Thursday, March 22, 2012
I love the taste of roasted red chili paste, and this stir-fried shrimp dish is simplicity itself to make. It offers endless variations. I have made it with scallops and with littleneck clams. The version here is one of my “meals of last resort” recipes, the kind you make the day before you go shopping. The other night I scanned the larder and came up with some frozen jumbo shrimp, some frozen peas, a few white mushrooms, some sad scallions, and YES, an opened jar of roasted red chili paste. Call it dinner.
Here's the recipe, but as with all stir-fries the times are very approximate.
2 tbs. peanut or canola oil
1 tbs. chopped garlic
1 medium onion, sliced
4 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted (if you have fresh snow peas, blanch them and substitute)
2 tbs. roasted red chili paste
3/4 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbs. fish sauce (nam pla or nuac mam)
1 scallion slice or fresh chopped cilantro for garnish
Heat wok or pan for a few seconds until hot, swirl in the oil, and when it is hot enough toss in the garlic and stir-fry until it starts to brown, a few seconds, then toss in the onion and stir, then the mushrooms and stir fry for thirty seconds or so. Then stir in the chili paste and the shrimp and stir until the shrimp begins to turn pink. Add the peas and stir for a minute. Add the fish sauce and stir to incorporate.
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with a sliced scallion or chopped fresh cilantro
Serve with jasmine rice and some Sriracha sauce on the side, which you won't really need unless you're a heat freak as this chili paste has plenty of kick.
Beverage of choice: beer. Or an Alsatian gewurztraminer
(A note on ingredients: The chili paste, fish sauce, and Sriracha sauce, once exotic ingredients, are now available in many supermarkets. But if not yours, try an Asian market, or a fancy specialty shop. Nam pla is the Thai version of fish sauce and nuac mam is the Vietnamese version, but they are virtually indistinguishable.)
(Photo: R. L. Floyd, 2012)
Friday, March 18, 2011
So learn from me and forget the cabbage and use mostly the beef and potatoes and use a raw onion. You can chop some of the cooked carrots in for color, but not too many.
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. oil
Leftover corned beef, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
Leftover potatoes, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
Leftover carrots, coarsely chopped (about a cup)
Salt and pepper to taste
I use oil and butter rather than just butter, because it helps it keep from burning. Heat oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed pan (I use a good seasoned cast iron one) until it foams, put in onions and sweat them a few minutes until they are translucent.
Combine the meat and potatoes and spread them evenly in the pan. Tamp them down with a spatula and resist the impulse to stir them. They will steam and hiss for a while, which is a good thing. Peak around the edges with a spatula, and when they are good and brown flip them over, and repeat the process, keeping an eye out that they don't burn. It takes a little practice but the results are worth it. I top them with a fried egg. A good shot of freshly ground black pepper is nice. If you use beets it becomes Red Flannel Hash, a recipe for another day.
(Photos: R. L. Floyd)
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Reflections of a Reformed Pastor. Last week he posted his award winning clam chowder recipe in a post called the Theology of Clam Chowder. John is a native of the Bay State and serves a church near Boston, and this is the real deal. I bumped into him this week, and asked him for permission to repost the recipe here, so here it is:
John writes: “I prefer my chowder on the creamy side, rather than the milky side, so that is why I put in a flour/butter roux and use half and half. A good "mouth feel" is important. I know this is not exactly "health food" but I think you really need the fat to make it taste good (I know Julia Child is with me on this one). I also want to make sure people taste clams, so plenty of clam juice is important. Believe it or not, the bacon helps give it a "sea" taste. I think part of the appeal of clams and other shell fish is getting a sensation of "sea water" as you eat the clams. Same thing with clam chowder. I put in the clams at very last, since they cook pretty quickly and turn rubbery if they cook too much.
3 oz. Bacon
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, with leaves, finely diced
1 1/4 lb. potatoes, diced to 1/2 inch cubes
1 quart clam juice
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/2 quarts half and half
12 oz. chopped clams
salt and white pepper to taste
1. In a large stock pot, fry bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towel. When cool, crumble into small pieces.
2. Saute onions and celery in bacon fat until soft. Add potatoes.
3. Add clam juice and bring to a simmer.
4. In a separate pan, melt butter and add the flour. Constantly stir mixture on medium-low heat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
5. Add flour/butter mixture to simmering stock. Stir until thick and stock comes back to a simmer.
6. Add half and half and bring back to simmer, stirring. Gently simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often.
7. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Add the clams. Simmer for a few minutes more and serve.”
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Here’s a rich savory end of summer dish for those of you who have lots of ripe tomatoes and basil in your garden. It is a delicious side dish or could be a main course to serve four. Use a big gratin dish, baking or lasagna pan. In Provence they would use a soft cheese called Brousse, but Ricotta is a good substitute.
