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Herb and oil poached fish

Some things automatically go against the grain. Dumping two bottles of half decent olive oil in to a pan, and then loading it up with fish and herbs for instance. However, 20 minutes later and it all becomes understandable. Tender, flaky moist fish with such a delicate flavor and texture. If you get it right, the fish just quivers as you carry the plate to the table. This to me is the very exciting sign of a perfectly cooked piece of fish. It can seem like you don’t even need to touch it with a fork, merely just get it close, to see it flake in to pieces. Each bite yields perfectly cooked fish throughout, with subtle flavors pulled from the oil and herbs.

I first started cooking fish this way a couple of years ago and haven’t stopped since – especially in the summer since this yields light, but rich fish. Originally it seems like an extravagant preparation, requiring a lot of oil that will no doubt get junked after cooking. Screw it up, and you waste a good job lot of olive oil, and some lovely pieces of fish. Get it right and you would be hard pushed to find such an intricately flavored piece of fish. Thankfully, it really isn’t hard to do – a careful eye and an instant read thermometer (or a fancy candy thermometer) and you are set.

Click to learn more about this easy way to cook fish

Salt cod, fava bean and English pea salad. piment d’ espelette

Ever since I made the salt cod a few weeks ago, I had this dish brooding in the back of my head. It was honestly the real reason I made the salt cod in the first place. Each spring I always look forward to fresh English (shelling) peas and fava beans. Here in Seattle the English peas seem like they are coming to the end of their stint, which has lasted much longer thanks to this crappy Seattle summer we have been having. I guess the cold(ish) weather has some good in the end.

This was a dish I dreamed up to share with friends. Very good friends at that. It just so happened that Todd and Diane, from WhiteOnRiceCouple fame were in town and they warmly accepted my dinner invitation – along with the lovely Shauna from GlutenFreeGirl. Todd and Diane showed up with two bags full of camera gear. The kind of bags full of gear that most people can only dream of. As we all know, good camera equipment is worth nout if there isn’t skill and talent to back it up. Thankfully that couple has it in droves – which these photographs here clearly show. That’s right, Todd and Diane were gracious enough to snap more than a few pictures of the food from that night, whilst I was busy mixing and chopping. All of the fantastic photography you see in this post is from them!

Click to see the fava bean and pea salad recipe, and more photos!

Making Salt Cod

There has to be something said for a recipe that combines the two big culinary focuses in my life – seafood and charcuterie (curing, preserving). Salt cod takes care of that.

Salt cod is one of those ingredients that I hardly ever use. In fact, come to think of it I have never done anything with it in my home kitchen. It is always on the menu in some form at a favorite local restaurant of mine, where it is impossible for me to have dinner there and not order something salty and fishy.

I got thinking the other day, and wondered how hard it would be to make. Turns out it is bloody easy. Easier than breathing. Well, almost. You know a dish is going to be easy when the name of it is also the full ingredient list.

Yes folks – to make salt cod you need… drum roll, no guessing now…:

salt.

cod.

BINGO! Well now, that can’t be too hard. Heck, I reckon even Sandra Lee makes stuff with more ingredients than that.

Click to see more photos, and read how to make this classic cured fish recipe

Shrimp, spring vegetable and wild rice soup

shrimp and vegetable soup recipe

Spring is a time of soups for me. Here in Seattle we are lucky enough to have a ridiculous amount of farmers markets. If you go out for a walk on the weekend, you are pretty much guaranteed to trip over one. Or two. What is more, they are considerably cheaper than those organic natural stores that seem to be taking over the world these days. A good thing for this frugal Englishman.

That is a lie. I am not frugal. The rest is true.

Click to read more, and get this shrimp and vegetable soup recipe

VIDEO! Slow roasted black cod, glazed baby carrots, lemon/butter/caper sauce

black cod recipe

Yes folks, it’s time for another video post! What does this mean? Well, for me it means that a day or so after this post goes live, it goes around my office, and I get ridiculed for a week or so….

Ever wondered why I don’t do more video posts?

Nah, but seriously – I want to do start doing a series of “Matt gets saucy” (yes, I came up with that all by myself..) videos, with a focus on seafood. The videos are gonna be technique focused, and based around simple clean sauces that are simple enough for a mid-week meal.

Click to see this fish recipe, and the fish cooking video

Bottarga

Bottarga is the roe pouch of either the mullet fish or tuna, that has been cured in salt and air dried.

