Friday, April 29, 2011

Jon speaks

This entry is written by the urban chef himself, I hope you find it as delicious as I did!
We cooks are a particular bunch when it comes to our equipment.  Despite the fact that the vast majority of us make salaries that would have difficulty getting consideration on a mortgage for Barbie’s Dreamhouse, if you were to look in kitchen lockers or kitchen basements across the country, you would find knife bag after knife bag filled with sharpened, shined and polished bits of cutlery and curio, each worth more than a car payment.  There was a guy I worked with in Manhattan who used to cart his tools home every night in a locked wooden wine box, because “I don’t trust any o’ y’all motherfuckers.”  Get a few cooks together looking over an equipment catalog- Tim Allen’s moronic Home Improvement character all over again. “AR AR AR AR AR!” Only slightly prissier, as we are grunting over fish spatulas and melon ballers, as opposed to power tools. Never mind.  I am as guilty of this as any other of my ilk. Fact is, just the other day, a trip to the dollar store for cheap TP and paper towels, had me wandering around the store for over a half an hour contemplating the relative merits of an array of slotted spoons- each priced at $1.49.  I didn’t buy any, mind you, mostly because it appeared that they were made of aluminum foil, but I couldn’t help looking, ya dig?

So when I left my last job, it was with no small amount of dismay that I realized that I had left behind a pair of tongs and my #1 PRIMARY CHEF KNIFE. (This is capitalized, ‘cuz that is how we think of these things. As in; “My sister-in-law wants me to help her out in the kitchen- cutting and serving the crudités. But how the fuck does she expect me to be of any use without my #1 PRIMARY CHEF KNIFE?”) In actuality, tho’, I was missing my tongs more at the moment, and was afraid they had run off. After all, these tongs were the perfect length, had the correct amount of curvature at the tip, were non heat conductive, had no plastic grips, had that all important machined, leaf shaped head, excellent spring action, and were optimized for use with either the right or left hand, as well as being a very attractive piece of equipment. Besides, they were mine and I liked them.  I sent a e-mail to my former boss along the lines of Hey, So you seem to still have in your fucking restaurant my Winko brand 8 inch tongs, and my JA Henkles 6 inch #1 PRIMARY CHEF KNIFE and I would appreciate your remittance of these items Immediately.  Oh and send me my last check when you get around to it too, ok? Thaaank yooouuu!

Unfortunately, I had to go in to look for my stuff.  Annoying, ‘cuz, in my mind, the missing items should have been set apart immediately by the dishwashers on sight.  As in; “These obviously quality items could not possibly be part of the standard crap that the restaurant provides for its cooks to use.  They MUST be someone’s personal property!  In fact… Yes!  This looks to be someone’s #1 PRIMARY CHEF KNIFE!  I had better just set these items aside, in case someone comes looking.”  Except, you know, in Spanish. What?! The dishwashers speak Spanish.

The only good part of schlepping over to Carroll Gardens was the opportunity to stop by Fish Tails on Court and Bergen.  This little fish monger has awesome seafood, and impressively knowledgeable and skillful staff working there to help you with your purchases.  And the seafood only costs two arms and a leg!  So there is that.  Now don’t get me wrong, anyone who has met me knows of my willingness to proselytize for the Church of Food Bazaar, of which I am a member, but Fish Tales just has some great high-end product that you just can’t get at your neighborhood supermarket.  At least in Brooklyn.  On my way back to my crib, tongs, but not my knife in hand, (oh yeah, my money too)  I grabbed some beautiful halibut fillets. They yielded the following:

Halibut Neapolitan
(There is nothing Neapolitan, or even really Italian about this dish. It, like the pizza of the same name gets it’s nomenclature from its colors of the Italian Flag)

1 good size Halibut fillet, square cut into approximately 6 oz portions

1 container of Grape Tomatoes squashed, skins on, excess liquid discarded
6 cloves Garlic, smashed
1 small Shallot, cleaned and halved
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper
½ tsp Sugar
Small handful of Basil leaves, julienned

2 ½ oz Capers, liquid discarded
Juice of 2 Lemons
5 tbs Butter

Take tomatoes, garlic , shallot and place in a small heavy bottomed saucepan. Add crushed red pepper and black pepper , to taste. Cover with olive oil, and cook, on the lowest heat setting possible on your stove. The items in the saucepan should bubble VERY gently.  Turn on and off if necessary, to maintain low temp cooking. Once garlic is cooked through and brown, remove from heat and add basil to the pot to wilt in the oil. Remove from heat and let cool.  Once cooled, drain off excess oil (keep), remove garlic and shallot, mash to a pulp, then reintroduce pulp to the tomatoes, and integrate, breaking down the tomatoes, but leaving them with some texture. Re-season with a splash of the cooking oil, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add a drop of white wine for brightness as well, if necessary. Set aside- to be served a room temperature.

For sauce, puree capers and lemon juice in a blender. place puree in a sauté pan and, on gentle heat, add butter, whisking it in 1 tbsp at a time. Complete this task at the last minute. To be served hot.

For Fish, preheat oven to 425. Salt and pepper fish generously, dust with flour , and cook on high heat in sauté pan with generous dollops of butter. Sear one side, turn , and finish in the oven- about 5 minutes, depending on thickness. Fish should be firm, but not extremely so.

To plate: Confit goes on the plate, best with a ring mold.  Fish goes on top, sauce finishes the plate.

Serves two.
Warning: Jessica, did not like the temperature of the confit, although I loved it.  I made it tho', and I intended it to be that way, so I’m biased. So what. Meh. 


  1. Hey guys! I LOVE the blog! Very entertaining, well-written, and delicious! I'm glad you are enjoying life together, it's great!!

  2. Jon, man, feel I need to surprise you with a 6" Henkles...when is your birthday??