We wanted fish tonight and searching for inspiration I headed to Uwajimaya and was once again drawn to the Kinki Channel Rockfish. The whole fish they had were all too large for what I was looking for. But luckily, I was directed to the ready packed case where there were smaller fish which were already cleaned, head removed. Now, what to do with it?
I turned to my French Laundry Cookbook for ideas. In it was a recipe for Black Sea Bass with Saffron-Vanilla Sauce. I adjusted his recipe slightly.
1/2 Vannila bean, split
1 Cup shrimp stock (I had also gotten live Spot Prawns for an appetizer, so I used the water from boiling the prawns to make a stock) After boiling the shrimp, I added 1 clove of garlic, 1 shallot, bay leaf, sprig of thyme and 3/4 cup white wine to the water. Bring to a simmer for about 8 minutes and strain reserving liquid. Keller's recipe calls for Mussel stock.
1/4 tsp saffron threads
1 tbsp heavy cream
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into a pan adding the stock, vanilla pod, and saffron. Let simmer until reduced to a glaze, about 2 tablespoons. Add in the cream and bring to a simmer. Then slowly whisk in the butter a piece at a time. Be careful with the heat so not to boil the sauce again, or the butter/fat will separate from the sauce. Temper a blender container first by filling it with hot water and then drying it out. This will help keep the sauce warm. Then remove the vanilla pod from the sauce and emulsify it in the blender. Keep sauce in a warm spot until ready to serve. In retrospect, you can skip this step. It wasn't a huge difference, and you can save yourself some time and cleanup.
For the fish, I filleted each one, removing any scales and bones from the fish. Each whole fish was about 5 oz. Keller explains in order to ensure proper crisping of the skin, the skin must be as dry as possible. To get as much moisture out as possible, you kind of "squeegee" the skin by dragging a knife blade back and forth across the skin. Season the fish with salt and white pepper. Heat 1/8" oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the fish skin side down, pressing down on the fish to make sure the skin is fully flat on the surface of the skillet. For these thin fillets, I only cooked them on the skin side for about 2 minutes. Then flip over to just quickly sear the flesh side of the fish, about 20 seconds. Drain on paper towels.
Today was the first harvest of my home-grown pea shoots. I am growing snow peas for the sole purpose of eating the tender tops, "shoots", of the vines. Any snow peas will be a side benefit. The shoots should regenerate themselves once I've pinched off the tops... I hope!
A super fast saute in a little oil and salt, just until the shoots are wilted, is all that's needed. With that I blanched some fresh english peas and tossed in a little melted butter.To serve, plate a few pea shoots and peas in the center, lay the fish on top, skin side up, and ladle a little sauce around the plate. The fish was firm and tender. The sauce was to die for. I mean the genius of it. The vanilla, what a brilliant addition. The pea shoots were sweet and could not be fresher. The peas in butter, coupled so well with the shoots.
A rule of thumb, never go to the market when you're hungry. I always purchase more than I need or want... later, that is. I went to Uwajimaya on a full stomach, and still could not resist temptation. A beautiful piece of Hamachi found its way into the cart along with a pound of live spot prawns. Good appetizers, I thought. The kids will love the spot prawns and the hamachi will be devoured by all.
For the hamachi, I mixed a little wasabi oil with lemon juice and a few drops of soy sauce. The wasabi oil was from a bottle someone had given me. Slice the hamachi into thick slices and drizzle a little of the oil mixture over top. Garnish with a little fried nori. The fried nori can be found in Asian markets, in the same area they sell nori for sushi. The fish was fresh, sweet, and smooth and as such, the delicate oil mixture was perfect.
For the spot prawns, I just boiled in a little water for about 3-4 minutes. I served a dipping sauce made of soy, the ginger scallion sauce, and a touch of rice wine vinegar. The girls ate the tails, and I ate insides of the heads. They asked me why my parents and I like to eat the heads and I answered, because we were taught right. It's the sweetest part.