Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rick's Blackened Red Snapper

The late great Paul Prudhomme, who died last year, brought Cajun cookery to national attention with his 1984 classic Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. His most iconic recipe was “blackened redfish.” Redfish was a humble fish that suddenly was in high demand. His recipe called for scorching high heat. I made it several times and it was delicious, but set off the fire alarms.
I bought some beautiful Red Snapper today from my friend Mike Mazzeo at Guido’s Marketplace and wondered how to cook it without smoking up the kitchen.
After some research I found a kinder, gentler version of Prudhomme’s recipe on-line from Mario Batali using the Red Snapper, which is a really great fish no matter how you make it.
So I made it tonight with a few of my own tweaks and it came out great, and didn’t set off the fire alarms. I have an ancient 10-inch cast iron skillet, which works like a charm. Once you make the spice mixture, the rest is just keeping an eye on the heat of your pan.
If you don’t like hot and spicy food this one is probably not for you (though if you substitute more Paprika for the Cayenne you can make it less hot.) This recipe is for two, but can be doubled by doing more batches. Add more oil and butter before starting a new batch.
Cajun Seasoning Mixture:
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Ground White Pepper
1 Teaspoon Paprika (I used Smoked Paprika because I love it)
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
2 6-8 ounce fresh Red Snapper fillets about ½ inch to ¾ inch thick.
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil.
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter.
Heat a cast iron pan over medium high heat until it is hot and add the oil and butter. When the butter foams, dredge the fish fillets in the spice mixture and put them in the pan skin side down.
Cook for five minutes. Turn the fish and cook for another minute.
Remove and serve with lemon wedges.
(Photo: R.L. Floyd, 2016)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Grilled Hoisin Sauce/lime juice/Sambal Olek marinated shrimp

We often grill shrimp in the summer for a quick dinner. I have no single recipe, but many of my variations utilize the wonderful fresh flavors of Asia.
Here’s a marinade that people seem to enjoy:
1 TBS Hoisin Sauce
Juice of ½ of a lime
1 TSP hot pepper sauce. I like Sambal Olek or Sriracha sauce, but you can use Tabasco or Franks’s
1 TSP peanut oil
1 TSP sesame oil
1 TSP good soy sauce
Whisk it all together and marinate your cleaned and deveined shrimp for no more than a half an hour.
Thread the shrimp on skewers.
Prepare a hot fire. Cook the shrimp 3 or 4 minutes to a side.
Serve over rice or (as in this photo) lovely cold sesame noodles.
(Photo: R. L. Floyd, 2016)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Rick's Shrimp and Sweet Pea Risotto

Risotto is a nice change from pasta, and it is not hard to make if you are attentive during the half hour or so you need to watch and stir the rice. For special events we make a rich and decadent Risotto ala Milanese with our Osso Bucco.  This recipe is a bit of a lighter tweak on that, without the Parmesan cheese and extra butter. If you use  frozen shrimp and peas  this can be pulled out of the larder, and you can make it in under an hour on a weeknight. And it is very good!
2 TBS unsalted butter
1 medium onion minced
1 cup short-grained rice (such as Arborio)
5 cups water
1 celery stalk, broken in pieces
1 carrot, broken in pieces
2 parsley sprigs
½ cup dry white wine
¾ cup thawed frozen peas at room temperature
12 jumbo or extra large raw shrimp
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp crushed saffron threads
Salt and pepper
You start this recipe by making a shrimp stock from the shells. Get your water simmering in a small saucepan, and add the carrots, celery (no need to peel them), parsley, and about a third of the onion, and as you shell (and if necessary) devein the shrimp add the shells to the pot. You want to keep this just bubbling on the back of the stove. Put the shelled shrimp in the fridge.
Go have a glass of wine and listen to jazz for 30 minutes while the stock gets happy. When you begin to smell it come back into the kitchen  and check it. When it seems nicely aromatic strain the stock mixture into another saucepan. Add the paprika and saffron to it and keep the stock at a low simmer near where you are going to cook the rice.
Start melting the butter in (yes another) medium saucepan over medium heat. When it is bubbling add the minced onion and stir for 3-5 minutes until it softens. Add the rice and stir until all of it is coated with butter. Add salt and pepper. Add the wine and stir until it is all evaporated.
Now the fun begins. Start adding the stock to the rice in ½ cup increments (I use a ladle) about every minute or so, and stir, keeping the temperature at medium to medium high. The rice will start absorbing the stock. You don’t have to stir every second, but you better be right there and keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t scorch.
When you have used about half the stock, turn the heat up, take the shrimp out of the fridge and drop them in the  simmering stock to poach them for a minute or two, and then remove them with a slotted spoon to a plate. Don’t neglect your stock-pouring and stirring duties.
You may not have to use all the stock, but as the rice starts to get soft and creamy start tasting and when it is almost al dente add the peas and the shrimp and stir to finish the dish.
Add more salt and pepper to taste if need and serve.
A dry white wine and some crusty bread will round this out. Add a salad if you must. This  is gluten free. Serves four.
(Photo: R. L. Floyd 2016)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Rick's Chicken and Shellfish Paella

