Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer Fish Chowder

Mmmmmmm..... this chowder was SO delicious I had to immediately post the recipe.  With the savory, creamy broth, chunks of white cod and potato, spicy jalapeno, and sweet fresh corn and basil this soup had a depth of flavor that keeps you going back for another bite.  Sean picked it out from one of our cook books, 50 Chowders by Jasper White.  It's a great summer recipe because the flavor of the fresh corn and tomatoes really make a difference.  I tweaked the recipe a bit by increasing the bacon, subbing in a different type of fish and amping up the heat by including the jalapeno seeds.  Otherwise I stayed pretty close to the actual recipe in the book.  
  • 3 ears of fresh corn
  • 8 oz slab or sliced bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced (I included the seeds and it had a nice level of heat)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 medium celery stalks, diced
  • 1 1/2 lbs all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced (I used 3 large russet potatoes)
  • 4 cups strong fish or seafood stock (I recommend Kitchen Basics brand)
  • 1 lb fresh ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lbs skinless, boneless cod filet (other meaty white fish will work too)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Start by husking the corn and cutting the kernels from the cob.  I find the easiest way is to use a large knife, lay the corn flat on the cutting board, and then slice and rotate until you've covered the whole cob.  The kernels are less likely to fly all over the place if you do it this way instead of holding the cob straight up and down as you slice.
Next, heat a large pot over medium heat and add the sliced bacon.  Let it cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the fat has rendered.  Turn up the heat a bit until it starts to crisp.   If there is a lot of fat, drain some until only about 2 tablespoons remain with the bacon.  Then, add the garlic and butter, stir to melt, and cook for about 30 seconds.   Adding butter to bacon fat just compounds the deliciousness...
Add the onion, celery, and jalapeno to the pot with 1/2 teaspoon salt and turn heat back to medium.  Saute for about 7-9 minutes until vegetables have started to soften.  
Next, add the corn, potatoes, and stock.  If the stock doesn't cover the potatoes, add a bit of water.  Add 1 teaspoon salt if your stock is unsalted, or low in sodium.  Turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Keep the pot covered and cook the potatoes vigorously for about 5-7 minutes.  (I did 10 minutes and thought the potatoes were slightly over-cooked)  If the stock hasn't thickened slighlty, mash a few of the potatoes against the side of the pot and stir. 

Add the diced tomatoes, and reduce heat to low.  Taste and season mixture assertively with salt and pepper.  (Season now to avoid having to stir a lot once the fish has been added.)   
While the chowder is simmering, add the fish and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove pot from heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.  The fish will finish cooking in this time.  Gently stir in the cream and basil and taste for more salt and pepper.  
Yes.... this is us.

If you are not serving immediately, let it come to room temperature before refrigerating.  Otherwise, serve the chowder and enjoy!  This makes about 8 servings as a main dish.  It was a big hit with our guests, I can't wait to make it again!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rosemary Porcini Meatballs with Polenta

This meal was a great discovery for me- the realization that I can incorporate one of my favorite foods (cheese grits) into an Italian dinner, posing it as the ever so fancy "polenta" which is in fact the same thing as grits.  (NOT the same as your instant grits however)  I love cheese grits for breakfast, and they pair nicely with shrimp, or jambalaya, but somehow I've missed the delciousness of polenta in my Italian cooking.  It turned out savory and creamy, the perfect pair with the sweet tomato sauce and rich porcini, rosemary, ground beef meatballs.  This recipe is bound to turn any grits-hater into a polenta lover! Not to mention how easy the meatballs are to make- broiled and then finished off in the tomato sauce.  No slaving over a pan and worrying about evenly browning the meatballs, OR having to clean up the greasy mess afterward.  All in all, this was a definite winner!  Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
1 egg
1/4 cup bread crumbs*
2 tablespoons milk*
1 1/4 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus one whole stem
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 jar of tomato sauce- about 3 cups
1 1/2 cups dry polenta
2 tablespoons butter
*Note- I forgot to add the bread crumbs and milk when I made these and they turned out fine.  But who's to say it wouldn't make them better?  I'll try it out next time...

Bring one cup of water to a boil, add the mushrooms with a pinch of salt, cover, and remove from heat.  Let them steep for 15-20 minutes and then drain, reserving the liquid for the tomato sauce.  Chop up the mushrooms finely and reserve.

