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Crispy, Plump, and Juicy Fried Oysters

19 Feb

Is there anything better than a pipping hot fried oyster? It’s sweet and briney juices just burst in your mouth after you bite through it’s crispy and buttery envelope, all contrasted by the lemony, tangy taste of homemade tarter sauce–Mmm mmm mmm!

I love fried oysters so much that I asked Santa to bring me some for Christmas–and lucky me, his elf Jenna (my wonderful sister-in-law) delivered! (this tells you how behind I am on my blog posts!)

Anyway, these oysters were so delicious they really were little, pipping hot Christmas miracles. If you love fried oysters too, here’s how to create your own little fried Christmas miracles:

Ingredients for Homemade Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tspn Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tspn minced garlic
  • 1/2 tspn anchovy paste
  • 1 tbspn Worcester sauce
  • Tabasco sauce
  • 1 7.5 oz can of roasted red peppers
  • salt and pepper

Check the seafood counter at your local grocery store for freshly shucked oysters by the pint. Jenna found these ones at Costco.

Ingredients for fried oysters:

  • 1 can of Wondra flour (or another brand of very fine flour)
  • Cayenne powder
  • Paprika powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 pints of freshly shucked Oysters (Jenna used Willapoint–for some great info on Oyster varieties I recommend checking out the Oysterpedia iPhone app from one of my favorite restaurants, Mermaid Inn)

Directions for Red Pepper Remoulade:

  • Separate the yolks and whites of 2 eggs and, in a large mixing bowl add the 2 yolks to 1 tspn of Dijon mustard.
  • While whisking the yolks and mustard vigorously, slowly drizzle in about  1 cup of olive oil.  After 2-3 minutes of whisking the mixture will emulsify into a mayo.  It will be thick, tight, and pasty.

Tip: to keep your bowl stationary, use a dish towl to create a "nest" for your mixing bowl that will anchor it while you whisk.

  •  Zest 2 lemons and add the zest to the mayo, then cut the lemons in half and add the juice of the lemons to the mayo as well. This will both loosen up the sauce, so it gets to the right dipping consistency, and add a nice tangy flavor.
  • Chop and mince 3-4 garlic cloves until you have about 1 tspn of minced garlic. Stir the minced garlic, and 1/2 tspn of anchovy paste, into the mixture.
  • Add 1 tbspn of Worcester sauce (or to taste) and 6 shots of Tabasco sauce (or to taste) to the mixture.

Shhh--Worcester sauce is Jenna's secret ingredient--it gives the remoulade a deeper savory flavor.

  • Taste the mixture, then add salt and pepper to taste. The consistency at this point will be that of an aioli.
  • Open 1 7.5 oz can of roasted red peppers, chop and mince them. Add them to the sauce.

Tip: IIf the sauce is too thin for your liking after adding the roasted red peppers, you can add some sour cream or mayo to thicken it up.

Ok, that’s the sauce! Now for the oysters…

Directions for making fried oysters:

  • First, pour in 2 quarts of peanut oil into a deep frier (or pot on the stove) and begin to heat. I like using peanut oil for frying because it has a high smoking point (the temperature to which an oil can be heated before it smokes and discolors—indications of decomposition) which means that it won’t absorb or transfer unsavory flavors into your meal.
  • Then, create the breading mixture by pouring enough Wondra flour into a glass baking dish to coat the oysters, about 3-4 cups.
  • Season your flour by adding salt and freshly cracked pepper, as well as a few dashes of cayenne and paprika powder.
  • Take your 2 pints of freshly shucked oysters and drain some of the liquid off (fun fact–oyster “liquid” is caused oyster liquer). Then, place your oysters into the flour mixture, coat, and toss.

toss your oysters in your flour mixture until they are evenly coated

  • Once your oil has reached 350 degrees F, you’re ready to fry! Before you begin, you may want to prepare a plate with paper towel on it to receive the fried oysters.
  • One at a time, shake any extra flour off of your coated oysters (to keep your oil fresh you want to make sure that the oyster is evenly coated, but there is no extra breading). Then, slip them into the hot oil, making sure not to overcrowd the frier (that way the temp of the oil will stay stable and the oysters will cook quickly and evenly).
    Once the oysters are fried, let them rest for a few seconds on a paper towel, to drain off any additional oil. You’ll know they’re done when they crisp up and turn a nice, golden brown. Enjoy!

