Bacon-wrapped Yellowtail

Sorry for the radio silence; Jim and I went on a road trip last week.  I figured I could slip away, under the cover of fireworks.  We set off on the fourth of July and made our way to Lexington, NC for barbecue, then Savannah, GA for fried chicken, Florida for the ocean (and, more importantly, my grandparents), then back to Savannah.  We listened to the audio version of the Iliad along the way, which made our adventure down the east coast seem all the more glorious.  But that’s all I’m going to tell you for now; we’re letting the trip digest a bit before posting.

I did prepare something for you, though.  The night before we left we snuck over, again, to Jim’s parents’ empty house to grill, this time bacon-wrapped, herb-stuffed yellowtail snapper.  By chance, we bought a way-too-big-for-the-two-of-us fish, because it looked so pristine and delicious—a good thing, because we were ready when Jim’s parents came home early from their vacation, surprising us (and themselves) in the kitchen!  It became an impromtu welcome home/bon voyage party, with fish, avocado and tomato salad, grilled zucchini, and bread and butter.

The fish is one we’ve done many times, for good reason.  You take a whole fish, yellowtail for instance, though red snapper, bronzino, and many others work as well, and stuff it with whatever fresh herbs you can get your hands on (I like to use a mix of many herbs, so that no one stands out too much) and thin slices of lemon.  Then, and this is the good part, you salt and pepper and wrap it in bacon, from the head to the tail, and throw it on a hot grill.

It only takes a few minutes to cook the fish and crisp the bacon.  We like for it to blacken on the top and bottom; sprinkled with a touch of lemon juice, the charred bacon crumbles over the fish flesh as you eat and it’s fresh and savory and ahh, well, it’s just what it sounds like. Also, we could feed four people with a fish just over 2 pounds (that’s counting the weight of the carcass), because a little goes a long way here—a welcome thing for impromptu dinner parties.

Bacon-wrapped Yellowtail

serves 4

  • 1 (2.5 pound) whole yellowtail snapper, have the fishmonger clean and remove fins for you
  • salt, pepper
  • handful of mixed herbs, parsley, dill, thyme are good ones
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • about 6-8 slices good bacon
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Turn the grill on high.  Check that the fish has been scaled fully, and remove any stray scales.  Salt and pepper the inside cavity of the fish and fill with herbs and lemon slices.  Salt and pepper the outside of the fish and then wrap in bacon, overlapping each slice with other slices (to ensure that everything stays put).  Grill 7 minutes on each side, or until the fish is opaque and tender and the bacon is crisp and beginning to blacken.  Fillet and serve with lemon wedges.

Cowboy steaks, fried potatoes and artichokes, onions and green beans.

I consider myself lucky.  I live within ten-minutes of this steak.

The Highland Company Gourmet Market in Kingwood Township, New Jersey, sits on lush green where Highland cows (and a rather menacing bull) hang out all day, chomping on the grass or watching the family soccer games across the fence.  These cowboy steaks, however, don’t come from those Highland cows (the punk-rock of cow breeds), but considering the care and love that Dee gives her own, I’m sure the local farms that she chooses to distribute from are just as good.  (I’m sure, also, because we asked.)

Steak aside, I also consider myself unlucky, or at least lazy, because since our neighbor Bob moved away, Jim and I have been without a grill.  So far this season, I’ve been able to satisfy my grilling urges through dinners at my parents’, where my dad charcoal grills spare ribs, or porterhouse steaks, or hot dogs with deliciously crisp charred edges, but when we saw the cowboy steaks at the market this weekend, we knew we’d have to find a house with a grill.  This wasn’t hard; Jim’s parents have a grill and were away for a few days and we gleefully took on the job of feeding the cats (and playing house.)

Besides a grill, there was also a pretty little herb patch at my disposal and the perfectly purple sage leaves did not go untouched, (thanks, Lydia!) destined to be a garnish on our fried potatoes and artichokes.

