Friday, February 26, 2010

Oven Poached Fish in Olive Oil

I have mixed feelings about the month of February. I mean sure, my birthday is in February, so that's usually pretty fun, but it's just so dreary sometimes, you know? On the other hand, it's so short! It's over so fast! But then again, that's a bad thing, too. Rent is due faster than you expect. March sneaks up on you. Here it is the two days before the end of February and I was all, oh, I've got time for my Gourmet Unbound post, it's only the 26th.

HA! Not so. Luckily, I glanced at the calendar at 4:45 this afternoon and noticed the rapidly approaching deadline.  I have lots of baking planned for the weekend, so I wanted to do something quick and easy from Gourmet for tonight's dinner. This oven poached fish in olive oil fit the bill.


As is my wont, I tweaked a tiny bit. Mostly since it was just the two of us for dinner tonight, so I cut the original recipe in half. I didn't garnish with more parsley at the end (gasp!), and I served the fish over a huge pile of spinach. And I do mean huge; we ate an entire 10 oz bag between us. You know that squidgy, frictiony feeling you get on your teeth after eating spinach or lemon? Big time. But worth it.
This recipe is dead simple, the only thing is that it takes an hour for the fish to poach, so start it right when you get home from work.  I waited until the fish was done, then sauteed a bag of spinach (washed, stems removed) in a few spoonfuls of oil from the fish pan. There will be plenty of leftover lemony, capery, fishy oil, when I come up with a way to use it in the next couple of days (salad dressing?) I'll let you know in the comments.


It's a layering game from the bottom up: start with the less attractive lemon slices (about half), then the fish, then salt and pepper, then capers, the pretty lemon slices and parsley. I wasn't sure whether to chop the parsley or not, but when it came out of the oven and a few of the parsley leaves were crispy from sitting up above the bath of olive oil. I see no problem with that at all.

Oven Poached Fish in Olive Oil
Gourmet, March, 2000

Don't be intimidated by the cup of olive oil. Very little of it sticks to the fish, so there's a ton left in the pan.

two fillets of cod, halibut or another white fleshed fish
1 cup olive oil
1 lemon, sliced as thinly as you can manage
3-4 tablespoons capers, rinsed if salt-packed
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 250˚F.

Pat fish dry, and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to take the chill off (say, while you slice the lemon). Line an 8x8 inch baking dish with the least attractive half of your lemon slices. Lay the fish over the lemon slices.

Coarsely chop half the capers, then mix them back in with the whole capers, and sprinkle them over the fish. Top this with the prettier half of your lemon slices, then the capers, prettier lemons, and parsley. Stick it in the oven for an hour. If you're cooking 4 filets you may need an hour and fifteen minutes, but either way, cook it until the fish is flakey and cooked through.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Black Pepper Brioche Burger Buns

After our self-imposed vegetarian stint last month, I'm finding that I don't actually even want to eat meat all that often. In fact, while we have recently ordered meat dishes in restaurants, we haven't prepared it at home in... I don't know how long. I actually can't think of the last time we- oh wait, we made that chicken braised in milk like a month ago. Man, that was good. But I digress!

So last week when the craving for burgers hit me like a sack of iron deficiency, I knew it was time to break the meat drought (er, apologies for that somewhat icky metaphor). Conveniently, my friend Evan, a fellow home-cooking enthusiast* wanted to get together to cook and eat and generally make merry that Saturday night. I wasted no time in informing him we would be having burgers. In retrospect, perhaps it would have been more polite to ask what he wanted, but he seemed enthusiastic and told me he would pick up some ground beef and fixings.

Here's where it gets food bloggy: I offered to bring home-made buns. I know, I know, the bread's not really the point of a burger, but a couple of weeks ago Adam had enjoyed a burger at Lord Hobo in Cambridge, which they served on black pepper challah buns. Actually, 6 of the 8 people in our party ordered the burger (I did not) and when they were brought to the table the floral notes of black pepper were almost overhwelming, and I was instantly filled with orderers remorse. I wanted a black pepper bun!

You guys, this is the black pepper bun I wanted. They smelled like the buns in my mind, and were flavorful without being overtly peppery. And the burgers were exactly what I had been craving, juicy and meaty, all snug and cozy in their bready pillows. If you want to take your family's burger night or your neighbor's backyard cook-out up to the next level, you should really give these bad boys a try.

*Let's see if we can eradicate "foodie" once and for all, eh? I offer this up as a more accurate if slightly more cumbersome substitute.

Black Pepper Brioche Burger Buns
I used 3 teaspoons of black pepper, but I dare say you could use more. Or hey, go crazy, grind up one of those mixes of three colors of peppercorns and take the floral notes as far as you can! This is adapted from the Comme Ça burger buns recipe from the New York Times this past summer.

