Wednesday, 06 August 2014 15:03

Garden in the Grass

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I do, after all, have generations of farming in my blood. So, equipped with a plastic sand bucket stuffed with a bundle of dollar store garden tools (our entire budget of $12), plus a weary hand-me-down spade, Chefhusband and I stood upon the earth in the backyard of our first ever rental house. And there, we began to plan our first ever corn patch.

We imagined tall stalks with fat cobs and silky tassels, and were certain we could coax them from the ground and into a tiny plot of glory!
And if all that wasn’t enough, we did also have experience.
I myself had grown up Peter Rabbit-ing vegetables from various gardens.
Additionally, Chefhusband had spent an entire high-school summer laying turf.
What other qualities could anyone possibly need?
“Right there against the fence,” one or both of us said, while neither of us looked up to determine the designated plot’s relation to the sun, nor how far a reach it might be for the crackled old hose and sputtering sprinkler left behind by the landlord.
“We can do a proper edge later,” we said a while later, sweating and panting, after the first spadefuls came up rather rough. “For now let’s just get the grass up and get down to the good soil.”
Naturally, the “good soil” didn’t exist.
After a day of misery, we’d merely chipped down through a webbing of established grass roots, and found that our lovely earth was mostly sticky clay.
Not only would our little garden require a thorough rototilling, or the application of an ox and plough, but also several seasons of turning in of mounds of compost and manure, until at last there would be enough nutrients for anything edible to grow well. Goals that we could neither afford nor hope to accomplish during a one year lease.
We never did try again.
Instead, now, and every year since, we have been grateful to live in a region where we can simply shop at farm stands for corn that’s fresh from the stalk. Then we grill and slather it with compound butters. Or make soups and salsas. Or, as we’ve done this week: shear the corn off the cob and turn it into corn butter sauce to serve over pan-seared halibut.
Now, and every year since, the corn we buy tastes sweeter. Because every year, we remember that, instead of planting corn to harvest that long since summer, we dug back into our meagre grocery budget and replanted the grass.

Pan Seared Halibut with Corn Butter Sauce
(serves 8)
3 large, sweet cobs of corn
2 shallots, peeled and quartered
1 sprig thyme
approx. 1 litre organic chicken stock
3 Tbs butter, room temperature
flaked kosher salt/fresh ground pepper

With a sharp chef's knife, shave corn off cobs. Place shallots, corn, cobs and thyme in a medium pot. Add chicken stock and set over high heat until stock is simmering. Reduce heat to continue simmering for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, ready fish (recipe below) for pan frying.
After 20 minutes, reach into pot with tongs and discard cobs and thyme.
Strain the corn and stock over a large bowl, reserving separately the corn and the stock.
Begin to heat canola oil for frying fish.
Place corn and shallots in a blender and add just enough of the hot stock to allow the blender to purée the corn until smooth. It helps to begin with less than one thinks, then add more as needed. *Reserve and refrigerate or freeze remaining stock for use in corn soup.
Begin to cook fish, 4 fillets at a time, and while staying nearby, strain purée, stirring and pushing it through the mesh until as much liquid as possible is extracted. Discard mash.
You should now be left with silky, frothy corn "foam." Into this, stir in butter until melted and incorporated, then season to taste and serve over seared halibut.
For the halibut:

8 skinless halibut fillets, 5-6oz each

kosher salt/fresh ground pepper

canola oil for frying

Add 1/4-inch oil to a medium skillet set over high heat. Pat dry and season both sides of fish. Add to oil, bottom side down, then reduce heat to medium. Cook until flesh is golden and fish is cooked 3/4 of the way up. Do not turn over. Remove fillets to a paper towel-lined plate, seared side down, to drain before serving. There they will also “carry-over cook” the rest of the way.
Serve seared side up, covered with corn butter.

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