Category Archives: quick

Sautéed White Fish with Red Curry Coconut Sauce

not my prettiest plating. if you care, i'm sure you can do better

Fighting Frozen Fish Apathy

I got into sort of rut with frozen fish filets. Melt some butter in a skillet, toss in a few cloves of minced garlic, season the fish with salt and pepper and maybe a dusting of flour and some dill or curry powder or Old Bay, cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, and voila: dinner. Practically instant, and usually at least moderately tasty. But so boring.

So boring that at least once in recent memory, I let a package of filets go to waste. For the first few days after I’d pulled them out of the freezer, I could tell myself they might still be partially frozen. And I think there was something else in the refrigerator in more eminent danger of spoiling. And then I might have ended up eating dinner out once or twice. And I might have had one of those days when I ordered take out because taking even five minutes to put a piece of fish in a pan and flip it once while nuking some peas seemed too onerous. So the fish entered this sad limbo state where it might have still been edible and I didn’t really want to throw it away, but I also wasn’t particularly excited about opening up the package in case it wasn’t. Which made it all too easy to just ignore it for a few more days until it had reached an even sadder state where I was pretty sure  it wasn’t edible and I didn’t really even need to open the package to find out. Wasteful, profligate, shameful, I know. Lots of people don’t have enough to eat and people like me use far more than our share of resources.

not actually a cheese sauce, even though it sort of looks like oneAnyhow, this recipe isn’t going to solve world hunger or save the environment, but it managed to keep me from wasting another package of fish that was probably a day away from limbo. The sauce only takes a few minutes to throw together and reduces while you cook the fish, and it’s decidedly un-boring: velvety coconut milk infused with the classic combination of garlic and ginger, a little funk from the fish sauce, acid from the lime, mild heat from the curry paste, and bright cilantro to finish. If you wanted it spicier, you could double or triple the curry paste or use green instead of red. Including the Brussels sprouts, which I halved and braised for about 10 minutes in a cup of water, the whole meal took about 30 minutes from start to finish.

Recipe: Sautéed White Fish with Red Curry Coconut Sauce (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated cookbook)

2-4 servings (each 6-8 oz fish)

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 lbs boneless, skinless white fish filets—cod, tilapia, whitefish, catfish, etc.
  • 2 Tablespoons fat—butter, bacon drippings, oil, etc.
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (optional)

Sauce: 

  • 1 Tablespoon fat ginger, garlic, brown sugar, curry paste
  • a small knob of fresh ginger (about 2 teaspoons minced)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2-4 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • juice of half a lime (about 1 1/2 Tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper

Method:

1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of fat in a small saucepan while you mince the ginger and garlic. Add them to the oil along with the curry paste and brown sugar and cook for about a minute

2. Add the coconut milk, water, lime juice, and fish sauce and simmer over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, until reduced to about a cup.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of fat in a large skillet and season the fish filets with salt and pepper. Let the fish sit for a minute, until it starts to glisten and then dust with flour, if using.

4. Cook the fish in a single layer in the skillet, 2-3 minutes on each side for thin filets (1/4-1/2” thick),  3-5 minutes for thicker filets (1/2”+).

5. Add the cilantro to the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve filets with sauce and lime wedges.

my flipping was maybe just a tad bit messy

Quick Spring Dinner: Stir-fried Noodles with Ramps & Eggs

and roasted cauliflower and fish cake (aka surimi aka imitation crab)

This is the kind of quick, simple cooking I rarely blog about because it doesn’t involve any advance research and usually happens at the end of a busy day when I’m too hungry to bother with pictures. But I was excited about my first ramps of the season and pleased enough with how the meal turned out that I decided this might be worth sharing.

