Posted by johngl
One of the coolest things about Austin, for me anyway, is that we have great grocery stores. We’ve got a couple of high-end companies, Whole Foods and Central Market (a division of HEB), duking it out to provide us the best food the world has to offer.
Consequently, you might find yourself wandering by the seafood counter and notice a pinkish-colored fish called opah. I’d certainly heard about opah from an old friend of mine who did a lot of deep-sea fishing, but had never actually tasted it.
This was my opportunity. The fact that it coincided with the Hatch Chile Festival at Central Market was an added bonus.
Right out of the gate, the smell of the roasting Hatch peppers got my attention. The sweet smell of these things is unmistakable. Those folks in Hatch, New Mexico really know what they’re doing when it comes to raising chile peppers.
Central Market sets up a couple of these barrel-shaped units right out in front of the store and roasts bushels of Hatch peppers at a time. They just tumble away as the flames toast the pepper skins. The aromas coming off of these things just makes me drool.
So anyway, I knew that roasted peppers would be a part of the dinner preparation.
While wandering through the store, I found these items as well:
Starting lower left and moving clockwise we have: organic nectarine, New Zealand Tentation apples, organic mango, avocado, and sweet yellow cherry tomatoes from Mexico.
I’d never had the Tentation apples before either. They are a light yellow-green with a blush of orange. And damn tasty! Crunchy. Sweet. Sour. And really juicy.
Central Market gets fresh fish deliveries on Saturday mornings, so any time we are feeling the need for something other than a burger, we wander on in.
Above, a quarter pound block of opah. This came off a fish that looks like this:
Ain’t it cute? I just read that these things can get to over six feet in length and up to 600 pounds. Not quite so cute at that size.
Most of these are caught accidentally during line-catching of tuna. Some deep-sea fisherman go out specifically for them as well.
I cut a thin slice of sashimi off of the brick of fish and gave it a taste. It was very mild, not at all oily, and extremely fresh-tasting. I could have eaten my chunk raw in one sitting. I kept myself in check and decided to do a very simply pan-sear.
Dusting the fish with a little salt, I dropped it into a smoking hot pan. All that was in the pan was a thin coating of grapeseed oil.
It literally takes about two minutes to cook fish this way, so before this hits the pan, you may want to get your salsa out of the way. First the mango.
Note the cross-hatch style cuts in the mango half. It makes it really easy to spoon out nicely cut diamonds. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to size consistency here and my chef friends will probably spank me for it.
See how simple that is?
Time for the chile peppers:
This is a roasted pepper. The burnt skin has been rinsed away. Open the pepper up and scrape out the seeds:
Then cut it into thin slices:
Pile up the slices and chop away:
I peeled and chopped half the apple, used all of the nectarine, and about five of the cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes were halved, then each half was cut into quarters.
I mixed the Hatch peppers, mango, apple, nectarine, and tomato with a splash of key lime juice (for acidity and preventing oxidation) and a half-ounce splash of tequila (for flavor). A pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar finished this off for now. I don’t put avocado in until the last minute because it tends to brown when it is refrigerated.
Just prior to cooking the fish, I cut about half of the avocado into cubes and mixed it in with the chilled fruit blend.
I seared the fish for about 15-20 seconds on each side. Six sides, less than two minutes of cooking time.
Plate and serve!
And the wine? Well, believe it or not, there are some pretty good Chardonnays coming out of New Mexico. Chile peppers and wine, who knew?
This one was a 2007 Gruet (makers of some good, inexpensive sparkling wines). Eight months in French oak barrels gives this wine hints of toasty vanilla. There is also a buttery richness offset by a good amount of acid. It is exceptionally well-balanced for something in the $10 per bottle price range. On the palate, green apple with a hit of citrus made this a perfect match with the dish.
While the eco-footprint of this dish is a bit large (New Zealand, Hawaii, Mexico, New Mexico) it sure did taste good and, less the prep on the fruit, it’s easy to prepare.
While I really enjoy eating locally produced food products, I still like to take advantage of what our great Austin grocers have to offer and enjoy some world-class fare on occasion.