3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3-4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 cups bread flour
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
sesame seeds (optional)
Combine 1 cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Stir then let stand until foamy
In another small bowl, beat one egg.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, then rub the butter in with your fingers until the mixture looks like crumbs or meal. Stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg; you will probably need a dough scraper.

Scrape the dough out onto the counter (don't flour it, just be prepared to use your dough scraper a lot). Instead of traditional kneading, you'll want to pick the dough up and slap it down, using some of the fold and push motion you'd normally use but trying to do it in the air. Do this weird pick up and slap knead thing for 8-10 minutes until it's smooth and elastic. It may be a little tacky. (The reason you don't flour the counter is that the more flour you work into the dough the tougher the buns will be. Sometimes sturdy bread is awesome, but we're going for soft and pillowy here.)
Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the (cleaned, lightly oiled) bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts (eyeball a half, then cut each half in half, and then again). Gently roll each piece into a ball and lay them out 2-3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Cover with a clean towel or the plastic wrap you used to cover the bowl, and let rise again for another hour or two.

Fifteen to twenty minutes before you want to bake, (say, after the buns have been resting for an hour or so), put a large shallow pan of water on the oven floor (or bottom rack). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. After 15-20 minutes, beat the remaining egg with one tablespoon of water and brush the egg wash over the tops of the buns, then sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the sheet halfway through, or until the tops are golden brown and toasty. Remove buns to cooling rack to cool completely before slicing and stuffing with burgery deliciousness.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Potato and Green Chile Stew

Back in August, I went to Whole Foods and bought every Hatch green chile they had out that day. It was only about 25 peppers, which I guess in retrospect is a sort of crazy amount of peppers to buy from a Whole Foods in Boston. If, however, you happened to be shopping for produce in Hatch, New Mexico at the time, 25 peppers may seem a paltry number. When I tweeted about buying them, friends from the southwest commented on the dreamy smells that waft through the town, filling the air with the aroma of roasted chiles, and confessed to buying pounds and pounds at a time (already roasted and peeled by the roadside vendor!) to eat througout the year. Wouldn't it be grand to live in a place where you can buy delicious roasted chiles from abuelas with carts on the side of the road? A small town famous for it's delicious produce? With a yearly festival celebrating peppers? And what a pepper it is, justifiably famous for its sweet heat and intensely green aroma.

Or maybe I'm just getting sentimental because I placed my first seed order of the year this afternoon, and I'm positively yearning for spring, for something fresh and verdant and spicy. This afternoon I saw three trees with buds on them! It's almost time to start seedlings! Daylight Savings ends in less than a month! I find that cooking from the freezer is a nice reminder that these dark, cloudy days of winter are not forever. If you didn't go nuts and roast and freeze a bunch of Hatch chiles last year when you had the chance, you might try making this stew with the canned variety, or using anaheim peppers if you can find them in stores now.

Potato and Green Chile Stew
adapted from Deborah Madison's What We Eat When We Eat Alone
Yes, I know I'm on a D-Mad kick. I can't help it if the woman's a genius with vegetables! Obviously this is scaled up from a one-person meal.

serves 4-6

4-6 long green chiles or poblano chiles, roasted and peeled
3 tablespoon sunflower seed oil or other vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3 pounds (4-5 medium) russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 1/2-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
4 cup chicken stock, vegetable stock or water (I used vegetables stock)
Sour cream to finish
Chopped cilantro to finish

Coarsely chop the chiles. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, add the onion and stir frequently. Cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, garlic, and potatoes, followed by the chile along with a teaspoon of salt and stir. Let this all sizzle for a minute or two, then add the liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer.

Simmer all together about 25 minutes until the potatoes are completely softened. Taste and adjust seasoning (mine needed more salt and some pepper). Using a potato masher or the back of a spoon, mash up a few of the potatoes to thicken the stew. 

To serve, ladle into bowls and top with a plop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro if you like.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jam Filled Buttermilk Biscuits

A few weeks ago my cousin Becca was in town, visiting from D.C. and wanting to get together with my sister and me. After a few back and forth emails we decided Sunday brunch would be perfect, and let's also invite my other cousin Dominique, a grad student at Boston College (so close, yet so, so far away on the dreaded Green Line). And hey, have I mentioned how much Adam and I like hosting brunch? We had a big shebang on New Year's Day and I maintain that it's the best meal to host because everyone is happy not to be waiting in line somewhere and it's ok to drink champagne at 10 am. Oh, and if you want to, you can wear PJs. Yes!

