Herb-Crusted Salmon

June 29, 2014

I recently saw this recipe of America’s Test Kitchen, and made if for a visiting friend. The recipe was good, and Chris Kimball’s technique of using bread crumbs to protect the fresh flavor of the delicate, fresh herbs worked wonderfully. But 1/4 cup of fresh tarragon gave too strong of an anise flavor. I’d recommend substituting up-to-half of the tarragon for basil. The recipe have a quick brine to prevent the white ooze that salmon usually gives off as it is cooked. The Salmon was perfectly cooked, but I had to use the higher end of the 18-to-25 minutes cooking time. Because of the relatively-low oven temperature the salmon skin was unappetizingly soggy, not crispy as many people like. I just ate around the skin; next time I think I’ll have them remove the skin for me at the supermarket. I’m not sure why the recipe specifies skin-on salmon. Even Chris Kimball ate around the skin on ATK. 4-stars.

Makes a bit of a mess

Makes a bit of a mess

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball warns that the fillets must be the same size and shape in order cook at the same rate. I followed his advice and bought a 2-pound center-cut salmon fillet, which I cut myself into four even pieces. Of course, the fishmonger did sneak a bit of the tapered tail end into my fillet, but just a bit.
  2. Actually, I used slightly under 1/4 cup of tarragon and it was still too strong an anise flavor. I bought one of the 99-cent package, which yielded slightly more than 3 tablespoons. I loved the freshness of the herbs, so next time will use 2 tablespoons of tarragon and 2 tablespoons of basil.
  3. I had to cook my salmon for the entire 25 minutes to get it up to 125-degrees.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $17
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time: 5:00. Dinner time: 6:00

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

Salt and pepper
2-pounds center-cut salmon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons beaten egg
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon (dill or basil can also be substituted)
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise
Lemon wedges

  1. Pour 2 quarts of water into a large bowl and dissolve 5 tablespoons f table salt. Cut the salmon into 4 evenly sized fillets, each between 6-to 8-oz. Put the 4 fillets into the brine and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 325-degrees. Set a 10″-skillet over a medium burner and melt the 2 tablespoons butter. Add the 1/2 cup panko and season with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Cook for 4 to 5 minutes; stir frequently; until the bread crumbs become golden brown. Empty into a small bowl and allow to cool completely.
  3. Chop 1/4 cup of fresh tarragon (dill or basil can also be substituted). In a second small bowl, mix together the chopped tarragon, mustard, and mayonnaise
  4. Remove fish from brine and use paper towels to pat dry.
  5. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easier clean-up), then set a wire rack inside. Lay a 12″x8″ piece of foil onto of the wire rack (or fold to attain the proper size), and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Evenly arrange the salmon fillets with on top of the foil with the skin-side down.
  6. Use a spoon to spread the herb mixture over the tops of the fish.
  7. Mince the fresh thyme so that you have 2 teaspoons, add to cooled bread crumbs. Combine egg. Evenly sprinkle the panko mixture on top of the fish, and use your fingers to press down so that the bread crumb adheres.
  8. Bake in 325-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 125-degrees. It should still be slightly translucent if you cut into fish with a paring knife. Allow to rest for 5 minutes on the serving platter, while you cut a lemon into wedges for serving.
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Singapore Noodles

June 21, 2014

While the sizable ingredient list made me think that these Singapore Noodles would be delicious and flavor-filled, the end result lacked the expected punch of flavor.  Because there is no sauce and I only bought 1 extra lime, it meant that I was left with a boring meal after my lone lime was used up. Upon closer examination of the ingredients; shrimp, bean sprouts, rice noodles, etc., the meal relies on a bell pepper and two tablespoons of bloomed curry powder for its flavor. Be sure to include the optional cayenne for any hope of flavor. The recipe is by no means bad, but doesn’t justify the nearly $20 price tag; 3-1/2 stars. 3-stars after I ran out of lime.

