Archive for the ‘Fish’ Category


Monday, September 3rd, 2007

        For some reason this delicate oldie makes me think of garden parties and pretty women in floppy hats. Vanessa Redgrave as Mrs. Dalloway would be Exhibit A, followed by any number of Masterpiece Theater duchesses and flappers of your choosing.

        Or how about Mrs. Woolf’s “laughing girls in their transparent muslins who, even now, after dancing all night, were taking their absurd woolly dogs for a run.”

        . . . And floppy mousses and Glyndebourney vinaigrettes summon for me that humid, nostalgic waltz in Prokofieff’s third symphony that conjures billowing skirts and aches with a mysterious something that’s almost excruciatingly erotic . . .

        The recipe here — once you’ve dodged the ravings above — is a bit of a chore but you could toss off a near-novelette while you’re waiting for this-that-and-the-other ingredient to chill, and the end result is exquisite.


In a bowl soak 1 short tablespoon of gelatin in 1/4 cup of water for 5 minutes, then add 1/2 cup of boiling water and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Now add 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1/2 tablespoon of grated onion, and a smidgen of paprika; chill this mixture for perhaps 15 minutes, until it begins to thicken. Next, whip 1/3 cup of cream and fold it in; now chill the mixture again, very briefly, until it’s about to set.

In water to cover with some dry vermouth gently poach about 2 cups of halibut (buy a pound of fish at the market), then flake and pound it into shreds — fine ones! — being sure to get rid of all bones and skin.

After this hazardous waste is dealt with, fold the fish-bits into the gelatin/cream/mayonnaise, place your mousse-to-be in a lightly oiled mold and chill for several hours. Now, several tennis matches or a couple of Donizetti operas after you started, unmold your dainty mousse and serve it with a vinaigrette of 2-plus parts olive oil, 1 part red wine vinegar and a good dotting of chopped cucumber.


Monday, September 3rd, 2007

        In 1986 we drove through Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne on the way to St-Flour and fell in love with this idyllic market town parked neatly by one of the world’s prettiest rivers. Soon as we could we returned, booked into the Central Hotel (they were having a strawberry fair outside, featuring indecently giant specimens, fraises de Mars) and proceeded to enjoy Bernard Bessière’s cuisine. This skate salad is a slightly modified version of one of his starters. The Central we also remember for the professorly older gent who took breakfast in the front parlor in his dressing gown. Resembling as he did a famous elderly conductor, he will always be for us “Dr. Klemperer.”


Poach your skate (raie, of course, is a more attractive name for this homely but seductive fish) as in the previous recipe. Then carefully arrange rumpled beds of boutique lettuces on your raie-eaters’ plates, place slabs of fish on the greens and spoon over all a dressing made by combining 3 parts canola and walnut oil, 1 part red wine vinegar and a heap of currants.

                                                                               NOTE:  This recipe is also tailor-made for quick-fried halibut steaks.


Monday, September 3rd, 2007

        This old French favorite has over the years traveled no better than the deliciously blunt and purple metaphors of Simone de Beauvoir — although James Beard reports that dogs on Oregon beaches adore to roll on top of skate flotsam coming their way — but it seems to be gaining new friends in American bistros with a Francophilic bent. An alternative sauce to consider is a mustard-dry vermouth brew, incorporating a little of the thyme-flavored water in which you boiled the skate.


In a skillet combine a cup or more of water with some thyme, bay leaf and (optional, this) a little thinly sliced onion and carrot; cover, bring to a boil, then insert your skate and simmer it for about 15 minutes.

Drain the fish, place it on a platter and come close to drenching it with browned butter, adding large capers to taste and minced parsley. Then, making sure not to stand too close, because the fumes can be quite disconcerting, pour a little red wine vinegar into the pan in which the butter was browned, and, after it has boiled up — this will be about two seconds later — pour the acidic “brown bits” over the fish.