Because our date with a grill had become something of a grand affair, I picked up a few artichokes and some colorful potatoes—purple, red, and white; dolling up Tesa Kiros’ recipe of fried russet potato and artichoke bottoms.

If you’ve never pared down an artichoke before, make sure you have two knives: a serrated knife and a sharp chef or paring knife.  You need a serrated to cut off the top half of the artichoke and the chef knife to slice off all the leaves.  You also need a spoon for gouging out the choke.  And maybe a y-shaped peeler to peel the very bottom.  And surely this guide to help you along.

I fried the potatoes in corn oil (a lot of corn oil), putting them in the oil about 10 minutes before throwing in the artichokes.  The whole mess fried for about a half hour; long enough to make me get very worried that the potatoes would never brown, long enough so that they finally did brown, got crisp on the outside and mashed-up creamy inside, with a best freakin’ fried potato in the world taste.  The artichokes were a definite plus, elevating it from french fries to elegant, and the sage must be used, it’s non-negotiable; it added a serious pop of flavor whenever you came across it, and was paper-thin and crunchy like a chip.  I scattered fleur de sel over everything as soon as it came out of the oil.  The mineral-tasting salt was just the thing.

Jim marinated the steak in garlic, thyme, rosemary, and sage, then cooked the steak mostly on the grill, finishing in the oven.  In hindsight, he says he would have done the whole thing on the grill (something I thought from the beginning, but you can’t question a man with a plan) and that’s what you should do, too.

Oven, grill, whatever; the steak turned out fantastic (I don’t imagine it could turn out any other way.)  Rare in the middle with some char all around, garlicky and well-seasoned, we happily ate it up, saving some for a midnight snack, and lunch the next day, before handing off the bone to a very eager dog.

We also made some green beans and cippolini onions, which were fresh, buttery, and sweet.  A rather good steakhouse dinner date, if we do say so ourselves.  It’d go over fabulously for father’s day, without a doubt, if you can find a good cowboy steak (and if you live anywhere near Kingwood, New Jersey, it’s worth a drive.)  I’d be making it for my dad, but we’re away for the weekend attending another engagement party in our honor, this one out in East Hampton.  Luckily for me, the Highland Market is going to have these every weekend.

Cowboy Steak

serves 2

1 cowboy steak
salt
olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
handful or herbs (we use thyme, rosemary, and sage)
pepper

A day or two before you plan on eating the steak, salt it generously on all sides and return to the fridge.  The day of, take the steak out and transfer to a plate.  Combine some olive oil, the garlic cloves, and herbs.  Massage into steak and let sit for a few hours.  Grill according to how you like you steaks (we don’t own a grill, so don’t want to act like authorities.)

Fried Potatoes and Artichokes

serves 6

2 1/2 lbs potatoes, preferably mixed varieties (we used purple fingerling, red bliss, and new), cut in halves or quarters
6-8 medium artichokes, trimmed and cut into halves or quarters (you can peel and halve the stems, too)
small handful sage leaves
corn oil for deep frying
fleur de sel

Prepare your potatoes and artichokes.  Fill a large saucepan or pot halfway full with corn oil and turn heat on the stove top to medium high.  When the oil reaches frying temp (350F-375F), add your potatoes.  Let them settle for about five minutes then give them a good stirring with a wooden spoon.  Let fry for about 8 minutes, then add artichokes and give a good stir.  Continue to fry for another 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are golden brown and crunchy.  Add sage leaves and fry 1 minute more.  Remove everything to drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve with lemon wedges.

Cippolini Onions and Green Beans

serves 4-6

1 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed
5-6 cippolini onions, halved and peeled
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon olive oil
fresh thyme
salt, pepper

Add 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil to a large saute pan over medium heat.  Carefully place the onions cut-side down.  Season with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves to taste.  Saute for about 5-10 minutes, until the onions are darkly caramelized.  Turn onions on their sides with tongs.  Add green beans and stir to combine.  Add about 1/4 cup water and cover.  Cook for 5-10 more minutes, or until the green beans are tender to your liking.  Serve hot or warm.