They were beautiful.
Although I did hesitate for a few minutes, wary of some imagined complexity that might be involved in their preparation and/or enjoyment, but I don’t think I could have not bought some of the very fresh whole butterfish I saw at the fish seller’s on Monday: They were gorgeous, and there was also the draw of their being something I had neither ever eaten or cooked.
They were really no trouble at all to prepare, and they were as beautiful on the plates as they were in the buckets at the market. They were also absolutely delicious.
But don’t believe what you may read about their bones being of little concern for diners, unless you manage to find and read this note from Cape Cod’s Community Supported Fisheries before cooking them, as I certainly did not: “The bones and the tail stay in—the bones pull out easily with one clean tug once the fish is cooked, and the crispy tail is, in my opinion, the very best part.”. I’ll know next time.
This recipe found on line was my starting point for preparing the butterfish Saturday night.
- four 8-ounce whole uncleaned butterfish from PE. & D.D. Seafood, rinsed, drained, cut diagonally from the back of the head toward the belly, in doing so removing most of the guts, while opening the body cavity, and allowing the remaining guts to be wiped out with both fingers and a rinse of running water, then dried and 2 deep diagonal cuts made to each side before they were brushed with a mixture of olive oil, zest and some juice from an organic Whole Foods Market, lemon, chopped parsley from Paffenroth Farm, and some crushed dried red shishito pepper from Lani’s Farm, seasoned, also on both sides, with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, dusted lightly with a local Greenmarket-purchased whole wheat flour from The Blew family of Oak Grove Plantation in Pittstown, N.J., sautéed in a hot enameled cast iron pan in about 3 tablespoons of a mix of olive oil and butter for about 3 minutes each side, or until cooked through
- six halved Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, heated gently face down, then turned, inside a medium size heavy copper skillet, sprinkled with whole oregano leaves from Stokes Farm
- a beautiful bunch or late season outdoors-grown flat-leaf red mustard greens from Lani’s Farm (they were beautiful and seemed just a little ‘savage’, the latter adjective made quite real while I was rinsing them in roughly 10 changes[!] of water to get the soil off the leaves), wilted inside a large enameled cast iron pot in a little olive oil in which 3 bruised cloves of Keith’s Farm rocambole garlic had been allowed to sweat, seasoned with sea salt, black pepper, finished on the plates with a drizzle of olive oil
- the wine was a California (Russian River Valley) white, DRG Daryl Groom Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2017, from Naked Wines
- the music was a ‘modern’ (1829) version by a 20-year-old Felix Mendelssohn of Handel’s 1718 opera, ‘Acis And Galatea’, a chamber pastorale on an English text of John Gay and Alexander Pope; Mendelssohn’s sister Fanny supplied the German translation and her brother “..enlarged the size of the orchestra by the addition of two clarinets, flutes, trumpets, bassoons, and horns each, as well as adding both timpani and violas. The strings took the part of the simple Cannons continuo, and the young composer was quite creative in reallocating parts for greater variety and his period’s own dramatic sensibilities.” – from the album notes)
It was a very good breakfast, not least for the fact that all 6 yolks survived for once.
There seemed to be a lot of bacon this time, although, because most slices were very thin, the total weight may have been about the same as usual. In any event the kitchen heard no complaints.
- there were eggs from pastured chickens and bacon from pastured pigs, both from Millport Dairy Farm; Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market; local (regional) Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’, also from Whole Foods Market; half of a fresh yellow grenada seasoning pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm; chopped fresh thyme from Keith’s Farm on the eggs and whole oregano leaves from Stokes Farm on the tomatoes; Maldon salt; freshly-ground black pepper; pea shoots from Echo Creek Farm, in our local Saturday Chelsea Farmers Market; and both fresh and toasted slices of 3 different breads (a potato levain from Runner & Stone Bakery, a She Wolf Bakery miche, and a Pain d’Avignon seven grain loaf)
- the music was an oratorial by Pietro Torri, ‘La Vanità del mondo’, first performed during Lent in 1706, at the Brussels court of the Spanish Netherlands, during the War of the Spanish Succession (I found every piece of this description equally exciting)
Using what has long been my standard recipe, I can arrange pork chops with fixings appropriate for any season of the year, from farms and waters in the New York City area. On Sunday it was time for an autumn take.
