New Sauce for Fish….

Even though fish is not a particularly Memorial Day topic (unless it’s a crawfish/crab/shrimp boil or lobster/clam bake)  I thought I’d posted this already. I also am not hung up on fish dishes; it’s merely that Hubby once again brought home fillets not really suited for grilling. I intended to do the Everglades sauce we like and when I turned the package over there was a recipe on back that we both agreed sounded really good. It does include pork though as it is a Chorizo and Tomato Sauce. Incredibly simple and I’m sure a chicken or turkey sausage could be substituted.

Okay, for two 6-8 ounce fillets of any firm white fish, season the fish on both sides with your favorite seasoning and set them aside. Take 4 ounces chorizo, chopped; 1 shallot minced (or equivalent amount of red onion); 1 medium to large tomato, chopped; 1-2 Tbs capers depending on your taste; 2 tsps Italian seasoning; 1/4 cup white wine or chicken/seafood/vegetable stock; 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat skillet to medium; brown the chorizo for approximately 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan, but leave the fat. Turn heat to medium low. Cook shallot until soft; 3-4 minutes; add tomato and cook another 3-4 minutes. Thoroughly stir in chorizo, capers, seasoning, and wine or broth. Nestle fillets within the sauce and cover the skillet. Check at 6 minutes to see if done. If not, cook 2-3 more minutes. You may need to add a little more wine or broth.

This is a nice flavor profile and doesn’t take long, plus it’s one-dish cooking. Once you’re comfortable with the recipe, you can adjust the level of spiciness or play around with different types of seasoning.

Really Easy Flounder Dish……..

No, I’m not fixated on flounder. As I mentioned in a previous post, our go-to grilling of fish simply doesn’t work with flounder and I worked out what may be the absolutely easiest way to cook it last night. The only thing is, this won’t work well for a single serving and it will only keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. Our Publix carries containers of lobster bisque in the seafood section. It serves two, although they are not large servings. It’s a nice creamy bisque, but not too thick and while the flavor is good, the pieces of actual lobster are few and small. However, it occurred to me I could use that to an advantage.

The frozen flounder fillets Hubby buys are three to a package; 12 ounces worth. Those will fit exactly into our large skillet. I took the fillets, and lightly sprinkled some seafood seasoning on both sides. We have an Everglades blend we like as well as a Cajun we keep on hand. Then it’s preheat the skillet on medium, empty the bisque into the skillet; add some white wine into the container to swish it around and get the last of the bisque. Pour into the skillet, stirring everything together with some grinds of fresh black pepper and watch carefully as it comes to a boil. As soon as it does, cut the heat to medium low and gently place the fish in the bisque. Spoon it over so the fish is covered. As soon as it bubbles again (like less than a minute), turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for five minutes. Check and cook another 2-3 minutes if it isn’t flaking yet. (I had to put foil on top since I don’t have a lid for this skillet). This isn’t true poaching, but has a similar effect. There will be extra bisque. I poured it up into two ramekins to have a side of bisque. Another option is plate the fish, put it in the oven, then turn the heat to medium and reduce the liquid, stirring frequently. This makes for a thicker sauce to top the fish and should take no more than 4-5 minutes.

Making Those Ingredient Substitutions…..

I’ve posted before about how we use leftovers to create different dishes than the original. With leftover pork we generally do either carnitas or pork with pasta, but last night we had a little bit of carne asada left and that’s so close to carnitas, I decided instead to have a bit of a sampler plate with simply reheating the carne asada and planning to slice the pork to have it in a green mole sauce. I’m always torn between red and green mole, and lean slightly more to the green. Mole is another of those dishes each restaurant tends to do slightly differently with the recipe handed down by families. Although I’m sure we have and can certainly get a recipe on-line I had no intention of making it from scratch. So, I went by the store to pick up a jar, thinking I had seen some there before. Apparently I was mistaken, or it could be I’d seen it at one of the local stores with a more extensive inventory. Since the week has been a bit jammed and I wasn’t in the mood to make an extra stop, I grabbed a can of green enchilada sauce instead. The only had mild, but we do have a jar of pickled jalapenos to solve that problem.

