It was our fourth seafood dinner in 9 days, but the first one to include actual fish. Until last night there had been mussels, scallops, and crabs, but nothing with fins.
- six beautiful 2 or 3-ounce orange/red ocean perch fillets from American Seafood Company’s stand at Saturday’s Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street, rinsed and dried, both sides brushed with 2 tablespoons of olive oil mixed with a total of little more than one teaspoon, combined, of chopped ‘Chesnok Red’ garlic from Alewife Farm and a section of one thinly-sliced ‘red spring onion’ from Norwich Meadows Farm, seasoned, also on both sides, with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, placed inside an enameled cast iron pan and broiled, skin side up, 4 or 5 inches from the flames, for 4 or 5 minutes, or until the skin had become crisp and the fish cooked through, finished on the plates with some olive oil that had been heated inside a small antique enameled cast iron porringer over a very low flame for about 3 minutes with 2 salted, rinsed, and filleted Sicilian anchovies from Eataly, rinsed and filleted, the perch garnished with scissored bronze fennel buds and blossoms, from RIse & Root Farm, served with organic California lemon halves from Whole Foods Market on the side
- three small Pozzano plum tomatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, halved lengthwise, dried thoroughly, placed cut side down on a plate that had been sprinkled with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, pan-grilled, cut side down, then turned over, and finished with a dab of olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar, garnished with chopped marjoram from Stokes Farm
- one small fennel bulb from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, the fronds having already been removed and set aside after it had arrived at the apartment, cut into bite size pieces and sautéed inside a large high-sided tin-lined copper pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil until beginning to caramelize, stirring in near the end one thickly-sliced garlic clove and 3 small red shishito peppers, sliced, until the garlic had softened and the mix had become pungent, finished by tossing in some of the more tender fennel fronds, chopped, the vegetables arranged on the plates with a sprinkling of more fennel fronds
- the wine was an Australian (Victoria/Rutherglen) white, Jen Pfeiffer The Rebel Sauvignon Blanc 2018, from Naked Wines
- the music was a 1658 opera by Pier Francesco Cavalli, ‘L’Ipermestra’, Mike Fentross conducting La Sfera Armoniosa , with one particularly gorgeous tenor voice
Once in a great while, and only with certain meals, do I think it would be nice to have larger plates, although I really don’t want to go down that road. As I was arranging this one however, even I was taken aback a bit by how busy – and maximal – this entrée looked, and, yes, a bigger plate, maybe an oval plate, would have been nice. Then I pulled everything back a bit toward the edges of the plates, making room for a little white space, and it looked better. Also, the individual elements were not really that complex, and everything really made much more sense once we had tasted it.
It was delicious, and with a bit of good bread, at the end we were also able to enjoy the combination of sauces, which really was complex, that had gathered in the center of the plates.
I had been very excited to be able to come home with 4 live larger than usual local blue crabs from Pura Vida in the Union Square Greenmarket that day, especially since Paul, my fish seller, had told me these would be the last of the season. There’s a short video of one of our lively dinner guests that evening on this tweet, which was taken while I was still at the market.
