Monday, October 16, 2006


Living in the Jersey suburbs, it's just a given that good fish isn't so easy to track down. But it's out there.

Today Margy and I found the elusive Asian market that had been relayed to us as Capital. Its actual name: Captain Fresh.

Judging from the seafood counter, that name is accurate. The place had everything, from snails to clams to finfish to eels, and it all looked pristine. I chose a fat red snapper and asked for it to be filleted. The fishmonger did a beautiful job, working slowly and methodically. I noticed that the man at the sink next to him was cleaning dozens and dozens of small fish, as a piscine mountain grew on the nearby counter.

Our fillets were packed up and wrapped. "Want the head?" the fish guy asked. I hadn't thought about it -- I don't have whole fish filleted that often, and when I do, no one never asks. "Sure, I'll take it," I said, and suddenly I was picturing a sauce in my mind. Margy looked at me and smiled.

I cannot rave about the freshness of this snapper enthusiastically enough. I could have served it as sashimi. You know how the experts always say that very fresh fish has practically no aroma, just a subtle perfume of the sea? This snapper was the very embodiment of that idea. Unwrapping it, I was met with firm but tender flesh, gorgeous unblemished skin, and the hint of an ocean breeze. I hadn't bought this little guy at ShopRite.

I took the head and bones, along with onion, carrot, and parsley, and made a very small amount of stock, which by itself was quite tasty. Then I sautéed the fillets and made a sauce with the stock and some herbs, wine, and heavy cream. Meanwhile, I was roasting potatoes with garlic. On another tray, I roasted some amazing purple-veined beans (I want to say the farmers' market called them lingerie beans, but forgive me if I'm unconsciously merging a few fantasies here) with pancetta.

I don't want to brag, but just in terms of my excitement over the high quality of the ingredients and the fact that everything came together perfectly without any hitches, I would put this dinner in my all-time stove-manning top ten.

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