Thursday, July 29, 2010

Halibut Hash (Page 56)

July in Southeast has been more than a little rainy, and cold. That didn't stop us from heading west of Juneau 40 miles to Gustavus for a weekend of paddling. We even managed to fit in a visit to the James Beard culinary award-winning Gustavus Inn, where most the ingredients are from the backyard garden or locally harvested seafood. Mmm, good.

Buying local: Pep's Packing was a delight to visit. Talk about a sign collection!
Not pictured: BP executive mannequin smooshed beneath the garage door.

The halibut for this meal came from Pep's Packing. Pep's is owned by Pep, who is from Gustavus, and nicknamed for her energy (and her fish processing storefront is aptly covered in Pepsi brand signs). It's the go-to place for fish in Gustavus. The day before making Halibut Hash (page 56), our group had gone paddling from Bartlett Cove in just about the rainiest day of the summer. This Saturday morning, we were in search of comfort food in hopes of postponing our planned overnight paddling trip until the mist subsided and we might actually catch a glimpse of Glacier Bay's beautiful mountains.

Fresh halibut from Pep's. They also have great smoked fish.

The scramble is hard to mess up. Cook the fish, whip the eggs, mix the veggies, and you've got a hearty Alaskan breakfast. Be careful to cook your potatoes before you through them in with the opaque onions. I cooked everything up in one cast iron pan. The wine and cream adds a nice, rich flavor. We'd been frothing soy milk for our lattes all morning, and so it was frothed soy milk that went in with the whipped eggs. Of course anything with wild Alaskan halibut will be delicious. We topped ours with homemade kelp salsa. One feature of the local coastline is the prolific kelp beds, home to many a sea otter and the source for this delicious condiment.

Good ol' cast iron: hash is a one-pan dish

Hearty Hash. Mm, good.

It worked! After a cozy day inside cooking honey yogurt scones and halibut hash and napping, VOILA! Dry skies come evening paddle time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

This post is not about salmon (whole wheat bran bread)

See this counter top?

A clean counter. No hint of the chaos that preceded this picture

48 hours ago, this counter top piled high with salmon. A 36-hour trip to the Kenai had been good to us and we had to process about 125 lbs of fresh sockeye salmon. This means filleting, trimming and vacuum sealing. For hours on end. It's tiring, smelly, and not very fun. 

24 hours ago, this counter top was covered in salmon in big bowls of brine, getting ready to stick in the smoker. That's also quite labor-intensive, but after the "slime line" of filleting, it's actually quite pleasant.

Consequently, it might seem expected that this post would be about a salmon dish. Perhaps poached salmon dijonnaise? Veronique? Grilled with Lime, Sesame and Ginger Butter, perhaps? So many to choose from, I know.

But after a kitchen full of raw salmon for almost three days straight, the thought of it made me a little queasy. Ironic? Yes. Sad? Maybe. Changeable? No. Sue me, I didn't eat any of that salmon fresh.

 I made bread instead.

Mise en place

Because I'm heading into a busy couple of weeks, I decided to double the recipe and make one loaf and 12 rolls. So, I started out pouring the molasses, water and yeast in this bowl, which was currently taking a break from brining. You know when you just get a feeling that something yeasty is about to... well.. grow? I definitely got this feeling here. I don't know if the molasses gave it a little extra kick, but as soon as I saw the yeast bloom, I knew where this was going. Big big loaves of bread!

It's alive!

I added some of the flour, and- What? I have to beat this batter for 10 minutes? Look, I'm a pretty strong kneader/whisker, but TEN MINUTES? Into the KitchenAid! (The bowl needed a break, anyway).

That sponge rested, while I played with my new iPad. Again- this sponge was just so lively, it doubled in about 20 minutes. 

I added more flour, oil, salt and... wait, did the recipe say bran? Crap. For some reason I wrote down "wheat germ". Um... I don't really know why my brain did that, but whatever. I went with it. I added wheat germ instead of bran (I'd like to see if I can get through this project without a substitution of something) and carried on. Some light kneading later --I assume this is because the 10 minutes of beating built up a healthy amount of gluten-- and it went back into the big original bowl, because as I said, this dough is gonna rise. And rise it did. And then I forgot to take a picture. 

The recipe says if you have time, you can punch down the dough for a second rising. It was a lazy Saturday, so I did that. I took the now-monstrous dough out of my oven (which is gas, so even when it's off, the pilot light keeps it toasty warm). I divided the dough in two, rolling out and rolling up half according to the directions. The other half I pulled off little balls and put them in a greased muffin tin. It came out pretty perfect, actually. Now, I remember seeing a video where someone demonstrates the proper technique for kneading and pulling dough for rolls, but I didn't do that. Mostly because I forgot about that video until I sat down to type this entry.

