Hapi Beurresdai Papa Thursday, Jul 14 2016 

Happy Birthday Dad (and France)

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Birthday boy.

For my old man’s 75th mid-summer. In accordance with the traditions of Swedish mid-summer and a celebration of birth, salmon and eggs were summoned. Wild Alaskan king salmon and some eggs from the farm where I work and reside.

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Krusty.

½ the salmon was cured (brine), crusted and cold smoked on the Weber whereas the other half was stuffed with a shellfish boudin (scallops, wild shrimp, egg whites, cream, enthusiasm and vegetables), wrapped up like a Tootsie roll and poached.

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Slamin’ smoked salmon. Handsomely sliced.

Eggs were soft boiled, bound with a green onion belt and radish-gizzards bet buckle then encased in a smoky aspic sarcophagus.

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Eggceptional

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Up yours, Fabregé

And there was a confluence of Swedish pickled fish and eggs: pickled eggs in strong 23% acidity Swedish vinegar.

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Jaundiced pub food

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The whole thing

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Seafaring Tootsie roll

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Radish shingles.

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Head to tail assembly required

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A little thick on the aspic, but the world needs more aspic

We drank, we sank and I honored my father in the best way I can. He’s the best one I know.

À La Pêche Sunday, Oct 25 2015 

Gone Fishin’

Catch of the day should last a week.

Catch of the day should last a week.

Snug as a bug between 2 watery rugs (the Peconic bay and Long Island sound each within a mile’s easy reach), fresh fish of pretty damn good quality, though not necessarily luxurious, was readily available, and a bit further out some dayboats brought in sizeable finer creatures fetching a higher but still areasonable price.  From the humdrum target practice bluefish to doormat fluke and even oysters, our fish-bins were well stocked, the fish in abundant supply, and the Southold Fish Market owner also acquired the venerable Sophie’s Rest, the most reliable tavern around for geriatrics with hard of hearing hard-ons for Led Zep, the Boss and the like; and pit stop on the way home for a consistently delectable $12 fried flounder sandwich with waffle fries that only a monster would dismiss.

Flounder, fried, as a sandwich.

Flounder, fried, as a sandwich.

Golden tilefish gently reeled up 100 grueling fathoms from Neptune’s quiet depths.  Essentially a large blenny, they live in burrows on the ocean floor, are abundant and require deft angling hands to catch by rod & reel given the length of line and weight needed to get the bait all the way down there and back.  The flesh is similar to grouper but firmer, lean, sweet and just less flaky than cod.

Golden Child

Golden Child

Delicious, and when ground smoothly the trimmings lend themselves well to a harlequin seafood bootylicious boudin, supplemented by diced domestic shrimp, cream, egg white, a bit of corn starch, Cheetos  and some tiny cut vegetables cooked tender.  Stuffed into hog casings, calmly poached, cooled, cut into little hockey pucks, the skin removed and then seared in, yup, clarified butter.  Resourceful and efficient use of a fish.

Fish flavored tubesteak

Fish flavored tubesteak

From time to time we’d get some exceptional harpoon caught Canadian swordfish through Charlie over at the Southold Fish Market.  It used to be that there was a healthy harpooning industry centered on Block Island between Rhode Island and Long Island.  Those days of fishing off the bowsprit were slowly but surely wiped out by the disastrous yield of longlining, which all but decimated the Atlantic swordfish population (and caught plenty of bycatch), and now it is just those progressive and environmentally conscious Canucks who continue to pursue it, barely.

Spearheading initiative

Spearheading initiative

And then one bright summer day we got a (delayed) message (very limited Southold cell phone reception)  from Eugene Burger saying he had a 120lb swordfish dangling on the line (not for long) for sale (71lbs dressed). Made some space in the cramped and worn kitchen and put that mighty creature on the slab.

Not a Jaws, but close enough.

Not a Jaws, but close enough.

Out of the water less than 24 hours it was pretty much the best swordfish I’ve experienced in terms of fresh/firm flesh, though some peach colored ones that likely gorged themselves of ruby shrimp or them red Swedish fish have come across my board.

Portion control

Portion control

Eugene also regaled us with a 160lb bigeye tuna specimen.  Big animal, so-so color quality and took some considerable effort to bisect.

Tunnyfish

Tunnyfish

But a worthwhile butchering experience nonetheless.

