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Posts Tagged ‘thyme’

tastes as beautiful as it looks

tastes as beautiful as it looks

If you want to sing because you have just eaten something delectable – if you want to feel like you are dining in the manner of aristocrats – if you want an absolute slurpy flavor explosion with each little bite of food, then you need to prepare and eat the mussels that I just had for lunch.  Seriously.  I’m getting really passionate again about my lunch but it’s completely valid. 

Mussels are so good and easy to make.  The strangest thing is trying to guard their little lives so much from store to home, then confirm that they’re all healthy and thriving, only to quickly extinguish those little lives in a steaming pot.  I would be kind of sad about it if they weren’t so extravagantly delicious. 

I have been craving mussels and a  smattering of left over ingredients from the week came together very quickly to make an absolutely glorious broth that obviously gets me very excited.  A pinch of saffron and the addition of a tiny anchovy filet (both pantry staples in my house) added an extra layer of flavor to ingredients that are already outstanding.   Imagine this bite: one tender little mussel swimming in a fragrant broth that tastes of wine and lemon and garlic and fresh parsley and summer with a hint of thyme and saffron.  I realize that I sound a bit over dramatic sometimes when I talk about some of these things, but when food tastes this good it makes me want write poetry.  And love letters.  Food love letters, if you will. 

We ate these mussels with some toasted slices of french baguette, rubbed with a clove of raw garlic and drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper.  If you haven’t eaten bread this way, you are missing out on one of life’s great and simple pleasures.   

The recipe below serves two and the entire meal took about twenty minutes to prepare; there really isn’t any excuse for you to not share in this experience with me.  I want everyone to experience these little tastes of the good life – together.  Let’s start with these mussels. 

tender mussels in fragrant wine broth

  • a pound and a half of mussels, scrubbed and debearded if necessary
  • a cup and a half of white wine
  • three cloves of garlic, chopped
  • a quarter of an onion or a couple of shallots, chopped
  • a generous handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • four or five sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and stems discarded
  • half of a lemon (meyer is best)
  • one little anchovy fillet
  • a pinch of saffron (maybe five or six small threads)
  • one tbsp of butter
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • about one tsp of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. add the saffron to the wine and let soak while you begin cooking
  2. heat the butter and olive oil in an appropriately sized sauce pan over medium heat, and add the chopped onions, salt and pepper and stir frequently for about two minutes
  3. add the garlic, anchovy and thyme and cook for a minute or two more, stirring frequently
  4. add the wine (with saffron) and about two thirds of the fresh parsley and bring to a boil
  5. gently add the mussels, cover and reduce to medium, cooking for six to seven minutes (all mussels should be open – discard any that do not open)
  6. ladle the mussels and plenty of the broth into wide bowls and garnish with the rest of the fresh parsley; serve with crusty garlic bread

All mussels should be scrubbed and inspected before cooking; discard any mussels that have cracked or broken shells.  If a mussel is open, gently tap it on the shell; if it doesn’t close it should also be discarded. 

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see the foamy white goodness on the salmon?  that's hot butter

see the foamy white goodness on the salmon? that's hot butter

I think I may have mentioned this already, but salmon isn’t really my favorite fish.  It’s just so salmony.  So it’s funny that we eat it about once a week in our house.  Clarification: I don’t care for it as much when other people fix it, I love it when I prepare it myself.  Is that snooty?

The thing about salmon is that it’s so affordable and a cinch to prepare, extremely good for your body and a very sustainable fish.  All of these things appeal to my sensibilities.  Also, I have found some ways to make salmon taste creamy, not salmony. 

