Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Miso-Marinated Fish with Beurre Blanc

Miso-Marinated Fish with Beurre Blanc
Serves: 6

Miso-Marinated Fish with Beurre Blanc
This is one fabulous and memorable entrée, especially with sea bass. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to find sustainable sea bass in my local fish market. Chilean Sea bass is a slow-growing, deep-water fish that reproduces late in life – traits that make it vulnerable to overfishing. In addition, fishing methods used cause more problems: bottom trawling can damage seafloor habitat as well as trap seabirds and other fish. For these reasons, most Chilean Sea bass should be avoided. This time I chose Halibut – a worthy substitute. Others include: Wild caught Black Sea bass, White Sea bass, Black Cod, Butterfish & Barramundi. 
If you live on the West Coast - IT IS WHITE SEA BASS SEASON NOW!!!!!(summer)  Go get some; try this recipe - you will not be disappointed.
Key to success is great ingredients: Fresh halibut
 Earlier I posted a recipe (Miso Clam Chowder – May, 2012) and committed to share other recipes featuring miso on the assumption you now had it available in your refrigerator. Miso, a traditional Japanese food, is made from fermented soybeans. Due to its surging popularity, you can now find it in your local grocer – look in refrigerator section.

  • 1 C Mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
  • ¾ C white miso
  • ½ C sake
  • ¼ C sugar
  • 6 - 5 to 6 ounce fish fillets (each about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 C dry white wine
  • ¼ chopped shallots
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 C whipping cream
  • 5 Tb unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • Chives or parsley for garnish

Whisk together 1 C Mirin, ¾ C white miso, ½ C sake and ¼ C sugar in a large glass baking dish – large enough to hold the marinade and all fish. Add 6 fish fillets, turn to coat, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours – no more than 3 hours.
Marinade for the fish
Mix 1 C dry white wine in a saucepan with ¼ C chopped shallots, 6 minced garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf and ½ tsp of whole black peppercorns.  Bring to a boil – until it is reduced to ¾ C, about 8 minutes.  Add 1 C whipping cream and boil until it is reduced to 1 C, about 7 minutes. Strain mixture into a medium saucepan, pressing on solids to extract as much flavor as possible. Toss the solids. Place medium saucepan with strained sauce over low heat and add 1 Tb butter at a time, whisking after each addition, until melted before adding more – continue until all 5 Tb have been added. Remove the saucepan from heat and whisk in 2 Tb fresh lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm until fish is ready.
Shallots, garlic, bay leaf, and pepper corns

Preheat oven to 450 degree F. Lightly spray with oil a large rimmed baking sheet. Remove fish from the marinade and transfer to baking sheet. Bake until almost opaque in center, about 10 min for sea bass, 8 min for halibut. Preheat broiler. Broil fish until well browned on top and opaque in center, watching closely to avoid burning, about 3 minutes.  Transfer fish to plates, spoon sauce around.  Garnish with chopped chives or parsley.

Serve with White Burgundy, Pinot Grigio, Chablis or a low-oak Chardonnay.  The only red wine I would consider would be Pinot Noir – lightly chilled.



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Squash Gratin with Green Salsa & Gruyere

Summer Squash Gratin with Green Salsa & Gruyere
Serves: 6
Summer Squash Gratin
This is a great way to use the summer squash that is so abundant this time of the year. I received 2 lbs. recently in my farmer’s market basket, which created a meal featuring a zucchini gratin, and veal chops (see previous blog: Veal Chop with Arugula & Green Salsa)

Traditionally, gratin refers to a dish that is baked with a topping of seasoned breadcrumbs and cheese. The topping should be golden brown, which can be achieved by baking or broiling. This dish is no exception. Gruyere is perhaps the finest cheese for baking, having a distinctive but not overpowering flavor. Its taste varies greatly depending on how long it has been aged. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, becoming with age more assertive, earthy and complex. 
  • 2 lbs. summer squash, such as zucchini
  • 1 ½ C fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3 Tb unsalted butter
  • ¾ C sliced shallots
  • ½ tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tb thyme leaves
  • ½ C green salsa – see recipe on blog: Veal Chop with Green Salsa
  • 1 C grated Gruyere Cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Preheat the oven to 400-degree F (same temp as used for the veal chops! – see conserving energy!) On the diagonal cut the 2 lbs. of zucchini into ¼-inch-thick slices. Toss them in a large bowl with 1 Tb kosher salt, and let sit 15 minutes.
Salted squash
 Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Swirl in 3 Tb butter and cook a few minutes, until it browns and smells nutty. Pour the brown butter over the breadcrumbs (being sure to scrape all the brown bits into the bowl with a rubber spatula). Wait a minute or so for the butter to cool and then toss well.
Browning the butter
Drain the squash, pat dry with paper towels and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add ¾ C sliced shallots; 1 small minced garlic, thyme, ½ C green salsa and some freshly ground pepper. Toss to combine, and add 1 C grated Gruyere cheese and half the butter-coated breadcrumbs. Toss again, and season to taste.
All mixed together!
 Place the squash in a pretty 9-by-9 inch (or equivalent) gratin dish (a shallow, oven proof dish). Scatter the remaining breadcrumbs over the top and bake 35-40 minutes, until the squash is tender and top is crisp and nicely browned.  Wow! You will love the smell from your oven on this one.