Like one of those bigger fish combs.

Like one of those bigger fish combs.

There was far more meat than time or demand and we were left to brine remaining 60lbs of tail/loin, sear and poach in oil the.  Just as tasty as yellowfin, much better than Bluefin (too oily), but albacore is the goldilocks of tuna for processing/canning.  Not too fatty or fishy when cooked, it’s just about right.  Kind of looks like a penguin and those little bastards presumably fly through the water like little Red Barons.

The lore of albacore

The lore of albacore

Those tuna fish are a legitimate marvel of natural nautical engineering, with fins and paddles or whatever folding in neatly into fleshy grooves and flaps.  Kind of like that 94” Pacific sailfish that had the terrible misfortune of biting a lure attached to a line leading to a reel in my hands on a Mexican fishing boat in which a friend and I were in.

I had to hide from the shame.

I had to hide from the shame.

Our portly Central American ballast-like co-captain bludgeoned the poor thing after it had swallowed the hook and attempts at releasing it would have been perilous for both parties.  The frightened yet curious eye resembled a  billiard ball sized prosthetic and the flimsy membrane sail slipped into a dorsal gasket like a window disappears into a car door.  I felt tremendous culpability for taking such a majestic creature out of the life game, more so because the red flesh wasn’t nearly the crowd pleasing taco option as marlin smoked slowly over wood.

Yeah. D-cups

Yeah. D-cups

Phil down the road in Orient cashed in 25 years’ worth of Wall St cheese to get back into the water, waist deep, to raise oysters and rake for the occasional clams.  He and his 2 man crew will spend the span of the year, from refreshing water in 98°F heat to the frigid testicle shrinking flow in below freezing winter.  For the preferred customers, Phil’s oysters get the special tumbling treatment which breaks the outer shells and encourages the oyster to grow a deeper cup rather than a wider shell.   The creek drains twice a day, the water clear as a crystal block, immaculate as a Vatican toilet and serves as storage for the bagged oysters, eliminating any need for those newfangled refrigerated boxes.  Not too briny, exceedingly crisp and clean.

School for dinner

School for dinner

The local hallmarks however rarely get top billing or fetch a fancy price.  Porgies are a thrifty perennial favorite for any weekend fisherman and in a former life they received a royal treatment worthy of a cheapskate glutton; packed plump with glazed root vegetables, cream, herbs, toasted bread and roasted whole for 2.

Properly stuffed & trussed.

Properly stuffed & trussed.

For a more enthusiastic  East Coast struggle with the funny-stick however, few bargain fish rival the frenetic frenzy  of bluefish and while the locals are in it just for sport, the occasional smoke but usually dog food. Brining and hot smoking is the generally invariable and only route. In lieu of mackerel, sardines or anchovies, we’d get those oily things still in rigor, stiff as morning wood.  If those dudes and dogs only knew how much gooder they could have it.

Stiffy fishy

Stiffy fishy

Ira & KK’s  little lettuces from down the road were best lathered with a Caesar dressing, befitting such crisp greens and hopefully well within the WASPy clientele’s hopelessly vapid flavor wheelhouse.  Sure we used some salted Italian anchovies and salted capers for the sauce, a focaccia crouton with the obligatory parm-bla-bla, but for a $75 fixed price 3-course menu it yearned for a local product worthy of the appropriate luxury treatment.

Please find out which one of those Kuntz ordered the dairy-free cheese plate.

Please find out which one of those Kuntz ordered the dairy-free cheese plate.

Bluefish has an arrowslit window of opportunity or it gapes, becomes flabby and unworkable.  At its finest, it butchers and skins well, though the skin becomes edible after an encounter with the business end of a torch.  After a brine, then week-long bath in pickling liquid of vinegar, citrus, verjus and aromatics it finds peace in the oils of grapseeds and olives: an immensely satisfying balance of firm fish, acid & fat, and a resourceful alternative to the pickled anchovies from further away.

A pickle to tickle your fancy.

A pickle to tickle your fancy.

Sadly, and almost predictably, about 1/3 of the dildos in the dining room wouldn’t even prod or taste it. The pickled scallops, not surprisingly,  fared a bit better.

Who doesn't like scallops after all?

Who doesn’t like scallops after all?

Tête de serpent Monday, Jul 28 2014 

Snakehead pie.

