A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Swordfish with lobster sauce and forbidden rice

   When I first made this preparation a year or two ago, I used Dungeness crab. This time, I opted for frozen lobster at Coastal Seafoods, a fine purveyor of aquatic edibles here in the Twin Cities. They had frozen Dungeness crab, but at a premium. One of the few advantages of drawing near the domain of the Carrion Birds of Death – i.e., getting older – is that the store offers a 20% discount on everything on Tuesdays for those who have passed into their seventh decade of life. But even with the discount, I decided the less expensive lobster might be worth a try, although I’ve thought for some time that lobster is overrated, unless it’s right out of the sea and you’re in Halifax, Nova Scotia or some such place.
   So what’s my verdict on the finished dish? Pretty good, but it’s better with Dungeness crab, one of the finest things from the sea that one can eat – even if it’s been frozen. In other words, splurge on the crab. But it has to be Dungeness crab or at least blue crab from the Southeast. In the name of all that is right and good, do not get that stuff labeled crab meat in the small tins found in grocery stores next to minced clams and tuna. It’s an abomination and unworthy of feeding even to cats.
   About the coconut milk: Don’t confuse this with coconut cream. The latter is sweet and intended for drinks with miniature parasols and orchids and such sticking out of them. An example would be the piña colada. Coconut milk is found in most grocery stores by now, running about $2.50 a can, which is twice as much as the tariff at Asian markets.
   About the “forbidden rice”, aka black rice: It isn’t actually forbidden today. Legend has it that in ancient China, it was forbidden to anyone other than the emperors and their favorites. That was no way to expand the market for a fine product, was it? It’s nuttier and more chewy than standard white rice, and it takes longer to cook. Larger grocery stores may have it, but Asian markets almost definitely will. Using medium-grain rice would be fine, although not as eye-catching on the plate. If you can’t find the black rice, look for other interesting types of rice which are increasingly available, such as red Himalayan rice, and green or bamboo rice. Thai jasmine rice is good, too, although it’s also white.

For the cream sauce:

Shallots, 1 or 2, minced
Butter, 1 or 2 Tbs
Dry white wine or dry vermouth, ¼ cup
Coconut milk, 1 13.6 oz can
Green curry paste, ½-1 tsp
Lobster or Dungeness crab meat, about 8 oz
White pepper and salt

For the fish:
Swordfish, 10-12 oz, cut into two pieces (Sea bass or other firm, white-fleshed fish would also
    be good.)
Canola oil, 1 Tbs
White pepper and salt

For the rice:
Forbidden (get permission first) or black rice, 1 cup
Chicken broth, 1 ½ cups

Cilantro, however much you want, minced.

1. Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan and add the rice.

2. Turn down the heat to very low, place the lid on the pan, and simmer for anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes, until the liquid is gone. Keep warm. Just before serving, spray a ramekin or a timbale mold with non-stick spray. Pack the rice into it pretty firmly.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan and sauté the shallots, taking care not to brown them.
4. Add about a quarter cup of the wine or vermouth and cook down until only a slight amount is left.
5. Add the coconut milk and the curry paste. The smaller amount will make its presence known in the finished dish, but with only the barest hint of spiciness. The larger amount may be too much for those who want zero stars at Thai restaurants. Reduce the sauce slightly.
6. A very few minutes before dinner is to be served, add the lobster or crab meat. (It’s already cooked, you know.)
7. Add the white pepper and salt.
8. Fifteen minutes or so from serving time, salt and white pepper the fish. Place a pan on the stove, turn the heat to high. After it’s gotten hot, swirl in the canola or other neutral oil, and sear both sides of the fish.
9. Here’s the only place you can screw up this recipe. If the fish is relatively thin – an inch or less – it can be finished on the stove. If it’s thicker – an inch and a half – put it in a 450˚ oven for around 5 minutes. Either way, check it as it cooks to avoid overcooking.

To “plate” (That sounds so pretentious; plus, verbing is getting out of control.):
As mentioned in step 2, turn over the ramekins containing the rice and unmold on the plates. It should come out very easily. Obviously, this is for appearance’s sake, as it certainly isn’t necessary. Put the fish on the plates, pour over the sauce, and scatter the minced cilantro over all. If you think the jalapeño “flower” will impress your dining guests (“Damn! What kinda flower is that? That might be the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen on a plate! How did you do that? Surely, you have matriculated at the Ecole du Cordon Bleu in Paris! Do not deny eet!”), then here’s how: Cut a red jalapeño from base to tip with a very sharp knife. It isn’t the equivalent of brain surgery for cavernous hemangiomas, but you do have to be a little careful to preserve the structural integrity of each “petal” of the flower. After this is done, clean out most of the seeds. Some, at the base, will be lodged in pretty firmly. That’s fine. Leave them in. Now put the prepared jalapeño in a bowl of cold water for a couple of hours. The petals will spread out, resembling a flower.

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