Monday, November 4, 2013

Bathing in Butter

slow cooking in fat is a technique that has been employed for hundreds of years.  we have all heard of confit, especially duck confit, a preparation for duck legs that are submerged in their own fat and slow cooked in the oven for hours until the meat is succulent, silky and falling off the bone. if you haven't tried it, get thee to your nearest french bistro and order it - or better yet, cook it at home! it couldn't be easier.  in my house we slow cook in clean fat all the time.  recently, i posted a picture of our dinner on facebook - something i do often - that sparked quite a lot of interest.  the dish was a simple, locally caught piece of cod that was slow cooked in raw spring butter. the butter was infused with fresh thyme, log grown shiitake salt (an amazing product that i brought home from melbourne, australia on our last trip back this past august) and truffle salt i purchased from my downstairs neighbor, the meadow, a lovely shop dedicated to fine salt, chocolates, bitters and flowers, owned by author and all around cool guy, mark bitterman....but i digress.  the cod was served with a delightful accompaniment of seared cauliflower (i seared it in bacon drippings first -- more clean fat)  and then added it to the butter i cooked the fish in, along with some frozen spring peas that i had put away for when i simply had to have peas.  i recommend putting away those precious vegetables when they are available - thank goodness for modern freezers!  the dinner was beyond flavorful, my children made all gone and today i have received numerous requests for the recipe.  because i have spent over two decades learning and days are now generally filled with "returning."  as weston price said, " teach, you teach, you teach."  so here we go...

the butter bath was made for fish.  you can do it with almost all proteins, fruit and veg. but it was MADE for fish.  in case you don't understand what i mean when i say butter bath, here is a little video of me bathing some lovely halibut to illustrate.

by bathing the fish in butter you achieve a "buttery" (duh),  silky, perfectly cooked piece of fish that will never let you down.  you will be able to watch the progression of the cooking by seeing the flesh go from translucent to solid in color. also, please note the texture of your protein by touching it with your fingers.  i wholeheartedly recommend getting to know the touch texture of all protein in a raw state as well as the different degrees of their cooked state (rare, medium and well).  by adding herbs and spices to the butter you infuse the fish with rich aromatics and flavors that will beautifully take your flavor profile to the next level.  by slightly browning the butter - which will no doubt happen as you continue to keep it on a flame and the milk solids become golden - the butter takes on a nutty flavor, continuing to change the experience.  i like to use fresh herbs, citrus peel or zest, aromatic spices like curry powder, garam masala, cumin, fennel, caraway, etc.  ground spices as well as seeds are fine. experiment and see what you like best. believe it or not, one of my favorite additions to butter when slow cooking fish (and carrots too!) is vanilla bean.

before i write up the recipe for the cod i would just like to say that besides an animals own fat -- butter, ghee, olive oil and coconut oil are all great examples of fat to slow cook and bathe in.  as a matter of fact, i love to fill a saucepan with good olive oil and put it on a warmer (never cook with olive oil on high heat) and then toss in sliced celery and julienne carrots.  i add fresh herbs, chili flake, a split vanilla bean and 1 TBS. of rapadura sugar.  i let that go for a few hours. what i get is a heavenly smell and perfectly cooked vegetables that will hold for weeks if i need them to.  what is killer is to then saute some greens in butter until they are almost done - then hit them with a bit of these veggies and the olive oil to finish.  holy smokes!  oh! by the and submerging in good fat will also preserve the freshness of your food and extend it's life.  fat has long been used as a way to preserve food as well as increase nutrient value. fat is good and it will not make you fat. it will however get your Family2Table in a hurry when they smell the butter calling.  enjoy! 

okay, as promised.....

slow cooked cod in raw spring butter with shiitake mushrooms and truffle salt served with cauliflower and peas.

note:  i have replaced the shiitake salt with real shiitake mushrooms because that product is not available in this country (as far as i know).  the following recipe is for 4 portions.

fresh atlantic cod (7 oz. per portion)
grass fed butter (kerrygold, gold package is fine)
1 TBS. picked fresh thyme leaves plus 6 springs
1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms
truffled salt (or truffle oil)
1/2 head large cauliflower
frozen spring peas (a bag of frozen organic peas will do nicely)

1. heat a pan on med high heat and place 2 TBS. bacon fat from good pastured bacon.  if you don't do bacon i suggest using butter or coconut oil.

2. cut cauliflower lengthwise so you have a flat surface to sear and get color on.

3.  place cod portions on a plate and sprinkle with sea salt, fresh thyme leaves, truffle salt and a few turns of fresh white pepper (i prefer white pepper on fish)

4.  when pan is hot place cauli in the pan and caramelize the cauli on both sides till you can pierce the cauli through.  remove from pan and set aside.  dump that fat and wipe the pan.

5.  reduce the flame to low and add 5 TBS. butter -- yes, that's right....5 TBS. good grass fed butter - you might even need more as you go.

6.  when the butter stops foaming, add the seasoned fish and let cook for a few minutes, add the chopped shiitakes, let those cook in the butter and then start bathing the fish in the butter.  feel free to add more butter if you need to.  cook till the fish is done.  could take up to 15 minutes.

7. remove fish and set aside.  

8.  add cauliflower to the fish and mushroom butter, add frozen peas (that amount depends on you but i generally put in 1/4 - 1/2 cup and cook till the peas are done.

9. to plate, put a piece of fish on each plate, veggies on the side and butter over the top.  drizzle the truffle oil over the fish and feel the effect! garnish with springs of thyme and enjoy!