Ramps are wild onions (or leeks) that grow across North America from South Carolina to Quebec in the early spring. Like morels, they’ve acquired a special status in part because they’re generally perceived as tasty and in part because they aren’t cultivated commercially, and thus can be difficult to come by. Unless, of course, you know how to forage for them, which is especially common in Appalachia and the Great Smoky Mountains. All of which gives ramps a sort of split personality: they’re prized by fancy urban restaurants because they’re the epitome of the “fresh, local, seasonal” aesthetic—they’re only available for a short time every year and too delicate to transport far or store for very long. But they’re wild and free and used extensively in some of the poorest regions of the country, where their short growing season is celebrated at the kinds of middle America heritage festivals whose attractions might include an RV rally or an outhouse race.

two bunches, $4 at Eastern Market in Detroit

If you happen to get your hands on some, you can use them the way you’d use any green/spring onion. Unlike commercially-cultivated leeks, their green tops are tender enough to eat. I decided to  freeze the ones from these bunches for the next time I make stock because I love the flavor of leeks in soup.

As for the rest, I minced the white parts of the ramps to sauté in bacon fat along with some garlic and ginger while boiling a few handfuls of udon noodles. Spaghetti would have worked, too. I left the slender burgundy stalks whole and added them in later, once the garlic and white parts had started to soften.

kind of similar to how I might cook garlic scapes

Then I tossed in some chopped, roasted cauliflower left over from dinner a few nights earlier, and when the noodles were done, I drained them and added them to the frying pan along with a splash of soy sauce. Meanwhile, I threw a couple of eggs in the same pot I cooked the noodles in and let them boil for 5 minutes (so the yolks would still be just a little custardy in the middle) while I stirred the noodles until they were evenly coated. Added a package of fish cake and stirred some more, just until that was heated through—if I wanted to get fancy, I might have used a can of real crab instead. I'm really not sure if this is more Chez Panisse or RV Rally. Maybe somewhere in between?

Garnished with the eggs and some chives from a friend’s garden, as seen above. Kind of like a cross between Vietnamese garlic noodles and udon soup—the noodles were studded with bits of the sautéed ramps & other vegetables, full of funky garlicky flavor, with slightly-sweet bits of fish cake and the creamy semi-hard boiled eggs. In retrospect, some kind of bitter greens would have made a nice addition, but it was pretty delicious as is.

Bulgogi-esque Grilled Ribeye

This did smoke; use the exhaust fan if you have one.

Quick, Easy, Kind of Korean

It may be grilling season, but sometimes it still seems a little too time-consuming or wasteful to fire up the outdoor grill when you’re cooking for one or two people. For nights when I just want dinner to happen quickly, but I also want it to have char marks and smoke, I’m loving our new slab of cast iron. It’s smooth on one side—good for pancakes and eggs—and ribbed for your charring pleasure on the other, as you can see above.

I grabbed this recipe off Slashfood for something reminiscent of bulgogi. Standard Asian marinade—soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, sugar, black pepper, green onion. Hard to go wrong there. I might add some red pepper flakes next time. And then, instead of having a butcher cut the steak into thin strips or freezing and then cutting the steak, I just bought a 1-lb ribeye, marinated and grilled it whole and sliced it after resting.

the thinner end turned out about Medium the thicker end was Medium Rare, verging on Rare

I turned the burners up as high as they’d go about 10 minutes before cooking and cooked the steak for 5 minutes on each side, accompanied by thick slices of onion that had also been marinated. Then I rested the meat for 5 minutes before slicing it against the grain. We ate the meat and onions together, wrapped in romaine leaves with Sriracha. Totally inauthentic. Totally delicious.

I know--wrong kind of lettuce, wrong kind of hot sauce, wrong way to do the meat. Whatever, it tasted awesome.

Recipe: Bulgogi-ish Ribeye (adapted from Slashfood)

Ingredients

  • a steak or two—something like ribeye or flank steak (you probably want about 8 oz per person, scale up the marinade if cooking for more than 4 people)
  • one large white or yellow onion
  • optional garnishes: lettuce leaves, hot sauce, steamed rice and pickled things

For marinade:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • a thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • one green onion, minced
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, cayenne powder, or Sriracha (optional)

Method

1. Whisk together the marinade ingredients and pour the mixture into a zip-top bag or other container large enough to accommodate the meat. Slice the large onion thickly and place the steak and onion slices in the marinade. Toss and turn or shake to cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 8 hours or overnight.

