Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Fish Story

Fish was an important part of my childhood eating experience. Fish sticks, that is. LOVED THEM. My mother could cook fabulous fish. I just didn’t really want to eat it. She could catch a fish, gut it, clean it up, slap it in butter with almonds and people would say, “ Oh Nancy Keen! Law, how in the world do you do it. This is divine.” And they would have skin and bones on their plates . She tells me to try a bite. And my mouth snapped shut and I would not try it. So to get me to eat fish, Mrs. Paul’s came into my life. And I could not imagine why in the world people wanted to go to that much trouble to eat fish when Mrs. Paul’s had it all in one nice package for them. Mother told me I would grow to love fish and want to eat it when I got older. Of course I didn’t believe her. My grandfather would come to town and take my little brother, John and I to the trout farm down the road where you were practically guaranteed to catch a fish. By the way, have I mentioned when my parents announced they were going to have a baby, I asked if it could be a pony. It wasn’t. It was John. But I digress. John was great at fishing. He’d catch a trout and chase me around shaking that damn thing at me. I spent the majority of my time at the trout farm screaming, which I am sure unnerved the fish as much as it did my grandfather. I just never got the hang of fishing. Both John and my mother;
they can fish like you would not believe. Every time they go out of town together, they’re in a river up to their belly buttons in ice cold water catching things they don’t eat. . Whatever.

I grew up and Mother was right. Bye bye, Mrs. Paul’s. I decided that fish wasn’t so bad as long as there was enough butter to make it taste good. Fresh Market came to town with their boneless rainbow trout fillets and Trout Meuniere was my poisson of choice . Grilled fish started looking good to me. All those great salsas to complement the fish. Way off into them.. I toddled along into fish heaven. Trying lots of different kinds. Wondering why I came so late to this party.
Enter Mark Bittman. He is pretty fabulous. I love his HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING cookbook. You can put that on the counter, close your eyes, open the book and point to something and it is going to turn out great. I have done this experiment many times. So far so good. So last week, Fresh Market had fresh Chilean Sea Bass. I’ve seen it frozen many times, but not fresh, so I bought a little over a pound. It cost exactly what it would cost to buy Mark Bittman’s cookbook. So I figured he was going to have to help me out with a recipe. And did he ever. So easy and so good. Try this one night when you want something light, flavorful, warm, and comforting in about an hour.

Chilean Sea Bass with Winter Vegetables

Several tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or use all butter if you prefer)
1 tablespoon butter

Couple of big fat garlic cloves, minced
¼ pound carrots, peeled and cut in rounds
¼ pound parsnips, peeled and cut in rounds
½ pound celery, chopped
2-3 small to medium sized Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into dice
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1-1.5 pound fresh Chilean sea bass fillets, cut into 10-12 pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to tast
1 cup chicken stock (or fish if you have it on hand)
1 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 375. In a medium Dutch oven, swirl a tbsp or so of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle the minced garlic , then put half of the celery, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onion and fish. Season and repeat the veggie and fish layers. Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper at this point. Then dot with little dabs of butter and pour the stock over . Cover and bake til potatoes are cooked. It should take about 45 minutes.


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