Oh hi, friends! So I’ve been gone a for a minute, but I’ve still been cooking the books. What else have I been doing?
Celebrating Double S’s birthday and eating fancy (and sustainable!) sushi here!
Corning my own beef for the second time (It turned out awesome!)! So good! I used even more of the homemade pickling spice than called for in Charcuterie, with great results. And I made some pretty epic reuben sandwiches with the leftover corned beef and my own kraut last night.
Working on my 2013 garden! We already planted peas, potatoes, and shallots. Plus, we have lotsa arugula and lettuce seeds gradually getting bigger under the grow lights. You know I love my big salads!
Discovering a latent affinity for Taylor Swift! So I was making Double S a dance-y birthday mixtape, and I realized I had never heard Taylor’s big summer hit. Double S digs the show Nashville hardcore. So do I! Can you blame us? It’s Tami Taylor singing country, people! Get on the bandwagon! So I thought I’d throw in some other country music on this year’s birthday mixtape. I know it’s a stretch to include Taylor Swift under the rubric of country music, but come on! You can’t deny “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together!” We-ee! Like, ever.
Oh, and binge watching both seasons of HBO’s Enlightened. Have you watched Enlightened? Probably not. You really should. Check it out On Demand. Get to episode four of the first season before you give up on it. It’s hard to watch at first, but oh the payoffs are great.
Ok, so what was I talking about? Yes, Cook the Books! This month we’re taking on fish with Good Fish by Seattle’s Becky Selengut. Have you guys cooked anything yet? Have you east coasters found it easy to substitute her suggestions of Pacific Coast fish for sustainable options from the Atlantic? Hope so! The book is versatile. There are plenty of recipes you can throw together pretty quickly, as long as you have access to good fish. We certainly do here in Seattle. I’ve made two recipes so far.
Steamers with Beer, page 9.
To get a sense of the book, I decided to start with the first recipe in the first section of the book. Clams! In Seattle, we have several options when it comes to purchasing sustainable seafood. I like patronizing meat and fish selling establishments that put sustainability at the forefront. Luckily, Seattle has a few of these. One of those establishments is the Taylor Shellfish Farm storefront in the artisan food lovers paradise that is Melrose Market in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Double S and I checked it out a few Fridays ago.
I love Melrose Market, but I am especially enamored with Taylor Shellfish Farms. You really know what you are getting and where it is coming from. Every kind of shellfish has a detailed label of where it’s from. You can find a pin for every location on the map they have in store.
No farmed nastiness and no dubious origin labels. If you need shellfish in Seattle, this is the place. Plus they also sell wine and beer and will shuck oysters for you to eat in store. I didn’t need no stinking shucking, cuz I learned how to do that shit myself! I got Hood Canal oysters for our Valentine’s Day feast last month, got a good shucking knife, watched this video, and I’m now good to go. I shucked more to eat as an app with these clams, from the awesomely named Fanny Bay in Fanny Bay, B.C. Then, just two nights later, our friend Bawlmer just happened to have some, so I showed off and shucked them as a little amuse bouche before our mussel feast. Yeah, I said amuse bouche. And I’d say that shit again. I’m good at this now, friends! Here are some scenes from my weekend of oysters:
Yeah, so, clams! Here are the ones I got, Manilla clams:
This was an easy recipe. I wanted to start with this easy preparation because I had never made clams before. We don’t have a clam steamer pot, so we used a dutch oven and then put the clams in a steamer basket on top of the clam broth. Becky demands that you use shitty beer. Done and done! It gives you a chance to use up that crap beer that people leave at your house. For this, I used disgusting Bud Light Platinum (and I say that as a person who likes Bud and Bud Light. Don’t hate!) that my brother just had to have during a visit last September. That shit is like malt liquor. But it worked well here!
So Double S was cooking these while I was doing carpentry in the basement. Aren’t I well rounded? Anyway, photos were not taken so I staged the whole affair with one forgotten clam that didn’t get used. We made more than one clam!
The clam broth was very tasty. If you have one of those real clam steamer pots, they usually have a spigot at the bottom so you can dole out bowls or mugs of clam pot liquor. Recommended! This recipe would have been improved if the broth could have infused the clams a bit more, and nibs and nubs of celery and onion could have got all up in between the clam meat and the shell. Maybe I needed to have the basket sitting deeper into the broth? It was hard because Becky’s recipe calls for 5 lbs of clams, but I was cooking just for two so we only had about a pound or so, so I decreased the amount of broth too. Following this recipe, you get clams with a nice aromatic quality, but you need to dip them into the broth or pour the broth over them to get the full experience. We had ours with broth on the side, melted butter sauce, and sourdough bread. The sourdough bread was a callback to our amazing experience at Swan Oyster Depot this past summer in San Francisco. Amazing seafood,the best bread you’ve ever had in your life with cold perfect butter, and Anchor Steam beers? Yes, please! I really do need to plan another trip the Bay Area.
