Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cardamom-scented Dover sole with orange and braised fennel

I don't know if I can make this look any prettier. It's a lot of monochrome visually, but the flavors were anything but one-note. I half-filled an olive-oiled baking dish with shaved fennel, layered on some milky-fleshed Dover sole filets (they smelled only of the Pacific and made me long for a gray day at the Oregon coast) the zest of an heirloom navel orange and some lightly crushed cardamom pods. Crunchy sea salt and black pepper, top with a protective layer of fennel fronds and into a hot oven. It's done when the translucent fish goes porcelain-opaque.

Serve with a willowy Gewürztraminer and an ort of wit so obviously forced that it may as well be salami.

Hey, so I guess I feel like I've been doing a half-assed job at the blogging these days, and it 75% because I just don't give a shit about food or cooking right now. I could probably eat a burrito or a bowl of noodles from a sketchy Chinese joint alternately and be perfectly happy. I guess part of it is shaking off the last bit of winter (unpredictable weather is causing a bit of learned helplessness) and some of it is the hassle of hobbling around in an orthopedic boot, but I just feel creatively tapped out.

How ironic, then, that I've been getting requests from marketers wanting me to blog about their product that they're delighted to send me for free (chocolates? cheeses? sure, I'll bite), and I've even been contacted a couple times to do a bit of real writing. The validation feels great, but unwarranted. When I feel the most proud of what I do, I feel my talents are being squandered and I'm unappreciated. When I blog through my self-loathing about a fucking grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and a fried egg, my traffic goes through the roof (it's like the fucking Lotka-Volterra predator-prey model from Ecology 101). So I'm faced with an actual conundrum: do I whore myself to the traffic (and the sweet, sweet cash that it funnels into my PayPal account, thank you Foodbuzz), knowing that the people clearly want This Is Why You're Fat SFW pornography? Or do I keep challenging myself creatively, accept that people's eyes will glaze over if they can't immediately relate, and resign myself to obscurity?

These questions don't need your answers. I know the answer: you can't force creativity and bacon fucking tastes good.


Heather said...

bacon does fucking taste good! and the braised fennel sounds so tasty :)

Zora said...

Oh, man--I hear ya on the late-winter lack of inspiration. And the blogging in obscurity (let me count the years). According to my stats, I should write about nothing but marmalade and "what cumin smells like." But if that's not a straight ticket to burnout, I don't know what is.

Cook what you feel, lady! (Or at least look into a bacon sponsor.)

Brittany said...

OH dover sole....I love dover sole so very, very much. It's so delicate and ladylike.

Okay, the other thing- I will provide no answer, as you did not solicit one. But I will say that I fucking love your 24's, and yes, bacon tastes good. So does grilled cheese... And fried eggs. I think you hit a lucky trifecta there and the peeps responded.

LaDue & Crew said...

Bacon... my true love ~*sigh*~ I miss it so... I've been eating healthy and exercising like a madwoman to shed 40 lbs. So my compromise was to buy "Bacon salt". It isn't the same, but it holsters a crave when the going gets rough.

Emily said...

Welll, you've been doing both things, and I think it works.
I do think you should challenge yourself creatively, though. I do, I do.
This looks lovely. Orange and fennel taste so good together. I can only get my hands on fennel once in a blue moon, though.

dp said...

Interesting you should mention the marketers. I wonder if they got a list with food bloggers names, because I also got 3 solicitations in like 2 days. That's exactly 3 more than I've gotten in the previous 2 years!

One of my most popular posts? Potato salad...Seriously peeps, I eat potatoes about 3 times a year, max.

Manggy said...

Ahahaha. I'm glad you're not actually looking for answers because I don't have any. But as long as you are yourself, I'll be happy. I mean, you probably won't stuff a burger into a burrito any time soon, right? Right? And of course you will still have your very important (uh... in-joke?) foul mouth.
Take, for example, this beautiful sole. It is one of my MOST favorite of all fishes, and meanwhile I know an ass ton of people who hate seafood (a sad bunch). Then I can just pretend you're writing for me, heh :)

Foodycat said...

Beautiful fish!

I do know what you mean - I will post about something that looked and tasted amazing, I get 3 comments. I blog about ready meals and get 9. Where is the sense in that?

abadeeba said...

definitely time for a change of seasons. and you should creatively whore yourself. no need for those to be mutually exclusive.

