Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Love For Three Oranges

"My father was a fisherman,
My mamma was a fisherman's friend,
And I was born in the boredom and the chowder."
--Paul Simon, "Duncan"
We never ate chowder in my family, but I did go fishing with my dad off the north shore of Long Island, where we'd catch flounder. I can't remember who actually cleaned the fish, but Mom would bread and fry the fillets, which I proceeded to drown in Heinz ketchup. Not exactly a fine education in the art of preparing seafood.

So the other night when I was asked to make a dish of striped bass, I had to improvise. My friend Amy Burton (yes, the famous soprano) had just bought a beautiful fillet of bass at a farmer's market, which the vendor promised was caught that morning. On the subway ride up to her apartment, I had a flash of inspiration: The Love For Three Oranges, Prokofiev's aburdist opera, came into my mind. Citrus would be the theme for this meal.

I bought three oranges, brought them to Amy's table and meditated upon them. I decided to grate the rinds using the roughest plane of a grater, usually used for grating hard cheese. I was careful not to penetrate the white pith, which would lend a bitter taste. I grated the orange rind so finely, it became a rich paste. I mixed this paste with a generous splash of olive oil and massaged it into both sides of the fillet. I added salt and pepper, a bit more olive oil, some white wine, and let the fish marinate, covered in plastic wrap, for an hour or two.

Meanwhile, continuing the citrus theme (ever the composer), I boiled some wild rice using 1/3 water, 1/3 broth and 1/3 orange juice, squeezed fresh from the three oranges.Amy also made her well-loved side dish, asparagus broiled for a long time in a toaster until they caramelize and almost melt. I added a new detail this time, cooking diced red onion in a frying pan with olive oil and herbes de Provence, and sprinkling it over the asparagus at the end.

When everything else was ready, I broiled the fish, just four minutes on each side under a very hot burner. Any more time in the heat would be a crime.

Using scissors, I roughly cut up plentiful amounts of fresh cilantro and scattered it over the fish. If I had one more orange, I would have used a few pretty slices as a garnish.


mom said...

It is true I did not know how to cook fish any other way. Your way seems to actually be delicious. I love the idea of orange and fish.

JohnA said...

very poetic, Mr. Fooditude (truly). but how did it taste??

Jeffrey Stock said...

It tasted orange.