Good, but lacked flavor

Good, but lacked flavor

Comments:

  1. You will need 2 limes for serving as wedges. Otherwise the blandness owing to the lack of sauce will make you wish you cooked something else.
  2. Chris Kimball mentions that there are two types of curry powder; “sweet” and Madras. While he doesn’t recommend one type or the other, I can tell you that the regular “sweet” curry powder was insufficient to impart much flavor. If I had the choice I’d go with the Madras, but don’t think it’s worth buying another bottle to add to my already-full spice cabinet.
  3. Rice noodles not in Asian section of my supermarket, but rather gluten-free section. There was no rice vermicelli, so I bought the rice noodles that seemed closest.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $19
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4:00. Dinner time: 5:00

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
6 ounces rice vermicelli
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
12 ounces large shrimp (26 to 30 per pound),
4 large eggs
Salt
3 garlic cloves, minced to paste
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 red bell pepper
2 large shallots, sliced thin
2/3 cup chicken broth
4 ounces (2 cups) bean sprouts
4 scallions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 limes, 2 teaspoons lime juice, plus 2 limes for serving wedges

  1. If shrimp is frozen, defrost in cold water. Prepare the shrimp by peeling and deveining. Remove the tail and cut into 1/2” pieces.
  2. Boil 1-1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons curry and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne to a 23” non-stick skillet. Set over medium-low burner and cook for 4 minutes until becomes fragrant; stir occasionally.  Remove skillet from burner and set aside.
  3. Put noodles into a large bowl, and pour boiling water over noodles and briefly stir. Allow noodles to soak for 2-1/2 minutes until flexible, but still not soft; stir half way through soaking.
  4. Drain noodles and empty onto a cutting board and cut into thirds. Return noodles to the empty bowl. Add curry oil, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Combine by tossing together using tongs. Set bowl aside.  Add 4 large eggs to small bowl and beat lightly.
  5. Minced garlic and ginger, and set aside together. Remove stem and seeds from bell pepper and cut into 2″ long match sticks. Thinly slice your shallot.
  6. Use paper towels to wipe out skillet and add 2 TEAspoons oil. Put over medium-high burner and pre-heat until the oil begins to shimmer.  Add cut shrimp pieces to skillet. Cook for about 90 seconds without moving to brown the bottoms. Stir shrimp and continue to cook for another 90 seconds.
  7. Push to one half of the skillet. Add 1 teaspoon oil to cleared side of skillet, and add the beaten eggs into the empty  side of the skillet. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook for 1 minutes until the eggs set, but remain wet; stirring eggs lightly.  Stir shrimp together with the eggs and continue to cook for 30 seconds more until the eggs are fully cooked. Empty shrimp-egg mixture to second large bowl.
  8. Turn down burner to medium. Add 1 teaspoon oil into the empty skillet and pre-heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add minced garlic and ginger and cook, and saute for 15 seconds. Add bell pepper and shallots and cook for 2 minutes; stir frequently. Empty to bowl with shrimp.
  9. Turn burner up to medium-high. Add 2/3 cup chicken broth and bring up to a simmer. Add soaked noodles and cook for 2 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed; stir often. Add noodles to bowl with shrimp/vegetables. Combine.
  10. Add bean sprouts, scallions, and lime juice, and toss until combined. Serve on a warmed platter and serve passing 2 limes worth of wedges separately.

 


Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy

June 13, 2014

While I never consider meatloaf the height of culinary perfection, it is still an easy to make kid-friendly staple. In the past, I have only made glazed meatloaf (see here and here), but the mushroom gravy in this recipe is delicious. A nice alternative to a ketchup-based glaze. Thankfully, the recipe is very conscientious about the mess, reusing the same non-stick skillet a three times. No better nor worse than a standard, glazed meatloaf; but definitely different. 4-stars.

Gravy made for s fresh take on an old staple

Gravy made for s fresh take on an old staple

I brought the leftovers to work twice for lunch. It re-heated nicely and the sauce kept the re-heated meat from being too dry. It worked out better than I thought it would.

Comments:

  1. While Chris Kimball says that you can supplement your burger drippings with melted butter or vegetable oil, I ended up with way more than the 2 tablespoons called for in Step 9.
  2. I didn’t have a coffee-filter to line my mesh strainer, so just used a paper towel in Step 2.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $10
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time: 4:30. Dinner time: 6:30

