Archive for the ‘Seafood’ Category
It’s arguably long overdo. About three years now I’ve been tinkering around in kitchens doing my best to follow a recipe or practice a technique, but like any independent study, without a syllabus to help guide my direction, it’s safe to say that I’ve been all over the place with my culinary exploits.
The salmon burger isn’t exactly the most original idea these days. Most establishments that bill themselves as seafood or above average dining have some variation of a fish burger. My experiences have been lack luster. More often than not, the fish is dry and chewy, the tartar sauce doesn’t add much flavor or completely overwhelms the fish, the bun is too hard. In short: not worth my $15.
But a little while back I had lunch at Michelle Richard’s Central and spotted their tuna burger on the menu. My mind flashed all the failed executions and disappointed burgers I had had up to that point. I hesitated. “How is the tuna burger?” I asked our server. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, a tiny smile curled her lips pausing just a second longer than she normally would have before saying, ”It’s excellent.” Sold. Have to trust in involuntary reaction like that. The burger was indeed heaven. Soft, buttery brioche buns encasing a delicate and tender tuna pattie with a rich, tangy sauce to complement. My faith was renewed. This little burger would be a new project. But I’d still need to figure out a good recipe.
Nothing like another established French chef exploring American cuisine to point me in the right direction. Did you know Hubert Keller has a PBS show? I didn’t either until one Saturday morning, after my 2nd cup of coffee, 3rd asprin and 1st bowl of cereal, I stumbled on his little show. Nothing fancy, just standard PBS programing, but it took me a few seconds to process what he mentioned he would be cooking that day. Did he say salmon burgers?! I must still be drunk. No effing way.
I’m not sure I will get sick of posting about lobster… ever. So may as well let the lobster stock usages post when they come. Since I have enough stock to last me until Christmas, there’s a good chance this wonderful trend won’t be ending any time soon.
Lobster Stock Usage #1: Risotto (I know, shocking)
“The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go oft awry” – Robert Burns
As an amateur homecook there are certain levels of failure I’ve come to expect. I know that I’m going to butcher a fish filet here and there. I know any time I say we’re eating at 8pm, we’re probably not eating until 11. I know some flavor or texture is going to be missing which will compromise the intended design of a dish I’ve researched. I get that, it’s to be expected and my friends are well aware these shortcomings are part letting me take over a kitchen. God knows why they still let me take the reigns.
But one thing I have learned many times over, is to never, EVER trust an internet recipe. And yes, I’m well aware of the irony of a food blogger making that statement. Be skeptical. Trust no one. Don’t even trust me. And when you do drop your guard to see if someone can actually give you usable instructions, try it on yourself or a small group with cheap ingredients.
So when Sparkles and I decided we should rally our gang together for a good ol’ New England Lobster Fest, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking by ignoring my own advice. I figured doing a lobster bake would be interesting, fun and easier than individually boiling 8 lobsters. Fool that I am.
If you do want to steam a lobster(s) you need a lot of steam and pressure so that they will cook quickly and all the way through. Julia Child recommends putting a weight on the pot lid to pressure cook the lobster even faster. This is not a job for mild, half ass heat. If you’re still worried you may not have the right equipment just use the biggest pot you have, bring the water to a furious boil and add your lobsters (a couple at a time) head first to the water for 10-12 minutes depending on their size. Remove and cool.
The classic lobster bake, while frustrating, is still one of those indulgent events that does not fade quickly from memory. It’s an event that when done well is simply what I live for. When done poorly, it’s still an afternoon of friends, drinks and all the lobster you can eat. Tread delicately, but tread. What follows is a cautionary tail.
I’ve been really holding back on putting together this post. Not because I don’t think it’s important as a technique or worth the effort, but because I just wanted to get it right. Like making your own pasta, filleting fish is not hard but it’s not easy either. It’s a skill that you have to build over time and with practice. Every different type of fish is a little different, sizes constantly vary and every time I think I have a solid handle on the skill, I still manage to butcher at least one size of a perfectly good fish. So I’m no pro yet, but I’ve done this enough to put together a decent (and somewhat lengthy) beginners post.
I would advise not to try learning this skill an hour before a big date or when expecting a lot of company. An important evening is usually better just buying the fillets or having your fish monger do the dirty work until you’re comfortable with the process.
I was so ready to cook up some cornish hens. I had a solid idea for a recipe, legwork had been done to double check different techniques and methods, and most importantly, I was just really craving whole grilled/roasted chicken. Alas, my little Hispanic supermarket owned by a family of Koreans and not in any way affiliated with even the smallest of established and credible supermarkets , cleverly conceals the “Sell By” date on a regular basis. As soon as I unwrapped the plastic from my prize hens, I knew something was wrong and thanks to Alton Brown, precatious paranoia about my poultry’s acceptability was on high. Roast cornish hen = dismal failure.
So I had to take another trip. While the Latin cashiers stared hatefully at my gringo-ass upon my return (this isn’t exactly the type of place you bother tyring to get a refund), this little market sells one thing better than any of the local chain shops: whole fish! A whole red snapper; clear, shiny eyes; clean ocean smell; preserved well in fresh ice. I was sure this time around I had a quality product.
