Seafood

Making Sole Meunière by Anne

sole.meuniere

sole.meuniere

Filet of Sole Meunière

Fat, buttery snowflakes are plopping on the front yard, and I'm not even glad.  Why?  Because I want to go to school tomorrow--to have the opportunity to make braised sweetbreads.  As in, cow's thymus gland.  I didn't think I'd be excited about it, but today I put them into water to soak overnight, and once I had my hands on them, I was very intrigued by their complete oddity.  My classmate told me today that getting the membranes off is a pain in the neck.  The curiosity has taken over.  What will it be like?  Also, how will it taste after braising a couple hours in a sauce?

Today I cooked up some Filet of Sole Meunière at school (24 times).  You can look up the recipe for this just about anywhere, but I'd like to share with you some of the techniques, guidelines, and tricks taught to me by Chef KG and also by Steve, a 5th Quarter who was helping in the kitchen today.

Sole Meunière is a simple and intensely tasty way to eat your butter.  It's fried in butter, then served with a lemony butter sauce.

Heat your pan over medium-high to high heat, without adding fat yet.  Sprinkle your fish with salt and pepper.

After the pan is hot (no need to use a non-stick if you do this right), add clarified butter.  As you let the butter heat up, dredge the fish in flour.  Only do this at the last minute or the flour will get gummy.

The fish is then fried in the hot clarified butter, on both sides. Using clarified butter for this is great because it has a higher smoke point.  Your fish is so thin that you'll want to use high heat to get a nice, crusty finish on each side before that sucker is all cooked through.  It only takes a couple of minutes.

It's a delicate fish.  Flip once.  Start with presentation side down (flesh side, not skin side--even if the skin is off) on the pan.

After removing the sole and arranging it on your serving plate, you add some (not-clarified) butter to the pan and brown it, making "beurre noisette."  Noisette means hazelnut.  The milk solids in butter become brown and nutty in appearance and aroma.

After you finish browning your butter--hence adding more complex flavors to the sauce you're building in the pan, you add some lemon juice.

Here's a trick Steve taught me today with that lemon juice.  Tilt the pan over your heat so that all the butter is at the bottom.  Add the lemon juice from the top, so it runs down the super-hot pan to finally reach the butter at the bottom.  By doing this, you reduce the lemon juice briefly, in its trip down.  I have no idea how much reduction you get by doing that, but it sure is fun.

After the lemon juice, add chopped parsley to your sauce.  Quickly swirl, then pour over the fish on the plate(s).  Garnish with lemon slices and more parsley (if desired).

Shrimp Beignets, Take One by Anne

shrimp.beignets "Looks good--what are these?" I asked, as usual, at Student Lunch a few weeks ago.  Of course they looked good--they were deep fried.  Anyway, turns out they were "tempura" vegetables with a beignet batter.   They were light, crisp, faintly sweet, and insanely compelling to eat.  I was sitting across the table from Chris, a 2nd quarter student, who had his plate piled high with them.  "Aren't these awesome?" I said to him--though with my mouth full, it was more like, "Ammt veev awffm?" 

"I made 'em!" he said.  Chris cooks at Barking Frog in Woodinville, and making beignet batter is one of his regular tasks.  Since it was near the end of school, he whipped this out, one of his default recipes.  Personally, I'm looking at it as a secret weapon.  I continued to rave about them, but he was pretty humble.  He complained that they had too much baking soda in them.  I can only imagine what they taste like when they are perfect. 

Anyway, they've been on my mind, so I looked up "Barking Frog Beignets" to see what they actually use the batter for.  Apparently they serve crab beignets, with an herbed crab concoction hidden inside.  Sounds dreamy! 

Today I picked up some shrimp at the store and decided to take the plunge for dinner tonight.   I'll call this round a pleasant first stab at seafood beignets--definitely no award-winner.  My batter was simple, with flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, and sparkling water.  In other words, not a beignet.  From what I have read in the last hour, this is definitely not a traditional beignet recipe.  Sometimes you've just gotta slap it up there and see what happens.  I will say, though, that my family gobbled them up. 

In case you haven't already sneaked off to Wikipedia,  I'll sum up: beignets are basically french doughnuts.  It's a term that refers to fried dough or batter. It can be made with yeasty batter or a basic Pâte à choux (butter, eggs, flour, and water).  Definitely not the recipe I was using.

Looks like I'll be heading over to Barking Frog soon to taste savory beignets again.  Or asking Chris for some beignet words of wisdom.  Or both.  If you've got a good beignet recipe at your house, I'd love to hear about it.

Gambas al Ajillo by Anne

gambas and romesco crostini Yesterday I talked about food that changes your mind.   I'm still thinking about that.  Here's a recipe that changed Michael's mind about shrimp.   Shrimp was definitely on his "no thanks" list until one evening a few years ago, in Spain.

