Memory and my own documentation suggests that last night’s meal appears to be only my second exposure to Tilefish, in my kitchen, or possibly anywhere else, and I can’t understand why this delicious fish has been such a stranger.
I don’t think the species is very well known here, and it may have a narrow harvest window, but I recommend the fish for its flavor above all else, and for the fact that it remains a very good bargain. Tilefish has a mild, sweet flavor, apparently shaped by what it largely feeds upon at the bottom of the Continental Shelf, and that includes crab, shrimp, and snail.
The fact that Tilefish catches, off Long Island at least, seem to get high marks for sustainability is an additional encouragement, and the fish that we bring home all comes from small boats, not factories.
I am assuming that the Golden Tilefish, or Lopholatilus chamaelonticeps, pictured below, is the species whose fillets I purchased at the Greenmarket on Friday:
- two leeks from Lucky Dog Organic, sliced, and some thick, country-style bacon from Millport Dairy, chopped both tossed with olive oil, spread in an oven pan, roasted at 425º for 10 minutes, after which a tablespoon of thyme leaves and 1/4 cup of white wine were added, the pan returned to the oven for 20 minutes more, before two seasoned Tilefish fillets from Pura Vida were placed in it, brushed with olive oil, and all once again placed in the oven until the fish was done, removed and garnished with more thyme
- parsnips from Lucky Dog Organic, scrubbed and cut into 1/2″ slices, tossed with olive oil and salt, a few unpeeled cloves of garlic, also from Lucky Dog Organic, spread in a single layer on an unglazed ceramic oven pan, dotted with butter (yeah, that process was a little dainty), roasted at 425º, seasoned with a little more salt and pepper, sprinkled with parsley from Eataly
- upland cress from Two Guys from Woodbridge, splayed
- the wine was a French white, a Sancerre, Somme Doré 2013
- the music was Mahler’s 7th, Solti, Chicago
[second image from Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council]
This simple meal became a standard in our kitchen from the day I first tried it. It follows a classic and delicious Mark Bittman recipe which can be put together entirely with ingredients normally always on hand, meaning it’s perfect for those times when the cook has not had a chance to get to a market of any kind. Bittman describes the parsley ‘garnish’ as optional, and so the dish maintains my boast, but I can’t imagine not including what is the most common herb in the kitchen, if at all possible.
- spaghetto with a tuna sauce of canned San Marzano tomatoes, chopped, chopped onion from Hoeffner Farms, crushed dried red pepperonini, salted capers which were rinsed and drained, black pepper, good olive-oil-packed Italian tuna, and parsley from Eataly, chopped, prepared after a recipe of Mark Bittman
- the wine was an Italian red, Geggiano Pontignano Chianti Classico 2010
The storm which hit the eastern end of Long Island much more dramatically than had in New York City kept my normal source of fresh fish away from the Greenmarket today, so I headed for the Lobster Place, where I was a little overwhelmed by the choices I had. I rarely find Striped Bass in Union Square, so I decided to splurge a bit, even if the fillet which I pointed to this afternoon weighed a little more than I really needed for the two of us.
I’m now reminded once again why this fish is so prized. It’s the taste, the texture, and the amenability to any number of herbal and vegetable treatments and accompaniments (okay, there’s also the lack of bones). But I didn’t always appreciate that. Years ago, when this fish had supplied the conclusive argument which destroyed New York City’s Westway project. I think that I had thought the ‘Stripers’ cause was advanced mostly in the service of sport fishermen, even though (or perhaps because) I was then living in Rhode Island, where Striped Bass were known as both game fish and available, both whole and in fillets, in the fish markets I occasionally patronized on the docks in both Newport and Providence (I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t yet become really comfortable with cooking fish).
