Somebody else said it, but it totally makes sense: Swordfish belly is to swordfish as pork belly is to pork.
Which means it’s absolutely wonderful, and explains why I’ve gone home with some every time I’ve found it in the market. Because it doesn’t show up at our local fish stands very often, this was only the fourth time I’ve been able to prepare it.
- one 1½-inch-thick 14-ounce belly steak from a local, Long Island waters, swordfish (noting there’s a significant shrinkage in the cooking process, so this amount represented 2 modest portions) from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, brought to kitchen/room temperature, cut into 2 segments, the skin not sliced off this time, as it’s perfectly edible and it helps hold together the shape of the belly meat, briefly seared, 30 or so seconds on the first side, 15 or a little more on the second, inside a totally dry (no oil or butter whatsoever) enameled cast iron oval pan which had been pre-heated above a high flame until quite hot, the swordfish seasoned, as it was turned, with local Long Island sea salt, also from P.E. & D.D., and freshly ground black pepper, removed and arranged on warm plates, the heat under the pan reduced to medium and a tablespoon or so of olive oil added, slices from one rocambole garlic clove from Keith’s Farm placed inside and sautéed until softened, and then a couple dozen or so halved, very ripe golden cherry tomatoes from Eckerton Hill Farm, punctured with a small trussing steel, which added and pushed around inside the pan briefly, after which all of its contents were arranged on and around the seared swordfish, both fish and vegetable finished with a squeeze of a small organic Californian lemon from Chelsea While Foods Market and sprinkled with chopped marjoram from from Willow Wisp Farm
- slices of a crusty She Wolf Bakery baguette to soak up all the juices
I had bought two packages of smoked fish salad at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday, thinking we’d need that much for 4 people, but we only opened one of them that night. The 2 of us would share the contents of the other container on Monday and Tuesday.
- a composed smoked fish salad, or pâté, using local fish caught by Phil Karlin, whose wife, Dolores Karlin, made it, consisting of more than one white fish species, mayonnaise, red onion, and celery, from P.E. & D.D. Seafood Company (the salad was perfectly seasoned), served on slices of a loaf of ‘table bread’ from Philadelphia’s Lost Bread Co. that had just been toasted over an open gas flame on our ‘Camp-A-Toaster’
- leaves of loose small arugula from Norwich Meadows Farm, dressed with some very good unfiltered olive oil from the 6th Avenue Trader Joe’s, Maldon salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of organic lemon juice from Chelsea Whole Foods Market
The main course, however, was all new. It was dominated by seafood as well, which, coincidentally, had come from the same fishers who had brought us both the fish in the pâté and the cod we had enjoyed on Saturday.
Also new – and quite old – was the very large tin-lined copper pan I used to cook the fish. Although they weighed barely a pound altogether, the area the fillets would occupy was larger than any pan surface I had (that is, other than a pretty enormous, beautifully-seasoned carbon steel long-handled fish skillet, which I could have used, since there would be no acid involved in the cooking).
The new pan was a triumph.
- eight small (2-ounce) Porgy fillets from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, rinsed, dried, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, pan-seared, along with 4 small thinly-sliced Japanese shallots from Norwich Meadows Farm, over medium heat inside a newly-acquired and newly-retinned 13″-round shallow antique copper pan in a bit of butter and a little olive oil, the fish basted with the contents of the pan more or less continually for about 2 minutes, using a small brush, then carefully turned over, and the heat reduced to low, a cover placed on the pan (I used a new, tempered-glass universal lid that almost fit snugly between the handles) and the filets cooked for about about another 2 minutes before the cover was removed and a mix of 2 or 3 tablespoons of 7 different fresh herbs thrown in (this time I used thyme and spearmint from Chelsea Whole Foods; parsley from Norwich Meadows Farm; lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge; oregano from Phillips Farms; tarragon from Flatiron Eataly; and basil from a friend’s indoor garden), after which the basting was continued for about minute, or until the fish was cooked through, the fillets then arranged on the 2 plates, the pan juices and scallion fragments, together with the juice of one organic Whole Foods Market lemon, poured over the top, and a few chopped green segments of scallion scattered over everything (the recipe has been slightly modified from one written by Melissa Clark)
- the greens from 2 bunches of French breakfast radishes purchased from Eckerton Hill Farm (most of the radishes themselves had been enjoyed at the beginning of the meal on Saturday)
There was a dessert this time, which is something of a rare occurrence at our table.
