Showing posts with label Zester Daily. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zester Daily. Show all posts

Friday, June 10, 2016

Blasting Heat Sears in Flavor

A few years ago I convinced a chef to teach me how he made crispy skin on a filet of fish. Chef Taylor Boudreaux said it was easy. I couldn't believe that. For years I had tried to cook a filet of fish with the skin on and the result wasn't good. Either the skin was chewy or burnt to a crisp.
When I ate Boudreaux's salmon filet with mushrooms, the charred skin was crisp as a slice of perfectly cooked bacon. A perfect contrast to the moist, sweet flesh.

He reveals the secret in the video. A carbon steel pan. That's it. The pan takes an incredible amount of heat. Up to 700F. The skin sizzles and in seconds is perfectly seared. A quick flip to char the flesh and then into a 350F oven to cook the filet on the inside.
After I bought a pan and seasoned it and used it successfully on a fish filet, I discovered the pan's other advantage. Easy clean up. Very much like a cut-down wok, the pan needs only a quick cleaning with a soapy sponge to remove the left-over oil, heated again on the stove top to burn off the water and that's it. No strenuously scrubbing to clean the pan the way I had done for years with the stainless steel pans I relied upon. Just a quick clean up and I was done.

A cast iron pan also works well at high heat, but from my experience the carbon steel pan does a better job. Both pans are relatively inexpensive. A carbon steel pan will cost half the price of a comparably sized, quality stainless steel pan. When you shop for a carbon steel pan, buy one that is made with a thicker gauge steel. I have been using de Buyer pans. Chef Boudreaux recommends Matfer Bourgeat. The advantage of the thicker gauge pans is they retain heat longer than the pans made with a thinner steel.

Cast iron pans are easy to find. Carbon steel pans, not so much. In the Los Angeles area, the only source for the pans is Surfas Culinary District. In New York, I have seen them upstairs at Zabar's.
Using the pan exclusively, I discovered the beautiful work it does on steaks. Treated very much in the same way as the fish filets, each side of the dry seasoned steak is charred and then placed into a 350F oven to cook the interior of the steak. While the steak is resting for five minutes under aluminum foil, quickly sear your favorite vegetables in the pan to pick up the pan dripping flavor and serve as a side dish.
After that, I moved on to tofu, shrimp, octopus and chicken breasts. And then onto vegetables. Broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, Japanese eggplant, carrots, asparagus, green beans, English peas and corn kernels. Every firm fleshed vegetable I tried worked perfectly when I applied high heat using the carbon steel pan.

For Zester Daily I wrote about creating a charred garbanzo bean salad using charred vegetables and freshly chopped Italian parsley.
The mix of seared vegetables, lightly caramelized by the high heat, and the freshness of the parsley is really delicious. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Blast the Heat for For A Charred Vegan Salad

Chef Tips For Crispy Skin Pan Seared Salmon Filets

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Easiest Way to Cook a Whole Fish

Hard to believe but the easiest way to cook a fish is to roast it in a dome of kosher salt.
The prep time is under 10 minutes.

The salt covered fish roasts in the oven 10 minutes a pound.
Let the fish rest for 5 minutes.

Crack open the salt dome. Peel back the skin. Cut off the head and tail. Pull off the bones.
And serve the oh-so tender, moist filet with a salad or oven roasted vegetables or maybe pasta tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese.

So delicious. So easy to make.

Please check out the article and recipe on Zester Daily.

And email me photographs of YOUR FISH when you make it.

Enjoy!

Whole Salt-Roasted Fish Swims Onto Center Stage

Friday, September 25, 2015

Figs Tart Up

A chance encounter with a discounted flat of perfectly ripe figs led to a day of baking in pursuit of a great tasting fig tart for a recipe I contributed to Zesterdaily.  
Although it might look complicated, because there are a number of elements (tart dough, custard, roasted almonds, fig confit), each element can be made several days ahead.  

On the day you want to serve the tart, you'll only spend a few minutes putting everything together.  The tart goes in the oven while you're having drinks with your friends.  Easy.

