Oven-Roasted Cod, White Bean Relish and Cabbage

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Cod is a bit tricky to cook unless one wants to batter it and deep fry it. We love the mild flavor and large tender flakes of a well cooked piece of cod. Cod has very little connective tissue and large meat “flakes”. So it tends to fall apart if you handle it too much trying to flip it a couple of times in a pan. I tried cooking it sous vide a couple of times and was not crazy about the result either. This method of starting it in a pan and finishing it in the oven following a short salt cure is the ideal way to get it done.

I sprinkled the fillets with a good layer of kosher salt and let them cure in the fridge for 20 minutes. This seasons and firms the fish up. I rinsed them in cold water, patted them dry and let them sit in the fridge while I prepared the rest of the dish.

Cod

The fish is the star of this plate but I wanted something sharp to offset it and a couple of different textures. I went with vaguely Spanish flavors here. I roasted red peppers, peeled them and sliced them into thin ribbons. I sauteed some diced Pancetta with onions and garlic. Then I tossed in the peppers and cooked white beans. I finished the ragout with sherry vinegar, maple vinegar, olive oil and parsley.

The cabbage was even simpler. Just thinly sliced savoy cabbage sauteed gently in butter with a little salt and pepper. Since this was part of a four-course dinner I wanted the cod’s accompaniments to function as tasty and substantial garnishes and not as filling “sides” as they might’ve been if this was a one plate dinner.

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To cook the fish I heated the oven to 375 F and got a pan going on the stove top. I seared the fish in clarified butter in the pan over medium heat for about 8 minutes. I turned it over and transferred it to the oven to finish cooking for another 8-10 minutes. The fish fillets got a very small squeeze of lemon, some thyme leaves on top and went in the center of the plate with the beans and cabbage around it.

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The Seventh Continent (Michael Haneke – 1989) B+

Over a three-year period we observe a seemingly ordinary middle-class family as they go about their daily activities, work, school, car wash, dinners with friends. We get the feeling through the many minor issues they have and interactions and long silent sequences that something is off. It is very much off.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Neal McDonagh – 2017) A-

When Mildred perceives that the local cops in the small town of Ebbing are not doing enough to find out who killed her teenage daughter she rents and puts up 3 billboards directed specifically against chief of police, Willoughby. Her actions trigger a series of events and escalations where tempers and prejudices are right under the surface. It does not matter that Willoughby is a good guy doing the best he can. It is scorched earth for Mildred and everyone in her path will pay. In typical McDonagh style the film mixes dark funny tones right before crazy scenes of horrific violence raw honest emotion.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Noah Baumbach – 2017) A-

Adam Sandler really is a very good actor when he wants to be. He usually chooses to make shit movies. In this case he does an excellent job as Danny, the oldest Meyerowitz sibling. He’s a bit down on his luck, has a bad hip and a free-spirited daughter about to go to college. He is not as successful as his brother Matthew (Ben Stiller) who lives in Los Angeles, has a good career as an architect and a good family life. Their sister, Jean (played so amazingly well by Elizabeth Marvel) is demur, soft-spoken and seems stunted somehow. Their father, Harold (Dustin Hoffman), is quiet the character. He’s an old curmudgeon, an opinionated sculptor who holds himself in very high regard. It is an excellent family drama centering around a father who everyone loves even if they don’t like everything about him. When he gets hurt shortly before the opening of a small exhibit to honor him, the siblings are forced to interact more than they had in years. It is a funny movie but it is not a comedy. It can be sad, tough and honest as well. That is a tough balance to strike but Baumbach and his excellent cast make it work.

Manresa: Assorted Potatoes, Curds and Whey, Norinade

Potatoes-Curds-Norinade4The Manresa cookbook from the three- star restaurant of the same name in California is a beautiful, inspiring and thoughtfully written book. I read it cover to cover and frequently flip through it to read various parts every so often. Chef David Kinch got my attention when he was featured on a season of The Mind of A Chef on PBS especially the episode about how he builds a menu. It’s fascinating stuff to me. I had not cooked anything from the book until now though.

