Month: April 2017

mustard-coated parsley-breaded cod; sunchokes; cress

It’s a great fish, a simple recipe, and nothing should go wrong. But it did, a little: I somehow ended  up salting this beautiful cod fillet a bit too generously before I coated one side with herbed breadcrumbs and lowered it into the pan. It happens, but I’m more often guilty of undersalting, so I have no idea why it went the other way this time.

There’s actually something that can be done to recover from such accidents, and fortunately I had the antidote right on the counter this time: Lemon. A squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of a mild vinegar usually helps reduce the impact of an injudicious application of too much salt.

I had been storing the sunchokes for some time, but they were in great condition; I had brought home the upland cress only 2 days before and it was super shape. Both tasted terrific, and their seasoning was fine.

  • one 14-ounce fresh cod fillet from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, brought to room temperature, seasoned with salt on both sides, then only the top side (former skin side) brushed with a little French dijon mustard which had been mixed with a very small amount of water to make it easier to spread, the two pieces dipped into a mixture of homemade breadcrumbs mixed with some finely-chopped parsley from Norwich Meadows farm, browned briefly on the side coated with the mustard and breadcrumb mix in a little olive oil inside a tin-lined copper au gratin pan, transferred to a 325º oven and cooked until the fish began to flake (only about 9 minutes this time, because the pieces were not really thick) [the recipe is based on Thomas Keller’s ‘Wild Cod en Persillade]

  • sunchokes (about 14 ounces), small ‘rootlings’ removed, trimmed, scrubbed, sliced by hand very thinly (1/8-1/4 inch), tossed with barely a tablespoon of olive oil (I think the small amount is somewhat critical to ensuring maximum crispiness), sea salt, freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, a bit of crushed orange-gold habanada pepper, a few fresh sage leaves from from S. & S.O. Produce Farm, and two halved bay leaves from Westside Market, then spread in one layer onto 2 large Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pans (a single pan wasn’t enough, since they had been cut so thinly and they really should show a lot of surrounding surface to become crisp), roasted at 425º for about 30 minutes, or until they were brown, tender, and crispy on the edges, arranged on 2 plates and sprinkled with purple radish micro greens from Windfall Farms

conchiglie al forno; costolette di vitello balsamico, carote

It was conchiglie al forno; costolette di vitello balsamico; carote, or more precisely, and in English, baked shells with mushrooms and radicchio; one veal chop finished with balsamic vinegar, wilted radicchio, thyme-roasted carrots with micro fennel.

I had half of the conchiglie al forno remaining from April 19th, and I really wanted to use it for a couple of primi, to some interesting secondo, which in my mind meant small meat portions. On Sunday it happened that I had a veal shoulder chop in the freezer, a portion I had already been concerned about because I knew it was smaller than what we would normally share. It seemed the perfect choice to follow the baked pasta.

It was.

Because I had accidentally stinted on cream when I had originally assembled the dish (baked pasta rule #1: you will probably never have enough cream), I added a little ricotta to the antipasto before I put it into the oven to heat up, and I drizzled a little olive oil around it once it was in the serving bowls.

That was the meal’s virtually automatic primi.

The second course may have been a perfect followup to the first, since I imagine both dishes to be very Tuscan.

  • one thick 14-ounce pasture-raised veal shoulder chop, or what was described more precisely by Tony, a young butcher who was tending the farm stand that afternoon, as “a shoulder chop close to the ribs, which looks like, and could be described as rib eye”, from Consider Bardwell Farm, brought to room temperature, seasoned well with sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, placed inside a small oval enameled cast iron pan which had been coated with a film of olive oil then allowed to get very hot, seared over medium-high heat for about 6 minutes per side, allowed to rest on a small warm platter for 4 minutes or so, the meat removed from the bones and divided into 2 servings and arranged on the plates where it was drizzled with a teaspoon or so of good balsamic vinegar, garnished at the side with purple micro radish greens from Windfall Farms
  • two varieties of carrots, one of which I believe is properly described as ‘Purple Haze’, a hybrid, from Norwich Meadows Farm, washed, trimmed, scrubbed, and dried, tossed in a very little olive oil with salt, pepper and thyme branches from Eataly, spread inside a medium seasoned Pampered Chef pan and baked at 400º until tender (the time would depend on size; these took about 20-25 minutes), finished with micro fennel from Windfall Farms
  • a little radicchio from Eataly, from part of a head that had not gone into the preparation of the conchiglie al forno, warmed slightly in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper,
  • the wine was a California (Santa Ynez Valley) red, Jacqueline Bahue Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills 2015, from Naked Wines
  • the music was the entire album, of late 17th-century German music for the theater, ‘Biber: Battalia / Locke: The Tempest / Zelenka: Fanfare’, the performance by Il Giardino Armonico