Bellini Valli said...

I think that you should carry on with exactly what you have been doing which is turning out delicious foods of all never hurts to make a few bucks on the side doing reviews or getting free stuff. I find that sometimes the simplest dishes get the most comments but as for example your grilled was a novel idea to most and they wanted to comment!!

peter said...

But what should it profit a blogger if she would gain like 20 bucks a month and lose her soul?

Heather said...

Heather - I bet braised fennel with bacon would be amazing.

Zora - Glad you feel my pain. Coolest name ever, btw, and you probably don't even play Zelda games.

Brittany - I didn't mean to be so prissy and whiny, I just resent (a little) that I need only put a fried egg on something to get the traffic spike. I may as well just be showing my tits.

LaDue - Liquid smoke is nice, too, but only used sparingly.

Emily - It loves cool climates - I bet you could grow some (then you'd have the wonderful flowers, too).

Darlene - I suspect my name got sold. I also got a free magazine in the mail today: Mix (a Portland food and drink mag). Highly suspect.

Marky - I guess I wouldn't put a burger into a burrito. I might, however, put a pizza on a pizza.

Alicia - I think people just need to be granted permission to obsess over garbage-y foods (whatever their reasons may be, and I have my theories). Seeing it on a food blog does that.

Innagottabadeeba - You raise a good point. Creative whoring is the best of both worlds.

Valli - I get a little paranoid about pandering sometimes, but I guess there are worse offenders than myself.

Jube - If I cooked and ate something for the enjoyment of it, but blogged about it because I know others will love it (instead of being aloof and pretending like I don't care about the size of my audience), does that really mean I have no soul?

matt wright said...

Fantastic looking fish. I have never cooked fish with cardamon before, but dang that must go great with a navel orange.

Don't pimp yourself. Half the requests of free shit I get, I turn down (it just started happening to me too). Some have really ridiculous stipulations to them. Don't pimp yourself out. Challenge yourself daily with your cooking, otherwise it is always going to seem like a chore.

Brooke said...

You got the spike on the bacon and egg sammich cuz people want to see pictures of what they must deny themselves....or something like that. I'm still thinking about the bacon salt. BACON SALT?!

How're your stats looking with healthy fish?

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I gotta get me some of those people who want to send me free food in exchange for blogging about it. I'm broke. I'll never turn down free food!

As I"m always looking for fish inspiration to feed Sir Pickypants, this recipe is right up my alley because it's easy and I know that those who eat fish will probably enjoy it.

I've been slow on the blogging thing too. I'm not cooking or eating much that inspires me to write these days.

Sweet Charity said...

The idea of compromising my ideals to write for others has always pissed me off because what sells in mainstream media pisses me off... which, of course, means like 98% of the population pisses me off. It amazes me how narrow most peoples' scope is when it comes to ingredients that I think are common- like this twit server that I work with just "discovered" saffron the other day... um, it's been in several menu items for over a year... and she's like "Oooooh, so that's what saffron is? It looks like flower parts, and it smells medicinal." Man, I wish I had gold star stickers for that one. But set a carbonara in front of the girl and her eyes light up (cheese, eggs, bacon- again). Of course, she doesn't allow herself to eat it, she just looks at while her size 4 jeans slide off her body. It makes me sad to think that she's probably representative of the average reader.

Ahem, what I meant to write was: Mmmm. Chinese burritos.
The sole looks great, but I liked your rant even more.

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

Bacon is good! Love Dover sole and the simplicity that you have used to cook it here!

Nilmandra said...

We have lots of sole being sold here, thanks for giving me more ideas as to what to do with them!

I hear you about being in a dry phase for food blogging. I have been out of it for a few months now, mainly because I have gotten too busy with work and other things going on in life. I do feel a little sad sometimes, thinking about readers who give up checking back in when they see that I still have not updated my blog, and seeing my stats drop from its better days. But hey, life goes on right? And there is so much life going on outside of my blogging world. I am glad you are not looking for answers :) Take care, and keep those posts coming.

Rick said...

That is one beautiful cut of fish and I am a absolute freak for cardamom but only so so on the fennel. Bad experience with some vermouth braised fennel.

