I can’t say enough about the quality of the ingredients which went into this meal – or its success. It was very easy to prepare: I finished the onions and the kale mostly before putting the very beautiful lattice-marked, pink-fleshed fillets into the pan for just three minutes (two for the lightly-floured skin side, then one more for the other).
Although the bass was joined by what may not have been an obvious choice of vegetables, everything came together beautifully, the wine ennobling all. Simply delicious.
- small black sea bass fillets (Eastern Long Island waters) from Riverhead’s P.E. & D.D. Seafood in the Union Square Greenmarket, quickly-sauteed then finished with a bit of oil, a squeeze of lemon and some chopped lovage; accompanied by sweet, juicy spring onions, also from the Greenmarket (Muddy River Farm in Goshen, New York), which were sliced in half and rolled in oil and salt and pepper, then pan-grilled and finished with a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar; and small leaves of Red Russian Kale, from Lani’s Farm (again, the Greenmarket), wilted in oil which had first been heated with bruised whole garlic cloves, then finished with salt and pepper and a few dabs of oil.
- Wine: French Chenin Blanc, a Saumur, Val de Loire Reserve des Vignerons 2010, from Astor Wines
If you’re afraid of animal fats, stop here. But if butter holds no terrors for you, and you like very simple, very good food, read on.
I went to the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday and was very surprised to find that, although the calendar said it was still early April, I was able to collect most of the makings for our next three evening meals, all except the lamb shanks, destined for [Easter] Sunday, which I was able to pick up at Whole Foods later in the afternoon. Early in the evening Barry and I went off to several gallery openings on 27th street. When we returned home I still had plenty of time to put together a pretty sophisticated dinner. I would have been happy describing it simply as, well, . . . sublime, if it weren’t for the fact that it was also exceptionally easy and very quick to prepare.
- a thick Yellow Tilefish steak (20 ounces) from the Union Square Greenmarket smothered with one whole stick (1/4 lb.)* of melted butter and sprinkled with almost a cup of fresh, seasoned breadcrumbs (using a heal of a loaf of “Organic Seeduction” from Whole Foods, in-house, which I happened to have on hand), placed in a small, oval, Colombian black pottery pan [La Chambra cookware] and baked for fifteen minutes in a hot oven, using Mark Bittman’s recipe “Roast Halibut With Butter and Bread Crumbs”, from his book “Fish” (although I added some chopped fresh thyme after it came out of the oven); served with the first tender leaves of baby Russian Kale from the Union Square Greenmarket (next time I have to get the farmer’s name), briefly sauteed in oil with bruised garlic cloves.
- wine: Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Henri Bourgeois (Chavignol/Sancerre) from Philippe Wines
In fifteen minutes, all the butter had completely disappeared. I had been completely absorbed into the fish and the bread crumbs, but it was clearly a big plus in enhancing the pleasure of the dish. After all, butter and other animal fats are part of what made classic French cooking great, but because of both real and alarmist health concerns, they are also partly responsible for its relative eclipse over the last few decades. Also, the recipe was minimal enough to ensure that the natural flavor of this delicious fish was honest and not tricked up. It helped that I somehow managed to time it perfectly.