Easy and Healthy Friday Night Dinner: Salmon with Roasted Carrots, Sweet Potato, and Colored Cauliflower

10 Sep

Fall semester began this week, and with the first week of classes were some quick take-out meals and half dinners (nothing like a couple handfuls of Kashi cereal). As a result, tonight Trusty and I were craving a healthy, satisfying dinner, and nothing seemed to fit the bill better than a thick piece of fish and some hearty roasted vegetables. So we splurged on two pieces of wild Alaskan King Salmon and picked up some carrots, a sweet potato, and a package of colored cauliflower. Colored cauliflower, you say–what’s that?! We said the same thing. A little research revealed this information:

  • Orange cauliflower contains 25 times the level of Vitamin A in the traditional white variety. The color comes from a natural mutation originally found in cauliflowers grown in a Canadian field in the 1970s.
  • Green cauliflower has been available in the US since the early ’90s. It’s actually cross between broccoli and cauliflower (and to me tastes more like broccoli than cauliflower).
  • Purple cauliflower is caused by the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which also is found in red cabbage and red wine. It has a milder taste than traditional cauliflower, but is still very creamy, sweet, and slightly nutty.

    Delicious and pretty!

The preparation for this meal is wonderfully minimal. And lucky me, Trusty did all the cooking. Basically, you cut, season, then throw everything into the oven. This makes clean-up easy too–everything is roasted on baking sheets covered in aluminum foil, so you just throw the foil away–no scrubbing involved.

Here are our cast of characters: 1 sweet potato, a package of colored cauliflower, 2 carrots, and just under 1 pound of Wild Alaskan King Salmon (not pictured: 1 lemon (he's camera shy)).

Because the veggies will need to cook longer, get them prepped and in the oven first, then prep the salmon. When the veggies have 15 minutes left to cook, slide the salmon into the oven and there will be just enough time for it to cook, then rest, before the veggies finish up and it’s time to eat!

yum yum yum

To prepare the vegetables:

  • First, wash your veggies! Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
  • Slice the carrots and sweet potato into wedges–either quartered or halved depending on the thickness. If you didn’t buy pre-sliced cauliflower, cut it up into florets.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil. This makes for really easy clean-up.
  • Place the carrot and sweet potato wedges on one baking sheet, and the cauliflower on another (this is because the cauliflower take a little longer to cook, so they need their own tray). Drizzle a little olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) and sprinkle salt and pepper over both trays of veggies.  Then, sprinkle some garlic powder over the cauliflower, and some chili powder over the carrots and sweet potatoes (this is only personal preference!).
  • Put both trays in the oven. Sweet potatoes and carrots will need about 30-35 minutes, and the cauliflower will need  about 40 minutes.

To prepare the salmon:

  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and add a dab of olive oil to the spot where you’ll place the fish fillets (this will make it easier to remove them).
  • Sprinkle salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder on the salmon fillets. Slice up a lemon and add some slices on top.

    Cooking salmon in the oven is my favorite way to prepare it, or almost any kind of fish. It's hands-off and fool-proof, as long as you take the salmon out of the oven when the fat begins to appear. In my opinion it's the best way to keep a piece of fish moist, flakey, and flavorful.

  • Put into the oven (preheated to 400°F) for around 10 minutes (these were thicker pieces of salmon–about 1.5 inches–if you have a thinner fillet, you won’t need as much time).  When the fat/protein begins rising to the surface/sides of the fillet (it’s a whitish liquid), remove the fish from the oven and let it rest for 3-5 minutes.

Enjoy!

Look how pink and moist that fish is--YUM! King Salmon is especially delicious because it has a higher oil content, which gives it a rich (but not fishy) flavor and firm meat.

