I have a couple of cooking “blind spots”…

I’ve cooked most of my adult life, and been dedicated to the “bloodsport” for about 25 years. I’m pretty good at most techniques and can find things to do with most proteins so that they, more often than not, end up in the tasty zone … but I have a couple of troubling culinary “blind spots”.

I’m guessing most cooks do … mine are short ribs (see my Short Ribs of My Discontent post for details on my latest failure on that front) and the mocking bastard to the left … a whole fish.

The short rib issue…

…is a mystery to me. I love “low and slow” … I can braise like the wind and do so regularly — especially in the winter. Osso bucco, lamb shanks, lamb shoulder chops, pork shoulder…  You name it, if it has collagen in it I’ll braise it! But for some reason short ribs kick my ass.

Likewise my dilemma with Mr. Whole Fish. We eat a lot of fish … baked, broiled, grilled, fried, sautéed, steamed, in tacos, but for some reason I can’t seem to pull off a whole fish dish.

Last Saturday I tilted at the whole fish windmill yet again. I surround a great snapper specimen with wonderfully aromatic ingredients for Pesce all a Palermitana (in the style of Palermo), and the outcome was … well, disappointing.

It was weird …

My wife bade me off to do battle with the fish well fortified with a couple of Cosmic Moe’s (OK … Cosmos), and with the confidence that only comes from cranberry juice and vodka coursing through my veins, I ended up spot on with my technique (the fish was cooked perfectly).

The sauce came together great… but for some reason the combination of perfectly cooked fish and a wonderfully fragrant Sicilian sauce rendered a meh dish … “less that the sum of the parts”.

Nothing was bad, but the sauce definitely overpowered the snapper. The recipe (from Bartolotta Ristorante in Vegas) calls for scorpion fish, but they did suggest snapper as a native US alternative. I’m thinking that a nice branzino or striped bass may be better for this dish.

I also think a lighter hand with the sauce might be in order. The recipe has you pour the sauce over the whole fish and then serve.

The rustic sauce covered fish didn’t really make the dish a showstopper on the plate and just complicated the serving process. I had to move all the potatoes, olives and such aside to fillet and plate the fish.

The sauce Palermo was very tasty — we’ll be eating the left over sauce and couscous as a meal this week…  I have to believe that the right fish (developing a branzino feeling) and a more restrained hand with the  saucing ladle might render a great dish.

So with that in mind … even this “fail” is going up on the VSguy recipe page. Give it a try and let me know if YOU can school the fish! (Yea, that pun was intended … sorry about that.)

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