One time at the Wednesday Castro farmer’s market, Jonathan and I were looking to purchase some fresh fish for dinner. We didn’t know what we wanted, but figured we’d buy whatever looked the freshest and the rest of the meal would just stem from there. The merchant-fisherman had caught all his fish earlier that day and could see us eyeing his salmon filets and the last vacuum-sealed packet of sushi-grade tuna in his Igloo cooler.
“Look,” he said, dangling a packet of the Red Snapper (aka Rock Cod or Rockfish), “this stuff is wild, fresh caught this morning, and since I’ve got a lot of it left, I’ll even give you a discount.”
Immediately the word “discount” triggered a guttural defense mechanism in me. Was he assuming we were Jewish and looking for a deal? If so, was it all right to be offended by the accusation that “us Jews” are always looking for a good deal? Part of me said “yes,” but part of me said, “So what?” Because let’s be real, of all the stereotypes out there, isn’t being smart with your money one that we should be proud of? Who, regardless of their race, turns down a good deal, someone stupid, right? Not wanting to reward bad behavior and small-mindedness, before I purchased anything I was determined to find out whether this guy was just a good salesman, or if he was indeed a bigot, making assumptions and furthering stereotypes to push his products.
So I took a quick inventory of Jonathan and myself, what we were wearing and how we looked. Had he seen the Star of David nestled in my chest hair peering out from behind my Costco three-pack Calvin Klein V-Neck undershirt (good deal by the way)? No, I don’t think so. Or did our average sized noses look any larger in the day’s dusk? Not that I could tell. Nothing seemed obvious so I engaged him a little further.
“Why is it so much cheaper if it’s just as local and just as fresh? What’s wrong with it?” I asked, ready to pounce on the slightest hint of anti-Semitism (and by pounce I mean walk away).
“The snapper is great.” He said. “It’s mildly flavored and not as delicate as sea bass. It’s just a less “sexy” fish, making it a better value per ounce.” He sifted through a few more packets so we could see the different size filets he had left. “Look, it’s the end of the day, I want to go home, and everyone’s buying the ‘fancy fish’ like the tuna and Arctic Char. But I tell you, this snapper is goodeats.”
And at hearing “goodeats” (my new favorite hashtag), and the perfectly rational explanation of how demand and price are inextricably linked, my ears perked up, like Chunk ‘s do in Goonies at the site of a Baby Ruth, and I slapped $20 in the guy’s calloused hand in exchange for my unattractive fish and confidently headed home.
On the walk through the Lower Haight, I contemplated the exchange we’d just had. Was I too judgmental? Was I looking to create drama where there was none to begin with? Can a deal just be a deal without strings attached? Yes, yes, and yes. Content with the facts: the guy wasn’t a bigot, I am indeed a neurotic Jew, and that I also happen to enjoy getting a good deal; I started to plan my recipe for the evening.
It wasn’t until I’d walked in the door, put the groceries on the kitchen counter, that the irony of the situation dawned on me. While washing my hands at the bathroom sink I noticed in the mirror the “Yo Semite t-shirt” I’d been wearing. Maybe the guy was offering me a deal because I was Jewish? And that’s when I realized it didn’t matter. Whether he was a segregationist or not, and whether my instincts were wrong or right, the truth I’d never know. The moral of the story is, life’s too short to sweat the small stuff. When offered a deal, take it, and never look back no matter how cheap you think it makes you look. Frugality is the new sexy!
Red Snapper in White Wine Beurre Blanc with Roasted Asparagus
- 2 filets of snapper (you can use any similar white fish)
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 1 clove of garlic pressed
- 1 medium shallot sliced thin lengthwise
- 3 tblsp olive oil (divided)
- 4 tblsp of cold butter (divided)
- 1/3 cup of dry white wine
- ¼ cup of flour
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- 1 ½ tsp of fresh lemon juice
- salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375°, Brush the asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and roast them on rimmed baking sheet for about 10-15 minutes or until wrinkled, soft, and slightly browned.
Rinse the fish filets in cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel. Remove any bones using tweezers if you don’t want to have to eat around them. You’ll notice one side has some variation in colors and the other doesn’t. That’s because the side with the colors was closest to the skin, which on these filets had been removed.
Heat 2 tblsp of oil and 1 tblsp of butter in a skillet on medium high heat. While that oil is heating, lightly dredge the fish in the flour so it’s completely coated and shake off any of the excess. Once the oil is shimmering, gently place the floured fish filets in the pan and let them cook about three minutes on each side.
Remove the fish from the pan once you have a golden crust on both sides and let them rest, tented with foil on a warm plate.
Using whatever oil, butter and fish juices are left in the pan (add a tsp of olive oil if needed) sauté the garlic and shallots for less than a minute being careful not to let them burn.
With the oil spitting from the heat, add the white wine to deglaze the skillet, scraping all the crusty bits off the bottom of the pan. Then add the last 2 tblsp of butter and lemon juice stirring until emulsified into a sauce (will only take 30-60 seconds) and remove from heat.
Serve the fish and asparagus together, with a heavy drizzle of the garlic, lemon, and shallot sauce over the fish.
- Time the asparagus and the fish so they finish around the same time. The asparagus will only take about 10-15 minutes and the fish about the same time, so make sure the pan and the oven are heated before you start.
- Not all fish will have bones and if there are bones, there might only be a few. If you have the time, I think it makes a big difference to remove the bones so people don’t have to pull them out of their mouth with their fingers during dinner. To find the bones, gently rub the filets with your fingers to feel for any sharp and hard pieces.
- It’s best to dredge the fish right before you put it in the pan. If you let it sit in the flour for too long, it will get lumpy and tacky and that will prevent a light uniform crust from developing.
- If you have fresh flat leaf Italian parsley you can chop a tblsp or two and garnish the plate for a more elegant look.