Poached Salmon Brunch

A simple & elegant dish for brunch lunch or buffet dinner that can be poached the day before. I use a  Norpro Stainless Steel Fish Poacher and find it quite useful though the  10 pounder salmon  (whole, gutted and scales scraped — I keep head and tail on) was almost too big!

For the court-bouillon:
1 onion & 1 carrot sliced, 1 branch of leafy celery, 1 bouquet garni w/2 bay leaves & parsley,
whole pepper corns & salt to taste (not if you have used soy sauce).
This time I used soy sauce, mirin, soju, rice vinegar, but white wine and lemon is also appropriate.
Fill the poacher with enough water so the fish will be fully covered.

Add the salmon to the cold liquid, bring to a slow boil. I cooked the 10lbs salmon for 35 minutes at a very slow simmer. Let the salmon cool off completely in the court bouillon — that will keep it moist.

Once cooled, peel the skin delicately and decorate. I used  hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, parsley, lemon wedges because this is what I had and was a bit in a rush, but you can glaze it with a fish gelée with gelatin and add sliced olives and/or cucumbers..etc.

I  served it with a home made olive oil mayonnaise on the side:
Combine 1 large egg yolk* (room temperature), 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard + 1 dash of white wine vinegar & whisk the mixture vigorously in a large stainless steel or glass bowl (I make mine by hand, but you can use an electric whisk). Add the olive oil (total of 1 cup) very, very slowly and gradually,  a few drops at a time is the safest.  The start is crucial, you need to reach thickness and avoid that the emulsion separates. (If it does separate there is a way of saving it: get another egg yolk, whisk it lightly and add slowly to the result of your first attempt, and that should do the trick!)

Voilà, Bon Ap!

*I strongly suggest not only organic eggs, but very very fresh.

Off To Nola

Thank you all of you who came to hear Trialogues at The Local 269 on Monday.  Pierre Joris, Michael Bisio & I had a wonderful  time and the captive audience provided great support and inspiration. At the end of this post you will find the photo gallery of the gig —courtesy of my friend documentalist/ videographer Chiaki Matsumoto.

Next gig for me will be Sunday afternoon at the Gold Mine Saloon in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Megan Burns & Dave Brinks are organizing a mega event to try to raise funds for “ProtectOurCoastline.org“. The event will feature: a silent auction —paintings by George Rodrigue, as well as my painting “Unfinished Business” (see picture above) will be part of it, as well as a poetry/performance reading by “La Voix de Nola Poétique” and I am honored to  be featured as one of them. There will also be performances by the Saintsations, Cyrill Neville, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters, plus many celebrities & great food. It is open to the public and please forward the info to anyone you know in the Gulf Region.

I am looking forward to be among my friends but also a bit anxious to be confronted with the Gulf devastation from close up.   I was there right after Katrina and I remember too well how different it was to be there than from getting the info via TV or the newspapers. There is always a lot of issues that are not discussed  in the main stream media & I highly recommend reading Dahr Jamail‘s posts about the devastating use of dispersant sand how the fisherman are being lied to, used & abused by BP. So not really a “Laissez les bon temps rouler” kind of trip but an “All-hands-on-deck” experience:

Trialogues at The Local 269 Monday August 23rd 2010
All photos by Chiaki Matsumoto


Thanks for the support and keep in touch!


Quick Cod Forestière

This is a very pleasant & simple dish. I called it Forestière because my grandfather used to call anything garnished with mushroom Forestière —meaning of the forest. Though the porcinis mushrooms are not wild & neither were all the mushrooms my grandpa used!

Pan fry the cod  (4/5 mns each side) with a dollop of clarified butter. Reheat the small new potatoes cut half length – they are already boiled – in the pan with the fish, add a little fat if needed. The fresh green beans had also been parboiled and  will be added to the sautéed small porcini mushrooms. I sautéed the porcini with olive oil until crispy & towards the end added the persillade —chopped parsley & garlic.