- four 5 or 6-ounce soft-shell blue crabs (callinectes sapidus) from Pura Vida Seafood Company in the Union Square Greenmarket, cleaned as described in Marylander Stacey Williamson’s charming short video (it’s pretty much a cinch to do), rinsed in running water and dried very thoroughly (so they don’t ‘steam’, meaning to encourage crispness), since I had decided not to use a batter of any kind, brought to room temperature in the meantime, sautéed on both sides (bottom first, but in the end served with that side down) over a medium-high flame in a quarter inch of olive oil inside a 13-inch well-seasoned cast iron pan (for about 3 or 4 minutes altogether) until their texture goes from soft to taut, when they are ready to be removed and arranged on the 2 plates, sprinkled with local sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper, drizzled with juice of a California organic lemon from Chelsea Whole Foods Market, and garnished with micro scallion from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- one large yellow heirloom tomato from Norwich Meadows Farm and 3 green (unripe) cherry tomatoes from Alewife Farm, all halved, seasoned with salt and black pepper and sprinkled with pericón (Mexican tarragon) from Quarton Farm, sautéed on both sides, then arranged on the plates, garnished with more of the herb and stuck with a bit of its tiny stemmed flowers
- two 7-ounce yellow summer squash from Stokes Farm, washed and dried, sliced thickly on a slight diagonal, sautéed in a heavy, tin-lined copper skillet with a little olive oil (in which one garlic scape from Phillips Farms had first been heated until softened) until the squash had begun to brown, adding thin slices of shishito peppers from Alewife Farm, seeds and pith removed (although that would have removed most of whatever heat they had, which I think we would instead have welcomed) added, and briefly stirred, then mixed with torn leaves of spearmint, the gift of a friend, removed to the plates, drizzled with a little olive oil and a bit more mint scattered on top
- a couple small slices from a loaf of whole wheat (‘Redeemer wheat’) bread that I had shared that afternoon at the Greenmarket with another fan of Lost Bread Co. (neither of us really needed a full loaf that day, so we Leo offered to split one between us)
- the wine was a Spanish (Catalonoia/Empordà) white, Espelt 2017 Empordà Garnatxa Blanca, from Chambers Street Wines
- the music was the album, ‘Gli impresari’, orchestral works by Haydn “originally conceived as theatre music, before their metamorphosis into symphonies”, which is Volume 7 from the project, ‘Haydn 2032’, all the works performed by Giovanni Antonini conducting the Basel Chamber Orchestra
I couldn’t get to Union Square on Wednesday because I had to stay home waiting for the plumbers (a double indignity).
Once I was free (and hundreds of dollars lighter), it was too late to expect to find anything at the Greenmarket fish stall, so I headed down the street toward Eataly Flatiron. Once there I checked around and texted Barry, asking for his preference among 4 of my suggestions, “Luca Donofrio’s fresh ravioli di zucca, a small New York strip steak, chicken thighs, or a duck breast. He didn’t reply immediately, but just as I had narrowed down my own preferences and had come up with chicken, I saw on my phone screen that he had suggested the same.
Chicken it was, and very good chicken, and it turned out to be a happy choice, as it always is.
The preparation was inspired by a great, and quite simple Marc Bitttman recipe, very open to adjustments and elaboration.
And yes, I can now confirm that you can successfully substitute a rosé for a white as a cooking wine.
I mostly succeeded in restraining myself from going overboard with the ingredients this time, but I couldn’t resist including one tiny, mostly heatless red chili pepper and one extremely small very hot ur-pepper in the mix that produced the sauce, if only as an experiment.
- two 8-ounce fresh New York State chicken thighs, from Cascun Farms, purchased at Eataly Flatiron, the loose skin of one pinned with 3 toothpicks, seasoned on both sides with local P.E. & D.D. Seafood sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, browned well in two tablespoons or so of Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’ inside a medium oval enameled high-sided cast iron pot, then covered with aluminum foil (it doesn’t have to be a tight seal at all, and it definitely wasn’t) and cooked over medium-low heat, turning occasionally, until the internal temperature is 155-165 degrees, or the juices run clear, which was roughly 15 minutes, transferred to a small oval platter and covered with the foil to keep warm while 3 minced very small round shallots from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, one small chopped red shishito pepper from Alewife Farm, and only one finely chopped small-pea-size yellow Brazil wax pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm were stirred in and allowed to soften before about a third of a cup of rosé wine (an Oregon Willamette Valley rosé, Chris Baker Willamette Valley Rose of Pinot Noir 2018, from Naked Wines] was added to the pot and the heat raised to medium high, until the liquid reduced quite a bit, or until it was a of the consistency of a sauce, a generous amount of chopped pericón (Mexican tarragon) from Quarton Farm was added and stirred in before it was transferred to a glass sauce boat, from which some of it was poured over the chicken, now arranged on plates
- three different kinds of potato (because I didn’t have enough of any one kind), ‘Chieftain’ potatoes from Keith’s Farm,’Pinto’ potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, and ‘Purple Peruvian’ potatoes, also from Norwich Meadows Farm, washed, scrubbed, and boiled unpeeled in generously-salted water until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried in the still-warm large vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, rolled in a little butter, seasoned with salt and pepper and arranged on the plates garnished with micro scallion from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- one medium head of radicchio from Tamarack Hollow Farm, sliced broadly and sautéed until barely wilted inside a large, high-sided tin-lined copper pot with a little olive oil in which one sliced medium tropea onion from Alewife Farm had been allowed to soften, seasoned with salt and black pepper, finished with a splash of white balsamic vinegar and arranged on the plates, with a little more added at the table later, to offset the unusual bitterness of the chicory
- the wine was a French (Loire/Cheverny/Cour-Cheverny) red, Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rouge 2016, probably from Philippe Wines
- the music was the album, ‘L’homme de genie’, which is Volume 5 from the project, ‘Haydn 2032’, with 3 Haydn symphonies and one by Joseph Martin Kraus, all performed by Giovanni Antonini conducting the Basel Chamber Orchestra
This will be the very last appearance here of the three ‘heads’ of puntarelle that I purchased last Wednesday exactly one week ago as I write this, and which I eventually included in 4 nights of meals (9 servings) before exhausting its wonderful bounty with 2 different recipes.
