Archives for category: Seafood

Whenever I get a sushi craving, I head down to the nearby Japanese market and contemplate all the nicely cut slices of raw fish displayed for sale.  For several minutes, I stand in front of the case and ponder the pros and cons of the displayed ahi tuna, yellowtail or uni.  Then, quick as a flash, I grab unagi, salmon, tobiko and hotatgai and head for the door.  I am so.very boring because I go home and make the same sushi the same way I always do.  One of these days, I’m going to have to branch out.  One of these days, I will branch out.

Just not this last day.  Or perhaps the next.  But soon, I promise.

When I make sushi, I measure out 2 cups of sushi rice.  There are many ways to make the vinegar mixture you pour over the rice and many opinions about things like boiling the mixture together, fanning the rice or how to cook the rice.  But I usually don’t have the time to let a vinegar mixture cool, so I stir together 3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar with 1 tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. salt.  It can take awhile but most of it will dissolve and that’s good enough for me.

I take the rice bowl of our rice cooker, gently break up the rice with my rice paddle and let it cool on the counter for about 10 minutes.  Then I pour the vinegar mixture on top and mix it together.  While the rice is cooling, I prepare the seafood.  Usually once I am done preparing the seafood, the rice is slightly warm to the touch and still easily manipulated.  I one time made the mistake of letting the rice cool too much and it resulted in chunky rice distribution.  Talk about sushi fail.

This is what goes inside my favorite sushi roll:

I cut the scallops and salmon into small cubes and mix it all up with a little bit of mayonnaise and sriracha and a lot o’ bit of tobiko and green onion.  I could eat this with a spoon straight up.  I have eaten this with a spoon straight up.  I am not ashamed to admit that.  Luckily for Martin, some of it does end up rolled up with a couple of slices of avocado.

After that, the remaining rolls are some combination of this mixture, unagi and avocado.  I cannot for the life of me plate them attractively, so I just line them up on a plate and Martin and I happily stuff our faces.

Sushi My Way

2 cups sushi rice
3 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
Filling (approximations):
5 sea scallops
1/4 lb. salmon
2 tbsp. tobiko
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 tsp. sriracha
Other things that go inside sushi:
Even more tobiko
Thin avocado slices
Unagi (cooked in the oven)

1-  Cook the rice with equal parts water (or with the marking guide on the side of your rice cooker).

2-  When rice is finished cooking, take the rice out of the rice maker and let sit for 10 minutes.   Pour the vinegar mixture over the rice and gently fold until the rice is evenly wet.

3-  Take a sheet of nori and place it shiny side down on top of a bamboo roller.  I think it took me eight sushi attempts before I realized which side was “shiny.”  Hey, no judging.  Use the rice paddle to scoop out some rice because you don’t like how the rice sticks to your fingers.  Use the paddle to gently spread the rice, leaving about a 1″ strip at the bottom of the nori free.

4-  Fill the strip with a thin line of the sushi mixture.  Add a couple of slices of avocado.  Starting with the side with the filling, gently and tightly start rolling the sushi up.  When it’s done rolling, use the bamboo roller to squeeze everything together.

5-  Splash a bit of water on your knife and tap it to shake off excess water.  Cut the roll in half, then line up the two halves together side by side.  Halve the halves, then halve each half again.

6-  Arrange on plate, eat and enjoy.

Servings:  6 rolls or 4 rolls and 4 hand rolls.

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So really, this is Serious Eats’ Cracker-Crusted Fish, but Serious Eats didn’t make this delicious meal for me over the holiday break or host me and Martin at a fun dinner so forever more, I dub this “Jordo’s Cracker-Crusted Fish.” To be completely accurate, it should say Ashley, as she did the majority of the cooking, but I have literally been waiting on pins and needles for a chance to throw the nickname Jordo around and this might be his only chance!

