Say it fast: ‘coda di rospo inguazato con broccoli romanesco‘.
We had returned from a month in Berlin only 4 days earlier, where ‘monkfish’ is called Seeteufel [‘sea devil’], a response to its appearance when hauled from the sea. I’ve been enjoying using German names to describe food normally not specific to German cookery, but I wasn’t tempted this time, especially if I was also going to include the name of the vegetable that accompanied this wonderful dish.
And while both the German and the Italian names (the latter translates as ‘tail of a toad’) describe the fish itself better than the English, ‘monkfish’, none of them comes close to describing the taste of its flesh, its’ tail’, which is so much more pleasant than its scary mug.
- two 9-ounce monkfish tails from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, prepared using a David Pasternak recipe which includes M’hamsa Couscous from Tunisia (purchased at Whole Foods), olive oil, sliced garlic John D. Madura Farm, two 400-gram cans of really superb Mutti baby Roma tomatoes from Eataly (which are also available at Whole Foods), and cracked Sicilian green olives from Whole Foods, and 2 whole dried Sicilian pepperoncino from Buon Italia
- one small head of Romanesco broccoli from Alewife Farm, broken up into florets, tossed with a little olive oil (not too much, to ensure a slightly crispy, slightly carbonized finish), salt, pepper, and one crushed section of a dark dried habanada pepper, the mix spread onto a Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan and roasted at 400º for about 25 minutes, some slices of a fresh habanada pepper added to the pan a few minutes before the broccoli was removed from the oven, the mix stirred and arranged on the plate
- the wine was an Italian (Sardinia) white, La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna 2015
- the music was that of Carl Nielsen, including several chamber works the Symphony no 1 in G minor
This time I strayed so far from the urtext of a recipe, one which I have used many times before, that I won’t even go into its antecedents.
I’ll only introduce the ingredients.
It’s a mystery to me why pollock is always so modestly priced at the fish market, because it really is a great fish, with excellent flavor and wonderful texture, and it’s really easy to prepare. It’s also amenable to any number of creative treatments, although I’d recommend not getting too fancy, or its very real virtues might end up hidden.
The other mystery is the phenomenal shape of Romanesco broccoli, normally unnaturally geometric, but this time, in parts, almost diabolically contorted, and also two-toned!
- two 8-ounce pollock fillets from Pura Vida Seafood, dried, seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper, placed in a buttered copper au gratin pan, spread over the top with a mixture of soft butter, lemon zest, and some chopped red scallions from S. & S.O. Produce Farms [almost any other mild allium could be substituted], and one finely-chopped habanada pepper from Norwich Meadows Farm, baked 12 to 15 minutes at 350º, removed to 2 plates, some micro red sorrel from Two Gus from Woodbridge briefly stirred into the pan juices, which were drizzled on top of the fillets, the dish finished with some more (fresh) micro sorrel
- fourteen sun gold tomatoes, from 2 different growers, Ryder Farm and Stokes Farm, heated with a little olive oil inside a small Pyrex glass pan until they had begun to soften, then seasoned with salt and pepper and added to the au gratin pan after the pollock had been removed, but before the sorrel had been added
- one magnificent Romanesco broccoli head from Berried Treasures, broken up into florets, tossed with a little olive oil (not too much, to guarantee a slightly crispy, slightly carbonized side dish), salt, pepper, and part of a seeded medium-hot red cherry pepper from Oak Grove Plantation, finely chopped, the mix spread onto one of my several Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pans and roasted at 400º for about 25 minutes [it was necessary to juggle the fish and the vegetable inside the oven on account of the different oven temperatures required], removed from the oven, stirred, and served
- the wine was a California (Napa) white, Matt Iaconis Chardonnay Napa Valley 2015
- the music was Vivaldi’s ‘Armida’, Rinaldo Alessandrini directing Concerto Italiano
picture of the skate, about a minute after being place in the new skillet
This was a fairly simple meal, and an extremely good one. Its remarkable goodness was actually a surprise for me. We enjoy skate and Romanesco broccoli very much, and I serve each with some regularity, but they were both more tasty this time than they had ever been before.
I can’t account for the exceptional goodness of the skate and its sauce, except to consider the fact this was my first outing with a beautiful new copper skillet, and that might have contributed something to the result. The only thing novel about the preparation of the it-looks-like-cauliflower broccoli was the fact that I inadvertently tossed the florets with less olive oil than I had in the past, and that, combined with their feathery tops, meant that there was more opportunity for them to develop a nutty, slightly toasted flavor.
- two skate wings from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, each divided into two sections, coated with a coarse polenta which had been seasoned with salt and pepper, sautéed in olive oil for a few minutes, removed from the pan, the pan wiped with a paper towel, then some butter, chopped shallots from Phillips Farm, and sliced garlic from Berried Treasures introduced into it and stirred over a heat which had first been lowered, followed by the addition of a little more butter, juice from half of an organic lemon, and chopped parsley from Phillips Farm
- one fairly small Romanesco broccoli head from Phillips Farm, broken up into florets which were then tossed in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and pepperoncino, spread onto a ceramic oven pan, roasted at 400º for about 25 minutes, removed from the oven, and, when the pan had begun to cool down, drizzled with olive oil and stirred
The entrée was followed by a small cheese course, because, well,.. because the cheese was there, and because we didn’t want one of my favorites, Karen Weinberg’s, ‘Shushan Snow‘, from her family’s 3-Corner Field Farm, to mature beyond its perfection.
