Winter oyster tradition continues

As I’ve posted before, oysters with special wine are a Christmas and New Year’s tradition in my home. When I finally got it back together from the C. difficile, it was way past prime oyster season. But it is again prime oyster season so my thoughts are turning to oysters and wine. Eating oysters on the half-shell recently at Burger Bach (yes, they “do” excellent burgers, and oysters) really got me thinking about oysters in a very serious way. Even though I’ve not made it for either Christmas eve or New Year’s eve, I still intend to have my winter oysters. I’d arranged to share with two good friends who are also oyster lovers–but we had to reschedule first because of snow and horrendous cold, and then, again, because all the snow and cold left Durham essentially without oysters!

I’ve done some fun things with oysters: oyster and corn chowder, and a in 2013-2014, with black truffle (good friend gave me truffles) and experimented with some wines.  I liked the “surf & turf” combination so well that I’m continuing it this year as well.

I’ve started the hunt for wine for this winter’s oyster feast. So far the wines recommended are:

2011 Pouilly-Fuisse (Gilles Noblet, France)

“Gilles Noblet, Pouilly-Fuisse, Burgundy, France, 2011{sustainable} 100% Chardonnay EXOTIC FRUITS, DRIED CITRUS & WHISP OF VANILLA Thirty year old Chardonnay vines provide the heart and soul of Noblet’s Pouilly Fuissé, right from the village of Fuissé. This area was originally comprised of negociant producers and Gilles Noblet was the first in his region to independently bottle his wine under his own name. This style is racy, rich and elegant with hints of kiwi and pineapple fruits. The finish goes on and on and on… Serving Suggestion: White Burgundy is the home of Chardonnay and this one is extremely versatile. A perfect match for dishes with heavy cream sauces.”  From Wine Authorities.

2013 Macon-Peronne (Gandines, Domaine des, France)

domaine-des-gandines-macon-peronne-burgundy-france-10338034“100% Chardonnay FULL & FLAVORFUL, LEMON, HAZELNUT, CARAMEL. SERIOUS! Gandines really surprised us with this compelling, and serious White Burgundy. Fully ripe and lush, but with juicy acidity and complex minerality. This kind of power usually comes from the big boys north of the Macon in the Cotes de Beaune. Aged in enormous 3000 liter old oak barrels that soften the wine without giving it any oak flavor, it is possibly the most impressive Chardonnay available at this price! Serving Suggestion: Steamed or raw oysters. Black sea bass poached in olive oil with fresh thyme. Roast turkey with truffles or chanterelles.”  From Wine Authorities.

Tenuta del Cavaliere, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Marchetti, 2013 

385762“Verdicchio is central Italy’s most distinctive white varietal. The mineral-rich soils of the Classico Superiore sector of the Marches’ Castelli di Jesi zone – just a few miles from the Adriatic Sea – imbues the finest Verdicchios with extra complexity and a deeply etched soil signature. A radiant green-gold in the bowl, Marchetti’s Verdicchio shows all the minerally snap pea and smoky white pepper notes that we so love in the very finest Verdicchios. The wine’s smoky mineral expression yields to a fleshy core of pear and melon fruit backed by riveting acidity, a tactile mineral expression, and suggestions of green tea, grapefruit zest and sappy dried herbs. Full bodied yet balanced and elegant, Marchetti’s Verdicchio begs for rich vegetarian recipes and fish steaks. Pair it now and over the coming five years with hearty fare that calls for a bold white wine, like swordfish, fresh albacore tuna, rabbit, zucchini casseroles, white pizzas, and pastas dressed with olive oil, garlic and seasonal vegetables. Impressive Verdicchio! ” Found this one at Hope Valley Bottle Shop.

Finally, the weather is cooperating, and I’ll be eating oysters on Saturday evening. I haven’t yet decided which wine will accompany this round of oyster stew with black truffles!  I keep reading the descriptions of each and just can’t decide, but I do know that three is too many–I have to make a decision.

