All Lost in the Supermarket.

It seems like it has been a while since I’ve written. Has it? Maybe not. I feel like my sense of time is a little warped right now. Why? I don’t know. The days and weeks are whipping past me at lightning fast speed. Yet the days are theoretically longer now. I think I’m just distracted.

Spring is being so springy right now. It makes me want to be springy, too. I want to play. I want to fly. I am enjoying my distractions. I am still accomplishing what needs to be done, so it should be fine that I’m distractedly springy, right? But, admittedly, I feel guilty. I have not been swimming in food thoughts as much as I’d like, and this is unusual.

I actually haven’t really even cooked in about a week. I don’t feel like I’ve been eating out an unusual amount. Hell, am I eating? This, to me, seems to be a bit strange. Is Mercury in retrograde or something?

Am I escaping something? Am I running towards something? I’m not sure. I imagine it will all figure itself out. I will focus.

Chris came over last night to do his laundry and have dinner. We do this every couple of weeks. So I ran to the store, with nary a recipe in mind, to find inspirato. Interestingly, my shopping was also distractedly springy and unfocused. I bought a bunch of random things hoping some meal concept would jump out at me. I knew I wanted to make something lighter, springier than usual: fish. The trout looked fresh and beautiful, so I bought that. Then I picked up, among other things, a bulb of fennel, a shallot, some green grapes - something was coming together in my head, but only very vaguely. Then, I remembered Chris’ various steamed mussels recipes he has prepared for us in the past and wanted those as well. So I ran back over to the fish counter again. All very disorganized, I know.

When I arrived home, I rifled through the refrigerator to find a bounty of Cremini mushrooms. So I decided to make a soup. Now why, I wonder, did I decide to do that? I just bought a mountain of seafood. See what I mean? Scattered, scattered, scattered.

But it was a good thing to do. Perhaps I was trying to get my footing back in the kitchen by making something I am so comfortable with. And while I made my soup I concentrated on how I was going to put together dinner.

We had steamed mussels in white wine and garlic with crusty, French bread as an appetizer. For the main course I decided to very loosely adapt Suzanne Goin’s grilled pancetta-wrapped trout with verjus, crushed grapes, and fennel gratin. Except I didn’t wrap the trout in pancetta, grill it or use verjus. I served this all with a side of bacon-wrapped asparagus.

I went at this meal strangely. I didn’t really refer to her recipe, except to get the broadest concept of ingredients. And I didn’t exactly adhere to those either. I would say I primarily maintained some of the basic flavor combinations. In the end I was happy with the way everything turned out. Chris absolutely loved the fennel gratin but we both decided it was more of a hash than a gratin. He wasn’t wild about the fish. He was surprised that I would ever use fruit, moreover cooked fruit, in a savory dish and found it to be too sweet for his taste. Shockingly, I really liked it.

It was a nice meal that I was perfectly pleased with. However, it was unlike anything I usually serve and unlike any way I usually go about preparing a meal. I think it’s tremendously interesting that whatever orbit I am in right now came through in every facet of this meal and its composition.

What I will share with you here is the fennel hash recipe. It was great with the fish, but would be equally appropriate with a grilled skirt steak or a roasted chicken.

Potato-Fennel Hash
(Recipe from Suzanne Goin, Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

Serves 4

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
Juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
3/4 pound fingerling potatoes, boiled and drained
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Trim the root end of the fennel, cut the stalks off where they meet the bulb, and peel off any outer layers that are brown or bruised. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise, leaving the core intact. Place the halves, cut side down, on a cutting board, and slice the fennel thinly lengthwise.

Toss the fennel in a large bowl with the shallot, thyme, bay leaf, fennel fronds, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt & pepper.

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet until it is very hot and then toss in the fennel mixture. Once the mixture is tender and somewhat translucent (about 10 minutes), toss in the potatoes, and smash them up a bit with a potato masher. Add lemon and stir everything together for about 5 minutes and add cream.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, until golden and slightly crispy on top.

Top with parsley and serve.


  1. I love the free association of this post. I find myself in a similar head as you just described quite often. At those times I say follow the inspiration and see where it leads. GREG

  2. Thank you so much, Greg. It seems, at times, we may be cut from a similar cloth! -Ells