Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pan-Roasted Striped Bass with Artichoke Ravioli and Barigoule Vinaigrette

If you've been paying attention to the "What Else Did I Eat This Week" section to the right, you can see I'm on a little vacay in Southern California. Every year at this time, I journey west in search of an era when.... oh hell. I can't even pretend to have a meaningful reason. The truth of the matter is, every year, I leave DC for a week in April because the pollen is so bad I can't breathe, and I need to be in a climate that doesn't give me an asthma attack (yes, smog is easier to breathe than tree pollen), and that happens to be the greater Los Angeles area.

Why LA, you may ask (it's a love-it or hate-it kind of town, I know)? Well, it's kind of become a tradition of sorts. I have friends here I miss and want to see. There's a cookbook store I love. There's a café serving what I believe might be the best coffee ever. There's great shopping, and even better people watching. I can see three movies in one day and not feel guilty about it. I can also spend a few days in near-solitude at my favorite hotel near the ocean -- laying in an insanely comfy bed for a long afternoon nap, taking long walks, reading good books, sleeping with the windows open so I can hear the ocean, sitting on the beach watching surfers, and just generally clearing my head. I look forward to this little jaunt every year, and I'm always a little sad when it winds to a close.

The one thing that's always a little hard to get used to at first is not having a kitchen for a week. Don't get me wrong: I love getting away from home and work, but it's weird not being able to cook. I'm always up for dining out, but sometimes -- even on vacation -- I just want a stove, a frying pan, some eggs and some vegetables. I want to buy all the things I see at the farmers' markets and figure out how to make something out of them. And, I just want to have a knife in my hand, chopping things... because, believe it or not, that's the one thing that relaxes me more than anything else. The sound of the knife hitting the board. The feel of the side of the blade against my knuckles. The uniform pieces of whatever it is I'm cutting all lined up and ready for duty. My mom likes to bake chocolate chip cookies in times of stress. I like to chop things. It's what I do when I'm stuck on an issue with a client, or need to figure out an answer to a pretty big problem -- I cut stuff up. I'm not saying I'm stressed here on vacation. Not even close. I just miss my kitchen.

Even though I'm on my wee vacation, I don't want to leave you hanging here in French Laundry at Home Land. I made this dish just before I left, and wrote the post in my head as I cooked (as I'm wont to do), then plunked it all out on the plane on the way here, inserted the photos tonight, and here we are. I wasn't a huge fan of the last artichoke dish (which inspired my friend, Catherine, to defend artichokes' honor in her blog), but I will say that this one was a huge improvement. Of course, I'm a big fan of ravioli and rockfish (striped bass' other name, and also? The state fish of Maryland -- wooo-hooo!!!!!), but I wasn't so sure about the artichoke angle. I was happy to be persuaded otherwise.

Remember the artichokes? Remember how they went from this...

... to this?

In this dish, I used the remaining three artichokes from the artichokes barigoule.

I chopped the three artichokes, mixed them with some salt, pepper, and a little bit of olive oil and set it aside.

I also strained the artichoke barigoule braising liquid and set it aside.

You'll see photos in a minute that show the layer of ooginess that formed on top of the strained braising liquid, and how deftly I removed it, because I'm suave like that.

I'd already made the pasta dough (which you can see an earlier demo of here *snerk*), and just had to run it through the pasta machine to make some long sheets.

Let me take a moment right now not to bitch about how my kitchen floor is soooooo hideously 1983, but instead to say that if you only do one thing out of The French Laundry Cookbook, make the pasta dough. I've tried, no kidding, 10-15 different fresh pasta instructions -- everything from Craig Claiborne to Mario Batali and everyone in between -- and none is as good as this one. The cynic in me, the side of my personality that is judgey, critical and bitchy, cannot find one mean thing to say about this pasta dough. My kitchen floor? HEINOUS. This pasta dough? I think I might love it more than I love Mike Bloomberg. There. I said it.

Aaaaaaanyway, I made the pasta dough, cursed the inventor of linoleum, and rolled the dough into two sort-of-equal-sized sheets. I lightly brushed the surface of each with egg wash, then put little mounds of artichoke filling along the dough, leaving enough room between each pile so as to eventually put the other pasta sheet on top, seal it all shut, then cut the ravioli shapes. Like so:

I stored these suckers in the refrigerator until I was ready to complete the dish.

The next thing I had to prepare was the assortment of vegetables that would be used as a garnish. This time, it was just a set of carrot batons and the red and white pearl onions. I put the carrots in a small saucepan, covered them with lightly salted cold water, brought that water to a boil, and cooked them for about 3 minutes. I then drained them and chilled them in an ice bath, and patted them dry (but did not burp them) afterward:

I also made red and white pearl onions again. I put the red and the white into separate saucepans and covered them with cold water. I added a little bit of sugar and butter, and brought the water to a boil. I then reduced it to a rambunctious simmer and let them cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the liquid had evaporated and the onions had a nice glaze to them.