When Jordan and Ashley made this dish for us, they used ahi tuna and it was amaaaaazing. Seriously, it blew my mind and as I was eating it, I kept wishing I had a bigger stomach so I could eat more. Martin is a fan of yellowtail, however, so I thought I would try that instead and I think the results were just as tasty (in a different, non ahi tuna way).

The nice crunch from the crackers and the tender fish is rounded out with a creamy dipping sauce. The sauce is a bit tangy from the citrus and has a little kick from the Sriracha. I used olive oil because I grabbed it by accident and the olive oil flavor does come through, but I didn’t mind too much. I do think that the canola oil would have made the citrus flavors a bit brighter.


Cracker Crusted Yellowtail
Adapted from the Serious Eats recipe

1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. tangerine juice
2 tsp. Sriracha
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 egg whites
2 tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup finely crushed flatbread cracker crumbs
10 oz. sashimi-grade yellowtail

1- Combine egg yolk, salt, lime juice, tangerine juice and Sriracha in food processor or with immersion blender. Slowly drizzle in oil until well blended. Mix in green onions.

2- Whisk egg whites until foamy. Add cornstarch in small increments, whisking between, until egg whites are foamy.

3- Cut yellowtail filet into 2 relatively-square-ish portions. Dip fish into egg whites, then coat with cracker crumbs.

4- Heat a thick layer of oil (about 1/4″) in the bottom of a high-sided skillet over medium high heat. Cook fish on skillet for approximately 30 seconds on each side or until crust is dark brown.

5- Serve sliced.

Servings
: 2

I really love lobster but my experience with it is pretty limited.  You know how, sometimes you go to Chinese restaurants, and they serve “shrimp with lobster sauce.”  Well, lobster with lobster sauce was pretty much the extent of my experience of lobster until college.  If you’ve never had Chinese lobster sauce, it’s hard to describe, except that it’s creamy, goes great on top of rice and is generally delicious!

So when I heard of a lobster roll, I was all kinds of curious.  I tried my first lobster roll in Seattle and was hooked.  I couldn’t tell which part I liked more – the buttery toasted bread or the tasty lobster salad on the inside.  Thankfully, with a lobster roll, you don’t have to choose – you can enjoy it all!

Lobster rolls are traditionally made with a New England hot dog roll, which is basically a split top roll.  Normal hot dog rolls are side-split.  There is also a big split between how to dress the lobster, between purists who insist on just lobster and those who like add other things to shake things up.

I like to shake things up so I added a bit of mayo, green onion, salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon and a bit of Tabasco sauce.  A lot of recipes listed chopped celery but I omitted it this time and I think I would omit it next time as well.  Also, I cut my lobster into approximately 1″ chunks, but I think that might be too big.  The lobster kept falling out of the bread, so I think next time, smaller chunks is definitely better.  I think it tastes best when the lobster is chilled so after cooking the lobster, mixing everything together and letting it sit in the refrigerator is the perfect way to get all the flavors to mix together!

In my experience, a 1.5 pound lobster would yield about half its weight in usable meat, which can yield two sandwiches.

Tonight, I made fish sandwiches for dinner.  I know that phrasing sort of evokes this image:

Ew.

But really what I made looked more like this:

More New Orleans po’boy and less value meal item.  Mine definitely did not come out looking so nice though.

Martin and I are still trying to purge the excess of Vegas from our bodies, so we have been trying to eat a bit healthier.  Or at least, not eat any beef (man, we ate a lot of beef this past weekend).  I had every intention of doing a simple Cajun broil of some white fish and sticking it between bread, stuffed with plenty of vegetables and even doing a salad side.

Instead, while flipping through my cookbooks to find a remoulade recipe, I found a recipe that discussed meuniere, both the sauce and technique.  The sauce is a combination of lemon, brown butter and parsley.  The technique is just dredging in flour before frying in butter.  So easy!  So delicious!  And … also easy!