- La Ratte fingerling potatoes from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, halved, tossed with olive oil, rosemary from Eataly, salt, pepper, and whole garlic cloves from Lucky Dog Organic, spread in an enameled cast iron pan and cooked at 400º until tender and browned, removed from the oven and the vegetable, garlic and herb pushed aside in the pan, allowing room in the center for the fish, and halved Backyard Farms cherry ‘cocktail’ tomatoes from Whole Foods placed on the top of the potatoes
- Striped Bass fillet (just under one pound, for the two of us) from Lobster Place, scored with several very shallow slashes on the skin side, to prevent curling, placed in a ceramic pan skin side down, scattered with rosemary leaves (alternatively almost any fresh herb), salt, pepper, some homemade dry bread crumbs, and a drizzle of olive oil, the pan placed in a 425º oven for about 10 or 12 minutes, after which it was removed, and an organic lemon from Whole Foods was squeezed over the top
- small Brussels sprouts from from John D. Maderna Farms, tossed with salt, pepper, and some olive oil, roasted in a 400º oven for twenty minutes or so, chopped spring garlic from Rogowski Farm added during the last minutes, removed from the oven and drizzled with a little bit of lemon juice
- the wine was a Spanish white, CVNE Cune Monopole Rioja Blanco 2013
This meal was successful way beyond our expectations. We were enjoying ourselves with another of Target Margin Theater’s Gertrud Stein ‘lab programs’ in Bushwick until some time after 9, so it was almost 10 o’clock by the time I could begin to assemble what I had originally thought would be no more than a decent ‘square meal’ to reward our wait for dinner (the alternative, had we dallied on Starr Street even a little longer, would have been to call in a good pizza (and not one from my own oven).
The ingredients were prime, the recipes were familiar and among my favorites, especially that for the pork, and I was paying attention to what I was doing, even with the distraction of Mozart, but the dinner was definitely still more delicious than either of us had expected (this time I mean, really good ). I’m sure it was largely because all of the ingredients were entirely Union Square-Greenmarket fresh and local (except of course for the salt, pepper, lemon, and olive oil).
And, yes, it was also pretty pretty to look at.
- two pork chops from Flying Pigs Farm, thoroughly dried, seasoned with salt, and pepper, seared in a very hot, heavy enameled cast-iron pan, half a lemon squeezed over them, then left in the pan with them while they were roasting in a 400º oven for about 14 minutes (flipped halfway through and the lemon squeezed over them once again), finished with the pan juices, in which a sprinkling of the last bit of fresh sorrel from Rogowski Farm, sliced thinly, had been introduced and stirred
- orange and red carrots (four of each) from Monkshood Nursery and Gardens and two leeks from Lucky Dog Organic, both halved, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted in a ceramic pan for about half an hour at 400º (the leeks added near the end)
- collard greens (the last of the season), also from Rogowski Farm, cut as a rough chiffonade, then braised in a heavy pot in which crushed garlic from Lucky Dog Organic had been allowed to sweat with some heated olive oil, the dish finished with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil
- the wine was an Italian white, le Salse Verdicchio di Matelica 2013
- the music was Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’, in a terrific performance by Renée Jacobs and the Berlin Akademie für Alte Musik
I got a bit carried away last night with a recipe I had enjoyed twice before in more simple forms. The recipe that had started as ‘baked eggs with mushrooms, and Gruyère’ on New Years Day was delicious, and the slightly more elaborate, ‘baked eggs with mushrooms, Gruyère, scallions, and tomato’ with the addition of two eggs and some tomato, was different, but probably equally good. Last night I may have gone a bit too far, with ‘baked eggs with mushrooms, leeks, tomato, and cress, or maybe I just lost my balance, but the dish didn’t quite shine, and not only because the egg yolks ended up cooked through rather than just a little runny.
I think I had eventually missed the minimal point of the original, sensible recipe, and made it a bit top heavy, but the dish did make a reasonable, and colorful, picture. That may be the only excuse for this post.
- Shiitake mushrooms from John D. Maderna Farms, sautéed for a few minutes over medium high heat before the addition of garlic from Migliorelli Farm, minced, thyme from Manhattan Fruit Exchange, chopped, both heated for a minute or two and placed in a buttered ceramic baking dish, replaced in the pan by one leek from Lucky Dog Organic, sliced thinly and sautéed before also being placed in the baking dish, after which six eggs from Millport Dairy were cracked open on top, seasoned with salt and pepper, sprinkled with shredded cheese (Swiss Le Gruyère from Trader Joe’s), and dotted with halved ‘Cocktail Tomatoes’ from Maine, purchased at Whole Foods, the entire surface drizzled with a bit of heavy cream, and the dish baked in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the whites were set and the yolks were (ideally) still barely runny, placed on plates and tossed with upland cress from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- the wine was a Poruguese red, Periquita Original 2011 Jose Maria de Fonseca Setúbal