Ready for rise numero tres

So everything went back into the "cool" oven for another rise (that's number three if you're keeping track). I pulled it out after 25 minutes or so, and looky here- I think they proofed pretty good, huh? I dusted the tops with more wheat germ and stuck them in the oven.

Lookin' good!

The rolls came out of the oven 20 minutes later, and the bread about 40. The bread was indeed very very tall for a regular loaf. I look forward to nice big sandwiches. The rolls- which I had to try to make sure they were alright to take to a dinner party tonight- had a great crunchy crust, and nice crumb and a good flavor. The molasses was a nice touch- I always feel like it deepens the flavor some- and was excellent with butter and the last jar of last year's jam.


A nice break from salmon. But here's just a little tease of the fun we had this week. Or at least what made the "fun" all worth it.

Salty-sweet smoked salmon bellies. Is there anything better? I don't think there is!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Breaking News: Woman Swoons, Brownies at Fault

If there was a press release that came out everytime that happened...! Swooning, or maybe going weak in the knees, is exactly what happened to me when I took my first bite of the Fiddlehead Brownies (pg. 176) last night.

Melting the chocolate and butter.

There's something about melting chocolate - maybe the smell - that just drives me crazy. I've been on a chocolate kick for the past couple of weeks - pouring through the recipes in my all chocolate cook book. Our little yurt has been over-heated almost every night and has almost permanently taken on the strong smells of cocoa, butter and cream. Ganache, frosting, sunday topper, cake, and now brownies.
While the chocolate was melting (be sure to keep stirring), I had the mixer beating up the eggs. When you check out this recipe for yourself you will be astounded by the number of eggs called for. I have never used this many eggs for brownies (my quick and easy recipe is mixed over heat on the stove and only uses 2-3 eggs), but I am absolutely sure that the whipped eggs are what make these brownies so special.

Whipped eggs

Hold onto your apron strings everyone! This is going to get intense.

The batter was very smooth but also thick and a little foamy from the beaten eggs. I carefully folded in the melted chocolate and butter and added the chopped nuts. This recipe really makes a lovely batter.

Batter in pan and ready for oven.

I have always steered clear of baking my brownies in a shallow pan. Mostly because I love a thick gooey browny and it seems like my brownies always get too crunchy in a shallow pan. However, that's what the Fiddlehead cookbook called for - so in the interest of actually testing it out for this blog, I pulled out my thin baking pan (essentially a cookie sheet with sides). After preping the pan (butter and flour), I poured the delectable batter into the pan and slid it into the oven to cook.

Fiddlehead brownies à la mode with home-made
chocolate sunday sauce. Ready, set, swoon!

Perfect. Absolutely, deliciously perfect! These brownies were gooey with a bit of crunch on the side pieces. As I took that first bite, I closed my eyes savoring the texture and flavor, feeling my knees go a little weak...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Honey-Yogurt Scones (page 156)

Mmmm...Saturday morning scones! (Confession: it was barely Saturday morning)

I can't remember the last time I had a weekend morning at home to bake something for breakfast. My husband and I take advantage of the weekends for our summer adventures, but I decided I needed a weekend at home. I knew I was going to bake these scones - I love, love, LOVE them!

I made a few substitutions. I used low-fat vanilla yogurt - a little healthier and a little sweeter.

And I used raisins instead of currants. Come to think of it - I've never even seen a currant.

I used two of my favorite kitchen tools for these scones - a Silpat (which I swear by for all my baking) and my dough scaper/scone slicer (I don't know what it's really called).

My husband likes to eat them with butter and jam, but I like them plain. In my opinion, they don't need anything else. :)

Like most other Fiddlehead recipes, these require a small number of ingredients, are relatively quick to make, and are super yummy. I highly recommend them!

Poached Salmon Dijonnaise (Pages 102-103)

I used Southeast sockeye for the Poached Salmon Dijonnaise (Pages 102-103). It's simple and very tasty--I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a new way to cook their fish.

Browning the sockeye filets

The blending of white wine (I used a dry riesling) with dijon is the key to this dish, giving the mushrooms & sauce strong flavor with a bit of a bite.

Easy on the dishwasher: all the magic happens in one saucepan

Be cautious not to cook all the wine off on the stove--I was left with little liquid to bake with the fish, and none leftover to blend with the cream for the serving sauce. I did a little improv with the cream sauce, which really ties the whole dish together.

