Who flipped the switch? After weeks of height-of-summer salads and cookies suddenly here we are, plunged into nights when you need a jacket. I grilled a dozen ears of corn last Thursday, alone at home, nursing a scotch on our deck in the dark, except when I raised the lid of our grill …
Three or four summers ago I was standing in water up to my knees on a sandbar known as Horseshoe Shoal in the middle of Barnstable Harbor, that long shark-shaped body of water that swims between the shores of Sandy Neck to the north and the town of Barnstable to the south on Cape Cod. As I watched, a flock of seabirds raced down the channel that passes between the sandbar and Sandy Neck. The birds swooped and cried, strafing a line across the water with their beaks as precise as a squadron of P-51 Mustangs. Then I saw it, a deep slate discoloration below the channel surface, an undulating gray movement that fragmented into hundreds of individual fish as it flashed by me. I wasn’t the only one to take notice. Small boats stopped in the channel, people rising to stand, hands shading eyes. “Blues!” a man cried, waving and pointing. It was August and the bluefish were running. For anglers and eaters on Cape Cod, only striped bass equal the pleasures of bluefish. Stripers taste more delicate, but bluefish fight harder. This week’s dish: Bluefish with Dukkah, Tomatoes and Garlic Yogurt.
Fat. Let’s not beat around the bush, shall we? Fat’s probably the best place to begin a discussion of Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory. Au debut, as the French say, in the beginning, rillettes meant one thing – pork. Or rather, pork and fat. Rillettes was pork that had been salted, cooked slowly in pork fat, shredded, then preserved in the same fat, and served at room temperature, usually spread on toast. Rillettes* are now found all over France, and while pork is still popular, in the Southwest, the Midi-Pyrenees, extending down to the Spanish border, the technique is more often seen with duck or rabbit. Today rillettes of salmon, tuna or other fatty fish, or even mushrooms are not uncommon on pricey menus. It’s hard to argue with that–what doesn’t taste good when cooked slowly in fat and salt?
As you read this, we’re feverishly running around dropping off the animals, picking up last-minute compact flash cards, camera batteries and a new swimsuit. This afternoon we fly off on vacation, to spend a couple of weeks connecting with old friends, exploring prehistoric cave painting, cycling, drinking, eating and playing Bananagrams on the terrace. I’m still uncertain about whether we’re going to go dark–EVERYBODY needs some time off the grid–or if I’ll try figuring out some sort of wifi connection for the occasional splash of photos. In the meantime we’re going out with something that anyone can use to make themselves look like a back yard fire god, Grilled Skit Steak with Spicy Green Romesco. You need a food processor and a bit of patience. Look at the photos: No complicated technique. Believe me, you’ll be killer.
I had my first experience with balsamic vinegar, the bona fide aged article from Modena in Emilia Romagna, while working in a gourmet grocery store in rural Rhode Island in 1981. I remember the occasion because it involved tasting a small drizzle atop strawberries and I thought it was a prank. The taste was transformative. Imagine sweet-tart strained through a bottle of Chateau Margaux. The combination has remained with me ever since. You can catch an echo of that experience in this week’s Seared Salmon with Strawberries, Rose Water and Balsamic Vinegar.
If I ever leave New England, it will be the taste of a freshly seared Atlantic sea scallop that brings me back. Big, meaty, packed with marine flavor. When people talk about regional American cuisine and they trot out Texas or North Carolina barbecue or Virginia hams or Alaskan salmon, I always ask if they’ve ever tasted a genuine New England sea scallop. Most haven’t. This week: Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil. The sea scallops are large, they take a thin edge of delicious sear while remaining moist and rare in the center, and they hold a delicious court with butter, peas and chervil.
The little piles of sesame seeds atop the prunes are the traditional way of garnishing the dish.
We’re baaaaaaacccckkkkk…. with a dish that’s great for a winter that refuses to die–Moroccan Short Ribs of Beef with Prunes and Ras el Hanout. Before we stumbled through an invisible portal into the Gehenna of wiring, longtime Rialto employee Mohammed Karachi and his family spent a morning cooking with us. Mohammed’s wife Layla walked us through their Moroccan family recipe for braised short ribs, using ras el hanout from Mohammed’s mother. What a treat! Layla’s ribs easily earned a place in my personal pantheon of great braised dishes. The spicy and sweet components are kept separate until the dish is served. Do you want a forkful of beef with Moroccan seasoning and a bit of prune at the same time? Or first the spicy, then the sweet? (My preference.) It’s comforting either way.
Ah, children. If you append the name of one child to a dish, the other will someday ask, “Why didn’t you ever name anything after me?” Our son Oliver’s mastery of Oliver’s Chicken Stew made him a culinary hero to his impoverished roommates. Our daughter turned 18 this week – sob - and reminded us that she needed a dish that she could take with her to college, something within her skill set that might make her a culinary goddess to her future roommates, something with her name on it. Ergo Roxanne’s Balsamic Chicken with Olives.
Food bloggers and their readers tend to be a supportive, upbeat, crowd (“Kale! Wow! Double thumbs-up!”). We don’t get many complaints, helpful suggestions for improving the site, but every few months this plea arrives: “Can’t you do something so we don’t have to cut and paste your recipes?” Never let it be said The Garum Factory …
Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Blood Orange – Fennel Salad. If you make nothing else from us this year, make this. It’s crazy delicious, one of my contenders for the tastiest thing Jody’s cooked in the past year, and it’s easy. Contrary to what you may think, the recipe doesn’t involve filleting your own mackerel. Unless you want to. If so, have it. That’s what we did, but only because the whole fish were so gorgeous I couldn’t bear not photographing them, so I spared our fishmonger the hassle of filleting them for us. You’ll also notice that there are three fish and only four fillets, when you’d expect six. That’s because we roasted the third mackerel whole. If Spanish mackerel’s around, we can’t get enough of it. Make this dish.