Sunday, July 24, 2011

Romance in the city

In search of escape from the Rabbit Hutch, and the phenomenal heat (did I mention how crazy crazy hot it is right now in NYC?), TLOML and I went to the cinema yesterday afternoon. To be inside on a gorgeous sunny day would normally wind me up, but this week in New York inside is the only smart place to be.

We saw Midnight in Paris, which is charming, witty and funny. Owen Wilson plays the lead, and pretends to be a normal sized person throughout really quite convincingly. But we were once on a flight with him - the Maui>LAX route popular with all those blond, stoner, surfer actor types - and he is teeny tiny.

Anyway, like I said, he was very good in it. And it is a lovely movie. We held hands throughout and kissed when it finished. It was that sort of movie. Though TLOML staunchly denied my accusation of him looking a little soppy.

Then we wandered to Chelsea Market to buy fish, bread, cheese and fennel. Bouillabaisse night! Well, when we're feeling all romantic, nothing else will do. My way with fishy soup is, I am sure, the reason TLOML is going to make me his wife. The first time I made it, he had three helpings, and then I took the stockpot away from the table. Ten minutes later he leapt up and ran to the kitchen where he continued eating it direct from the pot. Yeah, he really likes it.

Luckily for TLOML, I love making bouillabaisse just as much as he likes eating it. It's one of those satisfying meals which requires a long shopping list worth of ingredients, is quite elaborate, and yet is impossible to mess up.

I use this recipe, with a few changes. For starters, I don't bother steaming a whole lobster. Once or twice we've tossed a lobster tail in, but it seemed like overkill. This is meant to be a peasant fishwife's soup, after all. But I don't take logic to its natural conclusion and only include fish that is landed on the French Mediterranean. So we include whatever looks good - Littleneck clams, Mexican scallops and some squid made their way into yesterday's effort. And so long as the fish is salt water, it doesn't matter which ocean, I figure. We had halibut, mahi mahi, and something called wahoo. Once it's been cooked up with all the good stuff it all kinda tastes the same anyway; you just want something that'll hold it's form a bit. Oh, and crabmeat, for the opposite reason: I like the way it breaks up and thickens the sauce in a lovely crabby way.

The real labour of love for me is the rouille: that garlicky, lemony saffron mayo you stir in, or spread on the bread you pour the soup over. I think it's essential and tastes just properly like actual Provence in a bowl. It's a labour of love because you cannot buy it in the States for love nor money. Trust me, I spent as long looking for it as I did for lard and in this case the answer does not lie in a Mexican supermarket.

So I have to make it myself which anyone who's ever made mayonnaise knows, is no mean feat. It's a long slow business. You have to add 1/2 a pint of oil drop by drop, beating in every drop entirely before adding the next one. It goes on forever, and your wrists quickly tire from the constant slow beating, and only the fear of failure - curdling! the horrors! - stop you from tossing the whole thing in a Magimix. It's worth it though.

We ate our bouillabaisse on the roofdeck as dusk gathered over a sweltering city. Then we agreed that eating a big stew was making us kinda sweaty, so we went indoors to watch Tosh.O and eat icecream in the airconned rabbit hutch. That's romance.

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