Sometimes I decide to cook something partly, maybe mostly, just because I want to see if I can, and to see what it’s like to cook something or to taste something I may not otherwise have a chance to experience.
Butterfish was like that the first time it appeared on our table; the second time it was a good friend.
Last night, just after the meal, I tweeted: “I get it: cooking – and eating – whole fish isn’t for the timid, but egads it’s so good (butterfish tonight)” This is James Wagner, and I approve this message.
- four 5-ounce whole cleaned butterfish from Pura Vida Seafood, rinsed, drained, dried, 2 deep diagonal cuts made to each side before they were brushed with a mixture of olive oil, some zest and juice from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, chopped parsley from Salinas, California, via Eataly Flatiron, and some crushed dried red shishito pepper (with no heat) from Lani’s Farm, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper on both sides, dusted lightly with a local Greenmarket-purchased whole wheat flour from The Blew family of Oak Grove Plantation in Pittstown, N.J., placed in 3 or 4 tablespoons of a mix of olive oil and butter inside a large seasoned oval 16″ steel pan that had been allowed to get very hot, over 2 burners, before the heat was turned down to low, and the fish sautéed for about 3.5 minutes each side (it should turn a crispy golden brown), or until cooked through, arranged on the plates and sprinkled with more, fresh, chopped parsley
- a few handfuls of tiny white Hakurei turnips from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, tossed in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, the leaves off of 2 rosemary stems from Whole Foods Market Chelsea and 2 large crushed bay leaves from Westside Market, roasted on a seasoned medium-size Pampered Chef oven pan for 20 or 25 minutes at 400º, garnished on the plates with micro red mustard from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- mustard greens (in mid-January!) from Norwich Meadows Farm, wilted in a little olive oil in which several small halved cloves of Keith’s Farm rocambole garlic had been allowed to sweat a bit, seasoned with salt and pepper and finished on the plates with a drizzle of olive oil
There was a cheese course, mostly because we had 2 cheeses exactly at their prime.
Because the 2 courses were so very different, there really should have been a sorbet before the cheese as a palate cleanser, but we had none, so we just sucked it up, so to speak.
- two cheeses, an Ardith Mae camembert-style using 2 milks (goat from their own farm and cow from that of a neighbor) and a ‘Buvarti’ semi-hard water buffalo cheese from Riverine Ranch
- slices of a 12 grain bread from Bread Alone in the Union Square Greenmarket
- the wine throughout was a Spanish (Rías Baixas) white, Albariño “Xión”, Bodegas y Viñedos Attis 2017, from Astor Wines
- the music throughout was Verdi’s painfully romantic 1853 tragic opera, ‘La Traviata’, Carlo Rizzi conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, with Luigi Roni, Helene Schneiderman, Salvatore Cordella, Paul Gay, Anna Netrebko, Diane Pilcher, Herman Wallen, Dritan Luca, Wolfram Igor Derntl, Rolando Villazón, and Thomas Hampson