Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hong Kong Bound

Hey everybody! I'm skippin' town for a little bit, so the blog will be hibernating until I get back in around January 9th. 
I'll be slurpin' noodles in Hong Kong before heading out to Thailand to sweat out some curry.
Expect some stories and lots of pics.  Hopefully I won't get into too much trouble.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The "One Pot Meal"

I speak to a lot of people who want cook, but are only preparing food for one or two people.  In this scenario multiple courses and/or components don't always make sense.  Enter - stage left - the "one pot meal."  A square meal with enough chutzpah to leave you satisfied, and with leftovers, but only requires one pot.  
I'm going to do an on-going series about these, to keep those of you cooking for the few, in the kitchen.   Something you'll notice is that they always be for more than two people can eat, this is because when you're cooking on a small scale, leftovers become a necessity.  Not only to lighten your cooking load, but to compensate for recipes that would otherwise call for a half of a can of tomatoes. . . what do you do with the other half?

and now, to start the series "One Pot Fish" {I used a second vessel for aesthetic reasons}

Roasted Fish with Potatoes and Thyme

1.5-2 lbs  white flakey fish, cut into 4 portions (talapia, seabass, cod, etc)
1 lb small potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch coins
1 box cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 bunch of thyme, rinsed well
1 1/4 cups of white wine (not too sweet, pinot grigio, savangion blanc, chardonay, etc.)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees

1. Heat a heavy bottomed skillet (not cast iron) over medium high heat.  Once hot add enough vegetable oil to film the pan and give it a good 30-45 seconds to get hot.  This will prevent the fish from sticking.
2. Laying the fish away from you, gently drop it in.  Give the pan a quick jiggle after each piece to work some oil under the fish.  This also prevents sticking.
3. Once the fish is browned well on one side (4-5 min.), remove it from the pan and set aside.  In the same pan, drop in the potatoes.  (you may need to add a drop more oil for this step)

4. When the potatoes have slightly browned, and are creeping up on being fork tender (6-8 min.) add the wine, onion, tomatoes and thyme.  Bring this to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for another 10 minutes.  The liquid should become a nice pinkish-orange color.
5.   Kill the heat.  On top of all of this lay the fish, browned side up, so that it's partially submerged in the liquid.
6. Place the pan in the oven for around 15 minutes or until the fish is just cooked.  Test this by pressing gently on the thicker part of a piece, you should feel just a slight give between the flakes.  If you see white stuff coming out of the fish, you've gone way too far.

* You should be able to lift the thyme stems right out.  The leaves will fall right off. 

Print this recipe!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Principal Pasta Principle

 Lately there’s been a recurring question at my stands around the city: People are having problems with their pasta. I get complaints of oily pasta, puddles of watery sauce and bland concoctions. Couples approach me to settle disputes about generations of pasta practices: What is al dente? To rinse or not to rinse? . Somehow I feel like I’ve become the judge, jury and executioner of the collective noodle.

Forms of pasta have been around for millennia, so there’s bound to be some stigma, wive’s tales, various voodoo and placebo affects woven into its history. I wouldn’t dare dispute your grandma, so I’m just going to tell you what I do do . . . . because I think it works just fine. If I don't mention it here, I don't do it.

I love to eat this simple pasta, but the object of this recipe is to gain a firm understanding of pasta with a sauce; to learn how to achieve that flavorful rich emulsion that sticks perfectly to the noodle. For that reason, I keep this recipe very general, use whatever pasta you like with whatever cheese you like. Parmesan is typical, but you could use pecorino or a cave aged Gouda, The simplicity leaves your options open.

Simple Pasta for Four

1 lb. Pasta (fresh or dry)
2 cups Chicken Stock (low sodium)
½ cup Aged salty cheese, grated
2 tbsps Butter, cut into little chunks
2 tbsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. In a deep pot bring at least a gallon of salted water to a boil over high heat. (1 tsp of salt to every qt.)
2. Once you reach a rolling boil, drop in the pasta and stir immediately, continue to stir every 30 seconds or so for the first three minutes. It’s these first minutes when the pasta will bind together, so keep it moving.
3. In a large skillet bring the chicken stock to a boil and reduce by about half. (Ideally it is reduced about the time the pasta is ready to go)
4. Once cooked to your liking, strain the pasta. Add it to the simmering stock.
5. Working over medium high heat, add the butter, olive oil, and cheese; season with salt and pepper. Moving the pan in a circular motion, use tongs to stir the pasta briskly. (you can pick the pan up and toss it if you're comfy with that.) Good movement is imperative to mixing the stock and the fat (butter and oil) into a sauce while melting the cheese.
To test for the right viscosity, pull the noodles aside, the liquid should go with it.  If it leaves a pool, cook it a little longer. 

6. This is where the learning curve comes in. You have to taste and adjust your sauce. If it’s not saucy enough, add more stock, if it’s too saucy allow it to cook down a little longer over the flame. If it needs salt, give it a pinch or reach for some more cheese.
The final product is ideally moist but not runny.
  There you have it, a delicious simple pasta sauce. It’s a versatile base. If you’re going to give this a shot, know that you can fold in any combination of extras at the end.
- Pine nuts, chili flakes, sautéed broccoli rabe
- Sautéed mushrooms and thyme
- Roasted cauliflower, lemon zest, hazelnuts, raisins and capers
- My personal favorite- Fresh wild arugula and lots of black pepper

Print this recipe!!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

I love codfish, but I have a lot of trouble keeping it in one peice. Any pointers?

The Codfish family (hake, scrod, cod, haddock, et al) has always been one of those trickier fish to dabble in. It's very tasty, but mild, and so goes well with many flavor profiles... but there's a catch, it has a tendency to crumble into a pile of fish flakes if you breath on it.

For this reason I've always operated under the rule - "once it sees heat, don't f----ing touch it". So usually, I would prepare it in a vessel in which it could be served, such as a crock.

There is, however, an alternative- a simple step to give these fillets a little more strustural integrity and build flavor while your at it.  All it takes is salt, but a lot of it.   You simply take them out of the fridge about 20 minutes before cooking time and salt them very liberally, almost burying them.  (if you have a flatter tail section, fold it onto itself and salt only the outside) Let them stand in the salt for about 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse them well and dry them off.

The flesh of the fish itself should become slightly more translucent and noticeably firmer to the touch.   This slight change will make it much easier to handle throughout the cooking process, but you still have to be gentle.   And remember, this process seasons the fish as well, so you won't need any more salt.
For the record, you always lay the fish away from yourself.  So as to not splatter oil on yourself.

See what I made with this here fish. . . .

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Daily Brink

I was interviewed for a very cool site - www.dailybrink.com.  It's a project spotlighting cool people doing cool things.  While I did make the cut, make no mistake about it, I'm still not cool.  Here's the piece. 

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