Pilarski Marsh Pot

31 03 2010

Well I had planned to continue detailing the dinner party menu. Yet as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men….After a night of no sleep, a day of harsh science, cold numbers, spreadsheets, balance sheets and business plans I was ready for an escape or a homicide. Fortunately for the sake of my still clean criminal conviction record (convicted? Well… no, never convicted…..) my good friend, poet Patrick Pilarski’s latest poetry book arrived like a refreshing Northern breeze. Check out Patrick here: Patrick M. Pilarski.  Book in hand I hoofed it down to the Wine Toad. The Toad is the alcoholic equivalent of Alice’s little white rabbit hole with a direct line into the Tea Party (the Mad Hatter one, not the political one).  Patrick writes versions of haiku and other poetry. Doc’s grasp of Haiku:

Oddly Constructed

With resolute imagery

Dreams beckon, Night falls

Well, I may not write them but I really enjoy reading a good haiku with a glass of vino– (and I know Chef E does as well-another talented poet and Chef!) who doesn’t? It makes me feel so left bank, so la rive gauche. I started to read the first series of poems, The Netley Marsh Poems. I was immediately taken away; I could smell the brackwater and see the images of pelicans and herons. Being who I am, I immediately started to visualize the delicious critters there as well. Clams and Mussels in white wine; it can be so good but often it is so insipid.  Yet since I have access to these little marsh treasures, I set out to make a marsh meal worthy of my friend’s literary oeuvre. So, with all due respect here’s the Pilarski Marsh Pot, which you must serve with hot grilled bread slathered with aioli.

  • 2 Tbsp shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup chopped fennel (optional)
  • 1 piece lemon grass
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs oregano
  • 1tsp finely chopped hot pepper
  • 1/3 cup seafood or light chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • Clams and mussels
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Grilled Bread and aioli (see previous aioli recipe)

In a large pot or sautoir heat some olive oil and lightly sauté the shallot. Add the garlic (fennel if adding), herbs and hot pepper (but not the parsley). Cook for about 30 seconds in the oil. Add the stock, wine and shellfish. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the shellfish open, indicating they are done. Remove the shellfish and place in a bowl. Remove the herb sprigs and lemon grass and discard. Bring the remaining sauce to a boil and reduce by half so it thickens slightly. Reduce the heat, add the butter and pour over the shellfish. Garnish with lemon juice and parsley. Serve with aioli slathered bread. I also recommend serving this with a helping of Huge Blue, Patrick’s book-go getcha some haiku.

The Clams and Mussels/ Season'd with wine summer kiss'd...

...Most Nobly Enjoy'd

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Completing Round 1

30 03 2010

The concept for finishing the Mixed Seafood Grille was pretty simple. I had access to incredible fresh and delicious product so first, do no harm. I simply grilled the sweet scallops and shrimp with salt, pepper and olive oil. I split the fresh Maine lobster in half and cooked each half inside the shell on the grill with the same. I put together a very fresh relish made with all the local produce; the same roadside tomatoes and avocados, fresh herbs and a fresh mango for a little sweetness along with a finely diced pepper (sans membrane and seeds) for a little heat. By placing the relish on the side, diners got to taste the seafood with as much or as little relish as they wanted-naked to smothered. This added a little complexity and layering of different complementary flavors while allowing the shellfish to star via a simple preparation.

Grilled Seafood Mix Toping (Seafood grilled with salt, pepper, olive oil)

  • Juice 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp oregano, thyme, tarragon
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 avocados, chopped
  • 1/3 cup red onion
  • ½ cup mango
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 ½ tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbs dill
  • ½ cup fennel bulb
  • 1 tbs hot pepper-membrane and seeds removed
  • 2 tbs parsley

Combine all the ingredients. Serve to the side of the grilled seafood.

 





Round 1: Oven Roasted Tomatoes with “Pasta” and Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce

29 03 2010

 

Seafood Grille over "Pasta" with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce

Here was a critical component of the first dish; Mixed Seafood Grill of Fresh Gulf Shrimp, Sea Scallops and Maine Lobster accompanied by “Pasta” with Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce. The “pasta” is actually just veggies. Today we’ll cover the “pasta” which makes a very nice side dish anytime. The fire roasted tomato sauce is that awesome version we posted about a week ago from Chef Ryan at http://cajunchefryan.rymocs.com/blog2/recipes/fire-roasted-tomato-sauce/.

  • 3 each, medium size, carrot, yellow squash, zucchini
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • Chef Ryan’s Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce
  • Parmesan, shaved and parsley, chopped for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the tomatoes in a roasting pan and gently douse with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the vegetables Julienne style. Heat some salted water to a boil and prepare an ice bath. Blanch the vegetables for about 15 seconds in the water, then immerse in the ice bath to stop any further cooking (you can do this step ahead of time). Heat some olive oil in a sauté pan.  Add the vegetables and quickly heat with the sauce. Remove and top with garnish.  Tomorrow we will cover the seafood grille and relish.





An Ancient Tradition

28 03 2010

Breaking Bread with new friends...