2. Get your grill or broiler hot. Put the steak and onions on and let cook for 5 minutes. Turn both the steak and onion slices once and cook 5 minutes more on the other side. For a typical cut, that will turn out mostly medium rare (or, for uneven thickness, a range between medium and rare). Cook more or less if you like it more or less done. For thicker cuts, cook to 125 F in the middle for rare, 130 F for medium rare, 140 F for medium, 150 F for medium well, and 160 F for well). Or use the finger test.

3. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes, and then slice thinly against the grain.

4. Serve with garnishes.

Ozark Pudding, aka Huguenot Torte: Dessert in a Flash (albeit an unnecessarily belabored flash)

Not really what I think of when I think of a pie or a torte. Maybe it needs a new name? Mystery meringue? Apple-pecan pouf?

This is a rough transcript of the internal monologue that followed a semi-last-minute decision to take dessert to a friend’s house for dinner yesterday (scroll down to “results” if you just want to know what the heck Ozark pie/Huguenot Torte is and aren’t interested in the documentation of my neuroses):

The Process

“I should just buy something. I don’t have time to bake. But how do you even do that? I can’t just buy a bag of Oreos or something, can I? A grocery store bakery pie? I don’t even want to eat that. Is there anywhere else I can buy a pie? Why are there a half a dozen stores that sell cupcakes and nowhere I can buy a goatforsaken pie…

Goat in a hat from Off Base Percentage My goat, my goat, why have you forsaken me pie?

“Is it okay to show up at someone’s house with a pint of ice cream? What if they don’t have any freezer space? Is that offensive—like a suggestion that they are incapable of purchasing ice cream or perhaps that if they did have ice cream on hand it wouldn’t be as good as whatever you brought? Oh, this is so stupid. [Generous host] specifically said there was no need for me to bring anything. What is wrong with me that I don’t know how to be a dinner guest without bringing something I made “from scratch”? This is why I am not done with my dissertation and will obviously fail at everything forever. Thanks, superego, helpful as always. sigh Surely there is something I can make that won’t take very long and will make me happier than showing up empty-handed or with a bag of Oreos…

filters Delicious tags by “recipe” and “dessert” and opens these four links

“What was Huguenot Torte again? Oh, right, some kind of sunken apple-pecan meringue thing. Huh. Maria del Mar Sacasa of Serious Eats says it’s simple, ugly, and delicious, which sounds about perfect. Maria del Mar Sacasa's cherry-hazelnut Huguenot Torte--I think hers is darker because she included some of the liquid from the jarred cherries, reducedBut she also gave it a “makeover” with sour cherries and hazelnuts in place of the apples and pecans. I was not impressed with the canned sour cherries I got for NYE. Maybe I should just make the original…

opens these three links

“Egad, that sounds awfully sweet. And Amanda Hesser of the NYTimes says she likes it warm and that when it’s cold ‘you have to do battle to cut it.’ That does not sound like the best thing to make in advance and take somewhere. I wonder if I could make individual portions? Hey, the 2009 Recipe Redux by Sarah Magid is for ‘boozy apple-thyme meringue cookies’—maybe that would work?

“Curses! This recipe is so much fussier. You have to caramelize the apples separately and then use a piping bag to make individual meringues and it calls for both superfine and confectioner’s sugar…guh. The whole point of this recipe was that it was going to be simple. Hm. I wonder what the internet thinks about ‘individual Huguenot tortes’…

googles “individual Huguenot tortes,” and opens these four links

Balls. None of these are actually for individual-sized portions, although Up Chef Creek came to the same conclusion because the caramelized crust, which is the best part, sticks to the pan & becomes impossible to serve after it’s cooled. So it would probably be better to bake it in individual ramekins. But who knows how that would affect the baking time? Or how full I should fill the cups? And do I really want to cart a bunch of individual cups of ugly apple-pecan meringue business to someone’s house? That seems stupid. I should just make the original. ‘Golden oldie’ Maria del Mar Sacasa, said. ‘I cooked it fairly often,’ she said. That is not something you do with a recipe that sucks…

