Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pacific Moi with Fresh Soybeans, Scallion and Radish Salad, and Soy-Temple Orange Glaze

Oh people, I am in love. With a FISH of all things. Is that bad? I mean, I think I can find room in my heart for one more culinary luv-ah. Move over, bacon... slide a little to the right, bordelaise sauce.... Bloomberg, you stay put, honey. We'll slide that moi right there beside ya. Perfect.

I can't decide how much of my moi-love is about the fish itself, or the double-secret-probation covert ops it took to get this delectable fish out of the Hawaiian waters, onto a plane to the east coast, and into my hot little hands.

First, let's start with some background. Moi (pronounced "moy") is rare for home cooks to come by here on the east coast. In fact, now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever seen it on a restaurant menu here, either. The only place I've seen moi on a menu was in Maui 10 years ago; I didn't order it then, and boy am I kicking myself now. Centuries ago, it was the fish of kings -- and only the wealthy and privileged were able to eat it. Today, it's sustainably farmed in Hawaiian waters and enjoyed by all Hawaiians.

So, how did I get this rare little fishy in my kitchen? Back in February, when I was buying monkfish (ugh, THAT was a disaster of a dish), I told my fishmonger, Scott, that I needed to get my hands on some fresh moi -- not Cryovac™ed and frozen, but fresh outta the water. He laughed and laughed and "there-there'd" me until I snapped his ass back into reality and said, "No. Dude. I really do need some moi. Can ya help me out?" I think right after that he said something like "Fat chance, you crack monkey" and then suggested I book us two tickets to Hawaii to go pick some up -- and believe me, I was tempted.

Over the next few weeks and months, everytime I went to BlackSalt, whether to buy fish in the market or have lunch with friends, I'd pester Scott with my need for moi. He'd say, "Yeah, yeah, I'm workin' on it" which I bought hook, line and sinker (ha!) time and time again. Finally, I said, "Dude. I'm really ready for this moi. Can we get some, or do I have to *gulp* make a substitution?" His reply was: "You're not gonna believe this, but I think I can get us some."

Aw yeah.

There was much back and forth on how we were getting it: where's it coming from // I can't tell you // Are you just gonna hack up some catfish and tell me it's moi // No, really, I know this guy // Oh really; that sounds credible // He's a customer // But is he also a reputable fish purveyor // Not exactly, but he can have some moi flown in because he, like, knows some people // Are you serious and is this legal // Um, I think so // Oh boy, you think so; so when's it coming // I can't say; it will be kind of last-minute // But I'm a control freak and I need to know every detail or else I will have to pace the floor and brush my hair for six hours until it is even more shiny and perfect // Oh, can it, sister // Beep boop boo beep // What are you doing // I'm pressing the numbers on my phone to annoy you so you'll tell me when the fish will be here // Oh fer cryin' out loud, I promise, it'll be any day now // No really, when's it coming // The red dog flies at midnight.

After one or two false alarms and one delivery mishap by the lovely folks at Fed Ex, my phone rang early one morning with Scott on the other end of the line saying the moi had arrived. I jumped out of bed, showered and got dressed, and hauled ass over to BlackSalt to pick it up lickety-split. It was so pretty and lovely before he filleted it for me. Sadly, I do not have a photo of that because I suck and in my haste to get there so quickly, I forgot my camera. Sorry. However, thanks to the good people at the University of Hawaii, I can show you their photo of a whole moi, ready to be cooked and eaten with love:

Gorgeous. And, let's all give Scott Weinstein a big round of applause for providing me with the right fish for this dish so that I didn't have to use monkfish, canned tuna or some shit.

::: clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap :::

Nicely done. Now, let's move on to the dish.

The first thing I did was prepare the radish salad. Using my mandoline, I julienned some green onions (not the best-looking cuts you'll ever see -- whoops), carrot and radish:

I put the julienned vegetables in a bowl of ice water to hold them until I was ready to plate.

The next step was making the orange glaze. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this somewhere on the blog before, but I have carpal tunnel syndrome. I'm afraid to have the surgery to correct it (I've heard too many awful stories about how it actually makes things worse), so instead, I make concessions in my everyday actitvities to accommodate it. One of those concessions is buying fresh-squeezed juices instead of squeezing the citrus myelf. I've had the fresh juices from Balducci's before and they're really, really good, so I bought a small bottle of their orange juice to use in this dish. The idea of squeezing enough oranges to provide two cups of juice was painful enough in thought, let alone execution. So, I started with some orange juice, which I reduced over medium heat until it had gone from 2 cups to just under a half a cup:

I removed it from the heat and set it aside while I prepared the soybeans. Now, I suppose I could've driven all the way up Georgia Avenue to the Asian supermarket to find fresh soybeans, but the chance of them having any is usually slim-to-none, and I was driving right past my favorite Japanese restaurant, Murasaki, on the way home from picking up the moi, so I decided to just get the edamame from them so I didn't have to blanch them when I got home -- they were already steamed in salt water.

