Tag Archives: Wine

Super Bowl Special: My Favorite Chicken Wings

Poster

Are you ready for some football? I’m excited about the post season and a little let down at the same time. Once again…the Dolphins made me cry! But, enough of the sniveling, how about some incredible chicken wings for your Super Bowl party?

I cannot make claim to this recipe as it is nearly word for word straight out of the Silver Palate Cookbook. Originally called Chicken Marbella, this wonderful recipe has been shared and talked about by many throughout the years. I however have made minimal changes to the recipe and cooking technique in order to make it “wing friendly”.

I made this batch after asking my daughter what she would like me to cook for her birthday to which she immediately answered “Oh my gosh how about those wings?” I knew exactly which recipe she was talking about! She likes them with a creamy Tzatziki sauce and celery sticks but I just gobble them down straight off the platter. Either way I can pretty much guarantee these wings will be the hit of the party and a new favorite in your recipe file!

Chicken Wings Marbella

10 Lbs – Chicken Wings, cut at the joints, tips removed
1 head of garlic, separated and peeled
1/4 cup dried Mexican oregano
1 Tsp Kosher salt
1/2 Tsp – freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup – red wine vinegar
1/4 cup – sherry vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

Place cut wings in a large bowl. Place garlic, vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in a blender or small food processor. Pulse until garlic is “just” pureed. Pour the garlic mixture over the wings, add the prunes, olives, capers, and bay leaves then toss gently to coat. (I used my hands to gently fold the marinade into the wings.)

Cover the bowl and marinate the wings overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375. Spread wings evenly on one or two large sheet pans. Sprinkle the wine evenly over and around the wings then sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar. Bake 25 minutes.

If using two pans, switch the pan locations in the oven moving the pan on the bottom oven rack to the top rack and vice-versa. Then bake 25 minutes more.

Raise the oven temp to 500 and bake 10 more minutes monitoring very closely for burning. (If using two pans I recommend cooking each pan one at a time for this final browning step.)

With a slotted spoon transfer the wings, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter or crock pot. Moisten with a few spoons full of pan juices and sprinkle generously with chopped parsley. Serve any extra pan juices in a sauce boat on the side.

Enjoy!

Menu: Lightly Blackened Scallops with Crispy Prosciutto and an Orange, Rosemary, & White Wine Reduction, Cauliflower Mash with Boursin, & Julienned Snow Peas with Toasted Pine Nuts and Orange Supremes

Photo by Kathyhuntphoto.com

The other night I set out looking for clams to make a fresh clam, broccoli rabe, and sausage dish I had in mind. Alas, I came home with scallops. As funny as that sounds I was a little disappointed that the clams at the two purveyors I visited appeared to have been languishing in their little net bags just a little too long. With all seafood and especially shellfish I am extremely picky about freshness…I had to take a pass on the clams. But being the Friday before Christmas I did want to make a special dinner so Costco and their frozen sea scallops saved the day again. As I’ve mentioned before, I really like these “dry-packed” flash frozen scallops and I still always verify “Ingredients: Sea Scallops”. No salt and definitely no sodium tripolyphosphate!

To prepare these scallops for cooking simply give them a quick rinse, carefully remove the little hard tab of adductor muscle off of the side of each scallop, then dab them with a paper towel to dry. I usually place them on another paper towel set on a plate and refrigerate the scallops while I’m getting everything else ready. Keeping the scallops dry helps to promote browning once the scallops to hit the pan.

In this recipe I use the rosemary and the prosciutto to infuse the olive oil with flavor before cooking the scallops. I found that blackening seasoning alone was a little too much for the delicate scallops but with the flour added the seasonings were perfect and the flour helped form a nice crust. To ensure that even caramelization on the crust try not to move the scallops too much once they are in the pan…set them in, swirling the pan a little to distribute the oil, then leave them alone until you turn them. Timing is important so I suggest preparing the cauliflower first, blanching the snow peas while the cauliflower is steaming. Then while the scallops are cooking it only takes a minute or two to finish the snow peas and process the cauliflower.

Keep your eye out for that clam, broccoli rabe, and sausage recipe…as soon as I can find some decent clams!

