Salt Cod, Potato, and Tomato

I’m not sure exactly how the whole “cook twenty four hours straight” shtick managed to float itself to the top of my brain pan, but somehow we managed to pull it off and it’s time I went through and described the process and results for each recipe completed.  First up, Salt Cod, Potato, and Tomato.

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Here’s a picture of my trunk space full of all the ingredients we needed for the 24 hour cook-a-thon. A total of four grocery stores were visited in a span of about two hours. It felt oddly similar to this:

 

As midnight crept closer and closer, I started trying to figure out which recipes I could do on my own and which ones needed the touch of a professional.  The Salted Cod, Potato and Tomato recipe was fairly straight forward and similar enough to the Salt Cod, Little Gem and Tomato salad I’d made last year that I felt confident starting with it. When the clock stuck twelve, I began.

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The tomatoes and garlic needed to be roasted, which would remove moisture and sweeten both.  The tomatoes were cut in half and the green hard piece removed as that part is tough and not much fun to gnaw on.  My wife was more than happy to lend me a hand by peeling and trimming the ends off the garlic, and when she was finished we placed both the tomatoes and garlic in an ovenproof pan.

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Salt, pepper and a healthy dash of olive oil joined the party and the dish was then placed in a medium hot oven until everything was soft and thoroughly cooked.

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Did you know that your local supermarket likely carries salted cod? It’s true!  Most places sell little wooden boxes stuffed with salt-cured cod in your seafood department.  Here’s the innards of such a little box, which is perfect for most recipes.  Each fillet was washed free of salt and placed in a cool bowl of fresh water to re-hydrate the fish.

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While the roasting and re-hydrating was going on, I focused on the potatoes.

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Both the potatoes and salted cod eventually found themselves gently boiling on the stove. When the potatoes were properly soft, I removed them from the heat, drained the excess water from the pot and set them aside.  The cod needed more time to soften so it was left on the stove while the other ingredients were tended to.

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Right before I started assembling the dish I realized that an important component had been forgotten: the hard-boiled eggs! Thankfully my range has an extra larger burner I can use to quickly boil water. Minutes later, I had three eggs cooling down in ice water, ready to be peeled and chopped.

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With everything ready, it was time to put the dish together. The poached salted cod, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, a handful of chopped parsley and all the olive oil used for roasting went into a big bowl and were tossed by hand.

Salt Cod, Potato, and Tomato

A single serving was carefully placed in a bowl and topped with chopped hard-boiled eggs.

It’s amazing how a single ingredient can play so many roles, but salt cod pulls it off so well.  I’m assuming it’s due to the fact salted fish has been a staple of many European diets dating back well over 500 years.  That’s a long time to experiment and tweak, and we’re all luckier for it.

This recipe is great for a filling-but not too heavy-lunch.  As I’d found out with the Salt Cod, Little Gem and Tomato salad, the fish flavor was shy, almost demurely happy, letting the tomato take center stage.  The potato and egg add a hearty element while the chopped parsley lends a bit of peppery bite to each forkful.  A simple, elegant dish that’s easy to prepare and enjoy.  I’ve made this once more since the marathon, and it was just as enjoyable.

One down, forty two to go.

Deviled Crab

This recipe is from Su Rogers, my best friend’s mum–I beg her pardon for altering it a little, for I recall more of the meat is picked out of the shell in her recipe, whereas I enjoy the hard work at the eating moment.  It is also the only dish in this cookbook which contains cilantro.

Before I get into the recipe, I wanted to point out a new cook the book blog.  The Big Fat Undertaking–which I’m super excited about–details the process of cooking every recipe from Heston Blumenthal’s Big Fat Duck Cookbook.  The guy has his work cut out for him, so consider leaving a few encouraging comments to bolster his confidence.

Also, my friend Trish recently took a trip over to the land of the rising sun, and brought back with her a ton of really cool treats that she was kind enough to share with me and a few people from our work place.  I’d be remiss to not mention them all here.  She also sent me the coolest cutting board ever!

The crackers on the left were filled with a tasty cheese like cream, and each cracker had a different addition, be it raisins or almonds or nori.  Next to the crackers are a bunch of little hard candies that had intricate floral and fruit designs in their centers.  Each one sported a different interesting flavor.  The little brown balls on the right were made from sweet red bean paste and a covering of sugary frosting.  They were my wife’s favorite, and she claimed dibs on all of them.  In the back are some super crunchy shrimp crackers that came in an ornate metal box that had itself been ornately wrapped in gift paper.  Apparently the people making those crackers are very proud of them, as the box included a little brochure that I believe explained the long history of their shrimp cracker making, and how committed to quality they are.  Trish also sent me some fruit gummies that we tore through in one day, and some Durian gum that we’re still holding off on for obvious reasons.