I’m reading an unintended smiley face on the squash.
Also unintended, I ended up looking at a colorful golden chain after squeezing every wedge of a terrific heirloom winter squash onto a single oven pan (necessity here the mother of an accident, not invention).
- two 9-and-a-half-ounce blade pork chops from Flying Pigs Farm, rinsed, thoroughly dried, seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a part of one crushed dried red shishito pepper from Lani’s Farm before being seared quickly in a heavy enameled cast-iron pan, half of a large organic Whole Foods Market lemon squeezed over the top (the lemon then left in the pan between them, cut side down), the chops placed in a 400º oven for about 13 minutes altogether (flipped halfway through, the lemon squeezed over them once again and replaced on the bottom of the pan), removed from the oven and arranged on 2 plates, some of the juices that remained in the pan poured over them, the remainder transferred to a glass sauce boat and placed on the table
- one 5 or 6-inch black futsu squash, of the moschata family, from Alewife Farm, scrubbed, halved, the seeds and pith removed, cut into just under one-inch wedges and mixed by hand inside a large bowl with a relatively small amount of olive oil, sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and pieces of golden dried habanada pepper, arranged on a large, unglazed, well-seasoned ceramic pan and roasted in the 425º oven on one side for 15 minutes, turned onto the other side and allowed to roast for 10 more minutes, removed from the oven and transferred to a large heavy copper pot in which 3 crushed cloves of Keith’s Farm rocambole garlic and half a dozen large sage leaves, also from Keith’s Farm, had been gently heated in a bit of olive oil
- one bunch of medium size collard greens from Lani’s Farm, all the larger stems removed, washed 3 times, drained (some of the water retained and held aside to be added, as necessary, while the greens cooked), the larger leaves torn into smaller pieces, braised gently until softened/wilted inside a large, heavy enameled cast iron pot in which 2 cloves of Keiths Farm rocambole garlic had been heated until they had softened, seasoned with salt and black pepper, finished with a small drizzle of olive oil
- the wine was a California (Lodi) white, Matt Iaconis Lodi Albariño 2017, from Naked Wines
- the music was an album of Telemann Konzerte für Streicher (string concertos) performed by Musica Antiqua Köln
Our most local fish stand was missing from our Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on Saturday (it’s only a couple hundred feet from our door). At that time of the afternoon, although I knew there would be 3 seafood stalls at the Union Square Greenmarket, I wasn’t excited about going there, especially since I didn’t really need any other fresh produce.
I decided to put together a pasta.
Just the day before I had bought a package of some beautiful, very hearty-looking artisanal fusilli at Norwich Meadows Farm, incorporating their own vegetables, and possibly made by Sfoglini, although there I could find no identification of the maker. It seemed this would be the time to try it out. I knew I wouldn’t need – and didn’t want – to add much to the interesting 50/50 combination of sunchoke and kale fusilli, but I did have some slightly special onions I also wanted to try out. The remaining few ingredients then more or less fell into place.
- four or five thinly-sliced mild-flavored semi-flat Stuttgarter onions from Quarton Farm, sautéed until quite soft in a couple tablespoons of olive oil inside a large antique vertical-sided copper pot, sliced stems of celery from from Neversink Organic Farm added halfway through, along with half of a dried crumbled red shishito pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, and a fairly generous amount of roughly-chopped celery leaves near the end, then 8 ounces of a fusilli pasta from Norwich Meadows Farm, half of the pieces using sunchokes and half kale, cooked al dente and drained, tossed into the mixture, stirred with more than half of a cup of reserved pasta cooking water until the liquid had emulsified, the pasta seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and arranged in shallow bowls, circled with wild cress from Lani’s Farm, drizzled around the edges with olive oil
- the wine was an Italian (Calabria) white, Scala, Ciro Bianco, 2017, from Flatiron Wines
- the music was Mark-Anthony Turnage’s remarkable 69-minute 1993-1996 nine-movement suite for jazz trio and large ensemble, ‘Blood On The Floor’, titled after the painting by Francis Bacon, which the composer has asked be seen only as a starting point, similarly to its relation to the family tragedy which inspired it, the news of the death of his younger brother Andy from a drug overdose
Our house guest had never eaten in our home before, and he had never had swordfish. On Friday night we did something about both.
