“Dearie? Who the heck is Dearie?” you ask….. The answer, my Mum. Yep, we call her Dearie. That isn’t her name, it isn’t even remotely close. Somehow, somewhere in my childhood we got to calling her Dearie. It just stuck. It now seems really odd in fact to call her Mum. Dearie she is. It rather suits her actually, as anyone that knows her would say.
We have my parents staying at the moment. They haven’t seen Drake in 8months, and wanted to come stay, and we wanted them to. I really wanted to take them off to Ballard farmers market (in my opinion the best Seattle farmers market) today, show em around a bit, and have some good food. That happened.
Dearie is really the person that I credit with getting me into cooking, and driving home the idea of using first rate ingredients and cooking from scratch. Even to this day half of the weekly phone calls are always about food – new recipes, new ingredients, new stores. I certainly wouldn’t be the same cook I am today without her. Cheers Dearie!! It is really great having them stay, and being able to do some cooking with Dearie – showing her what we have available here in the Pacific Northwest, and bouncing ideas and techniques off her.
Dearie and Dad (yep, he is still Dad) don’t get to eat a massive amount of seafood – they live a little way from the coast in England, so I wanted to cook up a dish that just reminded us all of the sea. They both grew up by the sea, and love almost all seafood, so it really wasn’t hard to be honest.
Just cooking up some fish however wasn’t enough. I wanted to do something that really said “sea”. In this dish, surprisingly, it didn’t come about from the cod or the clams. It was really down to the amazing fish broth, and the sea beans.
We stopped by Found and Foraged at the farmers market, and they had Sea Beans. I had never seen these little darlings before, and we tasted a sample. They look like a little green stick. Small – no longer than a pinkie, but thin. Almost like some kind of seaweed. They gather them from the flats out in the ocean here in Seattle. They have this magnificent crunch, and a salty taste. It almost tastes like you are eating watered down, solidified sea water, with a crunch. Sounds gross, but that is just my pants explanation. They were awesome.
And the fish broth.. This was a little work, but man it just smelt of the freshest morning right by the ocean… with a little wine 😀
Farmers markets really are an inspiration for me. Sunday meals are all about finding some great local ingredients, and winding them together into something cohesive. I had planned most of this dish the day before. I had to – the broth takes 24 hours (you will see why later.. darn Thomas Keller) – but the greens (sea beans, peas and rocket) were really all down to the farmers market.
Oh, and talking about the rocket. Blimey (I am really trying not to say bloody hell….) this was incredible. Rocket is really just Arugula – but this was honestly the most flavorful I have ever had. A little peppery, almost with a hint of garlic in it. Just spectacular.
Right – back to the broth. I don’t often make a lot of broth/stock. I just cannot be bothered to be honest. It doesn’t take long, and I should do it more, I don’t. I buy high quality broth, and that does for most things. Not today though. I wanted a REALLY good fish broth. A broth that says “holy crap, we are literally sitting on the beach, smelling the sea, dreaming of fish”. Who do you turn to for that? Why, Thomas Keller of course.
Don’t worry – this isn’t another French Laundry cook-off that takes a week. This fish stock comes from the pages of his Bouchon cookbook. Far more me to be honest – simple, elegant bistro food. Not fussy, just really amazing ingredients with solid techniques.
It is the little things with this bloke that impress me. He complete devotion to finding the best way to do something. Like this fish stock. If I hadn’t have read his recipe, I would have just bunged some veg and fish bones in a pan, added some wine and water, and called it done. He hones this right down. The fish bones get trimmed of all skin, fins, veins and so forth. You then soak them overnight in ice water, changing the water. This draws out all the blood, and makes for a much cleaner stock. You then also let it sit after cooking, so all the solids go to the bottom. You then ladle out the stock, not disturbing the bottom, and through a towel. Again, just another simple step that makes for a cleaner stock.
