monkfish, tacos, wild blueberries

Dinner 7/29/09

It started with a quick stop by the Wednesday Farmers Market in Monument Square. A few bulbs of garlic, some red skinned potatoes and a pint of wild picked blueberries from Snell Farms. Later that day, while picking some things up at Whole Foods, I finally gave into the urge to buy some Monkfish, a fish I have never prepared or eaten. I’ve seen it so many times at whole foods and Harbor but, honestly, was always intimidated by it. Part of it is due to the fact that I just don’t cook fish very often and when I do it’s haddock, salmon or halibut. Some research gave insight to the mild, buttery flavor of the fish and, since I kept coming across references to it being a ‘poor man’s lobster,’ I decided to make taco’s with it.

Tacos? Yes, fucking tacos. One, I’ve been eying the talk of the Lobster Taco’s at Grace. Two, I know how to make taco’s and, without prior experience with this ingredient, I wanted to be in a bit of my comfort zone.

The pint of blueberries would be split between a salsa for the fish and a blueberry cream pie, something I make every year when the blueberries hit the market.
The recipes I used are:

Blueberry Salsa

– serves 4 to 6 –
Adapted from My Own Sweet Thyme.

2 cups fresh blueberries, coarsely chopped
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Combine ingredients in a small bowl and let sit for twenty to thirty minutes for flavors to blend.

2. Serve with tortilla chips or over grilled meat as a relish.

****I added a bit of local honey to it as the berries were just a hair under being sweet enough for me.

Monkfish Taco

For Tacos:
2 8-10 oz whole monkfish filets, roughly triangular in shape *
Dry Rub (see recipe below)
1 oz canola oil
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of ½ lemon
Ground Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper To Taste
Serves: 4 – 6 people

Dry Rub:
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ancho chili powder
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cayenne

To Prepare Fish:
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. One a large plate, coat monkfish filets liberallywith dry rub. Heat oven proof, large skillet over medium to medium-high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat pan. Place fish carefully in pan, and sear on all sides about 15-20 seconds per side until nice color develops. Turn off heatbeneath pan, citrus juices, and then place in oven to finish cooking,about 3-5 minutes. Remove fish from oven and pan, slice into medallions. Seasonwith sea salt and fresh pepper.

**with this, I used a prepared spice rub.

Blueberry Salsa

Rubbed down fish

Added an avocado creme fraiche to it


The Blueberry Cream Pie recipe can be found here.

All in all, they were out of this world, though next time I would add some type of slaw to it as it was greatly needing some sort of crunch.

corned beef, pickling, tongue

Corned Beef Tongue–The Adventure Begins

Friday night we picked up some food from Duckfat and, yet again, they were out of the beef tongue on the menu. Luckily enough, I managed to find one from Cold Spring Ranch, North New Portland, ME amongst the frozen organ meat at Whole Foods and have decided to make my own. Sure, it won’t be ready until next Friday, but I’m hoping it is worth both the work and time.

This is the recipe that I’m using:

River Cottage Corned Beef Recipe

The brine:
5 quarts water
4 to 6 pound piece of beef (brisket or flank)
1 pound demerara or light brown sugar
3 pounds coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon juniper berries
5 cloves
4 bay leaves
A sprig of thyme
3 tablespoons saltpeter (optional)

For the actual cooking:
1 bouquet garni
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1⁄2 garlic bulb

Put all the ingredients for the brine into a large saucepan and stir well over low heat until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Bring to a boil, allow to bubble for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.

Place your chosen piece of beef in a nonmetallic container, such as a large Tupperware box or a clay crock. Cover the meat completely with the cold brine, weighting it down if necessary with a piece of wood. Leave in a cool place (a place under 40F, such as the refridgerator) for 5 to 10 days. Joints of less than 6 pounds should not be left for more than a week or they will become too pickled.

Before cooking, remove the beef (or tongue) from the brine and soak it in fresh cold water for 24 hours, changing the water, at least once (you could make that 48 hours if it had the full 10-day immersion). Then put it in a pan with the bouquet garni, vegetables, and garlic, cover with fresh water, and bring to a gentle simmer. Poach very gently on top of the stove—or in a very low oven (275ºF) if you prefer. A 6 pound piece of beef will take 21⁄2 to 3 hours. Cook until the meat is completely tender and yielding when pierced with a skewer.

Serve hot corned beef carved into fairly thick slices, with lentils, beans, horseradish mash, or boiled potatoes, and either creamed fresh horseradish or good English mustard.

And this is the tongue:

cheese, cheese plate, fromage

Saturday Night Cheese

I’m going to out myself right now–I’m a cheese lover. Hard core, unapologetic Turophile. Now, my reason for coming out has been on the heels of what seems to be a rash of cheese related postings from some local posters(PFH, BBF and TAD). I salivated at every picture, having instant recollections of what those cheeses tasted like to me. I subscribe to cheese magazines and even keep a list of all of the cheeses I’ve tasted over the past few years (though I have to admit I’m behind in my cheese ‘logs’–which was so disgustingly punny that I’m a bit ashamed at myself for not going back to erase the words).
So, on the heels of envy, I went out tonight and splurged on a few cheeses. As the Mrs. is house sitting this is a purely indulgent treat for 1. All cheeses were purchased at Whole Foods & K Hortons and cost around $5-$7/quarter pound.

