Archive for February, 2011
Ok, so I have to admit that this post is unavoidably related to my recent Valentine’s Day post on caviar. I had leftover blini, and I picked up a whole smoked trout from Fairway, and as such I couldn’t resist making a quick appetizer using the other ingredients that I had on hand for the caviar appetizer. So you, my dear readers, get to hear about a slightly different, and just as delicious, appetizer using those ingredients.
First off, I have to say that one of my favorite smoked fish products is smoked trout. It may actually trump smoked salmon in my “smoked fish hierarchy”. Smoked oysters might be in third place, but it depends upon the mood. If any of you have had a “Low Tide” martini, garnished with a smoked baby clam, perhaps you will understand my love for all things salty, briny, seafoody, and smoked.
Trout, being a freshwater fish, lacks the oily, fishy flavors that sometimes characterize a larger, saltwater fish. It takes to smoking very nicely, and has an amazingly clean, smoky flavor.
Everyone has foods that, after one bite, transport them back to the days of their childhood. Whether it’s your Mom’s meatloaf, your Grandmother’s meatballs, or simply a Jell-o snack pack, food has a way of reminding us through taste, touch, sight and smell of the past. For me, the things that I remember the most from childhood are the desserts. Yes, I definitely had a sweet tooth, and still do. My Mom’s banana cake and pumpkin bread, my Grandmother on my Father’s side’s custard with bananas, and a fluffy chocolate cake with marshmallow icing stick out poignantly in my memory. Along with those was one of my favorite desserts: apricot bars with meringue. My Mom used to make these quite often, and if no one was around to stop me I could polish off half a tray without skipping a beat. I recently had my Mom send me the recipe, which was originally my Grandmother’s, and I tried my hand at making them. They were delicious, just as I remember.
The final course of the Valentine’s Day dinner is a dish I stole from Le Bernardin. During a 12-course tasting menu there, one of the first courses was a single oyster served with a black truffle cream on top. It was incredible. Since then I have recreated the dish twice, and it’s always been a big hit.
Course number three in this Valentine’s Day feast was foie gras with black truffles on a toasted baguette with a honey, balsamic and port reduction. This dish is simply decadent, and would elevate any dinner party from the mundane to something extraordinary. If you serve this to your guests, you will look like a pro.
In keeping with the theme of exotic foods for Valentine’s day, the second course was escargots with garlic butter. Cooking escargot is very easy, but you will have to buy snail shells and canned snails in order to do it properly. My grocery store carries Roland brand escargot, but unfortunately didn’t carry the empty shells you need to complete the presentation. Instead they carried frozen escargots, in the shell, already stuffed with the butter sauce, so I had to “shell out” (pun intended) for pre-made escargots in order to get the shells to stuff with escargot going forward. Once you have the shells you can keep them and reuse them in the future, making escargot an easy appetizer that you don’t need to save for a special occasion. If you can’t find the shells in your local grocery store, you can buy them online here.
Last night, for Valentine’s Day, I put together a 4-course tasting menu of delicacies to enjoy with some champagne. Course number one was simple: Two types of caviar with blinis, creme fraiche, and chives.
The other night I had some friends over and we sampled the infused vodkas and schnapps that I made a while back. The first one we tried was the hot pepper vodka. Knowing what went into making it, I cautioned everyone to be careful when drinking it. Only one person listened to me. Two others decided to do the whole shot in one gulp. BAD IDEA! It was HOT!!! After the initial shock wore off, everyone was fine, but in preparing a cocktail with the pepper vodka I diluted it about 3:1 with regular vodka and added smoked okra. This resulted in a very delicious hot pepper martini with just the right amount of kick:
Last week’s Food52 contest was for “Your Best Pasta with Seafood”. I entered my pasta with smoked salmon, cream and dill, but I didn’t make the cut. The winner was LastNight’sDinner, who submitted a recipe for Linguine with sardines, fennel, and tomato. She describes it as “pantry meal” because the majority of the ingredients are things that you can always keep on hand, and this dish can be thrown together in 10 minutes. It packs a lot of flavor, uses sustainable seafood, and it definitely deserved to win! Here is a link to the post on Food52. The only thing I did differently was to add some parmesan cheese (because that always makes pasta better!)
Back when I was living in Thailand, there was a local islander who had a fruit cart, and he would walk up and down the beach paths selling all kinds of fruit. Everything from watermelons, mangoes, papaya, pineapple and bananas to the more exotic mangosteens, durian, and lychees. For a few cents, he would give you a fresh green coconut that he would cut open with a very intimidating machete, right in front of you. Nothing will deter would-be thieves like a man with a machete. I immediately tried all of the strange fruits that I’d never had before. Mangosteens and lychees became my favorites, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started seeing fresh lychees in the store. Canned lychees are readily available in most Asian grocery stores, and they make a great martini: