Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fishing For Compliments

Listen up, fish heads! Part three of our post-Christmas pre-New Year's de-larding began tonight. The tallow that courses through our veins may have been thinned out to a mere European-style butter.

I had the chance to pick up an amazing piece of Chilean sea bass at my semi-local fishmonger which I stuck in the freezer the other day. In an effort to have a lower-fat meal and not overload on groceries before our upcoming trip I decided to thaw out this profound piece of pescetarian provender.

I made a quick marinade with some garlic, chili, sugar, satsuma juice, and rice vinegar. After marinating I roasted the bass in the oven and made a quick salad. For the salad I used baby greens, chick peas, lemon, olive oil, garlic, thyme, chili, cumin, salt, and pepper.

Maybe it's because she's married to me. Maybe she wishes me to buy her some sort of diamond-related gifts. At any rate Jen said that this was the tastiest piece of fish she's ever eaten. I wasn't looking for praise, it just fell in my lap.

I must say, it was a pretty tasty piece of fish. I guess that's the difference between a marvelous fish like Chilean sea bass as opposed to some aquatic travesty like tilapia.

It's as if the relative price of a fish moves up and down in direct relationship to its quality and enjoyment!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Feast of the Several Fishes. Well, Four Fishes. Kind of.

On Christmas Eve Eve Eve we had a guest for dinner.

It was another night where I had about 15 minutes to prepare dinner, therefore I quickly made this lamb burger, mashed potatoes, garlic spinach, and red pepper jelly. It was the perfect accompaniment to some Brooklyn Brewery Winter Lager and A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All.

Christmas Eve Eve saw Jen creating her traditional Christmas Eve dish: clam corn casserole.

Clam corn casserole tends to get a mixed reaction from people when they hear about it. They either think it sounds fantastic or they think it sounds like the most vile thing they've ever heard of. I tend to find it falls much closer to the former. After all, how can combining clams, saltine crackers, and cheddar cheese be all bad?

For Christmas day my mom made this amazing maraschino cherry cake which she got from Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book (published in 1961). Apparently she used to make it all the time before I was born. Then I came along and apparently ruined everything. Now that she's had sufficient time to recover from my intrusion she's taken to making it again. It was worth the wait.

On boxing day we came home with a strong urge to take a night off of butter, cheese, and rich pastries. I steamed some shrimp, sauteed some garlic, shallots, and shrimp with a little white wine and tossed it together with some mafaldine. I omitted the Parmiggiano that I normally would have added in the interest of decholesterolifying our weary veins.

I've taken to a recent fascination with The Feast of the Seven Fishes. This tradition is unique to Italian-Americans, a fact that I learned on Christmas Day after finding that my cousin had prepared the meal for some Italian-Italians who had no idea why she was making such an seafood-centric feast. The tradition tends to bend the definition of what a fish is to include any number of mollusks, crustaceans, or sea-dwelling critters. Since their definition of fish is so loose I took to stretching my definition of Christmas Eve to include the months of December and January. This would give me more time to prepare all of these fishes! Who has time to prepare all seven in one night?

I fried up some smelts and served them with leeks that I roasted in the oven, sliced kalamata olives, toasted pine nuts, and a little lemon. Jen was a little leery of having the smelts after hearing my mother recount a traumatic childhood experience where she'd eaten a smelt that was filled with fish eggs! Luckily that experience was not reprised this evening.

Using some leftover mashed potatoes from the lamb burgers we had on Tuesday night I made some soup with celeriac, garlic, shallots, turkey stock, and a little skim milk. We each had about a ladle full of the low fat soup which turned out better than I'd even hoped.

I also steamed some char and some broccoli with white wine and lemon. As you will note the broccoli was a little overdone but its lack of fat was a welcome addition to our cheesified bodies.

We kind of fell apart at the end with this amalgamation of leftover desserts from my parents, family, and that had been lying around the apartment when we returned home.

We started out really strong but it's just hard to turn down a plate filled with delicious butter-filled treats.

I'll start the diet tomorrow! Aye aye aye!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Aborted Christmas Party Dinner

Prior to the storm to end all storms I stumbled upon a killer deal on some excellent chanterelle mushrooms.

A little garlic, butter, and olive oil white wine, and thyme made this a delicious addition to some fresh fettuccine.

