Saturday, December 11, 2010

By request from Austin -- Mediterranean braise and Caesar-Roasted Swordfish

On Mondays I receive the week's fish list from Rubiner's--mostly I just drool while reading it, but now and then I order swordfish or calamari or shrimp.  You have to get your order in by Wednesday at 5, and can't pick it up until after 12 noon on Friday.   The prices are high, but the quality is higher.  Everything is as fresh as we can expect in the landlocked Berkshires.  And for chefs more adventurous than I, there's a huge selection of fish with beautiful names.

I had friends to dinner last night and planned to serve a Mediterranean calamari and shrimp braise.  On the page, it looked delicious, but one never knows, does one?  So last week I made a test run of the recipe.  I ordered the calamari and shrimp, picked them up Friday, and made the dish.  That night I served it over spaghettini, thinking that would soak up the delicious sauce.  The spaghettini was good, but it didn't turn the trick of sauce sopping.  So the next night I served it over rice.  Sure enough that soaked up the sauce, but simultaneously deprived it of the sharply delicious flavors.  So the third night, I simply served it sans sauce and that was the best. 

This Monday I ordered the same seafood again, and when I picked them up Friday afternoon, Austin--the organizer of all that beautiful fish--smiled, saying he gathered that my second order indicated that the recipe was a good one.  I couldn't help but to brag quite a bit, explaining how the citrus peels and juices, along with the Picholine olives and capers, ramp up the tomatoes and fish.  I must have been persuasive because he asked me to share the recipe with him.  So, Austin, here it is.  It's from Molly Stevens's book All About Braising. 

Mediterranean Squid and Shrimp Braise

1 1/2 lb cleaned squid
2 T evo
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 c finely chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 small onion)
1/2 c finely chopped celery (1/2 stalk)
1/2 c finley chopped carrot (1 small carrot)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c dry white wine or dry white vermouth
2 strips orange zest, removed with a veg peeler (each about 3" by 3/4")
1 strip lime zest, removed with a veg peeler (about 2" x 1/2")
1/4 c freshly squeezed orange juice (Blood Oranges if possible)
1/4 c freshly squeezed lime juice
One 14 1/2 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped)
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley
3/4 lb small potatoes, preferably fingerlings or white creamers
1/4 c Picholines (or other small green olives), not pitted
2 T capers, rinsed and drained
3/4 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 T unsalted  butter (cut into 4 pices)(optional)

Fill a bowl w/cold water and soak squid for 5 minutes to freshen it and rid it of any of the slime that tends to develop as it sits.  Drain and rinse.  Slice the bodies into 1" wide rings and chop the tentacles into 1/2" pieces.  Lay the cut-up squid on a towel to dry.

Heat the oil in a large deep lidded skillet (13" works well) over high heat until shimmering.  Add squid, a handful at a time (adding it all at once would lower the heat of the pan).  Stand back a bit, since squid releases an impressive amount of liquid when it comes into contact with a hot pan and therefore splatters wildly.  Immediately add garlic.  Saute squid, stirring and shaking pan frequently, until it turns opaque and shrinks up, about 2 minutes.  W/slotted spoon, scoop squid out of pan and transfer to a bowl.  There should be a fair amount of liquid remaining in the pan.

Lower the heat to medium-high and add onion, carrot, and celery to liquid in pan.  Season w/s&p, stir, and return to a vigorous simmer.  Add white wine, orange and lime zests, and orange and lime juice, and let the liquid simmer vigorously until reduced by half, 7-10 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and 2T of parsley.  Return to a simmer.

Add squid to braising liquid, turn heat to very low, cover, and simmer gently for 30 minutes.  Check on squid after the first few minutes to make sure the lqiuid maintains a lazy, not a rollicking simmer. 

After 30 minutes, add potatoes, olives, and capers.  Stir so potatoes are evenly distributed, replace cover; and continue to simmer until the squid is tender and potatoes are easily pierced with tip of a knife, another 35-45 minutes.

Add shrimp, leave pan uncovered and adjust heat so the liquid simmers gently.  Simmer just until shrimp are cooked through, 4-5 minutes.  Stire in remaining 2 T parsley and taste.  If sauce is too acidic or too sharp, stir in the butter.  It will soften the acidity nicely.  Taste again for salt and pepper.  Remove zests if you like and serve in shallow  bowls. 

Serves 4

Caesar-Roasted Swordfish

When I chatted with Austin about this braise, I also told him that the 4 pounds of swordfish I had bought a few weeks previously went to make the Caesar-roasted swordfish recipe from Ina Garten's latest cookbook How Easy Is That?  I don't think she's ever written a bad recipe, and many of them are actually inspiring.  This is one of them.  The instant I read it, I called my friend Eric Shamie, one of south county's best chefs, and said we HAD to make this RIGHT NOW. After reading it to him, he agreed.  I bought the swordfish (don't ask the price) and Eric made it, with me peering over his shoulder.

I plan to make this when my son and his family come up in late December.  But my daughter-in-law Naomi doesn't eat mayo, so I'll just up the ante with the olive oil.  This is unconsciousably good.  And wildly simple.

2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1 T anchovy paste
2 t Dijon
1 T good lemon zest (2 lemons)
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 lb center-cut swordfish steaks, 3/4-1" thick, cut into 6 portions
1/2 c chopped scallions, white and green parts (4 scallions)
2 T evo
3 T drained capers
Lemon wedges for serving

Preheat oven to 500.  (Be sure your oven is very clean.)  Line a sheet pan with foil.

For Caesar sauce, place garlic, parsley, anchovy paste, and mustard in bowl of food processor fitted w/steel blad and pulse until garlic is minced.  Add mayo, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper and pulse to make a smooth sauce.

Place the swordfish steaks on the pan and sprinkle both sides generosly w/s&p.  Set aside 1/3 of sauce to serve w/cooked fish.  Spread fish on one side with half remaining sauce, turn fsh, and spread remanng sauce on second side.  Sprinkle w/scallions and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Roast fish for 10-12 minutes, until center is just barely cooked.  Cover fish w/foil and allow to rest on pan for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in small saute pan until very hot, add capers and cook for 30-60 seconds, until they start to pop and are a little crips.  Serve swordfish hot w/lemon wedges, frizzled capers, and reserved Caesar sauce.

Mighty yummy!

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