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Monday, April 19, 2010

Seared Scallops with Citrus-Mirin Sauce, Couscous, and warm fire roasted artichoke hearts and white beans

This dish takes roughly 20 minutes...need I say more?

No, but I will. Here's the thing: I get many people saying to me, "yeah, but I don't want to do gourmet all the time." Here's my response, "A CPK frozen pizza takes the same amount of time." They say, "yeah, but the work..." I say, "what, are you afraid of some work?" They say, "no, but I'm lazy. Just want to throw it in the oven and go." I say, "listen jackass, don't ask me questions if you would rather live your life on frozen pizza." They say, "why did you call me a jackass?" I say, "most likely because you are, but it was a friendly call." They say, "wow, that really hurt my feelings. Like everyone else, I like a good meal...just don't want to work for it." I say, "then why are you even having this discussion with me?" They say, "just curious." I say, "ok, so sometimes have a CPK pizza from the freezer and sometimes do this." They say, "Ok." We hug and make up.

Now, a quick word on preparation and cooking order. Your scallops are last. They only take 4-6 minutes, so have them ready to go and do them at the end. Make your couscous first, and as soon as you get that started, get your sauce going. Once both of those are going, start your artichokes. For me, I'm basically doing all three of those items at once, moving from station to station. After a few minutes, your sauce will be done and you can start letting it cool. Your couscous will just be sitting there, so finish your artichoke-bean side and do the scallops then.

Seared Scallops:

Thaw and dry off your scallops. Give them a nice dose of salt and pepper. Heat a non-stick to high with some butter in it, then sear about 2-3 minutes on each side. Do the scallops at the very end, so you can place them piping hot on your plate. If you leave them sitting too long, they'll start to release moisture.

Citrus-Mirin Sauce:

Boil 1/2 chicken broth for 2 minutes. Off heat and let cool slightly in a large bowl. Once cool, add juice from 1/2 lemon, 2-3 tablespoons Mirin, 1 tablespoon ponzu sauce, 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/4 tablespoon ground pepper, 5 drops sesame oil, dash of cayenne pepper. Stir well, return to sauce pan, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer a few minutes until reduced slightly and thicker. Remove from pan to bowl and let cool slightly.


Follow the directions on the box, if you bought a box kind. If you're like me and you buy couscous in bulk from a place like Henry's that has no instructions, here's what I like to do - Take about 1 cup of chicken broth and bring it to a boil. Pour in about 1/2 cup of couscous, some salt, and a little bit of fresh parsley, and stir. Off the heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes. If you still have liquid, turn on the meat, stirring frequently for another couple of minutes. This is my basic recipe, but if you want some other dessert or more flavorful couscous recipes, let me know.

Warm Fire Roasted Artichoke Hearts and White Beans:

This was the experiment. My wife looked at my strange while I was making it, so wasn't sure how it would turn out. The thing is, I really enjoy experimenting with food. I'll try anything once, so it doesn't scare me to try and make something that just doesn't seem like it's going to work. Well, this worked!

I used frozen artichoke hearts, thawed them, removed all liquid, and placed on a foil lined tray in my broiler. Drizzled olive oil, salt and pepper, and crushed red pepper first. Broil those until they start to char. They'll release more liquid, so pour it off, turn and char some more. Set aside.

Drain 1 can of white beans. Rinse and set aside. Mince 5-8 cloves garlic, set aside. Mince 1 serrano chili or maybe a jalapeno. Mix in with the garlic. Pour 1 or 2 glugs of olive oil into a frying pan. Add garlic and chili and fry up for 3o seconds or so...don't let the garlic burn! Add white beans and fry on high for 2-3 minutes. Add artichoke hearts. Fry another minute or two. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to plate. Squeeze some lemon over the top, and add fresh chopped Italian parsley.

That should do the trick!


~ Brock

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Coq au Vin

In the words of Young MC, "I ate so much I nearly split my pants."

