Every year Boston hosts its parade of awesomeness, and normally I try to attend as a supporter of awesomeness, while not technically awesome myself. Today, however, I instead lounged around until it was time to take Sam to gymnastics and Owen to a friend’s house. Then, by poorly timing my commute into the city, I spent 2 hours on the 10 mile trek - Boston’s streets by my restaurant being closed due to the aforementioned parade. Fortunately I had “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” to keep me company for half of my journey. So tonight’s daily catch was a bit of a last minute scramble, but the servers seemed to like it. It’s halibut, once again, with fiddleheads, quinoa and a maple-mustard seed beurre blanc.
Today I successfully defended my dissertation, Alternative Tuning for Baroque Lute and its Applications in Neurosequential Development to Prevent Bullying Behaviors in Fourth to Sixth Graders, soI’m now a proud owner of a PhD from MIT. Of course, I’m celebrating at Grill 23 - along with hordes of my schoolmates - and Mark made this special just for me and my family. It’s pan-roasted halibut over morels and peas, with shaved raw asparagus and a warm ramp vichyssoise. Thanks, pal.
Today my sous chef, Dale, came up with this daily fish special. Dale’s from somewhere in Ohio - not Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo or Akron, but the other part of Ohio. I don’t really remember where, so let’s just say Putnam County. There are no fish in Putnam County. There once were, but that was before the Red Lobster went belly up, so Dale gets very excited thinking about fish specials. There is wheat in Putnam County - lots of it - and as you can see, Dale has a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to wheat. Like fish, oranges are quite rare in Putnam County, so when one unexpectedly comes around, the locals like to throw it on the grill. Northwestern Ohioans are big on traditions. As an aside, Dale has very little hair.
So the special today is pan roasted halibut over bulgur wheat, with grilled asparagus, grilled orange, pea greens and a fennel-basil vinaigrette. Perfect for this blistering hot evening.
1 clove garlic
1/2 shallot, minced
1/2 tsp Tabasco
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 roasted red pepper, peeled, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp salt (and to taste)
1 cup mayonnaise
- Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
- Let 1 pound grated cheese of choice (I use half sharp cheddar, half Colby) come to room temperature.
- Thoroughly work dressing into cheese, adding a bit at a time to achieve desired consistency. You needn’t use all of the dressing.(Use a food processor if you like)
- Reserve additional dressing for your next batch.
Sometimes when you live in New England you get pretty tired of flaky white fish, so when Todd called from Hawaii yesterday, I impulsively failed to politely ignore him as usual, and, instead, ordered some pristine albacore tuna and striped marlin (tombo and nairagi in Hawaiian parlance). Of course, that meant I’d have to wring some ideas out of my brain, since neither fish is on my menu. Pictured above, rendered with Goolgle’s lovely and free Picasa, is tonight’s special: a duet of sashimi with roasted sesame butter, honey mustard emulsion and arugula flowers. The fish, itself, I brushed very lightly with soy sauce infused with spring Vidalias and ginger.
Here’s today’s “Daily Catch” inspired by a recent, most awesome dining experience. It is halibut pan roasted in lime butter with fresh pea falafel and a carrot-cardamom puree. But more on my recent meal…
It was Sunday a couple of weeks back. I’d been meaning to try S&S Market/Biryani Park for some time now, and this seemed like as good a time as any, so we ventured over to Route 1, exited onto 99 in Malden and searched for number 105 on the left. Down about eight tenths of a mile, there it was, an unassuming - and somewhat uninviting - mostly windowless, standalone structure looking something like an erstwhile gas station. Fortunately I was able to cajole my clearly hesitant companions inside where we had no option but to seat ourselves.
Apparently Federico Fellini directed our dining experience at this point. On one flat screen Sri Lankan music videos blared without interruption; on the other was an unmemorable sporting event. The walls were occasionally adorned with various south Asian artifacts and souvenirs; and on the floor to my left sat a well worn Lightning McQueen throw rug. We sat at a card table on banquet chairs, and after an uncomfortable wait in the empty room, a Brazilian little person arrived with menus, silverware, cloth napkins and water. As he exited we pored over the menu and found limiting ourselves to enough food for a small town nearly impossible. Naturally we over ordered.
