Red Chimichurri

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When my husband and I visited Argentina in 2019, I was served the well known green chimichurri in restaurants, as well as a red version. Yet I kept forgetting to look it up. Here’s what the traditional green looks like.

But finally today, I googled, and up came a Hank Shaw recipe for red chimichurri. His blog is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, and he is a James Beard award-winning author and former chef.

On his blog: “ If it’s wild game, fish, or edible wild plants and mushrooms, you’ll find it here.”

Mr. Shaw has written multiple cookbooks, my favorite titles being “Duck, Duck, Goose,” and “Buck, Buck, Moose!” I don’t own his cookbooks, mostly because I’m not a hunter, and I don’t actively fish or forage in Oklahoma, but I do enjoy his blog.

Shaw recommends chopping everything by hand, otherwise the chimichurri will turn a strange color. I think we’ve all learned with paints that red and green don’t blend together well!

Chimichurri is typically offered alongside steaks.

Red Chimichurri
Recipe by Hank Shaw

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 or 2 small hot chiles, minced
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped (I used a 6.52 ounce jar Piquillo peppers)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup chopped fresh parsley, lightly packed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked or paprika
Salt and black pepper to taste

Mix the vinegar with the minced garlic, shallot, hot pepper and roasted red pepper and let this sit for 10 minutes or so to mellow out.

Mix all the remaining ingredients together and let the sauce sit for at least a few minutes, or, better yet, an hour, before serving at room temperature. There were six Piquillo peppers in the jar. I first gently rinsed and dried them before adding to the chimichurri.

Chimichurri, whether red or green, is a fantastically fresh and flavorful condiment. I could eat it with a spoon.

Try it on steak, but also try it on fish and shrimp and lamb and eggs….

My only suggestion with this chimichurri is to finely chop the parsley!

Eric Ripert’s Seafood Chowder

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The New York City restaurant, Le Bernardin, a seafood restaurant, is constantly on top of the world’s ten best restaurant lists. In May of 2021, the chef-owner Eric Ripert was proud to advertise his long-standing 3 Michelin star rating.

In 2010, when my daughter went to New York City for an interview, I volunteered to meet her there. Of course, I made reservations at some great restaurants, including Le Bernardin. I’m a good mom like that!

This is a photograph of the dining room, from the restaurant’s website. In person, that painting seemed like it was 100 feet wide!

We had the most helpful sommelier while we dined at Le Bernardin. It could have been because my daughter was 24 and gorgeous…

In any case, our meal was exceptional, not surprisingly. If you’ve watched or read anything about Eric Ripert, you are aware that he’s a perfectionist.

In 2009 I purchased his just published cookbook, “A Return to Cooking,” about Eric Ripert and his culinary passion and skills, written by Michael Ruhlman.

As an homage to Eric Ripert’s love and respect of seafood, I chose a seafood chowder to make from the cookbook. It was excellent, and could easily be enjoyed during warm months. The hardest part was cracking crab legs for the meat, but so worth it.

Salmon, Crab, and Scallop Chowder
Printable recipe below
Serves 6

2 slices double-smoked bacon, sliced crosswise into julienne
3/4 cup sliced leeks
1/2 cup dry wine
3 cups fish fumet*
1 cup water
1 pound baby Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon canola oil
One – 6 ounce salmon fillet, cut into 3/4” cubes
4 ounces crab meat, picked over for shells and cartilage
6 large sea scallops, cut horizontally in half
1 tablespoon chopped dill
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Cook the bacon julienne in a large pot over medium heat, until it has rendered its fat and is crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot. Add the leeks and sauté until limp and lightly caramelized, about 4 minutes.

Deglaze the pot with the white wine, stirring to incorporate the browned bits in the bottom of the pot. Return the bacon to the pot, cover with the fumet and water, and bring to a simmer. Add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat and boil gently until the potatoes are tender, 10 – 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Add the cream to the fumet and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat until ready to serve.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and brush it with the canola oil. Place the salmon, crab, and scallops on the sheet and season on both sides with salt and pepper.
Place in the oven for 2 – 3 minutes, until just barely heated through. The salmon and scallops should still be quite rare.

Meanwhile, gently reheat the soup. Add the dill and lemon zest and stir to incorporate. Adjust the seasoning.

To serve, divide the warmed salmon, crab, and scallops among warmed bowls. (This is so French – my mother always heated dishes before serving!)

