The Cooking Chronicles: Something Fishy

While fresh fish is great, because we tend to do most of our grocery shopping on the weekend, flash-frozen fish is the better alternative for us because we can keep it in the freezer until we are ready to use it. In our case with the vacuum-sealed packages from Ocean Odyssey, the fish is already filleted, making it easy to thaw the night before and incorporate it into a weeknight supper. And though it was super-convenient to have Pat and her stall at the City Market over the summer, it’s just as easy to stop by her shop (10027 167 Street, 780-930-1901) year-round to stock up for a few weeks.

We used Ocean Odyssey filets for the following two recipes – they’re one-pot or one-pan deals!

Garlic & Tomato Fish Stew

Donna Hay’s No Time to Cook recipe for a garlic and tomato fish stew was fast and easy, and made for a tasty weeknight supper. We used sole filets, which meant flakier, smaller pieces of fish were in the cards instead of large chunks. I also liked the inclusion of potato.We served the dish with some toasted ciabatta buns from Sobeys, to be dipped into the broth of white wine, stock and tomato juice.

Fish stew

It’s something we will definitely make again!

Pan-cooked Grated Celeriac and Crunchy Fish

We were definitely in a rush the night of the final mayoral forum, but handily, Mark Bittman’s recipe for pan-cooked grated vegetables and crunchy fish did not take long. While Mack took care of grating the Greens, Eggs and Ham celeriac, I sautéed some onions and garlic with curry powder, then added the root vegetable to be cooked until browned. Then in the same pan, we seared up some cod filets that had been dredged in a mixture of corn meal and flour.

Pan-cooked vegetables and crunchy fish

Crunchy cod over pan-cooked grated celeriac

This wasn’t my favourite way to eat celeriac (I much prefer the pureed soup), as the cooking time didn’t really allow the celery root to soften much at all – grated potato would have fared better. The fish, on the other hand, was delicious – crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside, it was a healthier alternative to the deep-fried filets it reminded me of.

The Cooking Chronicles: Poached Salmon with White Wine Cream Sauce

I am currently reading Alisa Smith and J.B Mackinnon’s 100 Mile Diet. The novel chronicles the Vancouver-based couple over one year of eating only local products. It’s not bad so far, though my strongest criticism about halfway through is a lack of Canadian statistics – while I am certain such numbers would be more difficult to come by, one of the reasons why I was drawn to the book in the first place was in the hopes that it would supply me with a well-supported Canadian context.

At any rate, the recipe for poached salmon in white wine cream sauce intrigued me, even though some of the directions were decidedly vague. Of course, salmon within a 100-mile radius would be next to impossible to obtain, so we headed to Ocean Odyssey Inland (10027 167 Street NW, 780-930-1901), a local purveyor of wild seafood.

Ocean Odyssey has been at their west end location for about three and a half years, though they are also present at the City Centre Farmers’ Market. The storefront offers most types of fish you could think of, in addition to some shellfish (they had some of the largest lobster tails I have ever seen). I didn’t ask if all fish were obtained in this manner, but the salmon (all wild) are supplied by independent fishermen, and are flash frozen after being caught. Seafood is definitely an area where my knowledge about sustainable practices is lacking – it is something I need to learn more about.

Salmon cooler

Besides the great seafood, Ocean Odyssey also carries products from local producers, including Greens, Eggs and Ham (we had placed an order for duck eggs, which can be picked up on Friday or Saturday), Medicine Man Bison and Sunworks Organic Farm. Pat is knowledgeable about all of the products she sells as well, which definitely helps the consumer.

Mack shopping

We ended up with a package of cod cakes ($8) and two salmon filets, the latter of which were priced at about $7 each by weight, just $2 more than the fish I typically pick up at a grocery store. We pan-fried the cod cakes when we got home for a snack, but were disappointed with their soggy texture – we will likely just stick with the filets in the future.

Following the 100 Mile Diet recipe, I got to work reducing the sauce, which combined 2/3 cups of vegetable stock, 1/2 cup of white wine, 1 cup cream, and 3 tablespoons of dill. I resorted to using chicken stock, and excluded the buttermilk, but it didn’t seem to negatively alter the taste. Like most times when making sauce, I didn’t expect it to actually thicken, but I was very happy with the finished product.

As for the salmon, this was our first time poaching anything. We filled our pan with enough water to cover the filets, and set to work heating it up. Impatient, we attempted to multitask and set to preparing salads for lunch the next day, and forgot about the fish. The pot began to boil (something the recipe advised us to avoid), so we added a teaspoon of vinegar in an attempt to keep the filets together. They didn’t fall apart on us, so Shane’s trick worked.

Poached Salmon with White Wine Cream Sauce

Served with steamed broccoli and brown rice, it was a nice Sunday dinner. Mack noted that the fish seemed to have cooked through more evenly with the poaching technique than our usual roasting option. The sauce was a little on the rich side, but I liked the combination of cream and dill – the white wine was negligible.

While we’re still on the fence as to whether or not we’ll make this dish again, we both agreed that we will be back to see Pat at Ocean Odyssey.