Lightly Blackened Scallops with Crispy Prosciutto and an Orange, White Wine, and Rosemary Reduction Sauce

3 – Large dry packed sea scallops per person (Adductor muscles removed)
Juice of 1 Orange, zest reserved
1/8 cup – Dry white wine
3 large or 4 medium sprigs fresh rosemary
1 – Level teaspoon blackening seasonings
1 – Heaping teaspoon whole wheat flour
½ Stick – cold unsalted butter, quartered and cut into 16 cubes
2 Tbsp – Prosciutto, sliced thin then sliced across into 1/8 to ¼ inch strips
Extra virgin olive oil

In a 10 inch non-stick skillet heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add ¾ of the fresh rosemary and swirl the pan to cook, pressing the rosemary into the olive oil with a wooden fork from time to time. Cook until the smell of rosemary is permeating the kitchen. (Your family may come in to see what smells so doggone good!)  After 5 minutes or so the rosemary will begin to look brown and crisp. Use the fork to carefully remove the rosemary allowing any excess oil to drain back into the pan. Set the rosemary aside.

Over the same medium heat, add the prosciutto to the pan and stir briskly while shaking the pan to separate the pieces. Cook stirring constantly until the prosciutto begins to brown. When the prosciutto has changed color and appears mostly browned, empty the pan into a strainer, reserving the oil. Once the oil has mostly drained, set the prosciutto on a paper towel to dry (much like bacon). Return the captured oil to the pan and set back on the heat.

Combine the blackening seasonings and the flour and stir to mix. Press both flat sides of each scallop into the flour mixture then place the scallops directly into the pan swirling occasionally to distribute the oil.  Cook the scallops about two minutes, turn and cook two minutes to two and a half minutes more to caramelize before removing to the serving plates. Note: Scallops should be cooked “almost” all the way through when you move them to the plates. The residual heat will finish cooking them while you make the sauce.

Return the pan to the heat and increase the heat to medium high adding the orange juice, the remaining rosemary, and the wine to the pan to deglaze. Allow the liquids to boil swirling the pan occasionally until the sauce comes to a syrupy consistency. When the liquids have mostly reduced and have become syrupy, remove the rosemary. Add the butter 4 cubes at a time swirling the pan (or gently whisking) off the heat to incorporate the melted butter. Return the pan to the heat occasionally to keep the butter melting and repeat until the sauce has thickened and the all of the butter is incorporated.

To serve, drizzle a small amount of the sauce over each scallop then top each with some of the crispy prosciutto and garnish with orange zest.

Cauliflower Mash with Boursin

1 – Small head of Cauliflower
¼ cup – Chicken broth
2 Tbsp – Garlic & herb Boursin cheese
1 Tbsp – Unsalted butter
1 dash – Fresh ground nutmeg
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add a steamer basket to a medium sized stew pot along with 1-1/2 cups of water. Place the cauliflower in the steamer basket and bring the pot to a boil over medium high heat. When the water is boiling place a lid on the pot and steam until the cauliflower is quite tender, about 10 minutes.

Move the pot from the heat and very carefully transfer the cauliflower to a food processor with a standard blade. Use a wooden spoon to break up the cauliflower then add the broth, boursin, butter, and nutmeg. Process until smooth, check for seasonings and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Julienned Snow Peas with Toasted Pine Nuts and Orange Supremes

½ Lb – Snow Peas, julienned (sliced lengthwise into 3 or 4 pieces)
1 heaping Tbsp. – Pine nuts
1 – Small navel orange, cut into supremes ( How to   )
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 cups – Water

Add water, salt, and the snow peas to a sauce pan over medium high heat. When the water comes to a full boil remove the pan from the heat and strain.

While the peas are draining dry the pan then place it over medium heat for one minute. Add the pine nuts to the dry pan and cook stirring constantly until the nuts begin to brown in spots.

Over the same heat, add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to the pine nuts and stir in the oranges. As soon as the pan begins to simmer, stir in the snow peas and cook until heated through. Stir in kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Randy

Crusty Chicken with Mushroom & Leek Sauce

Photo by kathyhuntphoto.com

Photo by kathyhuntphoto.com

I just have to say Jacques Pepin is one of my favorite “celebrity” chefs! Between the wonderful shows with he and Julia Child and the “you can do this at home” approach to so many of his recipes, I really have grown to appreciate his work. Tonight was no exception as I was looking to use a giant chicken that my wife brought home but wanted something fast, something other than the same old tired recipes.

