Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fish and ..... Bananas?

This challenge came from Sketchy, who chose a recipe from the Alinea cookbook - Skate with Traditional Flavors Powdered. This was a really busy month for me and I cannot say I was enthusiastic about doing this recipe. Lots of time-consuming steps (not technically difficult, just lots of time) and I wasn't sure I would find the couple days I would need to complete all the prep. Despite misgivings, I decided to give it a try.

Skate is a little manta-ray like fish, which, in addition to being hard to find, is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's "avoid" list. Besides that, the fish guy at Metropolitan Market seemed to think it would take lots of time to prep - lots of cartilage. So, I substituted Alaskan cod, which seemed to work just fine.

I also followed the recipe in the Alinea cookbook rather than using the changes Sketchy suggested. It was fewer ingredients and fewer steps, which worked better with my schedule.

First up, the powders. I dried capers and parsley in the toaster oven - about three hours for the capers and an hour for the parsley - then ground them in my spice grinder. I poached lemon rind in simple syrup (three times) and then dried it in the toaster oven for about three hours and then ground it. I also ground dried banana chips. I baked dried milk on a Silpat for several minutes until it was brown and then combined it with the banana chip powder.

The green beans were sliced into little rounds, about 1/4". They were poached in beurre monte, which is unsalted butter combined with a small amount of simmering water in an emulsion. The entire recipe called for one pound of butter made into beurre monte!! That's a lot of butter! I poached them very briefly.

The cod was cut into slices and poached in the beurre monte until done and then drained.

To compose the plate, I put three fresh banana slices on the plate, topped with the green beans and the fish. I sprinkled some of the banana/milk powder along the edge of the fish. The other three powders (caper, parsley, and lemon) were swirled on the plate. The idea was to take a bite which had all the flavors: banana, beans, fish, and all the powders. I told Bob, my long-suffering guinea pig husband, that if it was ghastly, we would go out! But it wasn't! It was really quite good and Bob even had seconds. No way would I have imagined that banana and green beans went with fish, but it was quite tasty and the powders just enhanced all the flavors. I guess that is why Grant Achatz, chef at Alinea, has such an amazing reputation for putting together unusual textures and flavors. I have to go to Chicago and eat his food!

So a successful challenge despite all my reservations. Probably not a dish I will ever do again, but an eye-opener for sure.


  1. Don't believe all the fish lists you read. We caught 4 skate without even trying. Lots of things are that way in Alaska. Endangered everywhere but here.

  2. No matter how much you tell me it is good, I still think it sounds gross.

  3. Beautiful job on this challenge =D. I love your powder swirls!!