I wanted to add some zing to the stock, so I whisked in some butter and fines herbs just before serving. Fines herbs in the French mixture of “soft” herbs – parsley, chevil, chives, dill, tarragon. For this I used parsley chives and dill. I am not super keen on tarragon with fish. Far more for chicken if you ask me.
So – anyhow. This was bloody awesome. I would cook this every week if I could. So bloody tasty – really light and delicate. I was just absolutely amazed at how much dish reminded me of the freshest day on the sea. Just great.
True Cod and clams, sea beans/rocket/English peas, fines herbs fish broth.
(Basic stock recipe adapted from Thomas Keller – Bouchon)
3lb of true cod fillet
50 manilla clams
5lb of fish bones – not oily fish (like salmon, trout, black cod)
2 small fennel bulbs
1 handful of crimini mushrooms
1 medium shallot
small bunch of flat leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
20 sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of dry white wine
cold, filtered water
2 large handfuls of sea beans
1 head of arugula (rocket)
5 good handfuls of fresh English peas in their pods
1 glass white wine
1 small handful for fresh parsley
10 sprigs of chives
1/4 cup of dill leaves
Start by cleaning the fish bones. Remove any skin, veins and fins. Cut the backbones into 2″ pieces. It is easiest to cut these through the joints in the backbone – right through the cartilage. Cut other bone sections up into similar sized pieces. Put these in a bowl of ice water, covered in the fridge for at least 12 hours, or overnight. Change the water a couple of times throughout this period. The water will go cloudy with blood from the bones. When done, you will notice the bones visibly cleaner. Drain the fish bones before use.
Slice the fennel, leek, crimini mushrooms and shallot into 1/4″ slices. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive in a stock pot. Add in the fennel, leek, mushroom, shallot, parsley, thyme, bay, peppercorns and salt. Cook for a couple of minutes. Turn up the heat, add in the white wine. Let this cook down until the alcohol smell goes away. Turn the heat down to medium and add the fish bones on top of the vegetables. Cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes – until the bones are opaque.
Add in about 2 1/4 quarts of cold filtered water (remember broth is all water, use good clean water!), and gently bring up to a simmer. Skim the surface, and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
When cooked, line a fine mesh sieve with a clean dish towel. Place this over a large bowl. Turn the heat off from under the stock, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Gently spoon the stock through the cloth lined sieve into the bowl. Try not to disturb the fish/vegetables in the bottom of the pan – this can make the broth cloudy. Chill the broth quickly in an ice bath until required.
OK.. broth is done. Lets look at the vegetables and fish.
Pod the peas. Clean the arugula. Boil the sea beans in water for about 1 minute (blanch), and then plunge these into an ice bath. Boil the peas for about 4 minutes (until just soft) and put those into an ice bath as well. This stops them from cooking further, and preserves their color.
Preheat oven to 375F. Cut up the cod fillet into 6 pieces. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick pan. When hot, add the fish flesh side down (if the fillets are skinned, add them what would be the only flesh side down). Let this cook for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Transfer to a baking dish, and put in the oven for about 5 minutes – or until cooked through.
Meanwhile get 1 glass of white wine boiling in a high rimmed, large saute pan. Let this reduce down by half, and then add in the clams. Cover, and let cook for at least 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, quickly open the lid and take a look.. Hopefully they have all opened. If not, cover back up and cook for another couple of minutes.
Whilst the clams are cooking, lets wilt down the arugula, and reheat the beans and peas. In another large skillet (get someone else to do the dishes..) melt 1 tablespoon of butter over a medium heat. When good and hot, toss in the arugula, and keep moving. When just about wilted add in the sea beans and peas to warm through.
Warm through about 6 cups of stock. Whisk in about 2 tablespoons of butter. Finely chop the fines herbs (the “finish” parsley, chives and dill). Whisk this into the broth.
To serve (finally!!) put a small mound of vegetables in the center of each plate. Pour some of the broth/herb mixture over this (about 1 cups worth). Top with a piece of fish, fresh from the oven. Place some clams around the outside of the fish.
Serve with warm crusty bread to dip into the wonderful broth.