So another birthday came and went on Sunday.
Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday Motherfucker
Happy Birthday to me,
And after I had a bit of my customary birthday breakfast…
I made a not photo-worthy breakfast, and dealt with the mundane. Yes. I raked leaves on my birthday.
After some calm reflection, and some dismantling of neighbor’s front yard swing that appeared to have been wrecked overnight by hooligans and vandals. The house is in foreclosure and the swing set was just sitting there waiting…
So this morning, I went out with my toolkit to do my civic duty and dismantle the wreck and sit it on the curb for the salvage people to cart away, which they promptly did. The same day. Better I take it apart before I hear the screams of some neighborhood kids lacking in the common sense to leave a rusted and busted swingset alone.
So today I come home from work, and lo and behold, there is still half a bottle of Moet Imperial sitting in my fridge, losing its carbonation as we speak.
We can’t have that. Champagne should never go to waste, but since its a work night, and lots of champagne awakens the part of me not quite appropriate for business (a little mean, a little silly, and VERY sarcastic), Time to improvise a dish.
Every foodie by now has heard that tale about Julia Child where she went from being a devil-may-care girlfriend of a diplomat (and possible lady-spy), to becoming a gourmand who arguably had a pivotal effect on how Americans eat. There was one dish that apparently turned her.
Since Sole can be hard to come by, and there was a very nice piece of cod vacuum-packed in my freezer, it was time to improvise.
I got a pyrex dish and some room temperature water and set that block of cod in with a water glass on top, still in its package. This is one of the fastest ways to thaw a fish without waterlogging it or causing strange and awful things to happen to a filet in the microwave. Takes about 15-20 minutes to thaw out. So while I waited, I cut two potatoes into cubes, skin on, and put them into a pan, covered the potatoes two knuckles past the peak with water, added kosher salt and a lid and set them to boil until fork tender. Back downstairs to the freezer, because if I’m going to be eating foods with cream and butter, there has to be a vegetable on that plate. So frozen carrot strips, and frozen broccoli into a bowl with water to bring them to room temperature too.
Now, the fish is thawed in its little vacuum pack to be set free with a sharp knife. I then cut it into 3 pieces, each about the size of a deck of playing cards cut in half. I dredged them lightly in about a quarter cup of flour,lightly salted and peppered them and let them rest on a plate for a bit while a skillet with a pat of butter and some olive oil heated til just below the smoke point. I placed the fish CAREFULLY in the pan. The fish cooked in the hot pan until a light golden crust starts to form on the flour and the fish turns translucent, which means its time to flip the fish. Flip it away from you. Hot butter and olive oil sounds lovely in the pan, and feels terrible on the skin.
Take the fish out of the pan and set it on a plate with a little aluminum foil tent to keep it warm. Get yourself half a lemon and CAREFULLY squeeze it into the pan with the olive oil and butter mixture and whisk. Again, be careful. that stuff will cause the hot oil to spit and jump. Get a teaspoon of butter cut into bits and whisk that in. Now pour in about a quarter cup of that champagne. Turn down the heat and let the liquid reduce.
Drain your potatoes, and in the empty pan, put a quarter cup of milk, a teaspoon of butter, and a little splash of Gin (you’ll thank me later), heat until just barely bubbling, and then put in your two diced potatoes. Mash them a bit, then get out your whisk and whip them up. The skins will add texture, but if you don’t need the vitamins, put the potatoes through a food mill or ricer before adding them back into your milk, butter and gin mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.
In that reduced sauce,take a little of your mashed potato and whisk it in, then get your thawed vegetables out, drain them, and put them into the sauce to heat through.
A couple weeks ago, i mandolined a red onion, and in a pan I put sugar, wine vinegar, pickling salt, and about two teaspoons of fresh thyme. I heated the liquid to a boil and poured it over the mandolined onion and screwed on the mason jar lid. These pickled onions were now ready for a tasting, so they served as a nice garnish to my mashed potatoes, 3 small pieces of cod, and vegetables in a champagne and butter sauce.
There was enough champagne left for me to have a little drink-y.