In a mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, milk, 1/4 cup cheese, chopped rosemary, 2 tablespoons parsley, garlic, and olive oil.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Add half of the porcini mushrooms, and gently mix well until just combined.  

Form the meat mixture into balls, about 1 1/2-2 inches in diameter.  I made 20 total, but it doesn't matter how many you make as long as they are pretty much the same size.  Set your oven to broil (high, if it gives you the option), and meanwhile bring 5 cups of water to a boil with 1 teaspoon salt, for the polenta.  Place the meatballs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and broil for 8-10 minutes.

While the meatballs are broiling, combine the porcini liquid, remaining mushrooms and parsley, whole rosemary stem, and tomato sauce in a pot over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer.  The porcini liquid adds an additional dimension of flavor to the sauce, along with the fresh rosemary. 

When the meatballs are done broiling, remove them from the oven and add directly to the sauce to finish cooking.  This will also allow them to soak up some of the delicious sauce and stay juicy.  Taste the sauce and add more seasoning to your liking.  I ended up throwing in some red pepper flakes to balance out the sweetness.  Keep the pot uncovered to reduce the sauce down a bit. 
When the polenta water comes to a boil, whisk in the dry polenta, cover and simmer, stirring pretty often with the whisk to avoid clumping.  It should thicken up pretty nicely in about 15-20 minutes.  Add the butter and remaining shredded cheese, and taste for additional salt and pepper.  

Serve the polenta in bowls, topped with the meatballs and sauce.  Garnish with additional rosemary and/or more cheese and serve hot. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Green Goddess Salad with Poached Shrimp

One thing we don't eat enough of is salad, and we're making an effort to change that this summer.  I came across this recipe by Guy Fieri while watching an episode of Guy's Big Bite and made a mental note of it because the dressing looked so good, and I loved the idea of adding flavorful poached shrimp.  We like making our own salad dressings, but we usually stick with vinaigrette.  This green goddess dressing is creamy, tangy, and full of flavor.  I also loved how the shrimp tasted after poaching in a mixture of water, lime, peppercorns, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes.  Overall this was a simple recipe, but super delicious and different than our usual salad.  And if you eat a big bowl, it's a full meal!
  • Shrimp:
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 5 to 6 black peppercorns
    • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and bashed
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 lime, cut into slices
    • 1 small bunch fresh parsley
    • 2 pounds medium raw de-veined shrimp in the shells (I think I used less than this, but the more shrimp the better!)  Usually the E-Z peel shrimp come de-veined and that's what I buy.
  • Dressing: 
    • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
    • 1/2 cup sour cream (could sub non-fat Greek yogurt)
    • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
    • 1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
    • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste (or 2-3 whole canned anchovies)
    • 1 small clove garlic
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Salad:
    • 2 heads romaine
    • 1 head Bibb lettuce or bag of mixed greens
    • 1 hothouse cucumber, sliced
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
    • 1/2 cup drained and sliced pepperoncinis (optional)
    • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
    • 1 orange bell pepper, diced

To poach the shrimp,  combine 2 1/2 quarts (10 cups) water with the salt, red pepper flakes, black peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves, lime and parsley in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and allow the liquid to cool for a few minutes.  
Drop the shrimp into the hot (but not boiling) water and let them sit in the liquid, covered, for about 5 minutes. Keeping the shells on the shrimp during this step enhances their flavor.  After 5 minutes, the shrimp should be cooked through and completely pink. Use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp and drain well. Refrigerate until cool, and then peel and discard the shells before serving with the salad.
To make the dressing, combine the mayo, sour cream, basil, parsley, green onions, lemon juice, anchovy paste and garlic in a food processor and puree.  Thin the mixture with water as required, using only 2 tablespoons at a time.  It should be a thick dressing, but thin enough that you can pour it over your salad.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.
For the salad, wash the lettuces and roughly chop the romaine hearts and put into a big bowl. Tear the other lettuce leaves into bite-size pieces and add to the bowl. Toss the lettuce together with the cucumber, red onion, pepperoncinis, green onions, and bell pepper. Top with the shrimp. Dress lightly with the dressing, and serve!  Add more dressing on individual servings as needed.  Or, if you aren't planning to eat it all at once, dress only after serving so that the salad will keep better in the fridge.