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Monday, April 12, 2010

My Big Food Night In

Michael was out of town on business last night which meant  I was flying solo for dinner.  There are certain things I cook when he is out of town.  I use ingredients and methods for cooking for me that I love that he doesn't neccessarily like or love.  Most seafood items, soups, chowders, spicy dishes, and pastas are the culinary building blocks of my food pyramid.  It's not that Michael doesn't like those partucular foods, he just doesn't love them enough to eat them as often as I can and do.  Bouillabaisse, Cioppino, Bermuda Fish  Chowder, Noodle  Bowls, Cajun anything, and blackened anything are all examples of my sub categories under my basic food groups, along with alot of vegetables.  Michael is more of a meat and potatoes person and I am everything else.  He likes lean  steaks.  I like well marbled fatty steaks.  He likes white meat.  I like dark meat.  I adore duck for that reason.  He doesn't. I crave spicy food.  Michael doesn't care for spicy food. It makes for interesting interpretations of recipes and dinners.

So, when he is away, I have carte blanche and the world is my oyster, sometimes literally.  His one night excursions are the most difficult menus to plan because I have one opportunity to cram everything I want into one meal. It makes my head spin. Two nights and over excursions afford me the chance to gradually ease into my dining desires and expectations.

Last night, I killed two birds with one meal. I satisfed my desire for seafood and soup.  My one night only selfish meal.  I couldn't decide between bouillabaisse or cioppino,both  tomato and wine based fish stews similar in technique and style, but with very different flavor profiles.  I decided on Cioppino with a nod to bouillabaisse.

I sauteed a thinly sliced fennel bulb, cipollini onions, and garlic in our new find: Plugra Clarified Butter.  With  the butter fats removed, this butter has a higher smoke point and can be used to saute and flavor without fear of burning, similar to an olive oil and butter saute combination.

Once they softened and started to color, I added tomato paste to color and  white wine to deglaze.  Fish stock, crushed san marzano tomatoes, fresh parsley, orange peel, salt and pepper finished the sauce. 

I let that simmer for about an hour to thoroughly infuse and combine before tossing in gorgeous tagged & labled fresh farm raised littleneck clams and pearly white fresh halibut.  Topped the pot with a lid to steam open the clams and within minutes, orange fennel tomato dripping steamed clams and halibut.

I tumbled the clams and halibut into a large pasta bowl, bathed them with the briny anise sweet acidic sauce, drizzled it with Pernod and olive oil, and garnished it with the fennel fronds and parsley.

  • I normally have  good crunchy bread on hand to sop, but  last night used two slices of regular untoasted unadorned  white sandwich bread to absorb and soak up the broth. The very ordinariness of it made it the perfect sponge. It was messy. I ate the first fennel draped clam and used the empty half shell as a scoop to pry the remaining clams from their shells and to spoon broth from the bottom of the bowl. Even though both  fork and spoon were within reach I turned it into finger food, alone in my pajamas in front of the television devouring a heaving bowl of Cioppino, clam by clam and scoop by scoop.  I was sticky and covered in clammy tomato broth with shiny olive oil lips.  I was in heaven.
I ate 25 clams, a half pound of halibut, and drank every drop of broth straight from the bowl.

It was my night.

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