Easy Lobster Roll Sliders

Happy 4th of July! Today I am celebrating by sharing an incredibly simple recipe for delicious Lobster Slider Rolls that you can prepare ahead of time to impress your guests.

20190704_155606

There are a lot of different variations for lobster roll sandwiches so the best thing you can do is make it your own! Here’s my take on the classic lobster roll:

As with any cooking adventure – freshness matters. In the case of seafood I cannot stress that enough. When shopping for your lobsters be sure to pick them out yourself, choosing the ones that are most lively in the tank. Your fish-monger or market might offer to steam the lobster for you but you should steam them yourself at home to ensure it is at its freshest when you begin prepping this easy recipe.

Lobsters can easily be steamed in a large cooking pot with a strainer inserted in the bottom of the pot. Fill the pot with roughly 25% water and bring to a rolling boil. Once the water is rolling carefully (I use tongs) place the lobsters into the bath. Make sure to have a lid that fits properly on the pot as to allow the steam to begin to build up. Turn the temperature down to medium and allow to continue to steam for roughly 12-15 minutes. You can check halfway thru just to be sure your lobsters are turning the correct shade of red. Finished lobsters should be a bright shade of red.

20190704_151904

Once your lobster is a bright shade of red after 12-15 minutes, remove carefully from the pot (again with tongs to be safe!) and allow the lobster to cool on the counter for another 15 minutes.

Once cooled you can begin extracting the sweet and juicy meat. Remove the claws and set aside. Wrap the tail in a dish cloth and squeeze – you will hear the shell cracking. Carefully pull the tail from its shell and set aside. Crack the claws open and extract the meat. Once you’ve taken all the meat from the lobster (be sure not to miss any) cut into small equal cuts as best as possible. Put the lobster in a small metal bowl and stick in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

20190704_154555

*Note – the meat in lobster rolls needs to be chilled. Hot lobster meat in this recipe would just be gross!

Once your lobster is nicely cooled you can begin putting this tasty dish together!

In the same small metal bowl with your lobster add roughly half a cup of mayonnaise. (Do not use Miracle Whip because … GROSS!). Chop two sprigs of celery into small cubes and add into the bowl. Chop 5-10 fresh sprigs of chives and into the bowl. Add a healthy dash of paprika, celery seed, salt & pepper & old bay seasoning to the mix . Lastly, add just a small splash of fresh lemon juice. Incorporate all nicely until all the ingredients are mixed together well.

Cut fresh brioche slider rolls in half and place on the grill or cast iron pan until you get a nice char on them. Spread butter on the finished rolls. Scoop your lobster roll mix onto each roll, finishing off with a little more fresh chopped chives and dash of paprika for presentation.

20190704_15560620190704_155354Lobster Roll20190704_15541220190704_155407

*Notes – The bread used is important in this recipe. Try to find brioche rolls which are buttery and savory. Using sub rolls or steak rolls won’t be as satisfying.

20190704_154515

Ingredients List:

(2) 1.5lb fresh lobsters steamed

Fresh Chives

Fresh Celery

1 Cup Mayonnaise

Paprika

Celery Seed

Salt & Pepper

Old Bay Seasoning

Brioche sliders

Salt & Starch Cookbook

I have been putting off posting this for a while but I think the time has come where I can comfortably see the finish line on this project. For the past few years I have done a fair amount of cooking & learning in the kitchen. I’ve attempted to document much of my cooking adventures along the way, highlighting some on this food blog from time to time. A while back I began sifting thru some of the saved images and articles I jotted down during the process. I had to smile because many of these memories were made with family while learning about traditions and recipes that go back many years. The notion of compiling an actual cookbook never really occurred to me until just a couple years ago.

Fast forward to today and it’s been a very slow process. In particular because I didn’t want to publish just another cookbook or book of recipes. I wanted the book to be more personal. It needed to act as sort of self-preservation, recording the memories and lessons I’ve learned from my family and the joy that cooking has brought into my life.

