Tuesday, March 17, 2009

One Fish, Two Fish, Irish Dish

"What are you doing?"

I can imagine how it must have looked when my husband walked in the door coming home from work yesterday, and saw me with a big vodka martini in hand. "I'm celebrating St. Patrick's Day early," I said, like it should have been obvious.

In all honesty, what I really celebrate on March 17 is my Irish Grandmother. In her mind, a true Irish meal was salmon and colcannon. And even though colcannon is traditionally associated with Halloween on the Emerald Isle, we would have it on St. Patrick's Day. Vodka? She just liked to drink it any old day. So when the general St. Patty's-celebrating population goes to the pub to eat corned beef and drink green beer, I like to remember the person who connects me to my Irish side.

Fish is so easy to cook, you just have to get a good fish. A common fish with high turnover like salmon is probably okay to get at a regular grocery store, but if you can find a reliable fishmonger, that will help ease the confusion of picking out a good piece of fish. It's okay to ask what is fresh, and to ask for a smell. It should smell like a fish, but more like the sea, and not have a pungent "fishy" smell. If you can find fish with their heads still on, look into their eyes. They should be clear. Look for bright and glossy flesh, not dry and dull, especially with scallops.

For my piece of wild salmon, I rubbed it with some olive oil and seared the skin over medium heat to give it a crisp. Then I transferred my pan to the oven and let it finish under the broiler. My oven is not the best, so I let it get a little over done. In a good oven, the broiler will brown the top of the salmon (placed on the top rack) and it will only take another 5-7 minutes depending on how thick your salmon is. The middle will be just opaque. I could have also turned the fish in the skillet on the stove top and finished searing it without transferring it to the oven.

For the colcannon, follow a basic recipe for mashed potatoes, but add shreds of cabbage (the green/white stuff, not purple) to the boiling water as the potatoes cook. Drain and mash all together with butter, milk, salt and pepper. The green things on the plate in the picture below are crispy brussel sprout "chips." To make these, wash and peel off the green outer layers of brussel sprouts, and toss with olive oil and kosher salt. Spread out in a jelly roll baking sheet and roast at 400 until crisp and edges begin to brown, about 5 minutes or so. They're better than potato chips.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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