Our special guest, visiting from overseas (oh, magic word) had never had dinner in our apartment, at least not while we were there, so I wanted the meal to be special as well. The most important thing was not to mess up; the second was that it would be delicious, but also reflect some of the rich local seafood bounty available in New York.
Its success at the table depended partly on my not being too distracted by brilliant conversation in the kitchen, and the food choices I had were almost entirely dependent on what was available in the Greenmarket that afternoon. I’m pretty sure the meal passed muster, and the incredibly fresh local scallops, cod, and winter rapini filled the program I had in mind very well.
The appetizer’s featured player has always been a popular favorite.
- nine sea scallops (10 ounces) from American Seafood Company, rinsed, dried, slit horizontally with a very sharp knife almost all of the way through to accommodate small bits from a mixture of some fresh oregano leaves from Stokes Farm, one medium-size clove of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, sea salt, and black pepper, all having chopped together very finely and removed to a small bowl where just enough olive oil was added to form a paste, the scallops then rolled around on a plate with a little more olive oil, drained, pan grilled in an enameled cast iron pan for about 2 minutes on each side, removed to 2 plates, finished with a squeeze of organic lemon from Whole Foods Market and a drizzle of olive oil
- six large, very ripe, very sweet Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market, washed, dried, halved, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, heated for a minute in a small tin-lined copper skillet
- slices of a wonderfully-crusty ‘polenta boule’ from She Wolf Bakery
- the wine was a French (Loire/Cheverny) white, Pascal Bellier Cheverny Blanc 2017, from Vin Des Amis
The central actor in the main course also came from the sea, although the extraordinary purple potatoes gave the wonderful fresh cod some earthy competition.
- *three 9-ounce cod fillets from American Seafood Company in the Union Square greenmarket, halved, prepared more or less along the lines of a recipe described by Mark Bittman that I had originally come across 12 years ago: the cod washed and rinsed, placed in a platter on a bed of coarse sea salt, with more salt added on top until the pieces were completely covered, then set aside while a bed of potatoes was prepared for them by slicing 20 ounces or so of Tamarack Hollow Farm Peter Wilcox purple-skinned, golden-fleshed potatoes (several, maybe interlopers, were purple all the way through) to a thickness of about a quarter inch, tossing them in a large bowl with olive oil, sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a large pinch of orange/gold home-dried Habanada pepper (acquired fresh last fall from Norwich Meadows Farm), arranging the potatoes, overlapping, in a rectangular enameled cast iron oven pan, cooking them for 25 minutes or so in a 400º oven, or until they were tender when pierced, and then, before the potatoes had fully cooked, the cod having already been thoroughly immersed in many changes of water to bring down the saltiness (incidentally, the soaking process somehow gives the fish more solidity, which can be easily felt while it’s being handled it at this point, and it’s kinda sexy), draining and drying the 3 pieces before placing them inside the pan on top of the potatoes, drizzling them with a little olive oil and scattering some freshly-ground black pepper on top, returning the pan to the oven for 8 to 12 minutes (the exact time depends on the thickness of the fillets), removing the fish with a spatula (or, much better, two spatulas), along with as much of the potatoes as can be brought with each piece, and arranging everything as intact if possible onto 3 plates, returning to the pan for the remainder of the potatoes, the servings each scattered with sunflower sprouts from Windfall Farms [Note: whether by luck or skill, maybe both, the cod was cooked perfectly]
- one bunch of broccoli rabe (aka rapini) from Migliorelli Farm, wilted in a little olive oil in which 3 Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm had been heated until beginning to color, then seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, divided onto the plates and drizzled with more olive oil
- the wine with the main course was a Portuguese (Douro) white, Folias de Baco Uivo Moscatel Galego Branco 2016, also from Vin Des Amis
The dessert (wow, we rarely get that far through a meal, even when we have guests) was a first for all of us.
- Limoncello ‘Naturally Flavored’ Italian Gelato from Whole Foods Market, served with Frankies 457 Sicilian olive oil, the gift of a friend, a bit of Maldon Salt, and some zest from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon
- the music throughout the meal was our conversation