The very first draft of this labor of love project is almost completed. The book highlights easy-to-follow recipes I have learned, notes and memories from my life as well as (I hope) some really inspiring food photography throughout.

Stay tuned for updates and the official release date!

grazie a tutti

Torta di farina di cocco – {Coconut Flour Cake}

Recently I was thumbing thru one of my many cookbooks that span the variety of cuisines across Italy. A recipe in Acquacotta from Emiko Davies cookbook caught my eye.

The recipe is a simple bunt cake make from chestnut flour, apparently used within the Tuscany region for this recipe. After realizing I could not find chestnut flour anywhere I decided to improvise and see how things turned out.

I made the cake using coconut flour. The result was a beautiful dense cake that surprisingly was simple to make and even simpler to eat!

Here’s what you’ll need:

5.5 oz of room temperature butter (unsalted)

7 oz of sugar

Zest of 1 orange

6 eggs (the recipe called for 4 but I found adding two more worked better)

1 – 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 – 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 cup milk (the recipe called for 1/2 cup but I found 1 full cup worked better)

2 tablespoons of rum

Start by taking your butter,coconut flour, all-purpose flour & baking powder, mixing them in a mixer until well incorporated. It’s important that your butter is room temperature – having it cold or just out of the fridge will cause you problems.

Add in 1 egg at a time to your mix, allowing your stand mixer to get the mix to a nice, smooth and almost pastel color. Slowly add in your milk until well incorporated.

Zest 1 full orange and add in the mix along with your choice of rum.

Allow your stand mixer to run on slow for about 1 – 2 minutes until you have a thick & dense batter. The batter should not be runny like a cake batter, it should stand on its own and be thick.

Liberally grease a bunt pan. Pour your batter into the pan and go over with a spatula so the batter sits evenly on the bottom.

Set your over to 350 degrees and allow to bake for roughly 20 minutes, or until you can stick a knife thru and have it come out cleanly.

Take out of the oven and allow to cool.

In a small sauce pan put 1 cup of sugar, a teaspoon or two of confectioners sugar and 2 teaspoons of water. Put on the stove on low until you notice the sugar is caramelizing. Carefully pour over top your now cooled cake. Add a slice of orange and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary & some powdered sugar to finish the cake off nicely.

e4th,,,89opl;;saw2223333scxv6777

Sarde a Beccafico – {Sicilian Stuffed Sardines}

A while back I came across one of the many food & travel docs-series on Netflix. It just so happened to be Ainsley Eats the Streets. I had never known of him before or seen his shows in Britain. After devouring the entire series he quickly became one of my most favorite television chefs. He exudes joy and it shows both in his television programs and in his cooking.

One of the episodes in the series was his visit to Sicily. During the show he prepared a fairly easy recipe of sardines stuffed with a variety of ingredients. I did a little research on the recipe and it’s fairly straightforward and easy to compose. I am not entirely positive there is a single traditional recipe for these sardines so I took the basic elements of what I could find online and on the show.

Here’s how I did it:

Before you do anything you need to find fresh local sardines. Obviously you probably won’t find them as fresh as in Sicily but local farmers markets should suffice. Fresh ingredients is the key here!

For an appetizer suitable for 2-4 people:

1.5lbs – 2 lbs of fresh sardines (Ask you fish monger or farmers market to scale them – It will save you a lot of extra work at home.)

Start off by cleaning your sardines, removing the head and innards along with the small back bone that runs thru the entire length of the small fish. An easy way to do this is make a small cut underneath the tip of the backbone and use your fingers to pull it out.

You will notice sardines have a lot of small little bones that run alongside the backbone as well. It’s up to you if you want to spend the time to remove each one but most are small enough that they will dissolve in the cooking process by itself.

Once your sardines are cleaned, half them with a sharp knife and set aside. I like to run them under cold water again after I cut them in half.

