Lobster Rolls

September 20, 2014

When this recipe first came out over a year ago, I really wanted to make it, but the recipe is so disjointed on their website (you need to follow three separate recipes) that I eventually became distracted with easier-to-follow recipes. Until recently, I saw the ATK episode that made it look so easy; so I gave it a try. I must have been a lot of “trick photography”, because the recipe was a lot of work and made a huge mess in my kitchen. I did have a problem with the lobsters becoming water-logged (discussed below); but overall, as you would expect, the lobster rolls were delicious. Just prepare yourself for a fair amount of messy work. 4-stars.

I hand cut a loaf to simulate the New England Hot dog rolls

I hand cut a loaf to simulate the New England Hot dog rolls

While I followed the cooking instructions exactly, my lobsters became waterlogged. While there are a couple of theories about why my lobster became water-logged: (1) allowing lobster to cook too long, (2) boiling lobster (vs. steaming them). Chris Kimball is convinced that it is the molting cycle of the lobster that determines whether or not the meat will be firm and dense or soft and water-logged. He gives a lengthy explanation here. Chris Kimball’s bottom line is this: lobster in Spring until early Summer and best. Late Summer lobsters are still growing into their softer-shells, whereas Spring lobsters are packed tightly into their hard, pre-molted shells. You may need to increase the size of your Late Summer lobsters by 1/4-pound to compensate. In reality, the molting cycle is a little more complex than Chris Kimball describes.

Comments:

  1. Many on the internet claim that boiling lobsters has a tendency to water-log them. Chris Kimball had tried to steam the lobsters instead (way back int 1997), and preferred steaming for its simplicity and efficiency. Yet, 17 years later he published this recipe using boiling without comment.
  2. I have never been able to find New England-style hot dog buns (sold by Pepperidge Farms), so I bought a beautiful Tuscan loaf from my local bakery and carefully cut it to mimic New England-style hot dog buns. The bread was fantastic.
  3. While fish is cooked to between 130 and 140 degrees, lobster requires higher temperatures because the muscle fibers are longer and need more heat to shrink. Chris Kimball recommends taking the temperature by inserting an instant-read thermometer into tail. It should reach 175-degrees.
  4. Chris Kimball also mentions that you can refrigerate the lobster meat in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. But this is a lot of effort to have “almost” fresh lobster.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $28 for four lobster rolls ($7 each)
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here, here and here. The descriptions of how I cooked it today (including all three of Chris Kimball’s recipes) are given below:

4 (1-1/4-pound) live lobsters
1/3 cup table salt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced celery
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
Salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
6 New England-style hot dog buns
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 leaves Boston lettuce

  1. Put live lobsters in the freezer for 30 minutes, which will induces a coma-like state. Meanwhile, bring 2 gallons water to boil in large pot over high heat. Remove 2 tablespoons butter from refrigerator and allow to soften.
  2. Add the 1/3 cup table salt and the lobsters to pot. Use tongs to arrange them so that they are completely submerged. Cover, but leave the lid slightly ajar. You will need to adjust heat to maintain a gentle boil. Boil for 12 minutes, and check that the thickest part of tail registers 175 degrees (insert the thermometer into underside of tail to take temperature).
  3. Use tongs to put lobsters to a rimmed baking sheet and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the lobster meat according to the following methods.
    1. SEPARATE INTO TWO: Set lobster on a cutting board. Hold tail with one hand and the body with your other. Twist to separate.
    2. TAIL MEAT: Lay the tail on its side, then use both hands to press down on tail until shell cracks. Hold the tail with the flippers facing you (shell will be facing down). With your thumbs on opposite sides, pull back on both sides to crack open shell and remove meat. You can briefly rinse meat under running water to remove green tomalley, if desired, and pat meat dry with paper towels. Use a paring knife to de-vein.
    3. KNUCKLES: Twist the “arms” to remove claws/knuckles from the body. Then twist the knuckles to remove from claws. Use the back of a chef’s knife to break the knuckles into 2 pieces at joint. Use the handle of teaspoon or skewer to push meat out of shell.
    4. CLAWS: Wiggle small hinged portion of each claw to separate. Use the back of a chef’s knife to break open the claws, cracking the first side, flipping, and cracking the other side. Remove meat.
    5. LEGS: Twist legs and remove from body. One at a time, lay leg flat on counter. Using a rolling pin, starting from claw and rolling toward the open end, push out meat. Stop rolling before reaching end of legs so you don’t accidentally get any of the shell.
  5. Cut the tail meat in 1/2″ pieces. Cut the claw meat to 1″ pieces.
  6. Whisk mayonnaise, celery, lemon juice, chives, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and cayenne together in large bowl. Add lobster and gently toss to combine.
  7. Put 12″ nonstick skillet over medium-low burner. Butter both sides of hot dog buns and sprinkle lightly with salt. Put buns in skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until crispy brown. Flip and continue to cook the second side for another 2 to 3 minutes crispy brown. Move buns to large serving platter.
  8. Line each bun with lettuce leaf, and spoon lobster salad into buns. Serve immediately.