Once you have removed the fish & potatoes from the pan melt a dollop of unsalted clarified butter in the same pan, with low heat under the pan to keep the butter from browning, add the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon, salt & pepper to taste; use this mixture to coat you fish once on the plate. Voilà! Satisfying, quick & healthy.

Keep the Ink! Cook it…II!

The previous post showed  how to clean  squids while saving their precious ink to make the wonderful recipe Calamares in su Tinta,  Calamars à l’Encre or Squid in their own Ink. But first let me share some sweet family history about this dish.

When we first moved to this country in 1987, my son Joseph was 6. When he started school we were told there was a cantina where the kids could buy their lunches. At first we were all eager to blend in so we decided to go with it. First day of school, and little Joseph comes home appalled reporting that there was no lunch served, only pizza and hot dogs! AND kids who brought their own lunches had peanut & jelly sandwiches —to this day I don’t think he would consider eating one unless truly starved. We then decided to pack him a real lunch, and that didn’t include sandwiches, that was picnic food, he was used to French public schools ,then family style, sit down three course meal! So I purchased a thermos box and packed him a hot lunch for many years. His favorite one was to take to school: squid in their own ink — needless to say not a popular item to trade lunch! It is still one of his favorite dishes and he actually did partake of this batch. Alors, voilà la recipe for Joseph Mastantuono and for poet Jonathan Skinner who asked for it.

Calamars à l’Encre

5 lbs of squids cleaned, ink sacks set aside
1 medium chopped onion
1 peeled & seeded tomato
4 cloves of garlic chopped fine
1/2 bottle of red wine —French Languedoc or Spanish—
1/3 cup of  Spanish Brandy
3 tablespoons Arrowroot flour ( or two of regular flour)
1/2 cup of chopped parsley for garnish

– Cut the cleaned and drained squid cones into rings —  I don’t cut the tentacles though some people do and I cut the rings about 1 inch thick.

-Warm a skillet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, add the onions, cook gently until slightly golden.

-Meanwhile prepare your ink:

with a pestle (or the back of a spoon) apply pressure to the sacks to force the ink through the mesh of the strainer. Pour the red wine over the sacks in the strainer and keep working until you have extracted the ink from the bags. Save.

-Add the cut & dried squid to the skillet, mix well with the onions. Once the squid start getting opaque and stiffen add the Brandy and flambé safely (if you don’t flambé is not a big deal). Mix well.

– Add garlic, tomato & mix well.

-Add ink with wine, mix well.

-Sprinkle the three table spoons of arrowroot on top. Mix very well.

-Add more wine, if needed, so that liquid covers squid to 3/4.

-Bring to a gentle boil, then turn it down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or so. Your squid have to be very tender.

I like serving it with saffron rice, but white rice is good too.
Bon Appétit! And please report if you make it.



Clean your Squid! Keep the Ink! — I

Yes, you can buy clean squid but then you are depriving yourself of what will give you one of the most exquisite dishes: Calamare en su Tinta or Squid in its own ink. You can also buy the ink in a little plastic bag and make the sauce from that… but it ain’t the same, trust me. Most of the time it gets too black and too strong. If you use what comes with the creatures you will cook, it is always the perfect amount. Yes! Cleaning squid can be tedious and time consuming, so why not have a  squid cleaning party? I am providing you all with the necessary info to do it yourself. Below, there is a video, though I am also including a step-by-step with pictures.

1- Make sure you buy very fresh squid. I do not like to use the frozen squids for this purpose. I am lucky enough to have fresh ones available at the Bay Ridge Green Market. I order them a few days in advance and request very fresh ones. Susana —who works for Glen at American Seafood stand— is always eager to please her customers. She also shares great Peruvian recipes that I still need to try. Let’s begin the cleaning process:

Cleaning Squids

1- Grasp the tail section firmly in your hand and grab the head section below the eyes as shown in the picture. Pull gently but firmly in order to detach the inside as deep as possible.