In a non-stick pan you want to lightly toast 1/2 cup of pine nuts along with a 1.5 cup of bread crumbs (preferably seasoned). Add in 1/2 cup of raisins along with another 1/2 cup of finely chopped parsley. Mix together until warm.

In a large bowl add 1.5 cups of EVOO and the juice of 1 lemon. Slowly add your dry ingredients, mixing slowly to incorporate well.

Take roughly 1 spoonful of the mixture and stuff each sardine. Carefully roll each one up securing it with a toothpick placing it carefully in an oiled glass dish. I’ve found small square glass dishes work the best. Once your dish is full drizzle some EVOO on top and add in a few springs of fresh rosemary and bay leaves. (No salt – remember the sardines have enough saltiness to them already naturally.)

Place in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Remove and let cool for 10 minutes. (Don’t forget to remove the toothpicks!)

You can add a dash of balsamic vinegar for that extra little kick to this lovely little delight from the sea.

asw324f;;'hju8899oo;scd66578;'sdfregggsssswwwwwsw234rfg

Cacio e Pepe

Cheese & Pepper. What could be better? I dare you to find a better, more satisfying combination of simple ingredients when combined with the right technique that make for one of the best and most beloved pasta dishes ever created.

I first tasted Cacio e Pepe the proper way – while in Rome. I remember sitting in a little side street restaurant, the rain pouring down outside and not another patron in the joint. The two waiters huddled in the corner looking anxiously up at the small tv where their beloved Roma futbol club was playing a match. I remember looking around the restaurant after my first bite, as if my head was on a swivel desperately searching for someone else to share in my new found discovery of pasta I had never dreamed could taste as good.

Needless to say I devoured my first experience of Cacio e Pepe during my time in Rome, returning home to eventually attempt the creamy and peppery dish myself in my humble little kitchen.

I’ll spare you the details of my first few attempts. I’ll just say this – it took me a number of times preparing this dish to get it correct. The term correct could easily be replaced with acceptable.  I still cant get the dish to taste as incredible as it did in Rome, nor should I ever expect to.

This dish in theory is super simple, utilizing only a few ingredients. That was the easy part for me. The technique and preparation was the sticking point that seemed to cause me to stumble every darn time. Time after time I managed to make simple mistakes in the preparation of this dish leaving me frustrated and perplexed each time. I pushed on and came up with this technique that seems to work for me the best, with little notes along the way as always.

Ingredients:

  • 1lb of spaghetti or long pasta
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Fresh Pecorino Romano Cheese
  • EVOO (optional)

Preparation:

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Some recipes call for adding salt to your pasta water. I’ve found this to give the overall taste of the pasta afterwards over the top salty. Remember, the Pecorino Romano already has a lot of salt in it and for me that was all the saltiness I needed in the dish overall.

In a separate large bowl mix your Pecorino Romano (about 1 – 1/2 cups) and your freshly ground pepper, incorporating nicely.

Cook your pasta until al dente. Drain your pasta but keep some of the pasta water over low heat. Add a large spoonful to your large bowl of cheese and pepper, stirring vigorously. Continue to add spoonfuls of hot pasta water until your cheese and pepper mix becomes more of a paste. Add in your steaming hot pasta, mixing continuously. Continue mixing everything together until you get a creamy coating on your pasta.

I’ve found the cheese can lump up if your pasta water/pasta is not hot enough. If this happens, continue to add small amounts of hot pasta water and continue to mix until your result is nice a creamy throughout. Add additional pepper as needed.

Note: The technique you use is where this recipe will come together or get ruined – as I have found out many times before. The crucial aspect of this preparation is to make sure the cheese melts evenly and coats your pasta in a thick and creamy sauce. Don’t get discouraged as I did at first, wondering why I was messing up what was supposed to be such an easy recipe. If at first it doesn’t come out, simply try again until you work out the kinks in your preparation – because ultimately this dish can easily become one of your most favorite foods to impress your friends with!