Grilled Fish Tacos with Pineapple/Pepper Salsa

August 9, 2014

The first time I had fish tacos was 20 years ago as I was biking though the dusty town of Guerrero Negro in Baja California. I met an adorable young Mexican girl, who showed me the sights around town, of which there were only three. (1) the lagoon where gray whales give birth to their young each February (kicking myself for visiting in October); (2) the massive salt works that, at one time, was the largest producer of salt in the world, and (3) awesome fish tacos for just a few pesos each.

While no fish tacos will ever compared to the memory of my fish tacos in Guerrero Negro, the Latin-themed issue (September/October 2014) of Cook’s Illustrated definitely put this recipe on my “to do” list. While Chris Kimball’s Mexican recipes are usually quite tame, he nevertheless promised fresh and bold flavors. Because fish tacos are usually much more subtle than other types of tacos, I had high hopes that his Yankee-palate could still yield ideal fish tacos. Grilling the fish definitely added flavor, and I was surprised at how well the 1″ fish slices held together on the grill. Not using flaky-fish is very important to this recipe. The fish is served with a pineapple/pepper salsa.

Delicious by lacking heat

Delicious by lacking heat

The tacos are very good. The marinade imparted good flavor to the otherwise subtle fish flavor, but without over powering the fish. Ultimately, however, I think that these tacos are not worth the effort or expense. $41 makes this the most expensive recipe I’ve every made (this was previous most expensive). The recipe was also a little fussy; using two types of chile powder (neither of which I could find). While I liked the Pineapple/Pepper salsa, I also felt that a little more raw heat would have made the tacos more successful. While I wanted to love them, I can only give them a luke-warm 3-1/2 starts. Your best bet is to travel to Mexico.

Comments:

  1. The recipe requires you to avoid common super-market fish, as they are too flaky and will fall apart as you cook them on the grill. Chris Kimball recommends using swordfish, mahi-mahi, tuna, or halibut fillets.  My supermarket only had the requisite 1″-thick fish as swordfish; at $15/lb.
  2. The recipe calls for ancho chile powder and chipotle chile powder. Unfortunately, I didn’t find either variety in my supermarket, nor where the whole, dried peppers in stock. I would have gladly made my own. In the end I used half regular chile powder, which contains ingredients other than just dried chiles.  Cook’s Illustrated did a taste test on Chili Powders here.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $41.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Dinner at 6:00 PM.

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

Marinade Ingredients:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 garlic cloves
Salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 lime)

Tacos and Salsa Ingredients:
4 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)
2 pounds skinless swordfish steaks
1 pineapple
1 jalapeño chile
18 corn tortillas (6-inch)
1 red bell pepper
Lime wedges
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, plus extra for serving
1/2 head iceberg lettuce
1 avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced thin

