It’s 8:30 as I sit to write this blog, and on my screen in front of me is the opening montage of the 2011 Academy Awards. This Inception sequence is awesome; all the belly laughs are helping me percolate the lovely meal I’ve just created and shamelessly ingested, in honor of the Oscars. I like to think Anne Hathaway and James Franco would have enjoyed this meal (despite any dietary restrictions or like allergies to FANTASTIC, or something), and that the latter would still have fit into her bedazzled white gown even after eating it. I started with some lovely blue marlin steaks, purchased yesterday in Newburyport after running errands and visiting precious friends. This is a fish I’ve never before had the pleasure of trying; its firm textured flesh resembled tuna, only instead of a florid pink it was almost stark white, like swordfish. I rested this thick steak at the edge of a tangy, sweet, spicy and rich smooth tomato and pickled peppadew puree, draped it with a supple, golden homemade hollandaise sauce, the pairing classic a la oscar ingredients, crabmeat and asparagus, and then crowned it briny, toothsome caviar. The result was a theatrical explosion of color and texture, a tour-de-force of flavor, and a perfect homage to the glamor, beauty, and talent being celebrated tonight on my living room’s TV.
Broiled Blue Marlin Oscar with Red Carpet Tomato Peppadew Puree and Golden Caviar
6 fresh tomatoes
4oz pickled peppadew peppers
1 small red onion, diced
2 tbs honey
1 bay leaf
1 tbs oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 8oz blue marlin steaks
4 egg yolks
juice of 1 lemon
1 stick butter, melted
1 lb fresh asparagus spears
6 oz fresh crabmeat
2 oz caviar
cracked black pepper
This meal is not really all that difficult or time consuming to make, except for the red carpet. I didn’t just want to throw something red on the plate — it needed to work with the meal I was planning. Any store-bought, pre-made puree would have been too sweet and thick, and I wanted to make something with a bit more snap, with fresh flavors, where I controlled the consistency to best replicate the velvet I had in mind. But making a good tomato puree takes a good portion of a day (mine took 4 hours), so I had to begin with this component – even though I would only use about a tablespoon of it on each plate. I started by washing, trimming, roughly chopping, and salting my tomatoes. I also add my oregano and cracked black pepper – and I let this marinate on my cutting board for 10 minutes or so before using.
Most recipes I pulled up for tomato puree called for sweet red peppers, but I had something spicier in mind. If you follow my blog, though, you know that I can’t do too much heat – my body don’t like it – but the pickled peppadew is something, er, different. It’s hot, for sure, but also sweet. I thought it might add just the right kick to my puree to offset the richness of the hollandaise sauce.
I chop my peppers, add them to a heavy bottomed pot with my salted and herbed tomatoes, my diced onions, my honey, and my bay leaf. I set the heat on medium high, and then stab and poke at them relentlessly (probably not necessary, but damn satisfying) until the’ve started to release all their liquids, and the tomatoes have begun to break down. I leave them to cook down for an hour.
After said hour, my tomatoes, peppers, and spices have turned into a thick, rich sauce. But this is just step one.
At this point, using my finest screen, I press the contents of my pan into a bowl, separating all the juice and thick pulp from the sinews and skins. This takes me several passes; I try to make sure I’ve squeeze and sieved all the juicy, flavorful goodness that I could from the, well, the chaff.
I move this sweetness to my smallest saucepan, add my minced garlic, stir well, and set over low heat, stirring occaisonally, for the next 3 hours. Basically, I reduce as much liquid out as I can; by the time I’m finished…
… I have about 3 tablespoons of a very thick, very rich, very concentrated , very complex spicy sweet tomato paste. NICE. I set this aside for later.
The rest of the meal comes together very quickly. I start with my lovely marlin steaks. They look like fingerprints, don’t they? I marinate these babies in EVOO, fennel seeds, and a splash of lemon juice, for about 20 minutes. I then place them on a rack, over a roasting pan, into my 350 degree oven to roast for 6 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, I’ve washed, trimmed, and peeled my asparagus. I steam these for 12 minutes.
Whereas the tomato/peppadew paste was the most time consuming part of this meal, the hollandaise is the most technically difficult. (In fact, my first attempt broke; at the last minute, I had to trash the whole separated batch, scream at Clayton while he hurriedly washed the dishes I’d need again, and start all over. Thank Papa Smurf I had a whole dozen eggs to screw up with.) I start by melting a stick of butter, and harvesting 4 yolks from some fresh eggs.
I have a make-shift double-boiler set up; basically, my small saucepan with an inch of water, over while I can set my much larger bowl, in which I…
… have whisked my yolks and lemon juice.
Whisking constantly, my water barely simmering and *not* touching the bottom of my bowl, I dribble a steady stream of melted butter into my bowl, watching the texture of my sauce thicken and the volume double. If it gets too thick, I add a teaspoon or so of the boiling water from the pan below… this will thin it slightly without breaking. (Well, it worked the second time…)
The final ingredient — which, along with the asparagus and hollandaise, makes this recipe truly a la Oscar, and therefore well suited to the Academy Awards — is crabmeat.
And the final FINAL ingredient, which adds the Hollywood power to my high-brow feast, is caviar. (Admittedly, I wanted black caviar – American paddlefish or sturgeon, maybe – but alas, I couldn’t afford it. Gold it was — this is whitefish.)
A glamorous, colorful, full-bodied meal; a Hollywood shark on a tangy velvety red carpet, wearing a golden cape, draped with money green spears, studded with fancy white crabmeat and crowned with golden caviar. While the Academy Awards march across my TV screen, this award-worthy meal melts across my palate, filling me with inspiration, emotion, and satisfaction – just like a good film, and dinner, should do. The fish is hearty, like a white-meat steak, and the luscious lemony buttery egg sauce is perfectly complemented by the zesty tomato and peppadew puree – just like I’d hoped. The crabmeat and asparagus provide sweet texture and earthy sinews, and the dollop of caviar imparts a cultured brininess that brings all the flavors together with gusto. Elegant, complicated, yet honest and light – this well-dressed meal would look good gracing anyone’s red carpet – or plate!