Monday, April 2, 2007

Broiled swordfish with chipotle aioli

We often go down to Port Aransas, Texas. There is a wonderful little restaurant down there called Shell's. I almost don't want to tell you about it because I don't want it to be any more crowded than it already is. It's a small little house filled with oil-cloth covered tables. The specials are written on a chalkboard. The food is absolutely amazing. One of my favorite meals there is a tuna fillet with keylime aioli. Each time I went there, I would beg for the recipe. One day they took pity on me and gave me an approximate idea of the ingredients. I went home and spent several weeks fussing with it trying to get it right. Now I have incorporated it into one of my favorite dinners of all time. I thought I would share it with you.
I love swordfish and always buy it if it is on sale. You can also get it frozen at Trader Joe's for a very reasonable price. I prefer fresh, but it really depends on what my wallet prefers. I like to serve this with plain jasmine rice and asparagus. If the market doesn't have any good asparagus, you can also use sugar snap peas. These are two of my favorite go-to vegetables.
Here's the shopping list:
White wine
Jasmine rice
Key Limes
Canned chipotle peppers
Swordfish fillets
Herbs de provence
Sea Salt
Olive Oil
Here's what to do:
Open a bottle of white wine. I like pinot grigio or pinot gris on a warm summer day. Pour yourself a glass and sip as often as you like while preparing the food.
Put on a pot for the rice and follow the back of the bag for directions.
Get out your food processor and put in about 3/4 a cup of mayo. Real mayo will taste better, but I usually use fat free. Add several cloves of garlic and then squeeze at least two tablespoons of key lime juice in. Then add one chipotle pepper from the can. Run the processor until the aioli is well mixed. Put it in a pretty bowl and stick in the fridge.
Take the swordfish and put it on a cooking sheet. I like to line the cooking sheet with aluminum foil so that the clean up is easier. Preheat the oven to BROIL. Sprinkle a little olive oil on the fillets and then add some herbs de provence. You can buy these as a spice mixture in lots of fancier grocery stores. If you don't have these, then use any specialty fish rub.
While the oven preheats, pull out the asparagus and snap off the bottoms. Put them on a second lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle olive oil on the asparagus and shake some sea salt liberally over the spears.
When the oven is ready, put both the fish and the asparagus in the oven. Plan to leave them in for about ten minutes. I usually put the fish in for six minutes and then flip and cook for another four minutes or so. It really depends on how thick the fillets are. They are ready when they flake easily with a fork. Stir the asparagus about half way through too. They are ready when they start to turn golden.
Run over and set the table with cloth napkins and silverware. Grab a painted pitcher and pour the rest of wine into it and put it on the table. Fill up glasses with ice water.
Pull out the fish and asparagus when they are done. Grab your plates and set them out. I like to take a small measuring cup and fill it with the rice and then dump it upside down on each plate to make a neat little dome of rice. Then place the fish right next to it. Add the asparagus to the side of that. Take the aioli out of the refrigerator and place a healthy dollop on top of the fish.
Send each plate to the table and bring the bowl of aioli. Every one will want more for their rice. Enjoy!
*For a lower fat option, you can always just steam the asparagus and then pour a little balsamic vinegar over them for flavor.

Everything I Know...

I learned from my mother. I think my mother is a great cook. (Don't we all?) She says she used to put me up on the counter beside her while she cooked. I've always been a willing participant. I loved to stir and measure and taste. She taught me about pasta and fresh vegetables and how to prepare seafood. She didn't teach me much about meat. That, I have learned on my own.
In high school, kids would beg to come over and eat dinner at our house. My mom would serve dinner at the table for the family. We all had real glasses with cold ice water and soft cloth napkins. There were beautiful dishes and wine glasses for everyone over the age of 13. The food was delicious and served family style from large painted platters. We were always throwing the leaves in the table and adding chairs for the groups that would gather around the table. Dinner was such a joy.
I want to create that with my own family. I want the whole eating, drinking, chatting and dining experience to be a full and rich one. I think that starts with the planning and preparing. I think if you enjoy the preparation, you can enjoy the meal. That doesn't mean that the preparation should be fancy or elaborate. I will enjoy the preparation a lot more these days if the meal is simple and doesn't take a lot of counter space.
My mother taught me the importance of presentation. She taught me that a beautiful table enhances the food. That cloth napkins in your lap makes you feel more comfortable with the food. That fresh ingredients and healthful preparations can make a simple meal delicious.
These principles help me create my dinners each night. I wonder what kind of cook I would be if we'd had mac and cheese out of the box with plastic wear each night. Would it be any different?