Okay, I need to probably get this out of the way right away: The Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie. It’s the first film I have a memory of seeing in the theatre with my mom. I had the Barbie, the bed sheets, and the cassette tape. Ariel was my idol and she was major hair goals for every girl at the time. To this day, the reprise of ‘Part Of Your World’ where she’s on the rock and the wave crashes behind her is my favorite Disney moment. It’s still the movie that I watch when I’m sick.
This is all to say that when I realized I would be taking on The Little Mermaid for this series, I was excited.
Well, excited and scared.
The first thing I knew I wanted to incorporate into this plate was a Surf and Turf element. Surf and Turf is usually a main dish that consists of both a seafood and a land animal. Very popular in the 60s and 70s, Surf and Turf fell by the wayside and was never really talked about when I was in culinary school or for my first years in a kitchen. The term has been used more again over the last decade, with famous chefs such as Thomas Kellar reinventing what the idea could be. It is no longer outside the realm of possibility to see pork belly and oysters sharing a plate. My initial idea for this recipe was to do something more adventurous in terms of Surf and Turf, but when it comes right down to it, the storytelling didn’t really allow it.
For starters we needed to represent the turf and steak was really the only choice because… well..
Hanger Steak is the cut I chose to work with. It’s cut from the belly of the cow, and it’s sought out for it’s flavor and tenderness. There’s only one per cow, so they’re more difficult to come by. For the ‘Surf’ element, it seemed fairly obvious. At the end of the movie, the beefcake fries the octopus.
Calamari was definitely the way to go.
I knew I wanted to incorporate lots of different elements into this dish. There’s a character who is a chef, and while Louie is more in the villain role, I still had to represent him. What better way than to make something that is considered classically french and is famous for incorporating a lot of seafood?
I made my first attempt at a Bouillabaisse, slightly altering it to be a thicker sauce rather than a soup. The resulting product was a lush sauce that also seemed reminiscent of a certain mermaid’s red hair.
The garlic rouille was something I had never heard of until about about last June. That month, famous chef Anthony Bourdain passed away. Like many other chefs, I found myself seeking out his writings and came across an article where he said that garlic rouille was the greatest condiment of all time. This dish from this movie that I love so much seemed like the perfect opportunity to try this sauce out, and he pretty much nailed it. This sauce would be good on just about anything, but scooping up the lemony calamari with the aggressively garlicky sauce was a great bite of food.
Bouillabaisse is traditionally served with French bread, so I really wanted to push myself and add a bread element to the plate. However, I am not a bread maker. I am very scared of yeast. One of my resolutions this year was to challenge myself with using yeast though, so I figured this was a great opportunity to really go for it and crack open a set of books I got as a Christmas gift from my husband.
I used Julia Child’s French bread recipe, I’m not going to write the whole thing out, but the recipe can be found http://juliachildsrecipes.com/bread/julia-childs-plain-french-bread/ . I did it exactly as she told me to and it turned out pretty perfectly; it had a great crispy crust on the outside and was chewy on the inside and it had a great flavor.
When it came to the salad element, I really let the farmers market speak to me. It was the first week it was open in our town, and it’s very early in the season. However, we still got some great products there, including the hanger steak that I couldn’t find anywhere else in town. I ended up choosing, carrots, radishes, oyster mushrooms, and pea shoots. I love the flavor of pea shoots, and they’re not easy to find in my neck of the woods most of the time. The mushroom purveyor had lots of options, but I went with oyster because I thought it was hilarious.
Enough of this chit-chatting, let’s get to this recipe. Warning: It’s a long and intense one, but it can be done in pieces or ahead of time, especially the sauces and the bread.
Roasted Hanger Steak with Buttermilk Fried Calamari and Pea Shoot Salad
Prep Time: 8-10 hours (most of this was rise time for the bread though)
Cook Time: 2 hours total over 2 days
1/2 fennel bulb (save tops for garnishing)
1/2 yellow onion
6 ribs celery
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c olive oil
2 oz tomato paste
8 oz shrimp, shells on (fresh or frozen)
1 tablespoon lobster base
3 cups water
1 large tomato
2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp coriander
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Zest of one orange
1 pinch (half vial) saffron
Clean and chop the fennel, onion, celery, and garlic and add them to a stockpot with the olive oil. Cook the vegetables until they are soft. Add in the tomato paste and continue to cook for a couple minutes. Stir in the water, lobster base and the shrimp with any water that may be with them. Simmer this for fifteen to twenty minutes. Wash and dice the tomato and then add it to the pot, along with the rest of the ingredients. Cook for another fifteen minutes, until the mixture is thick and rich in color. Your kitchen should smell pretty awesome about now. Take the pot off of the stove top.
