I love rice and I love seafood. Let’s just say it was about time we made some paella here at that other cooking blog.
One important fact, at least important to me: This is the 4th taco post on this blog which could possibly be interpreted as a lack of interest in the subject. Quite the opposite. Tacos are a pretty standard in my daily diet, specially recently. I love them. As you know, they’re easy to make and there are so few rules involved that they’re also almost anxiety free, specially if you fear the criticism of the purists out there. I don’t mean to oversimplify them. There are successful and disastrous tacos out there but if you keep things simple, work with good ingredients and follow good cooking technique expect success. If you want to take a look at some more convoluted and risky if not exciting taco recipes… check out my sous vide lamb shoulder asada tacos or my second taco recipe, the wonderful sous vide swordfish taco. Anyways, get about 20 shrimps at the store and follow me.
Rainy California. Bring it.
40% of the state of California has been declared drought free. Not entirely sure what that means but it has been raining a ton lately and we can only hope it continues to rain for a bit longer. I love it. It’s unusual but we needed some real rain around here but enough weather talk now.
Intimidated by cooking seafood? WHAT?
How about making some killer seafood pasta? Are you intimidated by cooking seafood but you love it and wish you could make seafood dishes at home? (you should do the late night infomercial voice from the 90’s) Well.. cooking seafood it’s pretty easy. Geoduck might be tricky and abalone requires some specific skills. Live lobster also presents some challenges but the more common seafood found at the store it’s pretty simple, specially squid and scallops. Requires little seasoning and cooks very quickly and it’s this very last thing that makes it a bit intimidating to cook specially if you’re picky about food and texture.
First of all, happy new year guys! I’m loving it so far. Got my mom and aunt visiting and it’s raining outside. I haven’t been doing a lot of cooking, at least not the kind of cooking I usually do for the blog. Cameras, flashes, all this sous vide stuff… I think I would freak my mother out. So that will have to wait and in the meantime I’ll stick to the things they’re more comfortable with. But today’s recipe ain’t one of those. This is something I cooked a few weeks ago before they showed up and I wanted to share with you. It was my first time cooking farro and I will definitely be introducing more farro into my future food adventures. It’s has an awesome sweet taste, the texture is rather unique and a nice change from using rice all the time.
Hey guys, so Halloween came and went… so happy belated Halloween to those who care. I’ve never cooked anything special for this day before so I decided I’d try and make some Halloween themed food to switch it up a bit… which really is more about making something up that matches some colours than it is about cooking anything traditional during this time. I didn’t want to just throw a bunch of candy in a basket and take a photo either… which would have been more fitting and would have been ok except for the fact that October 31st is also my girlfriend’s birthday, I had (willingly… or more like… yay, another excuse to cook something!!!) to prepare something a bit more elaborate. I also just recently bought the kitchenAid pasta maker attachment, not that I need any excuses to use it because I’m totally obsessed with that thing.
Having been away from my kitchen for about a month the craving of home cooked meals is tremendous. I’ve been fantasizing about making all these new recipes and the second I get home, my mind goes blank. I can’t even put together a decent sandwich… ok I take that back, mayo and toast is a pretty awesome sandwich and it does qualify. it’s not exactly a cuban sandwich but you can check that out if you’re feeling industrious. Anyways, I will have to put off my cooking for a few more days until I figure out what to make.
A few more days passed. I have a jar of squid ink in my fridge and a renewed disposition to wash dishes and sharpen knives. Finding a beautiful piece of sturgeon at the local grocery store seldom happens and must be seized. I have never worked with sturgeon. I’ve only consumed the eggs and the fish itself at nice restaurant once. I bought 3 fillets. I figured I would get a crash course on sturgeon pan frying at least.
The first thing I learned. The skin is extremely hard to crisp up without burning it. So yes, I burned the damn thing, besides, nobody has ever learned a thing by being perfect. Quickly adjusted turned off the heat let the fish cook in the covered pan by its own steam for a minute or so.
Second. This fish need to be cooked to maybe a little above rare but not as far as medium. I’d say stay around 125F-135F. It doesn’t do well raw. It’s too chewy. At least the fillets I got at the market maybe the belly would be a different story. Maybe I’ll find out one day when I’m rich. In my photos my fish went a bit over medium rare. Next time I will just get it done right in the sous vide apparatus. A little trial and error cements knowledge better than looking at a temperature table.