  1. Peel and mince 2 garlic cloves. Squeeze juice from 1 lime into a small cup.
  2. Place an 8″ skillet over medium burner and pre-heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the 3 tablespoons chili powder (ideally 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder and 1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder); cooking and stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until bubbling. Add 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 1 teaspoon salt. Continue cooking for 30 seconds.
  3. Mash 2 tablespoons tomato paste into mixture in the skillet and cook for 2 seconds, then mix in 1/2 cup orange juice and 2 tablespoons of lime juice. Allow to reduce slightly while constantly stirring for 2 minutes. Empty mixture into a medium bowl and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  4. When cooled, cut fish lengthwise into 1″-wide strips and add to bowl with chile mixture. Use a rubber spatula the carefully coat fish. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for between 30 minutes and 2 hours.
  5. Prepare your charcoal grill by opening all bottom and top vents completely. Fill and ignite a chimney starter mounding with briquettes (7-quarts). After 20 minutes or so when the top coals become partially covered with white ash, empty lit coats evenly over entire grill. Set grill grate in place, cover and allow to pre-heat for 5 minutes.
  6. While the charcoal ignites, prepare the salsa ingredients. Peel the pineapple and cut lengthwise into quarters. Cut away the core and the cut each quarter in half lengthwise (resulting in 8 pieces the full length of the pineapple).  Remove the stem and seeds from your bell pepper, cut into 1/4″-wide strips then cut cross-wise into 1/4″ pieces.
  7. Also prepare a plate with lime wedges, extra cilantro, thinly sliced iceberg lettuce,
  8. Clean the pre-heated grill grate by brushing with well-oiled paper towels. Repeat the process 5 to 10 times until the grate becomes glossy and black.
  9. Put the fish on half of the grill. Brush both side of the pineapple with a total of 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Put pineapple and whole jalapeno on the other half the grill.
  10. Cover grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the first side begins to brown. Use a thin spatula to carefully flip fish, pineapple and jalapeno.  Re-cover and continue cooking for 3 to 5 more minutes until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 140-degrees. Put fish on a large plate, flake it breaking into pieces, then tent with foil. Put pineapple on cutting board.
  11. Briefly clean the grill grate, and warm the tortillas in batches for 30 to 45 seconds per side, until they are speckled with brown spots. Wrap tortillas in a dish towel or aluminum foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  12. Finely chop pineapple and jalapeno, and add to bowl you your peppers and cilantro. Stir in 4 tablespoons lime juice and adjust salt according to your taste.
  13. To assemble tacos, top the tortillas with fish, salsa, lettuce and avocado, serving with wedges of lime extra chopped cilantro.
Shown here before the toppongs

Shown here before the toppongs


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.

Sesame-Crusted Salmon with Lime and Coriander

May 28, 2014

I enjoy fish (but more importantly my girlfriend absolutely loves it), so was happy when this recipe yielded a complete success. The recipe was a refreshingly new way to cook salmon, and didn’t simply rely on sauce to make it interesting. Chris Kimball’s gives a quick 15-minute brine to season the fish and ensure that it doesn’t dry out during cooking. But the recipe succeeds because the ginger, lime and coriander make the flavors much brighter, complimenting the subtle flavors of the sesame seeds and salmon. The tahini is used as “glue” to attached the sesame seeds to the fish. 4-1/2 stars.

Salmon was flavorful and perfectly cooked

Salmon was flavorful and perfectly cooked

Comments:

  1. I made my own homemade Tahini with the leftover sesame seeds. I toasted 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds in a dry skilled, the ground them in a spice grinder with a little olive oil.
  2. Chris Kimball has two other variations; Sesame-Crusted Salmon with Lemon and Ginger and an Orange and Chili Powder version.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $17.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 5 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:

Table Salt
3/4 cup sesame seeds (3-1/2 oz)
4 skinless salmon fillets  (2-lbs total)
2 scallions
4 teaspoons grated lime zest plus 2 teaspoons juice (2 limes)
4 teaspoons tahini
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

  1. Set an rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 325-degrees.
  2. Fill a bowl with 2 quarts of water and dissolve 5 tablespoons of salt. Remove 1 cup of the brine and add sesame seeds; allow to sit for 5 minutes at room temperature. Put fillets into brine and allow to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Meanwhile, slice the green parts thin and set aside. Mince white parts of scallion and zest two limes using a Use a micoplaner. Put scallion whites and lime zest on cutting board and chop until finely minced and completely combined.  Add teaspoons lime juice, 4 teaspoons tahini, and 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, 1/4 teaspoon coriander, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir to form a paste and set aside until step 6.
  4. Drain the sesame seeds and put into a 12″ non-stick skillet. Toast seeds over medium burner for 2 to 4 minutes; until the become golden brown. Empty toasted seeds onto a pie plate, and use paper towels to wipe out skillet.
  5. Remove fish from brine and pat dry using paper towels. If your fish has a thin belly flap, gently fold the flap over which will create an even thickness. Evenly spread half the paste over the skinned-side of the salmon. Gently press the pasted-side into the sesame seeds and move to a place with the seeded-side-down. Evenly spread half the rest of the paste over the top of the salmon. Coat with the remaining sesame seeds.
  6. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in the same non-stick skillet. Preheat until the oil is shimmering. Put fillets into skillet (with skilled-side up). Turn down burner to medium-low. Cook for 2 minutes until the seeds begin to brown. Remove the skillet from the burner.
  7. Use two spatulas to carefully flip the fish and move skillet to oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the center registers 125-degrees. Move to serving platter and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with sliced scallion greens and serve.