So I cooked clams at home and they were good! Much preferred to mussels, which to me often just taste nasty. I’ve gone clamming with Double S’s family out on Whidbey Island and I have that on my summer to do list again this year. I think I need to master clam chowder.
Roasted Black Cod with Bok Choy and Soy Caramel Sauce, page 133.
For my next adventure with fish, I decided to try a fish I had never had before: black cod, aka sable fish, aka butterfish. Good choice, me! It turned out good.
I decided to make the black cod on a whim. It was a sunny Friday afternoon in Seattle and Double S and I wanted to hit up Pike Place market. We had our eye on getting some spot prawns, but were told they’re not in season until spring or summer. Bummer! We wanted to make Weeknight Linguini and Spot Prawns with Crack Salad. Oh we’ll, they’ll be in season in just a few months. Becky says that too in her book, I just missed it. So then we regrouped by having a few of these here.
Yep, that’s the place where Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner hang out in Sleepless in Seattle.
We decided to go with black cod, as neither of us had ever had it. We decided to buy from Pike Place Fish Company, a fish market that commits 100% to sustainable seafood, as that’s all they sell. Yep, it’s the place where they throw fish. I think it’s awesome that the touristy fish place in the market made this commitment, so I gotta support that.
Here was the cod. We could have bought it whole, but I didn’t want to butcher fish on this day, so we paid a bit more for a fillet.
Black cod spend their days at incredible depths in the Pacific Ocean. They look like this.
Black cod from Alaska and the Canadian Pacific are a “best choice” according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide. If you don’t have a guide for your area, you can check out their recommendations on their website.
In doing my research about black cod, I learned they are also called sablefish and butterfish. The butterfish moniker is fitting, because these fillets, once they were cooked, were silky and delicious and velvety. These puppies are really high in omega 3 fatty acids and actually pretty low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein. I think I found a new fish to add to the rotation, and being a best choice is a real added bonus.
Becky mentions in her intro to the black cod chapter that black cod is a favorite of hers. Oh my god Becky, you’re so right! See what I did there? “Baby Got Back” reference for the win! She mentions her aunt and uncle bringing in a spread from Russ and Daughters that included sablefish, and making bagel sandwiches with cream cheese and lox and sablefish piled so high they had to be immediately deconstructed. Russ and Daughters reference! Did you know that Mark Russ Federman, former owner and proprietor of Russ and Daughters in NYC just published a book with recipes and recollections of over a 100 years of this Lower East Side institution, that started as a push cart and is now a hallowed place. Look, Louis CK went there with Parker Posey! And if you haven’t watched Louie, stop reading and go watch that shit.
Why the fuck did I leave New York again? God that’s a great scene.
This recipe was another easy one, but Double S and I were concerned with the techniques Becky suggests throughout the cooking process. I had no problems with the soy glaze. It was delicious and easy to make. To make the actual dish, first you make piles of veggies on the rack on which you are going to cook the fish—red cabbage and bok choy and scallions and so on. Then you put a pretty miniscule amount of marinade on each pile. We worried that the ends of the boy choy would char, and they did. But in the end, the dish was delicious and we were hard pressed to think of any ways to improve it, other than perhaps adding a bit more marinade during the initial cooking process and tossing it with the veggies then making the piles. After the veggies roast for about 20 minutes, you add the fish and some of the caramel glaze, then cook a bit more.
The fish was perfect. Buttery, and it flaked perfectly. Becky suggested a good technique for testing the doneness of the fish and it worked, because this fish was cooked perfectly.
We liked the veggies Becky suggested too, and since we love roasted veggies, we might do more veggies for each serving (we both went back for more veggies when we still had fish left) and add more marinade or perhaps toss the veggies with the marinade before making the piles.
The soy caramel glaze was delicious. Luckily, we keep a pretty stocked kitchen as this one calls for mirin, sake, and soy sauce. You will not want to skimp on this recipe, as we both were pouring more on our fish as we ate. From my reading about black cod, it seems that Asian preparations are pretty popular, with recipes (including some of Becky’s other recipes in the book) calling for miso and the like. Now that I’ve tried this tasty and sustainable fish, I’m really itching to try some other preparations.
Cook the Books for March continues! I still have scallop and geoduck crudo on my agenda, as well as perhaps some squid and caviar. Stay tuned! If you’re blogging along with us, send us a link to your post by March 24th or so to email@example.com. Oh, and Meg’s been cooking fish too! Check her out!