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Volume 40 Issue 12 • July 22-28, 2010
now in our 40th season

Summer and the Ocean's Bounty

by Jenn Farmer
Chef, Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm 

The ocean is incredibly bountiful right now!  If you are a fisherman, or just enjoy eating local seafood, now is the time to do it!  In fact yesterday I had the great fortune to observe two of the most beautiful striped bass I have ever seen.  They were caught only a few hours earlier by a chef I am working for.  They reminded me of pictures I had seen from the 1960s when the really big stripers ran in the waters of Nantucket.  What a vision of culinary beauty.  The scales were bright, and there was a slight sheen to the fish.  The massive skulls contained big clear eyes (in fact they almost looked alive still).  The gills were still bright, and had a firm quality, not spongy. Ok, I may seem to be getting a little too excited about the gory details, but there is a reason for my vivid descriptions.  When purchasing a whole fish, these are all qualities one should look for to ensure the fish is fresh.  Also check the smell, a really fresh fish smells just like the ocean, briny—never strong and fishy.

To me it was a beautiful scene, Chef skillfully filleting these two beauties.  The heavy breeze that blew through the screens was damp and salty, cooling the kitchen.  A haze fell over the harbor.  The shiny chrome on the yachts, and boats, glittered through the fog, as they bobbed on the water.  I could hear my stock pot bubbling, impatiently waiting for me to add pasta to it.  The aroma of fresh thyme and garlic permeated the air. There were ingredients waiting to be cut and prepped, yet I was still transfixed by the fish.  Chef dexterously cut the fish into filets.  Next he immediately put the perfect portions on ice, and went to work removing the gills and rinsing the carcass.  He took a giant stock pot and threw the carcasses in with a bunch of ice.  He let it sit for a few hours to help draw the blood and impurities out of the fish.   If I had my wits about me, I would have taken pictures (even on my little technically obsolete phone.). Later he pulled the bones from the ice and added liquid and seasoning to a stock pot.    The flawless, gigantic fish head bobbed in the stock pot filled with aromatics, and vegetables, and slowly started to come to a simmer.  It was a true vision of beauty for anyone who loves food.  In fact I could imagine this stock pot on the cover of a magazine or gracing the pages of a glossy textbook- a moment of food perfection. 

To me striped bass is one of the most delicious fish there is, and the stock (if made properly) is ethereal.   Making fumet or fish stock from the bones is very easy, and it can be used in soups and stocks, or even to poach fish filet in.  The difference between a fumet and a stock is a fumet is a more concentrated, and flavorful.  Here is a great fumet recipe. 

Classic Fish Fumet

  • One quarter cup oil
  • About 6 pounds white fish bones (iced for a few hours to remove impurities)
  • One half of an onion, thinly sliced
  • One half cup leeks or scallions, thinly sliced
  • One half cup parsnips or white carrots, thinly sliced
  • One half cup celery, thinly sliced
  • One half cup mushroom stems or trimmings
  • One half gallon cold water
  • Two cups white wine (the drier the better)
  • 3 parsley stems
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • One bay leaf
  • One clove garlic
  • 3-4 black peppercorns

Heat the oil in a large stockpot; add the bones, onions, leeks, parsnips, and mushrooms.    If you don’t have white carrots or parsnips, orange carrots may be substituted, but the stock will be a bit less clear, and may have a darker color.  Cover the pot and let the ingredients sweat together.  Add remaining ingredients to the stock pot and bring to a simmer, skimming the top to remove impurities from the stock.  Allow to simmer for 35 minutes, skimming as necessary.  Strain the fumet, and discard the bones and aromatics.  If storing the fumet, cool it down quickly in an ice bath.  Makes about one half a gallon

What better way to use your new batch of fumet, than by making a nice fish chowder.  Any whitefish works well in this recipe.

Old Fashioned Fish Chowder

  • One half pound salt pork
  • 1 pound yellow or white onions, small diced
  • One small diced shallot
  • One half pound celery, small diced
  • 2 pounds cod (or other white fish) filets, cut into large chunks
  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and medium diced
  • One half gallon fish stock or fumet
  • Sprig of thyme
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper

Cut salt pork into small cubes, and render on low heat until crispy.  Remove from fat, and set aside.  Use the hot pork fat to lightly sauté the onions and celery in until they are translucent. Remove the onions and celery and set aside.  In the same fat gently cook the diced cod, until it is mostly cooked.

It is ok if the cod breaks up a bit, it adds to the flavor and texture of the soup.   Heat up a stock pot with the fish stock, a bay leaf, and a thyme sprig.  When the stock is hot add potatoes and cook for a few minutes, until they begin to get soft.,  It is a good idea to remove thyme sprig and bay leaf if possible at this point before adding more ingredients, and losing them in the soup for good.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the soup, except the cream and bring to a simmer.  Finish with the cream, salt and pepper, taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.   This is very thin style chowder; saltine or “Pilot” crackers can be added when eating to give it a heartier texture. Sometimes I also like to add chopped fresh herbs, like chives and chervil.  Makes a little over a gallon

I find fresh fruit and berries a great accompaniment to light fish dishes of summer.  Recently I have been on a watermelon and pineapple kick.  Actually I have been adding fruit to everything from lemonade, and iced tea, to my salad greens.  Next week I will probably be craving peaches or plums but this week berries have started to entice me.  This dish was inspired by one of my best friends.  She loves the following fresh ingredients. 

Fresh Berries with Prosecco

  • One half pint blackberries
  • One half pint strawberries
  • One half pint blueberries
  • One half pint raspberries
  • One teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • One half cup Prosecco, Champagne, or Sparkling wine

Mix berries and sugar, pour prosecco over them and stir. The berries can be enjoyed as is, but is also very good with more Prosecco, or try over Italian style ice or gelato.  Everyone has different tastes, so keep that in mind when selecting a drier or sweeter sparkling wine (both taste good with the berries).   I often add a little fresh mint or even basil to the mixture for a nice change of pace. Serves four

 

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