“Wait, didn’t Amanda Hesser say this wasn’t actually related to the Huguenots at all and actually descended from something called Ozark Pudding? I wonder what the internet thinks about Ozark Pudding…

googles “Ozark Pudding,” and opens these three links

Nostalgia Snark fom the Economical Epicurean, who got it from Amazon.com“Amen, Economical Epicurean, that Recipe Redux is the perfect example of taking something that sounds simple, easy, & relatively cheap and making it into a huge, fussy production. Although sometimes huge, fussy productions are worth it, and I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say that cookies and cupcakes are ‘tearing at the fabric of society.’ I guess you did admit this was a melodramatic rant.

“Oh, Marion Cunningham, it’s actually unclear whether or not fewer Americans are sitting down to a ‘traditional home-cooked dinner these days’ or how many of them ever did and I never did get around to writing the follow-up to that post about the studies about families who eat dinner together and how the television being on doesn’t actually matter. Of course, the researchers just shrugged and decided that there must be another causal mechanism, not that the relationship isn’t causal or that the arrow might go in the opposite direction (happy, healthy families –> more likely to eat dinner together).

“However, this recipe attributed to Bess Truman does sound easy and is scaled to fit in a pie pan and I have almost everything I need to make it already. I guess it’s worth a try.”

The Results

Totally easy—prep time was 15 minutes, start to finish even though I added a few extra steps. And pretty darn delicious—kind of like a cross between pavlova and pecan pie. The top was crunchy and the middle was kind of gooey and the bottom was chewy and sort of caramelized. I would totally make this again.

Brown sugar cognac cream makes the world seem lovely in spite of imminent defense datesMy modifications:

1) Instead of just greasing the pan, I greased it, dusted it with flour, and then sprayed it with cooking spray. It still stuck a little bit, but overall was pretty easy to get out of the pan, even though it sat for at least two hours before we served it.

2) I whipped the cream with some brown sugar and cognac. I would have used bourbon if I’d had any on hand because that would have been a natural pairing for the apples and pecans, but there was an unfortunate incident earlier this week involving a bottle of Bulleit and a flimsy plastic bag (yet another reason to take your own bags to the grocery store).

3) I tossed the apple pieces in a lemon-water bath to prevent oxidation while I was making the batter because I just do that automatically whenever I’m baking with apples.

This might be part of the reason my dissertation isn’t finished in a more general sense—the above doesn’t even begin to compare to the consternation and fussing about cooking I usually do when I’m not panicking about an imminent defense date—but it’s certainly not this particular recipe’s fault. I’d rank Ozark Pie near the top of my list of high reward/effort recipes. Right up there with no-knead bread and popcorn chickpeas and butternut squash soup.

The base recipe is also kind of a blank slate, so you could probably substitute just about any kind of fruit and nuts you had around…or chopped up chocolate or butterscotch or toffee bits or whatever else you thought might taste good in a meringue-type base as long as it isn’t super watery. Berries and chopped white chocolate might be good, or pear and almonds. If you wanted to fancy it up a bit, you could try any of the following: baking it in 1/2 cup ramekins filled slightly less than halfway, adding an herb or spice, or making a sabayon instead of just whipping some cream (bourbon-spiked would probably be great with the original apple-pecan).

Recipe: Ozark Pudding, aka Huguenot Torte (from Marion Cunningham’s Lost Recipes, via NPR)
serves 5-6 as written, or double and make in an 8×12 or 9×13 pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • I threw the apple pieces in some water with the juice of half a lemon while I prepared the other ingredients. probably not necessary, but so easy why not? 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup apple pieces, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 of a large Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2-3 Tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon bourbon, rum, or cognac (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease, flour, and spray a 10” pie pan (or just grease it, but don’t be surprised if it sticks).

