I’ve always blamed my lack of fish cooking skills on the fact that I’m landlocked. Rather lame since now fishing boats and pier stations can process and deep-freeze seafood within hours of the catch. There are fleets on the oceans whose fishing boats could be called little factories. That’s what Chef Mark Kalix told us at our latest cooking class at Sur la Table.
I really looked forward to this seafood class as I need to feel more comfortable purchasing and cooking fish. “Get to know your seafood guy!” he ordered. He’ll be able to steer you towards a good purchase whether it’s fresh, or fresh frozen, and from a reputable source. And by “reputable” he’s talking about the genuine quick freeze process I mentioned above.
Taking his advice, I marched into Whole Foods, introduced myself and asked the name of the guy behind the counter, whom by the way is dressed in yellow rubber as if he’s just stepped of the deck of a deep sea fishing rig. When I asked about the best buy for the day, I was directed to the swordfish. I’ve cooked swordfish exactly once and it was awful. It’s been so long ago, I don’t even remember what went so wrong. Eyeing the steaks for any sign of cloudiness (instructions from Chef Kalix), I confidently said “I’ll take that one.”
I had chosen a thin steak, so a simple sautee in olive oil, a couple minutes per side and I had a good looking piece of cooked fish. While still in the pan, I added a clump of softened unsalted butter to which I had mixed in some smashed black garlic and a few capers. As the butter started to melt I plated the fish alongside sautéed asparagus and a simple vinaigrette salad. Result was an absolutely fresh and delicious meal. And for only about the third time in my life, I was proud of my piece of perfectly cooked fish.
Before I get to some of the photos from the seafood class, I want to thank ChileBrown over at Mad Meat Genius. Paul is my bacon lovin’, competition BBQ judgin’ friend from California. One of the first blogs I started following in the early days, I’ve learned a lot about the art of cooking a mean chunk of meat from him. Unfortunately, he’s a pesky Raider’s fan. But with that aside, when I mentioned that I had never had black garlic, a neat little package arrived on my doorstep with a silver and black (coincidence?) treat inside. Thank you very much Chilebrown. I’m now a huge fan of that pungent and oily treat.
First up was learning how to smoke trout in a stovetop indoor smoker. Didn’t know these existed. It smoked our fish moist and with a delicate flavor. It’s got a drip tray to collect fat, works stove top or on the grill. Chef Kalix used Alder chips and the fish was perfect. I didn’t buy one of these because I need another kitchen gadget like I need another hole in my head and I had smoked trout on the grill a couple of years ago and it worked beautifully. What I learned from this was that you should always brine before you smoke. Brine creates a patina on the fish for the smoke flavor to stick to.
The dish was this beautiful Trout and Avocado Salad. We learned how to fan that avocado. I’ll let you know how it works in my own kitchen. 🙂 The salad is simply radish, grape tomatoes in a sweet and tangy tarragon vinaigrette. Scoop a little of the trout mixture and a slice of avocado into a leaf of lettuce and drizzle with some of the dressing and you’ve for a perfect little Summer meal.
Next up was Himalayan Salt Block Roasted Prawns. I think this would be great when entertaining. The blocks can be used in the oven or on the grill. Such conversation value. And the French mustard made the best Honey Mustard Basil Vinaigrette I’ve ever had…ever. We served the shrimp over a mango salsa with a dollop of the vinaigrette on the side. Scrumptious.
We also prepared this crispy skinned salmon with Spring bean ragu. The ragu was prepared with cannelloni beans, shallot, carrot, celery and garlic. The salmon was pan seared with a crispy skin. Salmon skin is completely edible and provided a nice textural contrast to the soft flesh.
As always, lots of good takeaways from this class. Sur la Table does a great job and Chef Kalix is always full of fun and information. This photo is of my guest and client Lee-Anne Strickoff as Chef Kalix explained the plan for the next two hours. Here’s what I learned:
- When you start the brine process, use cold fish and a slightly warm brine.
- Fish is cooked when it first starts to flake, not after it’s fully flaked.
- Never buy fish that looks cloudy.
- King Soopers (Kroeger) has great partners in the Cryovak fish freezing industry. Don’t be afraid to buy frozen.
- If you buy fresh fish and can’t prepare it for a couple of days, store the fish on a bag of ice in fridge. This will keep it very cold without freezing.
- If you forget to soak wood skewers for grilling, place them in water and microwave them for 30 seconds to 1 minute. This will open up the pores in the wood and you’ll have a grillable skewer.
- Always cook vegetables on separate skewers from protein then combine the meal on the plate. Everything will cook more even.
- If you deep fry foods, freeze the oil and label the container “fish” or “chicken.” That way you can use the oil again and not worry about your chicken tasting fishy, or visa versa.
- Always let your protein sit at room temperature for one hour before cooking.
- 2 thin swordfish steaks
- 1 Tablespoon canola oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 clove large black garlic smashed
- 1 teaspoon capers drained
- Heat fry pan over medium high heat until hot. Add oil and swirl to coat pan. Place swordfish steaks in pan and cook two minutes per side. Or longer depending on thickness and until fish starts to flake.
- In a bowl, combine the room temperature butter, and stir in smashed black garlic and capers. Just as the swordfish is done add a dollop of butter to the center of each steak. Serve immediately.
Pan Seared Swordfish with Black Garlic Butter Sauce…It’s what’s for Dinner.