Extra virgin olive oil
4 Italian eggplants, stemmed, unpeeled and washed and cut into ½ inch slices
4 large ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, coarsely chopped, and drained of liquid
1 cup basil, washed and cut into thin shreds
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
8 oz. ricotta cheese (or Brousse)
2 large eggs
½ cup heavy whipping cream
Freshly grated black pepper
Sprinkle the cut eggplant slices with kosher salt and let them drain in a colander for half an hour. Then dry them thoroughly with paper towels. In a large stick-proof pan put enough olive oil to come up 1/4 inch and heat slices over medium heat. Cook for ten minutes, turning once. You will need to do this in three batches. After each batch place cooked eggplant on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. The eggplant absorbs a lot of oil, so you may have to replenish it a bit for each batch.
When the eggplant is finished remove all but two Tbs. of the oil, reduce heat to low and sweat the onion for ten minutes. Turn the heat up to high, add the drained tomatoes, garlic and salt and cook for about ten minutes stirring until the mixture as given up most of its juice. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Whisk together the Ricotta cheese, eggs, half the Parmesan cheese, and the cream in a large bowl. It should be the consistency of a thick cream, but pourable.
Arrange half the eggplant slices in a single layer in the bottom of your pan (photo below). Grate pepper to taste, sprinkle the basil shreds, and half of the remaining Parmesan cheese. Spread the tomato/onion mixture. Add another layer. If you have leftover eggplant slices press them onto the top.
Pour your egg/cheese,/cream mixture over the top and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese over top. Place pan in the oven and turn heat down to 350 f. Bake for 30 minutes or so until custard has set and is golden brown. Serve hot.
For a wine match-up I would suggest a dry rose from Provence.
(Photos: R. L. Floyd)
Monday, August 9, 2010
Here's a nice summer main course that you can make on the grill and not have to heat up the kitchen. You can use bone-in or boneless pork chops for this, although I think the bone-in kind have more flavor and stay moister better on the grill.
The main challenge with grilling pork chops is to get them properly cooked without drying them out. My marinade evolved over the years from a teriyaki sauce to its present citrus form. I think pork has an affinity for citrus flavors, and the Asian flavors are a nice match.
You can throw the marinade together in minutes, put it and the chops in a gallon freezer bag, and stick them in the fridge for a couple hours (or longer) until grill time. Turn the bag over and slosh it around a few times.
For the marinade:
1tbs. peeled and chopped fresh ginger
1 large glove garlic peeled and chopped
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
3 tbs. dark brown sugar
2 tbs. peanut oil
2 tsp. sesame oil
½ cup orange juice
2 tsp. orange zest
Whisk it all together.
Cooking the chops:
Heat the grill to high. Remove the chops from marinade and save the marinade. Put it in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer so that it can thicken a bit. Take a small amount for basting and save the rest as a sauce for the chops.
Oil the grill, put on the chops. After a minute turn the chops 90 degrees to get nice grill marks and turn heat to medium. Depending on the thickness of the chops it will take about 3-5 minutes a side to cook them through. Baste them before you turn them over, and from time to time as you go. The brown sugar will burn if you don’t keep moist or let the flame get too high.
When they come off the grill let them sit for a few minutes then pour the hot marinade over them (not the batch you’ve been basting with.) I served this with grill-baked sweet potatoes and fresh corn. A pinot noir from the South of France rounded it out nicely.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
We had something similar to this in the pretty seaside town of Molyvos on the Island of Lesbos back in 2003. Martha's grandparents emigrated to America from Lesbos, and it was her first time visiting there. It's a beautiful place.
This summer Andrew and Jess came back from the Greek Islands and reported having a version of it in Santorini, though they claim mine is better, which may just be because there is more of it. This is a tourist dish with no claim to authenticity, but it is yummy. And, once you’ve cleaned the shrimp, easy and pretty foolproof.
I use frozen easy-peel shrimp that come in 2 lb bags. You will need a heavy-bottomed skillet, and an ovenproof serving dish (I use a Le Crueset enameled one, but you could do it any shallow casserole or baking dish.)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ tsp crushed red pepper (or to taste)
2 lbs jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
2 large fresh tomatoes in season, coarsely chopped (or use a 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes)
1 cup of crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, rinsed and chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat the oil in the skillet over medium heat and cook the onion, stirring occasionally until it is soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the red pepper flakes and tomatoes, and let it cook for another ten minutes or so until some of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce begins to thicken. Add the shrimp and cook for a few minutes, stirring now and then, until they turn pink and begin to firm up (don't overcook them).