I love serving this with the veal chop; they pair beautifully, and share a green salsa! As the veal would dominate in that case, I would serve with the red wines mentioned on that post.  But, if you were serving this as the entrée – white wines, such as a Riesling, would pair beautifully with the Gruyere.  Other suggestions include a sparkling apple cider or Bock beer, a strong German lager. 



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Veal Chops with Arugula & Green Salsa

Veal Chops with Arugula & Green Salsa
Serves: 6
Veal Chops with Arugula & Green Salsa
Many people of heard horror stories about the conditions under which calves are raised for veal. The most successful animal rights boycott in the United States started more than 25 years ago. The consumption of veal plummeted and has never recovered. In the 1950s and 1960s Americans ate four pounds of veal a year on average. Today per capital consumption is around half a pound a year. Fortunately, today there are thoughtful ranchers raising free-range veal without antibiotics. These changes on the farm led to corollary changes in the kitchen – a culinary serendipity that is just beginning to be recognized. Veal from calves fed sufficient grass or grain as well as milk has real character and flavor. For anyone who knows only the bland old-fashioned veal, it is as if a brand-new ingredient has been discovered. Tasting this new veal is not unlike biting into your first heirloom tomato from the garden after a lifetime of eating supermarket tomatoes bred for durability. Unlike the formula-fed veal – prized for whiteness, which comes from a lack of iron – almost all grass- or grain-fed veal raised outside crates not only is rosy or pink, but also has a delightfully clean, subtle beef taste. It’s worth pursuing and rewarding the farmers committed to raising free-range veal.

Next week I will post Summer Squash Gratin, which uses the same green salsa and beautifully complements the veal chop. As you will see the herbs and spices are quite complimentary. However – either would be excellent alone.

For Veal Chops:
  • 6 free-range veal chops, about 10 oz each
  • 1 Tb fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 Tb fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch clean arugula
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tsp grapeseed or canola oil
For Green Salsa:
  • 1½ tsp fresh oregano or marjoram leaves
  • ¼ C coarsely chopped mint
  • 1½ C coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 C extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed
  • 1½ Tb capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 lemon, for juicing
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For Veal Chops:
Season veal chops with the 1 Tb rosemary, 1 Tb thyme, 2 smashed garlic cloves and 3 Tb olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Pull the veal chops out of refrigerator 30 minutes in advance of cooking in order for them to reach room temperature. This is important so the chop will cook evenly and not have a cool interior compared to the exterior. Heat oven to 400 degree F well in advance so it is ready to receive the chops when you are finished searing.
Marinating chop
Heat a HEAVY cast-iron or stainless steel ovenproof pan over med-hi heat until a few drops of water sprinkled in the pan evaporate within 3 seconds. THEN, after the pan is sufficiently hot – coat the bottom of the pan with about 2 tsp grapeseed or canola oil.  This is important – follow the rule of “hot pan, cold oil = no stick”.  Why? The metal of the pan is full of pores that expand when heated and allows the oil to settle in those pores. If you add oil to cold pan the surface tension of the oil is so great that it will "pool" and rest on top of those pores, when you add meat, its weight will push the food product into the grain that is not lubricated and your food will stick.

The oil will heat quickly in the hot pan – look carefully, it should shimmer. Now add your veal chops to the pan. They should not crowd each other. If necessary, use two pans or sauté in batches.  DO NOT MOVE THE CHOP!! Let it create the sear. Regardless of thickness of your chops, it should sear for 3 minutes on each side, flipping only once with tongs. (See, it did not stick!) Transfer the chops, STILL IN THE PAN, into the 400 degree F oven. Roast for about 7- 8 minutes for medium-rare (insta-read thermometer of 130 - 135 degree F). Remove from the oven and place on a cutting board. 
Sauteed chop
This resting period is probably the most important part of making the perfect chop. The meat continues to cook during this period – and the internal temperature will rise about 5-10 degrees. The “rest” also allows time for the juices equilibrate. While the chop cooked – the juices within the chop move to center – as it cools, it allows the same juices to move throughout it. If you cut into the chop prematurely, those same juices would just run out onto your cutting board. If these steps look familiar to you – I use the same method with steaks – see blog on The Perfect Steak from January, 2012.

