May 19, 2006

Local Edition - Burning Blog Extinguished with Lodi Wine -- Details at 11....

I was all prepared. I chose a dish I wanted to try. I chose a wine I was sure would pair well with it. Midway through the Eat Local Challenge, I’d even taken the time to source the majority of my ingredients locally. I was excited – my first food blogging event!

I prepared my meal, taking photographs at each stage along the way.

I took copious notes on the tweaks I made to the recipe I’d started with.

I sat down to a delicious Wednesday night feast with the Scooby Gang keeping me virtual company on the TV.

I took more notes on what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what I’d change in the future.

With every intention of posting my adventure the very next day.

And then life intervened. And my glorious entry into the blog-event world got moved to the back burner (yes, pun intended).

I missed the round-up deadline. But I still want to document the experience (share the recipe and the wine, for those interested). So without further adieu, my story follows.

The Recipe – Sablefish with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce*

1-1/2 pounds sable fish fillet about 1-inch thick
4 teaspoons Searing Paste
1 teaspoon toasted unhulled sesame seeds
1/2 cup Strawberry Balsamic Sauce
4 strawberries, stemmed and thinly sliced
Fresh flat leaf parsley or mint sprigs for garnish

For the Searing Paste (Recipe will coat 3-4 pounds of fish. Refrigerate leftover paste for future use)

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; finely ground

For the Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

1/2 cup finely chopped strawberries
2 tablespoons finely diced red onions
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (preferably aged)
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

The Process

Prepare the Searing Paste: Stir all ingredients together in a small container. Chill. Store any leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator for future use.

Prepare the Strawberry-Balsamic Sauce: In a microwave-safe glass container, combine the strawberries, onion, vinegar, water, and pepper. Microwave uncovered at high power for 2 minutes. Stir and microwave for an additional 2 minutes, or until onions have softened. Remove from microwave. Stir with fork, crushing larger pieces of berry/onion with tines as necessary. Add sugar and salt. Serve warm.

So far so good.

Prepare the fish:

I had about a pound of sablefish, so I rinsed, dried, and sliced it into three equal portions rather than the four the recipe recommends when you start with 1.5 pounds.

And this is where it gets a little dicey. The instructions say to spread a thin coating of Searing Paste on the top and bottom surfaces of the fish using a small flexible spatula. They figure about ½ teaspoon paste per surface. With four surfaces, elementary math says that’s 2 teaspoons.

Easier said than done. Not sure where my error was (I suspect my paste wasn’t cold enough is part of it), but when I flipped the fish to spread side two, side one adhered quite effectively to my cutting board. Eventually I got some paste to stick to each side, but I’m pretty sure I used more than the recipe recommended.

From there, we commence cooking: Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, Add fish, pressing gently to ensure paste makes contact with pan surface. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side.

The paste may not have coated effectively (or it might have been subject to user-error) but it sure browned efficiently. What came out of the pan onto the plate was some of the most perfect, restaurant-quality browned fish I have *ever* had the pleasure of serving. Too bad I was serving just to myself. This is a recipe I’ll keep in mind for company (after I figure out the searing paste thing).

Plate and serve with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce.

The Wine

Thanks to the chicks at the Grapevine, Michael David is among my favorite Lodi wineries. And also thanks to the chicks I had a bottle of their Incognito Viognier that I thought would pair perfectly with the fish and fresh berries. According to the Phillips brothers, this Roussanne-turned-rare-strain-of-Viognier “originated somewhere in the Chateauneuf du Pape region of the Rhone Valley in France, then mistakenly sold to the grower - the talented Mr. Ripkin - as Roussanne, who, finally, sold the resulting grapes to Michael~David Vineyards.” They further assert that the grapes grown in the Sacramento Delta “produce the powerful and intense fruit with a sultry body that characterizes this wine, making it unlike any other Viognier.” That’s what they say. I say they produce just the clean, crisp, sweet-but-not-TOO-sweet white wine that I love.

The Results

So. How’d it work, you ask? Most excellent, if I do say so myself. The recipe – despite the paste problems – is a keeper, and equally employable as a quick weeknight meal (with just a bit of advanced planning/shopping) or a company-worthy entrĂ©e. And the wine lived up to my expectations – paired perfectly with the buttery-crisp fish and the sweet-tang of early-season strawberries. Pinots and Zins tend to be my grapes of choice – I rarely turn to a white unless the meal absolutely demands it. I’ve added Incognito to my small stash of un-oaked Chardonnays for those occasions when white is a requirement.

*Recipe adapted from Seafood Cooking For Dummies®

Curious what those who got their entries in on time did with the theme? Check out Fabulous Favorites Festival Roundup #1 and Roundup #2.

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