April 19, 2006

Five stores in search of Tobiko... my adventures with Miso Glazed Black Cod

It adorns hundreds of rolls in thousands of sushi bars throughout the Bay Area. Even in the relatively white bread Tri Valley, sushi is as mainstream as... well... white bread. So why can't I find tobiko in any of the local mega-marts? Struck out at Safeway, Nob Hill, Albertsons, Andronicos and even Whole Foods. Ended up settling for ikura.

My first experiment with the bounty from my recent Amazon Adventure was a hit. Black cod marinated in miso seems to be all the rage in restaurants around the country, and I was curious about trying it at home. Melissa Clark's Chef Interrupted includes a recipe for Miso Black Cod with Roe, adapted from Anissa Restaurant in New York. Clark's notes indicate she didn't adapt much -- most of what she removed were garnishes. What remains is an entree worthy of inclusion on a "special occasion" menu, but eminently preparable as a weeknight dinner with only a bit of preplanning (giving you time to hunt down that elusive tobiko).

I was pleasantly surprised at how easily this came together -- I expected it to be far more complicated despite Clark's reassurances to the contrary. But pull together a few items that are likely staples in a foodie kitchen (especially when that foodie has a fascination with all things Asian). Cure the fish for two-to-three days in the simple-to-assemble marinade and begin searching for salmon roe...

I served this as Thursday night dinner-after-bocce, with a simple green salad with a commercial Asian vinaigrette and a bottle of Michael David's 2005 "Incognito" Viognier. A-may-zing. The three-ingredient marinade works magic with the fish during it's three day soak -- the result is delightfully sweet-spicy finish that melds wonderfully with the melt-in-your-mouth buttery fillet. How mirin, miso and sake can blend together to create something so complex is beyond me, but it works. It works every bit as well in my kitchen, without decades of culinary education, as it does when it emerges from the kitchens of some of my favorite restaurants.