Turn the mixture into the baking dish, sprinkle the feta over the top, and put it in the oven for 10 minutes until everything is bubbling nicely. Salt and pepper to taste (the feta should be all the salt you need), and sprinkle with the parsley.
Although in Greece this is typically a starter, it will easily feed four people as dinner with some crusty bread and a Greek salad. In the best of all worlds your kids will bring you a white wine back from Santorini to have with it (as mine did), but any sturdy crisp white will go just fine (feta is a tough flavor match for wine.) White Retsina works if you’ve acquired a taste for it, which most people who aren’t Greek haven’t. Enjoy.
(Photos: R.L. Floyd)
(This one first appeared in Retired Pastor Ruminates on September 18, 2009)
Friday, April 9, 2010
I write in defense of mussels, the stepchild of the shellfish world. I am not talking about the dreaded freshwater zebra mussels that are threatening our lakes here in the Berkshires, but the delectable marine blue mussel.
The French love them. You can’t walk a block in Paris without seeing a bistro with a “Moules” sign. For some reason though, Americans, who will happily pound down their weight in steamers and Littlenecks have been slow to warm to these succulent little morsels.
Many years ago I had a wonderful congregant, Gladys Brigham, whose father had been a Congregationalist missionary to the Middle East in the nineteenth century. He had gone to Bangor Theological Seminary, and the family still had a summer cottage on Isleboro, one of Maine’s most charming islands. When my children were still children Gladys invited us all to spend a few days there and she joined us for a couple of them. At low tide there were more mussels than you could shake a stick at, so I harvested a batch, cleaned and de-bearded them, and steamed them with a little garlic and white wine. “These are delicious,” opined Gladys, who was close to ninety, and had been coming to this very spot for the better part of the Twentieth Century. “I’ve never had a mussel before.” I was dumbfounded: “Why not?” “People here don’t eat them.”
I have a theory about this. First, mussels are subject to Red Tide (dinoflagellates), which is harmless to the mussel but contains toxins that can harm humans with paralytic shellfish poisoning. If back in the day Uncle Wendell got wicked sick from eating a mussel it might have put everybody off their feed for awhile. Today governments strictly monitor for toxins at fishing sites, so that is no longer a problem. And besides, clams are subject to Red Tide, too, so I don’t get it.
The other bad rap mussels get is that they are hard to clean, and it is true that if you harvest them yourself it is a bit of a chore to scrub them up, de-beard them, and scrape the barnacles off them. And if you are not careful, there will always be a closed one that is, in fact, just a shell full of mud and it will muddy your broth.
But the last few years I have been able to buy beautiful mussels from Prince Edward Island in the grocery store. These are fresh, clean, scrubbed and de-bearded, and need minimal handling. Just make sure that they are alive, discarding any whose shells have opened or are cracked. Give them a good rinse in cold water. I put them in a bowl and leave them in the sink with the water gently running for a while.
So get yourself some mussels. This is the best time of year for them, as the claim is that the best months to eat them end in “–ber,” and here we are in September (see note below) with two more “–ber” months to go. And the best thing of all is that, although their flavor resembles that of the treasured lobster, they are cheap. My PEI mussels come in two pound mesh bags, and are often available for $2.49 a pound. I got some last week for $1.99 on sale. The lobsters in that tank nearby were $11.99. Tough decision? No.
There are many ways to treat a mussel, but I like them done with as little fanfare as possible (except when I make them Chinese style with garlic and fermented black beans, but that is another post for another day). Mussels contain a lot of water, so you don’t need to drown them when you cook them. Here’s a simple recipe similar to what the French call Moules Marinieres (they would use butter, reduce the broth, and add more butter at the end, but I like it this way):
2 lbs mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 tbs garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
½ cup dry white wine.
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Drain the rinsed mussels in a colander. You’ll want a wide pan with a tight lid. Heat the oil over medium heat, and cook the onion until soft. Toss in the garlic, crushed red pepper, and parsley. Then gently add the mussels (the shells will break if you’re hard on them.) Gently stir to mix, add the white wine and cover. Give the pan a gentle shake from time to time and start checking the mussels after about five minutes. If they are not opening turn the heat up a bit and cover again. They should all be open after ten minutes. You can serve them now, but I prefer to remove the mussels to a platter with a slotted spoon, and strain the broth through a sieve covered with cheesecloth to catch any sand. You can pour the broth over the mussels or serve it on the side (as I do). Enjoy.
Wine pairings: The French might drink Muscadet with them, and they wouldn't be wrong. A crisp Sauvignon Blanc is always nice. When we were with our daughter in Provence I ordered mussels (albeit Provencal style with tomato) and she said “Try the Rose.” I did, and it was very good, so a dry Rose from the South of France works just fine. But don't break the bank on cheap eats, any good dry white will do.