Sunday, January 24, 2010

Prosciutto Roasted Bass with Autumn Vegetables

So, remember my love affair with Whole Foods that began a few months back? Well, it's OVER. O-V-E-R.

It was a brisk Saturday afternoon and I was really in the mood to do some serious cooking, which I'd taken a break from for a little while, getting settled in my new house and job, etc. I had all my ingredients listed, had worked out contingency plans based on what ingredients I could or couldn't find, and was even ready to brave the craziness that is Short Pump on a Saturday afternoon.

I fought my way into the parking lot, staked out a decent space, and ignored the angry stares I got from other drivers as I sat and waited for what seemed like forever for the current occupant to pull out.

I headed into Whole Foods, lists in hand, and grabbed a cart since I needing ingredients for 2 dishes. I maneuvered around all the people milling about the produce department and made a beeline for the seafood counter. Unfortunately Halibut is out of season, but they did have beautiful fillets of Chilean Sea Bass, so I got 2 8-oz portions.

Then, I headed over to the produce department, and that's where things start to go downhill. I needed parsnips and butternut squash for this dish, and I knew I was going to make soup next, so I also needed fennel. Hmm, where could all of these things be? Searching, searching, dodging other people's carts... I couldn't find anything anywhere. No squash. No parsnips. No fennel.


It was just about this time that I started to get irate and mumbling to myself about how much I hate Whole Foods. It takes 20-25 minutes to get there, it's always ridiculously packed on the weekends, and now THEY DON'T HAVE ANYTHING I NEED?!?!?!?! SERIOUSLY??

Yes, I needed other things that were staples, like carrots and garlic, but I knew I could get those at Ukrops, and probably for a much cheaper price, so I wasn't going to waste my money. The only other things I bought were red wine (which I couldn't get at Ukrops since they don't sell alcohol, although thankfully not for long) and ciabatta bread.

Please picture my cart: fish, wine, bread. I didn't even need a basket, let alone a whole big cart.

I was completely over it at this point and just wanted to check out and get the hell out of there, but lo and behold, since everyone and their MOTHER was at Whole Foods, every checkout line was at least 8 people long. Commence more grumbling, angry texting, and awkward stares from strangers. "Yes, my cart is practically empty! Because I couldn't find a damn thing I needed in this godforsaken place!!" 

Checkout person in obnoxiusly cheery voice: Hi there! Did you find everything you needed?
Me: *Blank, angry stare* 
Checkout person: Ok....

Ok, so I know what a lot of you (or the few of you that actually read this) are thinking: Morgan, was it really that big of a deal? So you couldn't find what you needed; there are other grocery stores out there. Jeez, talk about sweating the small stuff.

And maybe I am overreacting a touch... But here's my suggestion to those of you who think I'm being a drama queen. Come visit me in Richmond for the weekend, and we'll take a trip out to Short Pump on Saturday afternoon, because in order to understand the madness, you really have to experience it for yourself. And to repay you for risking your sanity in order for me to prove a point, I'll cook dinner for you...if we survive.

Getting back to my epic journey for produce. Once I had escaped the black Whole Foods (Get it: black hole...Whole Foods. What, not funny?) and vowed never to shop there again, I made my way to Fresh Market. Not only was it a little closer to my house, but it was also pleasantly populated with only a handful of other shoppers. Unlike Whole Foods, I'm used to shopping at Fresh Market since we have one in Virginia Beach, so I felt pretty comfortable walking in. (I will say, the meat and produce department at Fresh Market leads a little something to be desired. It's the one thing Whole Foods still holds over its competition. Bastards. Anyway...)

Looking around the produce department, I wasn't letting my hopes get up too high, but once I spotted the fennel, I started to feel a bit calmer. Someone stocking produce saw me milling about and easily found the parsnips for me. Someone else even checked in the storeroom to see if they had any butternut squash (they didn't, but I forgive them). My next stop was the deli counter to get thick-cut pancetta. Unlike my first nearly failed attempt to get this ingredient, the deli worker knew exactly what I was talking about, knew the correct thickness to slice it to, and even gave me a pointer to put it in the freezer for a few minutes to make it easier to cube.

