Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Saint Mario & The Sage-Skate Caper

Each culinary endeavor I undertake is performed beneath the benevolent and forgiving gaze of my patron saint Mario. Brett painted the above likeness of chef Mario Batali from the image on a spaghetti sauce jar as a birthday gift. For me it's not unlike a Petrarch/Laura scenario applied to the exercise of my nightly supper.

We love Mario for his passion, knowledge and accessability. Not to mention his magnanamous nature and eloquence. And he's a neighborhood regular who always (or usually) has time for his other neighbors.

One day at the Union Square Greenmarket (Farmer's Market) in NYC's Greenwich Village, I encountered fragrant and bountiful bouquets of Sage and decided THAT ingredient was to be the foundation of my dinner. It was a very special night because Brett and I were going to Radio City Music Hall to see Bjork perform -- a first for both of us. (He's even more reverential of Bjork than I am of Mario, but we all know his worship treads into the most secular of desires.) So it HAD to be seductively scrumptious.

My first thought: a FISH DISH! But I was stumped by the variety and method.

Enter Mario, deftfully snatching up green produce beside me. I turned to him and asked, "Mario! If you could cook any fish dish that includes Sage -- what kind of fish would it be?"

Mario contemplated this for exactly four seconds and rebounded, "Why, Skate Wing of course! It's a classic bistro dish! Just cook the Skate Wing in butter, throw in the Sage leaves, let the butter brown then finish it off with some Capers and a squeeze of Lemon. Perfection."

It sounded delicious to me and I had never tried to cook Skate Wing before -- an even more tantalizing challenge!
I thanked Mario heartily and merrily hopped on my way to Dean & Deluca to complete my mission.

I spotted the Skate Wing straight away in D&Ds fresh fish display. I ordered one pound of the Skate Wing, when the luxury fishmonger delivered the blow:

"Well, the only problem is that this Skate Wing isn't filleted. The guy who fillets the Skate Wing won't be in until tomorrow at 10 AM."

Not satisfied, I couldn't help but insist in rapid fire, "Am I not standing in Dean & Deluca?? Are you not the fish guy?? Why can't you fillet the Skate Wing?... Can I give it a try at home if you tell me how?"

"Umm ... sorry lady, but I've worked here for 3 years and even I can't fillet a Skate Wing. The bones are really small and intricate." (ED note: Liar.)

Deflated does not even approach how I felt. My dreams of Mario's Skate Wing were going up in smoke before my eyes. I was running out of time to get the ingredients and make dinner before we had to head uptown for Bjork, so I knew I had to accept defeat and make due.

I headed to the fresh ravioli section and bought the most obvious accompaniment to a brown butter and sage sauce: Butternut Squash Ravioli. Yes, Mario has a nice recipe for that dish, too, but it's just not the same as a recipe relayed to you in the oral tradition by a master chef.
Bjork won that night.

Skate Wing, Classic Bistro Style (According to Mario Batali, interpreted by me)
2 Skate wings, filleted
1 Stick butter
10 Sage leaves
1 Tbsp. Capers
1/2 Lemon juiced

Melt butter in a large 10 or 12 inch skillet. Add Sage leaves and cook 2 minutes. Add cleaned Skate Wing season with salt and pepper. Saute on medium high heat for 2-3 minutes per side or until opaque. Move Skate Wings to a plate and turn up the heat til the butter is browned. Add caper & squeeze of lemon juice. Cook until sauce is reduced, about 2 minutes. Pour sauce over Skate Wings and serve.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:03 AM

    You should have bought the skate wing. You can cook it on the bone, there is absolutely no easier fish to eat off the bone once it has been cooked. The bone structure is all cartilige and linked together in one big mass. The meat will all slide right off very easily leaving you with on clean "bone"