You'll see the glazed onions in the final plating shot.

The next step in this dish was making the barigoule vinaigrette. Remember when I wrote earlier in this post that I strained the artichokes' braising liquid and let a layer of fat rise to the top? Well, I did. I wasn't lying. See?

I got out my trusty skimmer and got all that fat right off the top and ended up with a bowl of liquid that had no fat. I know. Not really an earth-shattering, David Copperfield hocus-pocus-fest, but you know... that's life, kids.

If you'll recall from my earlier math wizardy, I split one recipe of artichokes between the last artichoke dish and this one, since I was low on tasters and high on artichoke hateration. So, I only needed half of this liquid -- 2 - 3 cups to make this work.

I put some chopped shallots, garlic and white wine into a saucepan:

I brought it to a boil, then let it simmer and reduce until the liquid was nearly gone. I added the 2 - 3 cups of barigoule liquid and cooked it for about 40 minutes, until it had reduced to a little under a cup of liquid was remaining.

I strained this liquid into another small saucepan and got rid of the garlic and shallots.

I then heated and reduced this liquid until it was darker and more syrupy, then poured it into my blender:

I turned on the motor and slowly drizzled in some olive oil. I tasted as I went to make sure it was the right balance of oil and acid. I also added a smidge of salt, and an even smaller smidge (smidgelette?) of pepper. I set the vinaigrette aside until it was time to plate.

The only thing left to do was prep the fish, which I'd cook at the same time the ravioli was happily cooking away. I say happily cooking away because deep inside the twisted confines of my mind, I was hoping against hope that they wouldn't fall apart in the water, leaving a crapped-up, artichokey disaster on my hands.

Back to the fish. The lovely, gorgeous, striped bass -- a.k.a. rockfish -- which I got from the ever-hilarious and quite handsome fishmonger at BlackSalt.

I cut the fish into smaller three-ounce servings, seasoned each side with salt and pepper, and cooked it (skin side-down first) in a little bit of canola oil. While this was going on, I dropped the ravioli into some boiling, salted water and let them cook for about 4 minutes.

I also warmed up some of the reserved chopped artichoke (from before I made the ravioli filling out of it), carrots, and pearl onions, and added some tomato diamonds, parsley, and butter in a small saucepan. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, and got ready to plate.

If you're following along with The French Laundry Cookbook, you'll notice there's also mention of using basil oil in this dish. I opted not to make it because the basil I got at Whole Foods ended up being limp and awful in the two days it took to getting around to using it in this dish.

To plate, I spooned a circle of barigoule vinaigrette onto each plate, topped it with a ravioli, then added the fish and the vegetables. I topped the dish with a small sprig of chervil (one of my favorite herbs):

Whaddya think? It looks pretty well-composed, doesn't it? Not bragging here, but this was a really gorgeous dish in person. It smelled great, and tasted divine. I love rockfish, so I'm happy to eat it whenever I can. I gotta admit -- that ravioli was pretty freakin' awesome, too. The pasta was the perfect texture, the filling was light in heft, but strong in flavor, and the vegetables were really, really nice. There were only three of us dining that night, and we all liked it.

Was it a Thomas Keller PlateLicker™ or FaceKisser™? No, it was not. Not even close. But it didn't suck. And that's about the highest praise yer gonna get outta me when it comes to the artichoke.

Up Next: Saddle of Rabbit in Applewood-Smoked Bacon with Caramelized Fennel and Fennel Oil

Striped bass from
Produce from
Whole Foods
Eggs from
Smith Meadows Farm
King Arthur flour
Benissimo sherry vinegar
Antica Italia olive oil

Music to Cook By: Rick Astley; Whenever You Need Somebody. Damn you, YouTube. Damn. You. All that RickRolling on April 1st song-poisoned me, so I had to listen to Rick as I cooked. And, yes. I have more than one Rick Astley album on my iTunes. What? Like you don't.

Read my previous post: Salad of Globe Artichokes with Garden Herbs and Gazpacho


michael, claudia and sierra said...

i just want to know if there was even ONE clean pot or pan or appliance or dish in your house after making alla this...

anywho - regardless - it totally sounds good to me.

have fun in LA LA land. wish i were there too!

Cabot said...

I can't believe I got RickRolled.I am usually so careful. Anyways just wanted to say artichokes are not my favorite either and I hate cilantro too. I got the French Laundry Cookbook about a month ago and have made the brioche; it was pretty much amazing.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled into this blog last week from Michael Ruhlman's comment about your April Fool's Day post.

Anyways, love the blog and feel free to collect your commission for the two books I just bought, FL and Bouchon all because of this blog.