The tart can be made into half a dozen small tartlets (above) or one very large tart that serves a dozen or more.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Anchovies and Chicken Livers Make a Home with Pasta

Surf and turf with penne pasta with caramelized chicken livers and anchovies. Credit: David Latt
For Zester Daily, I wrote about two ingredients I love: anchovies and chicken livers.  Not every one likes both (or either, for that matter). As with so many foods in our lives, dishes served when we are young put strong imprints on our adult palates. Most nights when my father came home from work, he would settle into his leather recliner and watch wrestling on TV. While my sister and I set the table, my mother would serve him an appetizer plate and his cocktail of choice, a 7&7 (Seagrams & 7-Up). His favorite appetizers reflected his Russian Jewish background. There would be plates of pickled herring with sour cream, chopped chicken liver, pickled beets and onions, anchovy fillets and pumpernickel bread that he ordered from a mail-order outlet in New York. 
Wanting a father-son moment with my father, who was decidedly old school and not much into father-son moments, I would sit next to him and share the appetizers (and steal a sip of his 7&7 when he wasn't looking). I definitely developed a taste for the anchovies and chicken livers but not for the pickled herring with sour cream! 
One day, with very little in the refrigerator, I wanted a lunch with a lot of flavor that wouldn't take much effort to create. With a box of pasta, a couple of chicken livers, a tin of anchovies, an assortment of aromatics and a few other ingredients, I put two and two together and made a dish that was light and delicious.  I wonder if my dad would have liked it?
In many Italian, Spanish and French dishes, anchovy filets supply a deeply nuanced umami that turns the ordinary into the passionately delicious. Italian puttanesca, Tuscan chicken liver paté and French tapenade are but a few examples that come to mind. Without anchovies they are good. With anchovies they are delicious. Combine skinless anchovy filets with caramelized chicken livers, toss with pasta and dust with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and surf dances with turf in the most beautiful way.
Pasta is wonderful and infinitely variable. Pasta can be complex or simple. For many cooks, the best pasta dish is one that allows the ingredients to shine through with a minimum of sauce. Toss penne with fresh English peas, a bit of oil and garlic, a dusting of cayenne and a fresh grating of Romano and all that is necessary to complete the meal is a crisp Fumè Blanc, a farm-fresh green salad and a dessert of fresh fruit with a nice selection of cheeses.
Chicken livers and anchovies are as different as can be. When cooked properly with a charred exterior and an interior still moist and pink, chicken livers are creamy and earthy with a hint of sweetness.
Anchovies on the other hand have a sharper impact on the palate — salty, raspy and tangy. Combined, they bring out the best in one another.
As with any simple recipe, this dish is only as good as the quality of the ingredients. Whenever possible, buy organic chicken livers to avoid the chemicals and antibiotics that can accumulate in birds that are raised in industrial coops. Skinless anchovies packed in olive oil are not overly salty. Because the fish are caught all over the world, experimenting with different brands will lead you to the one you like the best.
Spanish and Italian anchovies are especially good, whether packed in glass jars or in tins. The price can vary from an affordable $2 a tin to well over $15 for a glass jar of the same weight.

Pasta with Chicken Livers and Anchovies

Before using chicken livers, wash and pat dry. Using a sharp paring knife, cut away any fat, sinews or veins and discard. Separate the two lobes. Cut each lobe in half, making bite-sized pieces to facilitate even cooking of the livers.
Serves 4
Ingredients
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¾ to 1 pound pasta (penne, ziti, spaghetti or angel hair)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, washed, stemmed and skin removed, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley, leaves only, washed
4 to 8 anchovy filets (the number depends on how much you enjoy anchovies)
1 pound chicken livers, washed, lobes separated, each lobe cut in half
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley, leaves only, washed
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
⅛ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 tablespoon olives, pitted, finely chopped (optional)
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, washed, quartered (optional)
Directions
1. In a 2-gallon pot, fill with water to within 3 inches of the top. Add kosher salt and bring to a boil. Put in pasta and stir well. Allow to boil 10 minutes, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Taste and when al dente, place a small heat-proof cup in the sink next to a colander and drain the pasta, capturing 1 cup of pasta water in the process. Return the pasta to the warm pot and set aside.
3. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil. Sauté onions, garlic and Italian parsley until lightly browned. Using a fork, add the anchovies, dragging them along the bottom so they break apart. Stir well with the aromatics.
4. Add the chicken livers to the pan, using a large spoon to move them around the pan so they lightly brown all over. Be careful not to overcook and dry out the livers.
5. At this point you have some options. You can season with cayenne for heat, add chopped olives for another layer of flavor, stir in quartered cherry tomatoes to contribute liquid and a bit of acid to the sauce and sweet butter for creaminess.
6. Or keep it simple and do one, some or none of the above. In any case, add ¼ cup of pasta water to the frying pan and stir well.
7. Just before serving, add cooked pasta to the frying pan over a medium flame and toss well until heated. Top with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and serve.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Roasted Vegetable Salad

Even in February, the farmers markets in Southern California have plenty of summer greens. Plump bunches of romaine, red leaf lettuce, arugula and Italian parsley are stacked high on the farmers' tables.

