tilefish with potatoes, sage, garlic, habanada; watercress

I’ve cooked the noble Atlantic tilefish a number of times, usually following this Melissa Clark recipe, but on Friday I decided to go a very different route. I began with Mark Bittman’s general outline for preparing most any white fish fillets roasted with potatoes, but didn’t stop there.

There were potatoes.

The entire meal, except for the fresh watercress, was cooked inside one glazed terra cotta oven pan.

  • one pound of Carola potatoes from Dave Harris’s Max Creek Hatchery in the Union Square Greenmarket, sliced about 1/4″ thick, tossed with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper, arranged overlapping inside a glazed ceramic pan and roasted in a 425º oven for 10 minutes, the pan then turned around and left for an additional 10 minutes, or until the potatoes had begun to turn brown (perhaps even a bit beyond that point), removed from the oven and scattered with one tablespoon of chopped fresh sage from Eataly, one teaspoon (or more) of minced garlic from Healthway Farms & CSA, and a bit of some home-dried golden habanada, after which two 7.5-ounce tilefish fillets [Lopholatilus Chamaeleonticeps, aka Great Northern Tilefish, Golden Tilefish, etc.] from Pure Vida Seafood, seasoned with salt and pepper, were placed on the top top of the potatoes, the fish drizzled with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and placed inside the oven until cooked through (10 minutes, or a little more), removed to the plates, garnished with the pan juices and a little chopped parsley from Eataly
  • a bit of baby red watercress from Windfall Farms, dressed with a good Campania olive oil (Campania D.O.P. Penisola Sorrentina ‘Syrenum’)
  • The wine was a California (grapes from the Sacramento River Delta with a small amount of Viognier from Lodi) white, Miriam Alexandra Chenin Blanc California 2016, by Alexandra Farber, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Mozart’s 1781 opera, ‘Idomeneo’, René Jacobs conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester

pollock, zest, chili, onion, capers; potatoes, chives; spinach

I’ve always described pollock as a wonderful fish, and this time, more than ever before, on Wednesday it looked as lovely as it tasted.

The image above is of one serving of the cooked fish, and below is a picture of what the fillet (already divided into 2 pieces) looked like just before being put into the oven:

If you’re paying any attention at all, you will have noticed what I myself did notice at the time: There doesn’t seem to be any ground black pepper on the top of the fish (there was also no salt, but that’s less apparent in a photo). It seems that I was so absorbed in deciding on what I would include on top of the fillet this time that I forgot the two most essential elements.

The fact that there were so many other flavors and seasonings was almost enough to make us overlook the absence of pepper and salt, but not quite. We added both to the top of the fish after it had been served, but I think the flavor had not been compromised by the delay; in fact, I think I may have enjoyed the cleaner, milder taste, at least this one time.

The vegetables could hardly have been more simple (and I remembered to season them before they reached the table).

  • one pollock fillet (13.25 oz) from American Seafood Company in the Union Square Greenmarket, rinsed, dried, cut into 2 sections, seasoned with salt and pepper [if cook is paying attention (see my introductory paragraph)] and placed in a buttered baking dish, spread with a mixture of some soft butter, zest from a local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island, slices of a spring onion from Norwich Meadows Farm, and a large pinch of crushed golden home-dried Habanada pepper from Norwich Meadows Farm (acquired fresh last season), baked for about 15 minutes at 350º, removed to two plates, spread with the cooking juices, if any, and sprinkled with a small number of salted capers along with the oil in which they had earlier been heated briefly after being rinsed, drained, and dried, the pollock finished with a garnish of snow pea sprouts from Windfall Farms
  • two Dark Red Norland potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, scrubbed, boiled, unpeeled, in heavily-salted water until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried in the still-warm vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, sprinkled with freshly-ground black pepper, and a little salt, if needed, stirred with a couple tablespoons of rich Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter, arranged on the plates with the fish and sprinkled with scissored chives from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • a decent amount of sweet young  spinach rosettes from Phillips Farms, their bases trimmed, washed in several changes of water, drained, gently wilted (that is, not reduced too far) inside a large enameled cast iron pot in a little olive oil in which one large clove of garlic from Healthway Farms & CSA had first been allowed to sweat, seasoned with salt, freshly-ground black pepper, a little crushed dried Itria-Sirissi chili (peperoncino di Sardegna intero) from Buon Italia, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice
  • the wine was a French (Bordeaux) white, Château Grand Renard Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux Blanc 2015
  • the music was Pietro Antonio Cesti’s 1656 opera, ‘Orontea’, René Jacobs conducting the Concerto Vocale [more on the work here]