15522546920811552254756584

 

Vanilla & Cinnamon Milk Tart

When it comes to anything involved with pastry my anxiousness begins to slowly creep up. I am fairly competent at pasta dough – but pastry dough is another story! That said, I am getting better and learning more each time I set out for another baking adventure in the Salt & Starch kitchen.

benjamin resini

Recently I was thumbing thru one of my cookbooks I had admittedly neglected for some time – The Jamie Oliver Comfort Food cookbook. As I flipped thru the pages I really began to fall in love with this book and remembered why I bought it in the first place. The recipes along with the food photography are incredible. I found myself stuck on the Milk Tart recipe as it caught my attention last Sunday. I began to read up on it to see if I could give it a go.

From my research online I found that Milktart or “Melktert” is traditionally a South African pastry that is delicate, sweet and creamy.  I was really intrigued and read a number of different recipes online along with the Jamie Oliver recipe from the book. I decided I would give it a try, putting my little personal touches on it as I do with everything I cook (or bake in this instance). In general I followed the Jamie Oliver recipe which was quite simple but I’ve included notes along the way which were not in the cookbook that I found helpful.

Here’s what you will need:

Pastry:

  • 1 2/3 Cups all-purpose flour, extra for dusting
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup of 2% milk

Filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar (see my notes)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

Making pastry dough is fairly straightforward, although I find it difficult at times given the little kneading necessary. I always catch myself kneading it too much.

Pastry Dough:

Start off with running your flour and confectioners sugar thru a sieve into a large metal bowl. Cut your butter into small cubes and then combine your mixture together gently. Add your egg and a pinch of high quality sea salt. (I use Maldon).  Mix for another 30 seconds and then add in your milk slowly. Continue mixing together until you have what looks like a very flaky or ‘scruffy’ ball – as indicated in the Jamie Oliver cookbook.  Again, this is where I struggle because I want that dough to look shiny and golden like pasta dough! Remind yourself it is pastry dough and not pasta dough! Set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes.

The next part is where I screwed up originally when making this pastry. While my pastry dough was cooling in the fridge I began making the filling. Big mistake! Allow some patience (something I typically do not have much of) with this recipe and let your pastry dough to fully cool in the fridge before you do anything else. This is a recipe you can’t skip ahead on and get away with.

Ok, so now it’s been 30 minutes and you’re chomping at the bit to get this thing moving! Take out a 9 or 10 inch tart pan and spray some PAM into it, making sure the sides are coated well. You can use other oils here as well but the baking PAM spray I have found works well. Remove your pastry dough from the fridge and begin rolling it out to roughly 1/4″ thickness. Remember, this isn’t pasta dough so your dough is going to be flaky and crumbly & possibly sticky.  Continue to put your rolling pin skills to the test until you have a nice even section of dough rolled out – large enough to cover your tart pan. It’s ok to sprinkle all-purpose flour on your surface and dough throughout this process – as your dough is probably a bit sticky. Use the flour to tighten it up if needed.

Roll or place your rolled out pastry dough over top of your tart pan, being sure to push in nicely along all the edges inside. Cut the excess dough around the edge of the tart pan. Take a fork and punch holes through the base of the dough. (A tiny detail I forgot to do my first time making this dish! Poking holes in the bottom will help the dough to cook evenly, prevent it from sticking to the bottom, and will also help the baking process of the filling.) Pop the tart pan into your freezer for 20 minutes to firm up.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove your tart pan from the freezer and place a sheet of tin foil over top of your tart pan pastry, being sure to push into all the corners gently. Take some rice or baking beans and fill up the tart pan, again putting enough into the pan to get into all the nooks and crannies. I should mention this process confused the hell of me when I read it in the cookbook. The purpose of this process is to cook the pastry dough somewhat before adding the forthcoming filling. This will allow the dough to ultimately be fully cooked. If you do not do this step your dough will not cook fully in the oven the first go around, leaving you with a doughy mess.