 

Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish)

I could scarcely believe my eyes when I wandered past the seafood display in the newly opened Fresh Market.  There was Chilean sea bass (this name is really a marketing ploy)!  Or really, Patagonian toothfish.  It’s not pretty when as  the whole fish, but it’s luscious in the pan.  It’s also NOT cheap. And there are some that are considered “sustainable”, so I wasn’t being totally irresponsible–just fiscally irresponsible for my budget.  But it had been, literally, years since I’d eaten this luscious fish.  No will power effort here–I brought some home.

When I spend this kind of money for special fish (how about 7 ounce piece for $13.00–yes fiscally irresponsible, and the hock-your-soul category) I’m going to make very sure that I don’t screw up the cooking or seasoning. The texture is firm and meaty with large flake (in that respect somewhat like monkfish, tuna, or swordfish, but still has character of its own) and moderately oily so it doesn’t dry out during cooking. The flavor is often characterized as mild, buttery, somewhat like cod, halibut, or stripped bass;  not fishy in an undesirable way.  It’s the combination of flavor and texture that makes the toothfish so special–and nothing else can really be substituted if you want that particular flavor-texture combination.

If you’re looking at something called just “sea bass” it’s probably not toothfish–that’s usually sold as “Chilean”.  There are, however, a lot of fish sold as “sea bass”–white-fleshed, and lovely as well, but not as special, or expensive, as the toothfish, but still well worth trying.

The toothfish is oily enough to allow for lots of flexibility in method Picture of a cast from a 70kg Patagonian Toothfish of cooking–even broiling or grilling.  To keep it simple and let this special fish really shine, I took the really easy route: seasoned with salt and baked in a covered dish in a 425°F oven for about 25 minutes since it was a thick (almost 2 inches) piece of filet.  While that cooking was going one, I made a pan sauce of brown butter, shallots, and white wine, salt and pepper.

Efforts are being made to legally harvest toothfish, so before you buy check the source, but then break the budget and enjoy! (This image is from the Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators, Inc.)

The wine? Well, another glass of my Alandra Portuguese white since this was a really simple preparation–and that’s a good all purpose white wine for causal use on a weeknight when I want a rather short glass.

Shad roe redux

from The Garum Factory imagesJust a quick follow-up on the shad roe post from yesterday: The seasoning and cooking method from The Garum Factory was a success–absolutely as good as I thought it would be from looking at the recipe.

The purging over night in salt water does make a difference–I like the roe either way. If it’s your first time preparing roe, I’d recommend doing the salt-water soak.

Cooking the roe over low heat–kind of a steam-sauté) works well–it eliminates the popping and spattering that you usually get over higher heat and the texture of the roe more tender than cooked over higher heat.

The ginger added to the more traditional bacon, capers, garlic, lemon, and butter definitely adds a nice sparkle to the roe. I’d certainly recommend this as an introduction to shad roe if you’ve not tried it before.

The Reverse Wine Snob: The Best Box Wines - Esporao Alandra White 2013(The roe image above is from The Garum Factory–the picture that I took did not come out well at all so–clicking on that image will take you to the original post which I reblogged.)

I just had steamed potatoes (small Yukon Golds) and a salad. A glass of the Alandra white (Portugal)  was a lovely accompaniment to the roe.

A son goût

Signs of spring

Shad Roe Sac

pair of shad roe

Sometimes it’s a bit dangerous for me to venture into the grocery store–I happen on to something that I hadn’t planned to buy. That happens especially with some seasonal specialties that appear without warning because you never know quite when they are going to be available.

So we’ve had groundhog day, and we’re looking toward the vernal equinox (20th of March, I believe)–all suggesting that spring is on the way. I have a particular sign of spring that I’m always looking for: shad roe. Today I made its unpredictable appearance at my local Harris Teeter fish market. I never know quite how I’m going to fix it once I get it home–but it usually comes down to something with brown butter and some other seasonings like lemon, or something very simple so that the focus is the shad rod itself.

Whilst skulking about on the web, I found this delightful post on The Garum Factory about its history and preparation that I want to reblog –I couldn’t do it  better.  This looks like a great way to prepare it. Another post worth reading if you’re new to shad roe is from the second lunch.

Now off to put my shad roe in the salt water!  I’m now ready to think that spring really is on the way!

George Washington Ate Here – Shad Roe with Brown Butter, Capers and Ginger from The Garum Factory appears below.

