Tag Archives: lemon

Menu – Crispy Salmon with Crash Hot Potatoes and Braised Kale

(Another installment in How To Stretch Those Dinner Dollars…)

I am usually wary of grocery store fish counters but I found the nicest, very fresh, fillets of Farm Raised Steelhead on sale at Albertson’s yesterday. As an avid fisherman I have learned to appreciate fresh fish and when or if I do purchase fresh fish it must first pass a few very important tests. First, the fish must never be frozen. I often see “previously frozen” fish at the fish counter, thawed and displayed on ice. If it was frozen why did they thaw it? How long ago was it thawed? I’m not saying I won’t purchase frozen fish. I just prefer to examine the packaging myself (for me it should be flash frozen or vacuum sealed) and I prefer to thaw it myself…thank you very much.

My second test is visual. Does the fish look fresh? If it is a whole fish the eyes should look clear, not clouded. The skin should be firm and glistening and should not look dry or wrinkled and scales should not be loose or falling off. Fillets too should glisten with moisture and should never look dried out. All fresh fish, whole or filleted, should be kept on ice and unwrapped. If the fish is just lying on a rack or shelf, or if it is packaged and wrapped, I’ll usually keep looking.

Next, how does it feel? If you press your finger on a fresh whole fish it should feel firm. The flesh should spring back quickly when you take your finger away. A fillet may not be as firm but if you press your finger into a fillet and remove it, the flesh should immediately spring back. If an indention remains when you take your finger away, or if the fish feels mushy, then the fish is probably not the freshest. Lastly and simply, how does it smell? You may feel a little funny asking but really, I’ve never even had a person behind a fish counter look surprised. I always ask to smell the fish which should smell fresh and clean, perhaps a little like the mist of a breaking wave…and never, ever should it smell fishy or strong.

The Albertson’s Farm Raised Steelhead fillets passed every test with flying colors. Not only that, at $5.99 per pound it was a great deal! The 1-1/2 pound fillet was big enough for two dinners for 2 for Kathy and I which works out to about $2.25 a plate. Not bad for fresh fish! I still had half a bunch of kale from the other night and I wanted to use that up so this Saturday night dinner really was quite the value meal.

Speaking of feeling funny…I feel a little funny posting other people’s recipes on my blog. If this is going to be “Recipes Randy Cooks” though, then it should most definitely include recipes created by others. Kat loves the crispy salmon skin the sushi chefs make so I was looking for a way to crisp the skin when I found this video by Gordon Ramsay. I was getting a little tired of rice so I chose an old favorite potato recipe, Crash Hot Potatoes. Like I told my friends on Facebook, if you have not tried this potato recipe…do it…do it now! You will not be disappointed.

Menu – Crispy Salmon with Crash Hot Potatoes and Braised Kale

For the Kale

About 2 Cups – Fresh Kale, stemmed and cut into bite sized pieces
2 Med – Shallots, Halved, then sliced lengthwise
2 Cloves – Garlic, minced
A couple of Lemon Peels (Left over from making the lemon vinaigrette and lemon zest used in the other 2 recipes)
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
¼ Cup – Chicken Stock
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat and cook the shallots and garlic until just beginning to brown. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Add another Tbsp. olive oil to the pan and sauté the kale for two minutes before adding the lemon peels, rosemary, chicken stock, and salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Remove the cover, add the shallots & garlic back into the pan and continue simmering uncovered a few minutes more allowing most of the broth to evaporate. Remove the lemon peels and rosemary and serve with a drizzle of the lemon vinaigrette from the fish recipe.

For the Potatoes

4 Med – Red Bliss or Yukon Gold Potatoes, whole, two inches or less in diameter
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary, stem removed & chopped fine
Lemon Zest (from the fish recipe)
Olive Oil

While pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees, boil the potatoes until they are just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drizzle olive oil on a foil-lined sheet pan and place the potatoes on the pan. Using the bottom of a jar or drinking glass, gently but firmly press the potatoes until they burst, then flatten them to about ½ inch thick while trying not to break them apart. Drizzle each potato with olive oil, season with kosher salt & fresh ground pepper, and sprinkle with the rosemary. Bake until the potatoes are browned and crispy, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with a little of the lemon zest and serve.

For the Fish…

2 Portions – Salmon or Steelhead, 4-6 oz each, skin on
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary, stem removed & chopped fine
Zest of 1 Lemon
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil
Lemon Vinaigrette (I used 1 recipe of Good Seasons Italian Dressing made with lemon juice instead of vinegar.)