Sounds tasty doesn’t it?

Sounds like the perfect mix of seafood and charcuterie to me!

Bottarga is a specialty of the island of Sardinia, off the coast of Italy. Some consider it to be a poor mans caviar, which I think is a wholly inaccurate assessment of one of the more unique seafood ingredients out there. It’s flavor is really nothing like caviar – it is far richer, exceedingly complex, and very very comforting. Some might liken its taste to a very good salted anchovy, but even that misses the mark (but is much closer than caviar).

It is typically sold in blocks – that is how it is cured after all. These are cased in wax to help preserve freshness. It is one ingredient I have always wanted to try, but frankly the price of it put me off a bit. A block normally retails from about $60 to $100, depending on the make. The stuff can last, about 6 months in the fridge apparently, but even still that is a heck of a lot of bottarga parties to use it all up, especially since a little goes a long way.

To make things worse, I don’t know of any Seattle restaurants serving it, so I couldn’t go get a taste anywhere. (Any readers that want to correct me on this, and point out places that have bottarga on their menu’s – go for it!)

So alas, no bottarga for me. Or so I thought.

Click to read more, and to see this bottarga pasta recipe

Lake Erie Yellow Perch, Mussels, leeks and tomato stew

It is winter here in Seattle. I have no idea if I can “technically” call it that yet, but when it gets down to 34F in the day time this not-so-hardy Englishman calls winter well and truly. Trees are bare, frost is on the ground, and I can now use my deck as as second fridge if I really need to. Yep. Winter is here.

Winter for me means hearty warm soups, stews, braises. Often enough this means meat, but in my mind fish should certainly not get relegated during these cold months. Take mussels for instance. Our local Penn Cove mussels are pretty great all year round, but even better during the winter. The colder water makes for a better tasting, sweeter mussel. I have to say, it is pretty hard to top a steaming hot bowl of mussels mariniere and some crusty bread on a cold day. Of course, if this is too light for your tastes, put some creme fraiche into the deal if you must.

Click to see this fish stew recipe

Seared Halibut, flageolet beans with 4 hour sofrito, garlic confit and kale

Things are starting to look a little too Autumnal for my liking here in Seattle. The last few days have been cold(er). Rain has set in a bit. A stroll around the neighborhood yields people talking about having to sweep up leaves. I am still at a loss as to what has happened. It was 80degrees not too long ago, days were spent in sunblock and shorts. Now you just look rather odd sporting either.

So here is a dish to welcome in some slightly colder weather. Nothing as full winter or fall as say a cassoulet, but something substantial enough for a cool summer evening.

Click to read more, and see this seared halibut recipe

Herb and citrus crusted halibut, roasted and dressed beet, turnip à la grecque

I nearly didn’t take a picture of this one. But then I thought “sod it”, crusting fish is one of my favorite ways to get non-seafood people eating fish, and a few people have asked me what I cook for people that aren’t fussed about seafood. That, and bathing black cod in a sake kasu mixture (it seems like most people like almost anything soaked in booze then cooked).

It seems like when you crust fish, you have yourself two options. One is to dredge the fish in flour, egg, and whatever you choose, then fry it up to a crisp. Nothing wrong with that – it works great on thin fillets of fish like tilapia. To me this can also be kinda heavy. Great if you want that kind of thing, but this time round I didn’t.

The second option is to sear the fish skin side, to get a crispy skin, and cook the fish almost half through. Get your oven nice and hot, pop your crusting mixture on the flesh (up) side of the fillet to form a lovely hairpiece, and bung it in the oven. By the time the fish is cooked through the crust has browned nicely but it still light, and keeps the delicate nature of fish intact. This is what you see above. No flour, no eggs. Light and easy does it.

So… “what can you crust fish with?” you might ask.. In my mind quite a lot. Breadcrumbs, especially panko, always seem to make it into the mix for me. I love fresh flavored herbs (mint, parsley, basil) with fish – so those often go in to the crusting bowl too. Citrus has the great effect of adding acidity to any dish, making things lighter – so why not pop some citrus zest in too?

