sous vide salmon with steamed rice and broccoli. 50C 40 mins.

sous vide salmon with steamed rice and broccoli

I don’t cook at lot of fish sous vide. There’s really no good excuse other than maybe with proper technique similar results can be achieved and less gear is involved. But if you really want to experience the true potential of fish, cooking it sous vide renders an absolutely perfect and delicate finish. I’ve probably mentioned it already but for years I hated salmon. Every single time I had it, no matter where, the story was simply the same. Dry stuff.

Some fish can withstand heat better than others but most fish will easily overcook and if you aren’t obsessed with temperature control over the stove then chances are you’re over going to overcook the poor thing. Poaching and steaming are safer bets in most cases. Of course searing one side to get those beautiful and delicious golden notes or getting that crispy skin will require applying a ton of heat butI won’t go into details about this today because it isn’t trivial and depending on the fish the approach might differ a bit. But if you’re itching to know perhaps follow the same approach you would as searing a steak in general. I’d also suggest working with a non stick pan here. Fish meat is too delicate to risk cooking on a regular pan but it works if you’re careful and polymerize the bottom properly

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Shrimp stir fry : marsala and pancetta

Shrimp stir fry

This shrimp stir fry is very simple to make and delicious. I didn’t want to get the peanut oil out and add some soy sauce, etc… I love asian cuisine but I don’t have peanut oil… and I was feeling like using the ingredients I had at hand. In my previous post about chicken marsala, I mentioned I would try to use the marsala wine in a seafood preparation because it just made sense. This was a pretty good opportunity to test my theory (shows how little I know about italian food).  Shrimp and pork can dance together on a plate beautifully so I added pancetta. Not a lot, just enough and that pancetta provided all the needed fat to cook everything else on this dish. Cooking seafood in pork fat is the bomb.  

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Sturgeon and Squid Ink Cauliflower Puree.

Sturgeon and Squid Ink Cauliflower Puree.

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.

Sturgeon and Squid Ink Cauliflower Puree

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.

Sturgeon and Squid Ink Cauliflower Puree

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.
Almond oil.

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.

Sturgeon and Squid Ink Cauliflower Puree

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!

Sturgeon and Squid Ink Cauliflower Puree

 

 

 

Braised Lamb Shank : Chimayó Chile Spice Blend : Cauliflower Puree : Thank you, Shanna!

This finally happened last week. First I got an email form the hotel I was staying that I had received some mail… yeah, really nice. I ran to the hotel which is a block away from my current address and picked up a letter with addresses and names written by hand…, like in the old days. The sender, some Dr Greg Ward. I don’t know any Doctors by that name.. there was a second name right under it but I didn’t bother reading on, I was leaving for work and I was already late. At first I thought spam but how many spam/junk mails are written by hand. I got to work. I remembered that about 2 months ago, my blogger friend Shanna  (have you seen her blog? click here!)  and Greg, her husband, had emailed me about sending me samples from their Co-Op which features a wonderful array of locally grown ingredients. Amongst those. Chile. But not any chile, oh no.

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Chimayó chiles, of which I knew nothing about. Check out this link if you are interested in the history of this chile, it’s quite amazing actually. I had no clue that what was in that envelope was a bag of dried ground Chimayó chile, all the way from the originating geographic location. Thank you Shannah for the lovely gift. Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. Anyone who’s lived in Canada probably knows how meticulous their border customs office can be. They probably held the package for about a month… it either sat there totally unnoticed or they ran some serious lab tests on it to figure out why it smelled so freaking awesome. The baggie was slightly opened, so must have been the latter. When I opened the envelope, there was chile powder everywhere, but do not worry, Shanna, I was able to save all of it! 

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Now on to the recipe. Lamb. Nothing to do with the fact that is easter weekend for those who celebrate this holiday. But I’ve been craving it. Lamb from New Zealand, the land of the lambs. If you haven’t been. There are lots of lambs there, lots. And they are cute. And delicious too. Terrific combination. Here in Vancouver, they can be found easily at groceries stores. Given the size of the one I cooked, must have been the hind shank, lot’s of connective tissue, collagen, some marbling and a lovely bone. All points to a long and slow braise.

