Friday, November 27, 2009

Scallops a la Stuff

First, an apology: until I get my camera working again, no pictures.  All I need is to find the cord, but that's harder than it sounds.

So, my supermarket had a good sale on some fresh scallops (without shell and tongue, of course) and I decided to risk a seafood sale for once.  Normally I don't buy seafood on sale because it's old and fishy, but the scallops looked fairly fresh, and I wasn't disappointed.

I'll eschew an ingredient list on this one because I'm telling you how to make an entire dinner, and it would just get clumsy.  I will say you need Brussel sprouts, pasta, scallops, bacon, and a sweet potato.  Instead prepare for a wall of text!

The assembly of this dinner is as follows.

First, take a sweet potato and dampen the skin.  You can peel it if you'd like, but I love the flavor of the skin.  Mix equal parts sugar and fine salt in your palm and dust the outside of your potato, then wrap in foil and place in a 250 degree oven for about two hours.

So about half an hour before you take the sweet potato out, start yourself some pasta water.  Be sure to salt your pasta water.  It's important later (and not just for he flavor it adds to the pasta).  Also get some bacon out.  You can bacon wrap your scallops if you really want to, but I'm a fan of simple scallops.

You're going to need a large saute pan and a small saute pan.  In the small large saute pan render off the fat of three strips of bacon and remove them from the pan.  Once you have that done reduce it to low heat so the grease doesn't smoke.  Render the fat of one strip into the small pan.  Chopping the bacon makes the fat render faster.

At this point your pasta water is probably at a boil, so go ahead and add whatever pasta you want to use.  Crumble a two or three of the pieces of the pasta toincrease the starch content of the cooking water.

Take about twelve of your Brussel sprouts and slice them in half.  Place them face down in your small pan so they can toast in the bacon grease.  You'll want them in there for about ten minutes on medium low heat.

Add 3 tbsp of butter to the large pan and allow to melt.  You can add two cloves of slivered garlic and an eighth of an onion, also slivered, to the butter/bacon grease to add some flavor.  Sprinkle the scallops with a little salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Crank your heat up to medium high and get your scallops in the pan.  Get them a little brown on each side then remove the scallops and get them into the oven to keep them warm and continue a bit of the cooking.

Ok, now throw some flour into the pan and stir it around.  Let it collect the fat and brown a little bit, then scoot it to the side of the pan and use about a cup of white wine to deglaze the pan.  Look at the container your scallops are in.  They should have released some juices.  Throw those tasty juices in the pan, then add a half cup of the pasta water. and stir everything together then allow to reduce until thickened.  Behold some tasty scallop gravy.  When making the gravy you can add some black pepper, but it will not need extra salt.

Now for that sweet potato.  Remove from the oven and unwrap.  carefully,m while it's still hot, cut into medallions (3 per person).  Keep them thin because it should still be half raw and fairly chewy.  lay your medallions flat on the plate and sprinkle liberally with brown sugar.  You can drizzle some molasses on there too, but the heat should soften the brown sugar and spread it around, which was more than enough for me.  If you don't like the tougher character of the sweet potato when purposefully undercooked, lay out your medallions on a sheet pan, sprinkle them with brown sugar, and chuck them in a 350 degree oven for fifteen minutes.  Throw a marshmallow on each of them even and let them stay in there while you eat.  Then you have desert for afterward.

Drain your pasta and toss with some olive oil, plate everything up and serve.  Gravy goes on the pasta and the scallops, Brussel sprouts take a stingy sprinkling of coarse salt, and the medallions, well i think I've covered them already.  Enjoy.

Filler, Mostly

As you can imagine, H=H.  By this equation I prove that holidays are hectic.  Working as I do in food service, you might expect me to be comatose by the end of Black Friday, but here I am to provide you a very shore nugget of wisdom before returning to serving mediocre food to the unwashed masses.

So, I eat a lot of pasta.  It's just tasty.  Whenever I make it I always have some extra left over, and I usually store that before I add sauce or any other flavor enhancer (except for the salt in the water).  With these habits as my credentials I now set forth to explain to you how best to revivify your Italian boiled wheat constructs after a stay in the fridge.  There are two ccomponents:

1.  Place the pasta in a tuber-ware while the pasta is still hot and damp and seal immediately, but do not place into the fridge.  Let it sit in the container until it has cooled, maybe about 1/2 an hour, then place in the fridge.  This lets the pasta moisten the air so that the chill draws less water out.

2. When you are ready to heat the pasta again, in the microwave (as must be the fate of all suitably scrumptious leftovers), place about 1 tablespoon of broth (any flavor you like) into the bottom of the container.  Microwave the container mostly sealed for 1 minute 45 seconds or until warm in the center of the bottom.  Reseal and let rest for 1 minute, then eat it.  You'll get moister pasta from the steaming, and some of the broth's salt will carry water back into the pasta for you.