I removed them from their pods and put them in a small saucepan with some tomato diamonds, brunoise, and a little bit of butter and heated the mixture over low heat until it was warmed throughout:

I reheated the orange glaze to a simmer and whisked in two tablespoons of butter as well as the soy sauce, and kept it warm over low heat:

I removed the julienned carrots, radishes, and green onions from their ice-water bath, patted them dry and tossed them in a bowl with some minced chives and some lemon olive oil:

Last, but most certainly not least, it was time to cook that lovely, lovely fish:

The French Laundry Cookbook suggests serving pieces that are 3.5"x1", but I made my pieces a bit larger than that because this fish was expensive, and I wanted to make sure I didn't waste a single bit of it. I seasoned each of the pieces with salt and pepper:

I then cooked them, skin side down first, for about 3 minutes, then flipped them over to the fleshy side for just under a minute. To plate, I started with the orange glaze, on top of which went the soybean mixture. On top of that, the moi; and, on top of the moi went the radish salad:
Ooo, ahh... just a little bit... ooo ahhh, a little bit more... ooo, ahh... just a little bit, you know what I'm lookin' for.... baby, please... you're all I neeeeed.....

Nothin' like a little Gina G. dance-mix-love-ballad for my moi.

Let me talk about how full-bodied this fish is. I know that's probably a strange term to use when you're talking about fish, but I don't care. It had heft to it, but wasn't steak-y. It was heavy, but not too fishy tasting. It had enough fat in it that it was silky smooth, but it was also light on the palate and really, really delicious. The skin was crispy and perfect, and I couldn't have been happier. I also really loved the soybeans, but do you know what the hit of the night was? The orange-soy glaze. For as much as we loved the fish (and we all really did), the glaze took it waaaay over the top and turned a grand slam into... um.... a shut-out-filled World Series win, or whatever baseball analogy suits best (I'm crap at sports, so YOU figure something out). There was just enough soy sauce to cut the orangey-ness of the orange, and the consistency of it was perfect. And, the radish salad added a nice, sharp crunchy and cool complement to the dish that, when I read the recipe I though I might not like, but it tied it all together really nicely.

I think this dish is really easy to pull off. If you have your very own Scott, then have him or her pull out all the stops to get some moi. If you don't, TOO BAD FOR YOU. Kidding. (sort of) You could make this dish and substitute some halibut, or maybe some pompano... something with a fatty, almost buttery texture and you'll be set. It is soooooo worth trying, even for the orange-soy glaze on its own. You won't regret it, I promise.

Up Next: Q&A with Carol, Part Deux... and my dinner at Alinea

Moi from BlackSalt
Edamame from
Produce from Balducci's

O Meyer lemon olive oil
365 organic butter and canola oil
Fresh-squeezed orange juice from Balducci's
Kimlan soy sauce (even though its name makes me think of ChemLawn - boooo)

Music to Cook By: The Little Ones; Lovers Who Uncover. Another KCRW find and a CD from Red Light Management (thanks, guys!). I love their pace and their musicality, and there's just something about these guys that makes it fun to cook to AND fun to clean up to. They recently worked with the guitarist from the Mighty Lemon Drops, which is the band I was seeing at the old 930 Club the night that paragon of virtue Marion Barry was arrested for smoking crack with Rasheeda Moore at the Vista Hotel. Good times.... good times.... anyway, they have a great sound and remind me of Echo and the Bunnymen, which is maybe why I like them so much. I think you will, too.

Read My Previous Post: Hearts of Palm with Purée of Marrow Beans and Field Greens


Heather Broad said...

Now I'm sad. I love fish and seafood so I'm always excited to try a new fish. I've seen moi on menus in Hawaii and have never tried it - I don't even know why. I feel like I've really missed out - and the chances of getting here in St Louis are nill to none. Now (poor me) I guess I'm going to have head back to Hawaii if only to try moi!

Anonymous said...

That looks delish, Carol. I'm curious to know how much the Moi cost you? I would be thanking FSM for a fish-man so wonderful as Scott.