[the image above, a portrait of Gioacchino Rossini in a super dressing gown, or banyan, by an unidentified artist, is apparently from the Theaterwissenschaftliche Sammlung – Universität zu Köln, via Pinterest (which does not load)]
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
Because it would simplify my work on the entrée when we had guests, leaving me with more time to interact before we sat down to eat, I had hoped to pick up a large striped bass fillet when I headed for the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday, as in this good dinner. It didn’t happen: I had forgotten that this wasn’t the season for stripers, because of serious conservation management directives.
I had no fallback, so when I noticed that Phil Karlin himself was at his family’s fish stand, I told him I would be serving 4 people that night, and asked if he have a suggestion. “Get the haddock”, he replied, without a second’s hesitation.
I got the haddock.
Thanks Phil. It was superb.
The meal began with filetti alici marinate as primi, served on a large plate arranged in a pattern I hated to disturb.
- A 9-ounce package of fresh marinated anchovies (It. alici marinate) from Buon Italia in Chelsea Market, the fillets, as they are packaged in sunflower oil, removed from the container, laid on top of paper towels on a large plate in order to drain, their top side gently dried with another paper towel, then carefully arranged on a second large plate, scattered with a little chopped Salinas, California parsley from Eataly, a bit of super-pungent dried Sicilian oregano from Buon Italia, and a bit of finely-chopped Krasnodar red garlic from Quarton Farm, drizzled with Frankies 457 Sicilian olive oil, the plate covered and set near a window where they remained at precisely 58º F (hey, I read somewhere that Italians love 58º F for their alici) for about an hour and a half or 2 hours, brought to the table and distributed onto the 4 plates (there were 33 anchovies, so 8 per person, one for the cook, to taste)
- the greens on the side included mix of wild cress and, in a very tiny form, a variation of cress crossed with shepherd’s purse, both from Lani’s Farm, a bit of ‘Rosa di Campo Rosso’ radicchio from Campo Rosso Farm, and micro pea greens from Windfall Farms
- slices of a delicious buckwheat baguette from Runner & Stone Bakery
- the wine was a Spanish (Galicia) white, Bodegas Avancia, Godello ‘Cuvee De O’ 2016, from Flatiron Wines
The main course was a triumph.
- twelve or so cipolline onions from Norwich Meadows Farm, boiled for 5 minutes, drained, skinned, and the root ends cut off before 6 tablespoons of oil was heated inside a large antique heavy high-sided copper pot over medium-high heat, at which time the onions, a pound of thickly-sliced shiitake mushrooms from Bulich Mushroom Company in the Union Square Greenmarket, a good pinch of sea salt, and some freshly ground black pepper were added to the pot and stirred frequently until the mushrooms had begun to soften and everything nicely browned (about 7 or 8 minutes), then 2 thirds of a cup of good Spanish Rioja wine vinegar added, the mix cooked, stirring, over medium high heat for about a minute, scraping up any browned bits stuck on the bottom, the pan removed from the heat and set aside while 2 large rectangular enameled steel oven pans were placed on top of the burners [if there had been only 2 fillets, the onions and mushrooms could have been prepared inside an oval copper au gratin pan, and removed to a bowl when done, the pan wiped clean and the haddock placed inside it], the flames turned high and four very very fresh 8-ounce haddock fillets from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, skin on, already rubbed on both sides with 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, added to the pan once it was very hot, skin side up, seared until a good brown crust had developed, or for about 3 minutes, the fillets turned over and the reserved onions, mushrooms, and pan juices arranged around the fish, and not on it, everything scattered with many (24 small) fresh late-season rosemary branches from Keith’s Farm, the pan placed inside a 400º oven and roasted for about 12 minutes or so [the original recipe, for 2 fillets, appears here]
- the plate garnished with micro red mustard from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- the wine was a California (Central Coast/Santa Ynez Valley) white, Rick Boyer Santa Ynez Valley Dry White Blend 2017, from Naked Wines
by Rick Boyer
The dessert represented the first time, and probably the last (I can’t find the maker active anywhere on line) that we would enjoy what was a certain really, really good gelato.
We remained at the table even after it had been cleared by the staff (the cook), sipping a Chicago whiskey we had discovered recently.
