The road to hell is paved with good intentions or how to mess up an otherwise wonderful food experience.
Winter cod is called Skrei in Europe. Though I don’t know the origin of the word ( I’m assuming its Norwegian, because the fish comes from there exclusively), it describes a codfish on his way back home (the island group Lofoten, west of the Norwegian mainland), to spawn. This cod is a youthful, fit and low fat specimen, mainly because he’s just swum a couple of thousand miles to satisfy his urges and procreate and he’s burned a lot of calories. That said, there’s always a lot of hype surrounding the arrival of Skrei (usually between January and early March), much like the arrival of Beaujolais Primeur a couple of decades ago.
The past few jears I’ve joined the fun, describing different ways of preparing the fish.
This year, I got sidetracked a bit, and this is where the road to hell comes in.
I knew my favorite fishmonger across the street had Skrei, because I had talked to his father-in-law a few days before and he had said hat due to the demand they would have it every day for the rest of the season. So I walked over Saturday morning and got a nice piece from the father-in-law. Then I drove to the market on Turnplatz to get vegetables and something for Sunday. There I passed by his fishstand, and making smalltalk, told him I had bought a piece of Skrei from his regular shop. Looking over his wares, I saw something new and asked him what that was- it looked like a shrimp variety, but the name said something with snail in it. I haven’t been able to find it on Google. Here is a picture:
My fishman explained that in Italy, it is added to soups after the sides are cut off with a pair of scissors.
At home I took two of them apart, noticing that the meat was much softer and gelatinous than shrimps are. So I fried up the two peeled specimens and an unpeeled one to boot.
Curiously, the first one started to fall apart right away, forming small pebbles of meat. The second one kept its shape but had a weird mouthfeel, as did the unpeeled one, once I got to the meat.
Not wanting to throw food away, I decided these fruit de mer would be fine to flavor my sauce, and so I threw the three other denizens of the deep into the frying pan along with a little celery root, a half carrot, some parsley and a bit of leek. This was browned and then deglazed with a splash of Noilly Prat, stretched with some water and briskly boiled for some minutes. Then I strained the fluid, removing the solids. The fumet had a decent, if somewhat unusual taste at this point. I added about 100 ml of cream and reduced the sauce by half, then adding 5 finely chopped brown champignons, thinking they would add flavor. They did, but too much of it and I wound up with a mushroom sauce with a fishy tinge. To make matters worse, I had a momentary lapse of reason when I proceeded to chop the chervil, because I had forgotten that I had also bought savoury, to flavor some green beans, and I grabbed that, not thinking that it looked really different from regular chervil. I even smelled it, wondering whether the winter could actually make an herb smell so different!!
You can actually see it on the picture, because I used two sprigs as decoration. It looks a little like tarragon, but rest assured, its savoury.
Meanwhile the mushrooms did not get smaller, as I had anticipated, so I decided to puree the sauce. I used a plastic high bowl I had used to make a quart of habanero sauce a few weeks before, and not only did I get a gray sauce (typical for mushrooms), but also one of serious heat. In the end, the sauce had so many solids that it looked more like glop covering the fish and surrounding the lentils.
The lentils were the only thing that turned out the way the should have, I made the mistake of preparing the Skrei in a stainless steel pan, instead of in a no-stick pan, losing the browned skin when I got ready to flip itTo bring things to a boil, I put the plate together and placed it under the light where I usually take a picture, just to see the mushrooms and fish release all held fluids to the area outside the sauce. I dabbled at it with kitchen towels, but gave up at some point and muttered to myself : F**k it, I’ll crop it and shop it.
Last words-It tasted decent, but I wouldn’ make it like that again. And now I have a bunch of chervil left over. I wonder if that would go with the pork belly tomorrow?