Like making 5 dishes out of the French Laundry Cookbook wasn't enough of a challenge, I decided that the best dish to make as the main course would be fish. I don't even really like fish. But I became a much more open-minded eater after spending 3 months in India where choice wasn't often an option in terms of what we ate that day. I can probably say that I will now happily eat shrimp, lobster and the occasional oyster but mostly when someone else makes it for me. Turning 26 was a reason to start cooking sea food for myself.
Not even knowing what Skate was, I settled on making Spotted Skate Wing with Braised Cabbage & Mustard Sauce, figuring that cabbage and mustard sauce could mask any unpleasant fishiness. Which is true unless you buy spoiled Skate Wing! Crap-on-a-stick that stuff stinks! And the worse part was that it smelled FINE until Kris went to take his FIRST BITE! So we actually, touched, cooked and plated this crap onto a sauce and cabbage. Guys, this stuff almost made it into my mouth!
Trying to be wise about buying and cooking fish for the first time, I took a good sniff at the fish counter before making my purchase and it smelled fine. Apparently a fishy smell is the first sign of a bad fishmonger. Maybe I couldn't smell anything fishy because the fish was almost all frozen. First clue? Fine, call me naive. I just don't know. The skate wing even smelled fine at my house while it was defrosting. But when Kris speared his fork into the side of the skate and pulled out a piece of flesh we were engulfed by a STRONG smell of ammonia. I could NOT believe that such a chemical smell was coming out of something natural. Maybe the skate was mistakenly dropped in a bucket of ammonia? THAT'S THE ONLY EXPLANATION!!. Maybe not... but this was the one mishap (some may say disaster) of the meal. Luckily, in anticipation of NOT finding skate wing, I had already bought some lovely halibut from Whole Foods and it saved the day.
You ready to see this? I've got some mustard sauce prep for you and that's about it.
I'm pretty sure that the mustard sauce "broke" because the butter never really emulsified with anything else- but come to think of it, the only other liquid in this sauce was 1 tablespoon of cream. and about 2 teaspoons of mustard versus 10 tablespoons of butter.
See? It just looks like melted butter with some spices whisked in. It tasted fine! In fact, the veggies we cooked in the butter before straining the sauce were delicious on their own!
The cabbage was a pretty straight forward braised cabbage recipe. Chop, sear, combine and bake for a few hours. I'm not even going to show you a picture of the skate wing disaster just in case in makes my stomach turn. Here is the hero of the day: Halibut!
I had never cooked halibut either but this was much more familiar. The fish smelled good going into the pan and coming out. It was flaky and gorgeous.
The mustard sauce was really tasty, but you can't argue with mustard and butter. The cabbage was earthy and sweet with some creaminess. I would definitely make that cabbage again. The mustard powder was easy to make and added an extra fun bonus on the plate if you wanted to punch up the flavor of a bite or two.
Overall? An eventual fish success!
Halibut with Braised Cabbage & Mustard Sauce
Adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook
Pool some of the mustard sauce onto a plate. Top with about 1/4 cup braised cabbage and top with a piece of halibut. Carefully arrange 3 rays of mustard powder at the edge of the plate radiating from the fish like the SUN.
Makes about 1 & 1/2 cup of braised cabbage.
- 3/4 pound Red Cabbage
- 3/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 tbl butter (or duck fat!)
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 1/4 cup finely grated granny smith apple
- 1/4 cup veal or veggie stock
- 2 tsp honey
- 1/2 cup grated Russet potato
Chop the cabbage into 1/4 ribbons, making sure to remove the large white core and ribs. In a large bowl combine the cabbage with the red wine and let it rest, covered, in the fridge overnight.
The following day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a large dutch oven and melt the butter. Add the red onion and toss for a few minutes until slightly softened. Add the cabbage and red wine mixture, letting it cook for another few minutes. Add the apple and veggie stock and combine. Cover and place in the oven for about 2 hours or until most of the moisture is evaporated. Add in the honey and potato and combine well. If needed, add about 1/4 cup more water or veggie stock. Return to the oven for 30-45 minutes or until the cabbage and potato are soft.
Can be stored in the fridge for 5 days.
- 1/4 cup chopped leek
- 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
- 3 tbl chopped carrot
- 1/2 cup veal stock
- 1 tbl heavy cream
- 10 tbl butter
- 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tsp grainy mustard
- 1 tbl Brunoise
- 2 tsp minced chives
Start off by browning the chopped leeks, mushrooms and carrots in a bit of canola oil in a saucepan. Next add your veal stock (of if you're me- veggie stock) and cook the mixture down on low heat to just a few tablespoons. You should have a thick glace. While whisking the mixture, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, adding each tablespoon of butter after the first one has fully melted. Once the butter is fully incorporated, strain it into a new saucepan. Whisk in the mustards and add the brunoise and chives. Keep the sauce warm until the plating.
Or if you're feeling lucky, you can get Spotted Skate Wing....
- 1 1/2 pounds halibut
- flour for dusting
Cut your fish into pieces about 2" x 3" or about 3oz per portion. Lightly dust each piece in flour. Heat about 1/8" of canola oil in a saute pan until quite hot. Dust the excess flour off your fish and place it skin side down (if you have skin) for a about 2-3 minutes. Baste the fish with the oil. Salt and pepper the top. Flip the fish to "kiss" the other side. Remove from pan and plate immediately.
- 1 tbl black mustard seeds
- 1 tbl yellow mustard seeds
Combine yellow and black mustard seeds in a spice grinder and grind! If you don't have a very precise or consistent grinder, trying gently shaking it up and down while carefully and strategically holding the grinder while it grinds. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and store in an airtight container.