I made fish stew two weeks ago, on the last day of school. It was a big cooking day. I had already made Chicken and Eggplant for the end of school lunch. It was my last, last day of school, and a liberating experience. I went back upstairs after lunch and took a last look around the two rooms I worked in for stuff, namely library books. I have 11 overdue library books that have vanished into the ether. About all I could do was to tape a note inside a cabinet to the teacher who has the room next year asking him/her to call me if the books turned up.
Having done that, I left my keys with the school secretary, said good-bye to the principal, and left. It was 2:30 on a sunny, cool Thursday afternoon, and I had no responsibilities, no books to hunt down at the library, no plans to write, no copying to do. It was a wonderful feeling. I drove to the fish store and bought a pound of haddock and thence to Safeway to get the rest of the ingredients. There was one ingredient I missed on the list, Pernod.
My daughter's friend Laura was coming to dinner. I brought the fish and vegetables home and began a vague attempt at cleaning up. Laura was planning to give me a massage before dinner so I chopped up the shallots before she got there. The massage was wonderful as massages are. Then I got down to the cooking. The recipe calls for a cup of fish stock, which I didn't have. For some reason, I thought it said two cups, so I put in two cups of water. When it came to the Pernod, I stopped short. Pernod is an anise flavored liquer. Anise is licorice flavor. Suddenly I remembered the Sambucca. A long time ago, way before we had children, Bob and I were invited to a dinner in a restaurant on a Sunday night in Crystal City. The restaura nt was closed on Sunday and the chef wanted to show off his skills for his friends. It turned out that the person who invited us never came, and we didn't know any one else at the dinner, but we had a wonderful time. That dinner introduced me to Sambucca in tall fluted glasses with two coffee beans floating in them.
It was the height of elegance. Even though I spent an entire weeks' salary on that dinner, I went out later and bought a bottle of Sambucca.
That Sambucca, 35 years and two moves later, was unearthed from the bottom of the kitchen cupboard.and added to the stew. By that time, Bob was home. According to the recipe, the milk was supposed to go in at the same time. Bob advised against the milk, and I agreed. The stew and the dinner was great.
1 pound boned, skinned haddock or striped bass, cut into serving pieces
1 cup fish stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely choppped shallots
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tomato, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons slat
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 te aspoon thyme
3 drops tabasco sauce
2 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons Pernod
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1. Simmer the fish in the stock, covered, until fish flakes easily, about eight minutes. Reserve stock and fish separately.
2. Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the shallots and garlic and saute until golden.
3. Add mixture to reserved stock. Add the tomato, parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg, thyme and Tabasco. Simmer, covered, twenty-five minutes.
4. Add the milk, Pernod and lemon ridn to stock. Add fish pieces. Heat before serving, but do not boil. Serves 4.