I grew up on Long Island NY.
Long Island doesn’t only geographically look like a fish, its waters
abound with them.
When I was 14 I cooked my first fish dinner as a present for my parent’s 20 wedding anniversary.
It was to be a schrimp curry with pineapple and rice.
The pineapple went fine.
The little bit of rice at the bottom of the pot of water didn’t seem right, so I poured
in the whole box.
Then came the schrimp which I cleaned myself, removing heads and veins.
I’m sure you’ve heard the Grimms fairy tale, where the princess has to spin 3 rooms of straw
into gold in order to marry the prince.
Well I had my little piles of schrimp, set out to help me get through a task hard to fulfill.
No gold that time.
Nevertheless we ate a lot of seafood in my childhood- clams, scallop, schrimp and lobster.
But I regret that no one among my circle of family and friends knew how to filet a fish, to get to the delectable meat without bones.
It took many years later and meeting my German husband
to unlock the secret.
I visited him one day at lunchtime.
„You like fish?“
Lunch was mackerel. No salad no potato, just one whole mackerel.
I must have stared at it for quite a while,
because Lothar eventually came over in his understanding way and a knife
to show me the horizontal line where you very neatly
and effortlessly separate the meat from the bones.
Lothar didn’t only love eating fish, he loved catching them.
A few years afterwards we spent some Summer time
on the Island of Skye in the Inner Hebrides.
He climbed down the cliffs to be closest to the waters edge, enjoying the surge and sucking of the waves as if they could offer no danger. I stayed, I must admit, anxiously at the top, with my basket of knitting.
While waiting for him to come back, a group of whales appeared in the straits, blowing and diving down,
their long backs seemingly endless.
A fascinating distraction.
Lothar came back up the cliffs with his catch soon enough, whistling as a signal of success.
Back at our campsite the stove was on and a fog came up, a Scottish mist as they call it there,
and I went to wash my hands in the inlet.
Again a blowing similar to that of the whales.
This time it was a pair of seals catching air.
Just their heads appeared above the water with their whiskers and dark eyes and we reciprocated intense contact before they slid under again.
I have since been asked a number of times how to best cook fish.
My answer is that the pan should be hot when the fish come out of the water.
We got pretty close to that in Scotland.
The fish was fantastic.
A more delicious way to cook rice than my adolescent attempts is an Italian risotto.
It’s the kind of dish you cook while listening to music and sipping wine.
I compare it to building a house, starting with the foundation, and celebrating the roof at its completion.
You will need rice, the roundish Italian Arborio rice is the best,
olive oil, onion, garlic, parsley, saffron, white wine, grated parmigiano, schrimp, and chicken broth.
Fresh is always the best, and chicken broth couldn’t be easier.
Cover a whole chicken, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, a bit of salt and pepper and herbs with water
and cook gently for an hour. If you should happen to change your mind while doing this and decide to have chicken noodle soup instead of risotto, go ahead.
If not, put some oil in the pot. Gently cook the onion and garlic for 3 minutes.
Add only the rice (not the whole box) and some salt and pepper for another 3 minutes, then the wine you have been drinking, just enough to cover the rice for another 3. Now add the chicken broth and cover the pot for 15 minutes.
Once the rice is under way, fry the cleaned schrimp until it turns a rose color. Don’t cook them too long, just rosy, otherwise they turn to rubber.
Garlic and hot pepper to taste.
Add the parsley and dissolved Safran filaments and a cup of grated parmigiano, even some chicken bits, to the rice which should be creamy with a gentle bite.
Pile it all onto a beautiful platter and garnish with the schrimp in your most creative fashion.