Our household has been prepping madly for Ironman Lake Tahoe.
This means that every spare moment of my husband’s time is devoted to getting in as many open water swims as possible, doing as much maintenance on his bike as can be conceived, testing out new gear, nailing down nutrition, roping friends into riding next to him while he runs so that it isn’t so mind-numbingly boring, and, like he did Saturday, riding the Ironman course as much as he can.
After only a few interrupted hours of sleep, Mr. Pre-race Madman and I get up at some ungodly hour, and start getting ready. Now I know what you’re thinking. He’s choosing to get up and do this. Why am I going? Well, dumbass me thought it’d be a great way to spend the day.
So we get up, throw stuff in the car, and head up into the hills with our friend Don riding shotgun, and of course, the Monkeybear. About an hour outside of Truckee, however, we have to stop, because mornings, winding roads, and Monkeybears are NOT, as we say in our household, “an excellent combination.” I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, we will be driving up Highway 80 to go to Tahoe from now on.
So now I have to wrestle with a pukey Monkeybear, while exhausted and increasingly round-bellied, in a town I’ve never been to, earlier than most normal establishments are open. Joyous.
I park Monkeybear and myself in a hole-in-the-wall diner. I down a few cups of full-caffeine coffee, a bowl of fruit, and the portion of the pancake that Monkeybear didn’t eat. He, his stomach obviously empty, devours two sausages, some pancake, and half a Pemmican bar. The coffee only serves to heighten the rawness from the fatigue, and put me on edge. I have known for years that caffeine and I are not friends, so this is entirely my fault. Thankfully, the waitresses are very friendly, flirt with the Little Sir, and I have a few moments to mentally prepare myself for the rest of the day.
Truckee is a very pretty town, and by mid-morning, I am ably to consciously recognize that. We get to see lots of bike riders, dogs, and a train come into the station. Around that time, Don decides that he is done with his ride, and Mr. Madman continues on.
Don and I talk for a few hours about a wide variety of topics; he is from a Criminal Justice background like I am, so the topics bounce all around there, and head off into his current job, which has absolutely nothing to do with either his bachelor’s nor his almost-master’s degree. We talk recipes, flavor combinations, and meatloaf in a mug (yes, this is, in fact, a thing. Look it up, and be appalled).
I tell him about the current creative rut I am in. I have made a lot of really good things lately, but nothing that has really impressed me, or if it has, it is blatantly not mine. And he encouraged me to write anyway. To write the things that go well, and the things that go wrong. To write to keep people interested. To not let what critics say about my zucchini brownies get me too down.
This blog post is for Don, who encouraged me to keep posting, even if I am feeling less-than-inspired as of late. And for talking food with me for an afternoon.
So, I mentioned in a prior post that I would share my version of the Seared Ahi Platter from Ashland’s Dragonfly restaurant. I shall deliver now. The reason I am calling it a “fish” recipe rather than an “ahi” recipe is because of the simple fact that fresh, sushi grade ahi is not easy for your everyday Madman’s wife to come by. That, and I’m not supposed to be eating raw fish for another 7 ½ months.
I will warn you: This is definitely not a weeknight dinner. This is very much a special occasion recipe. This is a dish to impress. It may give you a panic attack. It has several different components that have to be prepared separately, but the end result is one of the best culinary experiences I’ve had the pleasure of having. I will also note here that I am writing this for Swai, a nice, mild white fish. If you can get your hands on some sushi-grade ahi, absolutely use it. Marinate it the same way you do the Swai, but sear it on a high heat instead of cooking it all the way through.
I still haven’t QUITE achieved the greatness of the dish that inspired it, but it’s pretty damn close.
Asian Fish Platter
40 Wonton wrappers (homemade are best, but you can and probably should use store-bought for convenience)
2 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded, and halved
4 cups edamame in the pod, steamed
2 cups rice
1 13 oz. can full-fat coconut milk and enough water to make 4 cups of liquid
Salt to taste
¼ low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp garlic, pressed
½ tsp ginger, finely grated
1 tsp sesame oil, plus additional for cooking
2 tbsp sugar
4 Swai fillets
2 tbsp unsalted butter
½ c. heavy cream
The juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. wasabi
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
Sweet Soy Sauce:
Reserved Swai marinate
3 tbsp sugar
¼ c. water
1. Start your coconut rice. Add all the coconut rice ingredients to a large pot over high heat. Stir to combine, and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce to the setting just above the lowest one on your stovetop, and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat and keep covered for an additional 10-15 minutes minimum.
2. Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of sesame oil on medium in a large skillet. Cook the wonton wrappers until crispy and golden brown, about 1-2 minutes total. Add more oil as needed. Drain on some paper towel, and reserve.
3. Start on your Swai. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and sugar to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat until it just simmers, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.
4. Place your Swai fillets in a heat-proof dish. Pour the marinade over the fillets, and let them soak while you work on the rest of the platter.
5. Make the wasabi cream. Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Whisk in the soy sauce, cream, and lemon juice, then bring to a boil. Cook until thick, and remove from the heat. Whisk in the wasabi. Set aside for later use.
6. Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Remove your Swai fillets from the marinade, and reserve the marinade for later use. Place the fish into the hot oil, and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the fish is cooked through and flaky.
7. Meanwhile, pour the reserved marinade, sugar, and water into a small saucepan to finish the sweet soy sauce. Bring to a boil, and reduce until just thickened. Remove from the heat, and let cool.
8. Final Assembly:
Slice each avocado half into strips, keeping the shape intact. Place onto the platter.
Stack 10 wontons into a small tower next to the avocado.
Press the coconut rice into a measuring cup, and then turn out onto the platter, keeping the rice in the shape of the cup.
Pile one cup of edamame onto the platter.
Place one fillet of Swai onto each plate.
Repeat with the remaining platters.
Serve with generous amounts of sweet soy sauce and wasabi cream.
If you have made it this far, I congratulate you. And beg you not to hurt me.