Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Good Fish and the 3 day rule

Photo by psychedelys

The following views are expressed with tongue firmly implanted in cheek.

Not sure if this is a Jewish-ism or a New Jersey-ism or just human nature - but I grew up hearing this saying: "Family is like fish, stinky after 3 days."  It never really made much sense to me as a kid because from where I sat, the fish stank right from the get-go and I love my family.  I still ate the fish, of course, especially the smoked sablefish and lox, in great quantities to give myself strength while I waited at the top of my grandma's stairs for the sound of the car doors slamming and my cousins spilling out from all sides. I'd shake with nervous excitement and three days with my family was never enough.

As I got older, the truism gained a bit more truth and no offense to my family (Hi Dad! Hi Brothers!) but there is a grain of salt on that stinky fish, even in my loving family. I've passed this wisdom on to my friends and some have  repeated it like a mantra while discussing flight arrangements with their Aunt Edna or their estranged sister or even their dear mother who they genuinely enjoy in small  titrated doses like homeopathic dilutions of familial bonding.

Others ignored this advice and woke up on the 4th day to their uncle's hardy back pats, their father's love of drink, or their cousin's taste in bad punk to a noxious smell - subtle at first, just enough to tilt their head into the wind to see where it was coming from - a smell that then builds quickly throughout the day crescendoing into a fetid cloud so bad you can almost hear it slap against your ear drums like some never filmed Monty Python skit where Michael Palin is beating John Cleese with a dead spawned-out salmon so smelly it could raise the dead.

That bad.

Thing is, the fish get a bad rap here when really what we mean to suggest is that humans can really stink sometimes, especially when they wear out their welcome.  Good fish doesn't smell at all when you get it.  You really have to break all the rules to get it to smell that bad after 3 days.

I want to suggest an amendment to the truism. It's a little wordy.
 "Good family is like good fish, eh, maybe a little stinky after 3 days?  Bad family is like bad fish, stinky from across the room the minute you see them."

I'm going on a Good Fish Book Tour. I'm getting in and getting out and my greatest ambition involves not leaving a trail of stink in my wake. Check back to this page as I will be updating it frequently, adding new info and new dates, each event under 3 days.


March 14th: 1 advance copy arrives.  The Capitol Hill Gazette reports that Mrs. Beatrice Bitty heard "HOLYSHIT HOLYSHIT HOLYSHIT!" through the thin walls of her 1914 apartment building and claims the ruckus came from Becky Selengut's unit. No charges were filed, but there was plenty of tsk-tsking in the halls.
April 21st: Good Fish hits the warehouse. Thousands of warehouse ants seek new housing. 
MAY
May 1: Good Fish videos launch at www.goodfishbook.com
May 9: Tilikum Place Cafe Launch Event Seattle, WA - SOLD OUT
May 15: Elliott Bay Book Company Seattle, WA reading/signing 2 pm
May 16: PCC Good Fish class - West Seattle
May 17: PCC Good Fish class - Greenlake (Seattle) SOLD OUT
May 18: Microsoft cooking demo/signing Redmond, WA (internal event) 
May 20: Seattle Bon Vivant cooking demo/signing Seattle, WA SOLD OUT 
May 25: PCC Good Fish class - Redmond, WA  book signing 4-6 pm


JUNE   
June 1: PCC Good Fish class - Issaquah, WA book signing 4-6 pm
June 4: Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, CA demo/signing for World Ocean's Day
June 5: Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, CA demo/signing for World Ocean's Day
June 7: Santa Monica Seafood - Santa Monica, CA demo/signing 4-6 pm / HAS BEEN MOVED TO JUNE 8TH
June 8: Santa Monica Seafood - Costa Mesa, CA demo/signing 5-6 pm CANCELLED
June 11: Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Plaza (CUESA), San Francisco, CA demo/signing
June 11: Omnivore Books, San Francisco, CA reading/signing 3-4 pm 
June 12: 18 Reasons Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA - cooking demo/signing 1-3 pm 
June 13: PCC Good Fish class - Edmonds, WA, book signing 5-6 pm
June 16: Metropolitan Market - Proctor, Tacoma, WA demo/signing 5-7 pm
June 17: Metropolitan Market - Admiral, Seattle, WA demo/signing 5-7 pm

June 18th: Metropolitan Market - Kirkland, WA 12-2 demo/signing and then Sand Point 3:30-5:30
June 21: Palace Ballroom, panel on sustainable seafood issues (details to come)
June 24-25: Wild Foods Weekend (and Good Fish class) at the North Cascades Basecamp, Methow Valley, WA - NOT TO BE MISSED EVENT - spots available
June 26: Trail's End Bookstore, Winthrop, WA reading and book signing 3-5 pm

JULY 
July 17: Cornish College of the Arts: Good Fish field trip to Fisherman's Terminal and Mutual Fish, includes lunch and cooking class (details to come): spots available
July 28:  Slow Food Seattle Good Fish Event (details to come)


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Do you love wild salmon?

Wild Alaskan King Salmon, Ketchikan, Alaska

Then watch this:


The Greatest Migration Teaser from EP Films on Vimeo.

Did you watch it? What did you think?