Imagine a plumpy, flaky, juicy little piece of pink fish, covered in a delicious blackened crust – onions, garlic, paprika and cayenne all come together to create a smoky depth of flavor – a little lemon and thyme add brightness and keep things interesting.  Imagine drizzling a little bit of browned butter on the fish – it sizzles on the crust – buttery magic is happening.  Now imagine yourself taking the perfect bite of creamy fish – the crunch of the crust is so toothsome – the soft richness of the salmon is a perfect contrast.  I mean really, imagine this.  You too can be so passionately dramatic about a fish that you’re not even sure you like.  Indeed, that is how spectacular this recipe is.  I’m getting worked up just thinking about it (even with a belly full of the best homemade pizza that has come from my kitchen to date)…    

Furthering the greatness of this dish is the fact that I can throw it on my indoor grill with some asparagus and call it a night.  Jon and I split a large, skinned filet between the two of us but you could get wild and have an entire filet to yourself – just increase the amount of the spice mixture.  Speaking of wild, Sockeye and other non-farmed varieties of salmon are abundantly available right now – there are no excuses to not to have a euphoric salmon experience this week.

blackened salmon with a brown butter drizzle       

  • one large, skinned salmon filet cut in half
  • two tbsp of onion (red, white, yellow – use what you’ve got), finely minced
  • two cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • a heaping tsp of paprika, maybe a little more
  • a heaping tsp of dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper, or more if you like heat
  • 1/4 tsp of smoked pimenton or smoked paprika (if you don’t have this on hand just omit it – it’s just a bonus)
  • a very generous pinch of kosher salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • a very generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, probably a few tbsps
  • half of a lemon
  • a tbsp or so of butter
  1. combine the onion, garlic, cayenne, paprika, thyme, salt, pepper and lemon in a small bowl and add enough olive oil to form a nice wet paste (just for fun, take a big whiff of the mix – it will be aromatic and wonderful)
  2. cover one side of each piece of salmon with some of the spice mixture, and place spiced side down onto a well oiled grill pan or skillet on medium heat
  3. add the remaining spice mixture to the exposed side of the salmon
  4. cook the salmon for three to four minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the filet (be gentle when you’re turning the fish over so that the crust stays with the fish)
  5. in the last few minutes of cook time, melt some butter over medium heat, swirling gently until is begins to brown
  6. plate the salmon and drizzle the hot butter immediately over each fillet – serve with another squeeze of lemon and thank God for the privilege of food and taste buds

Do you want more salmon?  How about favorite spring salmon on peas with lemon brodetto or salmon with citrus pesto? Mmmmm….

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lemony herby honest chicken - eat immediately

lemony herby honest chicken - eat immediately

We ate some wonderful roasted chicken breast tonight.  I sit and write this full and content – pleased with the unique satisfaction that comes from a full belly of something comforting and savory.

I have been traveling so much lately and have been yearning for something simple and delicious, cooked in my own kitchen.  Sunday is market day, and I wandered the crowded aisles thrilled to be shopping for a week’s worth of meals.  I love the energy of the market; today the produce was as abundant as the shoppers, diverse and overflowing.  I passed some beautiful parsnips and springy baby vidalias and the thought of a simple roasted chicken came to mind – one dish in the oven emanating lovely fragrance throughout my home – minimal dishes – snuggly time with my husband and my Bill Bryson book – yes, please. 

This impromptu, market-inspired dish is so simple it’s ridiculous.  Chicken, parsnips, carrots, baby vidalias – all very rustic and honest ingredients.  An elegant little sauce elevates the beautiful flavors of the vegetables with just enough sweet, tangy, herby goodness to keep things interesting.  The chicken will be perfect; juicy, succulent and tender with crispy skin.  A hit of balsamic vinegar in the last ten minutes of cooking adds a subtle sweetness and extra layer of flavor that takes this humble dish to the next level. 

It may seem unusual to cook everything on the very top shelf of the oven at such a high temperature – don’t deviate!  This and a generous amount of olive oil is the secret to delicious oven-roasted chicken breast.  (Stay tuned for chapter two of fabulous roasted chicken breast.)  I prepared just one skin on, bone in chicken breast to split between two hungry people, but you could go for as many as you like.  The recipe below is for one chicken breast – adjust the amount of chicken and veggies according to your taste and serving size. 

