Friday, April 27, 2007

Spotted Skate Wing with Braised Red Cabbage and Mustard Sauce

VO as opening scene unfolds:
"The part of 'Skate Wing' will be played today by 'Halibut'."

I have a confession to make. I went into this dish with extreme prejudice. I love skate wing, but this whole preparation (on paper) looked like something that might trigger the salivary glands to activate and overproduce, and not in the good way if you catch my drift. "But, Carol" I said, "nothing's really been awful so far in this fabulous cooking project of yours, so just make it and shut the heck up." And then I chided myself for talking to myself out loud. But I did that out loud, too, so you know, maybe I need a vacation.

The prep for this dish was pretty manageable, except for the fish part. I called six different local fishmongers the morning I made this, and none of them had skate wing, let alone spotted skate wing. Two fish guys I spoke with said they had gotten some in the day before, but it was bad so they weren't selling it. I was really bummed because like so many of you in the last post's comments section, I really love skate wing -- I love its ropey appearance, I love its texture, I like how it tastes a little like shellfish... it really is one of my favorite fish. One of the fish guys I'd worked with before said that for this dish I could substitute halibut and it would stand up well to the other flavors. I'm also a fan of halibut, so I went ahead and made the substitution.

During prep, I had some flashbacks when I read that this dish included red cabbage because every time I see it in the grocery store, I'm reminded of the time my mom was making some sort of cabbage dish for a family dinner when I was little (probably coleslaw) and the pipe beneath the kitchen sink got clogged. After seeing that the pipes under the kitchen sink were fine, my dad and my uncle went downstairs to the basement to try and loosen the clog in the pipes and when they did, the pipe came loose (I think my mom might've turned on the InSinkerator) and COVERED my dad in shredded red cabbage. When you're seven and seeing this happen to your father, it's 50% horrifying and 50% hilarious and you have to wait to see what his reaction is before you either cry or laugh your head off. Luckily, we got to laugh. We still talk about it every few years at family gatherings, and I'm still afraid to stand in that same spot in my parents' basement, because I do not harbor any secret fantasies of being covered in shredded red cabbage, thankyouverymuch.

So, we're starting off this dish with me thinking I'm not going to like it, a fish substitution I'm not very happy about, and a slight fear of red cabbage and garbage disposals. Recipe for failure, you say? Just you wait, my friends... just you wait.

Let's start with the mise en place for the Braised Red Cabbage:

In the large glass bowl is shredded (not quite a chiffonade) red cabbage that marinated in red wine overnight. I used a 2004 Tyrus Evans Claret, and it was perfect. I am looking forward to having a glass of it later tonight since I only needed a cup of it for this dish.

I melted the butter in my LeCreuset and then lightly cooked the red onion for about 5 minutes. I stirred in the cabbage and the marinating liquid, some shredded Granny Smith apple, and some water. I put this mixture in a 350-degree oven for two hours, with the lid on but slightly askew (I wasn't going to do the parchment lid again since I wasn't happy with it when I used one last time).

After two hours, I removed the cabbage from the oven, added some shredded russet potato and a few teaspoons of wildflower honey. I covered it again with the lid slightly askew, and put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes. When it was finished, I added a little bit of salt and pepper and let it rest on the stovetop while I made everything else I needed for the dish.

I made the mustard powder next which involved grinding and then sifting yellow and black mustard seeds. I couldn't find black mustard seeds, so I used brown ones instead:

The next step was to make the mustard sauce. I cooked the carrot, leek and mushrooms in a tiny bit of canola oil to soften and caramelize them:

I added some vegetable stock and let the vegetables and stock simmer for five minutes. I then stirred in some cream then whisked in 10 tablespoons of butter, chunk by chunk, letting each bit melt before I put in the next one:

Lastly, I strained the sauce through a chinois, discarded the vegetables, returned the liquid to the saucepan, whisked in regular and whole grain mustards as well as some minced chives. Here's the finished sauce:

When I tasted the sauce for seasoning, I has a sneaking suspicion I was really gonna like this dish. Things were looking up.

The last step was to cook the halibut. The fishmonger cleaned and skinned it for me, so I put a light coating of canola oil in my sauté pan and cooked the fish for about 2 minutes on each side.

Now, time for plating. Here are shots of all six plates in a progression as things are added to the plating. First, the mustard sauce:

Next, the cabbage:

Next, the mustard powder:

Last, but not least, the halibut:

And, the final close-up:

So, yeah. I'd make this again. And again after that. And then, probably a few more times after that. And definitely with skate wing. Repeatedly. I tasted my serving of it (okay, I ate the whole thing) before everyone else came over, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was delicious. The halibut worked well in place of the skate wing and the cabbage was hearty and earthy and really wonderful. The mustard sauce will make an encore appearance tomorrow morning since I had leftovers (I think I'll drizzle it over an asparagus and gruyere omelet).

No doubt about it, this dish was a homerun, and everyone loved it. Not a drop, flake, shred or grain was left on anyone's plate. I can't wait to find some skate wing so I can make this again. This might have to be recreated as an entrée for my next dinner party.

Oh, and no one ended up covered in shredded cabbage in my basement. So, turn that homerun into a grand slam, kids. I've reversed the curse!

Up Next: "Candied Apple" (Crème de Farine with Poached Apples and Ice Cream)

Brands Used:
All-Clad and Le Creuset cookware
Produce from Whole Foods and H-Mart
365 organic unsalted butter
McClure's wildflower honey (Littleton, VT)
Halibut from Southern Maryland Seafood at DC's Eastern Market
Cream from Horizon Organic
Grey Poupon dijon mustard
Delouis organic whole grain mustard
Mustard seeds from TPSS Co-op
Tyrus Evans 2004 claret

Music to Cook By: SoKo; NotSokute; SoKo just released her first EP and the only way I can describe her is that she sounds like a French Jenny Lewis. Apologies that the SoKo link takes you to a MySpace page. I know you're not 14.


Anonymous said...

dude, not to state the obvious, but how on earth could you hate a dish that includes 10 tablespoons of BUTTER!?! lol!
okay, back to normal now... I love this recipe for cabbage. in fact, I heart it! Just last weekend the boy and I went out to a german resto where the cabbage tasted like it had been braised in glogg. I can't wait to take your method and apply some spices to it. Bon!

Anonymous said...

I love skate wing, too, so I'm sad you couldn't find any. Halibut was probably a good choice, considering. This looks really good.... I think I'll have to try it.

Carol Blymire said...

Ann -- the cabbage was effing awesome. It really was. Make it tonight. RIGHT NOW!

MRD -- You should try it, with skate if possible. I'm going to.

Anonymous said...

The substitution was brilliant, I might give it a try just for the halibut. (halibut joke done)
I'm so glad you liked this and relieved you're not covered in cabbage.

Anonymous said...

I loved the story about the garbage disposal. I can't say that it ever happened to my dad, but it would have been feasible. My dad was a very good handyman (you name it, electrical, plumbing, etc.) and there was almost no house task he wouldn't undertake. And we had a basement full of pipes. So I enjoyed the laugh. Thanks.

pdxblogmommy said...

Personally, I'm still laughing at the image of your dad covered in red cabbage!

Nevertheless, I don't love Halibut, which is an always present staple in most PacNW restaurants. BUT, that mustard sauce looks like the sauce of the Gods. And I'd like to have some RIGHT NOW, thankyouverymuch.

I might try to recreate on my own sans the powder since I have small children and not a ton of time to grind my own mustard powder.

Yum! And as always, thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

This looks freakin' fantastic. You're making me think I need to get that book.