Jacques calls for chicken thighs but I split that giant chicken in half saving half (still over 3 lbs of chicken!) for later. Leaving the chicken intact, I removed all but the largest bones from the half that I did cook making it lay nice and flat in the pan…it cooked up perfectly! I took a few other small liberties with the recipe but the credit for this one absolutely goes to Jacques. Thank you Chef Pepin for all that you do!

For your cooking pleasure you can find the original recipe here: http://www.kqed.org/w/morefastfoodmyway/recipes.html#210

Crusty Chicken with Mushroom & Leek Sauce

One half chicken, intact with all but the largest bones removed, skin on
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup leeks, rinsed and halves lengthwise, then sliced in ¼ inch slices
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
3 cups washed and sliced (1/4 inch) baby bella or white mushrooms
Roughly 1/3 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp parsley chopped fresh, plus one Tbsp for garnish

Arrange the chicken skin side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp paring knife, trim off any excess skin at the edges, remove wing tips, and cut about 1/2 inch deep into the flesh on either side of the thigh bone. (This will help the meat cook more quickly.) Sprinkle each side evenly with ½ of the salt and pepper and arrange the chicken skin side down in a nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting lid.

Place the skillet over high heat and when the chicken starts sizzling reduce the heat to medium low, cover tightly, and cook for 18 to 20 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the chicken is browning properly. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150 degrees. If the chicken seems to be cooking too fast after 10 minutes or so, reduce the heat to low. The skin of the chicken should be very crisp and brown. Transfer the chicken skin side up to an ovenproof platter and place it in the oven.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet in which you cooked the chicken. Add the leeks, garlic, and mushrooms and sauté them over high heat for about 3 minutes. Test for seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste then add the wine and any liquid that has accumulated around the thighs on the platter. Cook the sauce over high heat for about 1 minute to reduce the liquid.

Note: If a richer sauce is desired stir 1 Tbsp of butter into the mushrooms just before serving.

To serve, divide the sauce among serving plates. Carve the chicken into serving portions and place in the middle of the mushroom sauce on each plate, spoon some sauce over, sprinkle with additional fresh parsley, and serve.

Enjoy!

Randy

Mmm Pork! Char siu “Style” Pork and Stir Fried Bean Sprouts

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

My wife and I attended a party last Saturday night…an Annual End of Summer Turkey Fry. It was a wonderful party hosted by our friends Joe & Linda and as usual the party was a huge success. As the enthusiastic crowd lined up with their plates to sample some of the 16 turkeys (yes, I said sixteen!) it didn’t take long to notice that the one poor guy that was carving and serving as fast as he could, was very quickly getting deep in the weeds.

Well, as any food lover worth his salt would do, I sprung into action, grabbed a knife and proceeded to help break down my fair share of the steaming hot birds. By the time the dust settled and the lines had dwindled down we had carved 13 turkeys. Both the cook and the gracious hostess insisted that the carvers “must” take home some of the leftover turkey…so who am I to refuse leftovers?

I ended up bringing home a whole 12 lb bird plus a jambalaya pot full of scraps.

Why all this turkey talk in a post about pork? Well, that was Saturday, and by Wednesday night we had eaten turkey gumbo, turkey with rice & gravy, turkey panini, and turkey hash (with poached eggs of course!). After turkey for lunch and turkey for dinner for four days straight, by last night I was ready for anything but turkey…I was ready for some pork!

Char siu, in Chinese, translates to fork burn (or roast). Interestingly the word Char actually means fork and siu, to burn or roast. This is the same “roast pork” that is often used in egg rolls, won-ton, fried rice, and myriad other ways in Chinese cooking. Traditionally it is hung on a hook or fork (Char) and roasted (siu) in an oven or over an open fire. Because this recipe strays from tradition (braised and not marinated for hours) I am calling it Char Siu “Style” Pork.

Here in the U.S. much of the Char siu that I have eaten has been dry and oftentimes chewier than I prefer, so for this recipe I set out to come up with something a little more juicy and tender. I decided on braising because this cooking method has been working very well for me with the leaner boneless pork country style ribs. Because I didn’t have time for a true marinade, I felt the braise would infuse the flavors most deeply in the shortest amount of time.