Starting from the 12 o’clock position on the plate: Old Shiretown from Hahn’s End Farm in Phippsburg, ME; Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery, Marin, CA with local blue/strawberry jam; Fleur De Marquis unknown maker in Corsica; Saint Vernier by Jean Perrin Comte, France with Sparky’s Raw Honey from Hope, ME; Honey Lavender Fromage Blanc from Nettle Meadows in Warrensburg, NY. I’ve arranged them in order of mildest>strongest. In what would normally be the place for a blue cheese, the final spot, I’ve put the Fromage Blanc because of the dominant floralness of the lavender.

The Old Shiretown can be described as a raw milk cheddar, aged around 3-6 months. It’s creamy, but the salt of this batch is just a bit too much. However, the raw milk is intense and the overall flavor is a bit like an English Farmhouse Cheddar. Hahn’s End won numerous awards a couple of years ago at the American Cheese Society Awards, sweeping the ‘Open Cow’ category with all the top finishers. This was purchased at K. Hortons in the Public Market House. K’s has several of their cheeses, including the much coveted, Blue Velvet. All of their cheeses go for around $25/# and are, in my opinion, well worth it.

Pierre Robert. Brillat Savarian. Constant Bliss. Delice de Bourgogne. Delice D’Argental. Some of the richest, sinfully amazing triple creme cheeses in the world. For me one of the best domestically made ones is Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery. In the few minutes it’s taken me to write down five cheeses, I’ve already eaten all of the Mt. Tam. Topped with a simple jam, made by a friend with some fruits of their CSA share, it’s easier than a Sunday morning. It’s butter wrapped in a slightly bitter rind. It never gets as loose as many of the above, keeping its firmness while picking up a slightly looser body as it ages. It’s heaven and my fondness for it will be one of the factors of my early death.

Fleur du Maquis is one of the few herb enrobed cheeses that I’ve come across that hasn’t struck me as woodsy, or old herb, tasting. Right away the texture strikes me as a bit like a creamier Ricotta Salata, though definitely less salty. It’s actually feeling a bit chalky and there is a slight acidity at it’s finish which I’m not quite sure about. But, at the beginning, you’re hit with a slight sweetness mixed with rosemary and thyme. Hmm…

The fourth, Saint Vernier, is a completely new one for me. I’ve never heard of it nor have seen it at any of the local stores. First it looks like a mini Époisses de Bourgogne, with it’s rust orange washed rind, and has a bit of a nose like it. Even the looseness, cutting it from the disc, reminds me of it. With it being 1/4th the cost, I thought it was definitely worth the try. It’s not as forward as the Jasper Hill Winnemere or the Époisses, but it does have a subtle sourness. Paired with the raw honey, the saltiness is balanced out and the paste tastes like a double creme brie. I definitely liked this pairing.

Finally, the sweetest, and only goat cheese on the plate: Honey Lavender Fromage Blanc by Nettle Meadows. I Fucking Love This Cheese. I’m currently just scooping it up with my fingers as I write this and somehow managing not to drop a bit of it. This is exactly the last taste I want to have after four other cheeses. Slight sweetness with a floral, but not soapy, kick. I find lavender is hard to work with because if its flavor is too prominent it tastes like you’ve just had your mouth washed out with Dove. Not what I want in my food. This is just enough to let you know it’s there. And the texture is just light enough, but rich enough, to not weigh you down after eating a quarter pound of cheese in one sitting.

So, an hour later and my belly is quite happy. The Old Shiretown was a bit disappointing because of how salty it was, but it wasn’t a bad cheese–I would just recommend some of their other cheeses over it. The Saint Vernier was definitely a nice surprise and one that I’ll look for again when in the mood for a washed rind.

baking, baking while baked, mango nectarine, southern buckle

Mango Nectarine Buckle

This past Wednesday night, amongst the Papaya and Limes at Whole Foods, I found a ‘new to me’ fruit: the Mango Nectarine. I am easily drawn to unknown and shiny new food things and quickly picked out two pounds of ripened pieces.

Normally, when I eat nectarines, I tend to serve them with yogurt, sweetened mascarpone or creme fraiche as it’s a simple quick snack for two people. When I have the munchies, insomnia and all ingredients on hand I’ll make a good sized buckle. Which is exactly what I did yesterday on my day off.

I always use this Gourmet recipe for Blueberry and Nectarine Buckle, just doubling up on the nectarines when it’s not blueberry season.

Over the past few years I can say that I’ve made a dozen or so buckles and this one, which was done no different than the previous ones, was my best so far. The cake was dense and spongy, the fruit not sickenly sweet and streusel just crisp enough.

There was one issue, though. I had wanted some sweet cream mascarpone to go with it and bought some a few weeks back which I had frozen. Stupid me. Stupid, stupid me. When it came out defrosted it had turned from smooth and creamy to curdy and ricotta like. However, gluttony wasn’t stopped as I just whipped it with a bit of confectioners sugar and put some on the side.

Now the new shiny nectarine tasted much like every other nectarine that I’ve had, albeit a bit sweeter. Apparently their season is very short and won’t be around much past the beginning of August, so now is the time to try them if you haven’t.