Friday, October 5, 2012

Fiddlehead Finale


This is it!  I’ve cooked all the other recipes in the book.  I made the list and checked it twice.  Actually, I made an Excel spreadsheet. Yep. Of 152 recipes, only four remain: Prawns Oreganate, Poached Squid and Red Pepper Salad, Whole Poached Salmon, and Court Bouillon.  Get ready for the Fiddlehead Finale! 

Following the model of Julie in Julie & Julia (after all, that’s what inspired this whole thing in the first place), I planned a last supper to celebrate the project’s completion.  For my family and a handful of friends, I cooked a coursed meal entirely out of the Fiddlehead.

Here's the menu: 

Prawns Oreganate
God bless Superbear. I bought all my seafood there.  The Prawns Oreganate recipe is in the entrée section of the book, but I turned it into an appetizer by serving smaller portions and skipping the recommended rice or sourdough bread accompaniment.  I laid out the items ahead of time by the stove, and it came together very quickly.  Fresh oregano, tomato, and wine combine with feta cheese and green onion in this Mediterranean-inspired dish.

Prawns Oreganate in the pan.
Poached Squid and Red Pepper Salad
I’ll be honest. The thought of cooking, eating, and serving squid to others scared the heck out of me.  No wonder I put it off for so long.  I found some frozen squid at Superbear. Couldn’t really tell what it was going to look like until I defrosted it. More than thirty slimy, spotted bodies slipped out of the two-pound box, their eyeballs staring up at us. 

Where to start?  The Fiddlehead’s only instruction for how to clean a squid is maybe a sentence or two in the side margin.   We needed more.  A video online called “How to Clean a Squid” was clear and concise.  We watched it, then got to work.   

Cleaning squid reminds me of conducting a science class dissection.  First, slice right behind the eye and cut the tentacles away from the head.  Save those tentacles in a bath of fresh water. Next, pull the guts—eyes still connected to the head—and backbone out from the body tube. The backbone is like a cellophane twig. Discard.

Discarded squid guts on the left.
Body tubes and tentacles on the right.

The next step is to skin the body tube.  Running a fingernail along its length gets it started.  The rest of it peels off pretty easily.  Drop the body into the bath of fresh water along with the tentacles. Repeat.  
Pulling the cellophane-like backbone out of the squid's body.
We got the hang of it pretty quickly and it was actually pretty fun.  One time, Lena sliced too close and punctured the eyeball.  Ink shot across the kitchen, splashing against our white cabinets.  She cleaned it up and, like a champ, sat back to the dissection table, only to shoot ink again on her very next squid.  Doh!  Finally, the squid was cleaned.  I chopped the bodies into rings. 

The next step was to prepare a court bouillon.  Into the pot went lemon, onion, celery, Chardonnay, thyme and parsley. 

Court bouillon for poaching the squid
The mixture boils for 15 minutes, and then—you have to work quickly—strain the vegetables out, turn off the heat, add the prepared squid and poach them. It only takes about 3 minutes until they turn to translucent white. 

Poaching the squid in bouillon
Ready for the marinade!  The vinaigrette is a mixture of roasted red peppers, olive oil, vinegar, and spices.  To roast peppers, char under the broiler, then cool in a brown paper bag. 

Roasted peppers, ready to peel
Peel the charred skin, and slice them into thin strips. (It was at this point that I realized the squid was supposed to be sliced in the same fashion. Ah well, I ended up liking the rings.) 

Roasted peppers, peeled and sliced

Next, add the peppers and squid into the vinaigrette. Marinade at least four hours or overnight. 
Poached squid and red peppers marinating in vinaigrette
I was surprised how much I liked the squid.  The texture was creamy and the flavor was great: all vinaigrette, and no fishiness.

Whole Poached Salmon

The piece de resistance! 

I’d avoided this recipe until the last for good reason. What a process!  No wonder the FH allows three pages of instructions. 

To start, I cooked up a huge batch of court bouillon from boiling onion, clove, bay leaf, carrot, lemon and celery in a pot. 

Boil & strain. Lots of bouillon for all your poaching purposes. 

I’d wanted to catch my own salmon for this last hurrah, but when push came to shove, I wanted even more to just get 'er done. Thanks again to Superbear for this lovely Coho.  

