Sunday, August 10, 2008

Everything Will Be Just Fine, as Long as We Stay in the Kitchen

Yeah, I'm moving. Leaving the Fruitvale Mansion (as I like to call it) behind. I'm going to miss the place, and I'm especially going to miss the kitchen. But the thing is, in recent months, the kitchen became totally infested with mice. Stubborn, ever-present mice. Mice that wouldn't leave despite my best efforts to humanely show them the door. I couldn't bring myself to kill them, and so I just left.

Ok, that's not entirely true. I left because the time has come to share a home with the one I love, and I'm mostly ecstatic about that. It's just that when you reach a certain age and you have two people attempting to combine their two homes into one home, suddenly, said home seems tinier than you ever imagined, and you find yourself wondering how on earth you're going to make this thing work. So if you're like me, you just make sure that the kitchen is the first thing you unpack, so at least you can still eat very well despite the chaos that is all around you.

But, I digress. I was planning to move anyway, just perhaps not as soon as this. But it's no fun living with mice, never mind cleaning up after the little vermin. It kind of takes the joy out of being in the kitchen. So I haven't cooked anything in the old kitchen for months. I started living in the new place awhile ago; I just didn't get around to moving all the rest of my stuff until this weekend.

What I should have been doing tonight was unpacking and organizing, but how can a person unpack and organize without the sustenance of a delicious meal? So instead of dealing with this....

...I tried out a recipe that has long been lingering in my recipe binder for a Mediterranean fish stew, courtesy of none other than Emeril Lagasse. I adapted it slightly by adding potatoes when none were called for, and using lemon zest instead of orange zest, and all I have to say is, screw the piles in the living room. This stew was absolutely reason enough to blow off the piles, and the recipe made enough to sustain us through the next several days while we're attempting to shrink the piles before they swallow us up. 

I'd much rather enjoy this beautiful and lively combination of saffron, crushed red pepper, fish stock, white wine, tomatoes, fennel, halibut and shrimp than try to figure out how and where things should go.  The piles will still be there tomorrow, but tonight I really needed to enjoy myself in the kitchen.

You might call this denial, but what did you say?  I couldn't hear you over the stereo and all my chopping and slicing and dicing, and besides, I'm intoxicated by the aroma of the stew, so intoxicated that I keep switching tenses in my writing.  Oh wait, maybe it's the wine that made me that way.  Who cares?  Just make this stew some time.  It'll make you the hit of the party or it'll make you forget the chaos that lies in waiting merely one room away. 

Here's how to do it:

In a large soup pot, saute over medium-low heat for about 6-8 minutes: 1 onion, thinly sliced, 2 celery ribs, sliced thin on the diagonal, and 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed. When the onions are soft, add 1/3 cup white wine, 3 pinches saffron, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, the juice of 1 orange, a couple of thin strips of orange or lemon zest, 3 tablespoons tomato paste, and 8 cups fish stock. Bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes or until the stock is reduced by about one third.

At this point, add 1 bulb of fennel, cored and sliced thin, plus about 6-8 small red potatoes, quartered, and 1 cup of diced, peeled and seeded tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and cook about another 20 minutes or until the fennel and potatoes are tender.

Take about a pound of halibut and season with salt and pepper, and dice it into chunks that are about an inch or so. Peel and devein about a half pound shrimp. Add all of this to the pot, along with a small handful of chopped parsley, and cook just until the fish is done, which should take about 5 minutes.

Bon Appetit!

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