This was a highly inauspicious week. First Bowie. Then Rickman. Somewhere in between, Per Se lost two stars in an unforgiving New York Times review. Needless to say, in this Gotham city of ours, the decline of the emperor immediately became the talk of the town. I had a good fortune to dine at Per Se, but I am not a food critic, there exist many, many, many far more qualified souls, and I'll refrain from commenting. But what really puzzles me in the whole thing is that the Chef Keller's loss of stars is all the rave of the Internet crowds at the moment, even more so than the loss of two legends. If you do not believe me, just go and check your local social media, or New York Times for that matter. As I was writing this post, "Alan Rickman, Watchable Villain in ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Die Hard,’ Dies at 69," the article that reported the passing away of the beloved actor, scored the total of 526 comments. David Bowie's obituary, "David Bowie Dies at 69; Star Transcended Music, Art and Fashion," did better with 933 comments. But wait, "At Thomas Keller’s Per Se, Slips and Stumbles," Pete Well's review of Per See, scored the grand total of 1047 comments!
This world is going in one strange direction.
On a positive side, the stitches due to the avocado incident have been removed. Just in case you are wondering, it appears that I am the only person who takes the pit out of the avocado with a spoon. When a friend explained that striking the pit with a heel of chef's knife is what the rest of mankind does, I gave it a try. But the pit refused to give in, and I refused to let go and in a move worthy of King Arthur aimed the tip of my brand new 8-inch Wusthof (think Excalibur) at the nemesis. Wusthof delivered. The rest is history.
Cooking with one hand is an exercise in patience.
This was the first weekend without the stitches, and as soon as I woke up I ran to the market eager to make up for the loss of ten cooking days. Alas, I hit the empty stalls, because it's January, and farmers do not come to the Tribeca market in the winter. Eggs, apples and cider only, a couple of breads and an accidental protein or two. Silly me, how could I forget!!! As it stands, there will be no veggies this weekend, no chopping catch-up, and no culinary excellence. At the end, the sea foragers from Blue Moon Fish came to rescue and Miss Pain and I returned home with a pound of fresh cod, two small mackerels and a handful of oysters. (Perhaps this is an opportune place to mention that the fishmongers at the local green markets are the secret to the best and freshest fish in Gotham.)
Knife skills will have to wait, we'll have grilled mackerel and cod curry for dinner. The curry is a dish I used to love and prepare a lot, but then completely forgot about it until just before the holidays Abbie cooked it and left a comment on my Food52 recipe page. Abbie is a mighty great cook with lots of Food52 wins down her sleeve, so when she says that your dish is "freakin' fantastic", that, my friends is a compliment.
Cod curry it will be... We'll open up a bottle of white, and play Ashes to Ashes, Heroes and Fame. (I wonder how many would agree that Let's Dance is the greatest pop song ever written?) Later on we'll watch Harry Potter and Love Actually.
Because that's the way we say goodbye.
Fragrant Cod and White Ale Curry
* 1 lb cod filets, cut into 2-inch wide strips
* one small or half of large shallot, minced
* 1 clove of garlic, minced
* 1 - 1 1/2 cup coconut milk
* 1/2 large lemongrass stalk, chopped
* 1 tsp lime zest, grated on a microplane
* 1 tbsp red curry paste
* 1 tsp coriander seeds
* 6 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
* 8 basil leaves, plus some more for garnish
* 2 - 3 fresh curry leaves (optional, see note)
* one small knob of ginger, about 1 inch, peeled and cut into slices
* 1 tbsp fish sauce
* 1 tbsp lime juice
* two 12oz bottles of wheat beer (such as Hoegaarden)
* 2 tbsp vegetable oil
In a dry heavy skillet set over medium heat toast the coriander seeds for a few minutes until they become fragrant.
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil. Add the shallots and garlic and cook over moderate heat for about two minutes, until soft. Add the red curry paste, lemongrass, lime zest, coconut milk, fish sauce, ginger, coriander seeds, cardamom pods and basil leaves (and curry leaves if using), and simmer over low heat until the sauce becomes very thick and reduces to about 1/3 of the original volume.
In a large saucepan bring the wheat beer to a boil. Add salt, and reduce heat to low until liquid is at a simmer. Add fish in a single layer, making sure it is completely covered with liquid. Poach until cod flesh is opaque and flaky, for about 8 minutes. Remove the fish from the beer, and place into four curry bowls. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the beer and discard the rest.
Mix in the reserved beer into the curry sauce. Strain the sauce, place it back into the saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat for about 5-6 minutes. Mix in the lime juice and pour the sauce over the cod. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.
Note: Fresh curry leaves are difficult to find, so do not stress about not having them that much. I originally made this curry without them, but when I happen to have them around, I throw them in, for an extra brownie point of goodness.