It seemed a little silly to me that the first step in my whole fish was to cut the head and tail off.  

The body cooks in the oven, the head and tail separately on the stovetop.  This actually makes good sense, as most Alaskan salmon wouldn’t fit whole in the oven.

Create an envelope of tin foil around the fish. Add bouillon to one-half inch. 

Wrap well and bake at 350 for ten minutes for each inch of thickness, plus ten minutes for the envelope to heat up. 

Meanwhile, poach the head and tail in bouillon on the stovetop.

Remove all your cooked puzzle pieces of fish from their cooking liquid.  Refrigerate overnight. You serve this bad boy at room temperature.

The boning process happens the next day.  First remove the fins (and remember where they go so your fish can be anatomically correct when serving it).  Skin the top side of the fish (which, when served, will be the bottom of the fish).

Next, carefully lift the top half of the fish off the bones, filleting as you work.  Place this half on the serving tray. 

Remove all bones. Then, aligning the two halves of the salmon, flip the top half of the fish onto the half waiting on the serving platter.   

Add the head, tail, and fins back on. Now it’s decorating time! Cucumber slices served as scales, and per the FH’s suggestion, we started from the tail so our fish could swim upstream.  Herbed mayonnaise as a collar tied the head and tail together.

After days of preparation, it was time for the big meal.  My mom (bless her for hosting—I am not a tidy cook) took care of the table setting, including Fiddlehead cookbook napkin holders and the menu cards. 

Dinner was a success.  And that, folks, is a wrap!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Salmon Riesling

It’s not always especially inspiring to cook for one. But being single, I’ve got to occasionally treat myself to something special for dinner. Something that's not two eggs in a tortilla with pesto sauce.  Creamy and rich with a slightly sweet tarragon flavor, and served with a glass of Riesling, this dish was such a pleasure. 
Lightly floured salmon filets brown in the pan
As is standard with many of the Fiddlehead entrees, the fish is prepared by lightly flouring it; then browning it in a pan of oil and butter.  Before it’s fully cooked, add the white wine and tarragon. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the fish is cooked through.  Remove the fish and add the cream to the pan, cooking it down until the sauce thickens.

Creamy Riesling & tarragon sauce over salmon. A delightful dinner for one!

Mallorquina Marinade

Mallorquina marinade ingredients
Garlic. Basil. Oregano. Dry mustard. Olive oil. Chili peppers.  Into the mix goes the salmon.  Mallorquina is a dandy marinade.  FH calls it a “robust treatment” for seafood.  Served it over wild rice with sautéed vegetables. A very healthy and easy weeknight meal.  

Salmon bathing in Mallorquina goodness

It’s not in the Fiddlehead, but we had this great appetizer before our salmon dinner: fresh figs topped with goat cheese, fresh basil, and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a dash of pepper. Yum! 

Grilled Spot Prawns

I sure hope I’m able, when I’m in my sixties, to run an ultra marathon.  Whether I will is questionable…make that unlikely.  But my friend Katie’s mom rocks that lifestyle.  I’ve found my mouth agape after hearing from Katie that her mom just ran up Pike’s Peak twice as training.  This year alone, she’s competed in two sixty milers. 

Katie’s no slouch herself.  In college, her limping into our environmental communication classes after running a marathon was arguably what put the first bee in my bonnet to run a marathon myself last year.
Prawns in the fry pan. The legs should've come off first.
Katie & her mom Elizabeth came to Juneau to visit and I had them for dinner, including these grilled spot prawns as an appetizer. We shelled the Sitka shrimp over stories of their slogging on skis over Crow Pass at 10-below.  Simple and scrumptious, these are a great go-to for guests.

The roasted red pepper mayonnaise dipping sauce is easy enough to whip up. I had a jar of peppers in the fridge. They just get pureed and then blended together—with egg yolk, lemon juice, oil, and a dash of cayenne pepper—to make the mayo.  They cook quickly—just a couple minutes on each side in a hot oiled frying pan. 
Grilled spot prawns served with red pepper mayonnaise on a bed of greens
Ultra runners apparently down everything from Gu packets to chocolate milk to keep their energy up during a run.  For me, one marathon is enough. Hearing tales from the trails at home while enjoying a home cooked meal is much more my style.
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