Well, that is exactly what I did here. A simple crust of olive oil, panko, sea salt, basil/parsley/mint, and some lemon zest. My suggestion is to make twice as much as you need, I always seem to end up eating the crusting mixture by the spoonful as I am cooking…

We have been getting a ton a really great beets from the garden the last couple of weeks, so time to make good use of those. Here I just simply roast them, peel them, and dress them with salt, olive oil and chopped parsley. Personally I like them almost cold like this, but then I am a strange Englishman…

Going with this is turnips. Oh dear. The poor turnip gets a rather bad rap, especially among us Brits. Every Brit remembers Blackadder, with Baldrick and his turnips – not the best press for this fantastic little root vegetable. The thing is though that not only are they rather tasty, but they are also pretty darn good for you too. Turnips have a lot of Vitamin C in them, something to dose up on when you have a toddler germ factory. The greens of turnips are actually really great too, and often sadly overlooked. They are a great natural source of Vit A, C,lutein and calcium.

The turnips are cooked à la grecque – a great little technique I found in the Bouchon cookbook. Vegetables are trimmed to small sizes (disks, slices, turned, whatever), and poached in a court bouillon. They then cool in this liquid, and can be stored as so for a couple of days. You then take them out of the liquid before serving, reduce the liquid to a glaze, chill it, and toss said veg with this reduced court bouillon. A simple cold vegetable recipe that I just find myself doing over and over again. Almost any root vegetable works here, especially celery root and carrots.

Herb and citrus crusted halibut recipe, roasted and dressed beet, turnip à la grecque

(serves 2)

3/4lb fresh halibut fillet, cut into two portions

2 handfuls of panko breadcrumbs

1 small handful of fresh basil – finely chopped

1 small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley – finely chopped

1 small handful of fresh mint – finely chopped

salt, freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon lemon zest

olive oil

8 small beets

3 small turnips

additional parsley for dressing

for the court bouillon:

a few sprigs of flat leaf parsley

a few thyme sprigs

12 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

2 teaspoons celery seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 cup water

1 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup minced shallots

Start by slicing the turnips thinly – a mandolin works great for this.  Cover with a damp cloth. Make up the court bouillon mixture – put all the herbs and spices in a piece of double wrapped cheesecloth, and tie up. Put the water, wine, lemon juice and shallots in a medium sized pan, and bring up to the boil. Toss in the sliced turnip into the liquid, and cook them until just tender – 5 to 10 minutes depending of the thickness of the slice.

Put the turnips, the liquid, and the herb bundle into a shallow dish, and allow to cool. I like to float it in an ice bath just to speed this up. You can store the turnips for a couple of days in the liquid like this.

Get your oven going at about 400F. Put the beets in a ovenproof dish, cover tightly with foil, and roast for about 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Allow to cool just enough to touch, and rub them over with a towel to remove the skin. I find fresh beets always seem to give up their skin much better than older ones.

Allow them too cool right down, and toss with a little olive oil, salt and finely chopped parsley.

Drain the turnips from their liquid, discard the herb bundle, reserve the liquid and turnips. In a small pan over a medium/high heat reduce the turnip liquid to a glaze – so it nicely coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool completely. Toss the turnips with the reduced liquid. Season with salt, and a little chopped parsley.

In a bowl combine the breadcrumbs, mint, basil, parsley, lemon zest. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and mix well. If the mixture still seems pretty dry, and more in. You want just enough so it clumps together well.

In a nonstick pan over a medium heat, get a couple of tablespoons of olive oil hot. Add in the fish skin side down (or what would have been skin side, if the skin is removed). Cook for about 5 minutes on the stove top, being careful not to let the oil get too hot.

Remove the pan from the heat and very carefully pile up the crusting mixture onto the fish. Don’t worry if some spills off, just try to get a decent thick, even coating on the flesh side of the fish.

Roast the fish in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and the crust is nicely browned.

To serve, put the fish on a plate, and next to it a row of turnip slices, a few slices deep. Top the turnip with the dressed baby beets.

Serve with a simple side salad.

Seared Halibut, Mussels & onions in a cider broth – VIDEO post!!

That’s right folks. Against all better judgement I have gone and done another video post. You may remember that last year I did a post on trussing a chicken assaulting a chicken, and after that got sent around my work (I should have seen that coming..) I promised to myself I would never do another video post.

Well, that promise has been broken. Put it down to a new camera that takes video as well as stills.. put it down to me getting itchy feet with my blog and wanting to try out something a bit different. Put it down to stupidity if you will, but this post features not one, but TWO videos! Excuse me whilst I take the next two months off work to avoid the ridicule!

Click to see this halibut recipe and the how to video

Sustainable Seafood

I think I have deleted the first paragraph to this blog post a dozen times already. Not quite sure where to begin to be honest.

