The day stared out with my weekly trek to the Waltham Farmer's market, basket in hand and no distinct ideas about what I would be cooking. I picked up some corn, a bunch of red onions, a few fresh dug potatoes, a zucchini and a basket of peaches. After a winding ride over to Russell's in Wayland for a few monarda to appease our new hummingbird visitor and an anemone to flower through to the frost I wound my way over to Wellesley to go back to Captain Marden's.
I've lived in Newton for 12 years now and after years of complaining that I live in New England, 12 miles as the crow flies from water and I can't find a decent fish market I finally have found one, right on my back doorstep. Whole paycheck was really beginning to get on my nerves. Several afternoons after work I tried to stop buy and buy some fresh fish for dinner only to find salmon and tilapia to be my only choices. I hate both. Well, let me clarify here, I love salmon raw, I love salmon smoked, I absolutely hate salmon cooked. Trust me, I've tried that recipe too, I still hate it. My only knowledge of Captain Marden's was seeing their preprepared frozen dinners in the freezer case of my local grocery store. You know the kind, cod stuffed with a bread filling or fish sprinkled in buttered crumbs, etc. I think I had this twisted idea of Captain Marden's as being one of these blue rinse places. I could not have been further from wrong. Located off the main drag in Wellesley one half of the building holds a sit down restaurant and the other half is a large, clean fish market stocked to the gills (sorry I had to) with more kinds of fish in one place than your local Super 88.
Soft shell crabs, steamers, lobster tanks, coho salmon, lemon sole, mahi mahi, striped bass, halibut (steak and filet thank you very much), trout, snapper, the list goes on and on. The great staff will tell you all you need to know about the catch, cut you a piece to order, offer suggestions on how to cook it or tell you how much you might need per person if you were say throwing a dinner party. If you walked in to the shop with your eyes closed you would not know that you were in a fish market at all. That my friends is some FRESH FISH. Consider this my new home for finding fish on my side of the river.
I bought a piece of striped bass and started calculating how I was going to cook it as I packed the cooler in the truck and headed off to buy a few more ingredients.
Since I had never had Striper before or Rockfish for you mid Atlantic folks I decided simple was the best option for the first time.
First I made a salad of sungold tomatoes out of the garden sliced in half and tossed with corn cut off the cob and left raw, half of a red onion sliced ultra thin on my ceramic hand slicer, a few basil leaves plucked from out back stacked, rolled like a cigar and snipped into thin strips with scissors. Drizzle some peppery Tuscan EVOO and a sprinkle of champagne vinegar, season with sea salt and toss it all together with your hands. Cooking is so much better when it is a tactile event.
Then I took those fresh potatoes, cooked them for about 5 minutes until they were just starting to get soft, drained them, cut them in thick slices and sauteed them in some olive oil and a little butter for colour. In the center of the pan I cooked more of the thin shaved onions to make frizzled onions.
Back into the garden I plucked some chive,thyme and oregano I snipped that with scissors into the blender, put in a few TBS of my garlic confit (from the French Laundry, cook garlic cloves in good olive oil on ultra low heat for an hour or two until soft, preserve in the oil and store in the fridge - use liberally) that was hanging out in the fridge. I kicked on the blender whired it all up with more EVOO.
I took the fish, scored through the skin, rubbed in sea salt and loads of fresh ground black pepper. This went into a searingly hot pan coated with a little canola and seared for about 4 minutes. After checking that the skin was crisp it was flipped over and cooked for 1 minute. I took it out of the pan, put it in the oven at 400 to finish it. For fish the rule is 10 minutes per inch of thickness so it hung out for about 4 - 5 more minutes and then it was all plated together.
A bed of those potatoes, on went the fish, on the sides went the corn salad and over the fish some of that herb oil passed through a small sieve and sprinkled on top, the frizzled onions.
This was the antidote to the week of barbecue, pork and pork with a side of chicken and pork fest.
I loved the striper, meaty and clean tasting with a texture a bit like skate wing. I'll be buying this fish again and again. I made husband taste a bit as he wasn't brave enough to "risk" his dinner on a fish he had never tried before (I made him halibut and mushy peas, cause people he's a BRIT he likes mushy peas from a CAN), he smiled a nod of approval so I do believe a new fish may be added to his repertoire as well of course he'll still want it fried with mushy peas, but it's a start people, it's a start!