In the  old days, the really old days, people would share a meal together as a way of introduction and community. That rarely occurs anymore these days; it’s often a business dinner, a fast food pick-up or a more intimate occasion when we go out these days. We are lucky to get the immediate family around the table, let alone have an opportunity to meet & greet strangers. Yet I had a chance to step through the gates of time and relive that ancient tradition of “breaking bread”. I got the opportunity to cook for some folks, share their hospitality and warmth and get to know them in the elder tradition of community and fellowship. I love my new friends! I literally started the meal our by “breaking bread”, so here’s the ever so simple and timeless bruschetta starter

Bruschetta

  • 3 sour dough mini-baguettes or 1 large baguette

Topping

  • 2 cups seeded and chopped Roma tomatoes (about 3 tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp chopped capers
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1-1.5 oz basil
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Juice ½ lemon
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella

Cut the baguettes in half and liberally coat with good olive oil. Grill the bread. While the bread is grilling combine all the toppings except the cheese in a bowl. This can be done several hours ahead of time to allow the flavors to come together. Place the mozzarella on the bread and melt the cheese under the broiler. Once the cheese has melted, add the toping, season and serve. This was served with a  Vernaccia di San Gimignano, an inexpensive (around $10-12 per bottle) but delicious white from the village of San Gimignano in Italy.

...Italian Style!





New Items

27 03 2010

Testing some new creations on folks I don’t know at production tonight. Stay tuned for the recipes and responses to follow!





Ray Ray Simple Sammy

25 03 2010

 

One great benefit of yesterday’ preparation was the leftover aioli. A chance encounter with a store that had some Westphalian ham and simply prepared vision of decadence was revealed. I am sharing this more in the spirit of great eats with great friends than actually dispensing any useful culinary advice; although making this sandwich could be a whole episode on Rachel Ray. At least the aioli from yesterday requires some redeeming effort. But when you get something great like this ham paired with fresh bread and fresh accoutrements, well it’s a combination that is  hard to beat (especially with a glass of wine). But wait-what is this piece of porky pleasure? What is Westphalian ham? A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat relates that

“(a)lthough the Gauls are sometimes said to have invented ham, it does not actually seem to have been a specialty that originated in what is now France. The forests of Westphalia contained herds of pigs which roamed almost free, and were famous for the flavor of their flesh. Westphalian ham, dry-salted and then smoked as it still is today, was very popular with the Romans and making the fortunes of Germanic tribesmen 2000 years ago. The poet Martial was one of many who liked it. Cato recommends treating the hams from Italian pigs in the same way….”

Ah those Romans, is it any wonder they knew how to throw a party? The Westphalian swine dine on a diet rich in acorns, much like the prized Iberian hams. The Westphalian hams are then smoked with Beechwood and juniper branches giving it a distinct flavor. A fresh baked roll, a little aioli, Westphalian ham, garden fresh lettuce and tomato and a dusting of parmesan cheese and a glass of wine; it can make the world so right I even begin to think Rachel may have a point of wisdom here…nah.





Octopussy Balls

24 03 2010

I’ve always been a voracious reader. When I picked up Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel, Octopussy, around age eight and asked my mother what this was, she replied it was a book I wasn’t going to read. Today of course, the Mario Bros. have more graphically animated encounters than one could ever imagine Bond having back in the days of ink and paper; such is the ever upward progress of humanity. Perhaps it is this episode of parental denial dwelling in the dark recess of my already tortured mind that causes me to seek out and consume this cephalopod. Perhaps it is that it just tastes delicious. Whatever the reason, the consequence is this fantastic treat which results from a Mediterranean twist to the Japanese classic, takoyaki (literally octopus ball). The takoyaki is like a kind of octopus fritter, often served with a soy-mayonnaise type topping. It is Japanese bar food. I got some octopus (often very cheaply obtained) with traditional takoyaki in mind, but my conversations with a Greek friend left me longing for the Aegean; hence the result.

Most octopuses (yes, it is octopuses. The root is Greek, not Latin. If it were a Latin root you would use octopi. See how much you learn on this blog) you buy is frozen. Mine was a couple of pounds, so here is how we softened it up so it would be tender and not tough. Defrost it in the refrigerator. Then:

  • Boil for 8-10 minutes
  • Remove and whack off head (not any real goodness here)
  • Place in a Dutch oven or other large heavy covered pot) at 200 degrees F and cook with herbs for about 5 hours. Here I used sprigs of oregano, thyme, fennel tops, fennel seed, lemon juice, dill, crushed whole garlic cloves and onion. The octopus will absorb these flavors during this stage.
  • Cool
  • Remove any gelatinous leg fat
  • You can keep it in the fridge for week at this point.

Since I like a little char, I quickly seared the leg pieces over high heat. Now they are ready for the fritters.

  • 1 ½ cup of octopus prepared as above, medium dice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp thyme
  • 1Tbsp dill
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbs parsley
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 11 oz (~ 2.0 cups) AP flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 egg whites beat to stiff peaks

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, turmeric, cayenne, pepper and garlic salt). Add the finely chopped herbs. Mix the egg and the buttermilk together. Add the egg/buttermilk mixture and octopus to the dry ingredients. Mix well. Gently fold in the egg whites. The batter is thick and tacky at this point. You can use a small scoop ( I just used my hands) to drop an amount in a mini-muffin pan to fill it about ¾ of the way up. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. You can also deep fry these at 375 degrees F for a more traditional takoyaki or fritter.  Serve with the aioli dipping sauce (recipe follows). This was incredible with a chilled unoaked Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir Rose. Makes 24 to 30 fritters.

Aioli dipping sauce

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 8 cloves of garlic, medium chop then crushed in mortar and pestle
  • 2 Tbs of lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt

After crushing the garlic into a paste add the egg yolks. Slowly add the olive oil a little at a time, stirring constantly to form the emulsion; you can do this by hand or in a food processor or blender. Add the lemon juice and salt.