Category Archives: Fish
Today, like yesterday, was an Auspicious Day. (The chili kicked ass, bee tee dubs. Not a drop left. One of our offsite guys had four bowls. I counted.) But not because a coworker was leaving for parts unknown. No, today is my parents’ 28th wedding anniversary. Either they really love each other, or they’re just too damn stubborn to leave.
I think it’s both.
In a world where plenty of marriages end in less than six months, this is something to be heralded. Plus, if they didn’t get married, I wouldn’t be here, and you wouldn’t have a perky new food blog to read during your down time.
It’s like ripples in a pond.
My family isn’t really into gift giving occasions. We’re a “doing” type of family. As a rule, we’d rather do something with a celebrant than buy them a gift that will most likely go in a closet for a while before being given away to the thrift shop. To us, it’s not about the toys you accrue, but the memories you leave behind.
In keeping with the family tradition, my brother, Buttface, and I made dinner. We’ve done this over the past several years, much to our folks’ delight. When we began this venture in sibling collaboration, I did most of the heavy hitting. I’m nearly eight years older, so obviously there’s going to be a bit of a skill difference between a seven and a fifteen year old. But as he’s gotten older and his fine motor skills increased, I have to admit he’s done quite well for himself. Buttface has become a champion brownie baker.
We’ve always made great dinners for our parents’ celebratory meals. We really had no choice. If we didn’t produce a home run, our culinary-inclined mother would be standing over our shoulders, asking, “can I make a suggestion?” (It’s a long standing family tradition. Apparently her grandmother said “come here, let Grandma show you how to do it” more often than not. I supposed when I have kids and grandbabies, I’ll be saying it too.) But now that I started the blog, I want to make something that would make their tummies think they had died and gone to epicurean heaven.
After much gchatting, Buttface and I decided upon The Menu. For an appetizer, bruschetta, and for the main…roasted red snapper with smoked garlic paprika sauce, roasted new potatoes and brussel sprouts. The snapper recipe is Bobby Flay’s via foodnetwork.com, which I’ve linked to here.
Buttface and I headed to our favorite hometown grocery store, Q Mart. If you can get over the fact that they’re not as clean bright and cheery as your typical American chain supermarket, the international markets are amazing. I find that the produce is better, fresher, and cheaper (yet oddly, most of them are actually from the same distributor) than a large-scale chain. I don’t know why, but when I can feed myself on $30 a week, I don’t ask questions.
One of my favorite things about the international markets is that they have real fish mongers and butchers. I can go in, pick out a whole fish of differing varieties, hand it to the man behind the counter who will then scale it, bone it, filet it, and basically do what I want to it for free.
The kicker here is that you need to be very clear in what you want. I’ve been to several different markets in the Northern Virginia area, and each have a sign above the fish counter with the typical preparation offerings. A number one will get you a fish, no head. A number two will get you a butterflied fish, no head. A three will be butterflied with the head, and so on and so forth. It looks like a raw fish value menu, actually.
We picked out two healthy looking red snappers, and handed it to the man I’ve come to call the Fish Butcher.
“Number two, please,” I asked, holding up two fingers just in case he misunderstood. He nodded, took the fish, did his thing, and handed me back a neatly wrapped paper bag. Here’s where I did wrong—I forgot to ask him to debone it. I thought that was included in the process, but apparently not. This is important later.
Back at the house, we set to work. I sliced two small baguettes on the bias and laid them on a baking sheet. A quick brush with some olive oil, and into a 450 degree oven they went to get all nice and toasty.
While that was happening, Buttface chopped three roma tomatoes, and mixed them with some olive oil and a couple schlocks of garlic. This went in a baking dish and into the oven long side the bread.
I pulled the bread out 10 minutes later and the tomatoes ten minutes after that. Arrange the now-toast on a serving platter and spoon the tomato garlic goodness on each slice. Traditional bruschetta has fresh basil and mozzarella on top. But we didn’t have any of that, so I skipped the herbs all together and substituted a four cheese Mexican mix instead. And it was fabulous. The parentals loved it.
And then it was time for…dun dun dun…the snapper.
Before I go much further, I want to send props out to Daddicus Maximus (that’s Big Daddy in Latin, for the uninformed. My father is a history nerd, in case you were wondering) for the photography work!
Whole Roasted Red Snapper
2 whole red snapper, gutted, butterflied and BONED.
1 bunch of parsley
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
Salt and pepper
After pre-heating the family oven to 350 degrees, I laid the fish open on the cutting board, and filled the cavities with the sliced orange, lemon, and parsley. I drizzled a little olive oil, salt and pepper onto the skin and laid it in a roasting pan.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!! Seriously, this is probably the prettiest prep I’ve ever done. I loved the colors—green parsley, orange, well, oranges, yellow lemons and red skin of the snapper all melded together. It really was like a page from a food magazine. That’s never happened to me before. Of course, I bumped the pan as I put it into the oven, which flipped one of the fish over a bit so the fruit spilled out, completely ruining the effect.