smoked trout; lasagna with speck and red pear; dacquoise

It was Saint Valentine’s day, so the dinner had to be a little special, and it wouldn’t hurt if it were also a little red-ish (as it turned out, through all 3 courses – and the wine as well).

  • seven ounces of Solex Catsmo (Wallkill, Orange County, NY) smoked rainbow trout from Eataly, arranged on the plates with Ronnybrook Farm Dairy crème fraîche mixed with lemon zest, lemon juice, fresh chives from Two Guys from Woodbridge, and dried Sicilian dill from Buon Italia (at least I think that’s the description and the source), accompanied by fresh upland cress, also from Two Guys from Woodbridge, drizzled with a good Campania olive oil (Campania D.O.P. Penisola Sorrentina ‘Syrenum’)
  • a crispy ‘Baguette Monge‘ from Eric Kayser, which we tore with our hands, as usual

  • eight ounces of fresh lasagna sheets from Luca Donofrio‘s fresh pasta shop inside Eataly, cooked for 3 minutes only inside a large pot of lightly-salted water, the sheets removed and either placed in a large bowl of cold water until needed, at which time they would be drained and dried, or else place on one or more layers of clean towels or parchment paper arranged on a baking sheet (or 2 baking sheets, of necessary), an 8″ x 12″ glazed ceramic baking dish buttered evenly on the bottom and sides, a little of a Bechamel [It. Besciamella] sauce (not too thick) prepared earlier and seasoned with salt, black pepper, and Nigerian cayenne pepper spooned evenly on the bottom, a layer of pasta arranged on top of that, touching all of the sides of the pan, more of the sauce, then, in layers, a portion of 4 ounces of diced local Lioni Latticini mozzarella, from Whole Foods; a portion of 4 ounces of an absolutely delicious Recla Speck Alto Adige IGP, from Bolzano, purchased at Eataly, cut into matchstick pieces; 2 peeled, quartered, cored and thinly-sliced Rushing River Stemilt Red D’Anjou pears from Eataly; then more of the sauce, continuing in the same order until all the ingredients were used up, ending with a layer of pasta, and the last of the Bechamel on top of it, the pan cover with aluminum foil and placed in the oven for about 15 minutes, the foil then removed, the oven turned up a little after a very few more minutes, to make the edges of the pasta crisp, the lasagna removed from the oven when the aromas had become obvious for a couple of minutes, then let rest for 3 or 4 minutes

smoked eel with chive, horseradish crème; Lachsschinken

Yes.

A delicious winter picnic at home, with a very heavy German accent (the picnic, that is).

Unusual for this site, the leading image (here the only one) is of the entire old birch table, rather than just one of the plates: I thought it this view would cover more ground, so to speak.

The breads were nearly as important to the meal as the fish and the meat. The sturdy New York state sourdough combined the attributes of a traditional German bread with varieties introduced more recently into a culture looking for even more diversity in foods already very wholesome.

The pumpernickel however (on the upper right in the picture), with its “characteristic deep brown color, sweet, dark chocolate, coffee flavor, and earthy aroma” [a description found in Wikipedia], and especially when it is in this intense, compact form, is totally German. Its addictive virtues (along with those of all the other varieties of thin, heavy, moist Vollkornbrot), made it one of the first things I fell in love with when I arrived in Hannover in June, 1961; I ate it like candy. I think these pre-packaged treasures, of any grain, are the only commercial breads – and the only sliced breads – I would ever expect to bring home.