Would I recommend using this same recipe and marinating the pork overnight? Absolutely! I probably will do exactly that the next time around. But, for the relatively short (two hours overall) cooking time that I had, I think I was able to produce a reasonable Char Siu “Style” pork. It tasted right, was moist and quite tender and I was happy with the results. And, it wasn’t turkey!

Of note: This pork would also be quite good finished on the grill instead of the final uncovered baking. Look for the bean sprouts to be hot, with a little browning on the outside, but still crispy on the inside. You don’t want them to be limp. If you like a little heat try adding a tablespoon of sliced bird (or Thai chili) peppers at the same time as the green onions.

Char Siu Style Pork with Stir Fried Bean Sprouts

For the pork…

1 Package – Boneless Pork Country Style Ribs (About 2 Lbs)
1 Med – Yellow onion, sliced thick
¼ Cup – Shaoxing wine
½ Cup – Hoisin sauce
¼ Cup – Light soy sauce
2 Tbsp – Dark agave nectar
1 Tbsp – Fish sauce
¼ Tbsp – Toasted sesame oil
1 Med. Clove – Garlic, very finely minced
½ Tsp – Fresh ginger, very finely minced

For the bean sprouts…

4 Cups – Mung bean sprouts
4 – Green onions, cut in 1” to 1-1/2” pieces
1 Med. Clove – Garlic, very finely minced
½ Tsp – Fresh ginger, very finely minced
2 Tbsp – Sesame oil
¼ Tsp – Toasted sesame oil

To prepare the pork…

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a Dutch oven or a large, deep sauté pan with the sliced onions. Add the Shaoxing wine and bring to a mild simmer over medium heat.

Combine the Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, agave nectar, fish sauce, toasted sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a mixing bowl. Stir until well incorporated. One at a time, dip each rib into the sauce mixture to coat, then nestle them onto the bed of onions already in the pan. Place the remaining sauce in the refrigerator for later use.

When all of the ribs are coated and placed evenly on top of the onions, cover the pan firmly with aluminum foil before placing on the lid. Bake at 325 for 1-1/2 hours.

After 1-1/2 hours remove the ribs from the oven. Carefully remove the lid and the foil and then “very” carefully pour off most of the liquid (reserving the liquid for later use). Brush the remaining sauce mixture on the ribs and return them, uncovered, to the oven for 30 minutes more.

Remove the ribs from the oven and allow them to rest while you prepare the bean sprouts.

To prepare the bean sprouts…

Heat a wok (or sauté pan) over high heat until very hot. Add the oils, shaking the pan to distribute. Add the green onions, garlic, and ginger and cook stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add roughly 1/8 cup of the reserved cooking juices from the pork, then the bean sprouts and cook stirring constantly for 1 minute. Let this sit 30 seconds without stirring then remove from heat. That’s it…You’re ready to serve!

To serve…

Place about a one cup serving of the bean sprouts on the plate then fan sliced rib meat even on top. Garnish with (roughly) 1” pieces of julienned green onions and serve with a little of the cooking liquid as a dipping sauce.

Enjoy,

Randy

Menu for Two – Seared Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast w/ Rosemary Shallot Pan Sauce and Braised Kale

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

As a home cook, one of the ways I work on improving my “chops” is by challenging myself. Sometimes I’ll pick a “secret” ingredient, a la Iron Chef, and other times I’ll prepare what I call a Pantry Dinner. For these, I simply scan the fridge and the pantry for ingredients, check out what produce we have on hand and try come up with something tasty for dinner. (If anyone remembers Gordon Elliot’s Doorknock Dinners show…that’s where I got the idea.) This recipe was the result of one of those “Pantry Dinner” nights.

On this particular evening I had to come up with something quick because I was a little late getting home…so late in fact, that I had actually thought of just making omelets and toast. But upon scanning the refrigerator I discovered half a bottle of wine, a package of chicken breast, and ½ a bunch of fresh kale left unused from a previous night. With a stash of whole shallots (Albertson’s has had good ones for 2.99 a pound lately) and a fresh head of garlic I was off to the races.

This cooking method is a fairly foolproof way to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts; they always come out nice and moist. Just be very careful pulling that pan out of the oven! I have a potholder glove that I keep on the handle of the pan while making the sauce. The pan sauce is very quick, it should take no longer than two minutes or so to reduce the wine. Remember to remove the pan from the heat before you stir in the butter. For this tiny amount of butter there should be no need to return the pan to heat. (Doing so could cause the sauce to separate causing it to be unpleasantly greasy.)

