Saturday, September 22, 2012

Potato-crusted halibut w/mushrooms and herb cream

This is from the Bluestem cookbook that my sister (whom I love to antagonize) gave me. Well, the Bluestem was the starting point. Had to substitute some ingredients, as noted. I made this for two, halving the recipe that follows. I am also giving some notes along the way.

So, for four, here are the ingredients:

Herb Cream
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
2 cups loosely packed fresh chervil
2 cups loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Here's the substitutes on the herb cream that I used. First, chervil was not available, so, I used curly leaf parsley. Also, instead of white pepper, I always like to use crushed red chili peppers.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces porcini mushrooms, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 large shallots, finely copped
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Ok, so, fresh porcini mushrooms are hard to find. The book suggests that if you can't find porcini, use cremini. Sorry, I substituted shitake.

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon banyuls vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt

Ok, banyuls turns out to be a brand name. Not carried around here. So, use a sherry vinegar.

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
4 (6 ounce) halibut fillets
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Ok, 1 1/2 pounds of potatoes, I found out, is too much. Can do it with 1 pound. Also, again, used crushed red chili peppers. Also used olive oil.

To prepare.

First, make the herb cream: Bring the cream to a simmer in a saucepan. Put the egg yolks into a blender. With the blender running, drizzle in the hot cream to temper the yolks. Let it emulsify and thicken. Add the chervil, parsley and thyme and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.

I noticed that it would dry out on the stove while keeping warm. So, be sure to have some liquid (water, wine) on hand to keep the thickness correct.

Now the mushrooms. Heat the butter in a skillet over high heat. Sear the mushrooms, cut side down, for a couple of minutes, at the most, until browned. Add the shallots and garlic and continue cooking just until the shallots turn translucent. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil and salt to make a vinaigrette. Set aside.

Prepare the fish. Grate the potato using a box grater. Gather the grated potato in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze all the liquid out. Transfer the grated potato to a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Season the fish with salt and pepper.

Season the potato with salt and pepper. Divide the potato into the same number of fillets that you have. Smash the potato into rectangles that are a wee bit bigger than the fillets. Lay a fillet over each group of potato. Using a sharp knife, outline the perimeter of each fillet, trimming away the excess potato around the edges.

Heat the oil in a large, ovenproof saute pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully place the fish, potato side down, in the pan and cook until golden brown about 2 1/2 to 3+ minutes. Using a wide spatula, carefully flip the fish over. The potato crust should come cleanly away from the skillet and adhere to the fish. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the fish for 4 minutes.

Toss the mushroom mixture with the vinaigrette.

Spoon some herb cream onto each plate. Top the cream with a fillet. Divide the mushrooms among the plates and serve immediately.

Ok, now for the pictures!

Here's the ingredients.

Here's the yolks in the Vitamix, waiting for the warm cream!
And, here is the Vitamix after pureeing the cream. 

The herb cream, on the stove, keeping warm. Next time I will probably float some cream on top as well. Even though I had it covered, it thickened up and I had to add liquid to it.

 Here's the vinaigrette, the mushrooms, shallots/garlic and butter:

The grated potato, after the liquid had been squeezed out, along with the fish.

Sauteing the mushrooms!

And . . . here it is plated! Served with carrots, broccoli and beets. There are more than enough mushrooms. I figure what Bluestem lists for mushrooms could be for 8 not 4. Also, the herb cream could easily be for 16 servings! Don't need that much!

Fish Stock

All it takes to make fish stock is to add a fish carcass to the vegetables when you make a vegetable stock.

So, the ingredients are:

3 quarts plus 2 cups water
2 cups white wine
1/2 cup Champagne vinegar
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 fennel bulb, including fronds, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1/2 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 head garlic, top third sliced off
1 leek, coarsely chopped
6 sprigs fresh tarragon
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leave
1 tablespoon black peppercorns.

That is what you could use for a vegetable stock. Now add at least 2 pounds of fish bones and trimmings (fish heads and scrap pieces of fish) to the vegetable stock at the beginning, before the heat is put to the stock pot.

 Combine all the ingredients in a large stockpot. bring it to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a heatproof container set in an ice bath. discard the solids. Cool the stock in the ice bath. Transfer chilled stock to airtight container(s). Refrigerate the stock until you are ready to use it. The stock can also be frozen for up to 2 months. 

Ok, so, here are the pictures! First, the ingredients (missing the fresh thyme):

Notice the fish on the left? The fish monger was having a sale on Alaskan king salmon today. So, bought a whole one and when he fillet it, I told him I wanted the whole fish. So, we got some great fillets along with a carcass!