Third. When you sear this fish, you could almost think of it as steak. The color, the redness of the juices, the texture to the touch. It’s amazing. This is one robust fish so I wouldn’t be afraid to pair it with flavourful things.
Fourth. The texture. Once I got it right and got the fish to medium rare, that’s when the magic started happening. The skin I sadly couldn’t get to cook properly and was too rubbery (I still ate it because I love the taste of fish skin and its nutritional super powers) but would not serve to a guest. The flesh right underneath the skin is the prime rib of the underwater world. Trust me, it even tastes a bit like it. It’s incredible.
Fifth. The flavour. I should have started with this one. I mean, I really love tuna, specially Toro. Sturgeon is in its own category. Once gently cooked the texture is very similar to that of tuna belly. There are very delicate notes of tuna in there but also a pretty distinct sturgeon beautiful proud flavour that reminded me of sablefish.
Ingredients (serves 2. Cooking time: 15 mins)
2 surgeon fillets
6 shimeji mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
Maldon salt to fish it up.
Broccoli florets for garnishing.
Squid Ink Cauliflower Puree (makes about a pint of it, store the leftovers)
1 whole cauliflower
1 Tbsp squid ink
1/2 Cup heavy cream
This is gonna go down quite quickly because one of the good news about cooking fish is the fact that it is extremely easy and fast.
Start with the squid ink cauliflower puree. Trim all the green bits off. Steam a whole cauliflower in pot with about a 1cm of water. Lid on. About 10 mins. I used my pressure cooker pot just because the lid seals better. I don’t pressure cook it but it cooks more efficiently. The cauliflower shouldn’t be overcooked and falling apart. Just soft enough to be easily cut into cubes. Add the cubes to the blender. Add some cream and try to get traction inside that blender. I stop adding cream the moment I the blender gets going and all of its content is happily blending away. Add a Tbsp of squid ink to the blender and keep on blending. Total blending time about 10 mins. You can go longer if you want smoother. No need to add salt as squid ink already has been preserved by loads of it, but check the for taste and adjust if necessary. Set aside. For a super silky puree, sieve away.
Now the sturgeon. Salt generously and set in the fridge for at least 10 mins, letting some of that salt permeate the fish. I rested mine for 1 hour. Add some almond oil to a nonstick pan over high heat. Lower to medium high don’t let the oil burn. Stay right around 400F. Place the fillet skin down first and sear for about 3 mins. Remove the pan from the stove. Add a little splash of water (watch for oil splatter obviously) and cover the pan with a lid right away. Allow the fish to get steamed this way. Takes about 3 mins if the fish is fridge cold. less than 2 if the fish is closer to room temperature. I like the flavour of almond oil. It pairs really well with fish in general.
The little shimeji mushrooms. After removing the fish from the pan and setting it aside to rest and letting the carryover heat to finish the job get those beautiful mushrooms ready. Make sure there aren’t any dirt on them. Place the pan with all those wonderful fish juices back on the stove over high heat. Once hot… again…. around 400F. Get those shrooms in there and get a little color on them. About 2 mins. They will get coated with delicious fish stock and almond oil. Yes. Sounds good, I know.
The plating. Up to you. I made a mess on mine. Just make sure all those preparations make it on the plate and you’re good to go!
Today is Canadian Turkey Day. Is it ok to question its legitimacy? It was instated in 1957. That’s like yesterday. Why call it Thanksgiving and not celebrate it with the US the same day? No idea. In any case, people do observe it and it’s a national holiday and a great excuse to celebrate and eat a lot. But today I’m under the weather with the Canadian flu, and I don’t know anyone celebrating it so I will not be doing much cooking other than mixing water with some powdered vitamin C. It also happens to be the day the Americas were discovered by Mr. Columbus a few centuries ago. This guy, the story tells, was an Italian sailor who worked for the Spanish. Sketchy. Anyways, not that I planned it, but here it is, an Italian dish with some Spanish flare on Columbus Day. It also happens to be “Cookbook launch” Day and yesterday it apparently was “You go, girl” Day. Celebration mood up in here.
Ingredients: (servings: 2 time: 45mins)
1 pound of live mussels.
1 pound of live manila clams.
1/2 Can of your favourite lager beer.
1/4 C heavy cream.
4 garlic cloves. Thinly sliced.
300g Linguine. Dry.
50g Spanish chorizo. Thinly sliced.