Scatter the arugula on a large platter, and place the chops on top. Spoon about a tablespoon of the green salsa (see below) over each chop, and drizzle a little more over the greens. I love to serve this with the Summer Squash Gratin with Green Salsa and Gruyere (see post next week!). A California Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon or Red Bordeaux would be a terrific wine pairing for this spectacular meal.
Ready to eat!
For Green Salsa:
Using a mortar and pestle, pound 1½ tsp marjoram or oregano, ¼ C chopped mint, and 1½ C chopped parsley. (You may have to do this in batches.) Work in some of the olive oil, and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Pound the garlic clove and anchovy, and add them to the herbs. (do not omit the anchovy - it is just a way to get some flavored salt -there is no substitute! - it will mush into nothing)
Salsa ingredients
Gently pound the 1½ Tb capers until they’re partially crushed and add them to the herbs. Stir in the remaining oil, a pinch of black pepper and lemon juice. Taste for balance and seasoning.

This salsa is used on the veal chops and arugula as well as an integral part of the Summer Squash Gratin (see this post for the recipe). If you choose not to make the gratin, you should cut the ingredients by 2/3rds


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Mansion’s Tortilla Soup

The Mansion’s Tortilla Soup
Serves 4
Fabulous tortilla soup!
The wonderful Mansion on Turtle Creek has a long and illustrious history in Dallas. Originally it was constructed as a private home for the cotton mogul Sheppard King, and completed in 1925. In 1979, it was purchased and restored as a restaurant, managed by the famous 21 Club of New York. Within a year, it was receiving rave reviews. The tortilla soup quickly became the restaurants signature dish and remains so today. Dean Fearing was executive chef for over 25 years before leaving in 2007 to start his eponymous restaurant at The Ritz. Chefs may come and go, but this soup remains on the menu. It is that good!

I was fortunate to stay at their hotel over 15 years ago – and could not wait to try their restaurant.  I had the tortilla soup that night, followed by lunch and dinner the next day. At that time the only way to get the recipe was to badger the wait staff for their secrets. I have made a few modifications over the years to make it easier or healthier. I love this rendition of tortilla soup and think you will also.
  • 3 Tb corn oil
  • 7 Corn tortillas (divided)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tb chopped fresh cilantro or epazote
  • 1 C sweet onion, pureed
  • 2 C pureed fresh tomatoes (canned Italian if off season for fresh)
  • 1 Tb ground cumin
  • 2 tsp hot chili powder
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 4 Tb canned tomato puree
  • 2 Quarts chicken stock
  • Vegetable oil to a depth of ½” for frying
  • Salt
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Cooked small rotisserie chicken – skin and bones removed, shredded or cut into strips  (or one large whole cooked chicken breast)
  • 1 Avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced or cubed
  • 1 C cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 large lime, cut into wedges

Heat 3 Tb corn oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Coarsely chop up 4 of the corn tortilla. Sauté over medium heat until tortillas chunks are soft. Add 6 cloves of garlic; finely chopped and 1 Tb chopped cilantro or epazote, sauté an additional minute.

Tortilla squares

 Add 1 C pureed onion and 2 C fresh tomato puree and bring to a boil. Add 1 Tb ground cumin, 2 tsp hot chili powder, 2 bay leaves, 4 Tb canned tomato puree and 2 quarts of chicken stock. Bring to a boil again, and reduce heat to a simmer. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste, and cook stirring frequently for 30 minutes. Skim fat from surface, if necessary.

Strain the soup, pushing on the solid elements with a rubber spoon or spatula to extract as much flavor as possible, into another saucepan. It can be made one day ahead at this point. 

Straining the soup
Cut the remaining 3 corn tortillas in half, then cut crosswise into ¼ inch strips.  In a medium saucepan, heat ½ inch of oil over medium heat to 350-degree F. Use a thermometer if you can. If unavailable, the hot oil will shimmer when ready and you could test an edge of one tortilla piece to ensure it sizzles vigorously. Turn down the heat if the oil smokes. Add half of the tortilla strips, stir them around in the oil nearly constantly until they are golden brown and crispy.  With a slotted spoon, scoop them out and drain on paper towels.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Frying tortillas in too little oil is always disappointing; they never crisp evenly and always seem grease-soaked. There is an alternative though if the classic tortilla soup beckons but the smell of hot oil discourages. Heat the oven to 375 degree F.  Spread your cut tortillas in a single layer on a baking sheet and spray or lightly brush with oil and toss to evenly coat. Set in the oven and bake, stirring around every couple of minutes until lightly browned and crispy, about 8 minutes.
Frying tortilla strips
Assemble garnishes: Cooked chicken, sliced or cubed fresh avocado, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, lime wedges and crisp tortilla chips. Serve the soup in bowls. Allow your guests to add garnishes to their bowls. 

Shredded chicken
Fixin's for the soup
This recipe can easily be modified for a vegetarian soup by substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth.  In lieu of chicken garnish, substitute with 2/3 C chopped zucchini and 2/3 C canned, rinsed and drained black beans.

I have tasted numerous tortilla soups with numerous variations.  However, I always come back to this as the quintessential tortilla soup. For a recipe to survive over such a long time….well there just has to be a reason. It is healthy, quick and easy – especially if you use store-bought rotisserie chicken. It can be made one day ahead and gently reheated before serving with garnishes. Wonderful!