You know, I almost crapped out on this.
I thought to myself, “Sure, it’s a Smackdown, but it’s also the weekend. I could go wordless! Then I would have more time to nap, or to mentally prepare myself to watch my bear-y husband get hit on all night at the gay bar with a great craft beer selection we’re going to later.” I mean, he gets hit on by guys regularly in day-to-day life, so in a gay bar? BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES.
Then I thought it to myself some more. But then I sucked it up, because you? Deserve better. That’s right; you, specifically. Yes, you.
Plus, this cod poached in sweet potato beurre blanc with gribiche was fricking good, so naturally I have a need to tell you all about it using far more words than are strictly necessary.
Let’s get something out of the day up top: This is a Rocco DiSpirito recipe, from the book Flavor. It’s a pretty great book, personal feelings about Rocco notwithstanding. Which feelings I will not be delving into, because I’ve already made my Rocco stance well-known, and there’s no need to rehash. Suffice it to say that I use (and enjoy) this book in spite of and not because of Rocco DiSpirito.
The sweet potato beurre blanc starts with roasted sweet potatoes. Mine had some kind of elephantisis, so they took an abnormally long time to roast. While they were absorbing freakish amounts of heat in the oven yet failing to soften even an eensy weensy bit, I boiled an egg and got the ingredients for the gribiche together.
Gribiche, or sauce gribiche, is a moving target. It might be made with mayonnaise. It might be an emulsion of hard boiled egg yolks and oil. It might involve pickles. It might remain both alive and dead until the box is opened. Whatever it is, it’s a French thing, which is often served with chicken or fish or, as Wikipedia helpfully points out, calf’s head. Yum!
(And yes, I know how sorry looking those chives are.)
Rocco’s gribiche is made of finely chopped hard boiled egg, capers, chives, shallot and lemon zest, warmed together in olive oil. Since I can’t find an authoritative definition of sauce gribiche, I have no way of knowing how out-there (or in-there) Rocco’s version is.
All I DO know is that I intensely dislike both hard boiled eggs (the smell) and capers (I have no excuse, other than being a bad foodie), which really didn’t bode well for me. You might wonder why I would have chosen this recipe in the first place and I might say to you, did you forget the part about the sweet potato beurre blanc? Who doesn’t want that?
When the sweet potatoes finally came out of the oven, I destroyed the nerve endings in my fingertips by peeling them right away – I want to be a real cook, with the bionic fingers that can reach right into the salamander – and threw them into the FoPro along with a few cups of water.
Apparently, my FoPro rejects the idea of being filled with sweet potatoes and water because water immediately began leaking out of every microscopic crevice, pooling on the counter and eventually on the floor where, because my 100-year-old house is so crooked, it began coursing across the floor. Sorry, FoPro. I’ll use the blender next time.
I finally managed to puree the potatoes, ran them through a strainer and whisked in a little extra water for good measure. In went butter, garlic, thyme, lemon juice and a ham hock.
If this seems like a waste of a ham hock, that’s because it is! Regular readers will know that I routinely fail to read directions, even though the Smackdown is PREDICATED ON FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS, which means I didn’t see the part that said “a 2-inch cube of ham hock.”
Hello, my name is Michelle, and I fuck up my own schtick.
I let the sauce simmer for a few minutes to bring the flavors together before nestling some cod into the liquid to poach until just opaque. I removed the fish and let the liquid reduce slightly, correcting the flavor with some sugar and lemon juice, while I wilted off some spinach for a side dish.
A piece of fish, a pool of sauce, a spoonful of gribiche and a sprig of thyme later, dinner was served.
Flavor is predicated on flavor balance, and as usual, this dish did not disappoint. Sweet potato is balanced with lemony thyme and salty pork, offset by bright capers and lemon and the slightest crunch of shallots. The mild fish sits in the middle, king of its domain.
Okay, I admit it: balance schmalence; I still don’t like hard boiled eggs and capers, and I scraped off my gribiche after the first few bites. And you know what? Everything was still effing good, SO THERE.
Now, off to catch teh gay!