Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Revenge, Love & Halibut

Finally, finally, I finished Moby Dick. I don’t mean to spoil it for you if you haven't read it, but it’s very Shakespearean tragedy-ish at the end. Everybody dies but The One Who Lives To Tell The Tale. Which I already knew. Very uplifting story for these dark financial times.

And so I’ve moved on to a tale of the French Revolution. Cheery! Except it’s A Tale of Two Cities, which… well, it is relatively light-hearted, for something that covers the massacre of thousands of people and the bloody convulsions that shook France during the revolution..

As those of you who've read it (or the Cliff Notes) know, Madame Defarge and her vengeance knitting loom large in the tale, despite the fact that she occupies relatively few scenes. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like she's always knitting the same thing. A tea cozy for the guillotine? I know, I know: The Symbolism Of The Knitting Chicks. But, whatevs. That's going to be one mongo guillotine cover.

Her patient waiting for her day of bloody vengeance came to mind, just a little, when I stuck it to Stumpy last night. With dirty dishes.

Stumpy, who is generally the designated dish-doer in our house, has been neglecting his duties a bit lately (which might have to do with toting kids to hockey and that whole job thing he has going on, which has been keeping him up to all hours, working. The nerve.).

I can see he probably won't resume full dish-duty until his work lightens up a little (and be sympathetic, even. Sometimes.) . Stumps is almost dead on his feet. Still, I have to admit, the prospect of a sink of dishes that someone else was supposed to do does not, as it should, bring wifely understanding to my heart, but instead crazy-woman crabby mutterings as I scrub down the pots.

With this situation, I've been avoiding making dinners that involve too many pots and pans, because Stumps and I have both been running tired, and really, right now, a load that's a teensy bit lighter is not a bad thing. One pot meals are appealing in many ways.

But, I've also been getting an itch to cook something just a tiny bit involved (and edible. Rabbit skin glue gesso is involved, but smells a little revolting and can't be snacked on). And as it happens, Stumpy promised to do a good job on the dishes last night.

When he said he'd get all the dishes done, I had a (not very grown up) flash of delight... with a little something extra. There was a rather unseemly feeling of glee that I could dirty as many damn pans as I wanted and Stumps was going to just have to deal. I decided to cook a Tom Douglas recipe I'd been eyeing: halibut on a bed of lentils, topped with a bread crumb salad.

I really enjoy Tom Douglas's restaurants, even though they’re such Seattle fixtures that I often overlook them in favor of something newer and shinier. But there’s a reason that many of his restaurants have such longevity, and it’s because they’re terrific. And also, as I’ve learned over the last 18 months: every single staff member in every single restaurant of his appears to be well-educated about food allergy issues, and well-versed in what menu items contain nuts, ground nuts, nut flours and/or nut oils. And the staff, in my experience, has been invariably careful, cautious and informative about ingredients. His Seattle Kitchen cookbook is well-tested and well-scaled for a home cook.

The cookbook does, however, suffer from the classic restaurant cookbook issue, which is that you start in on what seems like a single recipe.

But the single recipe? Is often actually 4 or 5 recipes.

Still, I read his recipe for the halibut (which includes: a vinaigrette, a lentil dish, instructions for cooking the halibut and the bread crumb topping. Count 'em: 4 recipes under one heading) and I realized that the bread crumb salad could be migas.

And that was all I needed. Sure, it was several recipes in the guise of one, which is a pet peeve of mine even when it's easy. But it promised, with the migas alteration, to be the perfect combination of elements (comforting lentils, lemon-y halibut, crunchy, salty, prosciutto-flecked migas) on a chilly October night. And, on the extremely childish side, it promised to rack up no less than 4 pans, a cookie sheet and a buttload of bowls (because what better time to insist on mise en place than a night your husband promises to do every dish after a long period of leaving them to you?).

So I made it.

And it rocked.

The kids, who eat lentils but don't ask for them (that seems normal), just about gargled everything the migas touched. They poached migas from the pan. They snorked the halibut.

And I dirtied 5 gazillion items in the kitchen. But Stumpy was so happy eating it that he asked when I was going to post about it. Which… although not very grown-up, was just the kind of (extremely tame) malice that I wanted to wreak. I'm no Madame Defarge, I suppose, nursing my wrath for years. I wanted him to be really, really happy eating it. I wanted to cook something that I didn't have to try to reduce the number of dirty pans for. And I wanted him to do the damn dishes. Grown-up? Well, no. Loving? In its own way. Crudely tied back to the book I’m reading? Okay. You got me on that.


cook eat FRET said...

stay far away from the french laundry cookbook

each recipe has 4 complicated recipes... or thereabouts

stumpy would burn that book...

Meg said...

I admit, I'm periodically drawn to the French Laundry cookbook like a moth to flame, and then... I stop. I think I'd have to do dishes 3 times during prep just to have enough bowls and prep dishes to complete a recipe. Once or twice I could maybe live with. 3rd time is the hex on the book, though.