Here is the carcass: 
Here's all the ingredients in the stockpot, prior to the heat: 

And here is the cheesecloth, over a strainer, over a bowl, over the ice bath, waiting to strain the stock:
Back to the stock! Here it is, just getting up to a simmer. The foam is the indicator that it is at a simmer.

And, here it is, 45 - 60 minutes later, ready to be strained:

And, here it is being strained! 

And, here is the strained stock, ready to be placed in air tight jars:

And here it is in the jars, still in the ice bath, cooling off, before the lids are placed on it and then into the freezer.
Actually, that wasn't all of it. I took two servings and placed it into a pan to heat up. Into that, I tossed some noodles, some cream that I had at a simmer, and some grated Parmesan cheese. That was lunch!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Corned Beef

Easy to make at home. I use to cure the beef using a dry rub. Then, I learned how to do it in a brine.

For a 4 – 5 pound beef brisket, super trimmed. Cut off all the fat that can be cut off.
1     2 gallon ziplock bag
2     Quarts water
1     cup kosher or sea salt
½    cup brown sugar
1     cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
1     tsp mustard seeds
1     tsp black peppercorns (cracked – smash with heavy pan)
8     whole cloves (cracked)
8     whole allspice berries (cracked)
12   whole juniper berries (cracked)
2     bay leaves, crumbled
½    tsp ground ginger
2     lbs ice

So, I started with a 10 lb brisket, shown here. Remember, if you also use a 10 pounder, the other ingredients must also be doubled.

For such a large brisket, it is easy to separate the two muscles (the grains are going in different directions anyway, so, when it is cooked and slice they need to be separate anyway, so, might as well do it now) and then trim the fat off so it looks like this.

Now, here are all of those spices!

Place the water into a large (6 – 8 quart minimum) stockpot along with salt, sugar, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves and ginger. Cook over high heat until salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from heat and add ice. Stir until ice has melted. Allow to cool completely. Then, place in refrigerator and continue to cool to 45 degrees F. (or, in winter, cover pot and place outside!) Once cooled, place brisket in ziplock bag and add the brine. Seal and lay flat inside a container, cover and place in refrigerator at least 10 days. (2 weeks works!) Once a day, slosh the bag to be sure that the beef is completely covered and to stir up the brine.

So, with the 10 pounder of brisket, I use two bags, since I have doubled all the ingredients:

And here they are in a large ceramic bowl that goes in the refrigerator.

After 10 days (or at least 2 weeks, could be as long as 4 weeks) remove from brine and thoroughly rinse in cold water. Want to get all the brine out. Place in a container and fill with cold water and place in refrigerator overnight. 

Now comes cooking time! In addition to the cured meat, you need the following:

1     onion with four cloves stuck in it
1     large carrot, coarsely chopped
1     stalk celery, coarsely chopped
Herb bouquet: (8 sprigs of parsley, 2 cloves of unpeeled garlic, 1 tsp of dried thyme or 4 tsp of fresh thyme, 3 fresh bay leaves, all wrapped up in a washed piece of cheese cloth and tied.)

Tie brisket to hold it together while cooking. Place brisket into a pot just large enough to hold the meat, add the onion, carrot, celery and herb bouquet and cover with water by 2 inches. Set over high heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 3 ½ hours or so until meat is fork tender. 

And it's done!

I like to serve it with steamed cabbage and some good beer.


Saturday, September 15, 2012


Last night we went to a German dinner and it reminded me that I have yet to post how I make sauerkraut, Texan style. So, here we go!

Here's the ingredients:

Well, this ain't all the ingredients - missing the crushed red chili peppers!
First some comments on the salt. The key is to use non-iodized salt. You do not want iodine in it - it will add a metallic taste. Now what is shown is the finest grade of salt. I have also used kosher salt and sea salt and find that the finer grain works just fine.

How much of each? Well for two small heads of cabbage (that will be about 5 pounds or so), use 3 tablespoons of salt.

What about the others? That is up to you. I add mustard seed, juniper berries, caraway seeds and crushed red chili peppers.

For the juniper berries and the mustard seed, it is best to at least bruise the berries and then crush the mustard seed.

Here they are before:
Now, one way of bruising or crushing, if you do not have a mortar and pedestal, is to crush/bruise them by rocking a sauce pan over them:

Then, combine all these spices into a bowl together:

Take a couple of the leaves off the cabbage and reserve for later. Then, chop the rest cabbage into quarters so that it will fit in a food processor grater. 