Ladle the soup over and serve immediately.

* From the notes of Michael Ruhlman: Fumet is very easy to make once you have good bones. The bones of the turbot are the best for fumet because of their high gelatin content, but generally any white bones from a non oily fish can be used. To make a fumet, you sweat sliced onion and fennel until they’re tender, add the bones and cook them gently, then add water to just cover and a bouquet garni and simmer very gently for 10 – 15 minutes. Let the fumet sit off the heat for another 15 minutes, then strain it through cheesecloth.

This is what I used, purchased at Amazon, of course. It was delicious; all you have to do is add it to water just like a demi-glace.

 

Chicken Biryani

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When I first made biryani a million years ago, or so it seems, it was a fun dish for me because it was a perfect vehicle for leftovers – leftover rice, leftover chicken, even a leftover curry. But one can also make it purposefully from scratch, creating a custom version of what you like.

Biryani is an Indian dish, with many variations, which is perfect for the way I like to cook. It’s basically rice and meat, and you can sprinkle the dish with cilantro or green onions, serve with sour cream. It’s fun and flavorful and filling.

I’m not using an actual recipe, simply so I can show you how to make it from scratch and how easy and straight forward biryani is. I’m using the basic Indian-inspired seasonings, basmati rice, and prepared chicken.

After I’d created the seasonings for this biryani, I discovered an actual biryani seasoning mixture that I bought a few years ago. I need to go through my spice drawers!

Chicken Biryani
Printable recipe below

3 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 – 1” piece of ginger, minced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 cups basmati rice, I’m using brown
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, or to taste
Approximately 3 1/2 cups of good chicken broth
4 grilled chicken breasts
2 tablespoons ghee
1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
1 green bell pepper, cut into slices
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Melt the ghee in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add the ginger and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, give it a stir, then pour in the rice followed by the spices.

Add the broth and give everything a stir. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for about 30 minutes. Brown rice takes a bit longer so test it. If your rice is done and there’s still some broth, give it a stir, keep the lid on, and give it about 10 minutes; the rice will absorb the liquid. Set aside and keep warm.

Cut up the cooked chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. I put sweet paprika on mine before cooking, which is why they’re red; paprika is not an Indian spice. Set the chicken aside.

In a skillet, heat the ghee over medium-high heat, and sauté the pepper slices for about 5 minutes, getting some good caramelization on them, turning once. You might have to do this in two batches. Set the slices on a plate.

Add the chicken pieces, turn off the heat, put on a lid, and let the chicken heat through.

Peel the hard-boiled eggs and slice in half; make sure they’re at room temperature.

To serve, place the aromatic rice on a serving platter, then cover with the peppers and chicken. If you prefer, you can mix the chicken with the rice instead.

Decorate the biryani with the egg halves, and sprinkle the dish with cilantro.

If you don’t want to grill chicken breasts, pick apart a rotisserie chicken and coarsely chop the meat.

If you want to use less chicken, include a can of drained chick peas to the rice.

Now you can see how you can come up with your own recipe for biryani. It’s fun and easy!

 

 

Chinese Hot Pot

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My French mother went through a long Chinese cooking phase, starting when we moved to Seattle, Washington. An avid scuba diver, Mom made a deal with Mrs. Chin, who owned a Chinese cooking store and school at Pike Place market in Seattle. In exchange for sea cucumbers picked off of the Puget Sound’s sandy floor, Mom received cooking classes. This is a photo of a sea cucumber – a Chinese delicacy.

I can’t stress enough that this was not stir frying. This was serious Chinese cookery. Mom had pots and woks and steamers and cleavers and a lot of required utensils and dinnerware. Our kitchen smelled like an Asian food store. (Think fishy.)

We were not the perfect diners during those years. My step-father was distant. My sister and I wished we were anywhere else than at the dinner table. And my mother, having the disposition she had, resented doing all of the work she did, with us not appreciating it.

But, let’s just say she was never one to understand our side of things. We were kids. We didn’t ask her to slave away in the kitchen prepping winter melons and steaming buns. And when you’re 14, you definitely don’t appreciate the work your mother does, right?! Especially when my friends got to eat Cocoa Puffs and Mac ‘n cheese, while I was staring at a deep-fried Tiger lily.