Take your tart pan (now filled with rice or baking beans on top of a tin foil sheet) and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes remove from your oven and dispose of the rice or beans and tin foil. Place back into the oven for another 10 – 15 minutes uncovered.

While your pastry is in the oven for the 2nd time, you can begin working on your filling. Pour your milk into a sauce pan and place on the stove over low heat. Cut your vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds, adding to the milk on the stove. Throw in the bean stalks as well. (You will remove them later). Allow to simmer for roughly 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl beat your eggs, cornstarch, all-purpose flour & superfine sugar.

Note: Superfine Sugar is NOT confectioners sugar. I have found that superfine sugar can be somewhat difficult to find at a local grocery store. If you cannot find superfine sugar you can easily pop it into a food processor and blend on high for roughly 30 seconds or until the sugar is visibly powdery and much more fine. Your food processor blades will not like this but it’s a work around if you don’t have access to store bought superfine sugar.

Remove your milk & vanilla from the stove which should now be nicely simmering. Remove the vanilla stalks from the sauce pan. Add in your butter, mixing continuously until fully melted. The recipe in the cookbook called for 1 ‘pat’ of butter – which was again confusing to me. What the hell is a ‘pat’ of butter. The term is subjective from what I found. I used 1/2 cup of unsalted butter cut into small cubes which worked nicely. Most recipes would probably say that is too much but it worked for me.

Next gradually stir in your flour/egg/cornstarch mixture into the milk, stirring continuously until fully incorporated. At this juncture I added my own little personal touch to the recipe and put in a dash of vanilla powder. Vanilla powder can be difficult to get but probably can be acquired at any good spice store or farmer’s market.

Place your sauce pan back on stove over med-low heat. Here is another point where your patience will pay off dividends. Continue to stir until your mixture becomes thick. This usually takes 10-15 minutes. Your mixture will get thick and become a pudding like consistency.  Once at this point, remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes – or until it is not steaming hot anymore.

Carefully pour your filling into your pastry tart pan, being sure not to overfill the filling above the rim of your tart pan. Sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top and bake for another 20-30 minutes.

*The Jamie Oliver recipe added some glazed caramel to this dish. I gave it a try and after a disastrous first attempt which included ruining the first tart and nearly burning my thumb off from the glaze – I managed to get it right.  If you would like to add a little caramel glaze to this tart it is actually fairly easy – but the timing is the important part.

For the optional caramel glaze:

Allow your tart to fully bake before preparing the glaze. Your tart should be cooling comfortably on the kitchen counter before you start your glaze.

Take 1 cup of regular sugar and a splash of water and put into a small sauce pan over med heat. Stir regularly until your sugar begins to thicken both in consistency and color. Continue to stir until you have a beautiful golden brown color of caramel and the thickness is still workable. Once the consistency is thick but still ‘pour-able’, remove from the stove and carefully pour over top of your now finished tart.

Note: This is where I burned my finger horribly the first time I did this. The glaze might not look hot but it is like lava! – trust me! Be careful during this step!

Allow your tart to fully cool – for a few hours before even thinking about removing it from the tart pan or serving. The best course of action I have found here is to let it cool on the counter for a few hours and then stick it in the fridge overnight. The subtle flavors of the creamy filling will come thru better the next day after it’s been cooling for a while. You’ll be left with a delicate, creamy and impressive pastry dish which you can add creme fraiche too, decorate with fresh blueberries or simply with the caramel glaze.

 

Fish Sauce Spare Ribs

This is a go-to dish for me. I absolutely love Fish Sauce Spare Ribs. I’ll make a wild guess and say you might have never tried fish sauce spare ribs? Am I right? If so, read on!

Put down the BBQ sauce and give this incredibly easy recipe a try for a super flavorful take on spare ribs you won’t forget.

