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Archive for July, 2012

Swai. That’s right, swai.

Let me guess, you’ve never heard of it either.  Cub Foods had a great sale on frozen fish, so I picked up four pounds of frozen fish for about $10.  There wasn’t much of a selection, so I grabbed a couple of packs of cod (a favorite), one of tilapia, and because I was curious, one of swai.  When I got around to cooking it, I was as completely clueless about this fish as when I bought it.  It was a firm fleshed white fish, I decided to go the safest route that I could think of: baking it.  Which is what the bag recommended as well.

These fillets were quite large. That’s a 9×13 pan they are crammed in.

I seasoned the fish with a dill dip blend that I like to put on cod and a bit of lemon juice sprinkled over it.  It then went into a 375 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes.  It turned out to be decent, but I think it would have been better pan fried.  Flavor-wise, it reminded me of catfish which makes sense from the research that I did for this post.  And should have done before I cooked the darn things.

Basically, swai is a Southeast Asian river catfish that is farmed commercially and available across the U.S. in its frozen form.  There are some concerns about the farming practices used to raise this fish, so domestic catfish is a better sustainable option.  The flavor is milder than channel cats and the flesh is a bit more delicate.  Knowing this now, I would have taken an entirely different approach to cooking swai.  I would have treated it just like catfish, i.e. cornmeal breading and deep frying the nuggets.

I found a couple of websites that I have now bookmarked and will be referencing quite a bit in the future.  The first one is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.  This site is jam-packed with information about ocean issues, sustainability, recipes by some pretty big names, and info about numerous types of seafood species, just to name a few of the areas.  The other site is Chef’s Resources.  I haven’t dug around this one much, but what I can say is that it has all the info that you can think of that is useful in the kitchen.  For example: flavor profiles, purchasing guidelines, nutritional info, history/habitat of the species, and in the case of fish, a link to the Montery Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch page.

Mmm . . . Tuna Melts

For some reason I always forget how cheap and easy tuna melts are to make and how much I enjoy them.  It may have something to due with the fact that I’ve had plenty of bad melts in my time.  This mostly stems from institutions, i.e. school, and a particular restaurant that I used to frequent.  In the former case, it was just flavorless and in the latter, the tuna always seemed to be cold.  I’m guessing it was due to the fact that they pre-made the tuna and refrigerated the mixture and it never got a chance to heat through when they made it.  Which leads me into the major benefit of making it for myself and Lindz.  The tuna starts off room temp which is a 30 degree headstart going into the oven.  Also, I get to make it to suit my palette instead of going with a more neutral flavor.

For two people, I start off with three tins of tuna and add mayo until I get the right consistency.  For me it usually is where the tuna looks wet with mayo but not swimming in it.  I finely dice a couple of slices of onion and add them to the mix.  A little salt and pepper to taste, and this part is done.  I then evenly distribute it among six slices of bread.  For mine, I added some sliced banana peppers.

The base of a good tuna melt is a good tuna mix.

Add a slice of tomato.

I first ran across the addition of tomato at the cafe that consistently had cold tuna and I have been using it ever since.

And finally the cheese for the melt.  I usually use cheddar, but this time I used up some mozzarella that was hiding in the back of the fridge.

Usually I would try to squeeze another slice of cheese on each, but I ran out.

Finally they go into a preheated oven (I think I had it set at 375 degrees F) for about 15 minutes (I think).  I usually check it frequently to make sure nothing is burning.  I pull everything out when I have a nice golden brown on the cheese.

Great. Now I’m craving tuna melts.

You probably should rotate the pan once or twice while baking.  As you can see, some of the cheese is significantly more browned than others.  Unfortunately, Lindz’s pieces took the hit the hardest which ticked me off more than if mine were worse.  It’s a pride thing.

Categories: recipes, supper Tags: , ,

Another Beautiful Selection from Pizza Luce

This is from the last time that Lindz and I went to Pizza Lucé.  One of their specials of the month was a Thai Chicken pizza.  Being the lover of Asian food that I am, it was an easy choice.

Despite all the jalapenos, it was surprisingly mild in it’s heat.