Rinse and pat dry the fish so that it is very dry. Using a very sharp knife, make a series of deep slices into the skin, crossways along the center, about every three eighths of an inch. (The slices should not reach the edges of the fillet.) Season the skin side with kosher salt, lemon zest, and chopped rosemary making sure to get plenty of the seasonings down into the slices. Drizzle with olive oil and set aside until your sides have been cooked and are ready to serve.

When you are ready to cook the fish, Heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Carefully place the fish into the pan, skin side down, and do not move it until the fish appears to be cooked about three quarters of the way through. While it is cooking add salt and fresh pepper to the exposed side.

When the fish appears to be cooked about three quarters of the way through, gently turn it over. Cook 2-3 minutes, turn again, and cook one minute more on the skin side. Remove the fish from the pan and plate skin side up. Drizzle lightly with the lemon vinaigrette and serve.

Enjoy,

Randy

Chicken Milanese

How to stretch those dinner dollars – Part 2

Last week when I made the Chicken Casserole I set out to demonstrate a use for my homemade chicken stock. Tonight when I rustled up one of my favorite quick dinners I realized that I was using the second of three large chicken breasts that came in a package my wife bought. The thought occurred to me that it was a great way to demonstrate getting a real value for your food dollar.

Kat picked up a package of boneless chicken breasts at Aldi last week. There were 3 large breast halves in the package weighing in at 2.43 pounds (or about ¾ pounds each) for $6.05. If I could use each of the 3 breasts for the basis for 3 different dinners for two that’s just over a dollar per plate! Sure I use other ingredients in the preparation but the protein is often the most expensive element of a meal. When you’re on a budget and trying to stretch your dinner dollars…a buck a person is an awesome start!

So once again I find myself posting a less than glamorous recipe but hey it’s Monday night after a tough day at work, after the NFL playoffs yesterday. I didn’t feel like spending all night in the kitchen and yes, at the risk of sounding silly I’ll say it again; this too is a Recipe Randy Cooks. It also happens to be one of my favorite ways to use boneless, skinless, chicken breasts.

Because I was using an extra-large chicken breast half I was able to get 4 nice pieces out of one breast by first butterflying it, then dividing it into 4 equal pieces. Here is a video that shows how to butterfly a chicken breast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySB2jgO1ljU&feature=fvw . For this recipe the breasts should be pounded very thin, no thicker than ¼ inch at the very thickest part.

Note that I dump out the oil and wipe the pan after cooking each batch of chicken. This is my secret method of ensuring a perfectly and evenly browned cutlet every time. Oh, and lest I forget… Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette is my favorite salad dressing and it’s a perfect choice in this dish. Traditionally the cutlet is buried under the salad but Kat and I both prefer it alongside so the chicken stays nice and crispy even after drizzling on a little fresh lemon juice.

Chicken Milanese

1 – Large Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast, butterflied and divided into 4 pieces, then pounded to ¼ thickness or less.
2 – Eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp – Water
2 Cups – Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Cup – Whole Wheat or Unbleached Flour
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive or Canola Oil

Salad of Green Leaf Lettuce with Grape Tomatoes and Celery slices.
Salad Dressing
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
Lemon Wedges

In one bowl, season the flour well with salt and pepper and stir to blend. In another bowl, gently beat the eggs and water to combine. Place the Panko Crumbs in a third bowl. One at a time dredge the chicken pieces first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the egg, then finally in the Panko Crumbs to coat evenly. Place the chicken in a single layer on a foil or parchment lined sheet pan to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.

Warm two tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering hot cook two pieces of the chicken, turning only once, until “light” golden brown on each side. Move the cooked chicken to a paper towel to wick away any excess oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Discard any oil left in the pan and carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then add 2 more tablespoons of oil and repeat the process, cooking the other two chicken pieces.

To serve, toss the salad, tomatoes, and celery with the dressing being careful to use only enough dressing to coat the greens. Place the chicken on the plate and cover partly (or not) with the salad. Top with shaved Parmesan and garnish with lemon slices to finish.

Enjoy,

Randy

Menu – Fresh Fish Francese with Cool Beans Salad, Zucchini and Yellow Squash

I actually made the dish in the photo one evening while my wife was out of town. After a couple of nights of take-out food I was ready for a real meal so I stopped by Costco on my way home from work. I was happy to find they had one of my favorite fish in the fresh fish section, Corvina! With this beautiful fish and the fresh lemons I already had on hand it wasn’t hard to decide on a theme for my dinner for one.

