We did it! Despite my fears, I cooked seafood multiple times in one month! I did it! Good Fish (by Becky Selengut) certainly fit the bill for expanding my horizons! Another great Cook the Books! month!
I started off with one of my favourite things on earth: tacos. I kind of have a ridiculous taco habit. I could eat them every single day, no problem. I took my taco-love to the fish with halibut tacos with tequila-lime marinade and red cabbage slaw. Then I got saucy with newspaper (Dungeness) crab with 3 sauces. A potluck to attend? Smoked trout mousse with radish quick pickle.
Now, I’d planned to get an extra seafood-fest in, but the Ladyfriend and I escaped to the heat and dryness of Southern California – resulting in almost a week not cooking. And, Briggs and I couldn’t find a conflict-free weekend night for a Cook the Books! Dinner Party. I suppose that is bound to happen a few times with schedules and what not.
The day after we got home from the desert, I gave the Ladyfriend and in-laws a few choices: roasted halibut, steamed banana leaf salmon, scallops with carrot cream and marjoram, albacore parcels with mint-pistachio pesto; and either quick squid with red chile sauce and herbs or wok-seared squid with lemongrass, chile, and basil. Halibut won the family vote and I prepared roasted halibut with radicchio-pancetta sauce, peas, and artichokes. Quite a choice, huh? I admit, I did feel a titch of relief that they chose halibut, because I felt confident I could cook it well following her instructions and that I would also likely enjoy it. That being said, I am a little sad that I didn’t get a chance to try my hand at squid. Later. And I will get to the grilled spot prawns with “crack salad” then as well!
I reviewed Becky’s video for how to skin a filet and, again, it worked out perfectly. The fish is partially-seared quickly in a hot skillet and later transferred to oven for a final flash cook. Pancetta and shallots are cooked until the pancetta is crisp. Then, radicchio, artichokes, and peas are added (along with honey, white wine, white wine vinegar, and fish stock). The flavors were spring-y and great! As with my previous halibut attempt, her instructions on fish done-ess were perfect. The fish was cooked perfectly. Taste? We all really enjoyed it! Even the suddenly-picky-Babylady took a few bites. Once she is past whatever-it-is-she-is-doing-around-food, I can tell she will like it as well.
We paired with wine similar to the wine suggested by April Pogue – a muscadet from the loire valley and a rosé. With a side of lightly roasted asparagus and kale salad, it was a perfect early spring dish!
Before moving on over to the review, I need to switch gears for a second and talk gardens. In theory, this is a dish I could grow every component except the halibut (obviously) and pancetta. Even though I didn’t, it makes me inexplicably happy knowing that, in a different year, I could have. This year our asparagus seems very slow to return. Not sure how that is going to turn up- they are pretty sparse. Last year, in the throes of being grumpy about the asparagus hogging such a big spot, I planted some raspberries along one side. I’ll let them duke it out and see who stays, but it will be tasty either way. I seeded my peas (purposefully) late this year, but they are coming along. The artichoke seems the worst off- it doesn’t seem pleased with their late winter relocation. Perhaps it will perk up in a bit.
What is using a new cookbook like for you? It is always seems a bit like lust to me. Kaela over at Local Kitchen had a timely post comparing using a cookbook to dating. Give it a read – it is very funny and spot on to how I feel using new cookbooks! And, as always, gorgeous photographs and tempting recipes.
- Recipe/writing style: I really enjoyed the layout. The book is divided into 3 categories: Shellfish, Fin-fish, and Little-fish and Eggs. Each of the main categories has 5 varieties, so she covers 15 types of seafood. For each type of seafood, there are five recipes ranging from easy to advanced- for a total of 75 recipes. Becky introduces each seafood type and, in well-defined sections, she covers why the particular seafood is a good sustainable choice and what other names it goes by. She also gives you buying tips, questions to ask from the seller (fish monger or fisherman/woman), information on the best season for a particular seafood, as well as how to care for your fish. Seasonality is a big thing with seafood – something, as a non-fish eater, I never really thought about. You’ll learn how the seafood is raised and harvested and what would make good substitutes. She’ll also remind you of any videos that might be helpful for that section. And, finally, Becky is married to a rockstar wine sommelier, April Pogue, who provides wine pairings for each recipe!
- Did the recipes taste good? Yes! I still don’t claim to love seafood in an “omg, gonna-die-if-I-don’t-get-my-seafood-fix” sort of way. But, everyone that ate the fish I prepared really enjoyed it! The recipes have really great flavors in the marinades, sides, sauces, and/or accompaniments.
- Would I use it again? Yes! I wanted to try the squid and spot prawns, so will try them at some point. I know that I will use it when the seafood lovers in my life come over for dinner.
- Is it reliable? Yes! The recipes were really easy to follow, clearly written, and the results were dependable and fresh. I feel confident that I could pick anything in the book and it would turn out as expected.
- Does it use real food? Yes!
- Can I replicate the recipes and are the results worth the effort? Yes! Even with my previous non-existent seafood preparation history, the recipes were easy to prepare and the flavors were really good. With a bit of hand-holding, I found that seafood was actually really fun to cook!
- Other? Becky’s writing is fantastic. She is entertaining, witty, and passionate. Her introductions are personable and funny. The photographs made me want to try just about everything in the book, and coming from a fish-a-phobe, that is saying a lot. So, big props to Clare as well!
