Saturday, January 5, 2013

Skills: Braising, and Deboning, a Fish


[ Editor's note: we finally figured out how to make videos work, woohoo! ]

The fish was caught some time ago, from a well stocked creek somewhere in Northern California. The creek was fed by melting snow and rain from the kind of mountain one sees in the distance in those car commercials where some fancy new suburban utility vehicle hugs curves that are carved into the sides of lush green hills dotted with cattle.

This is the Central Valley, that extends from Oxnard up to Modesto and beyond. This is were this fish lived, and died, and was encased in ice, with a half lemon, until I encountered it and said: "that looks good, let's eat that tonight."

The day: Christmas Eve.

The place: 99% Bittersweet's secret exurb hide-out.

Unlike Han Solo, one does not simply go from frozen to thawed out, no matter what Princess Leia says, or how many lasers you might have.

Employing a technique poached from "Good Eats", I submerged the fish (still in the bag) in running cold water. Soon the bags were thawed enough to take out the whole fish, large chunks of ice eroding in the running water, and eventually thawing to the point where I could rinse all the ice out of the cavity in the fish's underside and pull apart the flesh in order to stuff the cavity with aromatics.

Very cold fish.
A great deal of what dictates the recipe, any recipe, in my world is what is on-hand.

Carrots, check. Celery, check, herbs, check, garlic, check, ginger, 86ed - boo. Beer, check. Sauerkraut, why not?

I went about mise'ing my place.


Beer Braised Stiper with Aromatic Vegetables (and Bacon!):
  • 2 1lbs stripers, gutted, head and fins optional.
  • 3-4 rashers of double-smoked bacon.
  • 1 medium carrot, julienned. 
  • 1 stalk celery, julienned.
  • 2-3 scallions, chopped.
  • 1 cup sauerkraut.
  • 2 sprigs of thyme, rinsed.
  • 2 sprigs of sage, rinsed.
  • Salt & pepper.
  • 1 whole beer + 1/2 cup of wine.
Chop bacon and fry in a large lidded pan over high heat. Sautée carrots and celery for a minute in bacon far. Reduce heat and add a layer of sauerkraut.

Stuff fish cavity with scallions and herbs and pat with salt and pepper inside and out.

Place on top of sauerkraut and add beer and wine. Bring to the boil.

Boil for a minute and flip fish. Cover and bake in a 350ºF oven for 35-45 minutes or until fish is fork tender.