I also still had some lime-infused olive oil and used that to get a bit of a crust on the sliced pork before I added the sauce and jalapenos and set it to simmer for about thirty minutes. Even though the end result was not quite as good as with mole, it was still good and allowed us to use up the rest of the rice and re-fried beans in the fridge as well. Oh, and almost all the leftover grilled yellow squash as the other side.

Taking A Step Back….

Not political, but… Okay, I make it a point to try and not be political in my posts although there are times when social aspects come close to or straddle the line. I also try to acknowledge when I hold a particular view and then discover something that impacts that view one way or the other. In this case, it’s a pleasant impact.

I’ve never been a big fan of Starbucks coffee in the sense of their coffee or their prices. Back when they first became popular, our son was of the age that I did appreciate the fact they provided a gathering place for the 18-20 year olds who couldn’t go to bars, yet wanted that kind of social feeling. As they significantly expanded (and thus opened the way for similar places I like better), I genuinely felt they took the whole “inclusion” thing too far. Not so much in I didn’t agree with being more inclusive; it was the sense of them seeming to project being superior about it I didn’t care for. I only patronized them when someone specifically asked to meet there or they happened to be the only convenient coffee place.

My taking a step back came last week and yesterday as I was sent an email to cover a story for the paper about the latest store opening. It is designated as the first Starbucks Military Family Store in Homestead, only the sixth in all of Florida, but brings the national total to seventy-six. I had never heard of such. As it turns out, these stores are part of an initiative launched in 2013 of “Starbucks Military Hiring Commitment, which included the goal of hiring 10,000 veterans and military spouses which was raised to 25,000 and now aims to add 5,000 more such employees each year. Military Family Stores are located near bases and posts and are, ‘designed to reflect the local military community, creating a welcoming space for veterans, active-duty military and their families’.” (Full article will probably be in this week’s paper)

In speaking with the store manager yesterday, she’s been with the company for 23 years and in South Florida for 16. Her father-in-law, a Vietnam veteran spent 28 years in the Army. She is very excited about the program and 85% of the employees (they refer to them as partners) have a family connection to the military.

I will later send a letter or email to the company expressing my appreciation.


Non-Grilled Fish…….

As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, I don’t grill as that’s Hubby’s domain.  He’s a propane guy by the way. We do also have a smoker which uses charcoal although that’s such an involved and lengthy process he rarely bothers with it. I take over when it comes to cooking fish stove top or in the oven.

We do a version of pan fried fish sometimes and I have been using almond flour because of lower carbs. My basic problem there is the tendency for sticking to the pan as I can’t ever seem to get the heat right on the first try. I’m about 50-50 on managing without making a total mess. Next up are dishes that I start stove top, then finish in the oven. I seem to have more success there as it doesn’t usually require turning the fish. My issue with that is a having to be really careful not to overcook as I constantly forget how quickly fish cooks. I rarely try to broil fish which doesn’t really make sense as the TV Chef Alton Brown says, “The broiler is an upside down grill inside your house” (or something like that). Perhaps the word “grill” throws me off.

One of the stove top preparations is Everglades style. Two firm fish fillets (mahi, snapper, haddock, hogfish, etc.) 1 shallot minced; 2 Tbs olive oil (lime flavored if have it); 2-3 Tbs butter; 2 Tbs capers, 2 Tbs Key Lime juice (can use regular lime juice); 2 Tbs rum, 1/4 cup chicken, vegetable, or seafood broth.Season fillets with salt and cracked black pepper or favorite seafood seasoning. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute minced shallots in olive oil until soft (3-4 minutes). Stir in capers, juice, rum, and broth. Melt butter in mixture and stir thoroughly. Add fillets, spooning shallots and capers on top. Cover and cook for four minutes. Remove cover and check to see if fish is flaking. If not, reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for another three-to-four minutes. (You may need to add a little more broth if sauce is thickened to the point of sticking to the pan.)

If we do this only as a sauce to top grilled fish, there is no need for broth and it cooks over medium heat in five to six minutes. That’s 1 shallot minced; 2-3 Tbs butter; 2 Tbs capers, 2 Tbs Key Lime juice; 2 Tbs rum, 2-3 grinds cracked black pepper.


No French Dressing in France….