fabulous roasted chicken breast and honest veggies with a lemony, herby sauce

  • bone in, skin on chicken breast
  • four medium parsnips, peeled and cut into two inch pieces, larger pieces halved length wise
  • four skinny carrots, peeled and cut into two inch pieces, larger pieces halved length wise
  • one bunch of baby vidalias (about three), bulbs halved and green parts cut into three inch pieces (if you can’t find baby vidalias, substitute with a regular sweet onion and a bunch of green onions)
  • 1 heaping tsp each of dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage, basil and marjoram (use fresh if you have them – just be sure and keep it diverse!)
  • zest and juice of one lemon (use a meyer if you have it)
  • a couple tbsp of butter, melted (omit if you’re feeling skinny)
  • three to four tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • generous splash of balsamic vinegar
  • generous tsp of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  1. mix herbs, salt and pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, melted butter and olive oil in a small bowl – the mixture should think but not pasty – easily pourable
  2. place all chopped veggies and chicken breast(s) in a large, glass baking dish or similar
  3. gently separate the skin from the chicken breast, carefully cutting so as not to detach skin from breast, and generously rub some of the herb mixture all over the chicken (make sure to rub plenty under the skin)
  4. pour the rest of the lemony, herby sauce all over the veggies and toss
  5. generously drizzle more extra virgin olive oil over the entire dish and season again with a little more salt and pepper
  6. place uncovered in a 500 degree oven on the very top rack and roast for 20 minutes
  7. remove from oven and splash some balsamic vinegar on the vegetables only
  8. return to oven and roast for 10 minutes more

Serve with all of the pan juices poured over the chicken and vegetables, and also with some crusty bread to soak up the amazing juices.

Be sure and roast with the skin on, even if you don’t plan to eat it.  This will help to keep the chicken moist and flavorful and cannot be omitted. 

If you have a little extra time, why not do a quick salt water brine for your chicken breast a few hours before cooking?

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Lately, a lot of people have asked me to write them a weekly menu and corresponding grocery list.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to do this (or write the post on my latest dining experiences in Texas, my first post on “beauty,” starring Ella and Ava, or the post I’ve been planning on my favorite market…).  My insane schedule does not line up with my desire for slow living!  I suppose the next best thing is to post what we are eating for dinner tonight…something simple, healthy and supremely delicious for a weeknight dinner. 

As usual, I don’t recall where this recipe came from – as always, I’m sure I have made a few modifications.  The recipe is still scribbled in one of my “food” notebooks, but now the contents reside in my head.  While the ingredient list may seem bizarre or unappealing, do not be deterred.  These flavors and spices come together beautifully for a moist and delicious dish.  I’m sure that the recipe is to serve four, but I still make all of the extra sauce and topping for two.  I love EXTRA flavor! 

When I’m preparing this for two, I split one chicken breast between us and bake in a loaf pan; this way all of the juices don’t disappear.  I’m sure this would be very tasty served over couscous or quinoa, but I just pair it with some roasted carrots.  I have served this many times for guests in my home; it is a hit every time. 

garlic lime chicken and olives

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast halves (or less if you’re like me and split one chicken breast for two – skinny AND economical)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • fresh juice of one lime
  • 1 tbsp of molasses (not black strap – don’t skip this step – so tasty!)
  • 2 tsp worsteshire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin (or more if you really love this flavor)
  • 1 heaping tsp of dried oregano
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste (at least 1/2 tsp of each)
  • 1/2 cup of sliced, pitted black olives (I alternate between kalamata and plain black olives)
  1. coat a roasting pan or baking dish (or loaf pan for a small group) with oil or cooking spray
  2. combine all ingredients, except for olives in a bowl
  3. stir and add chicken
  4. pour the olives over and around chicken
  5. roast at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes

roasted carrots

  • carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks (amount of carrots depending on how many people you’re serving)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • thyme or rosemary (dried or fresh)
  • red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  1. add your carrots to a baking dish and toss with a generous amount of olive oil, a few splashes of vinegar, and a generous sprinkle of herbs, salt and pepper
  2. roast, tightly covered in foil at 400 degrees for 25 minutes
  3. remove the foil and roast for 10 minutes more

note: I use balsamic vinegar paired with rosemary and red wine vinegar paired with thyme

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My Mom was inspired from my post about trout almandine and prepared a letter and a few recipes for the blog.  I am delighted to share them!  However, the main ingredient is a bit of a stretch for me personally.  I am still steadfast in my goal be a tad more adventurous in the meat department, but turtle?  I like turtle.  We had a little turtle that visited our backyard regularly, and I took pictures of her.  How can I eat turtle?  Turtles are cute; thus nullifying their qualification as food (see my previous post on this matter).  Nonetheless, the recipe deserves to be shared.  Please note that Mom (aka Mimi) has shared some of her own notes following the recipes.  Enjoy!