‘Spanish’ shrimp, tomatoes; spicy Tautog, potatoes, ramps

When I arrived at the fish stand in the Greenmarket on Saturday there was only one remaining fillet of Blackfish (Eastern Long Island- and Rhode Island-speak: ‘Tautog’). It’s one of my favorite fishes, but this piece was a little smaller than I would normally prefer for the two of us.

Still, noticing that I had recently cooked all of the other local seafood selections available, I decided to ask for it anyway. I thought of serving an appetizer using a few local Hudson Valley shrimp from Jean Claude Frajmund’s Eco Shrimp Garden market stall, just steps away, if his stock had not yet been exhausted.

Two fish courses would complicate the dinner preparations, but I had been feeling pretty confident about my modest skills lately.

I got the shrimp.

It all turned out even better than I might have expected. The only problem was the lateness of the hour when it was finally served (I still have to work on that).

  • one teaspoon of chopped garlic from Lucky Dog Organic Farm Farm heated inside a medium cast iron pan over a very low flame until the garlic had colored nicely, then part of one dried dark no-heat Habanada pepper added and pushed around with the garlic, followed by a pinch of Spanish saffron (DO La Mancha from Antonio Sotos), one small whole dried local chipotle pepper from Northshire Farms in the Union Square Greenmarket (not punctured, and left whole) and less than half of  teaspoon of freshly-ground cumin seed added, all stirred for a minute or two, after which 6 large, very fresh local whole farmed shrimp from our local Hudson River Valley (Newburgh) supplier of small crustaceans, Eco Shrimp Garden, were added (I had cut them all along their backs, from head to tail, ahead of time, to ease their shelling once they were served), seasoned with salt and pepper, the heat brought up a bit and the shrimp cooked until firm while turned twice, served on 2 plates with a generous squeeze of local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island, finished micro fennel from Windfall Farms [both the dried Habanada and the micro fennel are my own additions to Mark Bittman’s simple, delicious recipe]
  • four Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods, warmed in a little olive oil along with stems of wild garlic from Lani’s Farm, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, mixed with a generous amount of chopped thyme from Eataly

I was able to prepare all the ingredients for the main course before beginning to cook the first, so there was relatively short intermission between the them.

  • one beautiful, very fresh 11-ounce fillet of Blackfish/Tautog from Seatuck Fish Company, halved, then prepared mostly as described in this recipe by Melissa Clark, but necessarily substituting a mix of Nigerian cayenne pepper and Spanish paprika (picante) for the Aleppo Syrian red pepper it specified, and spooning a small amount of a savory tomato mix from a previous meal at the very end; the fresh sage was from S. & S.O. Produce Farm; the olives were from Whole Foods Market; and the lemon juice from a sweet local fruit from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island
  • a mix of 3 varieties of potatoes, because I wanted to keep enough of each of them for another time, all from Greenmarket farmers (Carolas from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, small Red Norlands from Berried treasure, and ‘blue potatoes’ from Norwich Meadows Farm) boiled in a vintage medium-size clear pyrex pan, drained, dried in the same pan, cut into smaller pieces, seasoned with Maldon salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, then rolled, still in the pan, with a bit of olive oil and both the bulbs and greens of a few ramps from Violet Hill Farm

 

There was actually a dessert this time.

  • scoops of a hand-packed vanilla gelato, from Eataly, made in-house, sprinkled with chopped candied ginger from Whole Foods Market

 

bacon and eggs, with vegetables, herbs, spices, breads

It’s good to be Sunday.