 

Enjoying seafood (not this recipe) with my girlfriend

Enjoying seafood (not this recipe) with my girlfriend


Baked Sole Fillets with Herbs and Bread Crumbs

February 21, 2014

I love a nice thick fish fillet (see here, here, and here), but it’s really hit-or-miss if I can find fish that’s worth cooking. Much more common are those thin little fillets, like sole or flounder, but they can be unsatisfying. Today’s recipe rolls those ubiquitously available thin fillets into a delicious meal. The mild flavor of the fish is boosted by the butter, herbs and seasoned bread crumbs. The recipe bakes the fish in a slow oven, so it remains moist and delicate.  My only complaint is that the recipe calls for too much bread crumbs. While the bread crumbs are delicious, I found myself eating spoonfuls of leftover bread crumbs, they over-power the delicate flavor of the fish. My suggestion would be to only lightly cover the fish in step 7. Overall, 4-stars.

Sorry for the cell phone picture

Sorry for the cell phone picture

Comments:

  1. If your store’s flounder fillets look better than the sole, they also work well in this recipe.
  2. Ideally your fillets should be of similar size. If using smaller fillets (about 3 ounces each), you will need 2 fillets per person. You will also need to reduce the baking time in step 5 to 20 minutes.
  3. Fresh basil or dill can be used in place of the tarragon.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $18.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:30 PM. Dinner time 5:30 PM.

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

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated zest from 1 lemon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium garlic cloves, either minced or pressed through garlic press (2 teaspoons)
6 boneless, skinless sole fillets (about 2 pounds)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
Lemon wedges (from zested lemon) for serving

  1. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and preheat to 325-degrees. Mince your parsley leaves, chives, and tarragon leaves and put them together in small bowl. Stir to combine and set aside 1 tablespoon herb mixture for bread crumbs. Mix in lemon zest into remaining herbs.
  2. Place an 8″ skillet over medium burner, add 4 tablespoons butter. When butter has just melted, press 1 clove garlic directly into skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until for 1 minutes. Set skillet aside, leaving garlic butter still in skillet.
  3. Use paper towels to pat fish dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
  4. To prepare your fish, working with one filet at a time. Lay fish skinned side up with tail end pointing away from you. Spread 1/2 teaspoon Dijon onto each fillet, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon herb–lemon-zest mixture, and 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic butter. Roll fillets up tightly beginning with the thick end; forming cylinders. Arrange fillets seam side down in 13″x9″ baking dish.Repeat with remaining fillets.
  5. Drizzle the remaining garlic-butter over fillets, cover baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake at 325-degrees for 25 minutes. Wipe skillet out but don’t wash.
  6. While fillets are baking, add 1 tablespoon butter to now-empty skillet and melt over medium burner. Add 2/3 cup panko and cook for 6 to 7 minutes until crumbs become deeply golden brown, stirring frequently. Turn down burner to low, saute second clove of pressed garlic for 1 minute. Empty into a small bowl and add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool, then stir in reserved tablespoon herb mixture. Cut lemon into wedges for serving.
  7. After fillets have baked 25 minutes, remove baking dish from oven. Use a spoon to baste fillets with melted garlic butter from bottom of the baking dish, sprinkle with all but 3 tablespoons bread crumbs (use your judgement as to how much bread crumbs to add). Continue to bake for 6 to 10 minutes more, uncovered, until internal temperature reaches 135-degrees. Using thin metal spatula, move 1 to 2 fillets to each individual serving plates, sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs. Serve with lemon wedges.