Cleaning

2- Find the silvery ink bag located in the inner section of what you pull from the squid. Gently lift it, detach it and save it in a stainer.


Cleaning Squids

3- Turn the tentacles upside down and apply pressure between the eyes in order to pop out the beak


Cleaning

4- Hold the head part of the squid below the eyes and with a sharp knife cut  the tentacles below the eyes, being careful not to cut into the eyes. Rinse and place into a colander (the tentacles, not the eyes…)


Cleaning Squids

5- From the edge of the body part remove the pen shaped spine that looks like plastic. They can be saved to make fun collage projects with kids.


Cleaning

6- Peel the reddish outer membrane away, remove & discard. You can also peel the fins & also save them. Wash the body, squeeze to make sure nothing left inside. If you are very picky you can turn the inside out to make sure it is very clean — I don’t do that. Once clean, reserve in the colander with the tentacles.

Now the video: Don’t have great expectation — Miles shot it with my very low end camera, so that’s the best we could do. I think it will help. Watch it a couple of time before you try working the squid, it will help and give you confidence. At first you might break an ink bag or two, not a big deal, just clean up in between. Next post will be the recipe for the Calamari in the Ink, but once the cleaning is done it’s a breeze. O! One more thing:  5lbs  of  squid for 10 people should do it.

Let’s go to Tottori!

Ikizukuri

It was great fun to be a guest at the Official Residence of the Consul General of Japan in NYC to celebrate the Capital of Japanese Food (self declared): the Tottori prefecture.  Under a grey and crying sky ready to fall on my head I was more than happy to take refuge in the Carrère & Hasting early 20th century building for a gastronomic & cultural escapade.  While being searched to the beat of light salsa music, the gaudy French Louis the something or other décor and the delicate Japanese paintings indicated a delightful  juxtaposition of cultures. I knew nothing about the Tottori region, but I’m ready to go visit! To quote Wikipedia:

Tottori PrefectureJapan (鳥取県, Tottori-ken?) is a prefecture of Japan located in the Chūgoku region on Honshū island. The capital is the city of Tottori. It is the least populous prefecture in Japan.

According to the brochures, the Tottori region offers an amazing variety of landscapes, natural resources & ancient cultures. From the legendary largest sand dunes of Japan, to the beauty of Mt Daisen, to the treasures of ancient Buddhist temples — and all this at the edge of Sea of Japan!

The short and convivial opening remarks by the consul & the governor were followed by an Ikizukuri demonstration/performance by master chefs from the Tottori region: Souichi Chikuma (executive chef at Ryokan Ohashi)  and Tetsuyoshi Hada (executive chef at Kouraku). Ikizukuri means “prepared live,” and is the preparation of sashimi from a living animal. In this case the fish was already dead. The master chef skillfully carved the flesh out without damaging the exterior appearance of the fish (that reminded me of the first time I had to debone a quail without breaking the skin, not easy!) The fish was then set on bamboo sticks and adorned with an Ikebana style flower arrangement. The flesh cut into bite size sashimi was laid on top of the fish. While chef Chikuma worked on the huge red sea bass, chef Hada turned a large daikon into lace. We were told that this type of arrangement is very costly and done only for special celebrations like weddings. 

daikonlace DSCN4815 DSCN4816

JapanOn the second floor Tottori products were displayed for sampling. Tottori’s water is renown throughout Japan for its purity and richness, thus the quality of the local rice, sake, tofu and other products. I tasted delicious sakes from different grades of polished rice, though I need a few more tastings before I can really appreciate the sake subtleties.  I was introduced to 20th century pear liquor and vinegar. They didn’t come from the same company but they were both interesting and I will certainly buy them when readily available. The 20th century pear grown in Tottori is the Nijisseiki variety; in Japanese Nijisseiki means “20th century”. I would assume that the link between the name and the date comes from the fact that the cultivar was created in Japan in1898.