And its good to be well-stocked.

  • a very late breakfast (even late as a lunch), of gently-cooked (chewy, not crispy anywhere) thick bacon from Millport Dairy Farm; fried very fresh free-range chicken eggs, also from Millport, enhanced with Maldon salt, freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, a bit of a mix of Nigerian cayenne pepper and Spanish paprika that remained from dinner the night before, sautéed chopped ramp stems from Violet Hill Farm, and chopped dill from Phillips Farm; pea shoots from Lani’s Farm, sprinkled with salt and pepper, served alongside 3 sliced Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market which had first been warmed in a little olive oil, seasoned, and mixed with a generous amount of chopped thyme from Eataly; slices of ‘8 grain 3 seed’ bread from Rock Hill Bakehouse in Gansevoort, NY (their Saturday stand in the Union Square Greenmarket, not toasted, and toast from slices of 2 other breads, ‘pane Mediterraneo’ from Eataly (whole wheat, rye flour; pumpkin, sesame, poppy, sunflower, flax seeds; millet, farro), and a Balthazar rye boule from Schaller & Weber; and finally, a very small amount of Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter from Whole Foods
  • the music was Luigi Rossi’s 17th-century oratorio’, ‘Oratorio per la settimana santa‘,  William Christie directing  Les Arts Florissants (it’s the first Sunday of Easter, so we weren’t too far out of sync)

the ‘magic meal’, 25 years on: Conchiglie al Forno

Conchiglie al forno, with mushrooms, 4 cheeses, cream, radicchio, and fresh sage.

I prepared this meal for the very first time exactly 25 years to the day before I served it this past Wednesday, and there have been many occasions between.

We call it ‘the magic meal’, always have.

The night of April 19, 1992 was the first time I made dinner for Barry. He had very recently been transferred from his employer’s New York office to the one in Seattle, at his request. I was devastated when he told me about it:  We had only begun to get acquainted, through a few chaste dates. He had always had to go back to the office after each of them, which explains one of the reasons he wanted to move out of New York.

He must have noticed I was upset, so he assured me he’d have to visit the New York office occasionally, probably beginning soon after he had settled in on the West Coast. I promised to make him dinner when he did. It was the first time I did; it wasn’t to be the last.

He didn’t return to his hotel that night.

The date (both senses) is now one of our 6 anniversaries. Note: When you don’t believe in marriage, you get to have as many anniversaries as you can get excited about – and remember.

I picked this particular dish because I could prepare it entirely ahead of time (it tastes at least as good reheated on another day), meaning there’s nothing to distract the cook from visiting with a guest (or guests); all it needs otherwise is a simple uncooked appetizer and either some fruit or a gelato, and the arrangements for neither course will keep the company alone.

The recipe for the dish is on this site. I still have the wrinkled clipping from a copy of the September 16, 1990 ‘New York Times Magazine’, where I first saw it.

It also appears in a book, ‘Cucina Simpatica’, given to me 2 years later by a dear friend with whom I used to share many wonderful meals in Providence and New York. The book was published in 1991 by Johanne Killeen and George Germon, who were, as far as I know, also the creators of this Lucullan dish. Jacqueline knew I loved the authors’ wonderful Providence restaurant, as she did, but did not know at the time how they had brought Barry and I together.

Here is the pasta inside the baking dish, just as it came out of the oven:

  • the ingredients in my own preparation included shiitake mushrooms from John D. Madera Farm, Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter from Whole Foods Market, Neapolitan il Pastaio di Gragnano conchiglioni from Eataly, Ronnybrook Farms heavy (‘double’) cream from the local dairy’s stand in the Union Square Greenmarket, radicchio from Eataly, Parmigiano & Reggiano Bonat 5 anni from Buon Italia, Guffanti Fontina Oro Affinata from Eataly (substituting for ‘Bel Paese’ in the recipe), Lombardia 300-day Gorgonzola from Eataly, ricotta from Eataly, and fresh sage leaves from S. & S.O. Produce Farm
  • the wine was an Italian (Sicily, Etna) red, Biondi, Ciro 2014 Etna Rosso Outis Nessuno, from Chambers Street Wines

There had also been an antipasto.