Do you ever crave a flavor and create a meal around it - a means to an end per se? Well, that is the REASONABLE thing to do. I ate half a pint of vanilla ice cream yesterday because I wanted whole blackberry jam and that was a way to convey it into my mouth. Easier to justify than just eating large spoonfuls of jam out of the jar. Does that count as a ‘meal’?
Sometimes I just want a flavor and have to come up with a rational way to actually eat it. When left to my own devices I can be a refrigerator/cabinet grazer - no coherent dishes in site. Hmm, I want sour cream? Let’s scoop a little bit out with my fingers. Is that a little bit of leftover grilled steak? Let me just eat it cold while standing in front of the open refrigerator door. Is that remoulade? Maybe just a little taste of that.
COMPOSING something is of course the more grown up and lofty approach, and is something that I can share without any behavior shaming involved. Lynn will shake his head at the idea of me having a sip of Heinz 57 Sauce. It’s a problem ok? I try not to have it in the house.
Dips. Think about dips! The chips, vegetables, bread, or crackers are basically just a conduit to ferry the tasty scoop of whatever to your mouth. So, in reality everyone is guilty of the flavor for flavor’s sake (even if they are using an edible transport device).
I know that both the title and photos of the presented meal LOOK like a complex and thoughtfully planned meal, and it WAS. However, it completely revolved around the fact that I wanted grapefruit beurre blanc, and I even got some fat chunks of pristine grouper with the premeditated idea of making the sauce. If I could have just made the sauce to eat by itself I would have, but making a lovely COMPLETE dish was the responsible thing to do.
Some people will see the words beurre blanc and cringe a little bit at the idea of something that is portrayed as a somewhat tricky sauce. It’s really not as complicated as people make it out to be. Sure, the butter can break if you add it over high heat - but if you turn the heat off and add a tablespoon or so at at time it really shouldn’t give you that much trouble. And if keeping it warm without breaking is something you fear, then get a double boiler and bring some water up to a boil, turn it off and transfer your sauce to the top pan. The sauce is not meant to be so hot it scalds your mouth for Pete’s sake.
For this meal I decided to use a base of pureed cauliflower, some quickly sauteed asparagus, and some absolutely beautiful pieces of grouper. All three items were seasoned and cooked as simply as possible since the bright flavor of the beurre blanc was meant to enhance all of the components.
The cauliflower was steamed, seasoned with salt and white pepper, and pureed with some olive oil and a little bit of stock until smooth. The asparagus was sauteed in a little olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Both were kept warm while preparing the fish and sauce.
I made the sauce in two stages so that I could sear the fish in between - cooking the shallots and reducing the liquids first, cooking the fish, and then reheating the reduced sauce and mounting with butter last. This seamed to be a pretty good method that kept me from having to use a double boiler.
After the vegetables are done (if you go that route), pull together all of the ingredients you will need for the beurre blanc and prep.
• Olive oil
• 2 Shallots minced fine
• White pepper and salt to taste
• 1 Tablespoon of ruby red grapefruit zest
• 1/2 Cup white wine (I used a Matua Sauvignon Blanc as it is inexpensive and has bright tropical notes)
• 2 Tablespoons of champagne vinegar
• The juice from 1 1/2 ruby red grapefruits (I used the supremes to eat and garnish salty dogs)
• 1 Tablespoon of tarragon chopped fine
(8 Tablespoons of butter - but keep this in the fridge and as cold as possible - this will go into the sauce later)
• Saute the shallots in a splash of olive oil until they start to soften. Season with salt and pepper. Add the grapefruit zest and continue to cook until the shallots start to turn translucent. Add the wine, vinegar, and grapefruit juice. Cook until the liquid is reduced to about 4 tablespoons. Set aside.
• Portion your grouper and season with salt and pepper. Quickly sear in a little olive oil over medium to medium high heat - until both sides have a crisp golden color and the inside passes the Eric Ripert knife test. Insert the tip of a pairing knife into the thickest part of the fish. Touch the tip of the knife to your lip. If it is warm it is done - HOT it is overcooked. This will teach you NOT to over cook fish through the pain of burning your lip and wrecking your fish. Set your lovely fish aside in a warm spot while you finish your sauce.
• Bring liquid back up to a bubble and reduce just a little bit more. Turn the heat OFF and add the butter a tablespoon at a time, waiting until each chunk of butter is almost completely melted away before adding the next. When all of the butter is incorporated add your chopped tarragon and everything is ready to plate.
• Spoon the warm cauliflower into the bottom of a shallow bowl, add the asparagus and fish, spoon the warm sauce over the top of the golden grouper.
This is a lovely simple meal that can reach a sublime level through the complex flavors in the sauce, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. And of course there was a bit of sauce leftover. I had it in the refrigerator, but I kept going back for a taste now and then. I decided to put it into the freezer. Adding a little chunk of it over the top of a later seafood (maybe grilled scallops??) will not suck in the least. Of course the three main items of the dish would have been delicious all on their own - maybe a squeeze of lemon over the top, but when you have been dreaming of rich citrusy loveliness with anise undertones why cheat yourself? The meal was on the healthy-ish side, butter sauce notwithstanding. Treating yourself well - cooking with love - nurture through nourishment. They are important ideals that should make their way into our lives more often.
Pour yourself a glass of wine and eat well.