Saturday, December 17, 2005

Skate with beurre noisette

Everyone at the Milwaukee Public Market is cheerful and friendly, but being nice gets you only so far. At one counter they tried to sell me a cheese coated in red wax as Italian fontina. It's actually Danish and the difference makes a difference. It took the deli 10 minutes to slice me a few bits of prosciutto and I might have been the first person ever to ask for it. The man working the brand new meat slicer was suspiciously tentative. The organic produce stand ordered a surplus of wild mushrooms to please Rick Bayless when he came to cook at the market last week, but yesterday no one could identify the varieties correctly. I'll grant you that maitake and matsutake sound alike but if you're in the veggie business you should no more confuse them than a violinist should confuse Schubert and Schumann.

The woman at the fish counter complimented me for knowing so much about fish. This was a dig at her other customers, clearly, because I'm a moron when it comes to fish. I've never cooked a whole fish, I've never filleted a whole fish, I don't know the first thing about buying fish. I'm really not knowledgeable. She said it after I named several varieties of filleted fish on display that were missing the little signs to tell you what they are and what they cost. Well, there is no mistaking skate with its wide wale corduroy texture and broad wing shape. It gratified me way out of proportion when she said it had been her pleasure to serve me and sounded like she meant it.

There is no doubt that the market is a great boon for the city, but even though the building was finished two months ago the place is still a work in progress.

Skate for two:
1 lb skate fillet
2 oz (1/2 a stick) butter
1 tbs olive oil
handful of parsley, minced
flour for dredging
salt and pepper
1 tbs white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and put a plate in to warm up.

Heat up a large, nonstick pan and melt about a tbs of butter in combination with the oil. Season the skate with salt and pepper and dredge in flour to coat. Saute the skate over medium heat about two minutes per side, until not quite done. Transfer to the plate in the oven. (The oven and carryover cooking will finish off the fish.)

Turn the heat up to high and toss in the rest of the butter. When it begins to brown and smells fragrant, kill the heat, add the parsley and vinegar, stir it up, and drizzle it over the fish. It's that easy.

This skate tasted like chefy restaurant food, which is not usually what I'm after in the kitchen but is a pleasant enough surprise when it chances to happen.

Beurre noisette, if you're still here, is usually translated "brown butter" but my sense is that a more accurate rendering would be "nutty butter." That makes me think of cookies, naturally, so I stick with the original.


Blogger Kalyn Denny said...

Yum. I love cheffy restaurant food, (although I usually produce home cooked family food.)

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It never occurred to me that I might be able to get skate in Pittsburgh. As soon as the strip district gets de-mobbified after the holidays, I'm going down to Wholey's Fish and see. It seems to me that if they've got it out your way, I have a hope.
I love skate-but have only had it in other countries thus far, along with several other fishes I also love-esp. plaice-which I believe to be, in itself, a good reason to move to the uk..
This sounds particularly good to me.
I enjoy good chef-y tasting food in restaurants, and don't mind making it at home sometimes- as long as it doesn't involve chef-y gymnastics or elaborate plate scuptures.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I ADORE skate. I so often forget about it though...I just might have to run out and see if I can find some.

8:00 PM  

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