I’ve written before about me being a “picky eater” according to some and growing up with basic Southern fare in small towns where ethnic cuisines simply weren’t available. Something like pizza wasn’t really on-hand either and that wasn’t something we had at home. In fact, I had my first slice a couple of months before my seventeenth birthday when I was at the summer school in Quebec. It was of course France in my senior year of high school where I was introduced to many different items even though I was no where as adventuresome as a number of my classmates. Our dining arrangements did mean I often had group meals which is how I ate duck and horse. In these cases as you can imagine, I frequently had extra bread or cheese and soup was usually a first course. An interesting note is that vegetable soup in France is not what we generally think of, but is instead a creamy soup of vegetables pureed and cooked with stock. It is delicious. As for salad dressing, oil and vinegar on the table was most likely or a light vinaigrette. They do not have what we call French dressing and I truly don’t know where that comes from. I was also introduced to a few Moroccan dishes. My first Indian curry was on a trip to England. Oddly enough my first time in a Chinese restaurant was much later in Germany as two of my peers discovered I’d never been in one.

German food does tend to be heavier than French, although similar ingredients are used in their preparations and no, I never developed a taste for sauerkraut. I was glad to learn about white radishes. The multiple variations of pork schnitzel were as much a comfort food as you could ask for, too. Germany was also where I truly learned about wines as I was still being a good Baptist when I lived in France.

Might Miss Another Party….

In the scheme of things, this isn’t an overly important point, but it did bring an interesting memory to mind. I’ll start with the main thing.As I mentioned in a previous post, last year was granddaughter’s fifth birthday and the first one she was to have as a “major event”. Our present to her was to be the venue, a popular place with a specific children’s birthday party package. She was inviting people months ahead and then, as timing has it, her March 13th day hit right before the official shutdown. At that stage, however, parents were becoming concerned and most basically told the kids they weren’t going to be comfortable with attending. The venue acknowledged they’d had many cancellations and so the decision was made. The grandparents from Maine did come down and they had a special day which helped take the sting out of no big party. Granddaughter hasn’t forgotten though and apparently the decision again this year is “not yet”. They are looking for something extra special so we’ll see what that turns out to be.

Anyway, reaching way back to when her dad was a baby, as I have explained, his dad was killed when he was only four months old. Single parenting with an infant and being on active duty in the Army came with more challenges than I want to get into. And as often happens when the “needs of the Army” and the “desires of the individual” conflict, it’s not hard to guess who wins. This is how I found myself on the way to a specialized school at Fort Ord, CA in Monterey for almost four months when the child was only ten months old. Most at the school did not have their families with them and since I didn’t really have anyone to care for him for that length of time (as was suggested), they made an exception for me to have him with me. However, being the only single parent, especially with an infant, came with yet another set of challenges. We were divided into work groups and since several of the individuals in our group were also parents, they rallied around to help at least some and those who weren’t parents got into the swing of it. As the child’s first birthday approached, they were startled I said I wasn’t having a party for him. The fact is birthday parties for a one-year-old is for parents and grandparents to have cute photos. Unknown to me, the group decided that wouldn’t do and our “dinner out” that night segued into a surprise party complete with messy chocolate cake and a ride on an indoor merry-go-round. They also gave me a touching framed multi-photo piece of photos one of the guys had taken over the series of weekends as I brought the baby along for times we when went out to lunch. And yes, I do still have that hanging on the wall.

Lesser Known Etouffe……

Way back when, Justin Wilson and Paul Prudhomme were the only two “known” Creole/Cajun TV chefs. Emeril Lagasse of course is the one who attained true celebrity status and opened the way for lots of interest in Creole/Cajun cuisine. In the shortest explanation Cajun is viewed as the more “country” fare. Restaurants throughout South Louisiana and any place that bills itself in that fashion are likely to have a mix of the dishes with no distinction. A popular dish almost always included is crawfish or shrimp etouffee. Unlike jamabalaya or shrimp creole, which are tomato based, etouffee is roux-based and generally served as a thickened dish atop rice. It will be flavorful rather than hot although cayenne can be added for those who like extra kick and hot sauce is always an option.

A little known dish rarely found on a menu is tuna etouffee. It may sound a bit strange, but it is high protein, low fat, inexpensive and the calories and carbohydrates come in with how much rice is used and of course if dunking crusty French bread in it. Also roux-based, it can be thinned to resemble gumbo. So, if you’re in the mood to try something different and delicious, here it is.