Here it is, the world’s cutest cutting board!  Look at how happy that piggy is!  I’ve even found a place for you to buy one for yourself if you’re willing to part with seven dollars (and shipping and handling).

Now, on to the recipe.

As stated in the title, this dish is all about crab, so it only made sense to purchase a few live crab to work with.  This hefty dungeness crab  (and his comrade) were picked up at Central Market at a fairly reasonable price.  The fellow in the fish department was also kind enough to fish out the liveliest pair in the tank.  “Live is better,” he grunted at me.  He’s 100% right, and it was nice of him to ensure I got the best product they had.

In the cooking directions, Mr. Henderson mentions that if you’re up for it, you can kill the crabs before boiling them by opening the flap you see above, taking a long knitting needle and jamming towards the crab’s head.  Personally I have no problems just dropping the crabs into the water, and neither does Mr. Henderson.

The water–which was boiling before I put the crabs in–was made “as salty as the sea” to keep it from leeching into the crab and making the meat wet.  For reasons I’m unsure of, one of the crab lost both of his front claws when I dropped him in.  It reminded me of all of the crab that get too cold on “The Deadliest Catch” and end up popping off all of their limbs.

After the crab had cooked enough I removed them from the pot and let them cool before putting them in the fridge.  Small tip: don’t put freshly boiled crab in the fridge overnight unless you want to have crab flavored ice. Ugh.

The next day before a party I was throwing, we started removing the meat from the various limbs and bodies of the crab.  Mr. Henderson likes to keep the crab mostly intact, but since I was serving this to a bunch of people who were busy talking and partying I went with a version that sounds closer to the one his best friend’s mother made.

My friends Chris H. and Robert O. came right into the kitchen once they arrived and started helping me coax all of the lovely crab meat from the shells.  I appreciated it greatly because with my ultra-fantastic luck I managed to wickedly slice my thumb open on a sharp edge of crab shell.  Sigh.

Robert was kind enough to start working on grating the ginger that was needed for the dish.  The recipe called for a whopping 1/4 pound of ginger!  A fourth of a pound of ginger!?  I suppose that if I had left the crab mostly in the shell that a huge amount of ginger would have been appropriate, but in this case, not so much.  I stopped Robert before he grated all of the ginger and just used what he had already done, which was about two tablespoons.  Thank you Robert!

As Robert grated, I worked on chopping some garlic, a few scallions and two slightly aged jalapeno peppers.  The lemons were juiced, and that juice was saved for a little bit later.  The aforementioned ingredients (minus the lemon juice) were all put in a pan with a splash of olive oil and sauteed for a few minutes.

All of fresh crab meat was finally added to the pan to mingle with the other ingredients and get up to temperature.  Salt, pepper, and the lemon juice were judiciously sprinkled over the pan.

Right before serving, chopped parsley and cilantro were stirred into the mixture, and the dish was finished.

I’m going to quote my wife to describe this recipe: “The deviled crab reminds me a lot of deviled eggs in the sense that it was so unique, so different from everything else that it really stands alone from other crab dishes I’ve had before.  I enjoyed it a lot, and there is nothing quite like fresh, real crab meat.”  Another party guest had never eaten real crab meat, mistaking the fake Surimi junk as the real thing.  He was very surprised by the flavor and ate more than two servings.

I too really dug this dish.  It was light, refreshing, and packed full of flavor from the ginger, peppers and cilantro.  You’d think that the delicate crab flavor would be lost in that taste jungle, but there was more than enough meat to cut through the underbrush and really leave a lasting impression.  If I had one criticism, I’d have liked something like rice as a base to add a little more substance to each serving.

One down, sixty three to go.

Kedgeree

Kedgeree harks back to the days of the British Raj, starting as a dish of rice and lentils way back.  But as with many dishes, much alteration has taken place over time.  And now here is my very basic kedgeree, ideal for eating morning, noon, or night.  It is very good by itself, but does go very well with Green Bean Chutney.

Natural smoked haddock is exactly what it is–smoked haddock.  There are the yellow fillets of cured haddock, which have been dyed to give the impression of being smoked.  The natural is obviously preferable.

Finally, a few spare moments to write!  I do have a viable excuse though, last week my wife and I flew out to San Diego for a wedding.  Our good friends Amanda and Chris had asked me to be one of the groomsmen, and I was more than happy to oblige.  As a thank you, they gifted me with this:

Can you guess what it is?  For those that picked “bone marrow spoon”, you are 100% correct.  It was a very thoughtful gift, and I plan on buying a few more so people won’t have to share the next time roasted marrow is served.  I’m also happy to report that the wedding went off without a hitch, and I wish the new couple as much happiness as I have in my marriage.