2. Beat the egg and sugar together until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix well until combined. Fold in the apple pieces, nuts, and vanilla.

3. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. It will poof up, and then will fall when you remove it from the oven.

4. Whip the cream to soft peaks, adding the brown sugar and alcohol if desired.

It makes less than 2 cups of batter, don't be alarmed if it's just barely enough to cover the bottom of the panPouf! It isn't the prettiest thing I've ever made, but I think the Serious Eats writer was a little harsh. Even after it fell a little more, it wasn't "ugly"

Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce: Good, cheap, and fast (yes you can have all three)

if you have bigger ramekins, you can bake 2 or even 4 per dish, though you may have to increase the cooking time  

Just another variation on baked eggs, which turns basic pantry staples into a main dish that works well for brunch and also makes for an easy weeknight meal. Perfect for the kind of day when you’re just too busy to make anything very elaborate (or write much of anything on your blog—although if you really want to read more about eggs, I got your eggs right here).

they were soft but not quite runny. also: no flash and forgot to correct for tungsten light.The key to getting the whites to set softly while the yolks stay runny is to let the eggs come to room temperature before baking them and then take them out of the oven a minute or two before they look “done” because they will continue to cook for a couple of minutes from the residual heat.

Of course, if you’re completely preoccupied or in a rush and forget to take the eggs out of the refrigerator before you make the tomato sauce and then forget to set an oven timer, both of which I did, the worst that can happen is you end up with cooked yolks. They’re still tasty, and the tomato sauce is almost as good for sopping up with bread alone as it would be muddled with warm, runny yolks.

Like most egg-based dishes, the possibilities are basically endless—you can certainly bake eggs without tomato sauce, which is often called “coddled” or “shirred” eggs, usually dotted with butter or cream and sprinkled with herbs before they go in the oven. I added some leftover spinach-artichoke dip to the tomato sauce, and that could have been a base for the eggs on its own if I’d had more of it. You can add some chopped up cooked meat (especially bacon or prosciutto), a smear of soft cheese, some cooked greens or pesto, or any kind of herbs you think sound tasty. I suspect that tarragon and gruyere would be a nice combination.

Toasted bread is almost compulsory, especially if you get the yolks right. If you have the time and ingredients, a green salad would be a nice accompaniment. But perhaps the best thing about baked eggs is that they basically feel like a complete meal all on their own. roughly 20 minutes after starting, all prepped and ready to go in the oven

Recipe: Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce (adapted from Martha Stewart)

  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 T. oil or butter (plus a little more or some cream for dotting eggs before baking, if desired)
  • 15 oz. can diced or crushed tomato
  • 1 t. fresh thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley, and/or oregano
  • 4 eggs
  • a few pinches of salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 3-4 T. grated hard cheese like parmeggiano reggiano, romano or asiago
  • 1 shallot or ~1 T. minced onion (optional)
  • 1/4 cup leftover spinach artichoke dip or cooked greens or 1 T. tapenade or pesto (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

2. Mince the garlic and shallot or onion, if using, and cook in the oil or butter until golden.   

3. Add the canned tomato and cook about 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced, breaking up the tomatoes a bit. Add the herbs and cooked greens and any other additions, if using.

just tomatoes and garlicplus the spinach artichoke dip and some herbs

4. Place the dishes on a baking sheet and divide the tomato sauce between them. For four 4-oz dishes: break one egg into each dish. 8-12 oz. dishes can hold 2 eggs each. Top with a sprinkle of salt, a little black pepper, more chopped herbs, and some grated cheese. Add a few dots of butter or dribble of cream, if desired.

a bed of savory, richly umami sauce and of course, while they're in the oven, you can tend to all the other things in your life that need tending

5. Bake for 14-18 minutes or until whites are just set. If doing 2 eggs/dish, they may take a few minutes longer.

almost like little individual savory custards, but without fussing with tempering or water baths or anything of that