1 tbs sweet paprika.
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Splash of fresh lemon juice.
Chopped basil or garlic. I would prefer parsley, but only had basil 🙂
The lager reduction. In a cast iron deep pot add the beer and the bay leaves and reduce on medium heat until syrupy. In a separate pan on medium high, sear the chorizo for a couple of minutes until it browns a bit. Turn the heat off and immediately add the garlic. Toss around. Don’t let the garlic brown.
The pasta. Cook the pasta in boiling salty water until al dente. Salty like the ocean. I pre soak dry pasta about an hour before I start cooking. Allows me to use less boiling water and the cooking time is a shorter. The cooking is also more even because the pasta is easily submerged in the boiling water without anything sticking out. Almost like cooking fresh pasta 🙂
The sea creatures. Bring the chorizo and garlic into the cast iron pan where you reduced the beer. Add a couple of Tbsp of pasta water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the clams and the mussels and allow to steam for about 5 mins or until all the shells are open.
The creaminess. Add the cream and the chopped herbs. Stir and cook for another 2-3 mins without a lid. Allow the sauce to thicken. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
The pasta finally comes back in. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the strained pasta and toss until all is well incorporated. Splash of lemon juice.
Buon apetito! get it?? 😉
So… remember that octopus dish from like 20 minutes ago… leftovers went into a second dish which was basically a simplification of the former. I love squid ink. I know it looks terrifying but the flavor is quiet spectacular. I would expect nothing less from (let me get my reading glasses…) a highly developed bio-defence mechanism. And… mayo? yes please. Any day. Any amount. On anything. Love this stuff. If you want to make your own, maybe you wanna check this post. Takes about 2 minutes to make. And if you wanna learn about how to pasteurize it, then check this post. I finally have enough posts to link back to them and rewire my whole site! I’ve been making some progress.
Today has been one of the dullest Saturdays of the year. I have little to log. Will finish post and re-watch the ending of Whiplash like 20 more times before I go to bed to spice things up a bit. Best movie ending ever. Ah right, the octopus. Here we go.
The octopi (check the recipe here)
The squid ink glaze:
Just squid ink. About a Tbsp maybe some water to thin it down a bit.
How to do this: Place the octopi and the squid ink in a plastic container. Seal. Shake well. Serve. Add a dollop of mayo and go to town. Done.
That’s a lot of babies. Yikes! Oh well…. It’s done now and it was deeeelish. No regrets. Random question… do you ever not get on the bus just because there’s too much people on it already? Clear sign that overpopulation isn’t good, and certainly not good for the baby octopi out there. The octopus. Super smart creature…. not smart enough. Good for us, imagine a society in which humans have been enslaved by octopi. pretty horrifying. Anyways, dinner was excellent and I’m ready to write about it and forget about these nightmarish thoughts. This dish was inspired by … I don’t even know… the need to cook something different. Seafood is one of my many food jams. I love it. Seafood is simple. Needs little to no cooking. The flavours are bold and the result tends to be elegant. The catch (no pun intended): finding fresh ingredients. With seafood and fish, the concept of fresh needs to be taken SERIOUSLY. The delicate nature of seafood and fish. They start to spoil the moment … well, the moment they die just like anything else, but at a really fast pace. That’s because, they did not only died, they have also been taken out of their natural environment….This whole spiel is turning a bit graphic, apologies, but that’s just how it is. That’s why I think it is important to cook animals the best way I can and with respect. There was drama before they met my skillet, I know this. Moment of silence. Done.
Ok. We’re back! Ready to go? ok! how do we cook this thing. It’s pretty easy. Pickling seafood is a no brainer. All is needed: acidic solution and seafood. I used vinegar today. I’ve used lime juice, lemon juice, and I’m pretty sure cranberry juice should work. Acid denatures proteins which is pretty much the same as what heat does. That’s amazing to me, even today. Pickling sea creatures and making ceviche is pretty much the same. The longer they stay in the pickling solution, the closer to fully getting pickled. There are several degrees of pickling. The longer they pickle for the more they will taste of the pickling liquid. Ceviche probably covers the entire range. From a quick flash curing period of 1 hour or less to a totally pickled state which takes about a couple of days. In this recipe today, I messed up. I over-pickled, not by choice but because there were other forces at work that prevented me from taking these little guys out of the vinegar in time. Important forces I gotta say. The recipe below accounts for that. So no worries, it’s gonna be ok, let’s get into it!