I'm currently at March '07 right now and will catch up soon. But I'm learning a lot of new swear words that I can't wait to try out on my kids. This is so kewl!

Kitt said...

Well, I'm so glad you're taking one or two for the team, because I do love artichokes, and it's so nice to know more about this recipe. I will make it for the ravioli alone. (BTW, what did you use to cut the ravioli? Biscuit cutter?)

Enjoy your (well-deserved) vacation!

Joseph D'Antoni said...

Looks awesome Carol. I'd like to know what cut of fish Mr. TK uses--that pic in his book is like a perfect C shape.

Your skin looks very nice. Enjoy LA LA land.

Anonymous said...

Rick!! Every time I hear his name I think of the song by Nick Lowe called "All men are liars" that included this gem of a verse:

Do you remember Rick Astley?
He had a big fat hit that was ghastly.
He said I’m never gonna give you up or let you down.
Well I’m here to tell ya that Dick’s a clown
Though he was just a boy when he made that vow.
I’d bet it all that he knows by now.

I love the shot of the glass of wine, wrapped fish with your name on it, and the open book. It encapsulates the warm, homey, personal and nerdy nature of this blog. A candidate for the book cover in a couple years.

Anonymous said...

Artichoke hateration? How is this possible?

Anonymous said...

I bet Bloomberg loves artichokes, and because you don't, this means he will be mine, all MINE! MWAHAHAHA!

Anonymous said...

I think it's really cool that the ever-hilarious and quite handsome fishmonger writes your name on your packages.

It's the little things, you know?

Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who got brain poisoned by the RickRoll.

Did you see the Muppet version?

Anonymous said...

I just wish you would invite ME over when you made something, anything with artichokes as they're only my favorite food on earth and I'm thinking of starting a super-secret side blog where I can wax rhapsodic about them all day, away from the judgmental eyes of haters. Don't tell anyone.

Carol Blymire said...

Claudia: I KNOW. That's the one thing about doing these kinds of dishes. If you're not a clean-as-you-go gal like me, you're hosed. Bigtime.

Tim: Glad you bought the books; you're gonna be a happy camper.

Kitt: I used a 2" biscuit cutter for the ravioli.

RT: You are too kind. :)

Catherine: don't make me fight you. I have an in now with Simon Monjack, and well, you know...

Spoonie: I know. It's cute, isn't it?

Anita: I did and I love it! I love how Animal drums almost exactly the same beat. Too cute.

Deb: Start that blog. I dare you. I will be "Anonymous" that posts every week saying how stupid artichokes are. :)

Hillary said...

Shutters! Verry nice. :)

(Oh yeah, the dish looks great, too. I have just started experimenting with the KA pasta roller attachment; first try with egg pasta went great save the, erm, bits of metal that came out of the attachment...we picked those out before boiling, at least I think we got them all. Second try, enh. I just bought some semolina so experiments will continue.)

Enjoy your break! I hear you re the allergies; my eyes are swollen and itchy and I'm well north of your 'hood.


amber said...

haven't finished reading the post yet, but that cookbook store is right down the street from me. i finally noticed it before we left for vacation in march and have plans to take a stroll down there in the next few weeks. it looks like a great little hole in the wall :)

hope you're enjoying the weather!

Anonymous said...

Dearest Carol:

A niggling quibble:

3 oz portions! WT%*&#@+? I mean, I KNOW it's a sensible portion, but when it's good fresh fish, a little gluttony is just fine.

Artichokes, ummmmm, loves 'em. I was travelling with a friend in Cali some years ago and another friend who lives in Woodside took us down to Half Moon Bay for a gawk. While driving around the area, we became a mite peckish and stopped at a roadside stand. Back in those days they were growing lots of 'chokes in the area (I think they were most recently growing luxury condos) and the stand had a special. 10 artichoke hears, deep-fried, with a mayonaissey dip for a buck or two. I was in heaven.

That linoleum is looking way better than my floors do at the moment.


Anonymous said...

This has to be one of the most stunning dishes you've done Carol. Looks like Thomas Keller helped you out.

Carol Blymire said...

HollerHither: metal fragments? Yipes.

Amber: I was in your 'hood last night for dinner. You'll love Cooks Library. The men who work there are especially helpful and hilarious.

Erika said...

Mmm, looks awesome! I love artichokes but unfortunately my family doesn't. So I get them all to myself with lots of butter & aioli.
Enjoy LA, we are having perfect weather right now.

Anonymous said...

Very impressive! I'm exhausted just seeing all the work you did. Do you have your own sous chef, if not you need one!

Anonymous said...

Wow. The fish looks stunning but what really gets me is the artichoke ravioli. I have to make it.

Renee said...

I'm so glad you know that they're rockfish!! :)