Today on Alphabet City/Kitchen Nightmares Edition: Jon Paul serves something fishy to a reporter
Some viewers wrote in wondering why Kitchen Nightmares—usually filmed on Wednesday nights and debuting Thursday mornings—got bumped from its regular time slot this week. Couple of scheduling challenges this week that caused the switch.
First, on Wednesday night I attended the press launch of the Four Seasons New York hotel’s new restaurant/wine bar called Garden. The hotel has done a nice job of transforming the traditionally stark space just off the lobby with four soaring African Acacia trees, and a 15 foot high black lacquered wine case. I appreciate that they don’t just call it a “wine bar” and then expect you to buy full bottles.
At night, the Garden serves 150 wines by the glass—along with a special menu of cheeses, charcuterie and single origin chocolates (the ‘Heights well represented by the Hacienda Elvesia 76% cocoa from the Dominican Republic). Wine bar is open Mon-Fri 5-10pm, and serves lunch/brunch other times.
Second, a special guest appearance was scheduled for Thursday night. So I thought it would be good to throw in a Quickfire Entertaining Challenge as part of this week’s Kitchen Knightmares. Joining us for dinner was Daniel Bader, Editor of the Manhattan Times, Washington Heights’ community paper. I’ll admit that I met Dan out of a little self-promotion—I sent him a couple of links to Alphabet City postings that take place in the Heights (Blog Works in Mysterious Ways and Share and Cher alike). When he found out we own a townhouse, he was intrigued for a possible story so I invited him over with the promise that my partner is a Chef. Well, he is, I just didn’t tell Dan that I’d be the one cooking.
For the meal, I chose Moroccan Halibut and Carrots out of Bon Appetit’s November 2009. It’s a very healthy dish that includes cinnamon, cayenne and mint. After reading my last Kitchen Knightmares saga with the rancid pork, my friend and editor at Bon Ap Dana advised me, “don’t leave the halibut out on the kitchen counter over night.” Sage advice.
I knew the recipe was already going to be challenging to me because I like to say I don’t know how to cook fish. Which is just a cop out that has to do with the fact that we didn’t cook a lot of fish growing up. Here are some things I learned in the prep:
Caution 1: if you don’t want a mouthful of heat, stick to the recommendations on spice measurement. Growing up, my Mom always laughed at how my Aunt Lou followed every recipe exactly measuring out specific ingredients. Mom was more of an intuitive cook who spiced things to her flavor. Since I’m such a nervous cook, I adopted Aunt Lou’s strategies. But for some reason, cooking this dish that calls for Cayenne and Cinnamon—I decided to just sprinkle however I saw fit. I’m a real cook! Thankfully, everyone at our table enjoys a bit of spice – including Mexican born Chef Juan Pablo. But I’m thinking I might need to seek a balance somewhere between my Mom and Aunt Lou.
Caution 2: for some reason, the recipe is written to serve 2 – seems weird to me. I usually think recipes are for 4 or 6 so didn’t pay attention until I was leaving Whole Foods and had to go back to the counter for more.
Caution 3: my halibut filets came with skin on one side, which really threw me for a loop. I tried desperately to take a knife to the skin to release it because the recipe calls for seasoning both sides. With time pressures mounting, I ultimately just sautéed the fish with the skin on – which was totally fine and I think the right thing to do. I’m pretty sure the fish monger at Whole Foods offered to take the skin off for me—but I was so worried he was asking me a question I didn’t know how to answer, that I just shook my head and rushed out of the store (twice).
Drum roll please…meal was a big success. Fish cooked well, spices were a little on the heavy side, but okay. I completely forgot to mix in the mint, but hey, there’s always a next time.
Kudos to Dan for being a delightful and willing guest on Kitchen Knightmares. We’re lucky to have such an insightful and dedicated person overseeing our community paper Manhattan Times, which has become a must read. A neighborhood like Washington Heights has many diverse needs not addressed by mainstream newspapers like the New York Times, so I’m glad they’re around.
And thank you, viewers, for sticking around through the scheduling changes.