We were entertaining guests from Berlin, one of whom hadn’t been to our apartment for dinner before, at least while we were there (we had exchanged apartments for a month). Neither meat nor pasta could be on the menu. I wanted to serve something which we would all appreciate, and which also would allow me to be a part of the conversation even as I was cooking.
The monkfish looked terrific at the market that afternoon, and I had a great Mark Bittman recipe which by this point I could process blindfolded. Unfortunately the ‘tails’ (the term almost always used to describe monkfish bodies, probably because their heads are disproportionately huge and pretty horrific in appearance), were larger, and, more importantly, much thicker than any I had worked with before, their cooking time was way longer than what I had anticipated. Luckily the potatoes were very forgiving about having to endure a longer stay in the oven, and the meal actually turned out well.
I did end up learning a couple of useful lessons because of the delay: Consider carefully the surprising mathematics of ingredient sizes, and buy smaller monkfish the next time.
We hung out in the breakfast room (the dining room that evening) nibbling on our archetypal small spread of breadsticks, roasted chick peas, and Fiori di Puglia Taralli al Peperoncino, all from Buon Italia.
- the wine was a really good Italian (Veneto) sparkling, Sommariva, Prosecco di Conegliano Brut, NV, from Flatiron Wines
There was a bit of an interval before we sat down for the main course, for the reason recounted above.
- an overflowing cup of a mix of black oil-cured olives from Buon Italia and a few kalamata olives from Chelsea Whole Foods Market, all pits removed, spread on top of a bed of 3 large (8-ounce) scrubbed and thinly-sliced Kennebec potatoes from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, the slices slightly overlapping inside an enameled cast iron oven pan after the potatoes had first been seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, sprinkled with a bit of crushed dried orange/gold habanada pepper, and topped with 17 dry Italian bay leaves, roasted in a very generous amount of olive oil (a third to half of a cup) inside a 400º oven for about 20 or 25 minutes, depending on the potato variety and their thickness, reversing the direction of the pan inside the oven halfway through, then 2 monkfish tails, each weighing a full pound, from Pura Vida Seafood Company in the Union Square Greenmarket, rinsed, halved, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, placed on top of the potatoes, roasted at the same temperature for, maybe, 20 minutes [I lost track of how long the monkfish cooked this time, so I couldn’t include the precise timing in this text], arranged on 2 plates and garnished with micro red chard from two Guys from Woodbridge
- most of 2 beautiful small-to-medium Savoy cabbages from Norwich Meadows Farm, washed, quartered, cored, sliced into one-half-inch ribbons, sautéed in a scant tablespoon of olive oil inside a large enameled cast iron pot until wilted but still crunchy, stirring occasionally, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, a teaspoon and a half of just-toasted cumin seed mixed in, finished with a third to half of a teaspoon of Columela Rioja 30 Year Reserva sherry vinegar, the mix stirred and cooked another couple of minutes (the cabbage was also patient about the delay in cooking the monkfish)
- the wine was a really wonderful Spanish (Priorat) white, Priorat Blanco, Mas La Mola 2016, the generous gift of our guests
The cheese course, unusually, had a little bit of everything: In addition to the 4 cheeses, there was bread, dried and fresh fruit, a micro green, and a good wine, so we lingered, also maybe a bit longer than usual.
- four cheeses: an unnamed washed rind buffalo milk cheese, like a Munster or havarti, a new cheese from Riverine Ranch, now in the process of development; Manchester goat cheese, Danby goat cheese, and Bardem Blue cow cheese all from Consider Bardwell Farm
- a garnish of micro chervil from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- thin slices of an excellent crusty ‘table bread’ from Philadelphia’s Lost Bread Company
- bosc and bartlett pears from Locust Grove Fruit Farm
- dried Calabrian (Amantea) figs from Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market
- the wine was a Spanish (Galicia) white, Bodegas Avancia, Godello ‘Cuvee De O’ 2016, from Flatiron Wines
- the music throughout was our conversation, at one point including a discussion of our love for Mexico, which suggested playing the album, ‘Mexico: Fiestas of Chiapas and Oaxaca‘