It’s almost 4 years now that I filleted a whole fish for the first time in my life. Since then I stopped counting the number of fish I’ve filleted and really gained routine in getting clean and beautiful cuts as result. Nowadays I prefer to buy whole fish at the local market, because this way I can use the bones, head, tail and fins as well to cook a flavorful fish stock, which really enhances sauces, risottos and soups. I prefer to buy local and traditional fish such as trout, char or carp. Sea fish are no options for me, because I don’t have any reliable source for buying fresh seafood, and my hometown Erlangen is simply too far away from the sea.
Regarding the connection between seafood consumption and the distance to the sea, I had a surprising experience a few years ago in Italy, which I like to bring up every time I’m asked about seafood. I was lucky to get a publication accepted at a major conference in computer science, which was held in the beautiful city of Florence. Of course, I used the lunch breaks and the evenings to explore the local restaurant scene. I was even more fortunate having a receptionist at my hotel who was actually a native Florentine citizen. As almost everybody in Italy, he loved to eat, and especially to eat well. So from the first day on I consulted him which restaurant he recommends me to visit. I wasn’t a regular tourist, I really wanted to get to know the real local cuisine. He always told me only the next location I should go to and based on my report the next day he recommended me the next place to visit. This tactic was quite comprehensible, because I could have been a usual tourist, who actually might have been afraid of tripe, wild boar or other local specialties. But he pretty soon learned, that I was after the real local cuisine.
For several years I planned to cook one of Heston Blumenthal’s “hoax” dishes. As part of his tasting menu he used to serve a very simple dish called “orange and beetroot” with only a yellow and a red jelly arranged on a plate. Then he asked his guests to start with the orange. Of course every guest assumed the yellow jelly to be the one flavored with orange. But when they tasted it, they were surprised by the beetroot flavor. Heston switched the colors of the ingredients: he prepared the red jelly from freshly squeezed blood oranges and the yellow jelly from golden beetroot juice.
It was a long and winding road until the golden beetroot finally made it to my kitchen. I first encountered yellow beets on a photo in the German food magazine Der Feinschmecker. Later on, in 2009 I got my hands on a copy of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Cookbook. It included a very simple yet funny recipe featuring orange and beetroot jelly only (see a photo here). The joke in this dish was that the flavors are swapped: the red jelly is made of blood orange juice and the yellow one using golden beets. I appreciate culinary surprises like this, because the twist and the surprise naturally forces the diner to focus more on the flavor. Among other things, this was also a reason why I began to look for golden beets. Unfortunately, the search took me 3 years, but I finally received 3 exemplars.