Tottori Fish

One regret was not to get to try the star crab of Tottori, the Matsuba crab also called Queen crab or snow crab, it is a winter delicacy that was on display (frozen) but not for tasting. We got to try the delicious white squid served raw over a cup with a light broth; a most delicate colored trio of Aji —horse mackerel— wrapped in ribbons of radish, carrot and cucumber.
I cannot describe everything I ate as I am running out of time and I will conclude with Tofu Koubou Amedaki, a tofu doughnut! I was not going to try it, but being a fried dough fan I couldn’t resist and I am glad. It looks like a doughnut but tastes like a heavenly doughnut! Very soft inside, crunchy outside, not overly sweet & made with fresh soy milk.

Tottori came to me, now I need to go to Tottori!  And thank you Shigeko & Miguel from La Fuente Services & of course Chiaki!

squid sashimi DSCN4810 DSCN4819

Papalo Scallops & Corn

scalopscornpapalo

When Miles (my younger son) came into the kitchen and asked quite intrigued: “What is that smell?” I pointed to the Papalo bunch sitting next to the sink.

Papalo is a native South American plant, also known as Papaloquite or porophyllum ruderale or macrocephalum. Its name comes from papalotl, —butterfly in Nahuatl and interesting (to me) in French butterfly is papillon!— The first time I encountered papalo was at a flea market Upstate New-York. A Mexican vendor was getting ready to sell Guarachas*—a dish I wouldn’t mind getting more info on. The women were setting up while the men were all sitting down having lunch. I noticed them picking leaves from the middle of the table and eating little bites with their grilled meat and tortillas.

guaracha

I ordered a Guaracha, I had to ask for the leaves as I wasn’t automatically given some. The lady was a bit surprised as she explained — nicely — that gringos didn’t usually care much for it. She was delighted I would try it as it was the way to eat this dish. It was love at “first bite!”; the grilled meat seasoned with lime, the green salsa, the Mexican cheese all topping a homemade corn tortilla —that looked to have had some beans worked into the dough, and the little bite of papalo to make it a truly “gastrorgasmic” moment. Papalo’s taste is condensed, pungent and close to be an entrancing flavor. It must be used appropriately and parsimoniously.

Harold from Carral FarmA few weeks ago I got some papalo from Harold, owner of Carral Farm and a regular vendor at the Bay Ridge Greenmarket. He also gave me some suggestion on how to use it and recommended to also get some  Anaheim peppers. I picked up a pound of fresh scallops at American Seafood (read previous blog on scallops here and here). And this is the recipe I will share with you today:

Scallops With Sautéed Corn and Papalo (for 3)

cornpepperpapalo

1 lb of fresh scallops
2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 lime juice
kernels of 2 fresh ears of corn
1/4 cup red bell peppers
1/4 cup sweet onions
1/8 cup green Anaheim peppers
9 leaves of fresh papalo
2 Tbsp brandy or Lillet
1 dollop butter at room temperature

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter in a stainless still or cast iron frying pan.

scallops

Sear scallops delicately  in the pan or about 3 minutes or so per side —it will depend how thick they are. Do not overcook them. Keep them warm between two plates and reserve until ready to serve.

While the scallops are cooking, sautée all the vegetables (with only 3 leaves of papalo chopped) lightly with olive oil or/and butter (see picture above to see size of veggies).

Déglaze the pan with some brandy or Lillet.  Add lime juice  and retrieve all the juice that have deposited in the scallop plate.

monter sauce

Add a dollop of soft butter and when only ready to serve  “monter la sauce au beurre” —that is to swirl in, until completely melted, a dollop of room temperature unsalted butter; it will give your sauce a velvety texture and a rich flavor. We have done it before, right? Add salt & pepper to taste and voilà!

*The guaraches turned out to be huaraches. See comments below and huraches blog.

Look at me Porgy!

