Friday, June 04, 2010

An Education In Every Bite

So herewith day three of our ocean-derived sustenance. It's telling–and extremely wonderful–that the scallops we received on Wednesday, cooked tonight, were sweeter and fresher tasting than anything we've ever bought from a store. Anybody who reads this and happens to live in the Hudson Valley would be well-advised to seek out the Fishmonger and get themselves the royal hookup. It honest and for true does not get much better than this unless you're a deep-sea angler. I cut these circles out of square wonton wrappers with a jar and a knife because I couldn't find my biscuit cutter.

To begin, shu mai. There were a few raw shrimp left over, so I combined them with an approximately equal weight of scallops, plus some ginger, the last of our ramp bulbs in the fridge, and cilantro leaves fresh from the garden and blasted them all to oblivion in the processor. Both shrimp and scallops have lots of albumen, making them ideal for this sort of steamed dumpling application; they firm up ever so nicely.

After much crimping, into the steamer they went. I made a dipping sauce with soy, this insanely good local vinegar, and a drip of sesame oil.

As a side, a quick bowl of the freshest escarole, tossed in a very hot pan with a smashed garlic clove and finished with... wait for it... soy and the very same vinegar.

Then, the scallops. I dumped them into a bowl of kimchi brine about an hour before dinner to season and firm up a bit, Then drained, dried, and seared them in the iron skillet. Once I removed them, I quickly dumped in the remains of the kale soup (strained, cooked in homemade beef-lamb stock) from a few nights ago and the rest of the beech mushrooms from last night. Scroll down and read it... we'll wait. So sweet, so oceany, so umamitudinously rich and meaty from the stock and mushroom reduction–this was a winner. (I should mention here that the shu mai did not suck).

Last, a dessert of sorts in the form of the rest of that acorn squash (remember? With the cute concentric rings from the saladacco)? OK, we'll wait again.

Sigh. (Looks at watch. Picks up phone, hoping for interesting email. There aren't any. Taps foot). I puréed the squash with ginger and 5-spice, then dissolved three bloomed sheets of gelatin in the warmed mixture, whisking in the last of the coconut water gel I had made last weekend. Again, knock yourself out. It's in the same post as the kale soup. We're not going anywhere. FYI, it does help to keep up with the leftovers around here; they do tend to figure rather importantly in subsequent meals.

And the result, given my guesstimate of the quantity of gelatin required, was just shy of fully set, which turned out to be a bonus, making the result extra silky and smooth. The ambient heat also helped to soften it; the coconut water gel I took out of the fridge softened to liquid without being heated at all on the stove. I garnished each square with a sage flower, possibly the most complexly flavored and beautiful of the herb flowers.

It's funny- fish almost automatically makes me think in this kind of multi-course way, emphasizing subtlety and finesse. Meat, on the other hand, usually makes me say "Hey, look! A big hunk of meat! Let's eat that shit!" There's a lesson in there somewhere.


Taste of Beirut said...

I feel the same way; meat does not ignite the slighest spark of creativity whereas veggies and fish, do. Love those dumplings!

lisa said...

Scallops in kimchi brine, you say? I will have to try that and soon. Nice-looking dumplings too. What kind of vinegar?

Anonymous said...

Do, eventually, tell us about that local vinegar.

What little bundles of happiness though, steaming in that steamer! (Is that a donut of parchment in there?) And too bad I can't come through the computer, or rather it's a good thing, as I'd'a slurped down those scallops, they do look good.

For my life, I can't find leaf gelatin around here. It's a pity as there's so many things crying for gelling on these hot days.

peter said...

Taste: It is a funny thing. Et merci pour d'être venue.

Lisa: Local vinegar. To be featured shortly in an article.

El: Yes, it's parchment. I got the gelatin from a friend who works at the culinary institute. It's good to have a big box.

Julia said...

This is all amazing art. Looks incredible, and I don't even like scallops.

I think I know where the vinegar is from. But I could be totally wrong. I always look forward to the next article...

butterface said...

I will admit to being impressed by dessert. Very gastro.
Please don't tell anyone.

peter said...

Julia: You probably do.

Butterbeotch: Your secret is safe with me.