To create a healthy, refreshing dish, all you have to do is rinse the greens in clean water, flick dry and toss with a simple dressing.
But this is winter and another group of vegetables come into their own when the sun's rays have weakened, the days are shorter, and the temperatures lower.

Black kale, turnips, beets and celery root are now in their prime and require only a little more effort to create a delicious salad.

Using an oven's heat to bring the best out of vegetables turns starch into sugar and coaxes crispness out of leafy greens.

For Zester Daily I wrote an easy-to-make recipe for a roasted vegetable salad that is delicious when the chill is in the air. A salad with a bit of warmth is a perfect accompaniment for roasted meats and seafood or a hearty braise: A Winter Pick-Me-Up: Roasted Vegetable Salad.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Waist Watching, Delicious One-Egg Omelet

As with many good things, a cherished recipe resulted from an accident.
My wife wanted an omelet for breakfast and we had only one egg in the refrigerator. That egg was an especially good, farmers' market egg, but it did not have a companion and my wife was used to having a two-egg omelet.

Many solutions came to mind.

Go to the market to buy more. That seemed like too much trouble with a cup of coffee already brewed and waiting on the dining room table next to the Sunday New York Times. Use a lot of milk as "filler." But the resulting omelet would have been more like a custard than what my wife likes, a very firm cooked egg.

So, I did the only thing any guy would do in the circumstances. I punted.

If I was short an egg, well, I'd compensate with a lot more filling, hoping my wife would be distracted by all the goodies so she wouldn't notice the paucity of "egg."

Her favorite filling consisted of sautéed spinach, shiitake mushrooms, shallots and Comte cheese. Low and behold, as my mother would have said, what appeared to be a limitation became an asset.

Using one egg created an omelet that shared many qualities with the French crepe. The omelet was thin, crispy along the edges and, most importantly, had traded bulk for flavor.

Voila!

My wife loved her one-egg omelet so much, the dish is now a standard feature of our Sunday morning brunch. For Zesterdaily I wrote up the recipe and a more complete description.

Please take a look and let me know what you think: Eggsellent - A One-Egg Omelet That's All About Flavor.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When It's Too Hot to Cook, Omelets are a Cook's Best Friend

My mother used to say that omelets weren't just for the morning. She turned a breakfast favorite into an entree by putting sautéed savories into the fillings that added unexpected flavor.
For Zester Daily, I wrote about some favorite ways to make omelets that are as good for lunch and dinner as for breakfast.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pork Belly and Vegetable Pasta

I wrote a recipe for Zester Daily about my latest, favorite dish, a pasta with pork belly meat, flavored by Vietnamese style pickled vegetables.

I love pork belly but not pork belly fat. 
The recipe is my attempt to split the difference. 
I let the fat tenderize and season the meat. 
The only part of the fat I put into the pasta is the thin crackling layer, that luscious bubbling, crispy top layer. 
The cracklings are ground up and sprinkled on the pasta to give a sweet crunch to the tender, moist meat.

The pickled vegetables add to the pork's deep rich flavors. Included in the pickling are pieces of ginger which brings a subtle heat to bear on the dish.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bacon Braised Chicken

Braising is a perfect one-pot, cold weather cooking technique that doesn't take much effort. The resulting meat is fall-off the bone tender. Adding fresh vegetables and herbs completes the dish.

As the braise simmers, the kitchen fills with a warming sweetness, further helping to banish the cold.
Using bacon with it's smoky flavor and good fat content adds even more flavor to the succulent chicken.

For Zesterdaily, I wrote a recipe for Bacon Braised Chicken that is perfect any time of the year, but especially on those cold and damp days when nothing gets you warm.

Ready. Set. Go. "00" Flour Makes the Best Homemade Pasta, Especially When We're "Safe-At-Home"

A post from last year is worth revisiting now. Making pasta is an ideal dish for these times when we are denied visits to our favorite resta...