This is My Design
May 4, 2014 5:54 PM   Subscribe

One of my bestest friends ever has completed several years of an insane schedule of schooling + two jobs to earn a Masters and is now moving on to a residency far far away. My wife and I had our schedule open up, and we're now hosting a last minute dinner on Tuesday. Help me plan the most over-the-top meal possible in less than 48 hours.

Theme: My friend has asked for fish. I'm thinking that I'm all in and doing a feast of the seven fishes. I really don't care that a) it's not Christmas eve, and b) I'm not Italian. I normally don't need an excuse for good food. I'm figuring that since I'm cooking for 3, I can scale down portion size to control cost and maintain appetites through the meal.

My kitchen: Two halfsize ovens (one is convection), an induction cooktop, and a full rig for sous vide.

My skills: I'm a competent home cook. I've done multicourse before, largely by printing out a playbook of what to do and taping it to the wall in the kitchen. It turned out well. My regular cooking style is a mishmash of traditional French, modernist, and Morroccan. I am not particularly clever with plating and presentation (hope me!).

Things I have in mind thus far:

- I am definitely doing some variety of white fish in a salt crust. Largely because you can't really eff it up.
- I am figuring on some variety of fish tagine (I have four beautiful aubergine Le Creuset cocottes that will make for easy nifty presentation; I also make tagines all the time and this is easy and safe for me)
- Thinking about some scallops over a risotto made with toasted corn stock. I have pressure cooked risotto down to a science, and a decent bit of toasted corn stock floating around.

I have nothing else spectacular floating around my pantry, but do have a good local fish place to hit up, and work for a major local grocery chain.

So, hive: what else should I make, besides something salmon?
what's a workhorse white wine to go with this meal?
what's some clever plating I can engage in?
posted by bfranklin to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds awesome! How about a cioppino - so delicious... Maybe some smoked fish and a little cream cheese on crackers/endive for an appetizer? Something with roe or caviar? Can't help with plating ideas, sorry.
posted by hydra77 at 6:06 PM on May 4, 2014

You could do an en papillote fish course. Makes for an interesting presentation, you can prepare it a bit ahead and cook it last minute, it's also hard to eff up!
posted by Requiax at 6:08 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about octopus salad? And black squid ink linguine with greens and tomatoes? If you need dessert, try those black beauties.
And how about oysters for one of the seven slots? Oysters won't stuff you up, considering there are 7 courses.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:16 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

what's some clever plating I can engage in?

I'm not sure how clever this is or how many people you're serving, but the few times I've been to a feast of seven fishes (at our favorite Italian restaurant), one course has been something of an appetizer with two or three of the fishes on one plate (eg, crostini with roe alongside another small but rich fishy treat). Maybe scatter a bit of finely chopped parsley under the food to give the plate a unified look? Seven fishes doesn't have to mean seven courses.

The scallops and risotto sounds great, just keep the portions small since risotto can be filling.

If you're using one wine with the whole meal, ask for one without much tannin since that can mess with the flavor of some shell fish.

Have some good coffee and a light dessert. People will be full, but it's a feast and no dessert might look like an oversight.
posted by whoiam at 6:42 PM on May 4, 2014

Best answer: what's a workhorse white wine to go with this meal?

I think that you could definitely go with a sparkling wine, maybe a blanc de noirs for some complexity. Or, if you want something with a good amount of acidity a Muscadet. You could also go for an Austrian Gruner Veltliner which would be nice and medium-bodied. Last, but most expensive, you could go for a white Burgundy, which will probably be the fullest of these suggestions.

Sounds like a great meal, I hope you'll fill us in on your final choices!
posted by harrumph at 7:00 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely keep the heads on as many of the fish as possible while you cook them. Nothing beats that for dramatic effect, especially if it is completely normal. Presentation is huge.

I would do one fish thai style, since i think it blends well with moroccan. A steamed fish with lime and chili, maybe sticky rice.

Sounds lovely.
posted by mearls at 8:54 PM on May 4, 2014

Fish head curry!!
posted by divabat at 10:31 PM on May 4, 2014

Oh, if you can get them, stuffed whole squid. I've had squid stuffed with sausage and tomato, rice peas & herbs, and my favorite, porcini & other wild mushrooms. Depending on the size you can buy, you could do just one or two on a plate, with the tentacles plated dramatically beside them. There's a good recipe in the Marcella Hazan book.
posted by Mizu at 1:52 AM on May 5, 2014

Redneck Calamari
posted by mearls at 3:29 AM on May 5, 2014

My favorite whitefish is baked walleye with a pistachio crust. Me, I grind the pistachios in my coffee grinder. To dust. Then use it like flour to coat the egg-dipped filets. Dollop of butter on top of each piece, bake at 350 until crispy and the fish flakes nicely with a fork.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:09 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

A tuna tartare or a ceviche would be my go-to amuse for this kind of thing. Hopefully that's not too boring/easy. That or some raw oysters with a shallot mignonette (if we're counting mollusks here). Also a big fan of moules marinières, fairly time efficient too.
posted by gohabsgo at 11:19 AM on May 5, 2014

Oh! And a tuna and peach verrine in lil tiny shot glasses is very cool/different but make-aheadable.
posted by gohabsgo at 11:22 AM on May 5, 2014

We had this last Christmas and it was waaaay better than anything shop bought has any right to be - if it's repeated this year I'll serve it for Christmas dinner instead of turkey:

THREE FISH ROAST: Hand-made in store by our fishmongers; smoked haddock wrapped in cod then salmon and finished with parsley butter

Since you have a good local fish place, I wonder if they'd prepare it for you to cook at home? I think it would be such an unusual dish and memorable dish to serve!
posted by humph at 2:06 PM on May 5, 2014

Response by poster: The final menu was as follows:

1) Lillet Blanc Aperitif (was originally planning on oysters here, but my schedule precluded making it to the seafood wholesaler and the grocery store had tiny ones that wouldn't have done well broiled)
2) Scallops with Toasted Corn Stock Risotto
3) Halibut Tagine with Tomato, Capers, and Cinnamon
4) Salt Crusted Sea Bass on a Bed of Lemon and Spinach
5) Salmon Ceviche, using the recipe in Ramsay's Fast Food.
6) Surf and Steak, a riff on surf and turf, with a sous-vide butter poached cold water lobster tail and a seared tuna steak.
7) Sand Pie (think dirt pie, but vanilla) with swedish fish to add a seventh fish when my oysters fell through.

We did end up going with a white Burgundy for the meal, a village Chablis, that went over quite well.
posted by bfranklin at 12:52 PM on May 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

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