Salmon Cakes with Lemon-Herb Tartar Sauce

October 14, 2013

While I was looking to put together a nice weekend meal, I noticed that Chris Kimball has already suggested a few combination of recipes. Tonight’s meal was part of his Bistro Dinner; featuring Easy Salmon Cakes , Creamy Lemon Herb Dipping Sauce and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. The whole meal came together in under an hour, and while at first glance the combined length of ingredient list may seem intimidating, most ingredients are already in you panty / refrigerator.  And because the salmon cakes and tartar sauce use many of the same ingredients, it only looks twice as long. The results are amazing; 4-1/2 stars, without making too big of a mess.

Delicious Salmon cakes.

Delicious Salmon cakes.

Chris Kimball’s prior salmon cake recipe from the year 2000 used a lot of the ingredients that he now criticizes; flour, eggs to bind the bread crumbs to the outside of the cakes. He even called for sandwich bread as a filler. While the cakes in the new recipes barely hold together before frying, they eventually cook into a cohesive patty without the need for fillers or binders. Also his prior recipe had us chopping the salmon by hand; whereas the new recipe simply limits us to 2 pulses per batch. My advice is to forget about his Y2K-recipe and only use this updated 2011 recipe.

Comments:

  1. My price of $15.50 is based upon the non-sale Salmon price of $10/lb. Of course, salmon often goes on sale for $6. That would bring the price down to just over $10 for 8 cakes, including the dipping sauce.
  2. When ordering the fish, ask for 1-1/3 pounds of fish, which will yield the requisite 1-1/4 after skinning. The guy behind the fish counter was happy to skin my salmon for me. He did a masterful job and left almost no pink attached to the skin, which he discarded for me.
  3. The Creamy Lemon Herb dipping sauce is delicious, but makes more than 1/2 cup. For this recipe you can either cut the recipe in half, or slice some cucumbers to eat along side. Chris Kimball didn’t develop a new sauce for this 2011 recipe; but his sauce from the year 2000 is so good that there was clearly no need.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15.50 for 8 cakes.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 5:15 PM.  Ready: 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original salmon cake recipe is here. The original recipe for the Creamy Lemon Herb Tartar Sauce is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

Salmon Cakes Ingredients:
3 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Lemon; half for juice and half for lemon wedges
1 scallion
1 small shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1-1/4 pound skinless salmon fillet,
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Creamy Lemon Herb Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
2-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 large scallion
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Ground black pepper

  1. First make the tartar sauce, which needs 30 minutes rest to allow the flavors to combine. Measure out 1/2 cup mayonnaise into a 1 to 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup, which you can also use a mixing bowl. Add juice from 1 lemon (about 2-1/2 tablespoon juice). Mince parsley, thyme and both white and green part of scallion. Add 1/2 teaspoon table salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix until combined, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons panko, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and pinch of cayenne. Cut lemon in half lengthwise, then juice half the lemon into bowl and cut the remaining lemon into 4 wedges and set aside for serving. Thinly slice scallion, mince shallot and parsley; adding to bowl then stir everything until combined.
  3. Cut salmon fillet into 1″ pieces, and divide into 3 even batches. Pulse each batch for just 2 pulses. The salmon should be relatively uniformly chopped into 1/4-inch pieces. It is OK if some pieces that are bigger than 1/4-inch, as it is more important to avoid over-processing into a paste. Add each batch to the mixing bowl containing panko/mayo, and repeat with remaining batches. Carefully mix until evenly combined.
  4. Put 3/4 cup panko in a pie plate, then use a 1/3-cup-measuring cup (leveling mixture using dip and sweep) to create 8 even piles on a baking sheet.
  5. Carefully form each salmon pile into a cake, dip into panko so that it is lightly coated, and gently form into 2-3/4″ by 1″ patty, putting each patty back onto baking sheet.
  6. Add 1/2 cup vegetable oil to a 12″ skillet, and pre-heat over medium-high burner for 4 minutes until the oil begins to shimmer.  Fry cakes without moving them for 2 minutes, and flip when golden brown. Flip and fry second side for another 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Remove to paper-towel lined plate and allow to drain for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges and dipping sauce.

Blackened Red Snapper

August 20, 2013

While I was very excited about trying “typical Dominican food”, the truth is that it left me a little disappointed. Fortunately, I booked a hotel with a kitchen in Las Terrenas; a small fishing village turned low-key beach destination. I bought the fish right on the beach where the fishing boats haul up, and cooked up an amazing blackened red snapper. An entire snapper cost me just $5.50. An amazing 5-stars dinner.