The Last Supper Part 2: Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Remoulade and Spicy Horseradish Cream

23 Aug

Part 2 of my last supper in Minnesota was even better than Part 1, Angel Hair Nets with Scallops and Lobster Sauce, if that’s even possible. Kevin and Jenna made moist, meaty crab cakes with a sweet red pepper remoulade and spicy horseradish cream. Delicious!

These crab cakes would make a fantastic main course or appetizer whether you’re entertaining guests at an elegant affair or throwing a casual dinner party. And it was certainly a very special farewell dinner. Thanks again, Kevin and Jenna. I miss you!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs Alaskan King Crab or Jumbo Lump Crab
  • 2 Tablespoons of Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 6 dashes of Tabasco Sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 bunch of chives
  • 2 tomatoes
  • Paprika
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Canola Oil
  • 1 jar of Roasted Red Pepper
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 jar of horseradish
  • 2-3 Lemons
  • ½ cup of sour cream
  • 1/3 cup of chopped pickled jalapenos
  • ¼ c. chopped cornichons
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Crabcakes

  1. Chop or break up 2 pounds Alaskan King Crab or Jumbo Lump Crab—be careful to remove all shells. Leave somewhat chunky.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the following ingredients to the chunks of crab:  2 T. Dijon Mustard, 2 T. Worcestershire Sauce, 6 dashes Tabasco, 2 eggs.
  3. Chop up the bunch of chives and add this to the crab mixture also.
  4. Dice up the 2 tomatoes and separate the outside layer of the tomato from the seeds. Add only the outside layer to the crab mixture. You don’t want to add the seeds because it the extra moisture will make it hard to form a compact cake with the crab.
  5. Add a pinch of Paprika, salt, and pepper.
  6. Combine all the ingredients (hands are best).
  7. Add breadcrumbs only to the point where the cake will form.  We used about ½ cup or so for this amount.  It is needed to bind with the egg and form the cake.
  8. With your hands, form cakes from the crab mixture. Then dredge the cakes in breadcrumbs.
  9. Put some canola oil in a pan over medium heat (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and saute the cakes until until golden brown on both sides.

    You can see the golden brown color on the cakes at the bottom, while the cakes at the top aren't completely seared.

  10. When the cakes are finished cooking, place them on some thick paper towels to drain off any excess oil.
  11. Place the crab cakes on a large platter and garnish with lemon slices. Serves 6 people with 2-3 crab cakes each.

    You can also sprinkle some extra chopped parsley on the plate for garnish.

Serve with:

These two sauces are the perfect compliment to the delicate sweetness of the crab cakes.

Red Pepper Remoulade

  1. Puree: 4 pieces of Roasted Red Pepper (from jar), 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tsp. horseradish, lemon juice from 1 lemon
  2. Combine in bowl with 1/8 cup chopped cornichons and 1/8 cup lightly bruised capers.
  3. Chop up a handful of flat leaf parsley and add to the sauce.
  4. Taste the sauce, and if needed, season with salt and pepper.
  5. Chill the sauce until ready to serve.

Spicy Horseradish Cream

  1. Combine: ½ c. sour cream, 3 T. horseradish, 1/3 c. chopped pickled jalapenos and ¼ c. chopped cornichons.
  2. Chop up a handful of flat leaf parsley and add to sauce.
  3. Taste and if needed, season with salt and pepper.
  4. Chill until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

The genius chefs, Kevin and Jenna.

Almost gone!

The Last Supper Part 1: Angel Hair Nests with Dry Diver Scallops and Lobster Sauce

19 Aug

I’m sad to say that my summer in Minnesota has come to an end. Now, it’s back to the East coast and grad school.