We first tasted this dish, gambas al ajillo (shrimp with sizzling garlic), in a Madrid bar, where this was the only food they served.  We had just made friends with some fellow travelers, and they were excited to try this.  Michael, being polite, went along with this idea, although I know he wouldn't have opted to go here if it were just the two of us.   We shared a cazuelita (a small, shallow earthenware dish which you can use cook over a low flame) full of gambas, still sizzling in the dish with the garlic  and chiles, immersed in pungent olive oil.  It was much too small, and we were much too in love with this dish.  Our new friends were traveling on a tighter budget than we were, so for some strange polite reason we didn't go back and get more, but instead continued on with our tapas hopping.  I still regret this.  This serving of shrimp changed Michael's mind about shrimp forever, and it made me love it even more deeply.  We both look upon those 15 minutes in that bar with fondness and longing. 

Fortunately, I have a book called The New Spanish Table, and it has many recipes that aptly recreate some flavor celebrations we experienced in Spain.   Thank goodness for this book.  This preparation seemed so simple when we saw it in action, but it was helpful to have the book reassure me just how simple it truly is.  Granted, I did buy a cazuela (a large version of the cazuelita we had at that Madrid bar) solely to make this shrimp, but it's really not necessary.  A heavy pan or skillet will work fine as well.

Gambas al Ajillo

Sizzling Garlic Shrimp, adapted from The New Spanish Table

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shrimp
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small chile, such as arbol, crumbled--or 1/2 tsp dried chile flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 T minced flatleaf parsley

Directions:

  1. Pat the shrimp dry, and salt generously. 
  2. In a cazuela or heavy sauté pan, slowly warm the oil until it is shimmery and aromatic.  Add the garlic and chile.  After it begins to sizzle gently, cook for about two minutes. 
  3. Add shrimp and cook just until pink, about three minutes.
  4. At the last moment, add the flatleaf parsley.
  5. Serve in the pan at the table with lots of bread for dipping into the oil.  If serving as a crostini, spread Romesco sauce* onto the bread and place shrimp onto the sauce, as shown in the picture above.

Serves 4 as a heavy tapa.

*Romesco sauce recipe to come.

Make Salmon Your French Sweetheart this Summer by Anne

salmonenpapilloteI love it when I “invent” an easy and delicious way to prepare something, only to learn that it has an elegant name, especially a French one.  It was a double whammy when I unwittingly created Salmon en Papillote with Mangos and Orange Suprêmes.   I was not aware of my utter elegance when I first made it.  At first it was really Salmon en Reynold’s Wrap with Some Onions and Impulse-Purchase Fruit I Needed to Use Up Before it Spoiled.  Far from being high-minded about the process, I was just fooling around and hoping for the best.  I was thrilled with and surprised by what came out of the oven. 

How can something taste both vibrant and delicate?  The marriage of the bright and sweet fruit steams and permeates the salmon to create a tender, delicate flavor in the fish.  Onions also add deeper, but not cloying, sweetness.   Simple, perfect.   I first ate my dish still standing in my kitchen on a Thursday night, astounded by the alchemical magic of heat and steam.

This dish gained further oh-la-la-factor when I learned that aluminum reacts to acidic foods, so I later tried a method sans foil. At the Century Ballroom*, they used to serve entrees sealed in adorable, individual parchment packages.  Serving food en papillote (which surprisingly means “in parchment” in French) allows for a delicate steaming that seals the flavor and juices in a gentle, butter-brushed embrace.  Your dinner arrives like a tidy present just for you.  

Not remembering the folding technique for keeping the parchment closed, and also running short on parchment, I tried folding a rectangle in half, then enclosing the fish and fruit in the fold, envelope style.  I folded the ends over several times.  They would surely come undone once the steam started to form in the envelope, though.  What would you do?  Well, you might think, parchment IS paper, after all.  Why NOT use staples?  I suppose there’s no reason not to, if you don’t mind a whole bunch of butter on your stapler.  I have a whole bunch of butter on my stapler.  That was fun, though.

For those of us without a kitchen stapler, I’ll share the ideal (and perhaps classique?) parchment shape for folding and serving food en papillote. You fold your rectangle in half, cut out a big, second-grade valentine, and place the portion inside the fold.  Then you fold around the edge of the half-heart in a series of overlapping folds.   This culinary origami keeps everything in place and also adds an undeniable air of 1st period homeroom romance.