The little person appeared again. At this point he was our only contact with the restaurant. He was our handler. For all we knew, he may have been its sole employee. He placed a small pad and pencil on the table and said what I correctly guessed was “number.” We were to write the menu numbers that corresponded to the dishes we intended to order. Simple. Efficient.
After another wait my goat soup arrived, then the first wave of bread and complimentary (and complementary) shots of mango juice, then finally… the owner. She was a magnificently warm and friendly woman from Sri Lanka who brought her mother to Malden. Together they opened a restaurant. Hers is a sad and beautiful story (in the words of Jim Jarmusch, not Fellini), and when you visit S&S Market, she will share it with you.
More dishes arrived, one after another, some by mistake, others not. We didn’t mind that our meal didn’t match our order. I imagine I would eat and enjoy each of the more than one hundred menu items offered. In fact, I intend to do just that. I do not exaggerate when I say S&S Market/Briyani Park is easily the area’s best kept secret - its most hidden gem.
But I digress. I felt the urge today to work cardamom into our daily special. It was the string hopper uppuma from our Sunday lunch - a pilaf of dry roasted semolina and caramelized onion redolent of curry leaves and cardamom that reminded me. I haven’t used it in a while, and it’s high time I did.
As I await the publication of my new memoir, Childhood Including a Portion of my Teen Years in Southeast Asia, I can’t help but recall the humiliation I suffered as a monastery novice - or, as I prefer to call it, servant. Child labor laws might protect our young ones here, but where I spent much of my youth I prepared three daily meals for a bevy of monks, novices and adepts alike. “Hot noodles!” they would mercilessly scream. “Now!.” And nothing but the most steaming, delectable noodles would suffice, or I would face a host of verbal assaults and not so gentle tomfoolery. Fortunately, years of therapy have softened the collective blow, but the only vow I ever took at the monastery was to never prepare hot noodles again. Indeed, I followed a much different path, and my self-prescribed catharsis has been to champion the cold noodle. Following is one recipe I devised toward this end.
Trinity Cold Noodle Dressing
1 cup vegetable oil
½ cup rice wine vinegar
½ cup coconut milk
juice of 3 limes
1 Tbsp local honey
2 cups chopped cilantro
1 cup chopped mint
1 bunch basil, rough chopped
¼ cup chopped scallions
5 ea Thai bird chiles
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp grated ginger
- combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
As part of the Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds Initiative I instituted at the restaurant, I assigned two of my sous chefs, Mark and Lindsey, to compete this year in the Boston marathon. I felt that we at the top should set an example for our employees, and unfortunately I have an eye appointment Monday, so I can’t take part myself. As you can see above, Mark has been training, on days he’s not scheduled to open, in Kenya; while Lindsey, on the other hand, has kept it local, choosing to condition herself in trendy Somerville, home of many lovely and esoteric eateries in its own right. Come cheer them on - it’s for a great cause, as they try to raise money for music and arts at the Curley School in JP.
When I was in my second year of high school, my twin brother, P-Lo, and I were sent to live with our Auntie Seweryna, in Gdansk. She was a stern woman, as old as stale bread, and she ruled her tiny kitchen with an iron fist. Night after night after night, though he was just back from his shift at the shipyards, Seweryna would insist that P-Lo make supper for the three of us. As I remained in school, I was awarded favored nephew status, so my duties were relatively light. Our auntie’s specialty, among others, was pierogi, and before long P-Lo, himself, became a master in his own right. Lucky we were, today, at the restaurant, when P-Lo arrived unannounced and ready to pitch in. Our “Daily Catch” this evening, thanks to my brother, is hake with potato-chive pierogi, caramelized onion syrup and wilted pea greens. You now have about 4 hours to get it while it lasts.