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Anya von Bremzen's Roasted Halibut

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It's been a rough couple of days. I've been helping Ben move out of his apartment, while battling a resurgence of the nasty insomnia I had last year. When I do sleep, I'm beset by freaky dreams, and being felled by a migraine on Saturday didn't help the situation much. I was too busy to even step into my kitchen for five days (though I did make a nice little pot of pasta al pomodoro for sustenance while we packed up all of Ben's worldly possessions at his apartment) and then when matters undiscussable on this website cropped up yesterday, it was all I could do to keep myself collected and calm enough to make it to the grocery store and home in one piece.

Somehow I did. The reemergence of cold rain after a weekend that brought warmth and joy to so many sun-starved New Yorkers was sort of a smack in the face. Do I sound a bit melodramatic? I'm feeling that way. You know there's a problem when tears well up in your eyes and you choke on your cinnamon Puffins while watching an television spot for Eliot Spitzer at 8:46 in the morning. I mean, I like the guy and all, but that was even a bit much for me. If you live in New York, maybe you know which ad I mean? Forgive me, I'm feeling pathetic.

Like I was saying, though, I made it to the store and home with only marginally drenched feet and a sack full of dinner. It would be something well-balanced and nutritious - to feed my mind and spirit. I had a recipe clutched in one hand that I'd printed out from The New York Times - courtesy of Anya von Bremzen's new book on Spanish cooking. It sounded delicious: a bed of boiled, sliced potatoes covered with spicy, garlicky oil and fat pieces of halibut, roasted together in the oven at a high temperature. But once I'd put it all together and we sat on the couch eating it, I kept thinking that something about the meal wasn't right.

The fish was terrific - the high temperature and short time in the oven produced a perfectly cooked filet. I'll definitely keep that truc in mind. But the half-cup of olive oil? It was really a bit much. Even if most of it was cooked with sherry vinegar (which filled the house with a pungent fragrance, but didn't do much to flavor the dish), it didn't keep the potatoes from swimming in the oil. Drizzled on some steamed broccoletti, the oil was nice, but who can stomach a half-cup of it, even if divided among four people? Incidentally, I made the full amount of potatoes but only half the amount of fish. There were no leftovers. A pound of sliced potatoes is definitely not enough for four people, unless they're very small people.

In truth, I felt like von Bremzen's recipe was a bit lazy. Couldn't she have figured out a less-greasy but still tasty way to cook the potatoes and fish? I know it's possible: I made a version of this dish from Martha Stewart several years ago, but with raw, sliced potatoes and tilefish and kalamata olives and melted butter. The sharp olive flavor cut through the buttery potatoes nicely and the thin, light fish was the perfect counterpoint. Chopped parsley on top actually gave it a nice herbal note (instead of disappearing entirely into the oil bath). I'd made it for friends who couldn't stop raving about it, and would make it again and again in a heartbeat. But I think I'll let this halibut dish fall by the wayside. Although it did do a nice job of reseasoning my pan.

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