Often when preparing a meal I look for one common theme that will highlight each part of the menu. Whether it’s garlic, an herb such as thyme or rosemary, or in this case fresh lemon, I use my theme ingredient in each of the dishes I serve. To my thinking this creates a common thread throughout the meal that not only links and compliments the flavors of the food…I think it makes the meal that much more interesting!

The recipes for this menu are written for two but the ingredients can easily be doubled. The Cool Beans Salad is best made ahead of time and refrigerated at least two hours.

Menu – Fresh Fish Francese with Cool Beans Salad, Zucchini and Yellow Squash

For the Cool Beans Salad…

1 – 14.5 oz Can of Cannelloni (white kidney) Beans, rinsed and drained
¼ Cup – Fresh Cucumber, peeled, seeded and cubed
¼ Cup – Fresh Tomato, mostly seeded, and cubed
1 Branch – Celery, diced
1 – Med Shallot, minced (Optional)
1 Tbsp – Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 Packet – Good Seasons Italian All Natural Salad Dressing Mix
½ Cup – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ Cup – Fresh Lemon Juice
3 Tbsp – Fresh Water

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the first 5 ingredients. Follow the directions on the package for mixing the dressing, using lemon juice in place of the vinegar. Gently toss the salad with only enough dressing to coat. (There should be very little pooling of dressing in the bottom of the bowl.) Chill before serving.

For the Squash…

Two – Med. Zucchini, Halved lengthwise then cut into roughly ¼” slices
Two- Med. Yellow Squash, Halved lengthwise then cut into roughly ¼” slices
1 – Small Onion, Quartered, then sliced
1 – Sprig Fresh Thyme
1 Tbsp – Fresh Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Warm 1 tbsp of olive oil in a 10” skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer add the onions and cook stirring often until some browning begins to occur. Add the squash (zucchini and yellow) and thyme, and continue cooking.  Stir occasionally until squash is mostly cooked but still a little firm in the center (tender crisp) then season with salt & pepper. Toss with the lemon juice, turn off the heat, and leave the skillet on the burner to stay warm until serving.

For the Fish…

2 Fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each – Fresh Corvina (Grouper, Snapper, or Tilapia may be used)
4 Tbsp – Unbleached or Whole Wheat Flour
2 – Eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
4 Tbsp – Olive Oil

¼ Cup – Dry White Wine
Juice of one half lemon
Slices of one half lemon
2 Tbsp – Unsalted Butter, chilled and cubed into 8 pieces
2 Tbsp – Fresh Herbs such as Parsley or thinly sliced Basil (Pictured)

Heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Season fish pieces with salt & pepper, dust each with flour (shaking off excess), then dredge in egg to completely coat. Gently and carefully lay the fish into the pan, you should immediately hear sizzling.

Watch fish closely until you can see good browning around the edges, lifting gently after 2 minutes to check the bottom surface. After 2 to 4 minutes, or when the bottom looks nicely browned but not too brown, gently turn the fish over and repeat. Remove the fish to the serving plates. (Note: If your fish is more than ½ inch thick you may want to place it on a sheet pan in a 325 degree oven to finish cooking while you make your sauce.)

Drain any excess oil from the fish pan and discard. Back on the heat, add wine to the pan and whisk to dissolve any brown bits. Boil until about half the wine has evaporated (reduced), then add the lemon juice and 2 lemon slices. Continue boiling, whisking occasionally, until most of the total liquid has reduced and some thickening has begun. (If the liquid seems to boil too rapidly just move the pan off the heat until it is back under control.)

When the liquid has reduced to almost a syrup, remove the lemon slices and turn off the heat. Add the butter 2 or 3 pieces at a time whisking into the sauce as the butter melts. When each addition of butter has completely melted, add the next 2 or 3 pieces until all has been incorporated into the sauce. By the time the last of the butter has been melted the sauce should be just the right consistency. If it is too thick, stir in a splash of wine to loosen…if it is too liquid just let it cook with the residual heat another minute or so. Just before serving stir in the fresh herbs.

Serve the fish with a lemon slice and the sauce and enjoy!

Randy

Menu for Two – Pan Seared Sea Scallops with a Fresh Herb White Wine Sauce, Oven Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus Spears.

Last week my wife Kathy had a rough week fighting the cold that I probably gave her when I had it the week before. Since she was feeling somewhat better by Friday I wanted to cook her something special so I went browsing at Costco for something out of the ordinary. With a crispy salad and some crusty bread, these scallops fit the bill perfectly!

