Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cook outside the lines (plus grilling a whole black sea bass)

Every so often you fall into a rut.

The monotonous chopping on the cutting board.

(Vegetable Tuesdays)

The familiar bing of the numeric keypad on the microwave.

(Frozen Dinner Wednesdays)

4 quarts. 1 tbsp. 8 minutes to boil. 10 minutes to cook.

(Pasta Thursdays)

Although, it's probably not smart to follow your visions of grandeur for that first time you cook for her (Food Network contestants can't pull together a meringue in 30 minutes, so what makes you think you can too??? You're already stressing out about everything else!).

So maybe on that third meal, you step out of your comfort zone. Cook something you've never cooked before. Try something completely new. It may not deliver the same kind of adrenaline as skydiving from a Groupon-promoted, hippie skydiving coop, but it could work for a monotonous Tuesday night.

But be honest, tell her you have no idea what you're doing. Don't be too serious. Make it fun. Have her help you out. Work together.

  • Avoid foods that could get you both sick if you two screw up (lets avoid raw steak tartare, okay?)
  • Build off of your existing knowledge 
    • Good at grilling? Grill differently
    • Have made fresh pasta? Try ravioli or flavored pasta
  • Make it a sliding scale based on your skill
    • Used to cooking Mac n Cheese? Try sautéing tilapia
    • Can sear tuna with the best of them? Try shucking oysters
    • Mastered grilled chicken? Try grilled pizza or a grilled whole fish.
    • Enjoy sushi? Make it
    • Roll fresh pasta
    • Buy a pizza stone
  • I've definitely failed on a few occasions...
    • I tried to make squid-ink pasta one time.  We bought fresh, whole squids from the fish market, cleaned them, "attempted" to harvest the ink, and then "attempted" to make pasta AND use the squid ink.  It failed brilliantly. 
    • But I can assure you, I'll always remember our attempt at squid-ink pasta, and I know she does too.  
I couldn't tell you what we ate instead or if we went hungry, but making something different, and together, was all that mattered.
    Grilled Black Sea Bass
    The other weekend I found myself wandering around the DC Fish Market. Bored with the standard jumbo shrimp and wanting to avoid another failed attempt at squid ink pasta, I settled on a 4 lb. black sea bass. Now I've cooked a whole fish once before, but it had been awhile, and I couldn't remember any of the details, so in my mind, I was starting with a clean slate.

    When I cook something for the first time, I usually look up recipes to get some general guidelines.  I focus on general cooking times and potential flavor combinations, but usually wing the rest.  Try doing the same (use your existing knowledge as the base). Here's what I tried for the sea bass: 

    My Ad Hoc Sea Bass Recipe
    • 4 lb Black Sea Bass, cleaned and scaled
    • Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil
    • Lemon
    • Fresh herbs
    • Grill
    Things I've learned
    • Preheat the grill and make sure the grate is hot
    • Try to flip only once, you'll ruin the skin and risk losing all of the herbs inside if you keep playing with it
    • Make sure you know what to do with the fish after its cooked (removing the head, bones, etc.)
    • My electric grill didn't put nearly as enough char on it as I would've liked, so I'm curious to know what a gas grill can do
    • A whole fish can look and be intense to cook. Gauge her interest. You don't want to gross her out when she sees the cooked fish with those white eyes staring up at her
    • Have someone else clean the fish (or do it before gets there). Nothing says serial killer more than a first row view at your stellar fish-gutting skills. (DC Fish market will clean  fish for $2-3 a fish)

    Simple, easy ingredients (per the usual)

    Stuff with wholesomeness, coated with olive oil
    Grilled. But not as charred as I would've liked. Cooked about 20 minutes on Med-High


    1. Oh the wonders of an electric grill. Great idea doing whole fish, looks yummy!

    2. Yeah.....I may be slightly addicted to my grill. I may attempt to grill everything possible.....


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