So that we aren't giving all of the holiday love to Christmas Eve and its array of fishes, here is a picture of our decidedly non-fishy Christmas Dinner.
Slow smoked with a bit of apple and oak (2 hrs at 210°F), the roast was pulled from the fire at 116°F, then quickly crisped-up in a hot, hot oven (5 minutes at 550°F). We kept the seasonings simple: kosher salt 48 hours prior, followed by freshly cracked black pepper just before roasting.
We had a storm come through in the middle of smoking, but the Weber handled the cold rain quite well - only a brief 30° drop when the downpour started, then back up to temp with only minor adjustments needed.
The meat came out rosy, juicy and delicious. The smokey crust paired beautifully with a mound of celeriac-potato mash and pan-roasted whole carrots.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
We continued our Feast of the Seven Fishes Christmas Eve dinner tradition this year with a bit of a twist. We have been making a lot of Vietnamese and Thai food recently, and decided to use flavors from that part of the world as the inspiration for this year's feast.
Without further ado, here are the seven dishes:
Oysters with Vietnamese Ginger-Chili Mignonette
The Barron Point oysters had a nice sweet and salty flavor and a ton of liquor. A small dash of the ginger-chili sauce added a nice kick.
Cured Salmon Four Ways
Probably the most successful dish of the evening. A thick piece of salmon was cured 48 hours using our standard cold-smoke dry cure (kosher salt, brown sugar, white sugar, white pepper, clove, allspice, mace and a touch of pink salt). We served four slices seasoned in four separate ways: fresh lemon - zest and juice; shallot, parsley and lime; fresh lime - zest and juice; ginger-chili and fish sauce. All four tasted very different from each other, and all four were great.
Thai Steamed Mussels
A simple dish of steamed black mussels with coconut milk and green curry.
Vietnamese Salad with Smoked Trout and Bitter Greens
Slices of "house-smoked" trout over a salad of watercress, Belgian endive, and quick-pickled carrot, daikon, cucumber and shallot. Both the trout and the salad were really good, although they weren't a perfect match for each other.
The next three dishes we served together family-style, along with steamed rice and sautéed mustard greens.
Not much to look at, but very tasty. The ginger flavor was very intense, and the fish (rock cod) had nice texture.
Squid in Caramel Sauce
We have done a number of caramel sauce dishes with other ingredients, and thought that the flavors would go well with squid. They absolutely did, although the squid let off a fair bit of liquid during cooking, resulting in a more loose sauce than we were looking for.
Napa Cabbage Soup with Shrimp Dumplings
A very pleasantly savory, but fairly mild tasting soup. It made a perfect accompaniment to the other, more strongly flavored dishes.
All in all, a very fun meal! We would happily make any of these dishes again - maybe with the odd tweak or two.
If you enjoyed these dishes, check out our seven fish dinner from last Christmas Eve.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
We've talked about cookbooks before on the blog, but this is the first one we haven't actually cooked out of yet. Then again, it isn't often that a cookbook gets a jacket endorsement from Stan Lee. That's because while Feast of Seven Fishes does have recipes, it is primarily a short graphic novel.
Written by script writer and producer Bob Tinnell and inked by alt comic artist Ed Piskor and long-time DC and Marvel artist Alex Saviuk, Feast is a nostalgia piece about an Italian family's Christmas in small factory-town Pennsylvania in the 80's.
The centerpiece of the story is the feast itself - rooted in the Italian Catholic tradition of La Vigilia, a Christmas Eve celebration meal consisting of seven seafood dishes.
Originally run as an online comic, the strip is available in book form, and there are now plans for a movie. I can just imagine the pitch: "Think American Splendor meets A Christmas Story with a dose of Big Night thrown in the mix..."
At the end of the book is a section of recipes (provided by Tinnell's wife, Shannon) which represent the current state of their family's Seven Fishes tradition.
Although neither of us is Italian, La Vigilia has been an adopted tradition of ours for the past several years. Here are some pictures from last year's seven fish feast:
We're definitely planning on doing it again this year. I guess we'd better start thinking about the menu, since time is running out. Thanks to the Feast of the Seven Fishes book, we have a new source of recipe inspiration.