From Paula:

Your blog about your “meat issues” reminded me of when I first moved to New Orleans from Southern California – talk about meat shock! Nothing was the same, the types of seafood and meat were totally different, and the way to cook everything was totally different, even the way people talked was totally different…I had a lot to learn.

I worked in a high rise office on Poydras Street and would go out to lunch with groups of “natives” who thought it was their sacred duty to introduce me to the cuisine of the Crescent City. Some days I was happier with the introduction than others. (We will not discuss my first look at a boiled out crab carcass in my first bowl of seafood gumbo. Your dad was there, he saw the horror on my face! It produced reoccurring nightmares for years. It’s a good thing Turtle Soup isn’t made from those teensy little turtles they used to sell at the pet store…talk about finding an unwelcome shell in your soup…but I digress.)

Anyway, one of the things best things I was introduced to during that time was Turtle Soup, a New Orleans specialty. I first had it at Galatoire’s Restaurant in the French Quarter.  Back in the day, you had to wait in line outside the restaurant for a table. I remember that it was a windy fall day and I had to hold my dress down to keep it from blowing over my head! Once we were inside I was overwhelmed by the grandeur of this truly elegant restaurant and nervous about whether I could afford to eat here.

One of the guys in the group (the late, great Frank Fetter) decided that he was going to order for me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was pretty panicked about it and told him that if he was going to order then he was going to pay! I didn’t have the money for food experimentation at one of the most expensive restaurants in town! Well, he took me up on it and I was stuck with his choices…in hindsight, it was one of the best moves I ever made because it introduced me to two of my most favorite dishes ever, Turtle Soup and Shrimp Remoulade. Frankly, I don’t remember the rest of the meal because I was so entranced by these two dishes.

For years after, at every restaurant in New Orleans that served it, I ordered Turtle Soup. Every recipe was different – thickness, clarity of broth, ingredients – the only constants were turtle meat, sherry and chopped hard boiled eggs. Some stirred the eggs and sherry into the soup, some garnished the soup with the eggs chopped fine and served the sherry on the side in an elegant cruet. My eventual favorite ended up being the Turtle Soup from Commander’s Palace. As for the shrimp, no one ever topped that first Shrimp Remoulade from Galatoire’s. Here are the recipes from both restaurants for my favorite soup and favorite shrimp dish. I have not altered these recipes in any way, why mess with perfection?

 

Shrimp Remoulade – recipe and comments from Galatoires.com 

 

Shrimp Rémoulade is in every New Orleans girl’s arsenal of favored dishes for relaxed entertaining. Serve this simple dish on elegant china and its fit for a king- Mardi Gras or otherwise. This is our most popular dish and most frequently requested recipe. Bonus for the home cook: The sauce is definitely best made a day in advance and refrigerated, then all that’s left to do is toss in the shrimp and plate and serve. It’s a snap to make, yet it’s always impressive.

 

¾ cup chopped celery

¾ cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)

½ cup chopped curly parsley

1 cup chopped yellow onion

½ cup ketchup

½ cup tomato purée

½ cup Creole mustard or any coarse, grainy brown mustard

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, or to taste

 ¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Spanish hot paprika

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup salad oil

4 dozen jumbo (15 count) shrimp, peeled, boiled, and chilled

1 small head of iceberg lettuce, washed, dried and cut into thin ribbons 

 

Mince the celery, scallions, parsley, and onions in a food processor. Add the ketchup, tomato puree, Creole mustard, horseradish, red wine vinegar, paprika, and Worcestershire. Begin processing again and add the oil in a slow drizzle to emulsify. Stop when the dressing is smooth. Chill for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Correct the seasoning with additional horseradish, if desired after the ingredients have had the opportunity to marry.