No, I'm not on a French kick and yes, this was a lot of work. I've tried America's Test Kitchen recipe before and didn't care for it. They focus on simplicity in the prep, which is nice, but I feel like some elements of long marinade and slow, low cooking are best for this dish. This is particularly true on the thick breasts, which are generally dry and/or tasteless in so many dishes. In this recipe, I combined some techniques from Epicurious, America's Test Kitchen, some other recipes, and my own brain.

Coq au Vin

I Started with a whole chicken, cutting it into pieces. This is not an absolute necessity, since you can also make this dish with pre-cut drumsticks and breasts (all skin on), but you stay truer to form when using a whole chicken. Set pieces aside.

I chopped 2 large carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 onion, and 4 cloves garlic (minced). I dropped the vegetables into a stock pot, poured in a 750ml bottle of French wine, added 2 bay leaf, 8 peppercorns, and salt. Bring to a boil, lower and cook for about 6-8 minutes.

Pour this into a large flat baking sheet or something that will give you massive surface area. You want the vegetables/liquid to be completely cool before mixing it with the chicken. Alternatively, you can probably let it cool for 30 minutes or so, then pour it into a bowl and place in the fridge for another 20 minutes. The point is you want cool/cold liquid.

Mix in the chicken, submerging it entirely, and cover. Let this go in the fridge and marinate 6-24 hours.

Next day- Take your chicken out of the fridge. Remove each piece and shake off any sticking vegetables (reserve liquid and vegetables). Pat dry with paper towel and add salt and pepper...set aside. Fry up 8 pieces of bacon in a dutch oven. Remove when crispy but not burned. Pour off excess fat (anything more than about 2 tablespoons).

Fry each piece of chicken in the bacon fat, skin side down first, until browned, but not cooked thoroughly. While this is happening, strain the vegetables from the liquid - reserve both.

After you've browned your chicken, remove it to a plate. Add vegetables to pot and brown up for 3-4 minutes. Then add about 1/4 cup flour and stir for 1-2 minutes. Then add your reserved wine-marinade and stir, scraping up sucs from the bottom of the pot. Add 1-2 cans of chicken broth (I use Swanson's canned), and continue stirring, bringing to a boil. Add chicken, reduce heat, cover and place in 350 degree oven for at least 2 hours, but even longer is good.

When your chicken has about 20 minutes left, start making your mushrooms and pearl onions. You can use frozen pearls, so long as they're thawed first. As for mushrooms, I prefer the combination of Oyster and Crimini, but you choose what you like. I used about a brown paper sack full of mushrooms, and about 1 cup of pearl onions. Season both with salt and pepper.

Add 1/2 stick of butter to smoking hot pan and fry up mushrooms for 5-7 minutes. Remove to bowl. Add pearl onions and fry up 2-3 minutes. Remove to same bowl.

When your chicken is done, remove pieces and set on plate. Strain the liquid into a large bowl, and then put the liquid only back into your dutch oven. Add mushrooms and onions and heat on medium, add some fresh herbs like tarragon, thyme and Italian parsley, add chicken and reduce heat to low for another 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.

Serve garnished with small pieces of bacon together with mashed potatoes or crusty bread.

Drink wine with this!


~ Brock

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Seared Mahi Mahi with Beurre Blanc, garlic "chips" and spring peas with Champagne Vinaigrette

I love sauces. I also love fish. And yes, I love Mahi Mahi. I've caught it, I've had it many, many different ways, and it never really gets old. Sure, I like variety, but this is sort of a staple for me. In the seafood arena, salmon, mahi mahi, shrimp and scallops are usually in my fridge and/or freezer.

You may or may not know, but in Southern California, when we go deep sea fishing, we go for Dorado...that's the same thing as Mahi Mahi...also known as dolphin. It's a beautiful fish with intense colors that change when they come out of the water.

Back to the menu...

So I've had a need to expand my repertoire of sauces. Actually, I have a need to expand all my recipes. It's not that I'm bored or anything. It's more that I want to always push myself. I want to know 15 ways to cook anything and everything. I want to walk into someone's house, open their fridge, and come up with a menu of amazing dishes.