Pie from the sky.

Pie from the sky.

Snakeheads, in mother fucking savory pastry

with mushroom catsup and some pickles.

 

Nasty creatures. They can live outside of water for up to 4 days, cross from one body of water to another and are alleged to even use public transportation.  They eat just about every and anything.  By law they have to be killed if you want to keep it.  Everything from mice to batteries have been found in them.  The flesh is similar to sturgeon in texture, but kind of tastes a but dirtier. With proper brining, curing and smoking however (and cutting with catfish), it can be quite delicious.

Ugly little bastard fish.

Ugly 10lb bastard fish.


 

if an angler wishes to keep a legally caught northern snakehead, the fish must be killed to be in possession, and the angler must call the hotline and report the angler’s last name, date of catch, location of catch and size. Kill the fish by:

  1. removing the head,

  2. separating the gill arches from the body, or

  3. removing the internal organs and put it on ice as quickly as possible.


The pasty is made by clarifying brown butter as with all afore-detailed pâtés in pastry.  A fine shortcrust with thyme or summer savory, eggs, vinegar, water, molasses, discipline and such.

Hotdog fish

Hotdog fish

Mushroom catsup is an olde timey English condiment and reads more nicely than the initial “white devil” sauce, particularly in a gentrifying, historically black neighborhood.  Mushrooms (button and chanterelle) are roasted and simmered with beer, white wine vinegar, shallots, aromatics and blended smooth.

Snug as a bug in a savory rug.

Snug as a bug in a savory rug.

The snakehead is a bit drier than the other fish I have used for fish pies (most of them are frozen immediately after they are caught and thawing releases too much moisture) so forcemeat is more of a farce fine with up to 100% cream by weight of the fish trimmings.  The smoked filets are put in the middle of the forcemeat, bundled up all nicely and baked at 425F for 17 magic minutes.  Some say it smells like hotdog via the far east.

Un jeune hareng Friday, Jan 24 2014 

Matjes

Fish tales.

Fish tales.

Pickled young herring

They are immature female herring.  Matjes is Dutch for v-vvv-vv-virgin herring.  Young females that have not yet laid eggs.  Traditionally they are brined with the guts still in and the pancreas does something that makes them more better but I’m not ready to start experimenting with the benefits of pancreatic spoilage.  They were salted then packed in a vinegar based solution with sugar, allspice, carrots and onions.  Accompanied by la ratte potatoes made better with some soured cream, lemon zest and parsley; you know, for freshness.  And a nice medley of handsomely colored pickled onions.

Pickular circles.

Pickular circles.

Une année de plus Monday, Jan 6 2014 

I resolve to be more ornery and judgmental.

Crabby New Year.

Crabby New Year.

A positive review is always welcome, though cursory Mad-Lib generated validation based on the sampling of 5 dishes (not counting the oyster and caviar & potato chips -neither of which we make, all we do is order and open them) after only 2 visits is the kind of empty praise one expects to find in a greeting card written sent from a grandparent whose wits are slowly unraveling or the praise parents must lavish on their tone-deaf and hopelessly uncoordinated children.  Better than to be panned I guess, though at least Ebert watch more than 10 minutes of the film.

π's

π’s

Fish pie in savory pastry with some pickles.

Fish pie in savory pastry with some pickles.

The fish pie is still a work in progress and I am flummoxed by the salinity despite a conservative 1.2% seasoning.  Eels will be available in the spring/summer, though my concern is that the eel meat will be mushy after 24 hours -the reason eels are sold live.  The coulibiac in Daniel’s cookbook  is absolutely stunning and the next challenge in the pâté croûte realm.

Butterflied swimmers.

Butterflied swimmers.

Salt bath.

Salt bath.

Pickled herring have been a success, though some are far more difficult to butterfly than others.  The Swedish varieties are exceedingly sweet and these are tempered a bit, not without their charm. More vividly colored pickles to follow.

Tales of the pickle.

Tales of the pickle.

I do miss making the meat fabrications though.

Star gazing.

Star gazing.

Bouffe les Bourges Monday, Nov 11 2013 

Eat the Rich

Whelks.  Stinky.

Whelks. Stinky.