This is a great combination.  I really wish they would put it on the regular menu.  It was a nice balance of what you would expect from something labeled “Thai.”  Crunchy peanuts with some heat from peppers (I know jalapenos are not the usual choice, but they worked) and some herby basil to round things out.

A Treat for Lindz

This happened awhile back.  Lindz sent me out grocery shopping by myself (an iffy proposition at the best of times).  I managed to mostly stick to our list.  The two items that I splurged on were a pint of pickled herring for myself and some scallops for Lindz.  I thought it was a pretty fair deal even though her treat cost about twice as much as mine (the scallops were even on sale).

These suckers were huge!

To cook them, I went with the simplest approach I could.  I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter in my trusty cast-iron and fried them for a couple of minutes on each side.  The seasoning was barely a sprinkle each of salt and pepper.

By far the prettiest scallops I have ever cooked.

I got a great caramelization on the scallops, but I think I overcooked them by about 30 seconds.  They were a bit chewier than I was hoping.  One thing that I’ve been trying to work on is my timing with seafood.  As near as I can figure, there is about a 30 second window between under cooked and overcooked.  And I always seem to be on the plus side of this ideal temperature.

Despite the half minute of extra heat, Lindz did enjoy eating five of them.  Well, I had to try one of them.  Research you know.  I was trying to figure out what I need to improve upon for the next time.  No, really.  I was.  I read it in a book somewhere.  Towards the back.

Addendum: Last night Dave pointed out that his dad only grills scallops for around ten seconds on each side.  He also said that since they are so delicate, it is better to err towards sushi.  Which got me thinking again about how long I cooked the scallops.  It probably was closer to a minute a side rather than a couple.  They were over cooked, but not by that much.

Categories: recipes, supper Tags: ,

Maverick’s

As seems to be the case all too often lately, by the time that I got home from work it was late and neither of us had any energy to make something for supper. Lindz was kind enough to run out and grab us some food. After running through the list of places nearby, we both decided that Maverick’s sounded the best.

Maverick’s Real Roast Beef is a small Mom & Pop BBQ place on Lexington Ave by Larpenteur. There is nothing fancy about their food, it’s just plain good. And good plain. (Notice that word play? I’m so clever! And I most certainly didn’t steal it from the CityPages review.) Also it’s very reasonably priced to boot. Although they are equally good, I usually get the brisket basket and Lindz gets the roast beef basket. The bonus for me is that they have a really good horseradish sauce that you can put on your sandwich. I grew up with homemade horseradish, so I am particular when it comes to this condiment. You should read that last sentence as “I am a horseradish snob.”

Not the greatest shot, but I was hungry. BTW, this is the brisket. The Horsey Sauce is top center. Yum.

To sum up, this is a place that deserves your business and you deserve to eat there.

Poached Egg Salad

I know I dropped the huge teasers of a Rhode Island trip and a new camera.  But I’ve been busy with work and making trips up north to make sure Grandma doesn’t go too stir-crazy in the nursing home.  In the near future, I’m going to be posting some short blurbs just to keep up the habit, and to shorten my queue.  So you’ll have to deal with crappy photos and short rambles.  Meh, such is life.

A while back I made myself and Lindz a salad with poached eggs on it.  I really enjoyed the combination.  So when I had some leftover stuff for a salad and I wanted a snack after work, it seemed like a good time to recreate it.

All that went into the salad was lettuce, sliced almonds, an Asian Sesame dressing, and a poached egg on top.  For as simplistic as the ingredients were, it was a very satisfying salad.  If you have a Rainbow Foods (grocery store) near you, I highly recommend getting the Roundy’s dressing (it’s the store brand).

No, I haven’t fallen off the earth . . .

I’ve been on vacation to Rhode Island for the last week and a half, so I’m more behind than usual on writing here. I’ve got about a half dozen posts in the “to do” folder, plus all the new stuff from the trip. Posts will start showing up soon, I promise.