Frank had come with me to the Union Square Greenmarket earlier in the day, where I saw that Paul Mendelsohn, our Friday fishmonger, was displaying some small swordfish steaks. We had enjoyed Long Island waters xiphias gladius on our table fairly recently, but these, at roughly half the size usually available, were pretty tempting. They’d also be a novelty for our Berlin friend, since that great city unfortunately doesn’t have anything like the variety of local seafood available to New Yorkers.
Swordfish it would be.
Then I went a little further with the northwestern Atlantic seafood theme: We began dinner with a beautiful piece of golden-skin smoked whitefish, which was also from [relatively] local waters, even if ‘local’ might have had to be stretched to include those closer to Maine than to Montauk.
The first course was easily assembled.
- one 8-ounce section of smoked Blue Hill Bay north Atlantic whitefish, purchased at the Chelsea Whole Foods Market, divided into 3 pieces, drizzled with a little juice from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon
- a few leaves from a bunch or purple salanova lettuce from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, dressed with with a little Frankies 457 Sicilian olive oil, a bit of Maldon salt and freshly-ground black pepper, and a little lemon juice
- slices of an ambrosial farmer-ground grain, half white and half whole wheat, She Wolf Bakery miche
- the wine was the same one we had enjoyed with some Mario Fongo ‘Il Panate’, Grissini con farina di riso nero ‘Artemide’, from Buon Italia before we sat down at the table, a California sparkling, Keith Hock California Sparkling Rosé 2016, from Naked Wines
While the main course involved some cooking, it too was a cinch to to put together, which was good for interacting with a guest you see rarely.
It was also pretty undramatic, if not actually plain, by some house standards: I had intended to include a micro greens garnish, but I guess I had become too engaged in the conversation while I was plating and it stayed on the counter.
- three small (8-ounce each, 1″ thick) swordfish steaks from Pura Vida Seafood in the Union Square Greenmarket marinated on/in an ironstone platter for about 45 minutes, turning once, in a mixture of a few tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of fresh chopped oregano from Stokes Farm, a small amount, chopped, of a yellow grenada seasoning pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, a bit of dried peperoncino Calabresi from Buon Italia, and the chopped white section of 2 scallions, one very small, one of an average size, from Stokes Farm, after which the swordfish was drained, top and bottom covered with a coating of homemade dried breadcrumbs, pan-grilled over medium-high heat for 3 or 4 minutes on each flat surface, or until just barely cooked to the center, then removed from the pan and arranged on 2 plates, sprinkled with a little Maldon salt, some of the chopped greener parts of the 2 scallions, drizzled a bit of juice from a Whole Foods Market organic lemon squeezed on top and drizzled with a bit of olive oil
- twenty ounces of ‘Pinto’ potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, scrubbed, 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, tossed there with 3 some Portuguese house olive oil from Whole Foods, seasoned with Maldon salt and freshly-ground black pepper, arranged on the plates, sprinkled with chopped lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- almost half a pound of the farmer’s own combination of red and green winterbor kale from Alewife Farm, wilted with olive oil in which 5 rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm, first bruised with the heel of a hand, had been allowed to heat until pungent, seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil
It was much later than anyone had planned to still be sitting at the table when we finished the main course, so we skipped the cheese (or fruit) course I had contemplated, and instead enjoyed some delicious dried Calabrian (Amantea) figs from Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market, along with the remainder of the wine.
- the music heard through the meal, all of it modern Americana, was Bill Frisell’s album, ‘Have a Little Faith’, followed by the collection, ‘Improvised Music New York 1981’, with work by Bill Laswell, Sonny Sharrock, Derek Bailey, Fred Frith, and John Zorn