Saturday, February 15, 2014

Chilean Sea Bass with Lemon Caper White Wine Sauce

I wish we ate more fish, it's just not the easiest in terms of logistics.  Unlike other proteins, you shouldn't keep it for days in the fridge until the day you want to dine on seafood.  Often, I will make fish on Sundays, the day for grocery shopping.  I like my fish extremely fresh, which is important to quality and taste.  If your fish smells like fish, that's not a good sign.  Get yours from a fishmonger or grocery store that is popular, which means high turnover and therefore fresh product. 

Instead of the usual salmon, I picked up some Chilean sea bass last week.  Wild, line caught variety is best.  A few years ago, it was a no-no to eat Chilean sea bass because it was over-fished and the supply was dwindling.  Since then, the population has made a good recovery and you can eat them without guilt.  The real name for sea bass is Patagonian toothfish, and they are some ugly mothers.  You won't see that name on any restaurant menus, it's not quite as marketable as sea bass.  Want to learn more about which seafood is sustainable?

Feel free to use any firm white fish with this delicious lemon caper white wine butter sauce.  I served up these beauties on a bed of garlicky sauteed spinach with a side of oyster mushroom risotto. 

You should serve this with a glass of crisp dry white wine, such as a Chablis, Sauvingnon Blanc, or Pinot Gris.  And instead of guzzling the whole bottle, pour the last bit into an ice cube tray.  When frozen, move the wine cubes to a plastic freezer bag.  Now you'll have that little bit of wine you need for pan sauces such as this.  

One more thing.  The handle of that skillet will be hot when it comes out of the oven.  Don't forget about that, as I did.  I don't often burn or cut myself, but it's certainly easy to do if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  They make silicone handle covers which I should have put on right away, instead of gripping the super hot handle and searing my palm and finger.

Chilean Sea Bass with Lemon Caper White Wine Sauce
2 servings
12-14 oz sea bass, boneless and skinless
canola or veg oil
2 TB unsalted butter
1 TB finely diced shallot
2 TB capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 C dry white wine
3 TB fresh lemon juice
1 ts fresh parsley, finely chopped

Fire up the oven to 450°F.

Season both sides of the fish with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Heat an oven-safe skillet over high heat.  Once nice and toasty, add a touch of canola or vegetable oil to coat the pan.  Sear for three minutes on one side, then flip and place in the oven for about 8 minutes, until cooked through.  Place the fish on a plate to rest.  

Place the skillet back on the stovetop over medium-high heat.  Add the butter and the shallot, cook for a couple minutes stirring often until softened but not browned.  Add the white wine and scrape up any tasty bits on the bottom of the skillet.  Add the capers and lemon juice, stir.  Cook until the wine is reduced a bit, another 3 minutes or so.  Add in the parsley and stir, remove from heat.  Season to taste with S&P. 

Plate the fish by splitting into two servings, top with the sauce and serve with a lemon wedge.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Maitre D'Hotel Butter

A really good steak needs little messing with.  Of course, we have zero culinary use for A-1 Steak Sauce.  Leave that shit for the Applebees/Chilis/Outback crowd.  Sometimes I'll put a little Chicago Steak Seasoning (Penzeys) on my ribeyes cause that's tasty stuff, the hint of charcoal smoke is especially nice when searing steaks inside instead of grilling them out of doors.  But when you get a really, really high-end cut of meat all you really need is kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Season them early- a few hours before you plan to cook them, and keep them on a rack on a sheet pan in the fridge.  Getting air underneath helps to keep the exterior dry, so you get a nice sear when it hits the hot skillet or grill.  Bring them closer to room temp before cooking, 15-30 minutes prior to fire time is fine.  You'll taste steak.  Just like it's supposed to be.  Pure delicious animal.  Other times you might be faced with some steaks that aren't quite as marbled as you would like, perhaps choice cuts instead of prime.  That's when you break out the compound butter to add some flavor to your protein. 

Compound butter, herb butter, or in more fancy terms maitre d'hotel butter, is very easy to make yet delivers fantastic presentation.  The recipe below is pretty standard and a great one to begin with.  I like to add a tiny bit of very thinly sliced shallot.  A spoonful of gorgonzola or roquefort cheese would be lovely with any cut of steak, an ingredient we add every now and then.  Don't forget a nice cab, syrah, or zinfandel!  (For drinking, do not add to butter)

Maitre D'Hotel Butter

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 C parsley, finely chopped
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 TB lemon juice
1/2 ts lemon zest
1/2 ts sea or maldon salt (kosher is fine too)
1/4 ts freshly cracked black pepper

I like to use the stand mixer for compound butter so it can get some use other than making pizza dough.  A food processor will also mix your butter.  A spoon, a bowl and some muscle will too. 

To the bowl of your stand mixer, add the butter and mix with the paddle on medium speed for a few minutes until lightly whipped.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix on low until incorporated, wiping down the sides with a spatula once to get all the bits that want to hide.  If using a food pro, throw it all in and pulse to combine. 

I use the original wrappings from the butter sticks.  Open them up and place half of the mix in each one.  Transfer those to a sheet of plastic wrap.  Roll the sticks into a log shape and wrap with both layers, then wrap a third outside layer with aluminum foil, twisting the ends like a huge joint.  (so I've been told)  Freeze for at least an hour up to a couple months.  Slice off a few rounds when you need to dress up your ribeyes, strip steaks or t-bones.  Place them on right after cooking and let the heat while resting soften up the butter. 

 What else could you amp up with maitre d'hotel butter?  Baked potatoes, crusty baguette slices, risotto, peas, carrots, and many other foods when you have a log ready to go in your icebox.