But still I digress...

Seared Mahi Mahi

This is straight forward. Thaw the fish, pat it dry, give it ample salt and pepper, then pan fry it in a lightly oiled pan for 3-4 minutes per side (depends on thickness). For the piece you see in this picture, I did about 4 minutes on side one and 3 on side 2...that left it good for me, maybe undercooked for you.

**Chef's Note: Many people add dried garlic (garlic powder) on everything they cook. Not that I'm opposed to the practice, but keep in mind that the garlic powder in a high heat situation like this is likely to burn or at least give an off taste from being burned. You can always add garlic powder after you cook (although you may see granules, which is very unattractive on the dish). Alternatively, you can season the fish with garlic powder while it's resting before cooking, and before you put it in, wipe it with a paper towel or rinse it off.

Beurre Blanc

2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons vinegar

Put all the foregoing into a small saucepan and boil for about 5-7 minutes, until only a few tablespoons remain. Lower heat, and add tablespoons of butter, one after the other, letting each one come close to melting entirely before adding the next. Maybe add 5 of these? Add salt and pepper to taste. Strain and use.

Garlic "Chips"

This one was purely experimental (not that everything else isn't, but you know the deal). Slice 1 potato about 1/4" thick slices. Meanwhile, mince or crush 5 cloves of garlic. Rub that into the potatoes and let sit at least 15 minutes. Wipe or shake off garlic. Heat small amount of olive oil in pan and lay out the potato slices in single layer. Shake ample salt and pepper over the potatoes and fry until starting to turn golden on first side. Flip and salt and pepper the other side. Fry for 1-2 minutes, then lower heat to low, sprinkle 1 tablespoon dried garlic all over, add 2 tablespoons water, and put a lid on it for maybe 5-8 minutes. Remove lid, pour off liquid or increase heat to evaporate liquid, being careful not to break up chips. Lower heat again and toss in small pieces of butter (pea size) and let melt and flavor. Serve.

Spring Peas with Champagne Vinaigrette

You can use frozen (thawed) or canned peas (drained) for this. You need about 1 cup of peas. Finely chop about 2 tablespoons of red onion. Add and stir. Mince 2 cloves garlic, mix in. Squeeze 1 tablespoon of lemon, mix in. Mince 1 teaspoon Serrano chili, mix in. Make your vinaigrette- 2 teaspoons minced shallots, 2 Tablespoons champagne vinaigrette, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Stir and let sit 10 minutes, then add into pea mixture and stir, let sit another 10 minutes. Serve.

This isn't unhealthy (other than the butter), it doesn't feel heavy, and it's great with a variety of wines. I had a Pillar Box red and it went extremely well.


~ Brock

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Place that Sucks

You've all been're cruising along, looking for something to eat. Then you see it, like a diamond glimmering in the sea sand. That [quaint, cool, hip, etc.] little place off the beaten path, or maybe it's hid in plain site. Either way, you know from the looks of the place that it will rock your world.

Then you walk in. You've just confirmed everything you thought. This place has all the elements you're looking for. You take a look at the menu, price is right, choices are right, vibe is right. You order.

Then you wait.

Then the food arrives, and you scratch your head. It doesn't look like it matches up. There's something off. Maybe it's not pretty. Maybe there's an odd smell. Maybe it reminds you of something...a cafeteria? A Taco Bell? An outhouse? A public pier? You're trying to figure it out, but something is clearly wrong.

Then you take a bite and confirm that something is definitely wrong.

What's funny to me is most places that hit the food on the money look like crap on the outside. Misspelled menu items. Chipped paint. Dirty forks. But the food, the food is out of this world. But when it goes the other way, you just can't figure it out.

How can a restaurant pull off a look, a vibe, a feeling that pulls you in...and then have food that sucks?? It's not right.

Please, if you're going to have a restaurant and your food is going to suck, at least have your place look sucky too. Otherwise, you trick us.