*Some of the recipes I share on Salt & Starch outline exact measurements for cooking certain things. I share what works for me and what doesnt. For this entry I am mostly leaving it up to you to figure out. There are many variations I have found when preparing this dish so what better way to figure out what works for you! When I first cooked FSSR’s I used the now defunct Lucky Peach 101 Easy Asian Recipe cookbook.

After a few attempts I of course changed up the recipe slightly to suit what I felt made a better result. But that’s the beauty of cooking – experimentation with flavors, spices, amounts, and preparation until you get it just right for your tastebuds. So that said, below is a general outline of what you need. Feel free to add, take away and tweak the recipe to make it yours.

*Note: If you are not familiar with Fish Sauce I suggest you read this quick little article first.

It’s packs a sweet, powerful and funky flavor to dishes and it can easily be overused on your first few attempts cooking with it – I mention that based on experience!

So, my general rule of thumb with Fish Sauce is ‘less is more’. The powerful flavors of the sauce will still come thru in the dish you prepare and as mentioned above – you can always tweak your amounts to your flavor profiles as you get accustomed to using Fish Sauce as a main ingredient.

General Ingredients suggested:

  • 2 Racks of Spare Ribs (St.Louis cut if possible)
  • 3/4 Cup of Fish Sauce (Found at most Asian supermarkets)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • Lime Juice
  • Fresh Ginger, minced
  • Kosher Salt

How To:

Mix together in a large bowl 1/4 cup of your fish sauce and 1/4 cup of sugar. Rub each rack of ribs liberally with the mixture. Arrange each rack separately on its own baking sheet, wrapping each rack in foil – crimping the foil at the top.

Now the recipe I followed originally indicated to bake at 350 Degrees until tender but not falling apart, around 90 minutes. For my kitchen and stove I found this to be too long and the ribs were falling apart by then. I cook mine for roughly 70 minutes at 350 degrees, checking them every so often to make sure they are not overcooking.

Remove from the oven and let the ribs rest in their foil pouches for at least 20 minutes.

While your ribs are cooling, finish preparing the remaining ingredients using the general outline below:

Combine the remaining sugar, water and salt into a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add some of the lime juice and stir. I like to add just a little bit extra lime juice because I like the ‘tartiness’ it brings forth in the mix. Continue stirring for roughly 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add your ginger. Gently swirl the pan to incorporate the ginger. (You can also add garlic as an extra kick as well)

Add a bit more lime juice and another 1/2 cup of the fish sauce. Lucky Peach’s recipe calls for adding sambal at this stage if you are so inclined to. Add a dash of pepper and allow to bubble over low heat, stirring gently to incorporate.  You are making a ‘Fish Sauce Caramel’.

Repackage your rack of ribs into new foil wraps, arranging them meat side up on the baking sheet. Take a brush and liberally brush some of the fish sauce onto the ribs. Roast for 5-10 minutes, remove and baste with more of your sauce. Continue this process until you have exhausted all your sauce giving your ribs a shiny glaze with a nice char.

Let cool for 15 minutes, cut into slices and enjoy!

IMG_4999

Continue reading “Fish Sauce Spare Ribs”

Verdure Gratinate

Baked vegetables with bread crumbs is one of the easiest side dishes you can prepare. I love this dish because it sets up perfectly for new cooks. It allows for a newbie in the kitchen to practice their knife skills and prepare an incredibly easy and flavorful dish almost every time within minutes.

