Thursday, January 27, 2011
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
[You foodies who know this, skip ahead.]
Bouillabaisse originated in Marseilles, on France's central west coast. Back from a hard and long morning's work at sea, their boats and docks groaning with a great catch, the fisherman were ready for a meal. One builds a great open fire for a giant pot. Another prepares the aromatics [onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, herbs]. Someone peels the potatoes. A lot of them. Each pitches in fish from their haul and a giant fish stew is wrought.
Today, we include shellfish, because it's a no brainer. They work beautifully. But originally, bouilly was served in two stages: first the flavourful refreshing broth, and second, the potatoes, fish and vegetables, with plenty of bread. This guys needed a lot of carbs.
Below is a fabulous video of a small country restaurant in Nice, where the bouillabaisse is made "old school." The special guests are chefs and their mates, lined up at long tables al fresco.
The video doesn't have any subtitles [apart from some brief commentary in English], but it's worth noting that the opening tune is a tribute song about the fisherman of Marseilles. [The next song seems to be about cows, probably about how inferior they are to fish. If anyone can translate, let us know.]
This next video is good and bad -- and still worth sharing.
It's good because it does a good job of breaking down technique, except for the bouillant or "boiling" part of the process. The word bouillabaisse is essentially French for 'boiling low," as in temperature, and therefore slowly. A fast boil doesn't give you a chance to skim the soup properly, so all those impurities [aka skum] get sucked back into the soup and makes it cloudy and nasty. There isn't a chef or maker of good bouilly who wouldn't shudder how violently the chef lets his bouilly boil. It's just bad form [and sounds vaguely like that Aussie song about letting a billy boil]. Part
An important thing to know about boiling, generally and especially when making soup or stock: the boiling point temperature of 212F, whether it's just barely ticking over [the best way to make soups and stocks] or the rolling boil of a perfect storm [and you know what that gets you] is the same. Get your soup just barely ticking over, meaning little balls of air are rising delicately to the top.
How To Make Bouillabaisse [sort of]
Here's the New York Times on bouilly, including a century-old recipe, which they clearly still endorse.
Credit for this post goes to our wine guy Glenn, who loves any chance to pair red wine and fish.
What are we drinking with this, Glenn?
From Italy, to go with bouilly's characteristic saffron scenting, I recommend the 2007 Rosso di Montefalco by Caprai, in Umbria. It's wonderfully rich, with gorgeous floral aromatics that hint at saffron, with fennel hints and plenty of red fruit. Staying in Italy, still unctuous but a little lighter and less tannic, try the 2007 Masciarelli, by Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, for its racy acidity and dark unwooded fruit.
Top image: Flickr member dwizzy licensed under Creative Commons) Via TheKitchn.com [also with a recipe worth checking out]
Next week, we talk rouille [pron: roo-ee].
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Writing about fish and seafood comes naturally to Renee Lavallee, aka Feisty Chef. She is executive chef of Five Fisherman, a famed Halifax restaurant strong on, you guessed it, fish and seafood. And that tasty looking dish pictured above is her Crunchy Salad.
We're borrowing this recipe, not only because it tastes as delicious as it looks, but because it's gluten-free. More and more, we're learning that people in our lives have to avoid gluten. This is something we're going to love eating with them. Bonus: it's dead easy.
A few words about shrimp these days, since everyone's wondering how the damage of the gulf oil catastrophe is affecting marine life. Gulf shrimp has always been hard to get here, mostly because of cost and a very short shelf life. Most people are buying frozen shrimp or previously frozen black tiger shrimp, which are great. We also sell organic farmed frozen shrimp from Ecuador, also worth trying.
- 1 english cucumber; diced
- 1 red pepper; julienned
- 4 carrots; julienne
- 1 pkg tofu; diced and fried
- ½ bunch cilantro; roughly chopped
- ½ C. basil; roughly chopped
- 1 C. cashews or peanuts; roughly chopped (optional)
- 4 scallions; julienne
- 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- ½ pineapple; large dice
- 12 x 16/20 shrimp, sauteed (optional)
Mix all the ingredients together with vinaigrette.
- ½ C. canola or grape seed oil
- ¼ C. sesame oil
- ½ C. tamari or soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp white sugar
- ½ inch ginger; peeled and minced
- 2 cloves garlic; minced
- ¼ C. chopped cilantro
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp mirin
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp sambal olek (optional)
Whisk together all the ingredients and pour over the salad.
Glenn, what are we drinking w/this?
With all the Asian flavours and herbs, we need something aromatic and rich. I have in mind a wine that I’ll have on hand very soon, a new wave Italian white called Anima Bianco, made by the Arnaldo Caprai winery in Umbria, with an almost almond hint on the nose. It’s got a creamy rich mouth-feel that will do right by the sesame oil and herbs.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Mussels were always on the menu, as they are in most French bistros worth their salt. And they were always served with fries, which never made sense until to me until I tried them together. And fries are always served with mayo. Once you've had real fries with mayo, you won't have any more time for ketchup.
I'm bringing up these great combinations because mussels are ridiculously easy to cook, so I thought it would be fun to encourage you to make real fries from scratch.
Apart from the perceived nuisance of frying oil -- which is no big deal and it can be recycled -- you're going to want to make them again. But yes, you'll need a thermometer. This double-cooking method is what the pros use, and it's all about temperature.
Here's a great video on how good professional kitchens make brilliant fries -- crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. And don't listen to him about the ketchup. If he knew we're having them with mussels, he would be into the mayo, too.
Some tips on the timing for preparing this meal in general, so that both key elements are hot and ready to serve at the same time:
- Blanche the fries first. They can sit in the fridge until you need to finish them in the second cooking.
- While you're cooking the onions for the mussels, prepare the oil at the right temperature for the fries.
- Ideally, you'll be tipping your mussels into the pot right before you put the fries in for their finish.
A few words about cleaning mussels: Give them a generous rinsing with lots of cold water. Remove the "beard" with a paring knife by pulling it down to the hinge.
Another French bistro staple that will come in handy with this meal: Baguette. The mussels' liquor [cooking liquid] is so delicious, you'll want to spoon it up like soup, or sop it up with chunks of baguette.
4 lbs mussels
1 medium onion finely diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
a few flakes of crushed chiles
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 cup white wine or beer
salt & pepper to taste
- On medium heat, in a tall pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat the olive oil and fry the onions until soft, with the garlic and thyme.
- Deglaze with wine or beer.
- Add mussels and give them a good stir to coat them all with the onions.
- Put the lid on and forget about them for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Check to see how many have opened.
- If a third or so remain closed, give them a little more time.
- Generally 10 - 12 minutes should do it.
- Discard any mussels that haven't opened at this point.
- Serve them up in deep bowls, pouring the liquor over the mussels, and lay the table with extra bowls for the shells.
There are some great wines that would work well here, too. I'd encourage people to look to a Muscadet from the Loire Valley or a crisp Sancerre. I'm happy to give some specific recommendations. Just ask. As for beers, I think pilsners are best, particularly Urquel from the Czech Republic, where the first golden pilsner [aka lager] was invented in the mid-1800s. If you want a Canadian beer, try King Brewery's pilsner made just north of the city. Right now, I'm carrying a new and very interesting Italian wheat beer made in Tuscany. It's called Bruton Bianco, made in the "white" beer tradition of Belgium, where mussels, fries and mayo are also traditional and popular.