You don’t get it at all, do you Steve?
Sometimes I wish I could post in 3-D, because that peanut? Totally looks like it’s poised to leap off the screen at you. That peanut will cut a bitch.
I often bemoan the fact that I am too fucking lazy* to get up early enough to make it to the Greenmarket in time for quickly snatched up, fleeting seasonal delicacies like ramps and garlic scapes. I salivate over other people’s beautiful photos, promise myself I’ll go this coming Saturday and then stay up late on Friday reading back issues of Love & Rockets and sleep until noon the next day (I’m fortunate to have equally lazy dogs who enjoy sleeping in on weekends).
Thankfully, I now have my own personal organic farmer to provide me with fleeting seasonal delicacies. Well, me and the 75 other people in my neighborhood CSA. He grows ‘em, he brings ‘em to the neighborhood, and I pick ‘em up after work and enjoy my beauty sleep guilt-free. So thank you, Farmer John, for enabling me to eat this delicious new potato and garlic scape puree with my pan-seared halibut and snap pea slaw.
*On a laziness scale of 1 to 10, I’m a 17. On a good day.**
**I REALLY like sleep.
Did you ever notice that new potatoes are about the same size and shape as prosthetic testicular implants? Me neither.
Garlic scape and new potato puree starts with, wait for it, potatoes. New ones, no less.
I could have peeled them before boiling, but (1) last time I tried to peel these smooth, gripless, tiny little fuckers, I mostly peeled my knuckles, (2) they’d take on less water if cooked snug in their jackets and (3) I planned to throw the lot of them in the food processor fo-pro* and then run the resulting puree through a fine mesh strainer, and remember what I said about the laziness?
*Remember, if you don’t all start using this in general parlance it’ll never catch on and I’ll never have my own branded line of TNS fo-pros.
The snap pea money shot.
While the potatoes cooked, I decided to throw together a crunchy garnish for the fish. I’d bookmarked [No Recipes]‘s snap pea slaw. (Where does the apostrophe go, inside or outside the brackets? Am I thinking about this too hard?) It looked refreshing and crisp, like a perfect partner for some creamy puree and tender halibut. That, and I had some snap peas in the fridge.
I made a slight variant – the original recipe called for blanching the peas, which I skipped, and added mint, which I didn’t think would go with my dish – and ended up with a simple raw salad of thinly sliced peas, peanuts, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce and a dash of mirin.
When the potatoes neared doneness, I considered the scapes. I mean I really considered them; I felt them up for a minute and then laid them out on the cutting board, staring at them from several different angles. I’d used some of the scapes raw as a garnish, but had been holding on to the rest trying to think of something to do with them other than the ubiquitous garlic scape pesto.
For the three people out there who still don’t know what a garlic scape is, it’s the flexible, curly green shoot of a young garlic bulb. If left to grow, it straightens out and turns the familiar beige-y color of garlic peel, but if cut off at the curly green stage you get a tender veg with hints of garlicky sweetness and depth without the pungent bite. (It’s also a win-win for the farmer, since the garlic head remaining underground will grow larger; keeping the shoot attached slows growth).
A fresh but mild garlicky flavor was a natural match with creamy young yukon golds – who among us does not love garlic mashed potatoes? If you don’t, I will give you a 15 second head start on your flight from this place – and a silky puree seemed like an elegant pairing for some simply prepared fish. Ergo, scape-potato puree.
This was maybe not the best candidate for the fo-pro-cam.*
I tossed the still-warm potatoes, blanched scapes, a knob (heh) of butter and a hearty pinch of kosher salt into the fo-pro and gave everything a whizz. While it blended, I poured in heavy cream and milk in little by little until I had a smooth puree of the ideal viscosity – thicker than a blended soup, thinner than mashed potatoes, easy to spread on a plate but not runny.
I passed the mix through my finest fine-mesh strainer – I still don’t own a tamis – to get out any lumps, bits of potato skin or unprocessed shards of scape, and was rewarded with an unbelievably creamy puree of the most delicate pale green. It was almost enough to send me into a Nigella-esque rapture about how scapes capture the verdant essence of the damp English springtime,** but I held it together. Mostly.
While I struggled to contain myself, Brian pan-seared a gorgeous hunk of halibut filet seasoned only with salt and pepper. I didn’t take any pictures of this part because, you know, the rapture and all.
*Another possible branding opportunity?
**I don’t know if this is actually the case, but it sounds like something I imagine the caricature of Nigella I carry around in my head would say.
Form of scorpion!
I smeared a good dollop of scape and potato across my dish (my yin-yang shape turned into more of a bulbous scorpion tail, but this won’t happen to you), nestled a hunk of halibut into the puree and topped it with a handful of the raw snap peas. I took my pictures and then sat down with my plate while Brian made his dish, and I’m not at all ashamed to say that I was 75% done eating by the time he made it to the table. When he was partway through his meal, I was standing at the stove scraping puree remnants out of the bowl with my fingers. And when our neighbors stopped by with their dog for a puppy play date (I know, I know), I uncharacteristically shooed them out of the apartment and told them to come back in 15 minutes. (I don’t know about you, but I like to lick my dishware clean in peace.)
You may surmise from the foregoing that this was really frigging tasty. Halibut has always been one of my favorite fish, especially when it has a nice seared crust, and snap peas have to be one of the most fun vegetables around; I ate all my garnish off the fish and then scarfed all the peas left in the mixing bowl. The combo of hot, perfectly cooked fish with crisp, cool sweet slaw would have been excellent in and of itself.
But it was not in and of itself, because there was garlic scape and new potato puree. Rich but light on the tongue, creamy but not heavy, sweet yet assertive, it was barely recognizable as the sum of its humble parts. It was the perfect foil to both fish and slaw, though I could easily have eaten a bowl of it alone.
I’ll probably still make the garlic scape pesto – well, as long as Farmer John provides the hook-up – because it’s the thing to do. But I’ll dream about this puree.
Garlic Scape-Potato Puree
1 lb. young yukon gold or creamer potatoes
6-8 oz. fresh garlic scapes
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 to 1/2 c. heavy cream, half and half or milk
s&p to taste
Place the potatoes, unpeeled, in a large pot; cover them with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook until they are easily pierced with a fork, 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your potatoes). Remove them with a slotted spoon and deposit in the bowl of your fo-pro, keeping the boiling water on the stove.
Add the scapes to the boiling water. Blanch for 2-3 minutes, until they are bright green. (If you want a less assertive garlic flavor, keep them in a minute longer; more assertive, a minute less or skip blanching altogether.) Drain and add the scapes to the fo-pro.
Add the butter to the fo-pro and process. Once the potatoes and scapes have started to break down, slowly pour in the cream/milk until you have a smooth mixture that’s thinner and creamier than mashed potatoes.
Press the puree through a mesh sieve to remove bits of skin and scape chunks. (You can skip this if you don’t mind a more textured puree). Adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately, or hold over low heat until dinnertime, whisking in a bit more milk if needed to maintain the texture.