06.18.11: dinner and a movie (quasi-bouillabaisse and Day for Night).

Quasi-Bouillabaisse with Copper River King Salmon, Pacific Cod and Littleneck Clams with Rouille-Sathered Croutons)

People used to stare at fires. Now they watch TV. We need to see moving images, especially after dinner.

–Francois Truffaut, Day for Night.

Day for Night (click through for source)

Day for Night, simply put, is an amazing film. It’s joyous, hilarious, sad, and absurd. It’s a triumph of love and dedication and personal expression, and true to its tagline,  it really is a film for people who love films. The narcissism of the actors, the bullshit propelling the crew–it’s so incredibly timeless that you can easily ignore the fact that it was filmed in the 70s and therefore looks immediately dated. But it was also one of those films that I hadn’t thought about in a while until I shoved a random CD into my car’s player (yes, I have a zillion mix CDs in my ’04 Jetta, shut up) and its wondrous theme by Georges Delarue filled my car as I was making my way to the Westport train station, and suddenly I was craving to see it again, preferably after eating a big bowl of bouillabaisse.

This thought struck me in early May. I wasn’t able to actually give in to the craving until Saturday, and it ended up being an apt pairing of food and film, what with the reminder of the importance of rolling with the punches.

Our reasons to wait were simple: we were moving, so taking on big culinary projects was soon to go on hold for a spell, and we were really busy for much of May up until this past weekend. Making a big pot of fish soup was not even the initial plan to use up the rest of our Copper River salmon, as I had this lovely Gordon Ramsay recipe ready to go on Friday night–plans that quickly died when my train ride lasted three times as long as it should and it was pouring out and neither Michael nor I felt much like cooking anything by the time we both got home. The recipe wasn’t ideal anyway as our salmon was kind of hacked up after Wednesday’s paillards, so when I suggested using them as the firm fish in the bouillabaisse instead, Michael was immediately on board.

Prepping the fish

Traditionally bouillabaisse is made with white fish (one firm, one flaky), lobster, and mussels, but we had to make do with what we had on hand and in Fairway. They had no fish heads or bones to spare (note to self: when making this again, call ahead and ask for some the day before) so we had to go with boxed seafood stock, and their mussels only come in 2 lb bags and I wasn’t in the mood to power through the remainder the next day, so instead we went with a handful of littlenecks. Tradition sometimes has to make way for practicality, after all.

 

 

Our side salad of local tomatoes, baby cucumbers, olive oil, sea salt and ricotta salata

Exceptions and substitutions aside, we followed Alton Brown’s recipe (as his recent Good Eats episode on the subject was the reason I was craving the dish in the first place) and the results, if not wholly authentic, were amazing anyway. The wild salmon wasn’t nearly as overpowering as I feared it might be–nor did it get overly tough–and the clams added some brininess that made up for not using homemade stock. As we dove into our bowls, the breeze wafting in through our sliding glass door, we could almost imagine that instead of looking out at the gym across the street we were gazing out onto the Mediterranean. A bit cliché, I know, but it is a significantly better image than watching people sweat it out on the treadmill, n’cest pas?

And so concludes our first round of Copper River salmon experiments, but based on a project Michael finally dove into over the weekend, I have a feeling things are going to get even more fun. Stay tuned–and in the meantime, treat yourself to a bowl of this.

Quasi-Bouillabaisse with King Salmon and Pacific Cod

adapted (with apologies) from Alton Brown 

  • 1 32-oz box seafood stock (or make your own following AB’s instructions at the link)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 6 ounces onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 ounces fennel bulb, coarsely chopped (don’t fear the fennel!)
  • Sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dry white vermouth
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (we used basil because I mistakenly thought we had parsley)
  • 1 (3-inch) piece orange peel
  • 1/16 teaspoon saffron (we used a pinch of our safflower stamens)
  • 8 oz king salmon
  • 8 oz cod (preferably Pacific)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6-8 littleneck clams
  • 1 large raw lobster tail, shell removed and meat cut into 1-inch pieces, at room temperature
Place half of the olive oil into a large pot (we used our Dutch oven), bring to medium heat, and when oil shimmers add the onion and fennel season with salt and saute for 10 minutes or so. Deglaze the pot with the wine or vermouth, then add the stock, basil, tomatoes, saffron, and orange peel, cover the pot, increase the heat to high so it will come to a boil, and then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Then you’ll add the fish (NOT the shellfish), the remaining olive oil, cayenne pepper, the garlic, and some more sea salt and boil rapidly for five to seven minutes. Carefully remove the pot from the heat, add the lobster and clams, and cover and let steam for about 4-5 minutes (if your clams are really fresh, put them in a few minutes before you put in the lobster so they have time to open and the lobster doesn’t get over cooked). Place in warm serving bowls and serve with Rouille over broiled baguette slices.
For the Rouille: roast one red pepper in the broiler or on an open flame until the skin is blackened and then cover in a bowl to let the steam ease the skin off. Stem and seed. Place that into a food processor or the bowl of an immersion blender along with three cloves of garlic, a stemmed and seeded fresh red chile (I was daring and used a habanero–use at your own risk) and a teaspoon of lemon juice and blend until smooth. Add a little salt and then drizzle olive oil into the bowl to thicken the pepper mixture until it is a smooth sauce.
(Once again, the salmon was sent to us by the great folks at Copper River–thanks again!)

 

 

 

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