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.