Just Nail the Fish to the Fence and Preheat the Oven, Honey

Lisa just loves the greenmarket on Cortelyou Road. Every Sunday she returns with a report about how it has grown, or how busy it is. She presents the week’s trophy fruit or vegetable. This week Lisa said she’d purchased the most gorgeous fish. She called it a striper. I smirked. Nobody sells whole stripers at the greenmarket. Hours passed. Lisa worked intensely cleaning up after the painters. Howard Hall was more in the weeds than usual. The playroom ceiling had been replaced.
I did nothing. Worse than nothing, I played SPORE for the entire afternoon (I’d ordered the game when it first came out, but was only now trying it out. It’s completely absorbing).
The sun set. The kids argued. “So are you gonna cook this fish, or what?” demanded Lisa.
“Me?” shaking free from the care and feeding of my gayly painted two-legged carnivore with antlers, long, bony hands for grasping and nasty biting teeth. “I’m cooking the fish?”
“It’s too big for me to cook. And its got scales.”
“What is it?”
“I told you, a striper.”
“A bass? You mean a ‘sea bass.'”
“A striped bass.”
“Like this?” I asked, holding my hands seven inches apart.
“Much bigger.”

I held my hands nine inches apart. Lisa shook her head.
“A legal striped bass is 28 inches minimum.”
“At least.” Lisa nodded her head.
You bought a wild bass at the greenmarket? Not scaled? Is it gutted?”
“Nope,” said Lisa losing patience with my condescending questions. “The lady said it wasn’t hard to do.”
“It’s not, if you’ve done it a hundred times, but it’s always messy as hell.”
“Forget it!” Lisa stormed. “I thought it’d be fun. I’ll just throw it away. We’ll just have chicken fingers.”
“Throw it AWAY? A striper? Shit.”
“Forget it. You don’t have to do anything. I will. Just tell me how.”
“Tell you how?”
No problem, I taunted, all you need to do is remove the fins, scrape every single last scale of four square feet of fish skin, cut it from its gills to its anus and tug free a couple-three handfuls of icy cold fish guts. Oh, and then clean the god forsaken mess up before even turning on the stove. All at 6:30 on a Sunday. With that I stormed into the garage, found a ten-penny nail and a framing hammer, grabbed the fish (sure enough it had the tin tag looped from gob to gill vent) from on top of the cooler.
“Nice fish,” I said, impressed.
“I told you,” said Lisa.
I nailed the fish’s tail to the fence, turned to Lisa who was cold, and heading back inside. “No way. If I’m going to process this fish in the dark, you’re holding the flashlight.”
After some to-do I recovered two respectable fillets. After pawning off the guts and carcass on the chickens, I picked what remained of the broad leaves from the spindly fig tree and washed my hands and the leaves thoroughly. I sliced the fillets into single-serving pieces and then placed alternating layers–fig leaves, seasoned fish, olive oil–until the baking dish was full. The fish baked at a high heat to draw out the flavor and aroma from the fig leaves. I served it all with baked spaghetti squash seasoned with Chinese Five Spice (fennel, cloves, and cinnamon, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns) and steamed broccoli. (7 servings in 50 minutes, not including fish processing)

Manny’s Gone

Manny’s away for 10 days… He left a sweet note under my pillow, but he’s left no directions for our sole remaining chicken (until the 5 day-olds he just ordered arrive – no idea when that will be). A raccoon the size of our 75lb Pointer/Lab mix, Fergus, stole 2 more away from us last week, including our most productive egg producing one, named “The Stray”, as she was molting and pretty horrendous looking back when she arrived 2 years ago. Anyway, Manny had relocated our surviving chicken into a wire cage in the garage, with food and water. She left me and the kids an egg this morning so she can’t be too bothered by her safehouse.   I felt sorry for her since the weather’s pretty nice, so I went to get her out to let her roam during the day, and boy did I get one helluva chicken flap straight to the eyeball when I was trying to get her out of the cage.  Then I poured out the meal leftovers for her (a few blood oranges, a banana, some broccoli stems, stuff like that) but clearly Manny hadn’t emptied the leftovers box in quite a while, since a blue cloud of mold smoke blew right into my face as I dumped the box into the yard. Nice. As the chicken started eating the moldy food, I wondered if I shouldn’t skip the next few eggs… Maybe I’ll set them aside for Manny, as he’s partying at a family wedding in Oxford and then crossing back over the pond to head straight off for a full week of skiing in Colorado for a friend’s birthday. 

I just let most of my staff at work go last week, and am left to work on 3 1/2 hours of content for a sales meeting next week, so enough with the chickens. It’s checkers and a bike ride with the kids, then straight to work on my presentation.