Saturday, October 31, 2009

Whole Turbot - What A Fish

The Lobster Place at Chelsea Market just started selling whole turbots from the cold shallow waters around Greenland. After eating at Elkano in Getaria, Spain and having Aitor explain the parts and textures and flavors of the fish in detail while he's filleting it at your table, it's hard not to have a new found appreciation for the fish. I wish I could say that I did it as much justice as Elkano did, but then again, I don't have a grill outside and I haven't acquired the skills from grilling and filleting local fish for decades.

What I did have was the gorgeous looking fish from the fish guys and a simple recipe from the London Times. I actually kept it even more simple than the recipe by omitting the hollandaise sauce.

- one whole turbot (about 3lbs), gutted
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- fresh parsley (small handful)
- 5 to 6 slices of lemon
- 1/2 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the turbot with salt and pepper on both sides and add parsley and 2 to 3 slices of lemon in the cavity.  Grease a large roasting pan with butter and add the turbot with the dark skin side upwards. Pour the wine over the fish and dot the top of the fish with knobs of butter, slices of lemon, and some sprigs of parsley. Cover the fish with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 25 minutes (at least that's what the recipe says). After 25 minutes, check the fish, because the middle of the fish was still cool when I checked on it. It ended up need about 35 to 40 minutes for it to be cooked through.

Fillet the fish in the roasting pan. Make sure you portion out meat from the dark skinned side and the light skinned side so that you can taste the difference between the two. But don't forget the other parts since you have the whole fish. Dig out the cheeks, pick out the bits of gelatinous fish around the fins, basically make sure there is no flesh left at all. You'll find you just can't stop eating it.

Side Dishes:
Simple boiled potatoes with butter and fresh parsley and a green vegetable such as beans work really well. Just keep it simple, the emphasis is really on the fish.

Wine Pairing:
Domaine de la Bongran (E J Thevenet) 2002 Cuvee Tradition Quintaine.  A great price at my old stomping grounds, Chambers Street Wines. A wonderful French chardonnay with some residual sugar, rich, creamy, honey, good balancing acidity, tropical fruit, lovely texture. Excellent with the turbot.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Scotch: Ledaig 1997 11 Year Bottled By WM Cadenhead

It was about a year ago that I was walking around Covent Garden looking for the old Cadenhead shop. I discovered they had just moved (to 26 Chiltern Street in the West End). I found it and was welcomed with the warming sight of whisky.

WM Cadenhead is Scotland's oldest independent bottler (established in 1842).  They've been doing this for long enough and have survived the ups and downs in scotch popularity that they don't chill-filter or add colorings.  Independent bottlers buy casks from the distilleries and other sources.  They have control how to finish and bottle the whisky. They often also buy stores from distilleries which have been mothballed which enables consumers to try an varied selection of whiskies. The bottles sold by independent bottlers (such as Cadenhead, but also Adelphi, Duncan Taylor, Gordon & McPhail, Signatory to name a few) will include pertinent information about the whisky: distillation date, bottling date, distillery, cask type, bottle number, number of bottles in release.  Many are bottled at cask strength.

I could only buy a couple of small bottles, but fortunately the shop has a great selection various sized smaller bottles. After a long day working on the new site ( the other day, I thought a little sip of Ledaig would be ideal.

It's from their authentic collection and was distilled at the Ledaig distillery. Ledaig is the only whisky distillery on the island of Mull and is now Tobermory.

The whisky is 57.7% alcohol and is very light colored that belies the actual taste. Peaty, briny, sweet, caramel. Lovely.

Gourmet's Braised Chicken with Tomatoes & Olives (Poulet Provencal)

There's something about olives. I enjoy them in the odd martini, although I generally prefer a lemon twist. I enjoy them on the side, marinated or cured, along with a cocktail. But I rarely cook recipes or even order dishes in restaurants with whole olives in them. In dishes, there is something about the dominating flavor that I just don't enjoy.

So, it was a rare occasion when I was looking for a roasted chicken recipe that I found this recipe on for chicken with tomatoes and olives. I felt like doing something simple and easy to prepare, but also a little different from the stand-by basic olive oil, salt, pepper. This recipe jumped out at me for it simplicity and it's comfort.

The whole chicken turned out spectacularly. The skin was crisp, the meat was moist, the flavors were exciting, the olives didn't bother me (I actually didn't eat many of them, but they added to the dishes complexity).

In making the dish, I didn't stray too far from the recipe. I didn't have herbes de provence, but made my own impromptu version using dried herbs (thanks to wikipedia) with fennel seeds (ground), basil, thyme, lavender flowers. I ended up grinding the fennel seeds myself, because that's all I had. Everyone's oven cooks things differently - but the timing in the recipe also was spot on.

This is a great dish to have with couscous, because there are fantastic pan juices from the tomatoes and the chicken that can be drizzled on top of the couscous. It was one of those simple meals, that didn't taste simple and everything came together.