DSC_0134
I adapted Chris Kimball’s 2007 recipe for Blacked Snapper on the grill, and used the traditional stove-top cooking method. While I didn’t have a cast iron skillet for this recipe, I used the heaviest pan that I had available and it turned out fantastic. By far my best meal in Dominican Republic.

My final destination in Dominican Republic is Bayahibe, a small town bordering the National Park Del Este. Bayahibe is the best place to catch a boat to the island of Saona (part of the national park with amazing beaches), but to snorkel it’s better to drive the 10km into La Romana and catch a daily boat to Catalina Island. Bayahibe has me breaking my self-imposed rule to avoid “all-inclusive” resorts. Normally, I vastly preferring to stay in small hotels where I am “Mr. Mark”, and not “Room 1428”. Also I prefer to look for my own restaurants with individually cooked meals rather than mass-cooked, catering-style meals that are specifically formulated to appeal to non-adventurous palates. But the independent hotels here all looked a bit shabby, and it’s only for a few days.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $6.
How much work? Medium
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here, and the descriptions of how I prepared the fish today is as follows:

2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 red snapper fillets, 3/4″ thick

  1. Mix together paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, coriander, salt, and peppers in a small bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 10″ to 12″ non-stick skillet over medium burner. When the foam begins to subside, bloom the spice mixture for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently until the spices become dark rust in color. Allow the mixture to cool on a pie plate for about 10 minutes. Break up any large clumps of spices using a fork.
  2. Use paper towels to pat the fish dry on both sides, and make shallow diagonal slashes on the skin side of fish with a sharp knife every 1″; but be careful not to cut into the flesh of the fish. The slashes will prevent the fish from curling during cooking.
  3. Working with the fish on a large plate or rimmed baking sheet, rub spice mixture with your fingers in thin layer on both sides of the fish. Put fish in refrigerator until ready to cook.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a heavy skillet, and pre-heat until very hot, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add fish filets, meat-side down and cook until very dark brown and skin is crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully flip fish and continue to cook for another 4 to 5 minutes until the second side becomes dark brown. The fish should begin to flake, and center is opaque but still moist, about 5 minutes longer.
  5. Serve immediately.

Garlicky Roasted Shrimp with Cilantro and Lime

January 20, 2013

The main recipe from the January 2013 issue of Cooks Illustrated was seasoned with Parsley and Anise, but instead went with a Latin-themed variation. I love shrimp, so unless something goes seriously wrong the recipe will usually get at least 4-stars. Fortunately, enough went right to give today’s recipe 4-1/2 stars. I found it impossible to find Chris Kimball’s recommended shrimp; shell-on, 16-to-20 per pound shrimp. The larger shrimp were supposed to promote browning; few shrimp will not crowd your pan, and leaving the shells on will allow them to brown longer because the shells are protecting the shrimp’s delicate flesh. However, I used slightly smaller 26-to-30 per pound that were factory-deveined and only had their tails remaining. While Chris Kimball warns that such a substitution would result in overcooked, rubbery shrimp that is over-seasoned,  I found the shrimp to be perfectly cooked. While the seasoning was strong, I personally liked their spiciness. If I can ever find his recommended shrimp I may give them a try, because his logic seems sound. But my shrimp were on sale for $4.99/lb and I’m sure his shrimp would cost at least double that.

Delicious and flavorful and ready in just an hour.

Delicious and flavorful and ready in less than an hour.

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball warns against using smaller shrimp, because they will overcook and absorb too much spices. I didn’t follow his recommendations and used 26-to-30 per pound, because I already had these in my freezer.
  2. His instructions for shrimp that remain fully-shelled are difficult to find. I’m not sure where he buys his shrimp, but all my local supermarkets only sell them with tails-on; never shell-on.
  3. Annatto powder, also called achiote, was in the Mexican food aisle at my supermarket. It was very inexpensive, but an equal amount of paprika could be substituted.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars
Cost: $13.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 5:30 PM.  Ready:  6:00 PM