My seminary classmate Carlos Diaz gave us a paella pan and the Time-Life Cooking of Spain cookbook for a wedding present. That was forty years ago and paella has been a mainstay of my kitchen for special events. I made one last night for a family birthday.
The original Time-Life recipe was a lovely Valencia style paella with some not very authentic ingredients such as lobster. Paella was originally a humble peasant dish of saffron infused rice with whatever fresh vegetables and fish or game that was available.
This elaborate Valencia style paella is the one most Americans know from restaurants. This is my take on it with four decades of my tweaks. It is pretty labor intensive, but a fun project in the kitchen, and the results are unfailingly crowd-pleasing. Serves six with generous portions.
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil divided
1 Spanish (yellow) onion, chopped
1 garlic glove, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, halved, cored and cut in ¼ inch wide strips about 2 inches long.
1 large ripe tomato, cored and chopped
1 link sausage (Spanish chorizo is authentic, but I use Andouille) cut in ¼ inch rounds
1 boneless pork chop, trimed of fat, and cut in ½ inch cubes
6 chicken pieces (legs and thighs) cut in half
12 small littleneck clams
12 mussels
12 uncooked large shrimp with shells on
3 cups short grain rice (Arborio works fine if you can’t find Spanish)
1 Tsp saffron
1 Tsp smoked paprika
2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
6 cups of water
Peel the shrimp, retaining the shells. Put the shells into a pot with six cups of water, and bring to a boil, then keep it at a light simmer while you work on the recipe.
Salt and pepper the chicken. Put 1 TB olive oil in a 12 inch non-stick frying pan and brown half the chicken, adjusting the heat so it browns nicely but doesn’t burn. Remove the browned chicken to a plate and brown the other half, then put it on the plate. Brown the sausage in the pan, and then put it on a plate over a paper towel.
The next step is to make what the Spanish call a sofrito. To do this place the remaining olive oil in the pan and brown the diced pork over high heat stirring constantly. Then add the garlic, onion, tomato and red pepper strips to the pan and stir constantly until most of the liquid is boiled off and the mixture is firm enough to hold its shape on a spoon.
For the next step you need a big oven-proof pan, at least 14 inches wide and a couple of inches high. I use of well-seasoned 14 inch cast iron pan. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
Drain the shrimp stock into another pot and top off with water to make six cups if needed. Bring it back to a boil. Grind the saffron with a mortor and pestle.
Place the sofrito mixture, the rice, and the six cups of the boiling shrimp stock into the big pan, add the saffron and smoked paprika. Pour a little boiling water into the mortar to get the last bit of saffron. Bring it all to a boil over high heat stirring constantly, and as soon as it boils turn off the heat.
To construct the paella place the chicken, sausage, and shrimp into the rice mixture. Place the clams and mussels in the rice with their open ends up. Sprinkle the peas over the top.
Place the paella in the oven and cook it for 25 minutes. Then check the rice and if necessary cook it for another five minutes. Remove the paella from the oven and place it on a trivet on the table. Cover it with a clean dish towel for ten minutes and serve.
I serve a Rioja or other tempranillo based Spanish red with this, but you could also serve an Alborino or other Spanish white.
(Photo by R.L. Floyd, 2015)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Salade niçoise

As the weather warms up it’s time for a hearty dinner salad. Some friends of ours served us a lovely salade niçoise a few weeks ago and then last week I was at a bistro in Boston and one of my dining companions ordered a good-looking one. It seemed as if it was calling to me to make it since it has been a long time, and I knew I had some nice cooked French beans and some cooked Yukon gold potatoes leftover from a supper a couple of days ago. So the only thing I actually had to cook were the hard-boiled eggs. There are nearly endless variations of this. Here’s mine:
The Ingredients
A few leaves of washed lettuce or other greens (I used Romaine since I had some)
1 can of good quality oil-packed tuna, drained

