Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blown out of the water

i love working at the fish shop. Crazy, im considered by my current coworkers for reasons less simple as most of your reactions, im supposing: smell. Its true, there is a fishy waft behind me as i walk through my own home at the end of the day (straight to the shower), and i keep fish shop clothes seperate from every day outfits, but its hardly a worry. I mean, when i am there, i dont smell me anyways. I smell all the fish, of course, who are supposed to smell. And then, after said shower, I eat them.

My fishmonger boss is incredibly passionate about all things from the sea. With his English accent he exclaims about freshness, sustainability, the sheer luckiness of having such a variety of gorgeous fish to choose from. He is also incredibly generous, sending me home on my first day four years ago with a rare John Dory, simply because he was excited for me to try it (passionate, as i said); he took the only other one (generous, right?); recently he handed me a requested tuna belly at no charge because he wished more people were interested in the belly he so enjoys eating sashimi style. Oysters two valentines days ago, for the sake of love; a lobster for Christmas eve dinner (holiday bonus?). It seems he feeds off my passion, eager to share his love of seafood; and i feed off his seafood, trying whatever he throws my way, whatever comes fresh and new and exciting into the shop. Tonight, that was monkfish.

We have had monkfish in before, but i had yet to try it, for, i confess, i was a bit of an arctic char addict, and nothing could distract me from it. And i tried to distract most all salmon seeking customers with it, trying to guilt trip them about seasonality and fresh versus frozen and just generally disgruntled by the general publics inability to step out of there comfort zone salmon/halibut fish-box (truly, it is my greatest pet peeve working there: the beeline to the Sockeye and Spring, frozen at sea and barely holding a sheen while other glistening, fresh, fish beckon. And then they have the nerve to complain that it is "fresh"--well, guess what? Thats cause it isnt. Its frozen! Come back in the summer folks, enjoy it while it is in its glorious run...sorry, it really annoys me...). The winters i have worked selling fish, i would ask everyone who tried to feed their family salmon if they had tried Char, followed by my sales pitch, hardly hearing their response. Despite less than successful efforts, i will now begin the same approach with monkfish in mind, because tonight, it blew my mind.

Christmas eve found me craving a fish stew, but i was too excited about the seven fish dinner of Sicilian tradition to change my plans; so i have been craving it ever since. Yesteday was the planned dinner date, until i got wind that we would be getting monkfish in today. I postponed, simply because most of the recipes i had come across listed (sometimes insisted) upon monkfish as the partner to shellfish. It was worth the wait. My goodness it was worth it.

I started by slowly creating a broth out of my garlic, onions, bay leafs, fennel seeds, chilis, and saffron, simmering in my home canned tomatoes, white wine, and bottled clam nectar (im afraid of whole clams since i horrible day lived after eating a bad one...). In went the monkish and some other seafoody additions to poach gently. Into an oversized coffee mug with a chunk of baguette, to the computer where i stopped what i was reading and began writing this because a spooned up peice of monkfish, i repeat, blew my mind.

It was so tender, it practically dissolved into tiny flakes in my mouth. It was magically sweet, as if defying the slightly spicy broth. It was not as i expected it to be. Once dubbed "poor mans lobster" (before it became common and therefore just as expensive as the comparable crustacean), i thought it would be large, dense bites of fish, firm and dare i say, i bit bland. Not at all. Quite the opposite. In fact, i dont know who termed it that, but i know it is worth every penny that any ol'lobster is. If you have not tried it, and you should be so lucky that your fishmonger has it, have it wrapped up for dinner. I promise you will not miss that salmon/halibut...

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