In the mean time, here’s a teaser photo from the trip:

I never said the teaser was food related. 🙂

Categories: misc, travel Tags: , , ,

Pate and Disillusionment

The more I experiment with trying the stereotypical “high society” food, the more I laugh at that whole cuisine.  So far it’s mostly been stuff that I’ve already had before, or really similar to something I’ve already had.  Polenta, for example, is the same as the “mush” that Mom made when I was growing up.  The difference is that Mom would chill hers after it cooked to set it, and then slice it and fry it.  Served up with butter and syrup.  This is as near to breakfast perfection as one can get in my opinion.  Well, served with bacon.  Everything is better with bacon.  Like I posted previously, bone marrow reminds me of dipping your bread in bacon fat.  Venison?  Grew up on the stuff.  Gnocci? Terrines?  Fancy words for potato dumplings and headcheese, both were regular items growing up.  I could go on, but I want to get to my latest addition to this list of peasant food that was stolen and given highfalutin names.  Pate.  Very tasty, but really nothing more than liverwurst.  And I’m sure you’re tired of me saying this, but grew up on that stuff too.

One quick aside before I get to the recipe.  A while back Lindz and I went to Andrew Zimmern’s book signing here in the Cities.  When he was signing it, I told him that I grew up on a lot of traditional Polish foods and most of what he showed on Bizarre Foods wasn’t all that different from what I ate.  He agreed with me and said that as you travel the world you discover that food basically isn’t all different.  I’m beginning to understand this.  You start to learn to appreciate the nuances in the seasoning and the quality of the cook.  And an aside to the aside, if you ever get the chance to meet Zimmern, do it!  He’s a great speaker and a genuinely nice guy.  We had a blast at the book signing.

Now, onto the pate!

This whole little adventure started with a trip up to Mom and Dad’s.  I was rummaging through the deep freeze looking for meat to swipe.  Mom was down in the basement with me and asked if I wanted a package of liver.  I hesitated for about a half a second and then said yes.  At that point, I was just planing on pan frying it with some onions because that’s what you do.  After I got home, it occurred to me that I could make some pate.  After a bit of digging, I found a really basic recipe that sounded good, also it was one of the very few that called for beef liver instead of chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Beef Liver, cut into pieces
  • 1 small Onion, chopped
  • 1/2 C Red Wine (did not use)
  • 2 cloves Garlic, crushed (used something like 8)
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 sprig fresh Rosemary (used about 1 Tbs dried)
  • 1 sprig fresh Thyme (used about 1 Tbs dried)
  • 1 Tbs Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 C Butter
  • Salt and Pepper

The lovely basis for any good meal.

Saute the liver and onions in a couple of tablespoons of the butter until the livers are browned and the onions are tender.

Good enough to eat right now!

Add wine, garlic, mustard, herbs and lemon juice and cook uncovered until most of the liquid has gone.

I’ve always wondered what could possibly make liver any better? Oh, butter! That’ll do the trick!

Cool and blend to a smooth paste in the food processor (or a stick blender like I did)  along with the rest of the butter.  This is easier if the butter is not fridge cold.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Check the consistency of the pate. If it seems dry and crumbly rather than smooth and creamy, add more butter.

Yeah, I know it look like cheap cat food. But it is earthy / minerally goodness.

Like I said earlier, very, very good, but it tastes just like the liverwurst I grew up on.  Good memories.

I’ve got the Golden Ticket!

I finally finagled our finances enough to afford a new toy.  And by “I”, I mean Lindz.

So you can be expecting better photos as soon as I figure out how to use the darn thing.

My little sous-chef, who happens to be my first model.

Categories: misc Tags: ,

601 Graves, part III

The restaurant that Lindz and I went to was the one located in the hotel.  I can’t describe Cosmos any better than the line from the New York Times: “Hybrid of SoHo slick and Minnesota nice.”  Like the rest of 601 Graves, it has a modern chic decor.  The staff was unbelievably nice from the hostess, to the bartender who chatted with me at the bar while I was waiting for Lindz to come down, and to our AMAZING waiter who was spot on with personality and menu suggestions.

The first step into going out to a fancy place is getting suited up properly.

Lindz is justifiably proud of her smokin’ hot dress.

