Cooking with Constant – Encore
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I just was going to Monoprix for the dog. Not even for dog food, mind you, but to find hot dogs. A friend has suggested that perhaps Samantha Joe Cocker Spaniel would swallow her meds if they were inserted into hotdog bits.
I said I didn’t think they had hot dogs in France. I’ve seen those thin, sickly, neon orange tubes that pass themselves off as hot dogs at markets and fairs, but I had never seen—or thought to look—for a hotdog in the grocery store.
To get to my local Monoprix, I had to pass the rue du Poteau open air market. Today is Tuesday, so the fishmongers were out. My class with superstar chef Christian Constant firmly in mind, I began to peruse the fish.
Although there was no sea bass, and I am leaving town in two days and therefore have little in the house, I figured (with a gallic shrug, bien sûr) that if I didn’t put the lesson to use immediately, I might forget what I learned.
I choose the fish solely (excuse the expression) based on size and color. The sign said it was a Julienne (huh?) from the northeast Atlantic. It was 12 euros something a kilo, half the price of the other choices. My filet cost just under 3 euros, a good price for a science project. I realized I was starving and would cook for lunch while I still had the appetite, the memory and the energy.
In Monoprix, I found a 6-pak of chicken hot dogs. I did not particularly find any of the other ingredients from the class. The fish was already in a blue pouch on my wrist, singing the blues indeed. I wandered around, reading packages and thinking about what I knew from my years as a foodie.
Crunchy, I mumbled to myself.
At a special display unit, I found a packed marked Regal Taste as if that was the name of the product—which I knew was merely the sell line.
Since the small 100-gram box cost 8 euros, I knew they were trying to market it royally. Only the label Edmond de la Closerie was on the front. On the rear were the words I was expecting – fritons de canard. /admin/story/story/18150/My Grandma Jessie had made something similar with chicken fat, so I knew exactly what I would have to pay ten bucks to get.
I didn’t want to waste an entire pain de mie or eat french toast until I leave town, so I bought a brioche to cheat on the recipe, which calls for freshly packed home-cut croutons made from pain de mie.
More crunch, more texture I told myself. Doin’ good, Suze, but one more taste.
In the salad department, I found a box of three different kinds of sprouts–called young shoots in French.
Tak, tak, voila I thought to myself as I heard chef’s voice.
* * * * *
Once home, I began to boil the water for the hot dogs on one burner and melted butter on another. I used the nose of the brioche for my croutons. They adhered to the fish exactly as they had done for chef only yesterday for my fish named Darth Vader.
Luke, I am your father.
I ran my hand over my filet (this sounds more trashy than need be) and found prickly bones. (Mon Dieu!) The bones were to be pulled with a tweezer as instructed in class, alas—I couldn’t get those suckers out of the fish flesh. I stabbed, I pried, I begged. As much as I hate des arrets in my filets, I was forced to leave them there. I moved over to my sauté pan.
I remembered chef said not to burn the butter.
Well, he didn’t tell me not to burn the fish. Actually, I got it just in time, but it was perhaps something only Emeril might love—quite blackened on the top.
I pulled one of my flea market 1960’s French stoneware plates out of the cupboard and dressed it with the three kinds of sprouts in a little nest. I laid the blackened, but otherwise perfect, fish on its fish bed. I poured a little bit of olive oil with cèpes and a fine wine vinegar. I sprinkled the duck bits—warmed in the microwave—and admired my handiwork.
And to think, I was going to have a ham sandwich.
I served Sam her hot dog. She sniffed and walked away.
I sat down to my fish dish and opened my can of Coke.
“C’est pas mal, ça,” I nodded to myself and said a silent prayer that I not choke to death on the hidden fish bones and be found alone in my apartment with a hot dog, a fat dog and an open can of Coca Cola.