Two 12-ounce cans tuna in water; 1 packet brown gravy mix (yes, that’s the quickie way instead of making roux from scratch); 1/2 cup diced onion, 1/2 cup diced sweet pepper (your favorite); 1 stalk celery diced, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper (optional). In the tradition of most Cajun dishes, saute the “trinity” of onion, celery, and peppers in olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add tuna, then fill each can with water and add. Stir thoroughly, then sprinkle in gravy mix and stir briskly until blended. Add salt, pepper, stir thoroughly and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Check every 10 minutes for thickness and stir to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. Prepare 1 cup of white or brown rice in either another pan or use one of the quick microwave packets. If you want a thicker etouffee, increase the heat to medium and stir frequently as you reduce the liquid. Serve over rice in a bowl.


Uplifting Story…..

When I write stories for the community paper, I have a target word count of 450-800 depending on the story. The paper is a weekly and if something isn’t time sensitive, it may get slipped to the following week due to lack of space. There are times when we know the story will “go long” and we make allowances for that. In a few cases, we set up a 2-part story to adequately portray the person/group/subject.

My intent when I went to write about the new Krab Kingz was a regular story of a touch of irony along with the extra difficulty in opening a restaurant under current economic conditions. I’d spoken briefly with the husband half of the couple, but when I was able to sit down with them both, I knew I would need to “go longer”. The finished article is here:

I wasn’t able to include as much as I wanted about how each on their own has been a shining example of achieving the American Dream. They’ve both worked hard all their lives, committed to community and church and always on the lookout for opportunities. An element that adds to this is their personal story of having known each other in their youth and then gone separate ways. Whether one believes in destiny or coincidence, they met again as adults, both single parents and still working hard. (I did not inquire as to what circumstances caused the single parenting – it wasn’t relevant to this piece). They took their time though and allowed a few years before entering into dating and ultimately marrying.

I feel confident they will succeed in this endeavor and can attest to the quality of the food. It’s interesting that they have a “fried” and “boiled menu” and they do recommend if you want fried as carry-out, you come in to order so you can then carry out as soon as it’s taken from the fryer.


Adapting a Flounder Dish….

We have seafood once a week, sometimes more often depending on multiple factors. We mostly grill although there are some stove top and oven dishes we do occasionally. I’ve posted before about the ham wrapped fillets and last night I did a variation of Flounder Imperial. An issue with any fish is of course the tricky part of not overlooking while still having it done. (I am not getting into the whole searing versus cooking here).

Flounder is not one of our local fish, but Hubby picks up the frozen type and to the best of my knowledge, there is no way to grill flounder as thin as it is. This leave stove and oven and again, timing is tricky. With our schedules, I did the grocery shopping last week and picked up an 8-ounce can of jumbo lump crab and one container of Publix lobster bisque. My intent was sort of a “deconstructed” Flounder Imperial. The “Imperial” part means a thin layer of mayonnaise is spread over the crab before baking. Since the point of paying extra for jumbo lump crab is to have the large chunks, that means they will take a little longer to cook than the thin fillets. To prevent the flounder from overcooking I used a two-part approach, although that does require messing up an extra dish.

Crab Imperial: 8 ounces crab meat; 1 Tbs Lea & Perrine’s; 1 Tbs any type mustard; 2 Tsp capers. Gently mix to coat the crab. Place 1 Tbs of butter in small baking dish to melt while preheating oven to 375 (can spray dish with butter spray instead). Put crab mixture in dish and gently spread a thin coat of mayonnaise over the crab (approximately 3 Tbs). Lightly sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 15-20 minutes until crab is hot and top is browned.

I lightly sprinkled the fillets on both sides with a chicken/fish seasoning mix (whatever brand you like or use Old Bay). Poured the lobster bisque into a 12-inch skillet, added some white wine to the container to get the rest of the bisque out and stirred that in. Heated the bisque over medium low to barely a boil. Reduced heat to medium low. Placed the fillets in and spooned bisque over them. Cooked for three minutes, gently turned, spooned more bisque over and cooked another two minutes.

The crab took 15 minutes. Try to time it so both dishes are done at the same time (I was off a little so moved the skillet to the back burner (no heat) while the crab finished. I spooned sauce on the plate, placed the fillets on the sauce and topped with the crab. There was some sauce left in the skillet and I poured that over the fish.

And no, this is not the kind of dish Hubby attempts.