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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fish and Corn Chowder

Winter does not transition nicely into spring here in the Rockies. We've had temps in the 70's this week, but winter is lurking right around the corner. Actually, it's here! There's over a foot of snow in my yard and it's still coming down. Which means it's the perfect time for a hearty soup.

This is a very hearty soup, full of chunks of fish and potatoes. It's a meal in a bowl. I adapted it from a Jasper White chowder recipe. If you ever have a chance to eat at one of his Summer Shack restaurants (in Boston, Cambridge, and the Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut), do! It's the lobster shack to beat all lobster shacks. They carry a wide variety of New England-style seafood, not just lobster.

Fish and Corn Chowder
(serves 4-6)

2 oz. salt pork, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon flour
2 cups fish stock
1 pound Yukon Gold or red potatoes, sliced ¼" thick
1+ teaspoons salt
½-1 teaspoon black pepper
1½ cups whole milk
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1½ pounds cod fillets, cut in large chunks

Optional garnishes: chopped chives, thyme leaves, oyster crackers

Heat a soup pot over low heat. Add the salt pork and cook gently until it starts to render its fat. Raise heat to medium and cook pork bits until crispy and golden. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and reserve for garnish. Add the butter, onion, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and golden. Do not brown. If they start to brown, reduce the heat. Add the flour, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of stock, stirring constantly, until soup thickens. It will be very thick. Add the 2nd cup of stock, again stirring, until the soup reaches a simmer. Add the potatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. If the stock doesn't cover the potatoes, add enough water to keep potatoes submerged. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook for 15 minutes.

Taste for salt. It's hard to say how much you will need because there is a variable amount of salt in any commercial fish stock (and none added to homemade, usually) and the salt pork adds a lot too. You want the soup to be somewhat salty at this stage. You will be adding milk and fish and you want the soup to season them up.

Add the milk and corn. Heat soup until hot but do not boil. Add the fish and cook gently until fish is cooked, about 5 minutes. Taste one more time and add more salt and black pepper, if needed. The soup should be highly seasoned with pepper. Don't make it too salty, though, if you are garnishing with the salt pork bits.

To serve, garnish with salt pork bits, if desired. They are salty little bits of crunch but they are salty. You can also sprinkle on some chopped chives and fresh thyme for a bit of color. Oyster crackers are always a nice touch with chowder.

Adapted from a recipe in 50 Chowders by Jasper White, Scribner, 2000.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Eggplant with Mushroom-Yogurt Stuffing

This is a delicious meatless entreé for 4 or a side dish for 8. The mushrooms give it a meaty texture and flavor. It's very hearty for a vegetarian dish, especially one that doesn't include any cheese.

I like to spray the bread crumb topping with non-stick cooking spray. It helps the crumbs brown up nicely while adding very little fat. If you want a richer, crispier topping, you can combine the crumbs with 2 Tablespoons melted butter before spreading them onto the eggplant.

You can stuff the eggplants ahead of time and bake them later. You'll need to bake them a bit longer to make sure the center is piping hot, however.

Eggplant with Mushroom-Yogurt Stuffing
(serves 4 as an entreé or 8 as a side dish)

2 large eggplants, 1 to 1¼ pound each, cut in half lengthwise
4 scallions, white and green tops, chopped
½ pound coarsely chopped mushrooms
1 medium carrot, grated
½ teaspoon dried thyme
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
¾ to 1 cup Greek low-fat or full-fat unflavored yogurt
1½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup panko bread crumbs
non-stick cooking spray

Spray a 9"x5" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Bring a couple of inches of water to a boil in a large pot with a steamer basket. Place the eggplant halves in the steamer and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the steamer and allow to cool until you can handle them. Remove the pulp, being careful not to tear the skin. Chop the pulp coarsely, season with ¼ teaspoon salt and set aside. Place the eggplant shells in the baking dish and season them with ¼ teaspoon salt.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, mushrooms, and carrots. Sauté for 5 minutes until carrots are limp and the mushrooms have started to lose their liquid. Lower heat to low. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for another minute. Stir in the yogurt and chopped eggplant. Season with the rest of the salt and pepper. Taste for seasonings and add more salt if needed.

Fill each eggplant half with ¼ of the filling. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons panko crumbs on each eggplant half. Moisten with a generous dose of non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until crumbs are browned and filling is very hot.

