I didn’t know until almost the last minute whether this dinner would happen. The hot water in the building had failed at around 6 o’clock, meaning it would be impossible to work in the kitchen; it wasn’t until some time close to 10 that it was restored.
I then found myself rushing to do justice to some very fresh fish I had no desire to keep a second day, and to a vegetable accompaniment I had been looking forward to serving. I was looking at my notes from an earlier meal where I used this recipe, and in my rush to get everything going I forgot to consider the fact that these fillets were somewhat smaller (most important, thinner) than the flounder that had cooked then.
So the fish was delicious, as it has been in the past. It was of course not undercooked, but the remarkable thing is that I don’t think it was overcooked either. I was either very lucky, or else flounder is very forgiving when it comes to oven times. I suspect it was the former.
- four 3 and a half-ounce flounder fillets from American Seafood Company, placed inside a lightly-oiled oval tin-lined copper au gratin pan, skinned side down, the top surface spread (down the center, mostly for the aesthetic) with a mixture of one tablespoon of zest from a Whole Foods organic lemon, one teaspoon of a pungent dried Sicilian oregano from Buon Italia (it’s sold dried and still attached to the stem), one teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, three fourths of a tablespoon of olive oil, almost a teaspoon of lightly-crushed black peppercorns, a quarter to half a teaspoon of sea salt, and most of one finely-chopped large Rocambole garlic clove from Keith’s Farm, baked for just under 15 minutes in a 350º oven, removed, arranged on the plates, drizzled with some juice from the lemon which supplied the zest earlier, and garnished with chopped parsley from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the 23rd Street farmers market
- a little (wild?) red cress from Dave Harris’s Max Creek Hatchery
- four beautiful pale yellow Hungarian peppers from Stokes Farm, cut lengthwise, the seeds and membranes removed, sautéed over a high or medium high flame inside a large heavy antique high-sided copper pot until slightly caramelized, one fresh bulbous shallot from Tamarack Hollow Farm and a medium fresh habanada pepper from Alewife Farm added near the end, seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper and sprinkled with chopped thyme from Stokes Farm, served with a drizzle of olive oil
- the wine was a California (Mendociino and Lake counties) white, Scott Peterson Rumpus California Sauvignon Blanc 2017, from Naked Wines
- the music was Pier Francesco Cavalli’s ‘Xerxes’, with Rene Jacobs both conducting and singing the title role, as countertenor