So I took a look at the recipes I had earmarked for our previous brunch and noticed I had not had time for these jam-filled buttermilk biscuits from Grand Central Bakery (via Leite's Culinaria). Now you guys know that my fiance is Oklahoma-born-and-bread; buttermilk biscuits are his jam. So imagine if you will: jam on the jam. Homemade jam. Homemade biscuits. BOOM. The six of us ate eleven of these in one sitting.
I  mean, look at that. Look at those biscuits! They're like stained-glass breakfast AWESOME. And yes, that is melty butter all pooled up in the pan. Can I get an aaaaaw yeeeaaah?

Jam Filled Buttermilk Biscuits or "Jammers"
adapted from Grand Central Bakery
makes about a dozen

I mixed up the dry ingredients on Saturday evening and stuck the bowl in the fridge overnight. In the morning I added liquid, patted out the dough, cut and filled the biscuits, and baked. These do bake for a lot longer than regular biscuits (40 minutes versus 15-20) so plan accordingly. Also, I tend to keep dry buttermilk powder around for baking, as I find it somewhat difficult to use an entire quart of buttermilk before it's sad, sour demise. If you choose to use liquid buttermilk, add it where I added water, and skip the buttermilk powder in the dry ingredients.

4 cups  all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons buttermilk powder
1 cup (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups (10 to 12 fluid ounces) cold water
About 3/4 cup good quality preserves or jam (I used half peach and half raspberry, both home canned last summer)

Preheat the oven to 350°F .

Measure dry ingreidents - flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, buttermilk powder, salt - into a bowl and whisk it all up.

Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, blend the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse meal with a few pea-sized pieces of butter remaining.  (This is where you should stop and stick the bowl in the fridge the night before you want to eat jammers.)
Add 1 1/4 cups of ice water (or liquid buttermilk, if using) to the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix the dough until it comes together in a rough mass. If there is dry flour at the bottom of the bowl, add a little more liquid a tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Turn the 2-3 messy clumps out onto a floured surface and pat them together into one big oval about an inch and a half thick.

Using a biscuit cutter or large mouth glass, cut circles of at least 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Pat the scraps into another oval and cut as many as you can from the second go.
Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of the biscuit - be careful not to squish the outsides, as that would mangle the layers and mess up the flakiness. Carefully widen the hole in the jammer as if you were making a pinch pot, and fill each hole with a tablespoon or so of jam. (Use the best jam you can stand, you'll be glad you did.)

Lay the jammers on a baking sheet with 1 1/2 inches of space between them. Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning once for even color, until they are a deep golden brown. Serve warm from the oven.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shrimp Gumbo

So you may have heard there's a big football game tonight. One of the teams has never actually made it to the Super Bowl, so it's a pretty big deal for them. I like that, the underdog story, and I guess I'm a little bit hoping the Saints take it home today. On the other hand, I think Peyton Manning is pretty hilarious -not on the field, then he's just sort of annoying, what with all the finger licking and beating the Patriots- but in those Sony ads with Justin Timberlake.

When my team's not playing, I usually watch the game anyway, but today happens to be my birthday (the big 2-7, whooop!) and we're going out to dinner. That's why I don't have a Super Bowl Snacks! post for you today. Instead, I bring you the humble gumbo. It starts with a proper roux, fat and flour cooked together to bring out the best of both, then the addition of the holy trinity of celery, bell pepper and onion. Add a little stock, some chopped tomatoes and a healthy dose of cayenne pepper, toss in a few quick-cooking shrimp at the end, and serve the whole thing over rice. Bam! (sorry) you've got yourself one heck of a meal.

Shrimp Gumbo
adapted from Mark Bittman in the New York Times
serves 4-6

Mr. Bittman made his gumbo this week with scallops, but I had shrimp in the freezer. I also used marjoram instead of oregano because (you guessed it) that's what I had.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (I added half a red pepper because... I had one in the fridge)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Salt and black pepper
2 to 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water
2 cups chopped tomatoes with their juice (canned are fine)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, or 1 teaspoon dried (use oregano if that's what you have)
2 bay leaves
Cayenne to taste (start with a scant 1/4 teaspoon, go up from there)
1 pound shrimp, shelled and de-veined

In a dutch oven or other heavy pot, melt the butter and oil together over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the flour by sprinkling or sifting it over the surface of the fat. Start stirring, and keep stirring for 15-20 minutes until it starts to smell nutty and darkens in color. There are those who would say it's not a true roux if it's not chestnut brown, but I say oh shush, this smells awesome. You may  have to adjust the heat a little lower to keep the roux from burning. Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper and cook another ten minutes until the vegetables have softened.

Add the stock, tomatoes, thyme, marjoram, bay leaves and cayenne pepper, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the gumbo simmers. Allow to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until the gumbo thickens and reduces slightly. Taste for seasoning (you may need more cayenne). Add the shrimp, and give them a couple of minutes to cook through. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves, and serve the gumbo over rice.