Monday, July 28, 2008

New way (for me) with halibut

Had some guests in from the Midwest last week and wanted to do something they might not run into every day. So I picked up a nice big chunk of fresh halibut up at Pike Place Market (no they didn't throw my fish...). I marinated it in a combination of vegetable oil and Goya "Sauzon" with
achiote (seasoning, comes in packets, you can get in most Mexican groceries or some supermarkets). One packet and 2 T oil for each pound of fish. Let it sit and think about itself for 3-4 hours, then wrapped it in banana leaves and put it on the grill.
Side dishes included "calabacitas," a combination of roasted fresh corn, sauteed zucchini and summer squash, and roasted green chiles, and a red and green cabbage slaw with a sweet and sour vinaigrette. And some homemade grilled bread for fun.

It all went surprisingly well with a nice Washington state syrah.

Mmm...Cherry Crostada tonight

Something good for dessert tonight - a cherry crostada (or crostata, depending on where you are). It's a free-form tart with a fresh fruit filling. I use a basic butter pastry recipe, but with 1/4 cup of cornmeal in it. Makes for a great mouthfeel. Last week I made one with nectarines, peaches, and plums.
The plums made it really bright red:

This time it's six cups of pitted, halved sweet cherries. (The season is still going strong here.) My husband was kind enough to process the cherries, so all I have is the sweetening/thickening and the crust to do. I'm using a scant 1/2 cup sugar and 1T of tapioca flour and tossed the cherries in that. They sit and wait while the crust chills for an hour. The tart will take almost an hour to cook. One of the yummy things is brushing the crust with beaten egg then sprinkling coarse sugar (I have raw sugar from Maui) all over it. You get this great crunch in it. I've made this kind of thing before, but got a reinforcement a couple of months ago when I took a "summer fruit" class at Culinary Communion.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The beauty of brining

I'm a big advocate of brining protein. It locks in moisture and adds flavor, so how can you argue with that? I do get questions from a lot of people about how to brine, so I thought I'd get it down in writing. I'll leave it to Harold McGee or Shirley Corriher (or Alton Brown) to describe the way brining works. What to brine: poultry, pork, chicken, fish, shrimp. (For beef and lamb, you usually would just rub the meat with salt a hour before cooking, which is not brining.) Basic brine: I use 1/4 cup of kosher salt and 1/4 cup of sugar for each quart of water. Make sure it's completely dissolved. You need enough brine to cover what you're brining. Put the meat and brine into a non-reactive container that you can put into the refrigerator, or into a zip-top bag you can put into a pan while it is in the refrigerator. When the meat is ready (see timing below) remove the meat form the brine and rinse it thoroughly. Use whatever cooking method you were planning. Variations: - Use brown sugar, honey, or molasses in place of white sugar. Molasses or brown sugar are interesting with pork, honey with duck. - Add flavors to the brine. Start with 2 cups of boiling water and add herbs/spices and the salt and sugar. Try coriander, black pepper, and thyme with chicken, or herbes de Provence with duck or pork. Essentially any seasoning you'd use with an item will be good in the brine. Steep the seasonings for 30 minutes to make an infusion, then add 2 cups of cold water. You can even use black tea in a brine for chicken, especially if you're planning to fry the chicken. How long to brine: - Chicken breasts, pork chops: 45 - 90 minutes, depending on size/thickness - Shrimp and fish fillets: 15-20 minutes, again depending on size - Whole chickens can go overnight, as can a pork loin roast. Turkeys are more like 24-36 hours.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Where has the time gone?

Wow, last post at the end of May. Oh, that's right, my ecstacy over perfectly fried seafood. That jaunt to New England was a good one -- even the Mariners vs. Red Sox game we got into at Fenway was a win for the M's. We had great baked beans at Summer Shack in Boston, and an AMAZING meal at Blue Ginger.
That bears a little more detail -- believe it or not, celeb chef Ming Tsai actually cooks at his restaurant! That dinner was our one splurge on this trip, and we ordered the tasting menu. To our immense joy, Chef came out and served our amuse personally. Camomile-cured salmon. The menu was kind of a "greatest hits" off of the standard menu, but six courses of that was a lot of food. I wasn't wild about the black pepper lobster, but you know I'm not a big fan of black pepper; however, Dave loved it. We both thought the butterfish (aka black cod) was as great as the reviews. To top it off, Chef brought out a signed copy of our menu for the evening and had one of his staff take a photo of him with us. I'm not one for getting my picture taken, but how can you say no when the chef wants it to happen?

Since then? Enjoying the fresh bounty of the Pacific Northwest. We're getting a basket of food from an organic farm every week now that summer's started, and it includes some of my favorite things -- stone fruit. There's nothing -- nothing! -- like a perfectly ripe apricot. Except maybe a perfectly ripe peach :-). And have you ever eaten a sauteed radish? You're missing something interesting if you haven't.