Anonymous said...

First off, I was a Jazzercise student for 14 years, and Gina G. was one of my favorite routines, so now I have to dig my cassette out of the garage to hear some.

Sports analogy for the dish - how about a "three-pointer at the buzzer to win the game" (basketball) or you "put the biscuit in the basket" (hockey) or "the's good!!!" (football) - all good choices going forward.

If you have time during your TFL extravanganza, you may want to check out Aqua, Farrallon, or the Waterfront in San Francisco - probably the creme de la creme of seafood places in the city (I'd include Swan's Oyster Depot, but for the second word of the restaurant...) - these places always seem to procure the very best and freshest fish; how much espionage and whacking that goes on in getting the fish, I don't know...

The Mouse said...

wow, i'm the first to comment?? that phone conversation goes down in the record books of hilarity. you should turn it into a short play.

and thanks a lot, now i'm hungry.

Carol Blymire said...

Joel: Thanks for reminding me -- I meant to post that in the entry. The moi cost $75 for 3 whole fish (which yielded more than I needed for this dish, but I made moi for dinner and lunch the next two days).

Anonymous said...

Is this the part when I subtitle this post "Let's Hear It for the Moi"? I bet Deniece Williams likes herself some fish.

Bluestem said...

Hmm. I think both my kids said "moi" as their first words. At the time I thought they meant "more, more" but probably they are still pissed off that they have never had actual moi.

Sorry, kids. That's the way the [sports analogy] bounces.

amber said...

i'm so impressed you were able to get ahold of this fish! it'll be a must-try for me next time we vacation in hawaii.

LucyD -- Only Tarot said...

I've always wanted to taste moi, but never had the far. BUT until that day, my current favorite fish is Parrot Fish. It's worth searching for. Buttery, a little sweet, nice body, but not steak-y. Why, it's Just Right!

Meredith said...

Please tell us you invited Scott to dinner!?

Victoria said...

Sounds like you're going to burst into song - "I'm as corny as Kansas in August....I'm in love with a wonderful moi."

And the post is, as usual, beautiful.

Joel Peterson said...

Seriously. If you didn't invite Scott over and get his remarks after giving him all that trouble, shame on you!

Joel Peterson said...

Lots of Moi pictures at

Trying to see who always carries it here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

queenofsheba said...

You can have Mr. Bloomberg if I can have your fishmonger...

Richard Camp said...

Moi better! I really liked this dish and plan on trying it out as soon as I can get a hold of the elusive Moi. Perhaps Red snapper would be a good substitute?

Anonymous said...

Mmm...That looks delish....And tempting....I might make it myself one day if I can EVER get ahold of Moi.

I love fish :P


Anonymous said...

Loved your extra on Scott the fishmonger. Loved the covert ops to get the moi.

And you've worked in a trip to Alinea, too?! Yikes, you're getting around, girl. You're living my fantasy, may I have it back, please?

Next, I suppose you'll tell us you've been, I'm not even gonna say it.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you are going to San Francisco. You absolutely MUST try Slanted Door in the Ferry Building (in my opinion much better, but obviously different from Waterfront). It is an out of this world Vietnamese culinary experience. Sit in the bar if you can't get a rezzie. Of course, the SF options are so numerous....

CWB said...

for those of you in the Gulf South, escolar sounds like it would be a worthy substitute.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carol,
Moi in the islands used to be available at every Foodland or Big Save market (those were the days) and quite like many commercially harvested fish it too has been replaced with the farmed species. Not quite the same but better than the bleak alternative...

Saffoula, the Slanted Door used to be great when it operated in the Mission but unfortunately it has gone the way of the other commercial, noisy, who cares about service restaurants in the city. What a cornucopia of restaurants to select from.
Aloha nui...

Anonymous said...

One good looking fish and the way you presented it - mouthwatering. Obviously, it'll be a long, long time before it gets to New Hampshire......but can I dream?

Anonymous said...

Check out today. Your boyfriend shares your love of peanut butter for his "last breakfast".

queenofsheba said...

Now you have me following the man... did you see Bloomberg's last breakfast statement? "I always said if I had one breakfast to eat before I die, it would be Wonder Bread toasted, with Skippy Super Chunky melted on it, slices of overripe banana and fresh crisp bacon." Bacon and peanut butter! Found it on Serious Eats.

Chu This said...

This looks seriously amazing. I need to get my hands on some moi.

Really excited to read about your visit to Alinea!