Sunday, October 21, 2007

Best Birthday

i had a birthday today. or have. whatever. i'm 45. middle-aged. HA! what is that? i mean, i don't feel it at all, so i guess that means i'm not. i'm never ashamed of my age, because it's a natural progression of life, ya know? and, trust me, i'm not trying to be cool, centered and focused. believe me. it's just how it is. i'm getting older. everyone does and so it is. my sons, gotta love 'em, decided they would bake me a cake. i was going out to lunch with my friends melissa and katherine, whom i adore -- a little aside, i've made some amazing friends here in kansas. they are exceptional. and, ya know, the older you get the more likely you are NOT to add to your friend base as eagerly as you did at 25 or something. don't ask me why. i'm not a psychologist or sociologist, although i wanted to be way back when. but i've made some cool friends here, and i went out to lunch with katherine and melissa and while i was out, my sons baked me a cake. i was expecting magnificence, because they are SO into cooking and baking. what i got was a ton of love, cute smiles and large hockey pucks. i had to laugh. it was beautiful, because they are. so, we didn't eat that, but it was a valiant effort. but for dinner, i wanted to make something really beautiful, because they are and i got total permission to do so from my sons. i made SEAFOOD TORTA from THE GREAT FISH & SEAFOOD COOKBOOK by Judith Ferguson. this cookbook is SO dated, it looks it. and not in that "classic" way. you know the difference. an ageless thing looks genuinely classic and timeless in its amazing beauty. the binding on a book that time will forever love -- l'escofier's cookbook or some others i have -- is filled with memory and has a look to it that is simply without era. others that are so much a product of their time look like it. you know, the type is of that era, the way the thing is laid out is of that era. you know what i mean. THE GREAT FISH & SEAFOOD COOKBOOK is one of those "of the era" types of things. it was published in 1992, so it's older than my kids. how i got it, i have no idea, since i wasn't that deep into cooking back then. but i have it and this is the first time i have ever cooked out of it. seriously. so let's see how it holds up.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted flour
pinch salt
4 tbs cold milk

4 oz whitefish (plaice, sole or cod)
8 oz. cooked shrimp
4 oz flaked crab meat
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
Lrg pinch hot pepper flakes
salt & pepper
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
chopped fresh parsley

what to do:
1. the pastry: sift the flour into a bowl or onto a work surface. cut the butter into small pieces and begin mixing them into the flour. mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (food processor is another option). make a well in the flour, pur in the milk and add the pinch of salt. mix with a fork, incorporating the butter and flour mixture from the sides until everything mixed.
2. form dough into a ball, knead for 1 minute and chill for 1 hour.
3. filling: cook whitefish filets in the water, wne, red pepper flakes for about 10 minutes or until just firm to the touch. once cooked, remove the fish from the cooking liquid, flake and add to a bowl with the shrimp and crab. reserve the cooking liquid.
4. melt the butter in a small saucepan, stir in the flour and gradually add the strained cooking liquid, stirring constantly until smooth. add garlic, place over high heat and bring to a boil. lower the heat and cook for 1 minute. add to the fish in the bowl and set aside to cool.
5. on well-floured surface, roll out the pastry and transfer it with the rolling pin to to a tart pan with a removable bottom. press the dough into the pan and cut off any excess. prick the base lightly with a fork and place a sheet of wax paper inside. fill it with rice, dried beans or baking beans and chill for 30 minutes. then bake for 15 minutes in a 375ºF oven.
6.combine egg yolks, cream and parsley then stir into the fish filling. adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. when pastry is ready, remove the paper and beans and pour in the filling.
7. return the tart to the oven and bake for 25 more minutes. allow to cool slightly and remove the pan. transfer to serving dish and slice before serving.

here's what we did:

i'm going to admit something. i used refrigerated dough. yep. i did. and i am SO not a refrigerated dough girl. i love making my own pie crust and get really into the nuances accompanying it. don't knead TOO long or it gets tough. use as little liquid as possible to keep it flaky, and use the approriate fat to flour ratio. there's something so precise and tactile about it, i love it. tonight, however, i wanted to just get on with it. i knew if i did all the steps, we wouldn't eat until about 8:30 which was not an option. not only that, i wanted something as low maintenance as possible tonight and this was one way to get us there. i used two pet ritz pie crusts, which i love above all else, although they're a little too sweet for some things. i let them sit out for 20 minutes, pulled them out of their pie tins, combined them then rolled them out gently. VERY gently on a lightly floured surface. i say VERY gently, because if you work dough too much, it gets tough and gooey. nasty, to be frank. you know those pies you've bitten into and the crust is YIKES! yeah, don't touch this too much. anyway, i did that and laid it into my removable bottom cake pan, not tart pan. i also cooked my shrimp in the same poaching liquid as my fish -- which was tilapia -- and i added, yep, about 1/2 cup shredded parmesan -- parmegiano-reggiano, you know how i am by now -- and some of that mexican cheddar mix, about 1/2 cup as well. i shredded about 1/4 cup of parmegiano into the seafood mix then topped the whole thing off with another 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan and 1/2 cup of the cheddar mix. i also added about 1 cup of fresh broccoli florets that were also chopped, not blanched or anything, just added raw. very yummy. or at least i hoped. um, let's see... and that was it.

report card: major yum. from me, from the boys, from us all. even brandon, who eschews shrimp as a general rule, at it all up and had a second piece. nicholas had two pieces. it was a success and we'll do it again. nummy.

fun little aside, my birthday treat update: my sons were bound and determined to make me something for dessert and give me something special. what loves. so they baked up these pre-measured balls of cookie dough we had bought for brandon's football team fundraiser -- i think i mentioned them before. then, to my surprise, both boys came to me with two different "drinks" which were part white wine (the sauvignon blanc for the fish), part red (a cabernet i had in my wine rack) and a squeeze of lemon juice. quite hearty, to say the least.

but forget all that. the cookbook held up with yummy food and full of love. so much love.

and, as you know, that's what food is all about.


Sarah said...

Happy happy late birthday!! I'm so sorry I missed it. Sounds like it as fabulous. And even though you don't ever lie about your age, know you could totally get away with much, much younger. If you ever wanted to.

PalateScriber said...

tee, hee... that makes me feel SOOOOO good. miss you, sarah!!!