Then the huge, giant, mega-storm hit! We canceled our holiday party and had to quickly freeze a number of items we were planning on cooking yesterday evening. Those items that could not be frozen had to be repurposed into dinner for four. Yes, two brave souls journeyed north to Westchester to brave the ankle-high snow drifts!

Aside from just cooking the spiral ham I also made a quick crab mousse (instead of crabcakes) and served it in pitted avocado halves. The mousse was simply crab, cream cheese, sour cream, green onion, horseradish, cayenne, salt, and pepper.

Jen had a tremendously productive afternoon making brown sugar shortbread cookies, fudge, cherry jewel bars, Nanaimo bars, fruit cake, shortbread cookies, chocolate chews, and pumpkin bread. Sadly I do not have photos of the havoc this wreaked on our kitchen.

With that we are soon off to Rhode Island, back to New York, then to Illinois to celebrate our three Christmases. Time to hang up the tongs and hand over cooking responsibilities to our families.

We'll be eating quite a bit of ham in the meantime. It's remarkable how much less ham is eaten by four than by fifteen.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Foxy Beaujolaisdy

I tried, unsuccessfully, to get a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau for our Thanksgiving dinner last week. Unfortunately it was still a little too nouveau and we were unable to get our hands on a bottle. The other day, however, I was able to get a bottle.

The only problem was that now I had to plan a dinner around it. I only had 35 minutes to make dinner so it would have to be fairly simple. According to Wikipedia Beaujolais Nouveau goes well with roasted and grilled meats. That's right, I used Wikipedia to figure out what to make for dinner.

Since I'd narrowed down the spectrum of accompaniments to merely all grilled and roasted meat in the world it was pretty simple to decide on making a simple roast chicken. I seared it with some rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil and roasted it in the oven with some onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and butternut squash.

The Beaujolais Nouveau was as I remember it: not that great. I'd heard rumors that this year's batch was supposed to be the best in the past forty years. Perhaps. It's hard to tell because this particular wine is not a personal favorite. The only thing I've ever enjoyed about Beaujolais it he ability to describe it as 'foxy' and to be technically accurate.

It's good to be able to say I've had the best vintage of Beaujolais in forty years. Better still is the phenomenal translation job they did on the back of the label. I can't tell if my favorite part is the grammatical structure of the 'sentence' or the fact that they flat out forgot to translate the word primeurs.

Actually it's neither. It's still my opportunity to use the term 'foxy' again.

That was one foxy wine.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Saving Potato Wedges From Certain Doom

Hey, follow our blog, why don't 'cha?

If you do, we might share some of last night's biscuit-crusted turkey pot pie with you!

After using up all the turkey it was time to take using up the leftovers to the next absurd level. I had made these potato wedges the day after Thanksgiving to accompany our hot turkey sandwiches. Now I was tasked with turning those into something lest they be left to rot in the fridge.

The thing about the potato wedges is they are so delicious when they're hot out of the oven and so nasty eaten cold. This said by someone who has virtually no qualms about eating anything cold out of the fridge.

In order to let these potato go down honorably I decided to crisp up some bacon, warm them quickly in the pan, then top them with mozzarella and bake them in the oven.

The result was pretty fantastic. The best part was avoiding that inevitable moment in a few days where I would have to throw the wedges in the garbage because they had crossed that line where the smell they emitted outweighed the guilt of throwing them away unused.

Yay, me!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey Dinner . . . Pizza!

This afternoon Jen made a turkey salad with nappa cabbage, raddicchio, scallions, turkey, and a sweet soy dressing. Regretfully we did not capture a picture of this creation.

For dinner tonight I made this pizza using all the turkey leftovers with some grilled pizza dough and a small amount of Fontina over the top. Jen was suspicious of this dish (as she often is of my cooking) and in the end would prefer her "tastes kept separate." I prefer my tastes as intermingled as possible so I was a big fan of tonight's dinner.

Jen had purchased this wine on the recommendation of the wine shop guy who said it would be a good accompaniment to turkey dinner. I'm not sure if he meant that to include turkey pizza but I thought it worked very well.

For dessert we had some leftover cupcakes from Betty Bakery in Brooklyn. Some kind friends that visited this afternoon had brought them over while we provided lunch.

Now the only thing that remains is perhaps a turkey pot pie and we may have made our way through this tiny turkey. The only thing that will remain then will be making the tiniest pot of turkey stock in history, followed by the world's tiniest soup.

