chilean seabass (or the politically-correct fish of your choice)

Ingredients for the marinade:

4 packets of TRUE* lemon
    *I have to keep capitalizing "true" because that's the way it is on the box. Like that singer who uses "$" for "s" in her name... I'm not here to judge.
1 T H2O
1/8 c olive oil*
    *I substitute olive oil with my secret ingredient -- whoa! -- I almost gave away my secret ingredient! Okay, I'll tell you, but mum's the word:  I use Wegmans Basting Oil instead, which is a combo of grape seed & canola oils mixed with garlic & herbs. Brilliant!
1/2 T Dijon mustard
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Toss fish into a large zip-lock plastic bag. Whisk all marinade ingredients in a bowl until well-blended. Pour over fish. Gently, but thoroughly, massage sauce into fish. Squish out the air in the bag and seal. Let fish marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. No more, no less.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a piece of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet that is large enough to wrap around the fish and lightly spray with cooking spray. Bend the sides of the foil up enough to create a barrier and place the fish in the center. Pour the marinade over all. Hence the reason for the little barrier walls, so your marinade doesn't run all over the cookie sheet making a god-awful mess. Throw on several (to your liking, but at least 5 - 6 for each fish) Non-pareil capers. Those are the smallest size capers. Those bigger ones you sometimes see in a salad are called Capote capers, named after Truman Capote's fat arse.

Okay, I obviously made that up. I don't think his ass was nearly as big as you might imagine after watching that film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Who I totally dig, by the way.

Anyway, back to the recipe -- the capers will impart a complex, mustard-like jolt that elevates this simple marinade into the stratosphere. Maybe that was bit over the top, too. Suffice to say, it's worth adding, but don't sweat it if you don't have any in your fridge. Loser. Go get some. How can you not have capers?! You call yourself a foodie?

Back to the recipe, again... Seal the fish in the foil so that there aren't any air holes; all of the ingredients are safely tucked inside a little foil pouch. Slide the fish (on the cookie sheet) into your pre-heated oven and bake for 20 minutes.

When it's finished, carefully unwrap the foil (remember, folks, the fish has been steaming in a 400 degree oven, so it will be hot. Do I need to say that?). Serve your fish with the sauce (and capers, for crissake) on top.

I served our fish with Trader Joe's Rice Medley (brown rice, red rice & black barley) that I embellished with slightly wilted spinach, roasted, diced beets, & sautéed mushrooms & garlic. Is it any wonder why I deserved the Aunt Jemima Treatment after serving this dinner?  Seriously good vittles.

Wine pairing: Sauvignon blanc would work nicely, but we served one of our favorite, cheap, summer-time wines: Les Rials 2010 from Domaine de la Chanade in the Cotes du Tarn (Gaillac region) of southwestern France. Don't be put off by the price tag (around $8 - $10), it's quite a sophisticated and scrumptious medium-bodied white with a perfect balance of pear, apple, and citrus on the palate. It's also delicious on its own.

And that's it! Healthy & heavenly. That ugly Patagonian toothfish didn't die in vain after all.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Crabby for good reason

There are two things that don't photograph well: Me in a bathing suit, and a soft-shell crab sandwich.

My husband & I needed gastronomic rescue after the olfactory insult of the putrefied lamb, so we ordered the Eastern Shore Po' Boy from Miss Shirley's Cafe. This is a generous Old Bay dusted ciabatta with 2 plump, juicy, cornmeal-encrusted soft shell crabs, applewood smoked bacon, sweet red and yellow tomatoes, mixed greens and remoulade.

Excuse me, I may just need to start smoking again. Baby, that was one good sammich!

Anyway, here's a photo of half a Po' Boy:

Where's the other half, you ask?


If you happen to be in Baltimore be sure to swing by Miss Shirley's. Their breakfasts are legendary, but unfortunately they don't accept reservations. Trust me; it's worth the wait. And carry-out is your friend.

Stay tuned for a photo-tastic description of my up-coming vacation to Provincetown, MA for the 2011 PIFF. We've rented a stand-alone cottage on the beach, so you may even be lucky enough to catch me in a bathing suit!

Oh...  Lucky, lucky you!

Eat a light lunch, people.

Stinky Shrinky Skanky Shanks

One of my newest, most favoritest blogs is Food Wishes.  Chef John inspires me on a daily basis with his easy-to-prepare video recipes.  You must check him out!  Sometimes I go poking around in the archives and stumble upon something new & delicious.  Such was my recent discovery of his Slow Roasted Lamb Shanks.  The video had me drooling, so I quickly drove to Wegmans and purchased a package of their FYFGA shrink-wrapped shanks.

Though I love all things lamb, this was my first shank purchase and I was excited to give Chef John's recipe a try.

I removed the shrink wrap from the shanks and P.U. -- the entire kitchen immediately started to stink.  I've never encountered this with other cuts of lamb, so I figured this "eau de manure" might be normal for shanks and would soon dissipate.  No - it got worse as they roasted, and everything in the house, including me, was coated in the sour stench.

In fact, when I dropped by my neighbor's house to let her trio of black labs out for an afternoon piddle they eyed me hungrily as if I were a ripe corpse.  I reeked of rotting sheep to the point that they wanted to roll on me.

Back in my kitchen again, the smell oozing out the front door, I could tell that things hadn't improved, even with the addition of 6 giant cloves of crushed garlic, fresh rosemary & thyme.  That's when I decided to save my marriage and toss the smelly, gag-inducing shanks out.

Do shanks typically smell like a flock of dysenteric sheep?  I had to know!  So I called Wegmans to get the poop, so to speak, and the butcher du jour agreed that lamb has a strong smell compared to other meats, but shouldn't be pervasive like that.  He said, "Sometimes stuff happens, gas gets stuck inside when they're doing the packaging, or maybe there was a little hole in the bag."

Gas, indeed.

So, word to the wise my foodie friends -- have your butcher open the shrink wrap before you buy!