Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Broiled fresh sardines with a simple potato salad

Ok, I am going to give it a try... This Monday (a joyful day off work) I was passing by my favorite fish supplier in the Bay Area. Actually, I have never found such a good fish store anywhere, so this store deserves my subjective "Best Ever" award. Yes, I am talking about Tokyo Fish Market on San Pablo Ave. They had fresh and wiggling sardines so I decided to grab a pound (did I mention how I love the fact that the staff there cleans, scales and cuts the fish for you for free?). I was too lazy to fire up the grill and decided to use the convenience of having an oven. A similar recipe in one of Gordon Ramsay's shows provided the inspiration.
Here it comes: very simple and tasty broiled sardines  with an even simpler potato salad:

To serve 2 you will need:
4 fresh sardines (or more if you really love them), cleaned, scaled, boned and cut in half like a butterfly
6 potatoes (I had Yukon Gold)
4 tbsp Creme fraiche  (Bret, forgive me for the missing accents)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp chives
olive oil
salt & pepper
lemon wedges

Boil the potatoes in their skins until tender. Drain and crush lightly with the back of a fork. Let cool. Add the creme fraiche, lemon juice and snipped chives. Season well with salt and pepper and set aside. If you don't want to spend money on creme fraiche, you could use sour cream, mixed with a tablespoon or two of heavy cream. Using sour cream alone would make the salad too tangy. Nothing compares to good old-fashioned creme fraiche though. 

Heat the broiler (set it to something like "very hot"). Lay the sardines skin-side up on a baking sheet brushed with olive oil. Broil for 4-5 minutes, turn them over and cook for another 3 minutes or so. The cooking time will depend entirely on your oven. My Wedgewood is from the 1930s and heats up like a nuclear plant. Remove the sardines from the baking sheet and season well.

Arrange the potato salad in a pretty pile on a plate (if you want to be fancy, you can place it on some lettuce leaves). The hot sardines go on top of the salad. Make sure to drizzle this dish with some freshly made dressing (lemon juice + some water + olive oil + salt & pepper). The water in the dressing is Gordon Ramsay's idea and I have actually come to like it. It makes the whole thing lighter while still preserving the flavors.

Serve the salad and fish with some lemon wedges.

Monday, September 29, 2008

BBQed Bread - it's hella good

This is a delicious flatbread recipe that this guy makes at a Labor Day barbecue I go to every year. You can bake them or cook them on a griddle, but BBQed is by far the best.

Makes 8 breads

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/4 C warm water
2 3/4 C all-purpose flour (unbleached)
1/4 C whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp crushed fennel
Olive oil for brushing

Combine yeast and water, then let sit for 15 minutes, until the mixture becomes frothy. Mix in both flours. Beat in salt & fennel, knead for 5-7 minutes, and then place the dough in an oiled bowl - turning once to coat completely - the cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in volume.

Punch down the dough, cover again and let rise for an another 45 minutes. It should again double in volume.

Divide the dough into 8 balls, and place them on a floured cookie sheet. Cover with a damp towel and let rest another 20 minutes (note: this part is of dubious importance). Roll out the balls into 7-inch disks, and brush with olive oil. Place oil side down, and the bread will rise almost immediately. Turn once, and coat again with olive oil. They're done when they're nice and golden.

Bring this to your next BBQ and be a backyard hero.

Easy Cast Iron Skillet Chicken

So, for years and years I knew I loved a good roast chicken, but had no idea how to pull off a perfectly cooked bird. I knew it could be oh so simple, but that these secrets were not for me. Until now. The butcher Mike at Star Grocery in Berkeley is systematically leading me through the basics of how to cook meat, and cook it well. All I have to do is show up after work and ask, "what's for dinner?" As a failed vegetarian, I'm a bit of a neophyte when it comes to these things, and am SO happy to have been taken under the wing (the perfectly cooked and tender wing), of a well seasoned pro. This recipe covers how to make an easy and delicious roast chicken, and if you feel like going the extra mile (which is actually only like a couple of yards), you can put together a really lovely "gravy" from the drippings. Chicken is cheap, can be organic, and this recipe will feed you for a couple of days, so for all you busy folks, cook this on Sunday night and have chicken salad sandwiches until Wednesday.

So, you'll need:

- One whole chicken, at room temperature (if it's at all frozen still, or even too cold, the cooking is a bit uneven).
- 2 tablespoons salt, preferably coarse and kosher.
- Pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons chopped herbs (I think thyme works best, but rosemary or chives also have their appeal).
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and dry the chicken, and rub it with the salt, inside and out. Put the chicken, breast side up, in an oven proof iron skillet and cook at high heat for about three minutes, until the pan is quite hot (this gives the bottom of the chicken a little head start). Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Take the chicken out of the oven and tip the skillet slightly so the drippings pool on one edge. Put the chopped herbs directly into the drippings which will cook the herbs slightly. Spoon the herb drippings over the chicken, and after it is entirely covered, transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest.

To make the gravy:

Transfer the skillet with drippings to the stove and over medium low heat, add the flour and pepper, whisking constantly. When fully combined, add the milk and mustard, still whisking, and simmer over medium heat until the gravy has thickened. At this point, it's also great to add sauteed onions and/or mushrooms, if you'd like.

I usually make this with rice or potatoes, and a big salad of some sort. Easy, but feels fancy.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chocolate cake - in 5 minutes

Yes - that's chocolate cake in a cup, in a microwave.

I haven't actually tried it. For all I know, it could be awful. There is definite evidence in the comments that it doesn't always work, and you end up with a cup of horrible chocolate sludge. The photos make it look part delicious, part gross.

But then again, it takes five minutes, and what if it works? For all those times you wanted a quick snack but didn't want to go to the store - you owe it to yourself to try.  

If anyone does, please report back here. You can also try 5-minute spice cake (no photos, though).

The juiciest chicken you'll ever eat

It sounds crazy, I know. But trust me - you're gonna love it.

Juicy-ass chicken

- Chicken (as much as you're going to want)
- Sprite
- Soy Sauce

Marinate the chicken overnight in a Sprite/Soy Sauce blend (or as long as you can). Use 1 part soy sauce to 1 part sprite, so that the chicken is barely immersed in it. Either bake, grill, or saute the chicken. Add to your favorite dish.

It's fuckin' great.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Recipe Go Round - Now we're cookin'

I love to cook. So do my friends. I also happen to love blogs, and the Internets in general. There are tons of recipe/cooking-related websites out there, but they are all written, moderated, and commented upon by strangers. How do I know who to trust? If Luvs2cook69LOL tells me I should double the garlic in a chicken soup recipe, how do I know if that's a good idea?

I don't.

However, if Jessica or Drew or my dad tells me that, or another friend, or even a friend of a friend, chances are better.

So, here we go. Post your grandma's patented cobbler, a link to a great beef stroganoff recipe you found, a question about how to "fold eggs," a new and crazy idea about combining shrimp and chocolate sauce, or anything else. Add "labels" to the post so the blog can be easily searched.