Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spanish Mackerel and Serrano Ham En Brioche

What's this? A new recipe? Why yes, yes it is.

I know it has been over 2 months and I have no excuse besides lots of awesome travel, a sprained ankle and general laziness, but hopefully I will pick it up a little bit and increase the pace, keep your fingers crossed.

But before we begin a quick note about this dish - it looks awful; like really, really bad. If anyone who works at Per Se of TFL reads this, I am sorry I butchered your beautiful dish. I strongly considered not posting this until I was able to redo the dish with a better fish (more on that later) but in the end I decided I am really only doing this blog for me and if I redo dishes because something was not perfect then I won't be able to see my progression and frankly I don't think I will be as happy with the final product. Hopefully I will learn from my mistakes and avoid things like this in the future. C'est la vie.

Anyway the next thing I have to say about this, is that it is in fact delicious, way better then it has any right to be and I really don't know what it is, but while each part individually is pretty tasty, together they become something sublime. This is coming from a guy who, if he deigns to eat mackerel at all, slathers it in super strong and acidic sauces to cut that oily fish taste. Yes, there is lemon in this but even just the mackerel, ham and brioche takes on a much tastier quality once its fried in a little bit of butter.

Ok so first up is the fish:

Yeah, yeah I know that this fish is already cut up, my bad, I forgot to grab my camera, like I said, I have some learning to do. Also I have to confess that I got lazy and had the fish guy at whole foods fillet the mackerel for me, he probably did a much better job then I could have

The biggest problem with this dish starts right here, the spanish mackerel was just too small, much too small, those fillets are maybe 6 inches and an inch across when Under Pressure calls for 10" long and 1.5-2" wide. I foolishly disregarded this advice and the final product was too small to handle and make it look pretty, additionally the fillets were two thin to cut to a uniform thickness which caused it's own issues.

So lesson learned, when TK suggests a certain size you would be wise to heed his advice. The unevenness can really be seen here:

The left side is clearly much thinner then the right, in fact as a result of this I had to discard the left half of the fish "sandwhich" in the foreground.

I am getting ahead of myself, first I had to put together my fish sandwiches, the meat in this case is some great Serrano Ham:

Mmmmmm just look at that delicious Serrano ham, looking all delicious.

I picked this up from Formaggio Essex (unsurprisingly this is located in the Essex Market). I used exactly 4 slices of this ham in the dish and the rest went into my mouth as classy and expensive snacks.

I took the halves, sprinkled a little Activa RM on each half and then lay the ham on, and vacuum sealed them to hold the sides together and give the enzymes time to do their thing. I fully intended to cook these Saturday night (yes Valentines day, I am sadly unlovable) but instead, in the true tradition of the unwashed masses everywhere on V-Day ended up just getting blind drunk instead, thems the breaks I guess.

So Sunday I pulled these badboys out of fridge and dropped them into my immersion circulator at 61C which seemed high but I went with it and it turned out well. Then I pulled them out and they looked like this:

Which is to say, almost exactly what they looked like when they went into the bath, but the flesh was more opaque.

While this was cooking I enlisted the help of my roommate to supreme us some lemon wedges, which involved ultimately 3 lemons to get to the requisite 12 wedges, and let me just say that lemon supremes (and I assume any citrus supreme) are a huge pain in the butt and I would probably never have done this if I wasn't forced to, but supreme we did and ended up with this lovely bowl:

Which I covered in simple syrup and allowed to cool to room temperature while I made the vinegratte, which was a very simple affair of some (spanish) capers, some parsely, some olive oil and a little shallot:

All chopped up and briskly mixed together into vinaigrette form. To be honest I was not completely impressed with the flavors here, and maybe I didn't allow them time to adequately meld but it tasted basically just like some capers and olive oil. the shallots and parsley were lost to my plebeian taste buds.

Finally I took some brioche from my previous recipe. Yes, I too was shocked that it lasted the full two months in my freezer but it seemed none the worse for the wear, so that's something I suppose. I assembled the fish sandwich and proceeded to saute it in a little clarified butter. At this point I was fairly worried that I would be serving something vile as the fish smelled strongly of that familiar oily, fishy mackerel smell, but once it was sauteed in the butter the smell just went away, no clue why that was.

I then plated it with the confit supremes, diced piquillo peppers (oh yeah this recipe had diced pequillo peppers for a garnish) and parsely sprigs (which were decidedly larger then the ones in the book)

And then I ended up with the final product, I think this is probably the best picture I took, which isn't saying much. Looking at it now on its own it doesn't look terrible but if you are following along at home take a look at the book picture and just imagine my chagrin.

In any case the end result was tasty and I think this is actually a dish I would make again provided I can get my hands on some decent Spanish mackerel as it was relatively quick to put together (aside from waiting for the Activa to bond and supremeing the lemons the whole thing took maybe 15-20 minutes max) and the results were unarguably delicious. This dish has renewed my vigor towards this project so I just hope that I can get the next recipe out before the middle of April.

I forgot that I was going to be listing prices here:

Fish - Whole Foods - $2.48
lemons - $0.60 (5 for a buck I bought 4 but used 3)
Piquillo Peppers - $3.49
Spanish Capers - $4.09
Brioche - $free (left over from the first recipe)
Olive Oil - $0.10 (just used a very small amount)
Shallots - $0.10 (again just one half from a big cheap bag this is probably even too high)
Parsley - $free (I used so little and I had a big bag I was going to toss soon anyway)

Total - $10.86, pretty darn cheap!