Run the quarters of the cabbage through the food processor and place in extremely large bowl. Sprinkle the spices on the cabbage in the extremely large bowl as you go along.
The extremely large bowl full of grated cabbage and sprinkled with spices looks like:
Now comes the fun part! Start kneading the cabbage to break down the cellular structure of the cabbage. This can take 10 to 15 minutes, or longer. The volume of cabbage will decrease dramatically and water will start breaking free from the cabbage. At the end of the kneading process, it will look like:

Now, pack it tightly into the crock, as tightly as possible:
Pour the liquid from the bowl into the crock. The shredded cabbage needs to be covered by about an inch of liquid. Then, take the reserved cabbage leaves and cover the shredded cabbage, working the leaves down so that there is liquid on top of the leaves. Here is a picture during the process. At the end of it, the liquid will be completely covering the leaves. 

Now weight needs to be put on it all. My crock is sized so that I can use a tart dish set on top of the shredded cabbage and then use a quart jar filled with water as the weight.
Notice that the liquid comes all the way up and has actually spilled over into the tart dish.

Now cover the crock with a dish towel and leave it on the counter.

In 4 - 6 (or more) weeks, it is ready. Start tasting it after 3 weeks and decide how you like it (taste, texture, etc.) Then, place it in jars and pop it into the refrigerator. 

There is no need to sterilize the jar. The bacteria will remain active, even in the refrigerator, and the sauerkraut will continue to ferment in the refrigerator, just at a slower rate.

I try to always have a crock going so I have a continuous supply!

The crushed red chili peppers do give it a kick! They also help to break down the cellular structure and provides for a smoother texture of the kraut.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

BSR&G: Braised Short Ribs & Grits

Got this recipe out of Bluestem – a cookbook that my sibling gave me. Had to modify it to accommodate tastes. (This is to serve four)

So, the ingredients:

Short Ribs
5 pounds of beef short ribs, boned with the bones reserved
Salt and pepper to season the ribs
Lardons (ok, the recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Normally I would use olive oil, however, daughter can’t eat it, so, using my homemade lardons – which are cured pork belly)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
4 cloves (or more) garlic, smashed and chopped
4 cups stout (I use Bury the Hatchet/Southern Cross Brewery, a fabulous stout! Use one that you would drink.)
6 cups chicken stock (homemade, of course!)

1 cup corn grits
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup water
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced

I de-bone the ribs myself. Also, trim up the rib meat as well.

So, for the ribs:
     1.   Brown them. To do this I take a bunch of lardons (you could use 4 Tablespoons of oil) and place in a preheated sauté pan. 



      After browning them over medium heat, I remove the cracklings, leaving the oil. Then, brown the meat for about 3 minutes on each side. Then, set this aside. Got a picture here of some being browned while others, already browned, are on a plate.


   2.   Preheat the oven to 325 F.
   3.   In a stock pot (preheated), place some more lardons (or 2 Tablespoons of oil). Again, after browning the lardons over medium heat, remove the cracklings and leave the oil. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and stir to soften, about 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Season this with salt and pepper, although if you used lardons, there will be enough salt.
   4.   Add the four cups of stout. (Note, this is 3-1/2 cans.)
   5.   Use the other ½ can of stout to deglaze the sauté pan where the ribs were browned. Pour this deglazed liquid into the stock pot with the vegetables.


    6.   Add the bones to the stout and vegetables. Reduce by a third, about 20 minutes at medium high heat. Check the seasoning and adjust.


    7.   Add the rib meat and any juice to the stock pot.

  8.   Add enough chicken stock to cover it all. If you don’t have enough stock, continue with water.


   9.   Cover the stock pot with aluminum foil and secure in place with twine.


  10.Slice a slit in the top. (I use a fork and punch holes.)
  11.Place in the oven for at least 3 hours.


12.Remove the ribs, wrap in aluminum foil and place back in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 180 or less.
  13.Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and return liquid to stovetop over medium-high heat. Bring this to a simmer and reduce by half to make a sauce. Should take about 12 – 15 minutes. Season to taste.

For the grits:
  1.   Got a double boiler? Great! If not, bring a large sauce pan about half full of water to a simmer. Find a large, heatproof bowl that can be used as a double boiler (make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water).
  2.   Stir together the grits, milk, cream and water in the bowl. Seal the bowl with a lid, if you have one (Bluestem says plastic wrap) and let the grits cook for 4 hours, lifting the plastic wrap every 45 minutes to give it a stir. Be careful not to melt the plastic and also, don’t burn yourself as steam will escape when you lift the plastic!

To serve:
  1.   Use shallow bowls.
  2.   Spoon a generous ½ cup of grits into each of the bowls.
  3.   Top the grits with the shaved Parmesan cheese.
  4.   Place the short ribs on the grits.
  5.   Drizzle each with some of the braising sauce.
  6.   Serve and Enjoy!!!