I do love a tiny meal.

Hot Turkey Sandwiches (Variations on a Theme)

In July of 2008 I tasted this fantastic pickled herring from Blue Hill Bay out of Brooklyn, New York. Sadly it wasn't until April of 2009 that I stumbled upon it in a forum where I could actually purchase it. Sadder even still was that I was unable to find anyone who would enjoy consuming the herring with me until this weekend when Jen's dad was in town.

Truth be told, I had forgotten I even had this herring around. I thought that after our trip to Aquavit this summer that Jen would have opened up to having some herring. I was mistaken. Every time the herring would turn up in the fridge I would suggest it to a look of partially masked disgust on Jen's part. Then, on the day after Thanksgiving, Jen's dad discovered the herring in the fridge and I had found my herring buddy.

Served on some pumpernickel bagel pieces from Davidovich Bagel & Lox Factory this was the perfect pre-day-after-Thanksgiving treat.

The traditional hot turkey sandwiches of Jen's youth require french fries as an accompaniment. Given that our deep fryer requires $20 of oil to fill for use we opted to once again make potato wedges which I arranged in this Jenga-style presentation.

There was (and is) a difference of opinions as to how the hot turkey sandwiches should be presented so we had three versions:

Jen's was a closed turkey sandwich with hot gravy over the top and vegetables on the side.

Gary had the idea of using naan as a base (brilliant) but did not trust enough in this innovation that he would eat this exclusively. Thus he also had a plain white bread version as insurance. He felt that the turkey should go on the bread with sides and vegetables on the side.

I prefer my sandwiches open-faced. I also prefer my vegetables, stuffing, and everything on top of the bread in one ungodly heap. While I had plenty of faith in the naan idea I also wanted to have the white bread version as well as it is hard to pass on tradition.

There's no tradition like a new tradition! It's a naan issue!



For Thanksgiving we had our first guest in a number of years: Jen's dad. Apparently he really wanted to spend the holiday with his eldest daughter and son-in-law and that was the only reason he came to visit. The fact that he brought a car full of Jen's things to drop off was completely unrelated to his visit.

Some cheese plates only contain cheeses from one or two animals. Ha! I wasn't about to let our Thanksgiving suffer from lack of species! That is why we enjoyed a delicious goat, sheep, and cow's milk cheese! And, of course, with company over we were contractually obligated to use our slate board and write the cheese names in chalk, something that always seems like a better idea in theory than in execution. You see, in order to be able to write the name of the cheese legibly you must write it so large that it leaves very little room on the slate for the cheese itself.

Still, totally worth it.

For Thanksgiving dinner Jen made braised carrots (actually leftover from the farm), bacon-maple and apple roasted brussel sprouts, brined and roasted turkey (a tiny nine-pounder), mashed potatoes, sausage cornbread stuffing, and sweet bread rolls.

For dessert Jen made her standard pecan tassies and we also had this pumpkin pie which bares a striking resemblance to the pumpkin pie we had for Canadian Thanksgiving.

After dinner we spent most of the evening watching Rocky & Bullwinkle on Google Video. This largely involved Snuffles the levitating dog who reacts to his dog treats in much the same fashion we reacted to Jen's pecan tassies.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Prelude to Thanksgiving

In short there were not that many great meals in the past couple of weeks.

The only noteworthy thing I made was this bacon-wrapped cod loin. I wrapped it in bacon, roasted some cayenne-sprinkled pumpkin and onion in a pan, then tossed this in at the very end. It was a particularly fantastic piece of cod that didn't really need to be wrapped in bacon but like most things wrapped in bacon it did not suffer from the preparation.

A friend I haven't seen in a decade sent me some of her famous strawberry empanadas which I baked in the oven. These is one of my favorite desserts from my restaurant past. It's even more favorite when sent to me, oven-ready, and free!

As if that wasn't enough to give thanks for, there was another dinner looming on the horizon that Jen was going to singlehandedly prepare while I sat on my duff.

Lo, there is a lot to give thanks for.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's All About The Brussel Sprouts

I'm short on time so here it goes . . .

Last week:

Roast Chicken with Cayenne-Roasted Pumpkin.


Mozzarella and Pine Nut Salad.

Pan Roasted Cod Loin with Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Spaghetti Squash. The sprouts were from Harvest Farm in Whately, Massachusetts.

