Saturday, April 10, 2010

Return of the Fish Monger

There's the nice weather and the upbeat attitude, but my favorite thing about early spring is the return of the fish people to my farmer's market. We've been hooked (sorry) on Blue Moon fish for years now. The freshness and quality is so far above anything available at retail stores that it's become impossible for BrooklynLady and I to buy anywhere else.

This raises a few problems, of course. Although there is plenty to choose from, there are some fish we never get to eat, such as salmon. Blue Moon fishes off the coast of Long Island and there are no salmon there. Hey, whaddaya gonna do. To be honest, we don't miss it. We eat other interesting things, like herring, bonito, Spanish mackerel, skate, trigger fish, black fish, and more. And they usually have free fish racks (head and bones without fillet) which I gratefully take to make stock.

So far this spring we've enjoyed skate, fluke, and scallops, and once again been tempted by but passed on shad roe (I know, we're idiots). On Saturday the Boston mackerel looked so shiny and beautiful that I knew immediately what we would be having for lunch - Mackerel simmered in dashi, something that I really have no idea how to make but wanted to try anyway.

I added a piece of kombu to some water and brought it to a boil, turned off the heat and added the dried bonito shavings. I let this sit for a few minutes before straining the liquid. I would say something now like "Presto - dashi," but there are probably 14 things that I did wrong in this simple preparation. Anyway, I added a glug of Japanese soy sauce to the dashi and that became the simmering liquid for my mackerel. And here is the part where I really had no idea of the proper technique - there are special pots for simmering, weights for keeping the fish submerged, and who knows what else to produce the firm but delicate texture of proper Japanese simmered fish. Without a clue as to the proper technique, I simply kept the heat very low and let the fish simmer until it seemed done. Improper technique notwithstanding, the fish was delicious. I served it with rice, chopped scallions, and grated spicy green radish with sesame oil.

I still have no Sake in the house and I didn't have a Fino that I wanted to open, so I went with Pedro Romero Amontillado, $12 (750 ml), Frontier Wine Imports. One of the many things to love about Sherry - you can open the bottle just to have a small glass and drink the rest over the course of the next week.

Amontillado begins as Fino Sherry but oxidizes more quickly, either because the flor doesn't develop properly or is purposefully done away with. The resulting wine is darker and richer in color and flavor than Fino, and higher in alcohol - additional fortification is required so that it doesn't oxidize too quickly. I love the amber color - doesn't it look good?

I think the wine is excellent and I can't wait to sip it over the week as it improves with air. But I must say that it was not a great match for the delicate flavors of the simmered mackerel. The Amontillado seems to need more boldly flavored food, like hard cheese or seafood cooked with lots of garlic, or even roast pork. Fino would have been better with my mackerel. So would Sake, obviously, but also a very light red wine, like a Poulsard. Or perhaps even a glass of mineral water. It was an early lunch on a Saturday, for goodness sake.


Weston said...

You have the Susur Lee cookbook? he has a great simple dash reciepe. I am so craving fish all this week and yet have not even eaten any ah well always next week.

Family Lawyers said...

The fish was keeping the natural color that's the most beautiful for me.

Mr. Pineapple Man said...

i love the wine photo- u can see the trees through it!

Karl Storchmann said...

You mentioned herring. Where can you buy herring in NYC?

Cheers, Karl

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Karl - my fish people sell herring, but it's highly seasonal. They have it from about November through something like March. I haven't seen it lately.