For my last meal in Minnesota, my wonderful brother Kevin and his partner Jenna (of French Onion Soup fame) prepared an amazing dinner: crab cakes (post coming soon!) and my favorite dish ever: Angel Hair Nests with Dry Diver Scallops and Lobster Sauce. The Angel Hair nests are gently browned and lightly crispy on the outside but soft on the inside, while the Diver Scallops are sweet and tender and the lobster sauce is creamy and rich. The different textures and flavors make one incredible bite of food in your mouth. It’s pretty much as decadent as decadent gets.

We usually get this dish at La Grolla, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in St. Paul, but Kevin and Jenna deconstructed and reverse engineered it à la Top Chef style. Jenna’s plating presentation was absolutely beautiful–seeing and tasting this dish made me think immediately that it would be a great meal for entertaining or for a special occasion, like an anniversary–or, just a normal Wednesday night!  It was such a treat to enjoy this meal with my family before flying so far away. Thanks, Jenna and Kevin!

Angel Hair Nests with Dry Diver Scallops and Lobster Sauce

Ingredients:

  • Angel Hair pasta nests (It’s much easier to buy these already shaped than to make them yourself with just plain Angel Hair. They should be available at your local grocery store.)
  • ¼ cup diced fennel
  • ½ cup  chopped onion
  • 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste
  • ¼ cup sherry wine
  • 2 cups of seafood stock (If you can’t find this, chick stock will do.)
  • ½ cup heavy cream (Or, if you prefer, ¾ cup of half & half is slightly healthier and perfectly creamy enough.)
  • Reserved lobster meat and shells from cooked 1 to 1-1/2 pound lobsters (optional)
  • 1 can of lobster bisque
  • 2 lbs of Dry Diver Scallops (Note: It’s critical to find scallops that are labeled “Dry“–this means they were shucked on a boat, then put into a dry contain without water or preservatives. They have a shorter shelf-life, but this means that they’re fresher when you buy them. The lack of moisture makes their flavor more pure and concentrated, and you will be able to get that beautiful golden sear when you cook them.)
  • Canola Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 bunch of Flat Leaf Parsley chopped
  • 1 bunch of Chives (Optional-for garnish.)

Directions:

You can find Angel Hair nests packaged in the grocery store. They are exactly what they sound like--Angel Hair pasta formed into tight nests.

  1. First, start with the Angel Hair pasta nests. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Then blanch each nest in the boiling water and drain. In the same pot (might as well save yourself some cleaning!) add a small amount of olive oil and heat it with medium heat. Saute the nests in the olive oil to crisp. Season with salt and pepper on both sides while crisping.

    You only want a very small amount of olive oil in the bottom of the pan so the nests crisp and don't become soggy.

  2. After cooking, lay out the nests on a cookie sheet with paper towels to drain off excess oil.
  3. Put the cookie sheet in the oven at a very low heat to keep the nests warm while you prepare the lobster sauce and the scallops.
  4. Next, tackle the lobster sauce. Cook 1 to 1-1/2 pound of lobster (You can use your preferred cooking method. I like to take a frozen lobster tail, defrost it, cut it in half (through the shell) lengthwise, then place it on a cookie sheet with some olive oil and bake it in the oven at 425° for 8-12 minutes or until the lobster is cooked. (You can tell by checking the shell color–it will turn a bright red, and, you’ll see a white protein begin to rise from the meat.)

    Another sign the lobster tail is cooked is that the tail will curl slightly.

  5. De-shell the lobster and set the meat and shells aside for the sauce.
  6. Saute ¼ cup diced fennel and ½ cup  chopped onion until slightly carmelized in olive oil.
  7. Add 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes or so. Deglaze the pan with about ¼ cup sherry wine. This will ensure that your sauce benefits from all those bits of flavor that might be stuck to the surface of the pan.
  8. Add 2 cups (or so) of seafood stock. Bring to a gentle simmer.
  9. Add lobster shells if available. Add ½ cup heavy cream (or about ¾ cup of half & half). Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 8 minutes. Add one container of lobster bisque. Taste. Season with salt & pepper.  Add more cream if desired. If available, cut up lobster meat and add.
  10. Taste. Add more sherry if desired (just make sure to cook a bit more to cook the alcohol off). Adjust.
  11. Turn off the heat but keep the sauce warm until you’re ready to plate by putting a lid on the pot.
  12. Now, let’s prepare the scallops! Put them on a dry paper towel to make sure they are as dry as possible before cooking. The drier the scallop, the better and easier the beautiful brown sear will be on them.
  13. Check all your scallops for any remaining abductor muscles. Here’s what they look like:

    Can you see the muscle on the front right of this scallop? You can also feel the difference.