I tested the chile for heat. Which meant placing about a tsp of it my mouth. It was mildly spicy, perfect actually. I decided I would do a 24 hour dry rub (meanly featuring Shanna’s gift) on the shank and then braise it over vegetables and serve it with a side of cauliflower puree. Some mint leaves for garnishing. And here’s how it went:

Ingredients:

Shank dry rub:

1 lamb shank
1 Tbsp chile blend
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp onion powder
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander seeds
1/4 Tbsp cinnamon powder
2/3 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 Tbsp sweet paprika

Braising Bed:

mirepoix, 1 onion, 2 celery stalks, 2 carrots, coarse dice
6-8 prunes
2 tsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp olive oil
12-16 capers
a drizzle honey

Cauliflower Puree:

1 cauliflower
2/3 C whole milk
salt to taste

Garnish:

Toasted sesame seeds
Fresh mint leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

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For the lamb shank dry rub. Prepare the dry rub. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl big enough to fit the shank. Don’t use any olive oil. These ingredients are soluble in water for the most part. If you add oil, the ingredients will get coated with it and will not permeate the shank as efficiently. I actually added a little bit of water, so it wasn’t exactly a dry rub… maybe a slightly wet rub. Get in there with your hands and rub the mix all over the shank, including the bone. It might seem like a lot of salt, but kosher salt isn’t as salty and some of it will evenly salt the shank (like a brine). Some of it will be left behind in the bowl and the rest will drip away when the shank is braising, salting the vegetables. It will be ok. Place uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours.

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For the cauliflower puree. Cut off the florets and discard the tough end portion of the stem. In a shallow saucepan, place the florets and add about 1/2 inch of water, bring to a boil and shallow steam with the lid on until cauliflower is soft but not mushy. Season with a little salt. When done, reduce the water until there’s only a little left. Allow to cool. Place the contents of the saucepan in a blender. Add a little milk. Cover the blender and place a dry kitchen towel over it, pressing down firmly. Blend, stop. Press the cauliflower chunks with a spatula deeper into the blender jar. Cover, kitchen towel, more milk, blend…, adjust seasoning, repeat. I do it this way because I don’t want to ue too much milk and end up with a runny cream. You can always reduce it in a saucepan if this ever happens and get it back to the right consistency, but I rather avoid that step and prefer to get it right straight inside the blender. And immersion blender is a nicer alternative to this, but mine still bubble wrapped from moving to Canada.

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Braising the Lamb Shank.  Preheat your oven to 500F for about an hour. Add a drizzle of olive oil to an oven safe pot, like an all stainless steel pot or cast iron dutch oven which is my favorite. Place the shank and brown the widest end (the knee end I guess) on medium high heat for a few minutes.  The first stage is browning the meat, to develop flavor. You can do it all in the same pot either over the stove or in the oven. I prefer the oven, is less work and browns more evenly. I give the shank a bit of a head start by browning the side in which it will stand (sit on) for the rest of the cooking process. Place the pot in the oven and let it brown for about 10-12 minutes.  (or the stock of your liking, chicken, beef, lamb, vegetable, probably not fish but who knows!) carefully remove the pot from the oven. Add the vegetable,  prunes, and tomato paste with about 1/2 C of water. Reduce the oven temperature to 200F -250F and cook for as long as 4 hours. Remove from the oven, place shank over serving plate. On the stove over medium heat, place the that same pot with the vegetables, add the honey. Don’t let it burn,  but let it become a bit darker. Stir.  Deglaze with a splash of water, stir until water is reduced completely and remove form the heat.

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Plating. Spoon the braised vegetables around the lamb shank. Add as much cauliflower puree as you want. I would have drowned the plate, that puree is so good! but I plated for the photo so I kept it a bit classier. Garnish with some toasted sesame seeds and Fresh mint leaves. Pepper to taste.

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