Its an oyster bar on 7th St NW in the nation’s capital and I am in charge of the engine room.  Chesapeake Bay inspired food.  Whelks; stuffed porgy for 2; chöwderhead, Grand Chesapeake boil (scallops, shrimp, clams, fish, garlic sausage, cauliflower, potatoes, coddled egg and aïoli); swordfish & sauerkraut; beach & beans (flageolet beans, calamari, albacore, pickled mackerel), montgomery pie and the Superoast: -15oz lamb roast barded with ventrèche, sausage, grilled oysters and shank simmered in black-eyed peas.

Stuffed porgy.  Boneless, naturally.

Stuffed porgy. Boneless, naturally.

Fish Pie with pickles.

Fish Pie with pickles.

Encornet farci de boudin Wednesday, May 15 2013 

Squid Stuffed with Boudin.

Get your squid stuffed here.

Get your squid stuffed here.

In a concerted effort to minimize the appalling waste generally (and unabashedly) generated by restaurants while expanding a culinary repertoire and practicing practical classical techniques, fish trimmings have been saved and with the addition of orphaned egg whites and lobster roe, cream, a few shrimp,  vegetables, starch (corn starch,  eventually bread crumb and possibly tapioca as a binder), busted up lobster knuckles and some effort produced a pleasantly plump, savory, harlequin (multicolored) boudin.  Essentially an emulsified silken seafaring sausage generated from scraps.  Resourceful, technical, efficient -and with a cost of $0.70 per 3oz link-  quite economical when supplemented by thrifty shellfish.

The Great Boudini.

The Great Boudini.

Many prototypes  were tested with the type and percentage of binder varying, offering different texture and firmness results though the other amounts of ingredients (fish, shrimp, egg white, cream, cooked vegetable garnish) remained consistent.  While corn starch made for a firm sausage (something our male readership might be able to relate to and what the female readers might yearn for in the morning after dreaming about this blog) bread crumbs seems like a more efficient and wholesome use of leftover bread baked in the restaurant.  Tapioca starch might relieve me of any guilt passed on to consumers by government subsidies to the corn industry which artificially devalues our nation’s food quality.

Visual approximation of squid size and purchase location.

Visual approximation of squid size and purchase location.

Rather than stuffing the boudin mixture into casing, I picked up some large squid (not pig rectum imitation calamari)  from the venerable Bestworld over in Mt. Pleasant  along with California asparagus and bulb onions; the hallmarks of spring.  Boudin was stuffed into the squid, roasted stove top in a cast iron dutch oven and basted with roasted lime.  Upon resting, the tubes were sliced and garnished with some manicured asparagus and spring onions glazed in olive oil.  The tubes were tender and the delicious boudin rendered pastel red from the cooked lobster roe.  Carrots, fennel, lemon zest, leek red pepper and dill provided additional texture, flavor and colorful contrast.  A later version found the boudin cut into thick coins, browned in olive oil and composed with the vegetal ingredients in larger forms as well as a particularly creamy Carolina Gold & spring onion soubise; the sublime, old timey French purée of butter, onions, rice, sour cream (blanched onion tops for a soothing vermillion color) which so nicely compliments the feathery light boudin.  Past and future versions include and are not limited to internal garnishes of tuna, cured salmon, striped bass belly, capers, green M&M’s, mermaid nipples and manatee peduncle.

Petits Fruits de Mer Wednesday, Jan 23 2013 

A little plate of seafood.

Flatter with fish platter.

Flatter with fish platter.

Higher than normal winter temperatures are not conducive to hearty hearth braises, roasted roots and the chocolate-like whiff that red wine & red meat seem to waft.  So something a bit lighter, well marinated, fragrant, delicate and compatible with vinegar -which, I am pleased to drink by the spoonful or get  fix through the venerable breakfast pickle sandwich.  Pickled mackerel, blue prawns gently steamed in their shells, and barely poached-in-their-shells  Chincoteague oysters.  A couple of pickled mushrooms and pickled onions from last summer’s pickles.  Some bits of lemon and a considerable drenching of the finest quality French olive oil.  Some herbaceous crunch and verdant punch from the parsley.  Mustard seeds dredged from the bottom that would make the Rice Krispies gnomes blush.  Briny, floppy oysters; succulent, meaty mackerel; delicate, plump shrimp.

Poseidon's buffet.

Poseidon’s buffet.

A re-imagined, betterized version will include octopus or squid, cured sturgeon and its caviar and grilled bread to sop up the oil slick* and fried squid tentacles for he essential crunch that I crave.