And that's the art of necromantic pasta.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Quick Breakfast Idea

Quick, easy and delicious, a tasty breakfast burrito follows in the next few sentences.

Take one flour tortilla (burrito size).  To it add one large slice of avocado.  Flatten the avocado with a fork.  Add a slice of bacon (cooked please) and one scrambled egg.  Wrap and eat.

For some calcium add a slice of colby jack or monterey jack cheese.  A piece of lettuce, some ranch dressing, some alfalfa sprouts or some sausage would not go badly either.

See, quick easy and delicious.  A good break from my other long-winded posts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tasty Desert Time

So, I decided I wanted something kind of sweet.  I had an abundance of sugar, and some ice cream in the fridge, but I had no flavor.  I was out of flour, so baking was out of the question.  All I had was a big pomegranate.  The solution formed in my mind: Pomegranate Syrup.

 First I put on a movie and started peeling the pomegranate and depositing the seeds in a bowl.  By the time the movie was over, I was almost done.  You want to end up with maybe 2 cups of seeds from a good sized pomegranate.

Now I covered the seeds in 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and let them macerate for about half an hour, as shown in the picture.

Take two cups of water and throw them into a sauce pan on medium heat.  Let the water heat up, then throw in the pomegranate seeds and another cup of sugar.  Stir thoroughly and reduce to medium-low heat.  Let it go at a low simmer for about an hour, until the flesh of the seeds is soft.  Take the mixture and pour it into a blender.  Blend until you have an even color, maybe 1 minute on a medium setting.

Take your blended concoction and strain it back into the pot on the same heat setting.  The blender should have effectively stripped the flesh from the hard seeds and incorporated the flesh into the syrup.  You should get a bunch of seed debris in the strainer.

Leave the pot on the heat at a low simmer for another half hour and then remove and chill in the fridge for two hours to allow to thicken.  Remember to stir frequently when on the heat.  If you let this burn in your pot, you'll have to spend an hour cleaning it out, and the smell of burned sugar will linger for a few weeks.  Believe me, I know from experience.

And voila, you should have some tasty, sweet pomegranate syrup to pour on your vanilla ice cream.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Cajun" Catfish Sandwich

My local grocery store had a good sale on catfish fillets and I picked up more than I could use on more mundane recipes.  See end result on right.

Catfish is a fairly light fish, but it also has a meaty quality and a fairly distinctive flavor.  It's also usually pretty cheap.  I really like how it interacts with whatever seasoning you use with it.  It's the perfect frying fish, but it also bakes well or incorporates into soups.

The ingredients for this dish are as follows:

1 catfish fillet
1/3 loaf of beer bread
1 leaf mustard greens or Romain lettuce
3 slices Colby Jack cheese
1/2 a lemon
3 tablespoons of corn flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Smoky Sweet Pepper mix (important parts: tomato powder, paprika, red pepper flakes)

The first part will be to make the seasoning rub.  You'll have a fair bit of the rub left over depending on the size of your fillet.  You're going to want to mix the corn flour, the chili powder, the garlic powder, the black pepper, the last and the Smoky Sweet Pepper mix.  The Pepper mix is really just tomato powder, paprika and red pepper flakes.  It's got some other stuff in there, but those are the important parts for the flavor we're trying to achieve.  The corn flour helps coat the fish and hold the moisture in and also makes sure that you don't over-season the fish.

Take the lemon and juice it onto the fish.  Now rub the rub onto the fillets.  Place onto a baking sheet and cook for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut a piece of bread of similar size to the fillet off of your loaf of bread, then slice that piece open.  I used beer bread which is a kind of dark, chewy, bubbly, hearty loaf.  Any crusty bread can work well.  Ciabatta style loaves tend to provide the right size for the sandwich.

Lay three thick slices of Colby Jack cheese on the bottom piece and pop it into the oven for about a minute and a half so the cheese gets soft.  You don't want ti to get too melted though.

Once the fillets are done, place them on the cheesed piece of bread.  Lay the mustard green leaf or Romaine or Red Leaf lettuce leaf on top of the fillet and spread some mayo onto the top piece of bread.

You now have a large, satisfying sandwich.  I served this with a simple chili flavored corn-potato chowder and a green salad.  This recipe works well as a sandwich, but it really relies simply on a well cooked and well seasoned piece of fish.  If you can manage to get the fish right you can use it on its own, accompanied by rice or polenta.  It's kind of like a steak sandwich: the steak carries the sandwich not the other way around.  Absent the bread, cheese and greens, the fillet would be awesome, but absent the fillet, the sandwich would be pretty boring.