  14. Just pull the muscle off with your fingers–it should come right off:
  15. Once the scallops are clean, season them with salt and pepper.
  16. Sear them in a hot (not smoking) pan with canola/vegetable oil. A non-stick pan seemed to work best for us. Be sure not to crowd them in the pan–these babies need plenty of room to get nice and brown. When firm to touch (not bouncy) they are done (generally about 3-4 minutes on each side).
  17. All the components are ready! Time to plate! First, finalize the sauce. If you added any shells, strain them out. Then, chop up some flat leaf parsley and add it to the Lobster sauce.

    You want to add the parsley at the last minute so it stays nice and green and fresh in the sauce.

  18. Then, add your lobster sauce to the bottom of a plate. Put a nest in the center of the plate.

    Photo credit: Kevin Doyle

  19. Then, add your scallops, and garnish with chives (optional). Enjoy!

    Jenna's beautiful presentation!

Tuna Ceviche with Fresh Herbs, Candied Ginger and Summer Peaches

3 Aug

Summer is the perfect time for ceviche. It’s a light, nutritious  dish with lots of flavor. And, it’s beyond easy to make.

Ceviche is fish or shellfish that’s been marinated in a citrus-based mixture. Lemons and limes are the most commonly used fruits, but if you look you can find recipes that incorporate oranges or grapefruits. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid in the fruits causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, which pickles or “cooks” the fish completely–without heat. How fun is that.

Start with a fresh piece of good quality fish–this isn’t the time to use something from the freezer since the extra moisture will interfere with the cooking process. For this recipe I used two Ahi tuna steaks.

Tuna Ceviche

Ingredients:

  • 2 Ahi Tuna Steaks
  • 3 lemons
  • 4 limes (set one aside for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons of Sesame Oil
  • 2 tablespoons of Mirin (this is a sweet Japanese cooking wine vinegar made from Sake–you should be able to find it in your neighborhood grocery store)
  • 2 tablespoons of Hot Oil
  • 1/3 cup of peanuts
  • Candied Ginger (also known as crystalized ginger–you should be able to find it in your grocery store, too. Look in the baking aisle.)
  • 2 just-ripe peaches
  • Basil leaves
  • Chives
  • Mint leaves
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. To prepare the marinade, start by placing your two tuna steaks into a baking dish.
  2. Add sesame oil, mirin, and hot oil to the dish–flip the tuna steaks so that the liquid can coat each side.
  3. Slice 3 lemons and 3 limes in half and squeeze them over the tuna (set one lime aside for garnish). You’ll see the steak turn color slightly when it’s hit by the acid in the lemon and lime juice–what you are seeing is the cooking process begin.  Don’t throw the fruits away–the oils in the lemon and limes’ skin will add lots of flavor to the marinade.
  4. Roughly chop up the peanuts and sprinkle over the steaks.

    If you look closely at the steaks, you can see whitish spots where the citric acid has already begun cooking the meat.

  5. Flip the steaks over a couple of times so that each side is doused in the marinade. Then, transfer everything in the baking dish into a large gallon-sized ziplock bag. This should allow the steaks to be submerged in the marinade, so that the meat will undergo the citric acid cooking process.

    Inside the ziplock, the tuna steaks should be partially submerged in the marinade.

