Friday, November 13, 2009
Flounder La Bella Fortuna
I miss Art Bloom. It sneaks up on me sometimes. I used to go and visit him regularly, and I was remembering recently how a friend and I once made the long drive from Bard to P-Town, just to watch the Academy Awards with Art. He was delighted that we had come to see him, and made his standard "special occasion" meal for us; which always took just as long to prepare as it did to eat -- probably 8 hours from shopping to dishes. The courses were always pretty much the same: some variation on steamed mussels, broiled bluefish, lobster and corn, maybe a salad; and vanilla ice cream for dessert. There was lots of wine and bourbon, of course, to go with all that good local seafood.
I remember every detail of the room looking over the bay. The way the light changed from season to season; how it felt to lie on my back and read with the little orange cat Fire sleeping on my chest, and the sound of distant foghorns and the tide coming in. Art and I would talk about Niall and Scott and Beverly; about music and movies and books and relationships. We had adopted each other as family, and those memories of visits to "the kibbutz" before Art got sick are very precious.
Art's special occasion bluefish came from Howard Mitcham's Provincetown Seafood Cookbook - still one of my all-time favorites. Mitcham, a wild man in the venerable P-Town tradition of brilliant and insane kitchen innovators, was still around when I was a kid, and my parents once took me to the restaurant where he did a very brief professional stint, to eat the Haddock Almondine that he had made famous.
I bought some flounder the other night, and enjoyed a little riff on Art's fish, with some updates of my own. The traditional recipe as I remember it, involved squeezing a lemon over a piece of bluefish or halibut, seasoning it with salt and pepper, and then spreading mayonnaise over the fish before broiling, about which Mitcham says:
"Now listen: when I say fresh homemade mayonnaise I mean exactly that. If you try to squeeze by with that cheap commercial mayonnaise then you will have defiled a fine fish who sacrificed his life for your enjoyment."
I seasoned our fish with sumac and pimenton, salt and pepper, squeezed a lemon over it, let it sit while I preheated the broiler and then spread a little mayonnaise and dijon mustard mixture over the fish and topped it off with a mix of panko and parmesan before broiling. Bill was completely knocked out by the sweet, fresh flounder and it disappeared in a flash. Simple and delicious.
flounder or swai filets
chopped parsley for garnish