Saturday, June 23, 2012

Wild Striped Bass with Chanterelle Mushrooms

“--and you Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?”*

Pan Seared Striped Bass with Chanterelle Mushrooms               
Sautéed beet greens and roasted new potatoes

I ran into a good friend while shopping at the farmers market. She was deciding on which mushrooms to buy for a future dinner; I was looking for some chanterelles. She told me a story about when she and her husband lived in Eugene, Oregon. Her father, who is a poet of considerable note, was visiting and they took him along for their weekly trip to Saturday Market, Eugene’s farmers market. While they looked at the produce, he pulled out his notebook and began scribbling. While my friends saw the possibilities for dinner, he saw poems.
I am a cook, not a poet, but I understand the connection. You go to the market to look for ideas in order to answer the daily question, “What’s for dinner tonight?”  (It’s a question I am still asked by my daughters). You draw inspiration from what you see.  A cook looks at ingredients and asks, “How will I put these things together for a meal?” For a poet, it’s a question of how do those inspirations get put together as words on paper. While assembled in different ways, the end results get shared and we both hope they are appreciated for the gifts they are. They both nourish different aspects of our hunger. They are fleeting moments.

This week I found wild striped bass at the store and set about preparing it with ingredients from the farmers market. I had chanterelle mushrooms, beet greens (which were leftover from a bunch of beets) and some red bliss potatoes. The potatoes require the longest cooking time. The beet greens and the mushrooms will cook in about 8 to 10 minutes. Cook the fish for 10 minutes an inch for each inch of thickness for well done. You could substitute any green for the beet greens-spinach, kale, etc. The technique for cooking them is the same but you will have to adjust the cooking time. If you can’t find striped bass, you could substitute with red snapper fillets or even tilapia.
Wild striped bass, or rockfish, is a seasonal treat. The recovery of wild striped bass is a lesson of mutual cooperation. Always prized as a sport fish as well as for it’s great eating, the striped bass population had  dwindled due to two factors, the pollution of their spawning grounds in the Hudson River and the over fishing of the depleted supply of fish. The pollution was addressed by cleaning the Hudson. The over fishing was addressed by the fishermen themselves who placed a self-imposed ban on fishing for striped bass until their numbers increased. Today, the striped bass is back, with sport fisherman still observing catch limits to insure that there will be more of this great fish in the future for all to enjoy.

A dinner inspired by the appearance of wild striped bass

Pan Seared Striped Bass with Chanterelle Mushrooms
Sautéed beet greens and roasted new potatoes

For two servings:
Two 4 to 6 ounce fillets striped bass

The potatoes:
6 to 8 small red bliss potatoes                                                      
1 to 2 cloves garlic, sliced
olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
several sprigs of fresh thyme

The mushrooms:
4 ounces chanterelle mushrooms
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
½ cup white wine                                                                            
unsalted butter and olive oil for cooking
salt and ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon cold unsalted butter, to finish the sauce (optional)

The beets greens:
1 bunch beet greens
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
water and olive oil, for cooking
salt and ground black pepper
juice of ½ lemon

1. Start by roasting the potatoes. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Wash the potatoes under cold water. Depending on their size, cut the potatoes in half or leave them whole if they are small. Place the potatoes on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil, season with salt and ground black pepper; scatter the garlic over the potatoes and place the thyme around the potatoes. Place the foil with the potatoes onto a baking sheet. Roast the potatoes for 15 minutes; remove from the oven and stir the potatoes. Return them to the oven for an additional 10 minutes roasting until they are tender; a knife inserted into the potato should pierce the flesh easily. Either remove the potatoes from the oven or turn the oven off and let the potatoes stay warm in the oven.

2. Clean the chanterelles with a soft brush or paper towel. Either slice the mushrooms in half, lengthwise or tear them in half. Place a small sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, swirl in a tablespoon olive oil and a tablespoon of butter. Add the minced shallot and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and ground black pepper; add additional olive oil if the pan looks dry.  Cook the mushrooms for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the white wine and continue cooking the mushrooms, reducing the wine by half. Set pan aside until fish is ready.

3. Chop the beet greens into 1” pieces. Rinse the beet greens under cold water and drain in a colander. Into Pour ½ cup water a large sauté pan. Lightly salt the water. Cover the pan and place the pan over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add the beet greens. Cover and let the beet greens wilt. Uncover and stir occasionally. Cook the beet greens over medium heat until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Taste the greens for tenderness. Keep any leftover water in the pan. Swirl a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan; add the garlic, stir and cook the green for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the water has evaporated. If the pan seems too dry, add extra olive oil. When the greens are tender, remove from heat, cover and keep warm.

4. To cook the striped bass, place a medium sauté pan over high heat. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper.
When the pan is hot, swirl on 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place the fillets flesh side down into the pan and sear for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the striped bass fillets over, reduce the heat and continue cooking for 5 or 6 minutes more, until the fish is cooked to the desired degree of doneness.  (If you don’t want to eat the crispy skin, it will peel off easily).

5. Before serving, reheat the beet greens and add the lemon juice and stir. Reheat the chanterelles. When hot, swirl in one tablespoon cold butter. Divide the potatoes into two portions between two plates. Place the beet greens onto the plates. Top each with a striped bass fillet. Spoon the mushrooms and their juices over the fish. Serve and enjoy.

*from  A Supermarket in California by Alan Ginsberg

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