Update: here is the post on this year's feast: Feast of the Seven Fishes - Southeast Asian Style.
Monday, December 15, 2008
This past Saturday afternoon, we found ourselves in downtown Somerton, Arizona - a few miles outside of Yuma. So, why were we in Somerton? For the their 2nd Annual Tamale Festival, of course.
We got the heads-up about the festival from Ed over at mmm-yoso. As a happy coincidence, we were already planning on driving back from visiting Sherry's folks in the Tucson area on the day of the event, and our route goes right through Yuma.
When we got there in the early afternoon, the festival was in full swing.
They closed off the main drag through town and both sides of the street were lined with dozens of vendors selling tamales at $1.50 a pop. We found a stand that was doing a good business (multiple people ahead of us were buying their tamales a dozen at a time) and ordered a beef tamal.
It came hot out of the steamer, and was just begging to be opened:
Inside, the brilliant yellow-orange masa was filled with shreds of tender beef in a red sauce, along with some strips of green chile. The masa had great texture and flavor.
Next up, ordering a pork tamal.
The pork was finely minced, and had nice rich taste. As a bonus, there were a few slices of potato inside as well.
The next tamal we tried was our favorite of the day - a corn and green chile tamal. The masa had an amazing fresh corn taste (I assume they must puree fresh corn and add it to the mix), and the green chiles had a great spicy kick to them. Fantastic tamal.
Our only disappointment of the day was our final tamal - cheese and green chile. Ironically, this one came from the vendor voted "most authentic" at last year's fest. In addition to being pretty skimpy in size, the masa did not have very good texture or flavor. Oh well, you can't win them all.
As we were leaving, we noticed one of the vendors preparing a fresh batch of tamales. Probably getting ready for the dinner rush (the festival ran until 10pm).
Overall, we really enjoyed the festival. It made a perfect lunch stop on our trip home.
Update: Ed from mmm-yoso just posted part one of his pictures from this year's festival. Check it out here.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
We love pork and we love green chiles, so using them together is a no-brainer. This dish has been a go-to recipe of ours for years. The inspiration for it came from a surprisingly good road-trip meal at a motel restaurant in Flagstaff. We really enjoyed how the flavors of the pork and the green chiles blended together.
We usually serve it with rice, cumin-scented black beans (you can find the recipe for them here), salsa fresca with plenty of fresh tomato, and tortillas (or sopapillas if we are willing to do the extra work).
Green Chile Pork
3/4 pound pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces (country-style pork ribs also work)
1-2 tablespoons Southwestern Spice Rub (see recipe below)
1 onion, diced
2 (7 ounce) cans roasted green chiles, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
3 canned tomatoes, diced
Sprinkle the meat generously with spice rub and brown in hot oil. Remove and set aside.
Saute the onion and garlic in oil. When softened, add the green chiles and cook another 5 minutes.
Return the browned meat to the pan and add chicken broth and tomatoes. Simmer until the pork is tender, about 1 hour. Season with salt to taste.
Southwestern Spice Rub
3 tablespoons hungarian sweet paprika
3 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Makes about 3/4 cup. For less, use teaspoons instead of tablespoons. Store in a tightly sealed jar.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
After making Stuffed Turkey Leg for "Pre-Thanksgiving" , we had leftover turkey bits to deal with. We smoked half of the turkey breast along with the wings. The smoked breast came out very nicely, and we're saving the smoked wings for making stock.
The other half of the breast we brined longer (3 days) and stronger. After being coated with black peppercorn, juniper berries and coriander seeds, it too was smoked and we had ourselves some turkey pastrami.
Here it is sliced up:
Along with some Gruyere cheese, it made for a great panini lunch the other day.
So, what about Thanksgiving itself? We had personal "turkeys":
Roasted Cornish game hens with balsamic vinegar and fresh sage. Alongside, we had a three-grain pilaf with almonds and shitake mushrooms (from The Union Square Cafe Cookbook) and romaine stuffed with root vegetables braised in red wine (from the Café Boulud Cookbook).