Although I love a good fish dinner as much as the next gal, I have always had a couple of issues with cooking seafood at home:
Number one, I have an irrational fear that I will poison my guests by serving them raw fish. The rational part of my brain understands that restaurants do not have some magical method for rendering raw fish safe to eat, either. But the emotional part of my brain is convinced that it is going to be the piece of fish that I bring home and serve to my friends that will end up being bad.
Number two, I have been continuously frustrated in my attempts to sear scallops at home. No matter which method I tried, what pan I used, what I did to the scallops, I never could capture that perfect crusty sear that makes restaurant scallops so delicious.
Well, with the help of Young Man, I have been somewhat rehabilitated with respect to my seafood handicaps. I served raw fish (fluke crudo with radishes) and I seared scallops with a little brown crust. In my book, these are no small accomplishments.
And some of the recipes were wonderful. The oilve oil poached halibut with golden roasted beets and blood oranges was silky, juicy and sweet - a lovely light winter fish dish. The linguine with clams and pancetta was so good that it caused me to wonder whether marine pixies were not sneaking into my stove and replacing my dishes with those of some wicked talented seafood sorcerer.
Many food writers have noted that fish is difficult to gussy up in a lavish, fantastical, sauce-laden complex way. Here, with the benefit of David's fishy genius, those same qualities in fish will inure to your benefit. David Pasternack's smarts lay in being able to choose the perfect method for cooking fish or seafood simply, with a few ingredients. The recipes are very clean and intensely flavored; most are simply adorned with some vegetables and drizzle of olive oil. Simple and perfect, for the most part.
But, some recipes were grossly out of whack. The Taglietelle with Nantucket Bay Scallops, for example, was slick with oil – it called for 6 tablespoons of butter and ½ cup of oil for a mere ¾ pound of pasta. I used half as much oil, and it was still so oily that no one could finish what was on their plates. The risotto with lobster and black trumpet mushrooms called for an inordinately large amount of mushrooms. I used about half of them, and the risotto was still about 50% mushroom. Pretty annoying considering that the mushrooms cost $24 a pound. I also noticed other problems with recipes – the description of scallops with spinach and parsnips, for example, references oranges in the description but does not include oranges in the ingredients or instructions.
Although I will be the first to admit that I am no pro in the kitchen, I really don’t see how these shortcomings could be attributable to my inexperience. I think that many of the recipes missed something in the translation from restaurant kitchen to home kitchen. For me, this is a book that I will use for ideas, but I will probably doctor and adjust the recipes as I go along. After all, marine pixies are notoriously unreliable kitchen guests.