However, there were a few times when I appreciated and enjoyed a meal at our house, and that was when my mother prepared Chinese hot pot. This is a photo of my mother’s old hot pot. One actually put coals in the bottom compartment, and in the round basin went the broth in which everything was cooked. I think at least one table got ruined from the extreme heat.

On the table would be plates of beef, shrimp, and chicken, all thinly sliced by mom and her giant cleaver. I remember she’d hold up a slice of shrimp and it I could see light through it. There were bowls of eggs and tofu and green onions and cellophane noodles. In front of each of us was our own bowl, and our own sieve, for cooking, and porcelain spoon, for eating. And then we’d start.

Just for the heck of it, I recently searched Amazon for an electric hot pot, and lo and behold, it exists! No need to burn my table.

To remind myself how to have a hot pot night I turned to my trusty Time-Life Chinese Cookbook and checked a recipe called Chrysanthemum Fire Pot. It’s pretty much what I remember.

From the recipe, one starts by cooking the meat, fish, and seafood in the stock, dipping that into the sauce, and eating.

From the recipe, “When all of the meat, fish, and seafood have been consumed, a little of the stock (now a rich, highly-flavored broth) is ladled into each guest’s bowl and drunk as a soup. The noodles and vegetables are then dropped in the stock remaining in the fire pot, cooked for a minute or so, and ladled with the broth into the bowls to be eaten as a last course.”

The following is not exactly a recipe for hot pot, but somewhat of a guide for having your own.

Chinese Hot Pot
Adapt according to your tastes

Shrimp, cleaned, sliced through the middle from tail to head
Chicken breast, thinly sliced uniformly
Beef tenderloin, thinly sliced uniformly
Halibut or other white fish, thinly sliced uniformly
Tofu, excess water removed, cubed
Cellophane noodles, prepared
Eggs, whisked in small bowl
Green onions, sliced
A chiffonade of spinach leaves
Approximately 3 quarts good chicken stock*

Sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons sesame seed oil
4 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or pale dry sherry

Place the shrimp, chicken, fish and beef on one large platter or individual plates with tongs.

Place the tofu, noodles, eggs, spinach, and green onions, in individual bowls with serving utensils.

Prepare the sauce by mixing the 3 ingredients together. Place a small amount in each bowl, and serve the rest in a cruet.

Pour the broth in your electric hot pot, straining if necessary, and turn it to high.

Place what you want to cook into the strainer, place the strainer in the broth for as long as it takes to cook to your liking. Remove to a plate. Using chopsticks, dip in sauce. Eat. Repeat.

When it’s time for the soup, first add the noodles and spinach to the broth and let simmer for a few minutes. Then ladle some into your main bowl, add egg, some dipping sauce, green onions, tofu, plus some chile pepper oil, if desired.

All of the ingredients are optional, just make the soup to your tastes.

Here is a photo of hot pot for four, which works well if you put out the beef, chicken, fish and shrimp out first, with the dipping sauce.

After you’re done with part 1, remove those ingredients, add the spinach and noodles, plus more broth if necessary, to the simmering broth, and bring the soup ingredients to the table. You can also save some of the cooked protein for the soup.

I used Shichimi Togarashi on the protein, even the tofu. It’s a wonderful seasoning mixture. It’s Japanese, but we also enjoy sake with hot pot, and the chile pepper oil is Korean, so consider this a fusion meal!

* The day before I served the hot pot, I simmered some high-quality chicken broth on the stove with a thawed chicken carcass, some dried Chinese chile peppers, Szechuan peppercorns, a few sprigs of cilantro, ginger, garlic, about 1/2 teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice, and a couple of bay leaves. I also soaked dried Shitake mushrooms in hot water for about 10 minutes, and added the mushroom liquor to the broth. It was perfect!

Chinese Steamed Buns

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I enjoyed many variations of steamed buns while growing up – some were plain, some were filled with bright red pork filling, others looked like works of art. They were especially ubiquitous during the time my French mother was in her Chinese phase (see Growing up Foodie,) which was a mostly wonderful culinary experience for our family.

But I never knew the extent of the magic created in a bamboo steamer until my husband and I went to our first dim sum restaurant. This was in San Francisco’s Chinatown, 30+ years ago. It was a busy, bustling restaurant, full of people who spoke non-English. Waiters pushed little carts around tightly-placed tables and it was a bit unsettling. This is what the insides of the carts look like:

We weren’t sure what to do, so we kept pointing at food and nodding, because everything looked so good. There must have been at least 200 different items from which to choose. Maybe even more. We were so excited, hungry, and a little nervous, that I think we ended up with food for a dozen people. Knowing us, we probably finished it all.