In a large mixing bowl, add the sauce to the shrimp and toss gently to coat. Divide the lettuce among 6 chilled salad plates. Divide the shrimp evenly atop the lettuce and serve.

 

Mimi’s Note: The chilled iceberg lettuce ribbons are essential – they taste delicious with the sauce and shrimp bites – it cools the sauce down a bit and compliments the taste of the shrimp.

 

 

Turtle Soup – recipe from CommandersPalace.com

Chef’s Note: We use alligator snapping turtles, which is a farm-raised fresh water species available all year long. Turtle meat usually comes in 2 ½ pound portions. This soup freezes well. Makes 5 servings

Mimi’s Note: Freshwater turtle meat (either snapper or soft shell) is usually available at Asian markets. Both of these meats are legal when purchased from a licensed turtle meat supplier or retailer. Other types of turtle meat may or may not be legal depending on the state you live in. Salt water turtle meat is strictly illegal in the USA. Salt water turtles are highly endangered! Don’t eat them! If you cannot find turtle meat locally, it is available at 1-800-Steaks.com in 1# and 5# quantities, also from marxfoods.com in a 5# bucket. Thaw and cook it all, then refreeze for future use in small portions. Be prepared, turtle meat is pricey!  If you cannot find veal stock locally, veal demi-glace to make the veal stock is available from dartagnan.com and morethangourmet.com. Concassee tomatoes are tomatoes without skin or seeds, it is a process, not a type of tomato!  A great explanation on how to do this is at kitchensavvy.com. By the way, it sounds harder to do than it really is.

1 ½ sticks butter
2 ½ pounds turtle meat, medium dice
2 medium onions, medium dice
6 stalks celery, medium dice
1 large head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
3 bell peppers, medium dice
1 tablespoon dried thyme, ground
1 tablespoon dried oregano, ground
4 bay leaves
2 quarts veal stock
1 cup flour
26 oz. dry sherry (750 ml bottle)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 large lemons, juiced
3 cups concassée tomatoes
10 oz fresh spinach, stems removed, washed 3 times, coarsely chopped
6 medium eggs, hard-boiled and chopped into large pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large soup pot over medium to high heat. Brown the meat in the hot butter, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until liquid is almost evaporated. Add onions, celery, garlic, and peppers, stirring constantly, then add the thyme, oregano, and bay leaves and sauté for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the vegetables have caramelized. Add the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, periodically skimming away any fat that comes to top.

While stock is simmering, make a roux in a separate pot: Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan and add the flour a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to burn the roux. After all the flour has been added, cook for about 3 minutes until the roux smells nutty, is pale in color, and has the consistency of wet sand. Set aside until the soup is ready.

Using a whisk, vigorously stir the roux into the soup a little at a time to prevent lumping. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Stir to prevent sticking on the bottom.

Add the sherry, bring to a boil, and add the hot sauce and the Worcestershire, and simmer, skimming any fat or foam that comes to the top. Add the lemon juice and tomatoes, and return to a simmer. Add the spinach and the chopped egg, bring to simmer, and adjust salt and pepper as needed. This soup freezes well.

Chef’s Note: Caramelize the vegetables and meats thoroughly, by cooking until the natural sugars form a thick dark liquid, to get a nice dark color.
Remember, this soup is like a stew and could be eaten as a main dish. Because of its thickness, prepare it in a heavy pot, and stir frequently to avoid burning.

Mimi’s Note: NEVER use “Cooking Sherry”, it contains a large amount of salt so that it can be sold legally on a regular grocery aisle. Remove the bay leaves; they shouldn’t ever be left in the pot to be accidentally ingested. Also, I like to garnish with a small amount of finely chopped egg with a small green leaf like a celery leaf. Serve with extra sherry on the side to suit individual taste. If serving as a main dish, serve a hot, crispy French baguette with the meal so that everybody can soak up the meaty goodness.

 

 

 

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