Out went any thoughts of broiling.  I cooked the fish and mixed up the remoulade from this recipe.  Then I spread it on toasted French bread and topped it with ruby-red tomatoes (is it tomato season now?  I’ve noticed much prettier, riper looking tomatoes at the grocery store lately!), baby lettuce leaves and thick-cut red onion slices.

I thought the result was so delicious, if not as healthy as I originally wanted.  The crispy bread and fish paired really well with the spicy mustard.  Martin even called it the best fish sandwich he ever had.  I’m not sure how many fish sandwiches he’s had in his lifetime, but I’ll take that.  🙂

The other day, I was feeling particularly peppy … err, I mean preppy.  So I gathered all the ingredients for dinner together and actually did a proper mis en place:

I wouldn’t call myself very good about doing this.  I will do the usual chop / dice sort of prep, but that’s it, so usually it’s a mad dash for spices and other such little things when I cook.  But this time I laid it all out.  Yes, I was feeling very picky that day.

And hey!  In the picture, check out the cool McDonalds mug.  Amy gave me that for Christmas one year, after I told her this story on how I have so many memories of my dad drinking out of the same kind of mug.  I don’t drink out of it but I like to keep it out and just look at it.  I’m sentimental like that.

Another thing I really like about the mug (besides the heart-tugging memories!) is that it was made for McDonalds by Fire King.  Fire King made pressed glass dinnerware, which they discontinued in the late 1970s.  For some reason, I really love the look and feel of all types of vintage glass and ceramic kitchenware.  If I could, I would have a whole display case filled with old Pyrex, Fire King and milk glass bowls and dishware and I would use it every darn tootin’ day.  Cross my heart!

So … back to food.  I used those ingredients to make Crab Macaroni and Cheese.  It isn’t really a post worthy of But I Suck At Cooking because I didn’t really fail spectacularly in the making of the dish.  But you know, I didn’t really like it.  I did detect a bit of a grainy flour taste (I can never seem to get rid of that when making my own cheese sauce for mac and cheese, no matter how much I whisk).  But other than that, it was a dish made right that tasted anything but right.  And I made a lot:

A part of it was definitely the crab.  The flavor just didn’t mix well with the cheese sauce.  But I think if it had been straight up mac and cheese, I would have still been less than impressed.  I have yet to find The Mac and Cheese Recipe (for me), the one I would consider the Ultimate Holy Grail of Mac and Cheese (for me).  Anyone care to share theirs with me?  🙂

And also, is there any way to salvage this, since Martin and I now have a lot of it to eat?

PS.  I kept hearing this weird sound that I couldn’t identify.  Then I realized it was rain.  Nothing weird or sinister, just straight up rain.  I blame this on living in CA.  It makes me forget what rain sounds like.  🙂

My new favorite tuna melt recipe consists of:

Mixing together
2 cans oil-packed canned tuna
2 ribs celery, very finely diced
2 spoonfuls kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1 small dollop mayonnaise
1 generous squirt Dijon mustard
1 splash lemon juice (to brighten the flavor)
Pepper to taste (the olives will provide plenty of saltiness!)
Garlic powder to taste

Then layering on top of lightly toasted sourdough bread in the following order
Thinly sliced tomatoes
A layer of tuna salad stuffs
Mixed lettuce greens (thin and flat leaves – there’s no room for curly and voluminous!)
A slice of Provolone

Broil in the oven until cheese is melted and browned. Makes approx. 5 open-faced sandwiches.

Toasting the bread first ensures that the bread won’t become soggy from the tomato while broiling.

To keep  Martin on his toes in the future, I could see myself adding chopped boiled egg, diced red onion or capers for success.  Or profit.  Whichever one floats your boat more.  🙂

Martin and I both love quinoa.  For me, I think it’s a matter of pronounciation … it just sounds so exciting!  Quinoa.  Keen-wah.  KEEEEEEEEN-WAH.  For Martin, I think his reasoning is more practical:  he loves all the health benefits and food-awesomeness that this little grain contains.  I bet eating it makes him think to himself, “I’m doing good by my body.  GO ME.”