  • one small (8-ounce) local (Long Island) whole smoked eel [Aal, in German] from P.E. & D.D. Seafood [for a picture, scroll down here], skinned, head removed, boned, and cut into small pieces, combined in a bowl with the zest and juice of one organic lemon and a small handful of scissored fresh chives from Two Guys from Woodbridge, allowed to rest a bit, and then, when ready to serve, sprinkling the eel with salt to taste, then a mix of crème fraîche from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy and a generous amount of grated horseradish root, both from Eataly, swiped across lightly-toasted and fairly thin slices of a sourdough wheat and rye bread with sunflower and flax seeds from Hawthorne Valley Farm, then spooning the eel with lemon and chives on top of the layer of cream
  • thin slices of Lachsschinken from Schaller & Weber, twisted on the tines of a fork, arranged on a small glass plate, served with slices of an incredibly rich imported German whole grain pumpernickel (Delba-Backbetrieb)
  • a little undressed upland cress, from Two Guys from Woodbridge, to be added to both canapés
  • the wine was a German (Pfalz) white, Friedrich Becker Pinot Blanc 2013, from our much-missed former neighborhood wine shop, Appellation Wine & Spirits
  • the music, on the eve of Saint Valentine’s day, was Georg Philipp Telemann’s 1726 opera ‘Orpheus’ [full german title: Die wunderbare Beständigkeit der Liebe oder Orpheus (surprisingly for the era, most of the opera is in German, thanks to the guten Bürger of Hamburg, who did not depend on highfalutin princes, for whom it was first produced, in concert form, at the Theater am Gänsemarkt)], this recording by the Academy for Ancient Music Berlin, and the Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus [interesting note about the piece, from the opera’s Wikipedia entry: “Most of the work is in German but it also contains passages in French and Italian drawn from famous operas by Handel and Jean-Baptiste Lully. The music to these words is Telemann’s own, however. The manuscript score of Orpheus was not rediscovered until the late 20th century.”

roast rack of lamb, sweet potatoes, Savoy cabbage, cumin

I really try to keep our carbon footprint down, but sometimes things conspire against me. This tiny rack of lamb looked pretty sweet in the store, and it was also so, well, ..accessible, when I passed its display the other day. I found it hard to resist, even though I had planned on preparing a pasta Sunday night.

Besides, if I can rationalize going to New Zealand for venison – and I do – why should I have a problem with a tiny rack of lamb? New Zealand knows how to supply both very good venison and very good young lamb, each of which seems beyond the ken of American producers (or American law).

The vegetables however were about as local as they come, the sweet potatoes from Blairstown, New Jersey, and the cabbage from Winfield New York.

  • one 18-ounce rack of New Zealand lamb, from Whole Foods, the bones Frenched, brought to room temperature and rubbed with a mixture of chopped garlic from Healthway Farms, chopped rosemary from Whole Foods, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, then allowed to rest for almost an hour before being seared on all sides inside a small oval enameled cast iron pan, placed in a 450º oven for about 15 minutes, or until medium rare, cut into 2 sections and placed on 2 plates, where a little juice from a local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island was squeezed over the top, followed by a drizzle of olive oil
  • about a pound of Japanese sweet potatoes from Race Farm, unpeeled, but washed thoroughly, cut on the diagonal into one-half-inch pieces, tossed in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, and 2 large garlic cloves, arranged on a large well-seasoned Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic oven pan, placing the garlic on the top of potato slices, and roasted for about 35 minutes
  • one small Savoy cabbage from Northshire Farm, washed, quartered, cored, sliced into one-half-inch ribbons, cooked with a few tablespoons of water inside a large enameled cast iron pot until wilted, stirring occasionally, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper before a little more than a teaspoon of cumin seed which had been toasted inside a small cast iron pan was added to the pan containing the cabbage, along with a teaspoon of Columela Rioja 30 Year Reserva sherry vinegar, the cabbage stirred, cooked another 5 minutes, or until tender
  • the wine was a excellent California (Sonoma) red, Ken and Derek Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County 2015, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Poul Ruders’ 2004-2005 opera, ‘Kafka’s Trial’, the Royal Danish Orchestra and the Royal Danish Opera Choir conducted by Thomas Søndergård