* I have proposed to environmentalists and oil industry cleaner-uppers that an efficient culinary method for transforming the oil into an easily scoopable product would be to drop a few million egg yolks and ride over the affected area with a multitude of outboard motors, whipping up the oil and egg mixture into a stiff mayonnaise.  You’re welcome Neptune.

Morue à la Catalane. Monday, Aug 13 2012 

Catalan Saltcod.

Honk if dried, salted fish makes you horny.

Saltcod. Noblest of fish in the history of western civilization whose nutritional and physical properties coronated the once revered bottom feeder as the versatile backstroking emperor to the now obsessed-upon pig papacy. Cod’s fabled abundance and remarkably slim fat content allowed it to air-dry, providing perennial sustenance for seaborne contingents on the high seas and snowbound penitents during Lenten months. Bones, skin, collar, roe, milk, liver, oil, tongue, cheeks, feet and feathers; all of the slippery beast was, in some shape or form, edible. And yet cod tattoos are not likely to be impulsively exploited by insecure chefs as much as the cute piggy ones, or other tattoos that reaffirm ones accomplishment in the craft (if only frying ears or using bacon –gasp! in an unorthodox, downright wacky composition), like inefficient utility vehicles on unnecessarily knobby tires eliminate the anxieties of their genitally deficient drivers by suppressing whatever sexual suspicions  an economy car casts on gossipy passersby.

After being delicately poached in a lemon and garlic scented court bouillon the miracle fish was introduced to a summer stew of Carmen peppers  (peeled, naturally), plum tomatoes, dried chorizo, red onions and capers. All parties involved got along swimmingly, perfume of lightly roasted peppers and the thickening properties of their juices given some help to the otherwise boring tomato juices. Salty capers and saltcod were the torch bearers at opposite ends with sweet onion and peppers in the middle ground, some chorizo coins for spicy heat and sherry vinegar for the essential acidity. If ever there were a successful dish that had used regional salted mainstays and ingredients to accentuate and extol the produce of summer, while encouraging, even, inducing fertility, this was it.

La Terrine de Saumon Sauvage et Corégone des Grand Lacs Wednesday, May 23 2012 

 Wild Salmon Terrine and Inlay of Great Lakes Whitefish. 

Gravad-laks and Vermouth Aspic.

Circle smirk.

T’is the season, for anadromous salmonidae.  Wild specimens from Alaska, pretty much the only place where the fisheries are well managed and there are abundant numbers.  Not to be confused with novelist heartthrob and Islamic human bulls-eye Salman Rushdie that was allowed access to Padma Lakshmi’s genitals for the better part of 3 years.

In laying a Salman. (Lucky bastard)

Despite the nutritive omegachron fattie acid health claims or whatever associated with wild salmon, the terrine is about 80% Trickling Springs heavy cream with even heavier cream on top.  Have to give it the glass ketchup bottle slap treatment just to get the stuffout.   Actually, it is exactly 80% cream by weight of the salmon, though half of it is whipped, therefore lighter than an angel on marshmallow.  And 10% puréed onions cooked in rich creamery butter.   Bit of bread.  Some booze as well.  A couple eggs white too, which is what bodybuilders eat.

Fishy eclipse.

Fragile Great Lakes (not sure which one) whitefish was ground twice and blended with 80% cream as well bringing the terrine’s heavy cream content to a respectable 160%.  A pie chart in 3 or maybe 4 dimensions is required to show the cream proportions.  That is just how slammin’ this salmon terrine is.  Whitefish was tricked out with some Old Bay seasoning, lemon zest and magically inserted into the terrine with the use of science and modern-day refrigeration.  What’s more, some center cut salmon was lightly cured and crusted with fennel seed, dill, mustard seeds and lemon zest.  Thinly sliced parallel to the bloodline with absolute Zen, the slices were embedded in savory vermouth-flavored aspic.  Fish & aspic, together as last.  Should I have Muppet twins, those will be their names.

Garnished with smoked steelhead trout roe as an alternative to fleur de sel, the terrine was well received.  Properly seasoned, neither gritty nor fishy, and visually quite appealing.  Bread helped to lighten the affair and a recent reincarnation will be speckled with capers, pickled red onion and shingled with cherriette radishes.

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