Happy hour included!!

March 12, 2010

It's been weeks since I posted about a fish coated in cornmeal! I feel like I'm losing my Miss Cornmeal Hands street cred. Thank God I made this halibut the other day. And if you aren't a fan of cornmeal (um, you should probably be reading a different blog), the pistachio is really the star in the crust. And before you get all crankity about having to shell pistachios for this recipe, I invite you to do what I did: Buy a bag of pistachios in the bulk section of your market. Put them in a bowl. Set out a small bowl for shells and a 1/4 cup measure for the pistachios. Open a beer. Then play "one for the measuring cup, one for me." It's like happy hour! It's even fun the second time around, when you have to start over after spilling your beer into the measuring cup of shelled nuts. (Sad!)

Cornmeal and pistachio halibut with yogurt and asparagus, adapted from February 2007 Gourmet
Serves 2

2 halibut fillets, skin removed
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup shelled pistachios nuts
2 tablespoons cornmeal
splash of olive oil

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup finely diced cucumber (removed the skin and seeds before chopping)
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 small shallot, finely diced
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes)
salt and pepper, to taste

1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped off
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Soak halibut in milk for 30 minutes, turning once or twice.

Meanwhile, heat oven (or toaster oven) to 425 degrees. Put asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast until asparagus is browned and crispy, about 15-20 minutes.

Combine all the yogurt ingredients in a small bowl.

Finely chop the pistachios, and combine with the cornmeal in a flat dish. Remove the fish from the milk and after letting the milk drip off, season the fish with salt and pepper, then dredge on all sides in the pistachio mixture. Heat the splash of olive oil in a cast iron (or non-stick) skillet to medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, cook the fish about 3 minutes per side.

Serve with the roasted asparagus and a dollop of the yogurt sauce.

No applesauce

March 4, 2010

Have I mentioned before how much I adore the PBS show America's Test Kitchen? Working there would totally be my dream job. Well, behind the scenes. The people on that show also do another program called Cook's Country which as far as I can tell is pretty much the same thing. My favorite part is The Equipment Corner with Adam. He gets a bunch of people to test out, say, 15 different vegetable peelers, and then tells you which is the best peeler, and which peeler is the best value. Oh, I love him. Adam, if you need an assistant, you call me, ok? Or find me on Twitter!

So the main point of the show is that they show you the BEST method to make a certain food something. And they tell you all the ways they tried before they got to this very BEST way, so you don't feel tempted to cheat and take a shortcut, because you know it will end up a sticky mess, or it will burn in the oven, or your sink will explode and flood your bathroom. Now, I'm not usually a real big fan of pork chops, but The Husband loves them, so when we saw this show together I agreed we could make them. I mean, they make everything look so good! Plus it had a crust. I think we all know how I feel about crusted protein.

I served the pork with sunchokes and a green salad. 

Crunchy Pork Chops, modified from America's Test Kitchen episode: The Crunchiest Pork Chops Ever
Serves 2

2 boneless pork chops, 3/4-1 inch thick*
1/8 cup salt

2 slices white sandwich bread, torn
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
5 tablespoons flour DIVIDED
1 egg white (if you double this recipe, use 3 egg whites), beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in two cups of water in a flat bowl. Add the pork chops for 30 minutes, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse the bread pieces in a food processor until you have crumbs. Pour the crumbs out onto a cookie sheet and add the shallot, garlic, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together well with your hands until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring twice, until they are brown and crispy. Take them out, but keep the oven on. Pour the crumbs into a flat bowl, let them cool, then add the cheese, thyme and parsley.

Get out two more flat bowls or pie plates. In one, put 2 tablespoons of flour. In the second, add the beaten egg white and mustard. Whisk the other 3 tablespoons of flour into the egg/mustard.

Crank the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Put a wire rack on the same baking sheet you used for the crumbs and spray it with cooking spray or brush lightly with oil.

Remove the pork chops from their brine (you may have already done this if the 30 minutes has expired) and rinse with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Dredge them first in the flour, then in the mustard mixture, then press them into the crumbs. Put each chop on the baking sheet.

Bake for 17-25 minutes (depends on your oven and chop thickness). If you have an instant read thermometer, you want the inside of the chop to be 150 degrees.

*I bought our chops out of the butcher's case, rather than pre-packaged, and they were SUPER thick, so I just bought one and had the butcher split it in two.

Linguistics and langoustines

March 2, 2010

There's a little Italian place in DC that I used to go for lunch with my old boss. He went there all the time and the owner always brought him dessert wine at the end of the meal. That always made afternoon typing a little trickier, but I am never one to say no to free booze. But anyway, I don't think I ever ordered anything other than the crab and lobster pasta, which is not on the menu, but is ALWAYS on the specials board. So, linguistically, it wasn't really a special and was more of a regular. Maybe they just really wanted to avoid having their menus reprinted. Or no one could reach the chalkboard to write new specials

When I found a bag of frozen langoustines (aka Norwegian lobsters!) at Trader Joe's, I wanted to give them the Otello's crab pasta treatment. I don't know if its exactly like the original, but it tasted good, so who cares? I know the photo looks saucy, but the sauce is really good, so sop it up with some bread.

Spicy creamy langoustine pasta
Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons flour
2/3 cup white wine1 1/2 cups fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup half and half
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
12 oz. bag cooked frozen langoustines (or chopped shrimp or lobster)
1/2 pound spaghetti or fettucine

Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Cook pasta to al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic for a minute or so, then add the red pepper flakes, stirring for 30 seconds. Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly for two minutes. Add the white wine and cook for another two minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and let it come to a bubble. Add the langoustines, half and half, salt and pepper to taste, and dried basil. When the langoustines are heated through and the sauce is hot, add the pasta to the skillet. Serve with bread to scoop up all that good sauce.

Bonus photo! Fresh langoustines from a summer trip to Scotland.