Before I started cooking, I wasn’t expecting much from this meal, mostly because it took me too long to determine much of what I would serve, and I wasn’t excited about what the decision.
For our table at least, this plate was pretty straightforward, with few excursions into the exotic.
It was delicious.
- one 14-ounce swordfish steak from American Seafood Company in the Union Square Greenmarket, marinated for more than half an hour in a mixture of one thinly sliced red spring onion from Norwich Meadows Farm, some chopped garlic chive seeds from Space on Ryder Farm, a bit of chopped fresh pericón (Mexican tarragon) from Quarton Farm, little more than a pinch of dried Itria-Sirissi chili (peperoncino di Sardegna intero) from Buon Italia, and less than a couple tablespoons of olive oil, after which the steaks were drained and covered on both sides with a coating of homemade dried breadcrumbs (to help retain the moisture, and keep it from drying out) and pan-grilled over medium-high heat for 4 minutes on each side, or until barely cooked all of the way through, removed, arranged on the plates, seasoned with a little local salt, Phil Karlin’s P.E. & D.D. Seafood Long Island Sound sea salt, a good amount of juice from an organic lemon from Westside Market squeezed on top, drizzled with olive oil, and garnished with micro chervil from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- two small ripe heirloom tomatoes from Rise & Root Farm, halved, sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper, placed face down on the same grill as the swordfish near the end of its cooking time, turned once, then arranged on the plates, topped with chopped lovage from Quarton Farm and drizzled with a little olive oil
- a modest bunch of sweet broccoli rabe from Keith’s Farm, washed and drained 3 times, braised inside a large, heavy antique copper pot in which two crushed ‘Chesnok Red’ garlic from Alewife Farm had been allowed to sweat in some heated olive oil, the dish finished with salt, black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil
- the wine was an Italian (Sicily/Terre Siciliane) white, Defino 2016 IGT Terre Siciliane Catarratto, from Chambers Street Wines
- the music was a recording of an opera I’ve wanted to hear for decades, Daniel-François Auber and Eugène Scribe‘s 1828 grand opera, ‘La Muette De Portici’, dealing with a seventeenth century Neapolitan revolt that was sadly less than successful than the one it triggered at its 1830 Brussels premier, in what was then the Southern Provinces of the Netherlands: it ignited a successful revolution and a war of independence that resulted in the creation of Belgium, a spectacular, extended performance which was unlikely to have dismayed its creators; we heard it in a performance with Antony Hermus conducting the Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau and the Anhaltische Theater Opera Chorus (we were both delighted to find it was a delight; here is a Guardian review of the recording)
The opera was chosen for a performance at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels on 25 August 1830, as part of King William I’s festival in celebration of the 15th year of his reign.The opera would cap the three-day festival of fireworks, feasts, and processions.
Posters were put up around Brussels that advertised, “Monday, the 23rd, fireworks; Tuesday, the 24th, illuminations; Wednesday, the 25th, revolution.” However, the King’s only concession to public safety was to cancel the fireworks and procession on the final night, which left Auber’s opera as the last public event in the king’s honor.
[the text above is excerpted from the WIkipedia entry for the composer]