With its simplicity and its efficient, sweet design, I thought this dish to now be invincible and bloggable.  I was wrong.   It's important to tell you that a flavor roadblock arose one time when I used Sockeye salmon, with surprisingly miserable results.  Sockeye is the type of fish chosen to use in canned salmon, because it is favored for its bright color and strong flavor.  It turns out that Sockeye’s intense and savory flavor, while fun on the grill and delicious in a salmon burger, does not pair well with this fruit.  After double checking with the friendly fish purveyors at Fresh Fish Co., I recommend using King (also called Chinook) or Coho salmon, because they are milder in flavor.  Take it from me: a mild-flavored fish works best with this treatment. If you only have Sockeye, head to the grill and make a separate fruit salad.  If you can’t get salmon at all, try it with the delicate and lovely sole.  I’m sure going to. 

After eating this dish many times I finally decided that it needed just a touch of tart to offset the near-perfect sweet and savory.  With that sweetheart-themed shape, how could you resist little dots of red?  I added dried cranberries to lightly brighten both the flavor and the color. 

And there you have it.  A Thursday night fridge-cleanout slowly unfolds into a simple yet refined and elegant way to say Je t’aime to your fish.  Bon Appétit.

*By the way, The Century Ballroom now has a great restaurant called The Tin Table, a delectable way to start your evening—whether you are dancing or not.  They don't have the dinners en papillote any longer, but they have other inspirational dishes on their menu.  It has some French words, too.

 

Salmon en Papillote with Mangos and Orange Suprêmes

  • 1 lb salmon – preferably a piece that is consistent in thickness throughout*
  • 1/3 onion, cut into rings
  • 2 oranges, cut into suprêmes, then squeezed for juice
  • 1 mango, cut into cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 2 – 3 T minced chives (and chive blossoms, if you have them), for garnish

*Cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your piece(s) of fish, which is why you want consistent thickness. 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut salmon into four pieces. 
  3. Cut 4 large pieces of parchment, around 16 inches long each.
  4. Fold each piece of parchment in half and cut out half a heart, as if you were making a valentine.  It will help if your valentine is very rounded, like in this picture.salmonhearts
  5. Place salmon filets onto the hearts, at the edge of the fold in the center of the shape.   Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Cover each filet with ¼ each of the onion rings, the mango cubes, and the orange suprêmes, along with some of the orange juice.  Top with dried cranberries.
  7. With a pastry brush, spread melted butter all along the edge of the heart on both sides, then fold the heart over to close.  Now you will seal this packet closed.  Starting at the top of the heart at the crease,  make a 1/2-inch-deep fold in the open edge of the parchment.  Because the shape is curved, you can hold this fold down and make another fold overlapping the first one, which holds it in place.  Do this again and again around the round part of the heart.  Once you get to the bottom tip and run out of curve, make one last good fold to hold all the previous ones in place, then twist the bottom firmly several times to secure it.salmonopenclose
  8. Brush the top of each sealed packet with more melted butter.
  9. Place packets in a shallow baking dish and bake for 12 minutes for an inch-thick fillet, which is the fatter part of many salmon you’ll find at the market—the medium-large ones, not the really big ones.  For the skinnier part of a salmon steak, cooking time will be more like 8 minutes or even less.  Watch for the puffing up of the packet, which will indicate sufficient steam has been produced in the packet to cook the salmon well.
  10. Remove packets from oven and let them rest for a few moments to finish steaming before serving.
  11. To serve, place each packet on a plate and cut a cross in the top of the packet, right in the center, then fold back each of the four flaps to create a square hole that reveals the salmon and its toppings underneath. If the salmon has shifted over, just gently tilt the plate so that the fish slides over and becomes centered.  Sprinkle with chives and chives blossoms, if you have them.  Serve immediately upon opening.

 Makes 4 servings

Salmon En Papillote With Mangos and Orange Suprêmes on Foodista

Cooking with Sea Beans by Anne

whitesalmoneditAfter a couple of happy experiments with sea beans this week, I think we have a winner.  When I go to Ballard Farmers’ Market this Sunday, I’ll definitely stop back by the Foraged and Found Edibles booth in search of sea beans.   So if you find yourself at that booth too, staring at those funky-looking stems, listening to people murmer "Sea Beans..." quizzically aloud to themselves as they pass, and you're wondering whether to try them or not, you could consider these ideas for starters. 

First, they perked up a regular old tuna salad.  In the salad, the sea beans provided salt and a compelling crunch.  That crunch compelled me, actually, to keep adding more of them to the salad as I ate it, so you might find that ¼ cup from the recipe below is not enough for you, either.  I was surprised that while the sea beans have a distinctive taste on their own, once in the salad they did not command attention—rather they seemed to enhance the flavor of the tuna like good backup singers.  For the tuna salad magic alone I want to keep buying sea beans. 

 

Tuna Salad with Sea Beans

Tuna salad lovers often have their own favorite versions.  Here is a simple version that I used to give the sea beans a chance to have a say-so in the flavors, although they were subtler than I expected.