We were seated in a quiet corner of the restaurant, which wasn’t too hard because there were not a lot of people dining that night.  But they did take care to place at least a couple of tables between us and the closest diners for a more intimate experience.  Lindz and I decided to split a bottle of one of their cheaper wines.  $40 is cheap for a bottle considering they had some that ranged upwards to $1000.  Like I was ever so subtly hinting at before, our fantastic waiter struck up a conversation with us right after we were seated.  In the process of explaining our little celebration, he threw out a few suggestions to try on the menu.  One of which was the tuna tartar appetizer.  He described it as “habit forming” and that he would eat it as often as he could.  Since both Lindz and I like sushi, we figured this would be a safe bet for a starter.  Boy were we wrong.  Saying that this tartar was a safe bet is like calling McD’s cheeseburger a safe bet and getting filet mignon set down in front of you.  This tartar is not comparable to anything that I’ve ever had before.  The freshness of the tuna was unquestionable.  The richness of the fish and whatever spices they mixed with it was heavenly.  Plus, as a side, they put a dollop of avocado ice cream on the plate.  This may sound like a weird concoction that you would see on Iron Chef, but it really does work.  The creaminess of an avocado transitions beautifully into the creaminess that one gets with a high quality ice cream.  So like our waiter said, habit forming.  One quick example why I have a bit of a foodie crush on our waiter is that he went ahead and had the kitchen split our app orders without asking us.  He was able to anticipate our wants and needs even before we realized them.

This photo does absolutely no justice to the beauty that was on my plate.

The other appetizer that we split was some lobster bisque.  I’m not sure what Lindz’ motivation was, but I just like to say “I’ll have the lobster bisque.”  Makes me feel like a Vanderbilt.  I was not to be disappointed with this selection either.  The bisque was a thick creamy seafoody bowl of goodness.  It was everything you would expect out of a bisque plus more.  The more was a couple of morsels of lobster chillin’ in the bottom of the bowl like the prize in a cereal box.  Only better.  Much better.

This lobster gave its all. And all it gave was gleefully cherished.

Between our app and main course, the waiter brought out a palette cleanser for us.  It was one of those fun little things that molecular-gastronomists like to do.  It had a concentrated citrus liquid (orange I believe) suspended in a gelatin skin, which was in turn suspended in a different liquid in a shot glass.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of it and the only thing I remember is the strong taste of citrus and the pop of gelatin skin.  While it may not be the highlight of the meal, it was definitely fun and amusing.  The timing on the courses was stellar.  There was no awkward lag between one dish and another.

Lindz decided to go all out on the fancy seafood this night.  For her entree she chose the butter poached lobster.  There is really no way you can go wrong with that combination.  The little bite that I stole from her proved that very well.  Without a doubt, this was the most perfectly cooked lobster that I’ve ever had.  The butter flavor was infused into the meat and since it was poached, the meat was unbelievable succulent and tender.

Now this is how to create visual appeal on a plate.

I opted for the white wine braised rabbit.  I choose it mainly because I haven’t had rabbit in a long time, also it was the most out of the ordinary dish they had for entrees.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, I like to be adventurous with my food.  It pains me to admit this, but this was the weakest dish that we were served the entire night.  I’m a self-proclaimed salt fiend and by the time I got to the end of my dish, it was getting a bit salty even for my palette.  Other then being a bit heavy handed with the NaCl, this was a great dish.  the rabbit was tender and flavorful.  The pasta, I’m 98% certain was made from scratch and cooked to the perfect chewiness.  All in all, it was a great meaty and earthy dish.

I usually shy away from pasta dishes, but with one like this, who am I to resist?

Even taking our wild sushi meals into account, this was by far the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten.  That being said, it was also without question one of the top three meals that I’ve ever eaten.  As soon as we can afford it, I’m planning on going back.

Ouch!

I do feel a little guilty about the tip we left our waiter.  Don’t worry, it was in excess of what we normally do and we are generous tippers.  If we could have afforded it, I would have left him a 100% tip because with his help the experience was that great and the food selections were even better.  If you can afford to splurge for a night, I recommend this place without hesitation.