Wine Pairing
Gonon is one of my favorite producers of Rhone wines and the inexpensive Gonon 2007 VdP de l'Ardeche Les Iles Feray was a delightful pairing to the provence style chicken. It's made from young vine Syrah in Saint-Joseph and older vine Syrah on the plateau in Ardeche. The smoky bacon characteristics came out beautifully with the roasted chicken. It's soft (don't be confused with new world soft though), but has lovely minerality, red fruits, and some worthwhile acidity to finish.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Simple Lunch

Just a simple lunch, but even the simplest things can be tasty and look good.  Leftover noodles (Mee Siam), Amy's Cream of Tomato soup with white truffle oil, and a grilled cheese sandwich made with pita bread, cheddar cheese, fontina, truffle salt and pepper.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marinated and Roasted Cornish Game Hen

I go through phases of using recipes and then just cooking on my own. Having picked up a cornish game hen for a change rather than chicken (I love chicken, but sometimes, it can feel just blah), I wanted to do something more interesting than just salt, pepper, and olive oil.  I found this recipe on called Grandma's Roasted Cornish Game Hens. It looked easy and I had all the marinating ingredients, minus the ginger. It turned out fantastically. Moorish, savory, a little sweetness, juicy, tender - just how you want a little bird.


- 1 (1 lb) Cornish game hens, halved lengthwise and backs removed
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chardonnay or white-wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey 
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and put rack in the center.  Wash the game hen with cold water, pat dry, and generously season with salt.  In a bowl, whisk together orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, honey. I used a tablespoon of honey instead of the recommended teaspoon for a little extra sweetness. The final dish was still well balanced and not sweet at all.  Marinate hens in the mixture in a sealed bag for 15 minutes - the recipe called for chilling, but I just let the bird marinate on the counter.  I don't believe in putting a cold bird directly in a hot oven.

Transfer the hen to a small roasting pan with the skin side up, including the marinade. Every 10 minutes, remove from the oven and baste with the juices. After about 25 to 30 minutes, the juices were completely reduced.  I removed the hen from the roasting pan, let it rest on the cutting board, and de-glazed the roasting pan with a little white wine.  I cut the butterflied hen in half and served with the pan gravy.

I was planning on saving the second half of the hen, but after the first half, could resist just picking it up and finishing the whole thing.  I would have hated for it to dry out in the fridge overnight.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two Fantastic and Very Different Wines

1) Ameztoi 2008 Rubentis Getariako Txakolina
Having spent a week in the Basque country in September, my love and addiction to Txakoli may have reached its peak. Not much produced and unfortunately getting more and more expensive, the more popular it becomes.  It was rumored that this rosado bottling was no longer going to be produced after the 2007 vintage, but I guess not.  This had the typical frizzante of Txakoli and the classic strawberry raspberry tartness of Txakoli rose.  You could just drink and drink this stuff - if you can find it.  This was paired with sardine pate and toast points with lemon wedges.  A delightful way to start a celebration meal.

2) Luigi Nervi 1958 Gattinara Spanna
I bought this for a steal from Chambers Street Wines about a year ago and had heard some mixed results on the bottling, but not surprising for a 1958.  I opened the bottle with trepidation - no one wants that fun celebration bottle to be a dud.  The cork was intact, albeit a little weighty - I love opening old bottles and feeling the weight of the cork - shriveled, crusty, and basically old.  There was no funk at all upon decanting, in fact it was in amazing condition.  Typical orange, brick tinge to the color, light, minimal fruit, but still there and going well.  It was elegant still had some tannins with good acidity and typical Nebbiolo leather, rose, and truffle.  A perfect example of why I love Nebbiolo.  I still have a 1961 bottling to try and am hoping for an equally fortunate experience.  This was paired with roasted chicken, mushrooms (chanterelles and creminis), potatoes, and brussels sprouts.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Animal, Hollywood, 10.08.2009

All parts of animal with lots of pig: ear, tail, belly. I love menus
from which I want to eat everything.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

G and T Twist: Angostura Bitters Ice Cubes

I found this on the NY Times Moment blog - a great idea. Add some Angostura Bitters (or other bitters too) to ice cubes and use them in Gin and Tonics or other cocktails (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) to add continued depth and flavor.

Friday, October 2, 2009

BBQ Chicken, Stuffed Mushrooms, Broccoli

It's so much fun when you cook with just a few ingredients you have left around and the meal turns out looking and tasting great. The BBQ chicken was moist and tender; the stuffed mushrooms were crispy and meaty; the broccoli was well, healthy.


- chicken breast

- BBQ sauce

- head of broccoli

- baby bella mushrooms (cremini), washed and cleaned, stems removed. 3 to 4 per person.

- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

- 1 tsp tarragon

- 1/4 tsp chili powder

- 1/2 tsp paprika

- salt & pepper

- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil


Marinade the chicken in the BBQ sauce for an hour or so (don't worry if you have less time). Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the chicken on a broiler pan (covered in aluminum foil to ease clean-up) for about 20 minutes. Half way through the cooking time, brush some more BBQ sauce on the chicken breast.

In a bowl, toss the mushrooms in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. On the same broiler pan as the chicken, cook the mushrooms for 6 minutes per side. They should still have some structure, but you should also seem some juices.

While the mushrooms are cooking, toss the breadcrumbs, tarragon, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper with olive oil in a bowl. In a saute pan, toast the breadcrumb mixture over medium heat until the mixture is slightly browned.

Remove the mushrooms from the oven and add the breadcrumb mixture to the bowls of the mushrooms so there is a slight heap of breadcrumbs.

Steam the broccoli florets for 5 to 7 minutes until cooked, but still firm.

When the chicken is done, remove the chicken from the pan to rest, turn the oven to broiler, and put the mushrooms on the pan in the oven until the breadcrumbs are crispy and brown (just a few minutes).