Ingredients

  • 1 can of tuna packed in oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 2-3 T of mayonnaise
  • 2 stalks celery, diced finely
  • 3 T minced sweet onion
  • A few turns of ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup rinsed and chopped sea beans

Directions 

  1. Pour the whole can of tuna, oil and all, into a medium mixing bowl.  Begin flaking tuna with a fork, then add mayonnaise and continue to flake tuna to get a fine texture.  
  2. Add celery, onion, pepper, and sea beans. 
  3. Enjoy with crackers or on a sandwich.

Serves 2. 

 *  *  *  *  *  * 

 

This week I also tried sea beans in a salmon dish, which was another hit, although I have to say it was a bit lacking in color.  Isn’t it a bummer when something delicious doesn’t look very pretty?  Well, I’ll take delicious any day. For color, though, this might shine next to some sliced fresh tomatoes, as soon as tomatoes start coming this summer.   By the way, if you cannot get sea beans, this dish would still taste lovely all on its own.  However, they add texture and a satisfying crunch, as well as hints of salty seaside. 

Seaside White Salmon

Marinade Ingredients (modified from The Bride & Grooom First and Forever Cookbook):

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 3 T fresh rosemary or other herbs of your choice (rosemary stands up to cooking, though)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Half of an onion

Main Ingredients

  • 1 lb white salmon
  • 2 medium red potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 1 cup sea beans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚.
  2. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth.  Place the fish into a shallow dish and pour marinade over it. Let it rest on the counter for 20-30 minutes. 
  3. While the fish is marinating, chop the onion and the fennel, and slice the potatoes paper-thin.  Using a mandoline is helpful here but not necessary. 
  4. Combine the onion and fennel at the bottom of a baking dish that will later easily accommodate the salmon.  Then arrange the potatoes in a layer over the onion and fennel, overlapping the slices, if necessary. 
  5. Place salmon on top of the potatoes, and spoon most of the marinade over the fish and the potatoes. 
  6. Cover tightly, and cook for 30 minutes.
  7. While salmon is cooking, rinse sea beans and chop them coarsely.
  8. After removing the dish from the oven, lift salmon from the bed of vegetables, transfer it to a cutting board, and slice it into 4 pieces.
  9. Gently mix the sea beans with the vegetables and sauce.
  10. To serve, place a few large spoonfuls of the vegetables and sauce on a plate, and place salmon atop the bed.   

 Serves 4.

 

Smoky by Anne

img_0551fishKippered snacks.  What is the deal with them, anyway?  Goofy name aside, are they lowbrow?  If I were to write a salad recipe that included smoked fish--which I did--would using kippered snacks be frowned upon in finer circles?  I’m just curious.  Basically they are smoked herring, which to me sounds smoothly Scandinavian and much more sophisticated than--you know.  Anyway, goofy or not, I’ll keep eating them until someone tells me they are extremely bad for me.  And then they might become my sordid secret.  They are pretty tasty.

My favorite memory of kippered snacks: sitting on my dorm room floor, sophomore year of college, eating flakes of smoky fish on crackers with Dijon mustard.  Listening to John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”  Does it get any cooler than that? C’mon!  So every time I break out this flavor combo it takes me back to days when the air smelled like old books, the sky felt like the limit and I had lots of room on the floor to study.    

Well, here I am, 20 years later, and I play “Giant Steps” to my baby girl—a jazz lover.  Meanwhile, I’m out of crackers.  That lack of crackers is the origin of this elegant-ish salad.  If you don’t like smoked fish, you will not like this salad.  No gettin’ around it,  this salad tastes like fish.  It’s also compelling and savory-sweet-crisp-tart-smoky.  Perfect to savor while contemplating your life and your major. 

Wilted Spinach Salad with Smoked Herring and Apples

2 large shallots, sliced in loops

2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to taste

1 tin of smoked herring (kipper snacks)*

1 heaping T Dijon mustard

1 lemon

1 sweet-tart apple (such as Cameo, Braeburn, or Jonathan), sliced thinly

Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

4 or 5 generous handfuls of baby spinach

 

1.       Sauté the shallots in the olive oil over medium heat until tender and almost brown. 

2.       Meanwhile, squeeze ½ of the lemon in a small bowl and whisk together with the Dijon. 

3.       When the shallots are tender, add the lemon mixture to the pan, stir together, and reduce heat to low. 

4.       Open the tin of herring and carefully remove fish to the pan in bite-sized pieces, leaving the oil in the can. 

5.       Place sliced apples into pan and gently stir fish & apples to coat. 

6.       Add the spinach and stir until the leaves are glossy with the dressing and wilted. 

7.       Arrange greens on plate, making sure that some of the goodies make it to the top. 

8.       If desired, squeeze more lemon on top and season to taste with salt and pepper.

*It would be fun to try this recipe with higher quality smoked fish.  It tastes great like this, though!

Make 2 small salads or 1 entrée sized salad.