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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lunch Today: Pan Fried Smelts

I am posting this to encourage people to try some different ingredients more so than to post a recipe. Unless I am mistaken I do not think most of my friends and family eat Smelt on a regular basis. Maybe they should though. Smelts travel in schools around the shores of the cold waters of North America. They are a fresh water fish with a very mild sweet taste. They are usually enjoyed fried.

I simply mixed some flour with a little salt and dredged the fish shaking off excess flour. Then I added the filet's to a pan I had heating up with oil. You want to just coat the bottom of the pan and then add a little more oil after all I am pan frying not deep frying. Make sure the oil is hot. What I do is throw a little clump of flour in the pan, if it bubble vigorously around the flour that should be hot enough. Cook the Smelts three minutes on each side then transfer to a paper towel. I squeezed some lemon juice on them and dusted them with Old Bay Seasoning.


*The Smelts I purchased were cleaned already but the spine was still attached. After the Smelts are cooked you can remove the spine with a fork rather easily.

*Don't be put off by eating the skin of this fish. Pan frying the fish makes the skin nice and crisy

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dinner Tonight: Shrimp And Grits

How yall doin? Tonight I made a classic southern dish, Shrimp and Grits. Though I did not make it in the traditional way I think it came out pretty good.

My wife and I were watching Anthony Bourdains: No Reservations recently and he was exploring the wonders of Charleston, South Carolina. During this show one of dishes he samples were Shrimp and Grits. Immediately I was intrigued by the combination of seafood and breakfast cereal. I googled a few recipes and I decide to ad lib a bit.

10 Cleaned Shrimp

Old Fashioned Grits(follow directions on carton for 4 servings)

1/3 cup sharp White Cheddar shredded

1 Orange Pepper diced

1 stalk of celery heart chopped

1 small Shallot chopped

1 clove garlic shopped

1 Splash Dry White Wine

Dashes of: Cayenne Pepper, White Pepper and salt

3 Tablespoons duck Fat

For the two or three people that read this blog regularly they might of read my duck breast recipe where I pleaded to save the rendered duck when they cook the succulent bird. Well I practice what I preach and implemented it in this dish. I figured this was good to do so in because I see a lot of recipes for this dish using bacon fat.

So I added the duck fat to a hot skillet and let it melt down a bit. I added the garlic and shallot to the skillet and cooked them for two minutes. I proceed to add the celery and the pepper and cooked them for about 3 minutes or so stirring occaisonally. Finally I added the shrimp,cayenne pepper,white pepper and a splash of white wine. Give it a few stirs and cover for a about three minutes or until the shrimp are done. You know a shrimp is done by its bright pink color and and it the way they curl up. Serve over the Grits

Now for the grits. Please do not buy either instant or quick grits at least for this recipe. I used Quaker Old Fashion Grits enriched with hominy, yeeee haaaaaaaa. I followed the directions for cheese grits on this box BUT I refused to use the processed cheese product it recommended on the box. I opted for some a White Vermont Cheddar that was aged for 14 months. I stirred the cheese into the grits one minute before the grits were do to be done with a drop of half and half.

*Obviously most people can figure out(maybe not Tom) that you do not need duck fat to make this. Subsitute it with oil you like or butter.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Product Spotlight: Recaito

Cilantro cilantro, where art tho cilantro? Actually it is in the international food section of your supermarket.

Using fresh herbs in dishes is always preferable but sometimes its not always cost effective. Many recipes call for small amount of fresh herbs but you cannot purchase herbs by the sprig and more times than not it winds up going bad(at least in my case). This is where a product like Recaito comes in handy. Recaito is a cilantro(aka coriander) cooking base made by the Latin food moguls Goya. This is a very useful product to have laying around because a lot of recipes call for cilantro. It works great in dishes that require Cilantro, such as Guacamole and Pico Di Gallo. Also it works well with rice. Mix in it in with some white rice to give it a more refined taste.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dinner Tonight: Shrimp w/Braised Bok Choy

Bok Choy has been grown in China since ancient times. It very high in Vitamin A, C, calcium and it is very low in calories. Even though it bears they bear no resemblance its is a relative to the cabbage. Bok Choy is used in soups, stir fries and in some cases salads. Tonight I gave it a quick braise served with shrimp.

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 crush garlic clove

1 table spoon fresh shredded ginger

1 lb.(apporox) Bok Choy

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

12 shrimp cleaned

I made this dish in a wok. If you do not have one I would use a large stainless steel skillet. If you don't have that either please call your local pizzeria and order a pie for yourself.

When cooking Chinese food it very important to have your ingredients remeasured and ready to go. I had all the ingredients next to my stove in tea cups. You can also use shot glasses. Separate the leaves and clean them well. Cut the leaves into bite size pieces. Heat the wok until it gets really hot and add peanut oil, garlic and ginger then stir fry for 1 minute. Add the bok choy and shrimp and stir fry for 1 minute. Add sugar,water and a little bit of salt and pepper. Mix well and cover for 2 minutes. Give it a good stir and cover for 2 more additional minutes. Remove cover and stir in the sesame oil and oyster sauce. Serve with rice. Approx 2 servings

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Escarole And Beans

Sometimes its the simple things in life that bring a smile to my face. Enjoying a kung fu movie, a quiet evening at home with my wife or a plate of escarole. Escarole is staple in Italian cooking. Sometimes overshadowed by Broccoli Rabe, I find Escarole a very rustic and delicious vegetable that can stand up to many different preparations. For this particular dish I am making escarole with Beans or if you a are paisan you can call it Shcarole with Beans.