  6. Let the tuna marinate until the surface of the meat changes colors completely–this means the cooking process is complete. The time required will vary on the size and thickness of the seafood you’re using. Traditional style ceviche is usually marinated for about 3 hours. But, the longer you leave the meat in the marinade the more it will break down, so you want to take it out before it completely mushifies.  Yes, that is a technical term. For example, small scallops (or if you cut the tuna steak into chunks) will cook faster than one giant steak, since the small pieces have more surface area for the citric acid to penetrate.
  7. While you’re waiting for the tuna to cook, de-skin your peach and cut it into bite sized pieces. You want to use a just-ripe peach that will hold it’s shape after you cut it, not turn to mush. Take out your fresh herbs and do a rough chop for them as well as your candided ginger.
  8. When the cooking process is complete, take your steaks out of the ziplock and roughly cut into bite sized pices. Put the pieces into a mixing dish, add your cut up peaches, chopped herbs and candied ginger, and toss.

    Yum! The herbs add lots of freshness, the peaches add some sweetness, and the candied ginger is the secret ingredient that adds a bit of spiciness.

  9. To present the ceviche, I like to spoon it into little pudding dishes–makes a great side or appetizer.
  10. Slice the remaining lime into wedges. Garnish each dish by placing a lime wedge on the rim.

    This recipe makes 6 appetizer-sized dishes.

    Prepared ceviche-style the tuna will be tender and flavorfull. So yummy! Enjoy!

Manhattan-Style Littleneck Clams

4 Jul

Everyone likes a good deal, especially my Dad. Over the years he’s made bargain hunting his hobby, and he looks forward to an afternoon at Costco the way many women anticipate Barney’s Warehouse Sale. Whenever I visit my parents I enjoy sharing a shopping trip or two with him, and today we brought home Littleneck clams, 5 lbs on sale for $12. Now, what to do with them for dinner? We decided to make Manhattan-style Littleneck Clams. All the flavor of a Manhattan-style rich tomato broth, but without the starchy potatoes of a chowder. It’s light, but hearty. Perfect for a cool summer night.

littleneck clams--eat them the same day you purchase them, and be sure to scrub them thoroughly before using

Manhattan-Style Littleneck Clams

Ingredients:
12 garlic cloves, crushed
4 shallots, diced
1 large yellow onion, cut
1/4 cup of Sherry cooking wine
Half of a 6 oz. can of Tomato Paste
4 tablespoons of horseradish
One 4 oz. container of Calamares squid pieces
1 lemon
1/2 cup of Artichoke hearts, marinated in oil
2 cups of white wine (we used Chardonnay)
dash of browning liquid (about 1-2 tablespoons. If you don’t have browning liquid, use Worcestershire sauce.)
dash of liquid smoke*
5 lbs of Littleneck Clams
3 teaspoons fresh basil, roughly chopped
3 teaspoons fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

*I use liquid smoke because I’m a vegetarian–this adds some delicious smokiness to the flavor profile of the broth. But, if you’re a meat eater, by all means feel free to substitute 4 slices of bacon instead of using liquid smoke. If you do, chop up the bacon slices and brown them in the pan while you’re sweating the onions (step 3 below).

Directions:

1. Smash the garlic cloves and dice the shallots. Put them into a large pot with several generous dashes of olive oil, set the heat to medium.
2. Cut up the onion and add it to the pot. Let the onions, garlic and shallots cook until the onions turn translucent and begin to brown just a tad.
3. When the onions are browned, de-glaze the pot by adding the sherry cooking wine.
4. Next, add the tomato paste and the horseradish. Give the pot a good stir until all the ingredients are incorporated.
5. Add the container of the squid pieces. This will transform the developing broth from a deep red color to a rich brown.
6. Cut the lemon in half, squeeze the juice into the pot, and then add the lemon itself.
7. Add the artichokes, a dash of browning liquid, a dash of liquid smoke*, then the white wine. Give the pot a big stir, then let it simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. The liquid should reduce slightly.
8. Add the clams to the pot and cover. Keep the flame on low heat and simmer for 8-12 minutes. Keep an eye on them–when the steam has cooked the clams they will open up on their own.

love the bright colors

Garnish with roughly chopped basil and cilantro, and enjoy with a slice of thick, crusty bread and a glass of white wine!