Start to finish this “Pantry Dinner” was on the table in about half an hour. With a piece of crusty whole grain bread, a salad and the rest of the wine this ended up being a rather nice dinner for two…I hope you’ll try it!

Seared Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast with Rosemary Shallot Pan Sauce and Braised Kale

For the chicken:
Two – Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
¼ Cup – Dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1 – Med Shallot, chopped
1 Branch – Fresh rosemary (leaves only) chopped finely
Approx. 1 Tablespoon – Fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon – Unsalted butter, cut in 4 to 6 pieces and kept very cold
1 Tablespoon – Olive oil
Season with an Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

For the braised kale:
4 cups – Fresh kale, stems removed, leaves torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
1 – Med Shallot, chopped
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
¼ Cup – Dry white wine
Approx. 1 Tablespoon – Fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon – Olive oil
Season with an Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a 10” oven-proof pan over medium-high heat and using the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder, season the chicken fairly liberally on both sides while the pan is getting hot. When the pan is hot, add roughly 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl or shake the pan to cover evenly. (There should be “just” enough oil to coat the pan.)

Carefully place the chicken in the pan, skinned side down and sear until some browning appears around the edges, about 4-5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook 1 minute more, cover and place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm a large sauté pan over medium heat, when the pan is hot add 1 tablespoon of olive and swirl or shake the pan to cover evenly. Season the oil with a few good grinds from the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder then sauté the shallot and garlic just until the aroma of the garlic begins to fill the kitchen, about 1 minute. Add the kale and toss to coat with some of the oil.

Add the wine and a squeeze of lemon juice and cover. Cook covered, 15 minutes or until the kale is tender, stirring every few minutes. Toss again and check for seasoning just before serving. If necessary, add a little salt & pepper to taste.

After 20 minutes, very carefully remove the chicken from the oven holding the handle of the pan with a pot holder or “dry” dish towel. Remove the chicken to a plate (or cutting board) to rest. Place the pan with any remaining juices over medium-high heat. As the pan juices begin to boil, stir in the shallots. Cook about one minute then add the white wine and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Return to the boil and allow this to cook until about three quarters of the liquid has evaporated.

When the liquid in the pan has reached nearly the consistency of syrup, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner, stir in the rosemary and half of the butter. Continue stirring and when that butter has melted, stir in the remaining butter. Stir until all of the butter has melted into the sauce and set the pan aside while you prepare your plates.

To serve, spoon a healthy serving of the kale onto each plate. Carefully slice the chicken in diagonal slices, fan the slices out and serve next to, or right on top of the kale with the sauce spooned evenly over the chicken.

Enjoy!

Randy

Fish 101 – Oven Baked Salmon with Lemon and White Wine

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

Once upon a time I loved salmon; then 5 or 6 years ago my family passed around a particularly bad stomach virus. The night it nailed me, what do you think I had for dinner? Why salmon of course. After that night I swear I could hardly even look at cooked salmon without feeling a little lightheaded, let alone eat the stuff! As the years went by though I slowly regained my taste for cooked salmon; a little at first, sampling small bites here and there, then by preparing my childhood favorite, salmon cakes. Before long I was actually cooking and enjoying salmon again.

My wife came down with that nasty virus that same night and she too refused to touch cooked salmon for even longer than I did! In time, she came around and once again she too enjoys cooked salmon (especially that crispy skin). So what is the point of my story? Well I believe that salmon, more than any other fish, is an acquired taste. Like coffee, caviar, and even beer; salmon is one of those foods that, for many people, seems to be an acquired taste. My wife and I learning to love salmon all over again is a perfect example.

Think about how many people you know that love fish yet claim to hate salmon. Curiously, I also know those that would tell you that salmon is the only fish they will eat! Why? Because for whatever reason salmon is a fish they developed a taste for or for those that hate it; maybe they never ate enough salmon to learn to like it. Which brings me to my final point, that salmon is one of the healthiest and sustainable foods in the ocean…it is well worth giving it another chance!

If until now you’ve avoided salmon I encourage you to give it try. If you’re ready…here are a few ideas on how best to enjoy this wonderful fish.