The recipe I used isn’t anything too special, basically me just using what I had on hand that would pair well with white fish. The focus today is on crisping up your fish skin and breaking the long time tradition of leaving the mushy, unappetizing skin as the last morsel on your dinner plate. Fuck that. Would you go to KFC and remove the crispy, battered skin? Of course not, it’s the best part right?
BS over at Endless Simmer inspired me. I’m usually the one that is struggling to figure out a technique, usually it’s my friends that suffer from my failures and misunderstandings. But this time around I was happy for once it wasn’t me going, “What the fuck?!” So learning from someone else is a welcome change.
In this instance it’s simply peeling asparagus so you can toss it with some pasta. Basically your making noodles out of ‘gus and in theory not only is it sexy meal, but it’s delicious. Don’t worry too much about cooking or blanching the ‘gus, the cool crisp texture of the strands brings this dish together. This is a Jamie Oliver recipe I’ve been itching to try for ages now, but just never really got around to have the right set of ingredients. But it’s spring, I’ve been trying to O.D. on crab (unsuccessful) and you have to love a good summer pasta dish.
There’s something about having a not so sober conversation with the old school, neighborhood lush about the quality and freshness of your local seafood that’s both amusing and troubling. On the one hand you’re thinking maybe this guy knows a thing or two and I should heed his advice; on the other (and this is coming from years of bartending experience) you want to just write the guy off and chalk it up to drunk banter. “No, I get it, check the eyes, yes I understood the first 37 times you mentioned it.”
Either way, it did get me thinking, there’s a few ingredients out there you do really need to be careful about when purchasing and storing. Fish: clean eyes and fresh smell = good. Crustaceans: moving around and smell fresh = good. Other major meats are fairly obvious as well, but clams and mussels. That’s a bit trickier. Freshness with those guys is very much necessary simply because a dead one can lead to a horrible world of pain and the red flags aren’t as obvious.
But have no fear mussel lovers! A little prep when coming home with fresh mussels means you can eat well and safe all week long. Top things you need to know about buying and storing mussels:
- Check your mussels, they should be tightly closed! If cracked or stay open after tapping them, that’s a deal breaker ladies.
- Mussels need to breath, so if wrapped in a plastic bag they will suffocate. The good stuff is in a mesh bag, rinsed with water and ideally displayed up front and not in a back room out of eye shot.
- If you’re not cooking your mussels immediately, place them in a bowl with a layer of aluminum foil and wet paper towel or newspaper on the bottom, as well as another paper towel on top and they’ll keep in your fridge for about 5 days. ALWAYS check them again before using to discard the opened, dead ones.
Well some of you may have noticed a little drop in posts this last week, and for that I’m sorry. What was expected to be a quiet and relaxing vacation visiting the folks for the first time in many years ended up turning into a bit of a shit show. Oh don’t worry, I cooked. I cooked my heart out and was never short of people to feed, but the writing just never got done thanks in part to comments at 4:00 pm like my Dad saying, “Did you want to try some of the ‘87 Napa Valley Cab we opened last night? We saved you a few glasses.” Or my mother offering to take me to the local resturant supply warehouse to pick up a few new toys. Or an old friend that I haven’t seen in years, is unemployed and calling to see if I want booze, pre-happy hour. It was a great trip but glad to be back home and settling back into my routine of work, blog, eat, drink.
I did however get a little work done. Made friends with the gang over at Endless Simmer, and they were even nice enough to put one of my posts on baby octopus on their site. It’s a solid crew of food aficionados and I’m really looking forward to trading recipes, talking shit about Food Network and geeking out about weird ingredients with them. No doubt plenty of delicious food to come.
Also, Nuts and Bolts is continuing to grow with some updated walkthoughs and techniques so check it out.
Finally, I found this little article a little while back. It’s as amusing as it is troubling, but when Judgment Day – Terminator style, finally does arrive, just remember that we taste like one of the best substances on Earth to robots… so there’s that. Pleasant dreams.
Ok, let’s clarify that title. A French chef, makes a Chinese dish that is similar to Italian cuisine. This is a recipe I had to try after picking up a copy of God’s Jacques Pepin’s Fast Food My Way. The dish is actually called pillows of scallop and shrimp mousse, or a bit more accurately, scallop and shrimp stuffed Chinese pot stickers. Thinking this was something like a dumping, and loving the concept of a scallop/shrimp mousse, I busted the dish out for a few friends. Another aspect I really liked, was that you can pretty much use your wrappers to form any shape you want. Folding over like triangles or wrapping into actual wontons should work just as well. Like most new recipes out of a new cookbook, there were a few ups and downs, but the final product was solid and fresh and delicious.
The prep work for this one is pretty easy. You do need a food processor of some sort though, even a tiny, $10 will do, otherwise you have to mince the scallops very finely and be sure to defrost your shrimp if frozen. Also you need to get your hands on some wonton wrappers. I’d also recommend using them a few at a time since they tend to dry out so keep them in the bag till you’re ready to use them. The only tricky part is the pan searing/steaming process, but we’ll get to that in a bit. I would also definitely not skip out on adding a splash balsamic vinegar which pairs with the soft/crispy pot stickers perfectly.