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

1/4 cup salt
2 pounds shell-on jumbo shrimp (16-to-20 per pound)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1 teaspoon annatto powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 lime, sliced into wedges for serving

  1. Defrost your shrimp using one of the following methods; (1) defrost in refrigerator overnight, or (2) by putting in a large bowl of cold tap water, replacing the water every 15 minutes. The shrimp will be thawed in 45 minutes to an hour.
  2. If you are able to find non-deveined shrimp, then use kitchen shears or a paring knife to cut through the shell and use a paring knife to cut to 1/2″ deep and remove the vein. But leave the shell on for protection against the hot broiler. Add 1 quart of water to a large bowl and dissolve 1/4-cup of table salt, and place the deveined shrimp to brine, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Set an over rack so that it is 4″ from the broiler’s heating element, and begin to pre-heat the broiler. In a second large bowl, add vegetable oil, pressed garlic, 2 teaspoons lightly crushed coriander seeds. lime zest, annatto, and pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
  4. Drain shrimp and pat them dry using paper towels. Add shrimp and cilantro to bowl containing the oil mixture, and toss to combine, ensuring that oil gets worked into the inside of the shrimp.
  5. Place shrimp in single layer on wire rack set over a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. The wire rack will allow air-flow around the entire shrimp. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes, rotating half-way through broiling.
  6. Flip the shrimp and broil the second side for 3 to 4 minutes more, again rotating the pan halfway through broiling.
  7. Put cooked shrimp on a clean serving platter and and serve immediately, with lime wedges.

Spanish-Style Toasted Pasta with Shrimp

June 27, 2012

The only place I’ve ever eaten paella was Barcelona; made with rice and fresh seafood. It was so good that I thought it would be pointless to try it any place else. But today I made a variation called Fideuà, which is made with toasted noodles instead of rice.  Given that I am Northern New Jersey and not Northern Spain; i.e. I used frozen shrimp instead of fresh mussels and clams; the results were spectacular. This crispy noodles offered more flavor than rice, and the flavors were perfectly balanced. Amazingly, it only took  a little more than 1 hour to prepare. 4-1/2 stars.

Rich and delicious seafood paella; made at home

Comments:

  1. Admittedly, I don’t think most people can make this recipe for $12. I got a great deal on the shrimp for just $3.99/lb. Wow, I stocked up, but it is rare that I can buy the shrimp for less than $7/lb. Still, even if you add $6, it’s still a lot cheaper than a trip to Barcelona.
  2. I used 2-pounds of shrimp instead of the required 1-1/2 pounds. I am a shrimp lover and can never get enough shrimp. I increased the marinate ingredient by 1/3 to compensate.
  3. Chris Kimball recommends serving with Aïoli, but I didn’t make it today. The recipe is here. Unfortunately I was out of eggs and didn’t have time to go to the store.

Rating: 4-1/2-stars.
Cost: $12. (but see comments)
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 4:45 PM. Finish time 6:00 PM.

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

3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
1-1/2 pounds extra large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound),
2-3/4 cups water
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
8 ounces thin spaghetti
1 onion
14-1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Lemon wedges

