Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sea Bass, Fenugreek Risotto, and the Parmesan Lattice Theory

It's been a great day of having weird food ideas hit me, I'll say that much.

For one, I finally had an excuse to cook sea bass. I have a friend who used to chat on and on about making sea bass, and was wanting me to do it. I think he'd been enthralled about some piece of ridiculous food porn that Gordon Ramsay has on one of his five thousand TV shows. I'm not anywhere near up to that sort of snuff, but I do like me some sea bass.

It's also fortuitous that I also had chicken stock I'd just made on Sunday, chilling in the fridge. Any time you make your own stock from a used carcass, it's going to taste a thousand times better than whatever crap Rachel Ray is hawking in her gaudy oversized juice box. It's full of flavor, not just salt. Further, unlike the unholy Queen Bitch responsible for Evil Vixen's Overpriced Oils, (Don't you dare bring up that acronym to me in public I will punch you in your mouth and I will not be held responsible) your own stock costs nothing. You've already paid for the chicken, go ahead and make stock. I've already said this before with lobster, and I'll pretty much say it with any animal or piece of animal you have that you can render stock out of. MAKE. STOCK.

Rachel Ray declaring jihad on culinary decency and quality olive oil

And just to make sure it doesn't seem like I'm deriding you for using "stock'n a box", it's better than having no stock at all. If you can't make your own, go ahead and use the big juicebox. All I'm begging is that if you have the means to do it, please don't junk that chicken carcass or bowl of spent beef ribs or whatever. Think of the wonderful stock you can make instead.

Rambling, rambling! Back on track. I have chicken stock. Any time I have a delicious stock, the chances are high I'll make a risotto. Sure, I could make soup, but I keep coming back to my queen of starches. She's been very very good to me. I'd talked to Dino a while back about making a previous risotto using fenugreek seeds, but I think the wire's got crossed and he thought I meant the leaves. It's one of those trickster plants like cilantro/coriander in which the leaves and seeds from the same thing do completely different stuff. Fenugreek to me is one of the best smells in the food world, and I cannot turn away from it. It's mostly an Indian spice, but knowing that it's earthy and bitter, I thought I could make it work in risotto, especially with sweet sugar peas, which I raided from the freezer.

Whipped the risotto up like usual, and buttered a few ramekins I'd recently got from my mom, so I could put a plate on top and invert to make those fancy little hockey puck style presentations that people like. Then, inspiration struck me. I'd had a conversation with my mom earlier in the day, and she'd suggested using grated parmesan on parchment paper in the oven to make a semi-bendy lattice that you could then form into a muffin pan to make a cheesy basket to hold things like microgreens or crabmeat or something. It's a really great idea, and I took the gist of it and made it a little simple for this, to just wedge a "chip" of baked parmesan lattice into the risotto. I added a lot of pepper to the chip, baked it in my 400 degree oven for about five minutes, then let cool another five. Rather than finish the risotto as usual with extra parmesan and pepper, I just wedged it in as a chip for an awesome texture and presentation thing.

The sea bass got a simple rub of salt and pepper. I added enough olive oil to thinly coat my saute pan, got the pan screaming hot, and seared one side of fish for about two minutes. Deglazed with wine, flipped the fish, and brought the heat down on medium for about five more minutes.

I used oregano from my garden as part of the bouquet garni when I made the chicken stock, so I also garnished the sea bass with more oregano. Spread a few bitter cacao nibs on the fish to complement the bitter fenugreek as well.

This was an extremely fun dish to make. It didn't take too long to come together, and everything just turned out like I wanted. The smell and taste of the risotto was amazing, and definitely something that I'll look to add to my usual risotto lineup from now on. The sea bass had a nice sear on top, but was so delicate that it cleaved on the flat of my fork with almost no pressure at all.

The parmesan lattice idea got me thinking about a lot of little things to bring the height out in my food, and was a great little flourish. Thanks Mom!

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