Cream sauce over poached salmon with mushroom-dijon sauce--all atop a bed of hearty rice

A mix of brown, organic & wild rice added great texture and flavor--the perfect bed to lay the sockeye on.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lamb (Chicken) Curry starring Garam Masala

Do you have a Lamb List? If you don't already, start one now. Keep a list of the people you know who like lamb. With its strong and distinct flavor (and polarizing moral grounds), a palatte either loves or hates the meat. I was having guests over who aren't lamb eaters, but it was a midweek meal and I had a hankering for curry. I decided to substitute chicken for lamb and cook the Fiddlehead's Lamb Curry, the poultry version.

My mortar & pestle came in handy for grinding the roasted spices

I made Garam Masala out of the cookbook's pantry items section. Nutmeg from the whole, cardamom, cumin, pepper and more, I crushed all in my mortar with pestle and baked away. Talk about aroma therapy. Now this is the problem with cooking blogs: you cannot smell a cooking blog, and therefore miss out on the intoxicating, mouth watering smells coming from my kitchen when I roasted these spices together.

A wide variety of spices baked and blended together

The curry came together nicely. It's very creamy and rich. Serve it with yogurt and chutney as called for in the recipe--it adds a nice contrasting coolness.

Voila! Chicken curry served with chutney and yogurt

I'm just now starting my Lamb List, so if you love baby sheep for dinner, let me know and I'll add you. And the next time I'll do lamb curry with lamb.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lime, Sesame and Ginger Salmon

It was a wonderful surprise when I discovered that our local meat market had fresh Copper River salmon in stock. Those of you who live near the ocean and have fresh seafood at your disposal will have a hard time relating to the delight that we land-locked folks experience when we get our hands on fresh fish. Delicious fatty river fish - what has been described to me as "slowly-rotting-to-death-fish." Despite some harsh criticism, river salmon is nutritious and delicious in it's own ways. River salmon, in my experience, contains more of those healthy oils that help the fish retain moisture when cooking, and the meat is darker and stronger in flavor. Now that I have adequately defended my salmon purchase...let's get down to business.

Right away I realized that some adjustments were needed for the Grilled Salmon with Lime, Sesame, and Ginger Butter (pg. 100). First off - I don't usually keep specialty wines, liquors, etc in stock since they tend to spoil or freeze before I've finished using the typically epensive bottle of spirits. I opted to skip the vermouth and in place of it use a mix of dry white wine and rice wine vinegar. These, I felt, would be a good substitution given the Oriental salad dressing I was whipping up for the salad and lime barley pilaf.

Salmon prepped for oven

Now that my garden is producing mass quantities of herbs, I chose to use fresh parsely and thyme rather than the dried herb called for in the recipe. I don't really feel that this counts as a subtitute or alteration of the recipe since fresh is always best!

Butter with ginger and lime
Since I'm not a fan of leftover salmon (tastes too fishy when stored in fridge after it's cooked), I purchased two thin fillets. Perfect for four hungry people who had been working outside all day. Since they were so thin, I decided to bake them in a hot oven - 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. I would have loved to use the broiler, but I have not perfected the use of it in my gas range. With the large amounts of liquid from the marinade, and the oily nature of this salmon, I was not worried about it drying out (plus, it's hard to overcook salmon in just 15 minutes!).

I LOVE butter - just sayin. After draining the marinade, I drizzled the herb butter over the top was amazing!

Salmon, mixed green salad with green onion and
oriental dressing, and Alaska barley pilaf

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies. You can't go wrong. With their classic flavor, any version of this cookie bakes up their simple pleasure. Fiddlehead's recipe doesn't stray far from the standard goodness with Old-Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies. These classic cookies hit the spot on a classic rainy Juneau day.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Zucchini Provencal

On a typical day, I get home from work, him and haw and bit before getting myself out the door for a run, and then I come home ravenous and throw together whatever looks like a coherent meal. Doing my weeks grocery shopping on the weekends allows me to do this, with maybe just a mid-week pick up of an item or two. So, having finished my run and finding myself predictably ravenous, I decided to cook up some zucchini provencal. Quick, easy, delicous!

Its dishes like these that make me LOVE my mandolin slicer for quicker, more even cooking. Each one, perfect!

Tomato, and zucchini blending together nicely!

This time around there were some lovely Southeast side stripe to go along with it. SO sweet and tender, sputtering in a little butter, and garlic. Dinner is done!
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