Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oh the Things I Learned

Big Guy and I were home this weekend, so Sunday was cooking day. With a hectic week, I didn't put as much thought into this week's recipe so I had to find a recipe with easy to find ingredients. I also felt it was time to experiment with fish. Maybe it was a subconscious desire due to that horrible yet funny McDonald's commercial promoting their fish sandwich. I'm still not clear on what the mounted fish is singing but the tune pops in my mind often.

I landed on Grilled Redfish as the entree. I managed to create four more recipes - Commander's House Salad, Commander's Garlic Bread, Creole Seafood Seasoning and Grilled Fish. To recap this portion of the Commanding Journey, I will share the top 10 things I learned:

  1. It is impossible to find Redfish or an appropriate substitution in Memphis. I tried sweet talking the East Memphis Fresh Market seafood specialist into ordering for me, went to multiple Kroger's, cold called a seafood distributor that services Memphis grocery stores and restaurants, and contemplated ordering online. The only Redfish I found is 22lb frozen increments, and I don't need or have space for 22lbs of anything. Finally Brad and I settled on Chilean Sea Bass at Fresh Market.
  2. Sea Bass is not a suitable substitution for Redfish. At least not when I'm cooking it or with this recipe. Also, there were these weird little bones in the filets that I couldn't get out before cooking. Oh, we got them out while eating dinner.
  3. Grilled means blackened...at least to Commander's Palace. At first glance, I thought this recipe could be cooked on the Big Green Egg; however, the book specifically says use a heavy cast iron skillet. With a little searching, I learned the cast iron skillet is the traditional way to blacken.
  4. Blackening fish in a cast iron skillet will completely fill a 1279 square foot cottage with fish smoke. I am not exaggerating. Again, the recipe said it's important to have a very hot skillet. In fact, it says cook fish in a white hot cast iron skillet. A quick search on the handy iPhone confirmed my suspicion that white hot means heating an object until it turns white. After a solid 20 minutes of heating the skillet on medium high heat, it was still as black as when I turned on the eye. I experienced a little panic and perspiration - fair to say the perspiring could have been caused by the radiating heat from the skillet. I gathered my gumption and dropped one filet in, flung myself away from the stove, and stood amazed wide-eyed and mouth opened as smoked billowed from the skillet. The first thought was to drop in the other filet, so they would be the same whether good or bad. With the second one, came a continuous billow of fish smoke. While I was traveling through this part of the journey, Brad was in the shower. You can only imagine his surprise when he got out. He said the fish smoke and smell almost knocked him down when he opened the door. He probably felt like he needed to take another one.
  5. Fish smoke doesn't go away quickly. We opened the back door for a while to get the actual smoke out of the house. No such luck with the horrific smell. It was just bad. We had to close the door because of massive mosquitos coming in which is an entirely different subject - how do we have mosquitos already after four snows? After eating dinner (see #6), we went to see Alice in Wonderland 3D at the Paradiso. When we returned, I got a little peek into how Brad felt when he opened the bathroom door. We walked in the front door and shew-wheee. Operation candle lighting in every room. The smell was still lingering Monday evening after work. I cooked a roast in the crock pot today, Tuesday, so we're almost clear of fish stink.
  6. We don't like blackened Chilean Sea Bass cooked in a skillet. I tried to justify different elements of the meal but only because how much hard work was put into it. I rated it a generous six, and Brad gave it a five. Twenty-four hours later, I gave it around a three. Maybe the fish scent has a permanent place in my olfactory system and brought back an unpleasant memory. Whatever the case, I will not cook more fish on top of the stove.
  7. I do like creating sauces. The recipe called for a lemon butter sauce to accompany the fish. I realized peeling the lemons, mashing the pulp, melting the butter, and whisking the liquid until it thickened made me happy. I haven't learned why; just that it made me happy and that's enough for now.
  8. Peeling lemons is a such a refreshing and an inexpensive way to freshen up your kitchen. Eureka!...just learned something else. I need to peel about 10 lemons in the kitchen to rid it of any lingering fish. 
  9. My husband has joined the Commanding Journey. He is coming around slowly and did encourage me last night at a Mexican restaurant to change to a Mexican cookbook but he's accepting my self imposed challenge. He helped me shop for ingredients at Fresh Market after church, ate the Grilled Chilean Sea Bass, gave it a rating of 5 out of 10 in fear of a marital melt down, and took me to see Alice in Wonderland all in one day. I love him for these things.
  10. A cookbook is only a guide. I need to use it as such, taste test along the way, and make personal adaptations to create more enjoyable cooking and dining experiences. To successfully complete this journey, I must utilize the cookbook as a tool kit. This is my hobby, and I'm going to put my personal stamp on it.
Creole Seafood Seasoning on Chilean Sea Bass

Colorful vegetables to slice and saute.

A glimpse of our tiny kitchen while cooking these meals.

After the smoke simmered down.

I looks much better than it tasted. Except the Garlic bread. It was yummy.

Tata for now.

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Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio
Brad and me in Florence, Italy