Adapted from The Good Cook: Vegetables, Time-Life Books, 1979.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Removing the Skin from Salmon Filet

A while back, a reader asked about skinning salmon (thanks Linda!). I explained the process in the comments, but I wanted to find a video of it. It's hard to describe the process - here, a (moving) picture is worth a thousand words. Unfortunately, it's not as simple to skin a piece of filet as it is to skin a whole side. Can be done and in the following video, she demonstrates both removing the skin from a whole side and a piece of filet. This technique works for any type of fish; I used it last night to skin a whole side of mahi-mahi (a fish where the skin is definitely inedible).

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Corned Beef and Cabbage Shepherd's Pie

Here's a recipe I created for a St. Patrick's Day cooking class. Nope, nothing traditional about this. But, it sure is tasty! Get your corned beef in the deli - you can buy a small amount of it and it's already cooked. Or, if you cook a whole corned beef for St. Patty's Day, you can reserve a little bit for this recipe. It's a good way to stretch a small amount of leftover meat into a hearty meal.

St. Patrick's Day Shepherd's Pie
(serves 6)

non-stick cooking spray
1 pound carrots chopped
1 cup chicken broth, preferably unsalted or low-sodium
¼ medium head of cabbage, cored and chopped (about ¾ pound)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed
7 oz. corned beef, chopped
2 Tablespoons oil
2 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
¼ cup milk
2 Tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400° F. Spray an 11x7x2" baking dish with cooking spray.

Place the carrots and chicken broth in a 3-4 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until carrots tender, about 15 minutes. Place the cabbage, peas, and pearl onions in a large bowl. Start the potatoes cooking in a large pot of water.

When the carrots are done, pour them and the cooking liquid over the other vegetables.Place the saucepan back over medium heat. Add the oil. Sprinkle in the flour and mix with oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the vegetables, all the liquid in the bowl, corned beef, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix to combine and pour into baking dish.

When the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes), drain them, and put back in the pot. Add milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Mash until fairly smooth. Spread on top of filling. Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle on shredded cheese and bake until cheese has melted.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Stir-fried Mustard Cabbage

Cabbage is going to be very cheap soon. Every year for St. Patrick's Day, cabbage drops in price. Cabbage isn't exactly expensive to begin with, but around March 17, you can often find it for 19 cents a pound! Who says you need to use it for corned beef?

Here's an Indian take. It can be served hot or warm.

Stir-fried Mustard Cabbage
(serves 8)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 clove garlic, minced
a pinch to ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ pounds green cabbage (about ½ a medium head), thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup minced fresh or frozen cilantro
⅓ cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and immediately cover the plan. When they get hot enough, the seeds will start to pop and they will go shooting all over your kitchen. The cover keeps them contained.

As soon as they start to pop, add the turmeric, garlic, crushed red pepper, and salt. Stir for 10 seconds. Add the cabbage and toss with spices and oil to coat. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook cabbage until it starts to wilt, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, cilantro, and coconut. Toss to combine and serve.

Adapted from Moghul Microwave: Cooking Indian Food the Modern Way by Julie Sahni, William Morrow and Company, 1990.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Turkey Pasta Fagioli Soup

Turkey soup loaded with all sorts of good stuff!
About this time in late winter, I look in my freezer and discover the cache of turkey stock I made with the Thanksgiving turkey carcass. Before the warm weather returns, it needs to be reincarnated as a delicious soup. Though the weather isn't nearly as cold now, it can still be blustery, wet, and excellent "soup weather." This recipe makes a lot of soup, but you can make a half batch if you don't want so much of it. The full batch is great for a party!

I created this soup to use up the stock and some frozen cooked turkey too. It's a meal in a pot, with white beans, pasta stars, and lots of vegetables. If you don't have cooked turkey in your freezer, get thickly sliced deli turkey breast and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Turkey Pasta Fagioli Soup
(serves 12)

3 oz. pancetta, diced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, cut into half-moon slices
1 stalk of celery, sliced plus ½ cup chopped celery leaves (or use 2 stalks)
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon salt (if using a salted stock, use 1½ teaspoons)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled or use 1 6" long sprig of fresh rosemary
2 cups diced tomatoes, either fresh or canned
10 cups turkey stock
¾ cup pasta stars (or any other small pasta shape like alphabet pasta)
1 14-oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
8 oz. cooked turkey, chopped into bite sized pieces
freshly ground pepper plus any of these optional garnishes: grated Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, extra-virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the pancetta fat renders out. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sauté until onions are wilted. Add pepper, salt, bay leaf, rosemary, tomatoes, and turkey stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Partially cover and cook for 45 minutes. Add the beans and cooked turkey.

While the beans and turkey are getting hot in the soup, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente (check the box for the time needed for your pasta shape). Drain well. Once everything in the soup is hot, add the pasta. Taste for salt. Add garnishes as you serve the soup.