Cycle 4 – Item 327
28 (Thu) November 2013
Pan-Fried Cod with Ratatouille and Couscous
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with the Family, Nanny 2
Nongeo (농어) is cod. In Korea, it’s typically available in the form of either chunks for tang or slices for jeon, never fillets for steaks.
Whole nongeo was on sale at the market, offering me a chance to try filleting a fish for the first time. The fishmonger couldn’t believe that I wanted to take the fish as is; he asked me three times if I were sure.
Going at it cold, with nothing but vague recollections of things that I’d seen on TV cooking programs, I made a mess but managed to extricate the flesh mostly intact. My idea of fun.
910 grams of pure meat (almost exactly 2 lbs) at 19,000 won (exactly USD 19 as of today) = 2,087 per 100 g (about USD 9.40 per pound), not quite sure if that constitutes a bargain -by comparison, the frozen pre-sliced cod from last year was 1,980 won per 100 g. Then again, the whole cod included head/bones for stock/stew, as well as eggs/guts, whatever that’s worth, both of which I gave to MIL, who happened to stop by at the time.
Now that I’ve done fish and fowl and frog (high school biology class), I’m ready to move on to reptilia and mammalia. Seriously, I’d kill for a chance to butcher a cow, or at least observe a butchering up close, because I want to see for myself what the ribeye/sirloin/tenderloin/porterhouse/brisket/flank/chuck look like directly on the animal.
Couscous is a North African staple. Made of semolina granules, the same type of wheat used to make pasta. In fact, couscous and pasta are often used interchangeably in various countries around the Mediterranean region, including Italy and France. Steamed or steeped. Served with meat and/or veggies and/or sauce, often tomato-based.
I was inspired to make couscous after my recent trip to Egypt, including stopovers ways in Abu Dhabi. 3 of the 4 in-flight meals featured couscous. While the various accompaniments weren’t that great, the couscous itself held up quite well, much better than pasta/rice/potatoes, which got me to thinking.
Ratatouille is a French dish. From Provence, northern Mediterranean. Typically consists of diced tomatoes, courgette, aubergine, maybe bell peppers, as well as onions, garlic, and fresh herbs. Stewed or sautéed. Controversy as to whether everything should be cooked together, as befitting its rustic origins, or separately, to preserve the respective textures of the individual ingredients. In the Pixar film Ratatouille, this distinction was a crucial plot point, when the novice chef serves the jaded restaurant critic an upgraded/modernized version of the dish – invented by American chef Thomas Keller – both appealing to professional snobbery and childhood nostalgia.
Given the couscous, ratatouille seemed an easy and suitable counterpart.
All in all, the final dish turned out fine. The cod steaks crumbled somewhat, because of poor searing technique or over-mangling during the filleting or both. But for a family-style plating, no problem. Pan sauce with butter and shallots, okay. The ratatouille, from a generic on-line recipe, perfectly serviceable. The couscous, excellent. Even Nanny 2, who’d never in our 6-year history inquired in detail about anything that I cooked, wanted to see the box. I should incorporate this general formula into my repertoire.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)