- the music throughout was (mostly) more live streaming of the awesome octonary WKCR Bachfest 2018
Farmed game. Well, it’s not entirely an oxymoron.
It was December 25th, Christmas, so the meal had to be at least a little special. Two forms of wild game would definitely fill the bill, I thought, and that’s what I went for, although without the “wild” part.
Unless you fish for trout and hunt deer yourself, or have good friends who do, in the United States today both of those forms of what once passed for game will always be domesticated.
But it’s still worth fishing and hunting for the stores that can offer their farmed equivalents: This meal was a delicious reminder of that.
The appetizer anticipated the signal festiveness of the main course, but otherwise gave nothing away.
- five ounces of smoked local rainbow trout, Solex Catsmo, from our neighboring Chelsea Foragers Market, served with a dressing made starting with a really good prepared mayonaise, Sir Kensington’s, plain, Classic Mayonnaise (made by ex-Brown students, with headquarters in SoHo), adding a little Whole Foods Market organic lemon zest and lemon juice, a bit of Hengstenberg’s horseradish creme, in a (very convenient) tube, from the Schaller & Weber store in Yorkville, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper
- several tiny whole peppery plants, their basal leaves growing as rosettes, a delicate-looking cross of wild cress and the mustard-like shepherd’s purse (“the second most common weed in the world”) from Lani’s Farm
- slices of a crusty Pain d’Avignon dark rye from Foragers Market
- the wine with the trout was a Portuguese (Beira) sparkling rosé, Beira Extra Brut Rosé ‘3B’ Filipa Pato 2017, from Astor Wines
The main course was, well, the main course, since it featured venison. This time, pretty uncharacteristically for both myself and the venison, it was prepared in just about the simplest way I could imagine, using only a little butter, garlic, and white wine at the very end.
- one frozen 1″ thick venison round steak (1.28 lbs/20 ounces) from the Schaller & Weber store, a Yorkville treasure (I think the meat is locally sourced, but I’ll have to wait until I return to the store to ask), defrosted slowly in the refrigerator, seasoned lightly with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper on both sides, set aside on a plate or a rack in order to warm to room temperature (no longer than an hour), near the end of that time 2 or 3 cloves of Krasnodar red garlic from Quarton Farm minced roughly and set aside, then a very large (17″) seasoned vintage oval steel pan heated over medium heat until the point when beads of water slide over the surface, a small pad of butter then, allowed to melt and spread across the surface with a wooden spatula, the steaks placed inside the pan and cooked without moving them just until they could slide across the surface with a shake of the pan (about 2 minutes), turned over and the other side cooked to the same point, which should be to a rare to medium rare state, removed from the pan onto 2 plates and covered with aluminum foil while they had rested for almost 10 minutes, while continuing to cook slightly (in this case the plates themselves were also on the top surface of a warm oven), the pan deglazed with a few tablespoons of white wine, the chopped garlic introduced, pushed around, and cooked briefly over low heat, another pad of butter added to make the sauce a little creamy, the sauce then poured over the steaks
- dabs of garlic oregano jam from Berkshire Berries to the side of the venison
- two 7-ounce celery root (celeriac) from from John D Madura Farms, scrubbed, peeled, cut into the size and shape of potato frites, about 1/4″ in cross section, tossed inside a bowl with olive oil [NOTE: I used too little oil this time, which may have kept them from ending up as crispy as I like], a half teaspoon of a smoked picante paprika, Safinter Pimenton de la Vera, a bit of crushed home-dried habanada pepper, sea salt, and a little freshly ground black pepper, then spread onto a large Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan, and roasted at 425º until brown and cooked through
- one bunch of really wonderful “broccoli with leaves” (9 ounces) from Lani’s Farm, layered with the cut stem sections on the bottom and the roughly-cut leaves on top inside an antique medium size high-sided copper pot with a half inch of water in the bottom, covered with a copper universal lid, steamed for a few minutes, the water then entirely drained from the pot and the greens tossed, over a medium flame, with a little olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and a little crushed peperoncino Calabresi secchia from Buon Italia in Chelsea Market
- the wine was a really wonderful Portuguese (Douro) red, Quinta do Infantado, Douro Tinto 2015, from Flatiron Wines (and a really wonderful pairing with this entrée)