This recipe for steamed buns is my one of my husband’s favorite things to eat. He asks for them as part of his birthday dinner, like he did last week. The dough is a basic bread dough, and the filling is Chinese sausage. It’s a recipe my mother created, because of her love of Chinese sausage. Try it in soups and omelets. It’s a bit greasy, but wonderful!

You can double the recipe, but it’s tricky unless you have two steamers.

Bread Dough

1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm milk, at about 110 degrees
3 1/2 cups white flour

Heat 1/4 cup of water in a large bowl to approximately 110 degrees; if you can put your finger in the water and hold it there, it’s hot enough. Sprinkle on the yeast and sugar, and let it sit for a few minutes.

Then stir up the mixture, place it in a non-drafty part of your kitchen, and let it sit for 5 minutes; it will have doubled in volume.

Stir in the warm milk, then add 3 cups of flour. Mix as much as you can with a spoon. Then turn out the dough on your work area and, using flour only as necessary, knead the dough until it is smooth. This should take about 5 minutes. Don’t add too much flour – just enough to keep the dough from sticking.

Form the dough into a ball, and place it in a clean, greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel, then put the bowl in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 1/2 hours.

It will have doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough, and let it rest about 20 minutes.

To Prepare the Steamed Buns filled with Chinese Sausage

Have about 7 ounces of sliced Chinese sausage on hand, as well as toasted sesame oil.

Turn the dough out onto the work area. Roll the dough into a cylinder, and divide the dough evenly into 12 pieces. Form each piece of dough into a disc, about 3 1/2″ in diameter. Sprinkle a few drops of sesame oil in the middle of the disc, and then top with some sausage slices.

Pull up all four sides of the disc, then squeeze them together and twist to seal the dough. I’m not really good at this part….

As you make the buns, place them in a steamer basket that has been oiled. Or, alternatively, cut out squares of parchment paper and spray those with oil to keep the buns from sticking, placing them underneath the buns. Just make sure the steam can move around the steamer basket. When you have finished making all twelve buns, let them rise in the steamer basket.

There are also liners with holes that you can buy to fit into your steamer baskets.

Meanwhile, bring a wok or pot of water to a boil on the stove, with the water level with the bottom of the steamer basket. After the buns have risen for about 20-30 minutes, turn the water down to a simmer, then place the steamer basket in the wok. After about 10-12 minutes, check the buns; the dough should be firm. If they are sticky, keep steaming another minute or two, then turn off the heat and remove the lid.

Remove them as soon as you can from the steamer basket and let cool slightly. Then enjoy! They’re soft and the most fragrant while warm.

Here’s a panorama iphone pic of a dim sum restaurant we went to in New York City in 2017. It truly is as big as it looks!

I encourage everyone to enjoy dim sum at a reputable Chinese restaurant. There’s always chicken feet – for the hard to please!

Sauce Vierge

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I’ve mentioned how I plan my personal meals around condiments, and I’m not exaggerating! In fact, a condiment will inspire a whole meal for me. I guess it’s no different than a BBQ lover who sees BBQ sauce and immediately wants brisket, beans, and cole slaw.

Basic condiments like home-made aioli, mustards and ketchups are wonderful, but so are romesco, chimichurri, charmoula, persillade, harissa, chutney, and confit. So many condiments, so little time!

Recently I came across another sauce – Sauce Vierge – that is almost like a marriage of a fresh tomato salsa and persillade, loosely speaking.

I discovered the sauce on Food 52. Sauce Vierge translates to virgin sauce, and was created in 1976 by Michel Guérard, “one of the forces behind the lighter, fresher nouvelle cuisine that sprang up in reaction to cuisine classique, dripping with all its hefty mother sauces.”

I got excited when I read about the sauce, which includes tomato, lemon juice, and fresh herbs, because it’s a perfect sauce to make in the summer. And it’s summer!

Sauce Vierge

4 ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 whole, peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 freshly squeezed lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of ground coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs

Peel and seed the tomatoes, then roughly chop and place in a medium bowl.

Add the oil, garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, and coriander.