And it really is amazing that this little grain can contain so much.  It’s a great source of protein and has a balanced set of amino acids, making it a great complete protein source.  It also is jam packed with fiber, is gluten-free and easy to digest.

And on top of that, quinoa has this super fluffy texture when cooked, which is great for when you want a nutritious but light side dish.  Sometimes, it is hard to find recipes to use quinoa in … I don’t always feel comfortable substituting it for rice or some other kind of grain, depending on the dish.  I worry that bogging down the quinoa in excessive liquids, like in casseroles or soups, will just create a sort of paste-y, undesirable texture (and remember, mouthfeel = key!).

So while I still figure out this thing called quinoa, I’ve been trying to stick to recipes and I’ve been surprised at the lack of recipes around.  Despite there not being very many, they’re also mostly variations of the same: prepare like rice, add vegetables or proteins, serve.

This dish, Quinoa Pilaf with Mushrooms, is actually no exception, but I think it paired really well with the salmon to create an overall healthy and filling dinner.  You can’t tell in my poorly shot, fuzzy camera photo (though you wouldn’t have been able to in a well shot, sharply focused photo too), but there are actually mushrooms and shallots in there.  Let’s just say I got a little too enthusiastic with the chopping.  🙂  Note how my quinoa looks nothing like the quinoa on the recipe page.  Oops!

This was really quick to prepare and, on a night that I had a late evening phone call and started dinner later than usual, that is a plus.  I believe I pulled this dinner together in about 40 minutes and that is only because the quinoa took 25 minutes to absorb off all the liquid (rather than the called for 15) and 10 minutes to rest.

Another note: quinoa is coated in saponins, which will create a bitter taste if not removed.  Cookbooks will tell you to soak it for awhile, pour off the water, re-soak and pour off the water again before boiling.  In my haste to cook the quinoa, I forgot to soak it, but the taste still came out fine.  I just read that most commercially sold quinoa in the US is pre-soaked to remove this coating, so that must have been the case for my quinoa.

This was a dish that I thought was just amazing and delectable and delicious … and Martin completely balked at.  Mostly because it had mussels.  He doesn’t like most seafood (except fish and even then, it’s hit or miss), but I grew up on it and prefer it to most land-based offerings.

My friend and fellow food adventurer Amy recommended it to me and when I skimmed over the ingredients and realized I had most everything (except the mussels – that would have been amazing if I just ‘happened’ to have those on hand!), I was sold.  Especially because the curry paste used was RED curry, my absolute favorite kind of Thai curry.  Red curry beats any curry in my book – yellow curry, green curry, purple polka dotted curry … I should probably branch out and try other dishes when I go to Thai restaurants but I can’t because I just love red curry too much.  Extra so if it has pineapple … mmm, pineapple red curry.  It’s like heaven, in a bowl, asking me to eat it.

Side note:  HAY A-MAY, remember how you were the first person to introduce me to Thai food?  And the restaurant served this awful, terrible, too sticky-sweet pad thai and I almost swore then and there to never eat Thai again?  But you convinced me to give it one more try?  Thank you.  For realz.

Okay, now that I’m done rhapsodizing about Thai food, I can return to the dish on hand:  spicy Thai steamed mussels.


Check out my big guns … err, I mean, mussels.  Ha ha!

So I did some reading on mussels and one site recommended that you cook mussels in a minimal amount of sauce / soup / broth.  In fact, steaming is considered the best, because it allows the natural flavors of the mussels to really shine.  Plus, as the mussels open while cooking, they will release liquid they had inside to help the cooking / steaming process.  This went a long way into explaining why you basically had about a cup and a half of liquid to a whole lotta mussels.  Luckily for Martin, I took Amy’s recommendation and only bought 2 lbs. worth, rather than the 5 the recipe calls for.