A great vegetable.
- two or three roughly chopped cloves of ‘Chesnok Red’ garlic from Alewife Farm heated inside a large antique copper pot in a few tablespoons of olive oil until softened and fragrant, seasoned with local sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a couple of rinsed, dried, and filleted Sicilian anchovies from Buon Italia, and a bit of crushed dried Itria-Sirissi chili, pepperoncino di Sardegna intero, also from Buon Italia, followed by the addition of roughly 9 ounces of the external leaves of several heads of puntarelle from Tamarack Hollow Farm, trimmed of any wilted portions at the bottom, and washed very well in several changes of water (the base of this plant often has sand), parboiled inside a tall stainless steel pot in a large amount of well salted water until just tender, removed with a broad vintage slotted spoon, drained, and cut up very roughly, stirred into and mixed well with the contents of the pot with the puntarelle, then adding 9 ounces of Afeltra penne rigate, cooked until barely al dente in the same water in which the greens had been parboiled, along with almost a full cup of the pasta-vegetable water, mixed well over high heat, allowing the pasta to absorb the flavors and the liquid to have emulsified, when the puntarelle will have partially ‘melted’ into a kind of sauce for the pasta
- the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley) rosé, Chris Baker Willamette Valley Rose of Pinot Noir 2018, from Naked Wines
- the music was an album of Sinfonie Concertanti by Mozart, Holxbauer, and Pleyel, performed by the Kammerorchester Basel
Dinner was a cinch.
I really went pretty basic with the scallops this time, the tomato was almost as minimal, and the puntarelle have almost become something I could do in my sleep.
But I did manage to include a tiny (edible) bouquet on the plate (a last minute inspiration).
- eleven sea scallops (14 ounces total) from P.E. & D.D. Seafood Company, rinsed, dried very thoroughly with paper towels then placed in a paper plate to prevent condensation, seasoned with local Long Island sea salt from P.E. & D.D. Seafood and freshly-ground black pepper, grilled briefly (90 seconds on each side) in a very hot full size square enameled cast iron pan, finished with a squeeze of juice from an organic California lemon from Chelsea Whole Foods Market and a drizzle of Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, arranged on the plates with a sprinkling of scissored bronze fennel, flowers and buds, from Rise & Root Farm
- slices of a baguette from She Wolf Bakery in the Union Square Greenmarket
- one small heirloom tomato from Norwich Meadows Farm, halved, sprinkled on the cut side with sea salt and black pepper, scattered with chopped leaves of pericón (Mexican tarragon) from Quarton Farm, heated gently on bot sides inside a small copper skillet, arranged on the plates with tiny sprigs of pericón flowers planted on top
- the only real central sections that remained from the puntarelle I had bought last week, and last included in a meal on Friday, prepared from scratch as described in this post, and tossed with a freshly assembled anchovy sauce (they were still delicious)
- the wine was a California (Clarksburg) white, Miriam Alexandra California Chenin Blanc 2018, from Naked Wines
- the music was Rossini’s beautiful 1821-1822 melodramma giocoso (opera semiseria) ‘Matilde di Shabran’, Riccardo Frizza conducting the Orquesta Sinfonica di Galicia, with Annick Massis and the incredibly beautiful voice of Juan Diego Florez