Then add the fresh herbs. I used chives, basil, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary.

Cover the bowl, and leave to sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning, remove the cloves of garlic, and serve warm or room temperature.

To use the sauce, I grilled tilapia, and served the sauce at room temperature.

I wanted the sauce ingredients to really stand out.

I served the tilapia with boiled potatoes, on which I drizzled some of the herby oil. You can tell I’m not scared of a plate of olive oil!

In reality, is Sauce Vierge a condiment or a sauce? Where does a condiment start and end, and a sauce or paste begin?

My answer is “who cares?!!”

verdict: I will continue to make this sauce/condiment during summer months when I can get my hands on ripe tomatoes. It is exquisite. Over fish it was a great pairing, but I can see this on scallops, chicken, lamb, bread…

Note: Instead of using the ingredients at room temperature, you can alternatively mix the ingredients in a saucepan, and simmer the sauce slowly over low heat for 30 minutes.

Masala Shrimp Cakes

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My mother knows my tastes in cookbooks well. Recently, for my birthday, she sent me Recipes from an Indian Kitchen, by Sunil Vijayakar, with “authentic recipes from across India.”


Oddly enough, for a French woman, my mother cooked Indian meals when I was growing up, so I was exposed to Indian cuisine at a young age. She cooked a variety of International cuisines, but Indian was probably my favorite. And that was when my palate was a bit challenged!

What’s not to love, though? Unless you dislike cilantro. But the spices are so fragrant and lovely, and for the most part the dishes are healthy and vibrant.

The author describes the generalized regional cuisines of the north, south, east and west. I know it’s much more involved than four regions, but the differences are fascinating. And the photos in the book are gorgeous. They made me want to grab my camera and get on a plane. One day…

So as I always do with a new cookbook, I read it front to back, bookmarking recipes along the way. One recipe, Masala shrimp cakes, really stood out to me for some reason.

I mean I love shrimp, but the cakes looked like a perfect party food, and one that can be made ahead of time. They are chock-full of colors and flavors.

Loretta will be happy to know that this recipe is Goan-inspired!

Once you have clean shrimp, all you need is a food processor, and the shrimp “batter” is ready in minutes. Just a little time chilling is required to meld flavors and firm the batter.

Masala Shrimp Cakes
Jhinga Masala Vadas

1 3/4 pounds raw shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 fresh red chiles, seeded, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon coconut cream or coconut milk
4 scallions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 medium egg, lightly beaten

Coarsely chop the shrimp and put them into a food processor along with the remaining ingredients.

Blend to a coarse paste. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 6-8 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Shape the shrimp mixture into 20 small patties, about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Place on a baking sheet and brush lightly with oil.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until slightly puffed up and light golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature with lime wedges for squeezing over the top.

I made a dip of sorts by blending cilantro, green chile peppers, and a little olive oil, just for fun!

These shrimp cakes were delicious even once they cooled down, but I did love them warm.

My only addition to this recipe would be at least 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Otherwise, it was total Indian perfection!

Lemongrass Pesto

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Because I grew lemongrass in my garden this year, I’ve been focusing on using it as much as possible in Thai as well as non-Thai dishes. This lemongrass seems mild to me, but it has a lemony flavor, and I’m determined to use it all up.

Last night I dreamed about using lemongrass to make a pesto. (I can’t be the only person who gets foodie inspirations while sleeeping!) Of course, I’m using the term pesto in the loosest way. It contains nuts and herbs, but I changed things up a bit.

To keep with the Asian theme by including lemongrass, I also used ginger and garlic. Then, I used basil, cilantro and chile peppers*. The nuts? Pine nuts. They’re used in Asian cuisines, so I’m still keeping with the theme!
lemon99
If I did invent this stuff, I can die happy. And I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything similar on blogs or in cookbooks. But it is so good I plan on making a lot of it and sharing.

If I had any reservations about this pesto, it was that the ginger, being raw, might taste too strong. But fortunately, it didn’t.

The resulting pesto-looking mixture was fabulous on this butternut squash soup – almost like how a gremolata perks things up a bit. But the pesto would be great smeared on chicken breasts, pork, even fish. The possibilities for using it are endless. Here’s what I did.