The wine was Dr. Konstantin Frank Rkatsiteli. This is a wine from the Finger Lakes. I can only assume from the name that Dr. Konstantin Frank Rkatsiteli is the name of an evil scientist who is trying to help Soviet Russia develop its nuclear program by stealing secrets from American scientists.

And in his spare time he makes wine.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grilled Pizza Assembly

It's hard to say that I actually made dinner this evening. I was, however, involved with its assembly. It only took about nine minutes to put together and about seven minutes to eat.

I got a sample of a new ready-made grilled pizza crust which is made in Rhode Island. The crust is called Top This! and it's from my home state. Top that!

With three varieties of heirloom tomato which I'm unable to identify, a little mozzarella and a brief time on the oven rack at 450 degrees the pizza came out pretty well. I tossed all the chopped tomatoes with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and let them sit in a strainer for about 25 minutes to drain before topping the pizza. I used the leftover juice to dress a salad (made with additional heirloom tomatoes).

For dessert: a Baba Booey cupcake which Jen was kind enough to pick up from Crumbs's new shop at Grand Central. Jen's verdict: pretty good. My verdict: excellent. My level of admiration for things chocolate and peanut butter is easily achieved.

Coming soon: I may get time to actually make dinner. You'd better look out for that action!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Spooktacular Feast

With my parents in town and Halloween upon us it was finally time to carve the giant, expensive pumpkin we procured last weekend on our trip through Westchester County.

We managed to save up enough of the random local newspapers that we inexplicably get delivered to line our floor for a good carving session.

The dinner we made was a traditional Halloween dinner. Well, maybe a traditional dinner at The Olive Garden. We made heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella salad, stuffed shells, and salad. The only thing missing: unlimited bread sticks, the spookiest Halloween dish of all!

Tonight I made a salad with the leftover tomato and potato from the other night with a little additional lemon and olive oil.

For the main course I used the pumpkin seeds to make this chili-cumin pepita crusted mahi mahi. Tonight's challenge was in trying to make anything edible out of the nearly vacant fridge but I think we did our best.

Tomorrow's dinner will likely be three boiled potatoes unless some sort of grocery store visit takes place. Tomorrow's dinner happiness depends largely on whether of not time will permit said shopping trip.

Fingers crossed for time.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Little Tiny Potatoes

Over the past few days we have eaten a lot of stuffed pumpkin. The thing about stuffing a pumpkin, even a small one, is that it provides you with about eight meals. So the takeaway is this: make sure you really like stuffed pumpkin before you make it.

On Tuesday, whilst Jen hobnobbed with various celebrities, shoe designers, and celebrity shoe designers, I enjoyed some crostini with goat cheese and the leftover fried sage leaves form the other night.

Tonight I had about fifteen minutes so I "roasted"* some salmon and served it with boiled potatoes and sliced heirloom tomato. The potatoes were the tiniest I've ever seen and we picked them up this weekend in Katonah, compelled almost exclusively by their miniature size.

* Okay, I actually just did the salmon in the microwave. Time was of the essence and microwaves have their applications, particularly in the cooking of fish and baked potatoes. Don't look at me like that. There's nothing wrong with me. I'm a good person!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkin Stuffing (Reprise)

This morning we woke up early for two reasons. Firstly because I had a nightmare about causing a young child to choke on a goji berry but more importantly because we heard about a local farmer's market which we hoped would replace our beloved former farm share.

The market was pretty nice. We got some cider, cider donuts, some bread, and these fantastic brussel sprouts which Jen is brandishing like an Uruk-hai warrior.

By the way, this is about the tenth time we've seen this vehicle downtown. Yes, that's a toilet on the roof. Yes, it claims to be called "The Floatie Mobile." And, yes, there is what appears to be a turd wearing a jaunty sailor's cap on it.

Despite the unappealing vehicles I decided to turn our stuffed pumpkin leftovers into this soup. I sauteed some garlic, onion, and the remaining fennel along with the last bit of acorn squash from the farm share. I added in some of the leftover sausage cornbread stuffing and last week's turkey stock. I toasted the remaining cornbread slices with some goat cheese, toasted the pumpkin seeds with some chili and cumin, and fried up some whole sage leaves for garnish.

As an accompaniment: roasted brussel sprouts with bacon, apple, vidalia onion, and sage.

Now we only need to find room in the freezer to fit the remaining turkey stock. And room in the garbage for the brussel sprout stalk.