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup water
16 saltines crackers (or 18 round saltines)
10 ounces white mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves
1-lb ground pork
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1-lb 85% lean ground beef
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  1. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 375-degrees.
  2. Rinse the dried porcini mushrooms, and microwave for 1 minute in a small bowl with 1 cup of water and covered with plastic wrap, until water begins to steam. Allow to soften for 5 minutes. Remove porcini and mince, and strain the water through a coffee-filter-lined fine mesh strainer, reserving 3/4 of a cup.
  3. Process your crackers in a food processor for 30 seconds until they are finely ground, then empty into a large bowl.
  4. Add half your white mushrooms to food processor and pulse 8 to 10 times until finely ground.
  5. Mince your onions, and peel your 4 garlic cloves (mince them if you don’t have a garlic press).
  6. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a 12″ non-stick skillet, place over medium-high burner and pre-heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Saute the minced onions for 6 to 8 minutes until browned. Add the mushrooms from the food processor (reserving the remaining mushrooms for gravy in step 9) and add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Continue cooking for 5 more minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are beginning to brown. Press the garlic directly into the skillet and cook for just 30 seconds. Empty into bowl with the saltines and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  7. Add ground pork, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire, 1 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 cup of the reserved porcini liquid to the bowl with the cooled onions/saltines. Gently knead until mostly combined. Add beef and knead until thoroughly combined.
  8. Empty meat into the same skillet and form into a 10″x6″ loaf. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160-degrees. Use a spatula to move to a cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil while you make the gravy.
  9. While the loaf bakes, thinly slice the remaining white mushrooms. Remove any solids from the skillet, leaving only 2 tablespoons for fat in the skillet (you can supplement with melted butter or vegetable oil if you are short). Pre-heat over medium-high burner until the fat begins to shimmer.  Saute the white mushrooms and minced porcini mushrooms for 6 to 8 minutes, until they become deep golden brown. Meanwhile mince thyme.
  10. Add minced thyme and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook for 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup flour and cook for 2 minutes; stirring frequently.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and 1/2 cup reserved porcini liquid, and 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Scraping up anything stuck to the bottom of the skillet, bring up to a boil then reduce burner to medium and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until thickened; occasionally whisking. Taste gravy and adjust the salt and pepper according to your taste.
  11. Slice meatloaf and serve with gravy.

Fresh Strawberry Mousse

June 8, 2014

With strawberries at such a luscious peak, I was finally able to try out this recipe that I’ve been eying for a few months. By reducing some of the juices on the stove-top to concentrate the strawberry flavor, it definitely packs a strong strawberry punch. While I did not get the mousse like texture that I was expecting; my son said it was more like a smoothie; it was undeniably delicious. 4-stars as mousse, but 5-stars as an un-named dessert.

Beautiful strawberries for just $2/lb

Beautiful strawberries for just $2/lb

Comments:

  1. The only mistake I made in the recipe was that I added the softened gelatin to the main bowl instead of to the saucepan in Step 5. There is some chance that the lack of heat meant that the gelatin didn’t evenly distribute to the mousse, causing my textural problem. I will definitely make it again, and update this post (and rating) if that was truly the cause.
  2. There were no solids left in the strainer in Step 6; only seeds.
  3. The dessert takes about 1h15m to make, but more than half of that time is waiting. I use that time as an excuse to relax.

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $5.50.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 12:30 PM. Dinner time 6 PM.

Here is the original Cook’s Illustrated link to for this recipe. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today is as follows:

2 pounds strawberries
1/2-cup sugar
Pinch salt
1-3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream

  1. Cut cream cheese into 8 pieces and allow to soften on the counter-top.
  2. Wash and hull all the strawberries replacing back in plastic containers. For garnishing, dice enough strawberries into 1/4″ dice to yield 1 cup (5-1/4 ounces). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. In two batches (three batches if your food processor is on the smaller side), pulse remaining strawberries 6 to 8 times until 1/4″ to 1/2″ pieces; some pieces will be larger than others. Empty strawberries into a medium bowl and toss with 1/4 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt. Cover bowl and allow to stand at room temperature for 45 minutes; stir occasionally. Do NOT clean food processor.
  4. Strain the strawberries through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl, within 1 minute you should have rendered 2/3 cup of juice. Measure out 3 tablespoons juice into a separate small bowl and sprinkle with 1-3/4 teaspoons gelatin. Allow gelatin to soften for 5 minutes.
  5. Put remaining juice into a small saucepan and reduce over medium-higher burner for 10 minutes, until it measures just 3 tablespoons. Remove from heat and add the softened gelatin mixture, stirring until dissolved. Add softened cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Empty into large bowl.
  6. Meanwhile while the juice is reducing, process fruit in food processor for 15 to 20 seconds until smooth. Again, strain the puree though your fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing down on the solids with a spatula. You should have 1-2/3 cup of puree. Add the puree to the juice/gelatin mixture and whisk together until combined. Discard the solids from the strainer.
  7. Use a standing mixer to whisk cream for 1 minute on medium/low until foamy. Increase to high and whip until soft peaks (2 to 3 minutes), then gradually ass 1/4 sugar and whip until stiff peaks (about 1 to 2 more minutes).
  8. Whisk cream into strawberry mixture until there are no more white steaks. Portion into individual serving bowls and chill for at least 4 hours (up to 48 hours).
  9. Garnish with diced strawberries and serve.

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