Into the oven for about 35 minutes, and out came slightly jarred perfection!
The sides were easy enough. Dice the potatoes into whatever size chunks you think are appropriate. I try to keep it to about an inch, to an inch and a half. Just remember that the larger the chunk, the longer it will take to cook. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then into a 450 degree oven for 30-45 minutes.
For the brussel sprouts, cut the ends off and peel away the tough outer layers. Slice in half, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and like the potatoes, into a roasting dish and slide it into a 450 degree oven for 15-20.
I was kinda lucky tonight in that I was cooking at my folks’ house again, and they have a double oven so I could have one at 350 for the fish and another at 450 for the sides. Obviously, this wouldn’t happen if I were cooking at home. This is just a matter of timing—if you have one oven, keep it at the lower temperature. Roast the potatoes for an hour, the brussel sprouts for 30 minutes and keep the fish the way it is.
I thought I had timed the meal so that everything would come out at the same time. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The fish was done a good 20 minutes before the rest of the meal. I didn’t want to let it burn, so I pulled it out, hoping it wouldn’t get too cold. It was definitely room temperature when I finally got everything to the table. It wasn’t a disaster, per se, but not what I wanted, either. Looking back, I would have either tented it with foil to keep the heat in, or just lowered the oven temp to 100 and left it in.
While the potatoes were finishing up the last bit of browning, I prepped the fish for the platter. The citrus and parsley went into the trash, and as I was transferring the filets to the serving dish, that’s when I noticed them.
Them bones, them bones.
I had forgotten to ask the Fish Butcher to take out the bones.
That’s ok, Mel. A lot of times, if you pull on the spine, all the rib bones come out with it. I’ve seen this done on the French Chef reruns all the time, and of course there’s that shot from the Little Mermaid when the singing chef goes “first I shop off zeir heads/zen I pulls out za bones…” and the entire fishy comes out in one piece. If it happens in an animated Disney classic, it must apply to real life, right?
It took a little bit of manipulation, but I eventually did get most of the bones out. I completely ruined any semblance of fish filet there may have been previous to my clumsy surgery, but still, most of the bones were gone. I warned the family before sitting down, so they were aware of any choking hazards. They understood, but it did suck to see them pull the more-than-occasional fish rib from between their teeth. I wanted everything to be perfect for their dinner, but sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out.
Bobby’s recipe also included a paprika garlic sauce. The recipe called for a quarter cup of sherry vinegar, which my mother didn’t have and I couldn’t find at the Q. I substituted balsamic vinegar instead, and um, well…the result wasn’t exactly Iron Chef material. So instead I melted about six tablespoons of butter with a tablespoon of lemon juice. There was left over, so I definitely could have decreased the amount (but kept the ratio because it turned out fantastic).
All in all, the dinner was a resounding success. The food looked great, and even though the fish was cold at the table, it all tasted wonderfully. My parents loved it, and it was fun working with my brother on a meal. Tonight was the first time in months that the four of us were able to sit down and have a meal together. Buttface is pulling through a work-intense engineering degree at college, and my weekends are packed doing whatever it is I can’t get done during the workweek. It was really, really nice.
Hello again, fellow eater(s)! It’s dinner time!
I want to start out with a few shots of my kitchen. This is the Internet, and just because I say I have a little itty bitty kitchen doesn’t mean you have to believe me. So here it is. It ain’t much, but at least it ain’t a hot plate either!
I couldn’t wait to get home and start cooking. I didn’t pack all that fabulous of a lunch today, and was starving before I even left the office. Beltway traffic blows anyway, but it double blows when you’re hungry.
Pan Seared Mahi Mahi in a White Wine Butter Sauce
One filet of mahi mahi (mine was about 6 ounces. I buy the frozen filets because the portions are right and it’s easier than buying a larger fresh fish and portioning it out myself).
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons butter
The How Tos:
This is easy as hell. When the filet has defrosted, heat a medium cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add in about 1-2
tablespoons of olive oil—just once or twice around the pan so you have a thin coating between the iron and the fish.
Once the fish is about halfway cooked, flip it over. Pour about 1-2 cups of white wine in the pan along with the fish. (I used a pinot gris from Fox Meadow Vineyard, one of my favorites. Whatever the wine, you want it to be light and delicately fragrant—none of this in-your-face stuff. It’ll compete too much with the mahi mahi.) Add in the garlic and continue cooking until a) the fish is done and b) the sauce has reduced until it looks like something you’d like to see drizzled over your food.
Remove the fish and let it rest on the side. Add the butter, and mix it as it melts. I love the little streaks of fats it leaves before completely dissolving into the wine. When the sauce looks beautiful, gently spoon it over the mahi mahi.
I served this with a side of roasted potatoes. No veggies, but that’s ok every once in a while.
Great food, Julie and Julia on the blu ray, and a glass of wine. Contentment.