- one section of a round of ‘Shushan Snow‘ sheep cheese from 3-Corner Field Farm, served with thin toasts made from a 4-day-old loaf of Grand Daisy Pugliese Pane, from Whole Foods
- the wine throughout was a Canadian (Quebec) white, Maurice Dufour‘s, Vinifie Chez Maurice Dufour Le Charlevoyou Muscat Osceola 2014 (the grapes are Osceola Muscat, a small, very winter-hardy white Muscat-type grape developed in Wisconsin, which M. Dufour purchases from Royarnois Estate, a vineyard a few kilometers from his home and chai [it’s a very limited production (we bought it à la maison, just outside Baie-Saint-Paul late last spring), and it’s not available in the U.S., but if it were possible I would buy a case today]
- the music was once again a streaming of the continuing WQXR annual 10-day, year-end Bach Festival, this time a broadcast of the composer’s dramatic ‘Johannespassion‘, BWV 245, in a performance by the Dunedin Consort which included an ‘ideal’ of the original Lutheran vesper liturgy (here, organ and congregational chorales, organ prelude, responsory, collect, blessing, another responsory, another chorale, and a final congregational chorale; it was awesome!
I had some eggs which I did not want to forget to use, so I decided I’d make a frittata for dinner. We love frittatas. We are also big fans of most any vegetable, not least romanesca broccoli, as I’ve shown recently. The next day in the Greenmarket I spotted a beautiful head of this art deco treasure which appeared to be exactly the right size for the purpose.
- one large thinly-sliced garlic clove from Norwich Meadows Farm, sautéed in heated olive oil in a seasoned 10″ cast iron pan for about 30 seconds, small flowerettes of romanesca broccoli from Hoeffner Farms, and chopped fresh hot red pepper from Oak Grove Plantation added and cooked for another minute, some of the torn green pointed leaves which enclose the head introduced just before the end, seasoned with salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons of water added, a pyrex glass cover placed over the pan, its contents cooked over moderate heat until the vegetable was crisp-tender, removed from the pan and set aside to cool a little before it was stirred into a bowl in which 8 eggs from Millport Dairy which had been beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper, the contents of the bowl poured into the original pan, which had been returned to the burner where it had heated a tablespoon of oil, the eggs and romanesca cooked over moderately low heat until the edges had set, sprinkled with a half cup of grated parmesan cheese and transferred to a pre-heated 350º oven for about 12 minutes [the dish can be served warm, but not hot, or at room temperature]
- the wine was an Italian (Veneto) sparkling, Di Maria Prosecco DOC Famiglia Botter
- the music was Carl Heinrich Graun’s opera, ‘Montezuma‘
The dinner was something of a improvisation for that evening, using ingredients I had just found hanging around the kitchen (except perhaps for one very deliberate move, ahead of time, to defrost some frozen crab cakes). That may explain why, in the end, there was a lot going on with this entrée, but it was pretty tasty nevertheless.
- two crab cakes from PE & DD Seafood (ingredients: crab, egg, flour, red & green peppers, garlic, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, milk, celery, parsley), heated in a heavy iron pan, 3 to 4 minutes to each side, sprinkled with fresh fennel seed from Lani’s Farm, and drizzled with a little olive oil, served on a bed of three different colors of heirloom tomatoes from Berried Treasures, chopped, which were combined with salt, ground black pepper, part of one tiny, finely-chopped fresh hot red pepper from Roots to River Farm, and chopped fresh oregano leaves from from Rise & Root Farm
- one medium radicchio from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, quartered lengthwise, placed in an unglazed ceramic oven pan, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, roasted at 400º for about 12 minutes, turning once, finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and scattered with shavings of Red Cow Parmesan cheese from Eataly
- portions of the core of the three small Romanesco broccoli we had enjoyed two nights ago, along with sections of their upper cores, sautéed – in steps – in olive oil (along with two small squashed cloves of garlic from Norwich Meadows Farm, which had earlier begun to turn brown), until the vegetable was tender, seasoned with salt and pepper, a small amount of water added and then emulsified with the remaining oil
- the wine was a Slovenian (Vipava) white, Guerila Vipavska Dolina Pinela 2012, from Appellation Wines & Spirits
- the music* was, in succession, an August Klughardt piano quintet from 1884, several pieces by Pascal Dusapin, including an extraordinary virtuoso trombone concerto, ‘Concerto for Trombone “Watt” ‘, and some amazing piano pieces of Franz Liszt (the very modern, ‘Nocturne for Piano, S 203 “Schlaflos, Frage und Antwort”‘ was a huge surprise to me), performed brilliantly by Andre Watts for the evening
*Note: If you click onto this link, and if you have a Spotify account, you can see our entire playlist for the evening.