The Garum Factory

You will never see it on a restaurant menu.  The TV Food Network is unlikely to devote an hour to its history and preparation.  It is one of the great forgotten foods of American culinary culture.  I’m talking about the shad.  The sole remnant of its once mighty role in the diet of Americans is its roe, and for a certain segment of avid pescavores it’s the line in the sand between winter and spring.  This week we’re going where food blogs don’t usually tread – Shad Roe with Brown Butter, Capers and Ginger.   Believe me, it’s worth it.

There is a story–a fish story?–proffered by historian Henry Emerson Wildes in his book Valley Forge about the importance of shad to the revolutionary war effort.  In the spring of 1778 the tattered and hungry Continental Army was encamped in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where it had been since the onset of…

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Supermarket special….

Andrea is passing close to us and the rain is the kind that makes you want to have quality time with the cat and a good book–so glad to be indoors.  But, my unpreparedness did make me venture out (cat litter very low–very serious problem!); fortunately, out and back before the heavy rain started.

tuna medalions

tuna

I came home with an impromptu purchase–the local HT had lovely looking tuna (wild caught) on sale.  I’m going to make a small batch of tuna confit to use with my summer salads, though I suspect that one of the small “steaks” is going to supplement the grilled or griddled shrimp for supper.

I’m really intrigued by the sous vide cooking technique–and I’m constantly drooling over recipes from Stefan’s Gourmet Blog!  Such perfectly cooked meat, and the veggies, too. But, as Stefan points out, it takes equipment!  I’d love to try tuna like that as it seems that fish do well that way.

For now,  I  will settle for the very slow “poaching” as an alternative.  It certainly beats the average canned tuna (unless you can get one of the canned variety that is hand packed, and cooked only once.

I keep wondering if there are any low-budget ways of trying the sous vide  technique! I think some research is called for here.

Cooking monkfish

TGIEOT—yes, that’s a bit more than TGIF!  It’s end-of-term.  The Spring term was the school term from hell, starting right at the end of Fall term!  Over the winter break I had unexpected course preparation to do for two online classes—switching from Blackboard to Sakai—for content management.  Top that off with an ongoing indexing project, and it’s—well, let’s just say it left very little time for cleaning, cooking, or writing!  Then, add to that a hard-drive failure for my computer….but it’s over now.

I’ve taken some time to work on revising the on-deck herb garden since I had plants that needed to go into their home pots, and a couple of days to do nothing but have quality time with the cat.  All that has left me yearning for some relaxation time and some really good food—cooked by me.

My day was absolutely made when I got my email delivery of the “Fresh Catch” specials from my local Harris Teeter this morning: they had monkfish! In terms of favorite fish, that’s right up there with Chilean sea bass for me.  Needless to say, I scarfed down my morning coffee and headed right off to HT.

fennel, leeks and garlic ready to roast

fennel, leeks and garlic

Supper this evening was roasted monkfish, with roasted fennel with leeks, garlic, and a dash of red pepper flakes, with a nice un-oaked chardonnay.  The fennel was an in-store, spur of the moment thing since it looked so gorgeous.

Even though it is warm this afternoon, I opted to cook in the oven because I wanted roasted fennel as well. I’ve done monkfish in hobo-pack style before but I thought I’d try roasting it this time and see if I couldn’t have a one-pot dinner.

monkfish

monkfish

I’d seen a post by Edward Schneider in Mark Bittman’s NY Times column (Diner’s Journal) about roasting monkfish, and the differences in monkfish on both sides of the Atlantic. After reading that I salted my monkfish for about an hour, and then roasted it.  I did manage to make a one-pan meal out of it. Since I had to allow about 40 minutes for the fennel to roast, I started that first.  After about 15 minutes, I laid the monkfish on top of the leeks, pushing the fennel wedges to the side, and popped it back into the oven for about 15 minutes.  I used very simple seasoning on the fish—olive oil and salt before going into the oven, and nothing for than fresh-ground black pepper and a pat of unsalted butter after it came out of the oven. So very simple—so very good, and even healthy.

(The only thing I wish I had done differently would have been to add some sweet red (or orange or yellow) bell pepper with the fennel. A glass of un-oaked chardonnay complemented the meal very nicely.)

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