So, what about my relationship to seafood? My goal was to be able to at least source sustainable seafood and prepare a great meal. I wish we had time for a Cook the Books! Dinner Party this month, as I was actually looking forward to trying some shellfish. I figured out that I do enjoy mild fish and found a previously-missing willingness to try other seafood. I have the confidence to attempt most of the recipes in the book, which is pretty empowering, given where I started. I learned to navigate the world of sustainable seafood and let go of some of my fish-food-hangups. I could hand the cookbook to someone and just tell them to pick something they thought sounded good and make a fabulous and memorable meal. Not bad for 3 weeks of cooking, huh?
The videos on Becky’s website are really helpful and offer a wealth of information to help you learn a variety of techniques from cleaning a geoduck to wok-smoking fish.
Sarah from Eat Locally, Blog Globally got started early this month and went for the gusto! She hails from Toronto, but didn’t have any problems sourcing sustainable seafood. She was excited to learn some new techniques and recipes to bring into her regular rotation. She thought the broth for the Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp and Lemongrass Soup) was outstanding and fell in love with Jerk-Spiced Salmon with Coconut Pot Liquor and Sweet Potato Fries. Plus, she made Halibut Coconut Curry with Charred Chiles and Lime. Pretty great choices, huh?
Lilly from Rake and Make was reluctant, though she loves seafood, but was really happy she went for it, since Good Fish is her favorite month so far! Lilly loved all the in-depth information about each seafood. She ended up chosing Hangtown Fry, for reasons partially based on a memory of a meal from 13 Coins. I love hearing why people chose the recipes they chose. A person can get to a recipe by so many routes! Her backyard chickens are laying again, so she got to use fresh eggs, too. Lilly thinks Becky is just awesome and also a new fan of Becky’s podcast, Closed for Logging.
Karen from Prospect: The Pantry (and here and here!) Seriously Karen – you’ve outdone yourself! Consider us impressed! Karen has always lived near water, is a lover of seafood, and shares her thoughts and learning around sustainable seafood. I really enjoyed hearing about her background throughout her posts! Also, though she is based on the east coast (New Jersey), she had no problems sourcing sustainable seafood or substitutions. She liked that: “Becky explores a bunch of techniques, all of which are intended to cook fish simply and well, and then embellishes the individual preparations with amazing accompaniments with techniques of their own.” I agree! So what did she make? Prepare yourself… Karen made: Halibut Coconut Curry with Charred Chiles and Lime, Roasted Black Cod with Bok Choy and Soy Caramel Sauce, Jerk-spiced Salmon with Coconut Pot Liquor and Sweet Potato Fries, Olive-oil-poached Albacore Steaks with Caper-Blood Orange Sauce, Quinoa Cakes with Smoked Trout and Chive Sour Cream, Smoked Trout Mousse with Radish and Cucumber Quick Pickle, Squid with Chickpeas, Potatoes, and Piquillo Peppers, and Mussels with Apple Cider and Thyme Glaze! Whew! And, her cookbook is full of sticky notes for when other items come into season.
Janet from jams, chutneys, and other midsadventures made Quick Squid with Red Chili Sauce and Herbs, but doesn’t feel like she bonded with the book or squid. Darn! I think the chili sauce was supposed to go with it though, no? Will you give another recipe a try? The halibut recipes were all really great, quick and easy, and utilized easy-to-get ingredients!
Sarah from cook.can.read loves to visit the Washington coast and got to purchase her steamer clams right off the dock. Couldn’t be fresher! Sarah loved the narrative and the focus on local seafood. In fact, she wants to cook her way through the full book! For the challenge, she substituted steamer clams for the mussels in the Mussels with Guinness Cream and really enjoyed a new preparation for her favorite shellfish!
Angela and J.K. from Tea Time Adventures chose to make Sardine and White Bean salad. Again, I love to know what draws a person to a particular recipe… it isn’t always just the ingredients, right? In this case, they liked the introduction Becky gave that said you could gather ingredients in a gas station. I find that amusing as well – simple, healthy, and available everywhere! They really enjoyed their meal and JK made pi cookies for dessert!
Cynthia from Mother’s Kitchen comes from long line of fishermen and women and loved the storytelling, the photography, the videos, but didn’t have a successful experience with the Roasted Black Cod with Bok Choy and Soy Caramel Sauce. However, a suggestion was noted by Becky in the comments that there was an uncaught typo and that the recipe should read for baby bok choy, instead of full-size. I hope you’ll try the book again Cynthia!
Aimée from Homemade Trade didn’t make as many things as she had hoped because life interferes in that way, doesn’t it? But, she has ingredients ready for a few more things though and turned out a successful Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp and Lemongrass) Soup. And, I agree, the scent of kaffir lime leaves is magical! Aimée also found the deveining shrimp video really helpful!
And, of coure, my co-host, Briggs, from Ohbriggsy made Steamers with Beer, Roasted Black Cod with Soy Caramel Sauce, Halibut Tacos with Tequila Lime Marinade and Red Cabbage Slaw, and Potato and Beet Latkes with Horseradish Sour Cream and Caviar. Briggs gave her overall Good Fish review that you can read here. Briggs will also be introducing April Cook the Books! this week sometime, so get on over and pay a visit!
Not a participant, but while I was writing up this post I found a link to Good Fish, Good Cook who cooked every single recipe from the book a few years ago! Amazing! If there is a recipe you were curious about, but didn’t get to, pop over and see what she had to say!
Next up, The Mile End Cookbook: Redefining Jewish Comfort Food from Hash to Hamantaschen! Noah and Rae Bernamoff lead us in exploration of Jewish comfort food, based on their Brooklyn, NY restaurant. Briggs will be giving us an introduction in the next day-ish, so pop over there and check it out!
Same format as usual. For April, please send us your link by Friday, April 26th.