Right after landing in San Diego, we met up with Chris to get a bite to eat at his favorite restaurant, Point Loma Seafoods.

Loved by the locals, Point Loma Seafoods is awash with a wide array of some of the freshest fish and shellfish I’ve ever come across.  They prepare some fantastic things, too.

This dragon roll was made with real crab.  I’m used to seeing sushi made with fake krab, I just had to give it a shot.  It was so good, I almost bought another one to have later that night.  It would be nice if every sushi place used the real stuff, but I understand the economic reasons why they don’t.

My wife ordered the crab sandwich, which came STUFFED with lump crab.  I managed to sneak a few bites while she was talking.

The calamari sandwich is Chris’s favorite, and it’s obvious why: thick slices of fresh, breaded squid slathered with lovely tarter sauce.  He told me that he orders one every time he returns home to San Diego.

While we were eating, it dawned on me that it was a rare occurrence to be in the vicinity of such amazing seafood and that I should take advantage of it.  Leafing through “The Cookbook” (I really do take it with me everywhere) two crab recipes caught my eye.  Unfortunately the market was out of live crab, and they wouldn’t get any more in until the next day.  Then I noticed that there were roughly 20 varieties of freshly smoked fish on hand.  I could make kedgeree!

It turns out that among all of those perfectly smoked fish options, there was no haddock, but the man behind the counter suggested that smoked halibut would be a perfect substitute as it too is a white flaky fish.  While I’m not a big fan of substituting ingredients, I really wanted to cook something.  We picked out two hunks of smoked halibut, stopped at a Trader Joe’s to pick up the rest of the needed ingredients, and took everything back to Chris’s house.  His parents were kind enough to let me hijack their kitchen for the evening, so I jumped right in action and set their oven to 425° F.

The halibut was placed in a pan along with multiple knobs of butter and a cup of water.  Mr. Henderson mentions in the recipe that lots and lots of butter is a good thing for this recipe.  Who am I to argue with the master?  I was going to butter this recipe up, arteries be damned!  The pan and its contents were placed in the hot oven for ten minutes.

While the halibut cooked, I started boiling four eggs.  Mr. Henderson asks for free-range eggs, which thankfully Trader Joe’s had in spades.  Usually I make do with regular eggs.  Have I mentioned that I miss California sometimes?

In another pot I dumped two cups of long grain basmati rice, a pinch of salt and just enough water in and turned the heat up.  I’ve gotten so used to cooking rice in a rice cooker I had my doubts that it would come out right.  By then, the fish had finished cooking.

I yanked the fish out of the oven and set it aside to cool.  When enough time had passed, I skinned the halibut and flaked the meat from the bones.  The butter-water was set aside for use later.

Next I needed to gently fry two sliced red onions in butter.  The recipe calls for the onions to be soft and sweet, so the heat was turned down low to ensure that they didn’t brown.  At this point I had almost worked my way through a whole cup of butter, and yet I knew it wasn’t enough.  More butter!

After a little searching I found a pan that I hoped would be big enough to hold all of the ingredients and set it on stove.  The onions, the flaked halibut and the rice were added and combined until everything was evenly dispersed. The butter-water that the halibut was cooked with was poured on top (more butter!!)  along with even more butter to completely moisten the mixture.

Once everything was properly heated through I added the juice of one lemon, the hard boiled eggs that were roughly chopped, a heaping handful of chopped parsley and lots of salt and pepper.  The dish was complete!

Chris’s father, who is a man of aesthetics, presented me with purple hued plates to serve the kedgeree  on that worked perfectly with the color of the fried onions.  Thank you very much sir, if you’re reading this.

The first bite confirmed what I already knew:  This is a very simple, but hardy recipe that in small amounts could work as a light snack, or as fuel for a lumberjack if eaten in massive quantities.  The smoked fish played well with the sweet onions and copious amounts of butter, and the boiled eggs and rice added a nice range of textures.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the kedgeree as much as I did, which is personally my favorite part of cooking out of “The Cookbook”.  There are no bad recipes!

One down, sixty six to go.

Smoked Haddock, Mustard, and Saffron

A version of a medieval dish, very yellow and delicious.

First up are two neat links:  Over at Duck Fat and Politics, Mr. Ganey has posted a very intriguing recipe for a version of jugged hare called Hasenfeffer.  Just as interesting it a post at the always fantastic Belm Blog about St. John’s version of the Eccles Cake.  Check them out!

With this post, we finish with the last of the dishes I made for the Brent and Harmony dinner.  Whew!

When Brent told me a few days before the meal that he had started eating small amounts of fish, I almost did cartwheels.  If you ever want to put a smile on a cook’s face, tell them that they’ll be able to feed meat to a recently converted vegetarian.  After a lot of searching through “The Cookbook”, I settled on this dish for its simplicity and the usage of saffron.  Did you know that saffron is so unique with its flavor that there is no real substitute for it?