And don't sweat the stats. You didn't get into this for the free chocolate did you??

The Spiteful Chef said...

My brother had to wear an orthopedic boot for plantars fasciatus after his marathon. My mom called it "Das Boot." If you're a fan of BeerFest, you should start calling it the same. It takes the sting out of it.

Cynthia said...

Boring - this is definitely not!

kyouell said...

Bah, I'll read no matter what you cook. Grilled cheese or some Asian thing I cannot pronounce are all fun to me. I'm so.freaking.tired of churning out the same food all the time (ever met a 3yo who doesn't want anything but Cheerios and Goldfish crackers?) that *anything* you cook and write about is cool by me.

BTW, you inspired me to make tomato soup to go with my grilled cheese the other night. Found a recipe online that was very close to ingredients I had and... it was good! No where near as good as yours from tomatoes that you put up yourself, I'm sure, but better than a red and white can from the store.

Anonymous said...

Accept the free food and never blog about it. That's what i do.. until they get tired of sending me free stuff. Then it's ok too.

Damn that looks good! Are you getting all fancy on us? I'm curious.. How much did you pay for that Dover sole!?

Peter G said...

Heather I hear ya! I ignore most requests for product testing simply because I don't live in the US and see no need for it. In regards to your blogging, I personally think you do a great job with all the stuff you present on here. It can't hurt to do a combination of stuff as you have been doing already. You're a very talented cook and ANYTHING you make will def be don't stop!

MrOrph said...

Cardamom with sole? Very interesting. As is everything you bring to us. Why would we be here Heather if you weren't brilliant? Keep doing what you are doing and I'll be fine, `cause it's all about me, dammit! :-)

Love what you do here any way you do it, kid.

Heather said...

Matt - I won't. At least, not for cheap.

Brookie - I got 1600 hits the day the bacon sammich posted (and am still feeling the ripples). I got 382 hits the day the fish posted.

Rachel - Well I've been happy to eat the candy, but now I have to do something with it.

Charity - I dunno, it still smacks to me of priests looking at porn, and everyone knows priests are creepy. Just eat a fucking sammich.

Judy - Sole with bacon would be nice too, come to think of it.

Nilmandra - You have the "I moved across an ocean and a continent, cut me some slack" excuse. It's good for a full year.

Rick - I didn't get into it for the stats, but I do notice the changes. Can't help it. I love statistics.

Kristie - Worse, I broke down and bought a pair of flats. *shudder*

Cynthia - The flavors were very aromatic, and reminded me of French Polynesia or something (minus the tropical fruit).

Kyouell - The only difference between my tomatoes and canned tomatoes from the store is the tomato variety and the container. I use whole canned toms all the time.

M. Zen - That is an excellent idea! I can't believe it had never occurred to me before. The sole was $6.99/lb, from off the Oregon coast (compared to local salmon at $24.99/lb).

Petah - I just don't want to turn into one of those skull-fucking, eyesore adbomb blogs that so many people get lured into. I wanted to let people know that I may take a carrot once in awhile, but won't ever start sucking dick for a taste of crack.

Don - I think next time I'd leave the cardamom whole (biting a seed can turn the whole mouthful into a bar of soap).

cook eat FRET said...

hey babe. great post. i get contacted and i just can't...

i've done the zen chef thing - said yes and then no mention, but only because i wasn't a fan of the product. i think it's valid marketing - but it has to be a good match between product and blogger. i'm not motivated enough to go there. i cook, sometimes i write about it and then i FRET to see if anyone out there gives a shit. it always amazes me that they do.

maybe i'm just lazy. that could be it too. foodbuzz courted the hell out of me and i just literally couldn't be bothered.

that being said, i love this dish. it's lean and full of flavor. i wanta make it.

i read you because you are smart and funny and you can really cook. and i think we'd get along famously in real life.

oh wait, this is real life.

Leigh said...

Dover sole in Portland, who'd have guessed? Lovely treatment, tastefully done as always, H!

Zora said...

I think you're on the right track with the no dick-sucking policy.

I just got email offering sponsorship from a jerky specialist! How cool is that? Then my email to them bounced back. Too cruel.

PS: I often wonder if my mother was trying to get me in good with the 20-sided dice crowd when she named me...