Some cooked small potatoes such as Yukon Gold sliced.
About 8 good quality canned anchovy fillets, rinsed and drained
½ cup good black olives, such as (duh) niçoise, or kalamata
8 oz. cooked French beans (haricot verts) or green beans
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
Thinly sliced red onion (or scallions)
Coarsely chopped good fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes halved
Capers and fresh herbs (parley, basil or tarragon are nice) for garnish
Some sliced radishes for color (I didn't have any)
The Vinaigrette
4 TBS red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (French evoo is nice if you can find it and afford it)
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
½ TBS Dijon mustard
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS finely chopped parley
Putting it together
Whisk the dressing ingredients and put it aside. Assemble the salad on a platter starting with the greens, the tuna, the potatoes, the beans, the egg slices, the onion, the tomatoes, the anchovies, the capers and herbs. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, a few turns of the pepper mill, and serve.
It’s a meal on a plate. Get yourself some good bread, some Provençal rosé and “Robert est votre oncle!”
(Photo: © R. L. Floyd, 2015)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Veal chops with mushroom Marsala sauce

I saw these beautiful veal loin chops at my local market. One of my wife’s go-to meals in a good Italian restaurant is veal Marsala, which is made from very thin scallops of veal. Why not use these same wonderful flavors for chops? This recipe is for two, but it can be easily doubled.
2 TBS unsalted butter (divided)
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 veal loin chops, about an inch thick.
Flour for dredging.
8 OZ white button mushrooms, quartered.
¾ cup dry Marsala wine.
½ cup beef stock
Salt and pepper.
Start heating a no-stick pan over high heat. While you heat the pan dry the chops with paper towels and salt and pepper them. When the pan is hot add 1 TBS olive oil and 1 TBS butter.
When the butter and oil foam, dredge the chops in flour, and put in pan. You want to brown them but not burn them. When they are a golden brown remove to a plate and put in your mushrooms and saute’ them until they give up their juices. Splash in the Marsala and the stock, stir and keep them simmering for a minute or two to reduce a little.
Return the chops to the pan and cover. Turn down the heat. You want a gentle simmer to finish cooking the chops. Depending on the thickness of your chops and the heat source this will take between 8 and 12 minutes. You can flip them over about half way through.
When they are done remove them to a plate. Turn up the heat and reduce the sauce for a few minutes until it thickens a bit and is almost syrupy. Turn the heat off and add the remaining TBS of butter and stir. When it is blended into the sauce pour it over the chops and serve.
I served this over buttered noodles with a tossed green salad and a nice red wine from Italy.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Braised Beef Brisket

Everybody has a brisket recipe, and they are all delicious. Some have exotic ingredients such as grape jelly, cranberry sauce, chili sauce, etc. Here’s mine; it is pretty basic. This is cold weather comfort food.


3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

1 first-cut beef brisket (I used a grass-fed one) about 5 LBS

5 yellow onions, chopped

4 carrots cut into 1 inch pieces

4 stalks celery cut in 1 inch pieces

4 clove of garlic, smashed, peeled, and cut in half

½ tsp dried thyme

1 TBS chopped fresh rosemary

3 TBS chopped fresh parsley

2 bay leaves

1 cup red wine

1 cup beef stock or broth

½ cup of apple cider vinegar

1 14 OZ can of chopped tomatoes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Wipe the brisket with paper towels, and generously salt and pepper it. In a large oven-proof lidded casserole heat oil over medium high heat and carefully brown brisket without burning until it is nicely browned. Remove meat and put it on a platter. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté, stirring regularly until they are browned.

Add the wine, stock, vinegar and tomatoes and the herbs.

Bring to a simmer, put the meat on top, cover tightly and put it in the oven for about 3 ½ to 4 hours, depending on the size of your meat (grass fed seems to need a bit more time in the braise.) Some recipes have you turn it or baste it. This seems like extra work to me. I check it once at the half-way mark to make sure there is enough liquid in it.

When it is tender take it out and let it sit for 20 or 30 minutes until it is cool enough to cut pieces across the grain. Better yet, put the whole thing in the fridge and serve it the next day or two.

The traditional way is to serve it with potato pancakes, which is mighty tasty, but some extra work.

I served these with fingerling potatoes and steamed green beans. A sturdy red wine (perhaps a Cote de Rhone or something from Spain) would not be out of place.

(Photos: R.L. Floyd)