My friend Jennifer Hall has asked me to join her in motivating culinary professionals to sign on in support of better protections for wild salmon. If you are a chef, food professional, seafood distributor, author, food writer, restaurant owner, etc. and you care about preserving wild salmon, please read below and email Jennifer so you can get your name on a letter to President Obama.

I just signed my name on the letter. I hope you will do the same.


From Jennifer:
Join chefs Seth Caswell of Emmer & Rye in Seattle, WA and Barton Seaver, former chef of Hook in Washington, D.C., and current National Geographic Fellow, in signing your name and culinary affiliation on a letter that speaks for the salmon.
The critical decision to be made shortly by U.S. District Court Judge Redden has the potential to open the door to an improved approach to rebuilding the wild salmon that travel the waters of the Pacific Northwest. If the judge determines the currently ineffective (and mighty expensive) Federal plan insufficient, the letter will be sent to the Obama Administration and key D.C. Agency, the Department of Commerce, that oversees this work, requesting a new strategy, drafted by regional stakeholders instead of the closed doors of the federal government. Signatures are being collected through March 31st, 2011.

Email to learn more about the letter and how to add your name as a restaurant, grocery store, chef, culinary school, food author or seafood distributor.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I've achieved Geekdom

 
It's one thing to experiment with sous vide cooking, it's another entirely to get interviewed by a sous vide blog.  Thanks to Jason Logsdon, I've inched just a bit more closely to the geekdom that my brothers modeled for me throughout my childhood. Step back please, and give me more space to roll my Dungeons and Dragons dice.  I have lifted this interview, with permission, directly from Cooking Sous Vide, a destination blog for those both curious and serious about this cooking technique.

1) You're an accomplished chef and author. Can you tell us some about your background?

I've always been interested in science and thought about a career as a surgeon. Obviously that didn't happen but I figure I still get to wear the white coat, use knives and deal with blood. I was pre-med but switched to go to culinary school. After I graduated I spent about 8 years working in restaurants but knew my passion was in teaching and writing so I set out on my own. Now I do private chef gigs to support my teaching and writing habit.


2) You recently decided to see for yourself what all the sous vide hype was about so you ran some tests comparing sous vide to traditional cooking methods. Can you recap what you found out?

Essentially I discovered that it's foolhardy to dismiss something without trying it. I had been talking a lot of smack about sous vide but honestly hadn't even bothered to explore it so I set out to see what it was all about. What I discovered is that cooking successfully the traditional way is really dependent on a lot of skill and a fair amount of luck. Sous vide (among other techniques) in some ways democratizes the results by pinpointing perfection down to the exact degree and making good results possible even to beginning cooks. Of course the expensive equipment is a barrier to many but perhaps someday soon the price will come down.


3) A lot of the sous vide debate seems to have become black and white, as you say it's either the "Spawn of Satan's Bath Tub or Viable Modernistic Cooking Technique." You seem to feel like I do, that the truth is somewhere in the middle. How do you think this gets reconciled as time goes on.

I think it's human nature to resist things that are new - especially if you've built your career around a traditional methodology. That being said, you either keep up with progress or fade away into obscurity. Cooking "traditionally" for lack of a better term will always be my go-to way of cooking because frankly, it just has more soul - but I'm too curious of a person, too keenly aware of the benefits of some aspects of modernist cuisine to not incorporate it into my world. People will begin to see that traditional cooking has always been a manipulation of chemicals, albeit with less awareness, and modernist cuisine just turns a laser-eyed focus on that manipulation.


4) Are there any sous vide dishes you've had that have surprised you by how good they were? Are there any dishes that in your mind just shouldn't be done sous vide?

I've been most impressed with foods like chicken which tend to get overcooked and lose a lot of moisture when frying. A fried chicken first cooked sous vide is pretty awesome. As I found in my steak tests, a tenderloin done sous vide is pretty darn perfect. I'm still not 100% convinced about fish - so far in my experiments the texture is just a bit too compressed for my tastes - perhaps I'm not doing it correctly or need different equipment. I often see "compressed" fruit on restaurant menus and frankly, I've yet to see the benefit to this - the food tastes the same as fruit cooked more traditionally. But, hey - I'm embracing this thing people called being "open-minded" so all these opinions can easily change as I learn more about the techniques.


5) You have a new book coming out called "Good Fish", which focuses on buying and cooking sustainable fish. Since a lot of fish can be cooked sous vide, do you have any tips for our readers to hold them over until they can go out and buy your book?

The thing I most like about sous vide is its ability to get people to nail a perfect doneness. Cooking fish perfectly is a challenge for most people - sous vide will open the beauty of well cooked fish up to those fortunate enough to have access to the technology. Furthermore, what you place in the bag with the fish has no chance to be diluted and with a vacuum seal really becomes one with the fish. One sprig of thyme tasted like 20 sprigs of thyme. One bay leaf was like 5. Think carefully about your flavors and maximize the benefit of including them in the bag.

One last thing.... I would be remiss, at this point, not to point out my biggest hesitation with sous vide and since we're talking about my sustainable seafood book, it's probably obvious that I don't feel good about all the plastic involved with sous vide cooking. I'm tired of seeing plastic bags swirling in the ocean and am hesitant to add more to the pile. I challenge all the smarty pants out there - the ones really embracing modernist cooking - to come up with a more sustainable medium in which to cook food under pressure. Go forth! Invent! and have fun cooking.

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