Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dark Days Challenge Week 2: Flounder, Clams, and Roasted Beets over Jerusalem Artichoke Puree

I've really stockpiled on root vegetables this week - I think because I started to worry that the Greenmarkets will run out of vegetables, since my McCarren Park Greenmarket in Brooklyn has dwindled down to just one vegetable vendor. Then I made a stop at the mecca of all Greenmarkets, Union Square on a Saturday, and saw it was still full of farmers, action, and crowds. So I don't have anything to worry about - at least not yet.

I feel like I've been seeing and reading about Jerusalem Artichokes everywhere lately, so I decided that it was time to try some. They are not artichokes, but actually a knobby root vegetable that looks like ginger. Guess what - it turns out I don't really like them! I am willing to try them again in a different form, such as roasted, but this dish was kind or ruined for me by the flavor of the pureed Jerusalem artichokes at the bottom of the plate. I would have prefered to use mashed or pureed potatoes, or to have eaten simply the fish and beets, which went great together. Jesse, on the other hand, loved the Jerusalem artichoke puree, and happily scarfed it all down.

Now, originally I had envisioned topping flounder with a pickled beet and onion relish and plating it over a bed of Jerusalem artichoke puree. That was until I realized that pickling takes at least a day for the flavors to settle. So then I thought I would just sautee the beets and onions alongside the flounder. Then Jesse decided to add clams into the mix, so we ended up steaming it all in the same pot with a little bit of beer, creating a seafood dish swimming in a reddish broth, which is why it doesn't look so pretty.

So the recipe below is just a rough suggestion. I would recommend steaming the clams separately and adding them to the plate at the end, after the flounder has been sauteed with the beets and onions, or omitting clams altogether.

The first thing you'll want to do is start roasting the beets, because that takes about an hour. Scrub three small beets, drizzle them with olive oil, wrap them in a pouch of aluminum foil, and roast at 425 degrees for about one hour, until fork tender.

While the beets roast, chop the Jerusalem artichokes into 1- or 2-inch pieces (if they're organic, no need to peel them), add to a pot of salted water with 2 whole cloves garlic, bring to a boil, and then let simmer approximately 20 minutes or until very tender.

Drain the artichokes, return to the pot, and let cool for a few minutes. Then in a blender or food processor, blend them with 1/2 cup milk, 1 tbsp butter, salt, and pepper until smoothly pureed. Return to the pot and cover. You may need to warm the puree over low heat if it has cools before the rest of the meal is cooked.

When the beets are done, let them rest until they are cool enough to handle, and then remove the peel and chop into small dice. Slice one red onion thinly and mince 3 small or 2 large cloves of garlic.

If using clams, prepare about eight whole clams by rinsing them. You should also pop open a beer now if you haven't already. We were lucky to find this Saratoga lager on sale at Fairway. It has a sweet flavor, which I think complemented the beets and fish better than a bitter, hoppy beer such as an IPA or pale ale would have.

Season one pound of flounder with salt and pepper, and sear them in a pan with olive oil over high heat about one minute on each side. Immediately add the beets, onion, and garlic to the pan, as well as about eight whole clams and 1/2 cup beer. Cover the pan and let steam about 5 minutes until fish flakes when forked and clams have opened.

Spoon puree onto each plate, and then use a spatula with holes in it to add the flounder, clams, and beets to the plate without getting too much broth. Serves two.

This post is part of the Dark Days Challenge, in which I prepare at least one meal each week comprised of mostly local ingredients. Below is a summary of food mileage for this meal:

Flounder and Clams - Long Island dayboat stand at the Greenmarket, under 115 mi
Beets - Garden of Eve Farm, Riverhead, NY, 75 mi
Red Onion, garlic, jerusalem artichokes - unknown NY farm at Greenmarket, under 300 mi
Saratoga Lager - Olde Saratoga Brewing Company, Saratoga Springs, NY, 194 mi
Milk and butter - Ronnybrook Farm, Ancramdale, NY, 115 mi
olive oil, salt, pepper - not local

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