Sunday, September 5, 2010

flying fish


Spiced Black Bass with Ginger-Cardamom Broth and Asian Salad
This is a well traveled recipe (you'll see in a moment) and when I say flying fish, I don't mean asian carp... which are 100% terrifying.  As you may all now be familiar - I get a little excited when I go food shopping.  Generally, that's okay and I make do with my random finds of the day.  It becomes a tad problematic when I'm due back home in a couple days!  Needless to say, I was in a seafood kinda mood - so naturally (since it was before 6:00pm), I hopped across the street to my neighborhood fishmonger - Pisacane!

I absolutely LOVE this place. They get their fish everyday from the market, and can get almost anything you ask for if you tell them from the market the day before - and good prices at that.  Besides the fact that I've gotten some of the most amazing seafood from here (and they have SQUID INK!!) - it's family owned, and I love all the fishmongers! Joe, Mike, Wiley (really), and the random men in the back who occasionally carry around old-fashion cartoon saws always have a bright smile when I come in and welcome me back, and hell, they even give little children lobsters to play with when their mom's are shopping (maybe that's odd...but I found it amusing).

On this particular day, being indecisive as usual, I bought some beautiful wild salmon and then, from the back, peeking out at me was an AMAZING whole black sea bass - fresh as can be. Can I resist? Absolutely not. Was I planning on cooking a whole fish? Absolutely not. Was it worth it? Absolutely YES.  Now remember, I was flying home the next day and apparently blacked out and forgot this while at Pisacane...whoops.

Knowing that I couldn't possibly eat salmon AND an entire fish (I probably could've), my brilliant idea was....TAKE IT HOME WITH ME!! Obviously. Why wouldn't that be the first thought to come to mind? 

FLASHFORWARD TO THE AIRPORT: this was one of my first trips home to pick up things I forgot to bring to the city, so I traveled back to America's High Five State with an empty suitcase. Kind of.  I mean..I had an entire frozen black sea bass. A bag of pea shoots. And a couple goat cheeses. Come on, you know that's completely normal! If only I knew what the x-ray machine people at the airport were thinking when they saw a fish skeleton....

So what came of this beauty of a fish? An absolutely delicious lunch, adapted from Eric Ripert:

Masala-Spiced Crispy Black Bass over Asian Pea Shoot Salad with Ginger-Cardamom Broth

For the broth:
2 T canola oil
2 T thinly sliced shallots
2 T thinly sliced garlic
1 t thinly sliced ginger root
1/2 c tomato & cardamom chutney (I happened to have some homemade, but you can use storebought if you want!)
1 c. chicken stock
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper
1/2 lime

Heat the oil until it's just shimmered - belly dancing if you will.  Add the shallots, garlic and ginger and cook until soft - remember to watch these guys very closely because they are very easy to burn, and that won't be good! Once they are a bit soft, add in the chutney and cook for a couple minutes, allowing the chutney to heat up. Stir in the chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer for about five minutes.  Give it a taste, season with salt and pepper to your liking, and strain through a seive. Set this aside for later.

For the salad: 
A hefty handful of pea shoots
Uber baby bok choy
1 small carrot, finely julienned
1 tablespoons mint, julienned
1 scallion, julienned
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper
Juice of 1 lime

Dress this with a ginger vinaigrette - combine all of the ingredients and emulsify until thick and combined.
1 t soy sauce
1 t hoisin suce
1 t mirin
1 t sherry vinegar
1/2 t Asian sesame oil
1.5 T ginger oil
Salt and pepper

For the black bass, coat both sides of the filet with an ample amount of salt, fresh pepper, and garam masala (I love Penzey's garam masala).  Heat a skillet with canola or olive oil (canola has a higher smoke point so you can get it hotter to crisp the skin). When it's shimmering, add in the bass, skin side down and let it cook until the skin is crisp (4-5 minutes). Once it's crisp, flip it over gently and cook the other side for a few more minutes.  I love my fish more medium-rare to get better flavor out of it, but your desired temperature will vary the actual cooking time. Just don't over cook it! Once it's done, remove the fish from the pan and you are ready to plate!

Gently toss the salad with a bit of the ginger dressing (don't overdress, this isn't the prom!) and place it in the center of your serving platter.
This is creating a base for your fish, as well as almost a pedestal when the broth is poured in...
Gently place the filet on top of the salad
Slowly drizzle the warm broth into the plate - slowly so you don't splash everywhere!
Devour.
This recipe is phenomenal - simple and light, yet so complex.  The broth is really the kicker - all the ingredients that were infused into the chicken stock (chutney, ginger, garlic, scallions) really come out and take the dish to another. I literally will just be making the broth and drinking it because it's that delicious! It has a bit of a kick from the chutney, but only to the point where it turns on the lightbulb in your head instead of burning your tongue and distracting you. The mint shines through with a little tingle to counterbalance that heat, and the texture of the fish - flaky and mild, yet able to hold it's own against the flavors - really made the entire dish come together. This is a keeper!

Ripert's original recipe for this called for a green-papaya salad with shredded Pekin duck breast in it, which I'm sure is absolutely phenomenal - I will have to try that next time!

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