Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cookbook Challenge Winds Down With Jack's Vermouth Sauce

It's an apropo time to celebrate my BN co-workers this week; both past and present. I was blessed to receive some wonderful collard greens from my girl Sherry this past week. I'd mentioned to her previously that I had missed good greens (among other fine cuisine) from the time Keith and I lived down South and she graciously made me some delicious greens. Yum...thanks, Sherry! Also, my co-worker Julie brought me her favorite cookbook...a copy of the Junior League of Kansas City's cookbook Beyond Parsley. Julie treasures this book and says there's not a dish she's made from this book that she hasn't loved. She even graciously highlighted several of her favorites throughout the book...thanks, Julie, can't wait to tackle it! The rest of this post is about a co-worker no longer with us.

We took our next-to-the-last stab at the Cookbook Challenge with a recipe I had been saving until I was near the end of the challenge: Jack's Seafood with Vermouth Sauce. This dish was one prepared by my friend and co-worker Jack who passed away a couple of years back. I had previously written a post dedicated to him called The Rascal speaking of his dedication to his wife and my friend Linda as well as his gourmet skills in the kitchen.

Jack, back in the day, would bring leftovers of his many dishes to work and lovingly describe them to me until I'd crack and beg to taste them. The first of these would be one of the most memorable: Poached Halibut with Vermouth Sauce. Of course, most of us know that seafood doesn't usually translate to leftovers well and it speaks to this dish that it would be so flavorful and delicious the day after. That sauce, in particular, was a big wow for me. Jack was tickled by my response and on a later date invited me over to have dinner with he and Linda and would prepare this dish again with other delicious sides. I always raved about the sauce in particular; creamy but not heavy with hints of spice and vermouth and a perfect compliment to the fish.

I suppose that it was out of some sort of reverence to Jack's memory as to why I waited so long to make this dish but it was also a bit of fear...I hadn't poached seafood yet and I wanted to get it right. I was also thwarted a bit by my local grocery outlets....everyone was out of halibut when I looked for it on Sunday. One seafood specialist, when told of my planned prep, suggested some nice looking fresh cod that he had on sale and I went for it. I did NOT think that through as halibut, while mild like the cod, is also firmer and the cod fell apart a bit when we poached it. The seafood is supposed to be in bite-size pieces, though, so the dish was not ruined by any measure.

We served this dish up with some farmer's market goodness...patty pan squash and corn on the cob. The corn was prepared with fresh herb butter and Mexican seasoning. We were unsure of how to cook the squash and after some research, we decided to bake them whole in order to preserve some of their unique look. We halved them but left them unpeeled, and cut the tops off. We then topped them with real butter, salt, minced garlic and lemon pepper to taste and baked them in a preheated oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes. The corn was excellent; fresh and spicy. The squash was full of flavor but a bit difficult to eat...I will probably cut it up a bit more when I work with the patty pan variety again.

The fish was the thing though, and the cod in vermouth sauce was fabulous...rich and savory and oh-so-good. It turned out so well, in fact, that I got a bit teary-eyed. The first taste swept me with memories...of the first time I tasted that sauce and of Jack's happy reaction to my reaction...of dinners with he and Linda and how good they were to me when I first started working with them. I didn't need further proof of the visceral power of food to trigger memory, but there it was, once again. If I'm not mistaken, I would almost think Jack was looking out for me on this one...I could almost hear his gruff voice telling me not to overcook the fish, dammit. Thanks for watching over me, Jack....hope I did ya proud.

This was CC#71 and the last recipe before the finale...Julia Child's Coq Au Vin, which will hopefully happen this weekend. Stay tuned for Jack's recipe..

Halibut in Vermouth Sauce

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 lb halibut, skinned and cut into bite-size pieces
2/3 cup dry vermouth
2 tablespoons cream
1 tbsp chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper
dill sprigs, to garnish

1. Soften the onion and garlic in the butter, then add the halibut. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes before adding sufficient vermouth to cover the fish.

2. Poach the halibut in the vermouth for about 5 minutes, then remove the halibut from the pan and keep warm.

3. Boil the cooking liqueur to reduce by half and add the cream and the parsley.

4. Season to taste with salt and pepper and use the liquor to moisten the halibut.

5. Garnish with sprigs of dill.


Lisa Mandina said...

The fish sounds really good!

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