DSCN4286

Last night we ate porgies. I bought them at the Bay Ridge Greenmarket from the excellent Long Island Sound based American Seafood stand. I prefer whole fish to fillet or steak. One of the reasons is that I like to look the fish in the eye. If the eye is clear, bright with dense black pupil & looking back at me I see/hear “buy me!” If the eye is cloudy, dry and sunken, the message is that this fish has been on display away from the water for too long. Other general indicators of fish freshness are:
The skin must be moist and shiny.
The gills need to be bright red or pinkish red. When pressed with the finger, flesh should bounce back and leave no indentation.
Fresh fish smells like fresh seaweed, any strong odor is suspicious. If the fish smells, even slightly, like ammonia discard it —I once worked with a chef who asked me to “bathe” the fillet we were to serve as “specials” that night in vinegar & water to make the smell disappeared! I refused.

porgy

As you can see my porgies were beautiful and cost me $5. Buying a whole fish is much cheaper by the pound. Yes! it is more work as you will have to debone it yourself.  There is also more waste, but what about a fish soup with the bones? I will give you that recipe later. Also, below you will find a quick homemade video on how to serve your fish. I would appreciate if you have a few minutes to give me feedback on the specific questions.
Meanwhile, voilà today’s recipe:

2 Porgies (1 guted & scaled fish per person of 1/2 lb or so)
1 sweet onion peeled and sliced very thin
1 Italian or Jalapeño pepper, inside seeds and rib removed and chopped very small
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
2 ripe tomatoes
1 glass of dry white wine
1 or 2 limes
Salt
½ cup olive oil ¼ cup of butter
Preheat oven to 375º.
Coat the bottom of an ovenproof dish with olive oil. Arrange the onions & hot peppers.

stuffing porgies with cilantro

Add the tomatoes.
Add white wine. Make 2 slits on the fish.
Salt the inside of the fish, squeeze some lime into it & stuff with a few sprigs of fresh (well washed) cilantro.
Insert slices of lime into the slits on the fish.
Pour the juice of ½ a lime over. Scatter tiny pieces of butter on top of the fish.
Put in the oven for 25/30 minutes.
Baste the fish every 10 minutes with the liquid in the pan.

We ate them with corn on the cob and a beet salad. More details on the video on how to serve it.

How to serve the whole fish family style:


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M E R C I !

Long Island Sound Mahi-mahi

MahiMahi

Saturday morning we extracted ourselves from moving madness mode to go to the Bay Ridge green market. I was craving good fish and I know I can always rely on the American Seafood stand, they do catch all their fish on Long Island Sound and  to this day they have always provided top quality fish, clams or mussels. There I had the nice surprise to find Susan who had been working for the buffalo cheese and meat stand but returned to the fish stand. After a serious scanning of the offerings and pow-wow we settled for Mahi-mahi. Our friend Claire who is visiting us from Brittany never had it and  honestly I didn’t know Mahi-mahi was caught in Long Island Sound. I might have been fooled by it’s Hawaiian sounding name, Mahi-mahi. Also called dolphinfish, it is neither a mammal, neither a member of the Delphinadae family —dolphin family, but one of the two members of the Coryphaenidae family, the other being the pompano. The darkish flesh of Mahi-mahi turns white once cooked; it is dense, a little firm and quite moist. Like any other fish, don’t overcook it. I prepared it very simply and here is how:

Recipe:
Heat oil in a skillet, place fish on the skin side first. Cook for 3/5 minutes depending on thickness, repeat on the other side.
Keep warm between 2 plates.
Sauté 1/3 cup per person of sweet fresh white onions in the same pan, remove and deglaze the pan with a touch of Mirin and dry white wine.
When ready to serve adjust salt & pepper to taste and “monter la sauce au beurre” —that is to swirl in, until completely melted, a dollop of unsalted butter; it will give your sauce a velvety texture and a rich flavor.
I served it with all the leftover veggies from last week’s CSA. Swiss chards, bokchoys, scapes were sautéed in olive oil with abundant fresh garlic and provided a beautiful bed for the Mahi-mahi. Top it with onions, serve the sauce on top or around and bon appétit to you!