1 head escarole

3 gloves of garlic thinly sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 of cup vegetable stock(or chicken)

1/3 cup canned garbanzo beans drained(chick peas)

Dash of red pepper flakes(optional)

Trim the escarole and discard any bruised leaves. Cut off the bottom of the stems. Separate the leaves and wash thoroughly under cold water. Wash one leaf at a time and make sure you get off all the dirt, especially in the center of the leaf where the soil builds up. Do not take any shortcuts when washing the leaves otherwise it will taste like you made your escarole at the beach. Stack the leaves and cut them into bite size pieces.

In large pot heat up the olive oil and add the garlic and red pepper. Cook the garlic on medium heat until the garlic start to add. Add the escarole, stock and the beans and stir well. Cover and cook for about fifteen minutes or until the escarole is tender. This is good for about two servings or if you are a gavone like me one serving.

Its ok to serve escarole hot or at room temperature.

* I like adding stock to my greens because it really softens them up and adds a lot of flavor. You can make this exact recipe however without stock and it will turn out just fine.
* Substitute the garbanzo's with canellini beans, or don't use any beans at all if you desire

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dinner Tonight: Portobello Mushroom / Pastina with Ricotta and Peas

I am far from a vegetarian but sometimes its nice to have something for dinner that never had a mother. Tonight I prepared portobello mushrooms with pastina with ricotta cheese and peas. The pastina dish is a nice comfort food on a cold night and the portobello is a formidable substitute for meat.

In case you do not know pastina is probably the smallest pasta you can buy and is primarily used in soups. I brought four cups of water to a boil and added 1/2 cup of pastina. Cook them for five minutes and drain. Reserve some of the pasta water to add to the dish if it dries out. I used frozen peas for this recipe. Frozen peas more so than any other vegetable freezes very well. I actually steamed them over the pasta for five minutes while it was boiling and it worked out pretty good. After the pastina is cooked drain it and add to a large bowl. Stir in the peas, a generous pat of butter and two tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I had purchased two portobello mushroom caps for this meal. When buying portobellos make sure the caps have no soft spots on them and the have no odor. Mushrooms are primarily made of water and when they start turning they smart smelling rather foul. First step is to gently remove the stem from the bottom of the cap and give it a good wash. I try not to saturate mushrooms when I clean them because the are like sponges and they will take in a lot of water. I usually clean them with a damp paper towel. Place the mushrooms in a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil(not extra virgin). Roll the caps around in the oil so the whole surface from top to bottom is coated. Place the cap topside up and give it a good dose of salt,pepper and thyme. Place in the oven and roast it on 425 for fifteen minutes.


*Portobellos give off a water when cooking they will shrink considerably when cooked. For that reason I try to find large caps.

*Pat the bottom of the mushroom cap before plating to absorb excess liquid.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dinner Tonight: Seared Duck Breast w/ Apricot Glaze

Welcome quack everybody. Ducks really do have a soft spot in my stomach. Their crispy skin and gamy taste really does it for me gastronomically. Because of the aforementioned gamy taste duck is usually prepared in a sweet fruit sauce.

Tonight I prepared a boneless duck breast with a quick and easy apricot glaze. First step is to rinse the breast and pat dry. With a sharp knife make vertical scores through the skin without cutting the meat. Make one every inch or so. This helps render the fat during cooking for a more crispy duck. Heat up skillet on medium high without any oil. Place the breast in the skillet skin side down for eight minutes. You might want to put a splatter shield over your skillet because things could get messy with all that yummy duck fat frying. After the eight minutes is up flip the breast over for another four minutes and remove from the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Let the breast sit for a few minutes before slicing.

For the sauce heat up a drop of olive oil(not extra virgin) in a small sauce pan and add one finely chopped garlic clove. Cook the garlic for two minutes and add 1/4 cup orange juice and two tea spoons of apricot preserves. Add a dash of allspice,cayenne pepper and cilantro. Bring to a boil stirring often then lower the heat. Let the mixture blend and thicken and pour over the breast.


* They say you should serve duck medium rare but I prefer medium and that is how I prepared it. If you want to serve it medium rare cut a minute off cooking time one each side.

*After you are done cooking the duck you are going to have a skillet full of duck fat. Please do not throw this away. Duck fat is a prized cooking agent and you can even buy it by the tub online. Use it instead of oil or butter next time you cook a savory dish. But if you insist on discarding please do so correctly. I moonlight as a Duck Fat Collector(DFC) and I can come to your home or office to collect your duck fat. Email me at for details and collection hours.

*For the sauce you can subsitute the Allspice with Nutmeg. Also the cayenne pepper is optional I just like the sweet heat.

* Apricot Glaze is great on chicken too

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