De-bearding the mussels (aka, ripping out the thing that they use to attach to rocks) was an issue for me.  I was constantly scared they would open up on me during the de-bearding process (maybe to yell at me or scream in pain?  Eek!) and so it wasn’t overall a pleasant experience.  But the mussels had little-to-no beard and so it passed with mostly no issues.

Also, for some reason, I forgot limes (the other ingredient I didn’t have on hand), but substituted lemon juice because I was too lazy to go to the store again.  As Amy pointed out, it was really only there to add a bright, citrusy note to the dish and so I felt that lemon juice was an acceptable substitution.  As was not including the cilantro.  Both Martin and I are not cilantro fans and we didn’t really miss it in this dish.

Amy described the soup that you make as a rather thin, watery soup and I was having none of that, mostly because I love love love thick hearty soups.  So I diced up a potato into very small cubes and boiled them in the soup mixture until tender.  After they were cooked, I pureed the soup with an immersion blender and it really did create this nice, thick chowder-like texture.  I’m really glad Amy told me that the soup was thin, as I think the thicker soup really brought it up to the next level.

Served with a freshly tossed salad and lightly toasted bread to sop up the soup, this was the BEST.

Though everyone was nice and said that all the food at our wedding was delicious (thanks, everyone, for being so polite!), I heard many rave reviews about these potato pancakes.  Sadly, Martin and I ate NOT A ONE.  Waylaid far away from the door that food was slowly making its way out of, not one potato pancake came our way.

And, of course, it was all I could think of when I got home.  Potato pancakes.  Potato Pancakes.  Potato potahto pancakes.  I wrote to the caterer, requesting the recipe, but didn’t hear from them.  I thought I’d be able to mash something together when I thought about Googling for it.  And lo and behold, I found this:

I suppose the odds of someone inventing something so original, it cannot be found on the intarwebs are truly small indeed.  In this case, I can probably credit Wolfgang Puck for coming up with the idea (maybe?) and then my caterer for finding it and introducing it to us.  The only difference, I believe, is that Wolfgang Puck used caviar and my caterer used ikura, the big round orange salmon eggs.

So I went around town and picked up all the ingredients.  I even decided to go the extra mile and try to find masago but no one, not even the local Asian market, had this stuff.  Eventually, I gave up and decided to use smelt roe (masago) instead, which I keep in stock for when I feel like making sushi and which I do not have crazy problems finding.

Overall verdict:  DELICIOUS.  I could definitely see why everyone liked them.  What’s to hate about a warm, crispy potato pancake and some nice smoked salmon, rounded out with some tangy creme fraiche?  Nothing, I say!

I meant to serve this for dinner with a salad to redeem it.  Instead, we just ate a whole bunch of potato pancakes.  I should have known that would happen.

The recipe calls for 2 tbsp. worth of shredded potato per pancake, which I thought would be too small at first, but when pressed flat, ended up being just right.  When doubled up to 4 tbsp. (1/4 cup), the potato pancake was on the thick side and didn’t get that nice crispness that the smaller pancake did.  Also, as another note, this made more than the 12 pancakes the recipe claims it yields.  And since I wanted to cook all the pancakes before serving, I think I would keep them warm in the oven next time rather than letting them sit out on a plate.

Overall, very delicious.  I have 2 more russet potatoes and am considering making this dish again, this week.  That’s how much I liked it.

I know what you’re thinking.  You can go ahead and let it out, I won’t be offended:  EWWWWWW.

Yes.  Thank you for your honesty.

But here’s what I was thinking beforehand:  That sounds interesting. And it could work, maybe.  And it’s something new and I’m curious.

And here’s what I thought after I took a bite:  Oh.

And here’s what Martin said after taking a bite when I refused to tell him what was in the dish:  OHMYGOD ARE THERE OYSTERS IN HERE?

So the oysters and the creamy chicken casserole were probably not the best combination.  But I had taken heart from the one review on the recipe, and forged on.

But now I’m here to warn you:  do not forge on.