What to choose…

When it comes to fish, I have been known to preach about freshness and with salmon, freshness is paramount! Why? Simply put, the fresher the salmon is, the sweeter and milder the flavor will be. If you’ve had unpleasant, strong tasting salmon it may be that it wasn’t the freshest. When buying fresh salmon look first for whole fish with bright (not cloudy) eyes, and skin that is so moist that it has a sparkle to it (never dry looking!).

The gills should be bright red or healthy pink (not dull or off-color) and if you poke the fish in the shoulder (I’m snickering at the mental image of poking a salmon in the shoulder but it works!) the flesh should spring back firmly rather than leaving a divot. Finally, there should be no “fishy” smell. A fresh fish should have little smell, perhaps only the pleasant scent of the mist from a breaking wave or an ocean breeze, if any smell at all.

Once you’ve found your perfectly bright, moist, firm, and nice smelling whole salmon, most fishmongers will be happy to fillet it for you. But, you’re not always going to be able to find whole salmon…the next best thing to whole salmon is fresh, skin-on, salmon fillets. Again, look for firm, moist (the skin helps retain some of that moisture) fillets with little or no smell at all. I often buy fresh salmon fillets at Costco and I have no qualms at all about opening one little corner of a sealed package to sniff the fish for freshness. If it smells fishy…don’t buy it!

What about frozen?

Salmon actually freezes quite well and I often buy frozen salmon when fresh fish is not available. Look for a package that states the salmon is ICQ or “Individually Quick Frozen”. (These fillets are usually flash frozen while still very fresh, sometimes even still on the boat.) It’s ok if the fish portions are individually wrapped…I actually prefer it since I’m usually cooking for only two.

Frozen salmon to avoid would be whole fillets that are packed loosely, fillet portions that are not individually wrapped and are all stuck together in one big frozen lump, or any fillets that have frost directly touching the flesh. If the only salmon fillets you can find fit any of the descriptions in this paragraph; now might be a good time to go with the canned salmon!

To thaw frozen fillets, move them from the freezer to the fridge the night before you plan to cook them. In a pinch, if you forget to thaw your fish ahead of time, you can also thaw them quickly by placing them in a cold heavy bottomed steel pan. Cast iron works very well for this but a good heavy stainless pan will work too. The metal of the pan draws the cold out of the frozen fish and will thaw frozen salmon portions completely in about ½ hour or less. (This is also a good trick for quick thawing frozen boneless chicken breast.)

OK, I’ve got my fish…now what?

Now that you have found your salmon, treat it with respect and do not overcook it! For the best flavor, cooking the fish properly is nearly as important as freshness. When overcooked, salmon dries out very quickly which ruins both the texture and the taste. It’s actually amazing to me how often restaurants serve dried out, overcooked salmon. It’s so rampant in fact that I would bet many of the people that do not like salmon have simply never had a piece that was perfectly cooked.

Salmon should be cooked just through to the center leaving just a trace of pink in the very middle. There is really no trick to it, just keep a close eye on the fish while it’s cooking and when you think the fish is almost ready, use a fork to test for doneness. When the fish is done the flesh will flake easily but still hold together towards the center. It’s important to note: If you wait to remove it from the heat, until the fish flakes all the way to the center, then it will likely end up overcooked. This is because residual heat will continue to cook the fish for a little while, even after you take it off the heat.

Again, baked salmon, like most fish, is done perfectly when you can flake it easily with a fork, but the flesh still holds together towards the center. Below is a rough guideline for baking your salmon. Remember, this is strictly a guideline so start checking your fish early…if you let it go too long it will overcook.

If baking at 400 degrees salmon fillets 3/4” to 1” thick should be done in 8 to 10 minutes, 1” to 1-1/2” thick, 10 to 12 minutes, and 1-1/2 to 2” thick, 12 to 15 minutes.

What else?

Quite often salmon fillets will have small pin bones running along part of the center line. These should be removed prior to cooking. To easily remove pin bones, drape the fillet skin side down, over an inverted bowl. This will arch the fillet so that the pin bones stand out making them easy to find and remove using just your fingers or a pair of kitchen tweezers. Needle nose pliers will even work in a pinch.

Are you ready?

This is a super easy recipe, so easy actually, that for just the two of us, I baked it in our toaster oven!