Lemongrass Pesto

Pine nuts, toasted
Garlic cloves, peeled
Ginger, peeled
Lemongrass bulbs, peeled and trimmed
Chile peppers (mine were mild)
Olive oil
Cilantro
Basil

Place the toasted pine nuts in a blender jar.

Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chile peppers.

Add olive oil until it covers the ingredients.

Blend until smooth.

Add the cilantro and basil and blend again.

Store in the refrigerator, or freeze until later use.

lemonq

Since originally making this pesto and writing the post, I have had salmon topped with this pesto. And it was fabulous!!!

* The chile peppers I used were Nardello peppers. They’re not very hot, but add good flavor.

Salt Cod for Breakfast

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As you might remember from my post, simply called salt cod, I’ve been on a mission to find this fish for years. I have spotted it on a few websites, but the shipping was always horrendous, so I never followed through with an online order.

My daughter who lives in London assured me that she could purchase salt cod at a Portuguese Market. So just before coming home for a summer visit a couple years ago, she did just that. I repeat the word, SUMMER. I picked her up at the airport in the city. Then we went out to lunch and did some shopping…. all the while forgetting about the salt cod in her suitcase. Well, that was a lesson learned. Do not ever leave salt cod in a hot car!

But now I finally have my hands on some salt cod after years of searching, thanks to Whole Foods. This recipe is an attempt to duplicate a dish my mother made years ago. I’m not sure about the specifics of it, but I think I remembered all of the major components. So here’s my version:

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Salt Cod and Poached Egg with White Sauce and Capers
Serves 4

1/2 stick butter
1 onion, sliced
3 small red potatoes, cut into 3/4″ cubes
10 – 12 ounces pre-soaked salt cod, cut into pieces
1/4 cup half and half
4 poached eggs

White sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups half and half
Capers

Heat the butter in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onion and potatoes, and sauté them for about 10 minutes. They should be nicely caramelized.

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Push the pieces of cod under the potatoes and onions, then pour the half and half over the top. Make sure the mixture is boiling, then cover the skillet and turn down the heat to the lowest position. Cook for 20 minutes without disturbing it.

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After cooking, the mixture will look like this:

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To make the white sauce, melt 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. When it has completely melted, add the flour and whisk them both together well. Then pour in the half and half, whisking all the while, and continue mixing until it thickens. See white sauce if you’ve never made one.

f you like, season the sauce with black or white pepper, but don’t add salt. Remove from the stove but leave the whisk in the white sauce.

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To prepare the individual servings, divide the salt cod and potato mixture between four bowls and gently add the poached egg. Give the white sauce a whisk, add a generous amount, then top with some capers.

Salt Cod

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Salt cod has been very difficult for me to find, especially since I live in the landlocked middle of the United States. But I’ve been on a mission for find it because I have such great memories of the ways my mother used to cook with it. We lived in Seattle for three years when I was growing up, and I’m guessing because of the abundance of cod in Puget Sound, that salt cod was more prevalent there as well.

As a child I remember loving the little wooden box that it came in – the top slid in and out and it was just so cute. Unfortunately, I could never quite get rid of the nasty fishy smell, so the cute box never remained in my possession for long…

But those were really my only memories, except for the divine way my mother served the salt cod with a white sauce, topped with a few capers. I really wanted to attempt to duplicate this and a couple of other recipes. I’ve always loved fish, but I’ve been obsessed with playing in the kitchen with salt cod. There’s just something different about it!

For any of you not familiar with salt cod, it’s simply filets of cod that have been preserved in salt – a remnant preservation technique from the old days. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever find it, especially since we don’t have problems like lack of refrigeration these days. But then I came across salt cod at a Whole Foods store! It still exists! And it was in the little wooden boxes that I remember! I hurriedly grabbed a couple like it was a popular children’s toy at Christmas, and excitedly brought the salt cod home to start planning recipes.

When you first open up the box and unwrap the cod, you won’t be very impressed with it at all. The cod is salted and then dried, so it looks like dried up salty fish!

scod1

What you have to do is soak it in cold water for at least two days, replenishing the water a couple of times a day. Otherwise, the cod will be too salty, and not in a good salty way.

scod

After the two days are up, it’s time for one final rinse, then dry on paper towels, and choose a recipe. Recipes are easy to find, especially if you look into Portuguese recipes, in which case it’s called bacalao, or Italian recipes, which is baccalà. But I’ll post a few salt cod recipes, as well! Watch for future posts!

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