It seems like this could be shaping up to be the year about responsibility with food. Presidents digging up lawns for vegetable gardens, massive feed-lot beef recalls for E-Coli, Food Inc. (the movie) hitting the big screens. Supermarkets getting called out for supplying a ridiculous amount of endangered fish to the unknowing public, without a single word of caution.

There is now one more to add to that list – the movie “The End of the Line”. Talk is growing of late about the sustainability of seafood, and just how fast we all are nuking the oceans of fish. Most of us interested in food have known about this for a while. Most of us have made smart choices for purchasing seafood.

I am not going to talk about this movie. I am not even going to preach about how important sustainable seafood choices are. Any reader of this blog knows how passionate I am about fish, so this diatribe wouldn’t exactly be anything new.

Instead, I want to to briefly talk about how we can make smart choices when buying seafood. How we can get more for paying less. How limiting which fish you buy can actually increase your seafood diversity. Finally, lets top all this off with my favorite recipes for some of the most sustainable seafood out there.

How to find, and make sure you are buying sustainable seafood

(more…)

Steamed halibut, roasted porcini mushrooms, pickled sea beans, lemongrass sauce

steamed halibut recipe

FIRST OFF!!!! (drum roll)… WRIGHTFOOD is now two years old!!! Bloody hell.

To mark this event I am doing something never before posted on this site… Yes folks, I have gone all healthy, and am doing a steamed halibut recipe. “Steaming fish??? MATT HOW DARE YOU!!”… I can hear it now. Well, it is true folks I am trying to balance my latest pork belly fixation with some lighter fare. To be honest, why not? It has been pretty hot here in Seattle recently and the last thing I want to be doing is braising meat.

OK, that is a lie. It is never too hot to braise meat.

Anyhow, we wanted a lighter meal last week, and this is what was bouncing around in that rather hairy head of mine. I had bought some sea beans at the farmers market that week, and had decided to pickle some. This wasn’t my great idea I should add. The stall sign at the market said “excellent pickled”. To be completely honest I doubt I would have ever thought of pickling them. Heck, the few handfuls I buy most weeks don’t normally last until I even get home.

Sea beans make a great snack.

I ended up pickling a handful of them in rice wine vinegar, sugar, star anise and ginger. Not blowing my own trumpet at all, but bloody hell, these were good. I wish I had made more. Heck, I have made more, a lot more since. What is even better is that they really don’t take long to pickle at all. It seems like some veg you have to leave in the mix for what seems like forever, but these guys even after just a couple of days had developed a really great anise flavor to them. A few more days in the mix, and you start to get the ginger come through too.

steamed halibut recipe - pickled seabeans

They have been a topping to many a sandwich I can tell you.

Continue reading to see this steamed halibut recipe

Citrus cured copper river salmon


Seems like I have been on a bit of a salmon kick recently, but lets be honest here.. I live in Seattle, Coppper River is in full swing, the sun is shining, the sky is blue.. well, you get the picture.

I have cooked salmon a lot of different ways. Pan seared, roasted, slow roasted, grilled, steamed, poached. I should probably not get into my obsession with raw salmon either… Lets just say, more than once have a put a side of salmon in front of me, ready to fillet up for a party, and trimmed off the entire belly, just so I get that wonderful fatty cut for myself to eat raw whilst I am cooking. Sorry guests, no belly for you.

Continue to see this citrus cured salmon recipe

Clam and Pork Belly Soup (Clam Chowder!)

Clam Chowder Recipe

Clam chowder. If there is one seafood soup that just about everyone in the US has at some point eaten, it would most likely be that of clam chowder.

Like everything, there is the good and the bad. I have fortunately, and unfortunately eaten my fair share of both. When it is good, we are talking rich, definable pieces of food in a creamy broth, and a real seafood presence. When it is bad, we are talking a pureed mess that closer resembles the result of a Friday night of heavy drinking.. (you get where I am going..)

Continue reading this clam chowder recipe

King Salmon belly crudo, radish and fennel slices, mandarin gastrique

This should really be called “clear out the fridge crudo” to be honest. Because that is really what it is.

“Huh”, you say, what kind of bloke just happens to have fresh king salmon belly sitting in their fridge?

Me.

And guess what? I got it for free.

This is actually my latest trick for a free lunch. It is called Whole Foods..

Continue reading this salmon belly recipe