I sprinkled my fish with a little dried dill but you can use any herb you like. Fresh rosemary or parsley would also be good with salmon and even a little lemon zest would be nice…don’t be afraid to use your imagination. On the plate pictured, I served the baked salmon over a bed of fresh spinach sautéed with just a little olive oil and lemon juice. Along side is a white bean puree topped with a few green onion curls, lemon wedges, and a little creamy dill sauce. Dinner was on the table in about ½ hour and was elegant enough to serve to company.

Salmon is a versatile, healthy, and delicious fish that can be very easy to prepare. If it’s been a while since you’ve tried it…I hope you will give it another try! 

Oven Baked Salmon with Lemon and White Wine

2 to 4 – Salmon fillets, 3/4″ to 1 inch thick, in 4 – 6 oz portions
Olive oil
Lemon juice
White wine
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Dried dill (or your herb of choice)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and thoroughly dry your salmon portions by patting them with a paper towel. Cover a ½ or ¼ size baking sheet with aluminum foil and place your fish on the sheet with plenty of space in between. Drizzle the salmon evenly with roughly ½ tablespoon of the olive oil, turning it over a time or two just to coat. With the salmon skin side down, drizzle with roughly ½ tablespoon each of the lemon juice, then the wine.

Sprinkle the fish with a pinch of kosher salt and approx. ¼ tsp each of fresh ground black pepper, and dried dill. Place the fish in the pre-heated oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes, checking for doneness after 8 minutes. Remove the fish from the oven when the flesh flakes easily with a fork but still holds together slightly towards the center.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Randy

Mmm…Pork! Country Style Pork Ribs with Tomatoes & Red Wine

Count me among the many meat-eaters that love pork…the flavors, the succulence, the aroma as it cooks…I do love a good hunk of pork! And is it really all that bad for you? The recently shelved “other white meat” campaign would have had us believe it is no worse for you than chicken. While it’s true, there can be about the same amount of fat as chicken, there can also be a significant amount of calories from fat depending on the cut.

In my wiser years I have naturally become more conscious of my eating habits. I hardly ever eat bacon anymore and practice moderation when it comes to all things pork. Believe it or not, I only cook pork twice, maybe three times a month. Even so, the reason it shows up on my blog quite often is because it is indeed one of my favorite things!

While I do make a habit of choosing the leaner cuts, country style pork ribs generally isn’t one of them. I think I actually got a little giddy when I found these nicely lean boneless ribs at Aldi last week. I picked them up and excitedly anticipated giving them a try. With the long cooking of the braise they came out wonderfully tender, had only a little line of fat along one edge and the flavor was chock full of porky goodness!

I have discovered that grating the garlic on a microplane creates an intensely garlicky flavor, so much so that I only used about half the garlic I used to use. Speaking of flavor, the browning in this recipe gives it a nice head start and the tomatoes and the wine contribute to both flavor and tenderness. Lastly, covering the pan with foil creates an extra good seal to prevent moisture loss and helps retain all that good flavor.

I served this dish over spinach pappardelle; the wide noodles did a good job of collecting all that sumptuous sauce. You could also use egg noodles, ziti, or rigatoni.

Country Style Pork Ribs with Tomatoes & Red Wine

4 to 6 – Boneless country style pork ribs
1 – 28 Ounce can whole tomatoes including juice
½ Cup – Dry red wine
1 – Small Onion, diced
1 – Branch of celery, diced
1 – Medium carrot, grated
1 – Clove of garlic, very finely minced
1 – Sprig fresh rosemary
½ tsp. each – dried oregano, dried thyme
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven or a large heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat until almost smoking. Season the ribs well on both sides with kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper and sear until well browned on all sides (about 10 minutes over all). Set ribs on a plate to return to the pan later.

Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and herbs to the same pan and cook stirring often until the onions become transparent, about 6-8 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and stir to loosen any browned bits. When the wine has reached a rapid boil add the tomatoes and the juice from the can, gently crushing them as you add them to the pan.

Return the pork to the pan nestling the ribs into the sauce, bring to a light boil then cover the Dutch oven or pan with aluminum foil. Place the lid on the pan pressing to seal it well then flatten the foil around the sides. Bake 1-1/2 hours and allow 15 minutes rest before serving. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy,

Randy