Ingredients (makes 6 appetizer servings):
1 lb fresh baby octopi.
1/2 Tbsp kosher salt.
1/2 Tbsp sugar.
1 Cup of good quality white wine vinegar.
The spinach coulis:
200g baby spinach
1/2 cup vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste.
Black lava salt to finish.
Some other garnishes: Roasted green onions and squid ink.
The octopi. Clean and rinse the octopus in cold running water. In a plastic container, add the vinegar and the salt. Stir until the salt dissolves. Add the octopi. Seal the container and refrigerate for 12 hours (overnight). Flash fry in a pot with vegetable oil at 400F for about 10 secs. Work in batches. Reserve.
The coulis. Add the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Reserve.
Plating. Pour the coulis first. Add a few octopi on top. Finish with black lava salt or any other finishing salt of your liking. Kosher salt, table salt, whatever you have really.
I failed miserably at finding my bottle of vermouth. The one I keep in the fridge. I can’t remember using all of it. Maybe not remembering what happened to it should be a hint… I had to go for the next thing I could find in there. A nice bottle of Pernod… I say nice because it is actually quite nice. Have you seen this stuff? Shake it up. Hold it up against the sun and all this awesome glitter stuff swirling inside it will have you hypnotized for “an ocean of time” … Bram Stoker Dracula and absinth reference all at once, huh!?. The taste isn’t my favorite though. Actually I hate drinking it. In cooking, the story is a bit different. A lot different. There’s nothing original about using pernod and seafood in cooking, but it’s definitely not all that common either. It works fantastically well in my opinion. Specially if paired with an acidic component and a bold flavor like that of shrimp… not to mention my good ole friend. Garlic.
The recipe is quite simple. I love cooking shrimp. It’s the easiest thing in the world. Cooking shrimps that chews like rubber is also the easiest thing in the world. There is a fine line between the perfectly cooked shrimp and the disastrous rubbery one. I cook mine in a really hot skillet and I do it as quickly as possible. They really take no time. About 2-4 minutes tops. Any longer, and the shrimps will go… well, rubbery. They can also be cooked very gently. If you’re not looking for any browning on them, then say you’re making risotto, they could be added at the very end of the cooking, stirred in, and allowed to be cooked by the rice. Turn off the stove. The carry over heat in the rice should be able to take care of business. They really don’t require a lot of heat to cook. Around 135°F (57°C) for a few minutes that’s all it takes. We could have done that for this recipe. Pasta, rice.. etc. All that really matters is hitting the proper cooking temperature. But I wanted some browning on my shrimp. Hot skillet it is.
Ingredients (serves 2 people):
300g Linguine pasta
1 1/2 Tbsp of kosher salt per quart of water.
500g Shrimp shelled and deveined. (reserve shells and heads for velouté)
1/2 Lime. Fresh. Juice + Zest
4 big garlic cloves. Finely sliced.
Splash of Pernod Ricard.
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
Reserved shells and heads from the shrimp.
10g dried anchovies or about 3 tbs of anchovy paste.
10g tomato paste
30g unsalted butter
enough water to cover the shells.
The shrimp velouté. The highlight of this recipe actually. It is really simple as well. Boil the shrimp shells and heads, also the dry anchovies, in a sauce pan for about 30 mins. Strain and return the liquid to the saucepan. Add the tomato paste and reduce until syrupy. Remove form the heat. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Add the butter and melt while stirring. Strain if you are super picky. I usually do, but didn’t this time. I’d recommend to strain the sauce for extra silkiness.
The shrimp ragu. This is gonna be quick. Heat up a skillet with some oil, I used olive oil in this case. When the oil is very hot but not smoking add the shrimp. Don’t mess with them for about a minute. Then toss and allow to cook on the other side for about the same time. Add the pernod and the garlic. Allow to reduce for about 2 minutes. I use a large skillet to speed up reduction of any liquid. You could also flambé it. Up to you. I chose not too. I don’t think it adds anything to the final result but it looks mega cool. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and allow to rest while you work on your pasta.
The pasta. No mystery here. Just cook in salty boiling water until al dente. Strain and and mix with the shrimp ragu.
Plating. Add a serving of shrimp pasta to a plate and drizzle the velouté over it and around it. Garnish with basil and chives. Done. I told you it was gonna be easy!