mustard-floured fried blowfish; thyme-roasted asparagus

I had a huge variety of seafood to choose from yesterday all at this one Union Square Greenmarket stand, but I knew almost immediately which I would pick.

They are a great seasonal treat in New York, and after some initial skepticism, I’ve grown fond of them.

There’s also this: I’m still not sure why, but even after my third experience with blowfish, when I’m cooking and eating these little ‘tails’ they still evoke the fresh water panfish that I enjoyed growing up in the Midwest, especially the perch and the bluegills. And that’s a good thing.

The fish we had last night I had picked up that morning at the Greenmarket. They had been caught off the eastern end of Long Island, probably in Rhode Island waters, and it had probably been hauled in the day before.

Kitchen hint #1: there was very little or no fish smell after I had fried this fish, but after we had eaten I automatically reached into the cupboard to bring down and open the small, wide mouth container partially-filled with some plain white vinegar that I keep there, and I set it on the counter. It works wonders with even the most powerful food odors, naturally dissipating any cooking smells by morning, and sometimes within an hour or two (it’s magic, and it’s amazing more people don’t know about this nostrum) 

The asparagus however, having started out a little closer to Manhattan, in Orange County, had been waiting inside the refrigerator, for a full 7 days in fact. There it was waiting its turn while I cooking several of the other, more time-sensitive vegetables I had been collecting last week. I’m a sucker for good greens.

Kitchen hint #2: asparagus can actually keep for weeks, their stems trimmed after been brought home, then placed upright inside a vessel large enough to hold them and small enough to hold them upright, in an inch or so of tap water that had sat uncovered for 24 hours (to let the chemicals evaporate), so if you’re doing triage with an excess of good fresh vegetables on hand, it’s probably best to leave the asparagus until last.

The blowfish tails were in the large iron pan only five minutes. The somewhat unfocused images below testify to the low light above the old gas range, but I like their pinwheel symmetry, so they are here.

  • eight blowfish tails (a total of exactly one pound) from American Seafood Company, dredged in about 2 ounces of a local Union Square Greenmarket-purchased whole wheat flour from the Blew family of Oak Grove Mills Mills that had been seasoned with plenty of sea salt, fresh-ground black pepper, and about half a teaspoon of Colman’s ground mustard, pan-fried in olive oil about an eighth to a quarter of an inch deep inside a very large heavy cast iron pan, turning over once (cooking about 2 to 2½ minutes on each side), by which time they had turned golden), drizzled with juice of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market, and garnished with micro fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • slices of an organic multigrain baguette from Bread Alone
  • 18 spears of moderately thick asparagus from Kernan Farms, the tough ends snapped off, and much of the length of the stems on the wider ones peeled, rolled, along with a handful of thyme branches from Stokes Farm, a little more than a tablespoon of olive oil, a little sea salt, and a bit of freshly-ground black pepper, inside a large Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan and roasted at 425º for about 20 or 25 minutes, drizzled with a bit of lemon when they were arranged on the plates
  • the wine was an Italian (Campania) white, Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo 2016, from Garnet Wines
  • the music was an album of chamber music by Gloria Coates which included ‘String Quartet No. 9’, ‘Solo Violin Sonata’, and ‘Lyric Suite, “Split the Lark – and you’ll find the Music”‘