Now that's the kind of shopping experience I want to have. Fresh Market, you are my new best friend. Can I just move in? And may I just say, how sad is it that I was so excited that the workers at Fresh Market were actually helpful? I mean, come on, that's what they're paid for and yet, I was so thankful and relieved after my hellish Whole Foods experience.

Of course, as awesome as Fresh Market was, I had to make one more stop, at Ukrops, to get some of the staple items I needed. But I was still on my Fresh Market high, so it wasn't all that bad.

So I FINALLY had all my ingredients together. I know, you thought we would never get to this point. Believe me, so did I.

Once at home, I organized my ingredients

butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, yukon gold potatoes, garlic, fish, lemon, butter, rosemary

and preheated the oven.

I diced the butternut squash, potatoes, parsnips, and carrots into a very small, 1/2'' dice and placed them all on a sheet pan. I mixed up the vegetables, drizzled them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and tossed together again. I spread them out in a single layer

and put the pan in the oven to roast. After 15 minutes, I tossed the vegetables so that they would brown evenly and they went back in the oven for another 25 minutes.

In the meantime, I lined another baking sheet with foil and placed a baking rack on top. I brushed the fish fillets with olive oil on both sides and seasoned them pretty liberally with salt (while Dan looked on disapprovingly) and pepper. I wrapped each fillet in a slice of prosciutto, forming a wide band around the center of each piece of fish, and overlapping the ends of the prosciutto. These then went, seam side down, on the baking rack.

When the vegetables had 15 minutes left, I put the fish in the oven as well.

Once the vegetables had been roasting for a total of 30 minutes (are the fish had only been in for 5), I added the minced garlic and tossed to combine. The vegetables went back in the oven with the fish for another 10 minutes.

With about 5 minutes remaining, I melted the butter in a saute pan and added the rosemary, still whole and attached to the woody stalk.

I cooked this over a low heat, until the rosemary got a little crispy and the butter had just started to brown. This took a little longer than 5 minutes, but that was ok because the fish was pretty thick and I think needed more than 15 minutes to cook. Once the fish was ready, I discarded the rosemary and added the lemon juice to the butter.

Then it was time to plate! I plated the fish and veggies, then spooned the rosemary-lemon butter over top of the fish. I garnished with some lemon wedges.

I'm still not convinced the fish was completely cooked through, but Dan and I survived and the prosciutto was nice and crispy, which I loved. Each bite I got with the salty prosciutto was so good, but the rest of the fish was only ok. Sea bass isn't a fish I typically eat, but thought it would be pretty safe since it's a nice white fish. I think with a little stronger seasoning, or maybe by wrapping multiple pieces of prosciutto around the entire fillet of fish, I would have really liked this.

My favorite part of the whole dish was the roasted vegetables. Ordinarily I really hate cooked carrots, probably because I'm used to the sickeningly sweet version you're forced to eat as a child, but these were quite good. I had never had parsnips so I had no idea what they were going to taste like, but they were also really yummy; a little sweet, good texture, and not overwhelming in any way. And the butternut squash and potatoes were delicious, as expected. 

Make this when: you're feeling totally stuffed after Thanksgiving or another big holiday meal. The fish is nice and light, but the fall vegetables are still delicious and satisfy that craving for something hearty and seasonal. 

Next Course: Pappa al Pomodoro

Just a head's up, there may be some changes to the blog coming soon, so stay tuned...


  1. Haha I am just glad I was not with you in Whole Foods.

    The fish and veggies look yummy and you know that Mom loves that type of fish. I could be persuaded to eat it as well if you coat the entire fish in the prosciotto and make it really crispy.

    Miss you and your cooking!

  2. Sorry to hear of your shopping experience. Maybe you should send Dan to get your ingredients!! If he's going to reap the benefits of eating your delicious meals.. why not!

    I'd be happy to join you on a shopping trip with a meal to follow, just let me know when!

    This dish looks like one I'd love to try. You know how much I love fish!

  3. Ina Garten rocks! I made this last night! Everyone loved it. I cut the veggies recipe down, because it was far to much for four people. I am slowly cooking my way through "Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics"! :)


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