There used to be a fishmonger in many neighborhoods in Manhattan, but not anymore. Most fish I have access to within walking distance of my place in SoHo are sold at chain stores, like Wholefoods and Citarella. I do go to the Lobster Place in the Chelsea Market, but it has evolved into a lobster eating place as well, and is usually so crowded with tourists that I can’t always summon the aggression to deal with it. I’ve noticed that these large purveyors of fish primarily sell cut fish: fillets or steaks, and less variety of whole fish. That’s just one more thing I love about shopping Arthur Avenue: Most of the fish are whole, and then cleaned and cut to order. Sometimes that can mean you are hanging around for a while, waiting while the fish mongers to clean a zillion sardines for someone, but it’s worth it.
Edward often buys a whole black bass at Randazzo’s, which he has the guys clean and butterfly. He eats that fish within 24 hours, and often the same way: dressed with salt, garlic, and olive oil, and broiled for a matter of minutes, then hit with a squirt of lemon juice and a sprinkle of parsley. If you’ve got a really fresh fish, there’s no more satisfying way to cook it.
There is a Futurism show going on in New York at the Guggenheim, and so Ed and Ellie made the trek into town to see it. At Tino’s where we have our Friday morning coffee, Edward launched into a brief history of the movement, and how, while it produced a rather dispersed collection of works, was the seed movement for so many others, like kinetic art. Of course, this is always how it is when talking with Edward. Most everything he finds interesting can be traced back to an Italian.
Edward made vegetable stews throughout the week, sometimes poaching an egg on top, sometimes just serving the vegetable: potatoes, cabbage, chard; cabbage, chard, potatoes; chard potatoes cabbage. You get the idea. He also made two soups: I think he is mining his freezer pretty heavily, in anticipation of warmer weather and the vegetables it brings: pea soup form his frozen peas, started with onions, garlic, and tomatoes, then water, carrots, and celery simmered for 20 minutes, then the peas are added and cooked until tender; cranberry bean soup made from his frozen beans, and flavored deliciously from the leftover stew from Sunday’s big midday meal: oxtail stew with polenta. There’s not as much meat in this dish as the word OX sounds: the oxtails mainly lend flavor to the tomato sauce, but it is marvelously tasty and if you’ve got a bag of beans on hand, dinner the next night. Hardly an original idea, to repurpose bones and sauce, but on the other hand, an Italian showed me how to do it.
Oxtails with Polenta
Edward eats this dish when his joints hurt. Oxtails are full of gelatin, which is very sweet and may help lubricate sore hips and knees and shoulders. Leftover Oxtail sauce makes a great bean soup starter: just heat, and add rehydrated or fresh beans, water or stock, and boil until the beans are tender (try 1 part oxtail sauce leftovers, 2 parts beans, 3 parts water).
2 ½ lbs oxtails
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup pearl onions (I use frozen)
½ cup white wine
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup peas
3 cups water
1/2 cup corn meal (I use Quaker corn meal)
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Season the oxtails. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over a high heat. Add the oxtails in a single layer and brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic and the pear onions. Turn over the meat and brown the other side, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, parsley, and rosemary and cook until the wine reduces and loses its winey smell, a few minutes. Add the celery and carrots. Lower the heat to medium low and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes. The vegetables do not need to cover the meat, but if the tomatoes you use aren’t juicy, add up to 1 cup of water. You want a loose, soupy sauce. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add the peas and if necessary, another cup of water and cook 20 minutes more, until the meat is very tender.
Remove the meat and remove the meat from the bones. Push the vegetables through a food mill or use an immersion blender to blend, leaving some chunks. Return the vegetables to the pot, add the meat and, if the sauce is
very thick, a little water to loosen it up. Check the seasoning.
In the meantime, prepare the polenta. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add salt to taste. Pour the corn meal into a measuring cup with a spout. Slowly pour the corn meal into the boil water in a thin stream, stirring all the while. Cook until thickened, stirring all the while, a few minutes. Cover and turn the heat down to very low and let the polenta cook for 5 minutes. Take the polenta off the heat and stir in the butter if you like. Check the seasoning.
Serve the oxtail sauce on top of the polenta, garnished with the Parmesan cheese.