The other beautiful aspect of this dish is you can use virtually any vegetables you like. You’re not bound by only a few certain vegetables. So, that said – pick your favorites and get started! I’ll show you how …

Common veggies I like to use:

  • Eggplant
  • Peppers (Green, Red & Yellow)
  • Zuchinni
  • Onions
  • Tomato
  • Fresh herbs of your choice. Parsley, Oregano & Marjoram work wonderfully.
  • Salt & Pepper (Try to use high quality salt, not iodized store bought salt. Good salt such as Maldon Sea Salt or other sea salts make a huge difference in cooking. Freshly ground black pepper should also be a staple in your kitchen)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (Don’t skimp on quality here either. Get the good stuff)
  • Bread Crumbs – roughly about 1-1/2 cups

IMG_5470

How to:

Take your fresh herbs and put your knife skills to the test, getting them fully chopped finely.  Once you have a lovely mix of herbs (finely chopped) add them to your bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl – stirring well to make sure the herbs are fully incorporated with the the bread crumbs.

Cut your veggies roughly 1/4″ in thickness, or a bit thinner depending on your preference. This is another good exercise for your knife skills because you will have a few different vegetables to cut. Make your cuts even focusing on even lengths for all your veggies. This will make your dish look even better when its plated. (see photos)

IMG_5471.JPG

Place your cut vegetables on a baking sheet that has been drizzled with a little EVOO, spreading them out evenly. Don’t overcrowd them on the baking sheet. Sprinkle your breadcrumb mix on top of the veggies but don’t go crazy here putting more than is needed. This is a common mistake, one I committed the first time I made this side dish. If you put too many bread crumbs on top you’ll be left with burnt vegetables and a mushy breadcrumb pile on top. Less is more in this situation.

Drizzle some EVOO over top of the vegetables to finish.  Bake for roughly 45 minutes at 375 F until breadcrumbs are browned on top.

Sprinkle a little high quality sea salt on top and serve!

IMG_5468

Spanish Rice with Shrimp

There comes a time in your cooking life when you realize that you’re attempting to prepare something significantly important. Something besides just the next recipe or adventure in the kitchen. Something that goes beyond just the food, the next blog post, or one self.

For me that realization came when I attempted to make Spanish Rice for the first time.

I’ll preface this right now: I still know entirely too little about traditional Spanish food. But I am learning. I am studying. I am in awe of the food history and flavors of these foods I am reading about. My journey continues of course, hopefully with a trip to Spain one day to experience these heavenly dishes I have dancing around in my mind.

Here I recount my 3rd time attempting to make Spanish Rice. When I began researching traditional Spanish Rice my mind was spinning. Every recipe I read was different. Some with garlic, some without. Some with water, some with chicken broth. Some with only red peppers, some with yellow and green. The confusion continued …

I continued reading and watching some recipes on YouTube about how some chefs were preparing Spanish Rice. While I cannot speak with any level of truth about what exactly is the correct way of preparing Spanish Rice – I concluded that there were many ways to prepare this dish. This is something that still doesn’t sit right with me totally – mostly because I want to get it right. I wanted to prepare the dish the correct way, not a modernized or modified way. Alas, my questions still remain and I hope to eventually learn (without any doubt) the correct way of preparing traditional Spanish rice.

For now, my recipe below is my best attempt at studying the dish, the different variations of ingredients and preparation – all in hopes I present the dish with the utmost respect is surely deserves. For those that may be reading that have experience with this dish – please feel free to comment if I’ve made any glaring and horrible mistakes!

Spanish Rice (My best attempt)

Ingredients:

2 cups long grain white rice

1 lb Fresh Jumbo Shrimp (Head on)

4 cups chicken brothe

Salt/Pepper

2 cans tomato sauce (no seasoning)

1 Green Pepper / 1 Red Pepper

Fresh Parsley

4 Cloves Garlic

White Pepper

1/2 Spanish Onion

Cumin

Adobo seasoning

Oregano

EVOO & Veg Oil

Preparation:

Heat a large sauce pan with 1/3 cup of EVOO.  Roughly chop 1/2 a green pepper and 1/2 red pepper. Roughly chop 1/2 your Spanish Onion. Finely chop your cloves of garlic.

Bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil. Carefully place your shrimp (head on) in the water.

