“If I got anything out of this relationship, it is cheek meat.”
A vignette from a book never finished. Check out our Food & Wine Pairing guides for more.
We will have rainbow snapper for dinner. Kay had bought them at a fishmonger on Saturday on a whim. They were pin-striped in a shimmer of chilly gold and pale, and their eyes sparkling wildly as if caught halfway through a high-speed chase. Having spent the weekend in a paper bag shoved into the back of our refrigerator, they were still remarkably fresh.
I knew exactly what I wanted to do with such pretty fish. I wanted to see them in a golden pool of saffron-scented broth with their narrow tails jutting above the side of the bowl. That would be the proper end to the day.
Life of a Wino
It had been a tough day at work for both of us, and we both needed a quick reminder of how lucky we are. I can rarely complain about work since doing so raises many more eyebrows than hands to heart. I run a wine school, after all. How hard can that be? I have to agree, if begrudgingly, that I ought not to complain too much, lest I have to find a real job in the future.
On the other hand, Kay has a real job in a real company that deals in real money at a scale I really cannot fathom. Her fruitless Monday was spent in idling meetings stacked against meetings trying to convince her $5,000-a-day team that writing off $100,000 in unbilled invoices would have them twice as much in collection expenses.
A Blackmail Attempt
Such numbers boggle my mind and put a scale onto my day, which was spoiled over a $75 blackmail attempt. This particular one came from a multi-billion dollar chemical/pharma company manager who threatened to tarnish the school’s good name unless we give them special treatment/free stuff.
Sad to say, such attempts are becoming brazen and from the oddest sectors and for the smallest sums of money. This was the second in so many weeks. The worst of it, we have donated thousands of dollars worth of our services to his company’s charitable endeavors. It may be a sign that the wine school is reaching out further, and people are seeing us as an exploitable company rather than a small school of 5 committed folks.
In any case, my day was spoiled over $75. Kays over $10,000 and counting.
We live in different worlds at work, but now it’s time to make dinner. Kay slices a fistful of shitake mushrooms and crushed a few cloves of garlic under the flat of her knife. I tossed the fish, whole, into a boiling saute pan with a splash of peanut oil. In a second pan, I sauteed the shitake mushrooms with an equal amount of oven-dried tomatoes and snap peas. As soon as the veg was starting to sizzle, I poured in a few cups of fish stock and a thread of saffron. Once it hit a boil, I turned off the burner.
In the other pan, the fish was smelling of rich flesh. After about 5 minutes under high heat, I turned over the snappers and hit them with a few more cups of fish stock. I left the burner on high and let the stock reduce for another five minutes. I tossed the shitake mushroom mix into the pan, and in a minute –just 15 minutes after we started–the meal was done.
The sweet and rich snapper lay on in the broth with mushrooms firm against the tooth and peas that still had snap. The tomatoes remained meaty. The broth took just a scent from each and, with the last-minute dash of sea salt, a hint of brine. Kay opened a bottle of New Zealand pinot noir I had brought home from work, and we tucked into the fish. She pushed her spoon into the fish’s cheek and raised an eyebrow.