I shop at Costco or BJ’s often as bulk stores are a great way to stretch your grocery bucks. For instance, while you might find nice fat Sea Scallops (nearly always pre-frozen) at a local seafood market or grocery for 12.99 to 15.99 per pound, these came in just over 9.00 per pound for a two pound bag. Two pounds are enough for 3 dinners for the two of us and that boils down to about $6.00 per meal or $3.00 per person. Just try to find that kind of deal at a seafood restaurant!

Speaking of buying frozen seafood; for a very long time I absolutely refused to buy frozen scallops or shrimp. While I wouldn’t consider myself a food snob…I simply did not care for the way the frozen ones tasted when compared to fresh. Then I came across an article about sodium tripolyphosphate . Sodium tripolyphosphate is a preservative that packagers will “claim” is used to “retain tenderness and moisture”. In fact it absolutely ruins the flavor and texture of certain foods, especially shrimp and scallops, giving the flesh a diluted, soapy flavor and an unpleasant spongy, almost waterlogged texture.

So why do seafood packagers use this additive, which is also used in household cleaners, laundry detergent, and paint? The simple answer is Sodium tripolyphosphate “can substantially increase the sale weight of seafood in particular”. Need I say more?

Fortunately, in the U.S., Sodium tripolyphosphate must be listed in the ingredients list on the package label. Also fortunately, Costco and BJ’s both carry frozen shrimp and scallops that do not contain Sodium tripolyphosphate! Do yourself a favor and read the ingredients next time you buy frozen seafood. For the same reason I also try to avoid the “fresh” scallops that are sold soaking in “their own” liquid.

Menu for two – Pan seared sea scallops with a fresh herb white wine sauce, oven roasted baby creamer potatoes and asparagus spears.

Note: Before I get started on the recipe there is one other tip that I must mention: WATER KILLS BROWNING! In searing and roasting the browning that occurs on the outside surface is where the flavor comes from. Searing your scallops while they are wet will prevent them from browning. To get the most flavor from your browned foods always be sure to pat them dry with a paper or dish towel before cooking.

For the Scallops you will need:

12 medium – Sea Scallops, thawed, rinsed, and dried well.
¼ Cup – Dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
Juice of ½ – Fresh lemon
3 Tbsp – Butter, Cut into 6 or 8 cubes, and kept cold.
2 Tbsp – Shallots, minced
2 Tbsp – Fresh basil, sliced in thin ribbons ( see http://www.basilbasics.com/chiffonade.html )
1 Sprig – Fresh rosemary
Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil

For the Potatoes and Asparagus you will need:

12 – Baby Potatoes, I used half red bliss and half Yukon gold potatoes
12 Large or 16 Medium – Fresh green asparagus spears
Olive Oil
Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

To Prepare:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and dry the potatoes. Trim the stem end of the asparagus, rinse and dry. When the potatoes are dry toss them with just enough olive oil to coat, give them a good dusting of seasoning from the Italian herb seasoning grinder and toss again. Spread them evenly in a glass 9 X 12 inch baking dish and roast for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the asparagus spears with just enough olive oil to coat, give them a good dusting of seasoning from the Italian herb seasoning grinder and toss again. Set the asparagus aside.

2. Warm 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 sprig of rosemary in a non-stick pan over medium high heat swirling the oil occasionally as it heats. Dust the scallops lightly with the Italian herb seasoning.

3. After 15 minutes carefully remove the potatoes from the oven. Carefully tilt the baking dish so that the potatoes move to one side allowing room to add the asparagus spears. Add the asparagus and place the dish back in the oven for 15 minutes longer.

4. While the vegetables finish roasting, sear your scallops: When the oil in the pan is hot the rosemary will begin to crackle and pop. Remove and discard the rosemary then gently place the scallops, one at a time, into the pan. You should hear a distinct sizzling as soon as each scallop hits the oil. Sear the scallops for two minutes on the first side, gently flip, and sear one minute more before removing directly to serving plates. Cover each plate with a paper towel or foil to keep the scallops warm.

5. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set aside to rest.

6. As soon as the last scallop is removed, add the shallots and the wine to the pan. As the wine comes to a boil swirl the pan and, using a wood or silicone spatula, scrape any browned bits from the pan. Reduce until the wine takes on a syrupy consistency then add the lemon juice.

7. Turn off the burner and allow the residual heat to reduce the liquid by half. Gently swirl in the butter cubes 2 or 3 at a time letting these melt before adding 2 or 3 more. Continue swirling the pan until all of the butter has been incorporated, swirl in the basil and spoon the sauce evenly over the scallops.

8. Carefully place the roasted vegetables on the plate and serve.

Enjoy!

Randy