When I opened the sealed plastic bag that held the John Dory fillets, I was immediately overwhelmed by the same intoxicating scent of the briny sea that accompanies the very freshest oysters; the fish was that fresh.
A little bit of background:
Because of what we had already scheduled for early in the evening, I wasn’t going to have much time to prepare a meal Friday night, but I still wanted the two of us to enjoy a good meal. So when I arrived at the Pura Vida stand in the Greenmarket in Union Square I was certain that the silvery-skinned John Dory fillets I saw would be all I needed, along with maybe some kind of fresh greens. Paul, standing on the other side of the fish cases, obviously didn’t agree, as he wouldn’t accept my negative reply to his usual query, “anything else?” He suggested I needed some oysters as an appetizer, but I explained we wouldn’t have time for a first course, and, besides, I’d have to schedule a pause in the middle of the meal to allow time for me to open and plate the silver-bedded bivalves. He had a solution: “Your partner knows how to open them, right?”
Now I couldn’t fault his argument, so I brought the oysters home, comforted a little by the fact that there were only 4 left on the ice inside the tub: How long could it take to open and serve 4 oysters? Once I arrived home I decided it would be easier for me to shuck the oysters myself, since the kitchen work area really can’t easily accommodate 2 people, and I had also quickly realized I could prepare in advance everything needed to cook the John Dory, so there really wouldn’t be a significant pause after all.
It didn’t take long at all, and the meal was just about perfect.
Early in the evening, even before I had started working on it, I was unable to resist tweeting, “tonight’s dinner will star 4 silvery oysters and 4 silvery John Dory fillets”, and now I can say it actually happened, and that both the Ostreidae and the Zeus faber were definitely stars.
And so was the sweet winter lacinato, or cavolo nero.
- * four iced Great South Bay oysters from Pure Vida Seafood
- * a bit of wild cress from Lani’s Farm, dressed with a very good Sicilian olive oil, from from Agricento, Azienda Agricola Mandranova (exclusively Nocellara olives), a drizzle of juice from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, Maldon sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper
- slices of a classic baguette from Bread Alone
[slight pause here]
- * four John Dory fillets caught off eastern Long Island, from Pura Vida Seafood, marinated inside the refrigerator for about 30 minutes in a mix of half a clove of crushed Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm. one teaspoon or more of chopped thyme from Stokes Farm, the juice and zest from roughly a quarter of a Whole Foods Market organic lemon, half a teaspoon of walnut oil, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, removed from the refrigerator and allowed to come to room temperature, placed, skin-side down first, inside a large heavy, tin-lined copper skillet that had been heated over medium-high heat with enough olive oil to coat the surface, the heat then reduced slightly and the fillets cooked for just 2 minutes on each side, removed and arranged on warm plates, sprinkled with a bit of micro wasabi from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- two Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market, halved, the cut sides placed on a plate sprinkled with a little sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, then heated on both sides in a little olive oil inside a 19th-century enameled cast iron porringer, removed and arranged next to the John Dory, sprinkled with a little chopped thyme that had not been used in the marinade
- one bunch of lacinato kale (aka cavalo nero, black cabbage, or Tuscan cabbage) from Norwich Meadows Farm, wilted briefly in olive oil in which one clove of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm had first been heated until pungent, a bit of dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia added at the end, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and drizzled with a little more oil
- the wine through the first two courses was a California (Napa) white, La Tapatia Chardonnay Carneros 2016, from Naked Wines
The dessert was definitely the simplest of the courses.
- Satsuma mandarins from Whole Foods Market
- the music throughout was the album, ‘Per Violoncello’, all of the music of Aribert Reimann for cello (as of the 2005 recording date), plus his ‘Drei Klavierstucke’