  1. Place the frozen shrimp in a large bowl with cold tap water and allow to defrost, replacing water with fresh tap water once or twice. Prepare you marinade, which will infuse the shrimp with flavor while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, clove garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl
  2. Peel the shrimp placing the shrimp in them medium bowl containing the oil/garlic, and setting aside the shells in a small/medium, microwavable bowl.  Gently toss the shrimp to coat them with oil, cover with plastic wrap and and refrigerate until Step 14.
  3. Add 2-3/4 cups water, 1 cup chicken broth and bay leaf to the bowl containing the shells. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 6 minutes, and set aside until Step 12.
  4. In two batches, lay spaghetti out in a single layer on a clean kitchen towel. Fold the towel to close, slide lengthwise so that 1-1/2″ overhangs the counter and push down to break into 1-1/2″ segments. Repeat until all spaghetti has been broken down short pieces. Add to a broiler-safe 12″ skillet, and repeat breaking process with remaining 4 ounces of spaghetti.
  5. Add 2 teaspoons oil to skillet, and toss so that the spaghettini becomes evenly coated. Put over medium-high burner and brown for 8 minutes. Stir frequently for that it browns evenly, and should eventually have a smell nutty and appear about the same color as peanut butter. Empty toasted spaghettini into bowl, then use a paper towel to wipe out the skillet.
  6. Open can of diced tomatoes and set in fine-mess strainer to allow any liquid to drain away. Finely chop the onion, then finely chop drained tomatoes.
  7. Pre-heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet over medium-high burner until it begins to shimmer. Saute finely chopped onion together with 1/4 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes.
  8. Add finely chopped tomatoes and continue cooking for 5 minutes until it has become slightly darker.
  9. Turn down burner to medium, and press 2 remaining garlic gloves directly into the skillet. Add both types of paprika and anchovy paste. Cook for 1-1/2 minutes.
  10. Add toasted spaghettini to skillet and stir to combine.
  11. Adjust an oven rack so that it’s 5″ or 6″ for the broiler element, and pre-heat on high.
  12. Pour broth through fine-mesh strainer into the skillet. Stir in 1/4 cup wine, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  13. Increase burner to medium-high, bring up to a simmer, then cook an additional 9 minutes.
  14. Scatter shrimp in skillet and partially submerge. Broil for 7 minutes until the shrimp is cooked and spaghettini becomes dry and has some crispy, brown spots.
  15. Allow to cool for 5 minutes; then top with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Lemon-Garlic Sauce

May 26, 2012

I made this recipe a few years ago, but in my broiler. With the heat of an early summer, I wanted I avoided heating up my un-air-conditioned kitchen. So I made this recipe on the grill as it was originally intended. The idea behind this recipe is to use peeled shrimp (with the tails left on), and then nestle them closely onto the skewers. By reducing the surface area, it is simulating thicker (more expensive) shrimp, and slows the cooking process. In terms of full disclosure, I love shrimp so other people might not give them the full 4-1/2 stars that I am happily giving this recipe today.

Easy and tasty meal in less than an hour.

Comments:

  1. Instead of using de-skewering the shrimp to finish cooking in step 9, I used a longer pan (one that fits your entire skewers) and left the shrimp skewers in tact for serving. It added about a minute to the cooking time, but allowed me to serve each person an entire skewer.
  2. While the recipe calls for parsley, I substituted cilantro because that’s what I already had in my refrigerator.
  3. Chris Kimball also recommends a recipe for Charmoula Sauce, which I have not tried yet.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $9.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 5:00 PM.  Dinnertime:  6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for the shrimp is here, and the sauce recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:

Shrimp Ingredients:
1-1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp (21/25 per pound)
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil for brushing skewers
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 lemon, cut into wedges for serving

Sauce Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Juice from 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons juice)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 medium cloves garlic
1/8 teaspoon table salt
Disposable 10-inch aluminum pie plate
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

  1. Defrost your shrimp in cold water, replacing every 15 minutes until defrosted. Peel and devein the shrimp, if necessary, but leave the tails on. This will help protect the delicate shrimp. Use paper towels to dry the shrimp.
  2. Put 1/2-lb of shrimp on each skewer, alternating the direction of the heads-and-tails so that they nestle very closely together. Use a pastry brush to brush both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle both sides lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle only top side of each skewer with granulated sugar.
  3. Ignite a chimney starter  filled with about 100 briquettes. Allow to fully ignite for about 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile prepare the sauce ingredients. Add all the sauce ingredients (except parsley) into the disposable pan; cutting the butter into 4 pieces and peeling and pressing the garlic cloves. Separately, mince the parsley and set aside until step 10.
  5. When the coals are ready, empty them onto one side of grill, leaving the other side empty.
  6. Place the disposable aluminum pan with sauce ingredients (except parsley) over hot side of grill for about 1-1/2 minutes. When the sauce is hot slide it over to the cool side of the grill.
  7. Put the shrimp on the grill directly over the coals with the sugared-side-down. Grill for 5 minutes until they become lightly charred.
  8. Flip and grill the second side for 2 additional minutes until it becomes pink.
  9. Chris Kimball says to carefully remove the shrimp from the skewer so that they can finish cooking in the aluminum pie plate; about 30 seconds. However, today I left the shrimp on the skewers, and let the entire skewer cook in the sauce for about 2 minutes, using a disposable aluminum casserole pan. In either case, slide the pan to the hot side of the grill while you finish cooking.
  10. Add the parsley to the sauce, and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

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