Working in batches, blend the sauce until it is completely smooth. Pour it through a fine mesh strainer about one cup at a time, agitating it with a rubber spatula to move it through. This part takes forever and kinda sucks, but it will make your sauce smooth and beautiful. Discard the leftover solids. Refrigerate if making the day ahead.
Garlic Horseradish Potato Rouille:
1 russet potato
1 pinch (half vial) saffron threads
2 cups heavily salted water
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon horseradish
5 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
Cracked black pepper
Wash and peel the potato. Dice the potato and then put it into a small saucepan with the salted water and the saffron. Cook until the water is yellow in color and reduced by half and the potatoes are fork tender. Move the potatoes and the water to a bowl and allow them to cool at room temperature for one hour. While they are cooling, separate your eggs and leave the yolks on the counter with the potatoes to get them to room temperature as well.
Once your potatoes and yolks are ready to use, move them to a blender and puree with the horseradish and garlic. Working carefully, remove the lid from the blender and stream in olive oil while the blender is still running. The mixture will grow considerably in size. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill completely.
Roasted Hanger Steak:
2 lbs fresh hanger steak
4 tablespoons Montreal Steak Seasoning
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Generously coat the outside of the hanger steak with steak seasoning. I use the McCormick brand because I think it is the greatest thing of all time. I put it on everything. Cover the steak and let it rest for at least 2 hours, but up to 24.
Heat the oil in a large pan on stove top. Place the whole hanger steak in the oil and brown it on all sides, rotating it as needed. Once browned, move into a baking dish and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until it has reached the desired temperature. I cooked mine fairly rare, but the hanger steak is very tender, so it will not get tough if you’d like it cooked more. After it is cooked to your liking, pull the steak out of the oven and let it rest at room temperature for at least five minutes. You do this so the meat is able to retain its juice. If you cut it too soon, the juice will seep out and dry out your meat. Cover with foil until you are ready to slice. This steak would also be delicious if it was cooked on the grill. At the time I was making this however, my chief grill-master was giving the dog a bath.
6-8 Purple and golden fingerling potatoes
2 sheets roasted seaweed
Wash the potatoes well. Put cold water in a plastic container. Using the first setting on a mandolin, cut the potatoes into thin slices. Place the potatoes in the water and hold until you are ready to cook. This will keep them from browning and will pull any extra starch out of the potatoes so they will crisp up better when you fry them.
When you are ready to make the chips, drain the potatoes well and dry on paper towels. If the potatoes are wet, it will make the fryer spit, which can be dangerous. Drop the potatoes into the fryer and cook for 1-2 minutes, before pulling them up and letting them rest. This will also allow the fryer to maintain its temperature. Drop the potatoes again to cook for the second time until they are golden and crispy. Remove from the fryer and drain on a paper towel. Toss in the shredded seaweed and season with sea salt while the potato chips are still hot. This step can be done ahead of time; the chips will stay crisp.
Buttermilk Fried Squid:
12 oz frozen squid rings and tentacles (calamari), thawed
1 cup buttermilk
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon white pepper
Fresh-cracked black pepper
Rinse calamari in colander and move to bowl. Juice lemons and pour the juice over the calamari. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Drain again, but do not rinse. Return to bowl. In separate bowl, mix together flour, paprika, cayenne, thyme, and white pepper. Separate the flour mixture into two bowls.
Drain the lemon juice from the calamari. Working in small batches, dip the calamari in the flour, then buttermilk, then flour. Make sure everything is coated well with flour, so the pieces don’t stick together. Fry calamari in batches, agitating it with tongs occasionally. Calamari will be golden brown when done. Remove it from oil and drain on a paper towel. Season it with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper immediately.
Pea Shoot Salad:
Was and thinly slice the radish and carrots. Carefully wash the oyster mushrooms then break up. I kept the pieces as large as I could because they were so beautiful, but you can cut them up any way you’d like. Snip the fresh pea shoots. When you are ready to plate, mix the ingredients together and drizzle with a touch of olive oil and fresh lemon juice.
Putting Everything Together Finally:
Place a generous dollop of the horseradish garlic rouille in the center of your plate or bowl. Thinly slice your steak and shingle it along one side of the bowl. Place your dressed salad along the opposite side of the bowl. Place your freshly fried calamari in the center of the bowl, right on top of the garlic rouille. Finally, take your hot Bouillabaisse sauce and pour it carefully around the edges of the bowl to fill in the extra space. Garnish with fennel fronds and potato chips and serve with the toasted french bread.
Over all, we thought this dish was delicious and fresh-tasting, despite the amount of fried food on the plate. The sauces really worked well together and worked well with all of the other ingredients. We did decide, however, that the best bite was definitely one where we got all of the elements on the fork at once. I would make this dish again for sure. It was the most labor-intensive recipe that I’ve made for this project, but it was totally worth it. I think this was a great representation of what is my favorite film in the Disney animated canon.