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It immediately captured my attention when I saw the picture and read the name. Norinade? What the hell is that. This is basically a dish of potatoes and cheese, but Norinade just had a nice ring to it. It’s a play on the traditional tapenade, the Provencal dip made of mashed up olives, capers and anchovies. Instead of olives though, chef Kinch makes it with seaweed, specifically nori sheets like the ones used in sushi rolls. It is deep black in color, looks like tapenade but tastes very different with brightness and sea flavor. It perfectly accentuates the freshly made curds and dense potatoes.

To make it I simmered shallots, garlic and onions in plenty of olive oil before adding minced toasted nori sheets and allowed the mixture to cool and infuse. I drained the solids and minced them very well to a chunky paste before loosening with the reserved oil and seasoning with soy sauce and Champagne vinegar. The idea is to get a sharp and pungent mixture so that only a few drizzles are enough to add a kick of umami flavor.

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The potatoes are cooked in two ways. First we have the soft ones. I used a mixture of colors of small specimens. These are simmered in salted water with aromatics (garlic, thyme, rosemary…) until tender. I then peeled them and tossed in a little oil. The other batch is cooked in very little water but plenty of salt in a pressure cooker for only a few minutes. This makes them very soft, seasons them and does not allow them to absorb a lot of water. I then tore them to rough 1-inch pieces and let them dry on a plate in the fridge uncovered. When ready to serve the potato chunks are fried in oil to get lovely crispy nuggets.

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It is so easy to make a simple fresh cheese at home that I always wonder why I do not make more of it. Just mix in some whole milk and a little cream along with a tablet of rennet (or liquid rennet drops) and gently warm to about 180 F or so. Do not boil it or the enzyme will deactivate and not work properly. When the curds form a solid mass, let the mixture sit for another hour, then strain into a cheesecloth. The longer it sits in the cheesecloth to drain the drier it gets. This one sat for about 20 hours and was the texture of firm ricotta. I also reserved the whey that was produced since it is effectively the sauce for the dish. Whey is a great medium to cook in as well, like braising some pork in it for example.

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The whey goes in a small pan with lemon juice and some salt. Using my stick blender I frothed it up very nicely as it warmed up and added in a couple of tablespoons of butter. For the larger sized potatoes I cut them in half and the others remained whole. These got warmed up gently in the microwave and were the first items to go on the plates. I divided up the crispy potatoes next and 5 or 6 nuggets of cheese in each bowl. Then I sauced with some of the Norinade and the frothed whey mixture. A final garnish of thyme leaves finished the dish up.

Whey Foam

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Black Panther (Ryan Coogler – 2018) B+

Marvel surprises and delights again. This latest installment of the Marvel universe is very good. It’s almost independent of the rest of the movies and set primarily in the fictitious African country of Wakanda although a detour to South Korea is quiet a spectacular set piece. The characters are fun to watch and well-developed. With a mix of James Bond spy thriller, superhero film and fantasy it succeeds in delivering great entertainment. We also get an excellent and memorable villain who we can actually sympathize with. Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger really steals the show in every scene. The film is not short on excellent performances by the likes of Letitia Wright who plays the hero’s sister (and his Q) and Danai Gurira as the awesome warrior Okoye.

Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky – 1979) A

It’s funny writing about Stalker soon after writing about A Ghost Story. Tarkovsky would’ve made a movie like A Ghost Story I think if he wanted to make a movie about a ghost haunting. Stalker is billed as a scifi movie about a specific area in some unnamed place called the Zone. It appeared and within it lies danger but also there is a room that supposedly grants your heart’s desire if you make it in there and out. Stalkers are those who take people there. It’s a dangerous adventure since the military has the area cordoned off and is under armed guard. The film centers around three characters labeled Stalker, Professor and Writer. Professor and Writer enlist Stalker to take them to the Zone. Writer wants to gain inspiration, professor wants career success…There is no mincing words when it comes to Tarkovsky’s work. IT…IS…SLOW. Similar to Solaris, he uses science fiction as a device to explore deeply human stories, not action set pieces. He takes his time with long and extended shots until you are either on board for the ride and sucked in or you are out.

The three characters mostly walk, talk and argue. We are along for the ride and listen in as the film changes from sepia/black and white to full color when they are in the Zone in a lovely crazy long shot. It is beautifully shot film where each scene is controlled and constructed with amazing care. It is said that this was a very difficult film to shoot and you can see that throughout. For those with patience and maybe a Bourbon in hand this is a rewarding experience.