Monday, April 24, 2006

Perfumed Fish

I haven't worn perfume since I ran out of the bright purple vanilla-musk hippie oil for which I abandoned Love's Baby Soft, but I'd resume the practice in a New York minute if I could find a product that'd make me smell as good as this fish.

... actually, he smelled kind of fishy until I'd had my way with him.

Perfumed Fish

Soak 1 Thai dried chile in a half cup of warm water. Alternatively, tell a Mexican chile you're going to take it to Thailand just as soon as the damn divorce comes through, then before it knows what's what, toss it into the teacup for a good soaking! Suckah! When it's somewhat more flexible than it was (20 minutes?) chop off the stem and reserve the soaking water.

Trim and mince 1 stalk of lemongrass. Remove the tough outer leaves if you don't want to rupture a tendon in your hand.

Chop one small shallot.

Scrape the freezer burn off the coriander roots you've been squirreling away like a lunatic and hope that they'll equal a tablespoon when chopped. (I think you'll do just fine without them, if you're just starting your frozen garbage collection. Don't let yourself get too hung up on what you don't have. Concentrate instead on what a good person you'll be, if, like the Native Americans, you use every piece of every bunch of cilantro you ever buy. In my experience, it will take you about a year to store up a tablespoon's worth, but only because sometimes, the sinful grocer trims away those roots, not knowing or perhaps even caring about the wastefulness of such aesthetic barbarism!)

Squeeze half a lime.

Haul out the blender, throw all of the above ingredients into the jar and grind it into something that true, might not be equal to attaching a pair construction paper bunny ears to a paper plate, but nonetheless resembles paste.

Cube 3/4 pound of basa fillets. You know what they call "basa" in Vietnam? Catfish. Anything with firm white flesh (rules me out!) will do.

Pour the perfumed flavor paste over the fish cubes and mix it up.

Then add a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce (my perfume! my beautiful perfume!)

Chop a couple of scallions (save the white bulbs for another use. Earrings. I don't know.) Add them too.Wait, save a tablespoon's worth to sprinkle like jimmies over the finished product.

Denude the poor basil plant on the windowsill of yet another half dozen leaves. shred them and chuck them in too.

You do have a bamboo steamer don't you? If not, you can rig something up, can't you? I used to upend a teacup in a stockpot, then balance a cereal bowl on top of it...and let me tell you, am I glad those days are over. For this recipe, I put the fish in four plastic rice bowls - yes, the ones the children will eat their cereal out of a few hours later - and distributed them between 2 bamboo steaming baskets, stacked atop a medium sized pot.

Steam for 40 minutes.

Serve over rice, garnished with the scallion-jimmies.

I'm having a helluva time reading Julia Child's posthumously published memoir, My Life in France. She just described an older female acquaintance as being "as vigorous as a pirate". Let us all resolve that tomorrow, we, too, shall be vigorous as pirates.


Blogger MonkeyBites said...

Ack. The rockfish I once cooked took me 2 weeks to air out of my house. It could have used a perfume bathing, indeed.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just have to comment that I am laughing so hard that I practically spit-taked (is that a word?) my coffee at the computer screen. Vigorous pirates! Julia Child! I just found an old copy of her Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the Goodwill. Could not resist but I think I'd rather read her memoir than try to boil some calf livers or something Frenchy like that.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Meg said...

Hey there, I just wanted to say I've been enjoying your sassy blog and checking in regularly for new posts. I enjoy your style of writing and the types of foods/events/scenarios you cover. Keep up the great work!

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds great, but I would recommend using catfish. The catfish in the stores is almost all farm-raised in the southern U.S. and is one of the best examples of sustainable aquaculture. The basa farming in Vietnam has taken a short sighted profit-hungry approach that is depleting small marine fish that they are using up to feed the basa farms. It is having a serious effect on the ecosystem, especially as production has intensified.

Going back to the catfish though, I've found it to be a great flavor carrier. It has a rather mild taste and really takes on the flavors and aromas I cook it with.

8:54 AM  

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