First I needed some smoked haddock.  Rather than running around town trying to find some pre-smoked haddock, I decided to smoke a few fillets myself.

With the help of my trusty Bradley Smoker…

… two haddock fillets were smoked perfectly in no time flat.  Sometimes things work out so well it’s scary.

Next up was mixing some white wine, a half cup of water, some white wine vinegar, a little of my beloved Coleman’s Mustard, a healthy pinch of saffron and freshly ground pepper all together in a frying pan.

The haddock was then broken up and placed in the same frying pan.  I covered the pan with a bit of foil and placed it in a nice hot oven for about fifteen minutes to get everything warmed up.  When enough time had passed, I pulled the pan out and removed the haddock.  A large knob of butter was added to the pan and whisked into the liquid to make an emulsified sauce.

Here’s the finished dish.  I spooned some mashed potatoes into a bowl, placed a piece of haddock on top of them and poured a bit of the sauce over the whole thing.  Out of all of the different dishes I made for Brent and Harmony, this was far and away my favorite and everyone elses as well.  The flavors all worked together so amazingly well that I can only describe it as a perfect harmony.  The smoked haddock fell apart in my mouth, turning into flakes of smoky goodness, while the sauce brought a wave of sourness, spice and saffron to the table.

For being so easy to make, it’s really amazing how fantastic this recipe turned out.  I’ve decided to keep some smoked haddock in my freezer for emergency situations where I need to whip up a great dinner for surprise guests in a short amount of time.  This dish is a god-send!

One down, sixty nine to go.

Salting Cod And Lingcod

Once soaked the salt fish should be refrigerated.

This is another one of those updates that I feel a little guilty about.  There’s no involved process or unusual ingredients, this is simply the age old technique of preserving fish for use later.  It’s pretty straightforward:  You pack salt around the fish until all the moisture inside is removed, and then hang the fish in a cool spot until it’s firm and dry.  After that the bacteria inside the fish can’t work their mojo to spoil it, and the preservation method can keep the meat usable for up to a year if you keep it in a cool dry place.

The recipe asks for a whole cod to salt.  I don’t consider myself a Texas apologist in any shape or form, but I’d have to suffer from some kind of super-powered delusional mindset if I were to tell you anything other than the fact that a fresh, diverse seafood selection just isn’t a possibility here in the middle of Texas.  The best I could do was visiting Quality Seafood, a highly recommended fish monger that’s fairly close by.  They had some very pretty cod fillets which fit the bill perfectly.  I picked up two fillets and cut them in half so they could fit into a plastic container…

… like so.  Salt was sprinkled into the plastic tub and then the cod was laid on top of it.  Next I poured more salt over the fillets until every inch was sufficiently covered.

The container was placed in the fridge for the next ten days, with me adding more salt every day and removing any excess liquid that had collected.  Fairly simple stuff, right?  Well, the next step ended up making me pause.  Mr. Henderson instructs that the salted fish needs to be air dried in a cool, dry place.  Damn.  Again, I’m in Texas.  The first day I needed to start drying the fish it was freaking 97 degrees Fahrenheit outside!  That is not cool by any stretch of the imagination, so I came up with the brilliant idea that I could dry the fish in the refrigerator uncovered.

WRONG. NO. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT $200.

Oh man, what a terrible idea.  I’ll cut the story short, but if you don’t like the idea of cod flavored ice, DON’T AIR DRY FISH IN YOUR FRIDGE.

I decided instead to wrap each fillet with multiple paper towels and stuff them into a Ziploc bag. Then I’d place multiple heavy books on top of the bag.  Every day I removed the damp paper towels and replaced them with dry fresh ones.  After a few weeks the paper towels stopped absorbing moisture, and the fillets were dry and firm.

And here are the fillets in all their glory.  I’ve not had a chance to make anything with them yet, so I can’t comment on their taste.  I can tell you that they smell very, very fishy.

Just like my ice.

One down, seventy six to go.

Update: Reader Christopher posted a salt cod recipe in the comments, and it looks so good I just had to add it here.

‘Baccala’ (Salt Cod)

Cut a salt cod fillet into pieces ~3″ long.  Soak the salt cod in water for 2-3 days changing water twice per day.
Pat the fish dry, dip in egg, dredge in flour, and then fry until golden.  Slice 2 medium onions and 2 red peppers into strips and lightly fry to soften, not color.

In an oven safe container combine fried fish, onions, peppers, lots of course ground black pepper, dozen-ish calabrese olives, oregano, chunky cooked tomatoes, olive oil and bake at 350 for roughly 30 minutes.

It’s one of my favorite dishes and really needs salt cod to have the right texture.

Thanks Christopher!