I Make a Mess

January 27, 2009 at 8:53 am

Rob Gardner

I come fromn the generation that learned to cook not at the hands of their mother but rather at the hands of Emeril, Essense of; David Rosengarden, and the multi-chef, no background Chef du Jour.   And oh how I envy a TV chef’s mis en place.  Bowl after bowl of pre-sliced, pre-peeled, ready to be bammed food.  Not only do I have the less than precision knife skills of Emeril, but boy are we going through as many pots and pans together.  I can whip up a fully winterized, local meal of baked Indiana-Amish chicken, stored beets, rutabaga and potatoes, a half of cabbage still surviving in the basement fridge and soup from the leftover fish, but boy do I make a mess.

Friday night the mess was apparent, but a day later it started to smell.  See I cannot believe I managed to make the same mistake twice.  Something that might kick me out of the kitchen for good.  Once again, in the process of making stock, in this case fish, I strained, then kinda lost my strainer of strained stuff amongst the pots and pans piling up.  Last time, my wife berated me for leaving her a bunch of dried-in stock veg that required much soaking to clean; this time it was not quite ossified but starting to smell of stale fish bones.   The mess also manifested itself on the big cutting board.  This Local dutz did not think about slicing his beets somewhere more washable and less stainable.  Let’s not even talk about the rest.

I was happy with the fish soup.  We tend not to think of soup when we think freshwater fish, chowders are for the coasts.  There is no reason though why soup cannot be made.  The Euros make many a freshwater fish soup/stew.  Matelote for instance, is a member of the French repertoire although less found around here.  I’m also happy with my great discovery of 2009 that the celery component of a mirepoix can be accomplished by a diced celery root, which lasts much longer than the celery crop in the Bungalow. 

Recipe for fish soup from leftover whole whitefish: sweat diced onion, carrot, parsnip, celery root in some olive oil; add fish bones, fish head, tarragon, one red chile pepper, salt and pepper, and cook a few minutes over medium heat; add about a 1/2 bottle of white wine, bring to boil, then bring to simmer to reduce a bit; add about the same amount of water, repeat to boil, then simmer about 30 minutes, adjust seasoning.  Strain (remember to junk!).  Combine fish stock with home canned tomato sauce and let simmer until ready.  Soon before serving, add the pieces of leftover fish.  Serve over garlic croutons.

From there, the chicken was cut in pieces, marinated with olive oil and garlic, baked with peeled German butterball potatoes; the rutabaga was peeled, boiled, it takes nearly an hour, than mashed with butter and milk.  Pre-peeled beets worked out great, especially as my daughter did the peeling.  As the NYTimes warned, they came out very caramelized, just this side of burnt.  I off-set that taste fine with a strong mustard vinaigrette.  The last cabbage we had went the way my family loves best, with lots of garlic and lemon.  It will be a while until that dish appears on the table again.

I do not find it difficult to put good food on the table in the middle of the winter.  I just find it hard not to make such a mess.