While your shrimp boils add your fresh ingredients in the large sauce pan, allowing your peppers and onion to sweat down. Add a pinch of salt/pepper.

Remove your shrimp from the boiling water. Once your shrimp turn a bright orange color they should be finished. Remove the shrimp from the water and set aside.

In your large sauce pan, add your tomato sauce and chicken brothe. Bring to a rolling boil then add your rice. (General rule is for every 1 cup of rice, use 2 cups of water or liquid). For this recipe I used chicken broth instead of water.

Note: It is incredibly easy to burn the bottom of your pan with the rice. This creates a sticky messy disaster and your dish will taste of burnt rice. Not good. To avoid this keep close watch on the temperature and add 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil to your pan. This helps prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Gradually add in the remaining seasonings. Add a pinch of white pepper, cumin, oregano and Adobo seasoning. Add your roughly chopped parsley.

Cover your pan half way, reduce the heat and keep careful watch. The rice should be absorbing the liquid visibly more and more as it continues to cook.

The rice should be fully cooked within 10-15 minutes typically. Once your rice is nice and has taken a somewhat thick consistency – add in your shrimp after you’ve removed their shells.

Continue to cook on low heat for another 5 minutes.

Taste your dish at this point – adjusting seasoning as you like. Add Salt/Pepper if necessary.

Finally, remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes to allow flavors to continue to evolve.  I’ve noticed the longer the dish sits the flavors become bolder and incorporate more overall.

And there you have it – my best take on Spanish Rice.

20180526_18104820180526_17245920180526_18104220180526_18112020180526_18122320180526_181244

 

 

 

 

 

Thai Hot Pepper Wings

Do you like hot or spicy food? Do you long for that seemingly never ending dull ache that lasts hours after you’ve finished your last bite of a spice infused meal? If so, we probably should be friends.

Spicy foods and flavors in my opinion should have its own food group. Its own section at the farmers market. It should be an exclusive club only set aside for those that have proven their prowess amongst the culinary gods – those that have survived a spicy dish so savory and painful the juxtaposition of flavors is both confusing and dizzying.

Well, maybe I’ve gone too far. But alas, the heat is going to keep you coming back for more. Today’s recipe is no less than a plethora of combined flavors that leave your mouth tingling long after your last bite. Let the madness begin:

Ingredients:

1-2 lbs fresh chicken wings – never frozen

Thai Hot peppers

Green chili peppers

Ginger

Garlic

Salt/Pepper

Adobo seasoning (optional)

Cayenne Pepper

Recipe:

Start off cleaning your chicken wings. It goes without saying that when working with raw chicken one should be highly attentive to avoiding cross-contamination. I cook a lot of chicken and I always am super careful of cleaning up properly afterwards from all surfaces, knives, etc – again in order to eliminate cross contamination with raw chicken.

For this recipe I boil the chicken wings for 15-20 minutes in a large pot of rolling/boiling water.

While your chicken wings are boiling begin prepping your other ingredients.

Thinly slice a generous handful of your Thai Hot Peppers. These are usually available at any decent farmers market.

Thinly slice a few green chili’s.

Finely chop 4-5 cloves of garlic along with 1/4 or so of a stalk of fresh ginger. Bring these two ingredients together to a fine mince.

Add your ingredients to a large sauce pan with 1/3 cup vegetable oil.

Set your sauce pan on high on the stove, brining all the ingredients to a boiling simmer.

By now your boiled wings should be finished. Remove from the water and carefully incorporate them into your saucepan, liberally spreading the ingredients allowing to coat the wings. Add a pinch of salt, black pepper and if you would like some Adobo seasoning for extra flavor. You can also add a touch of sugar to cut the heat if you want. Continue to stir until your wings have a nice coating and brown to them.

Plate with fresh parsley and enjoy.

20180526_15220720180526_15214020180526_15214520180526_15221120180526_15221920180526_15222620180526_15223920180526_152250

 

Linguine with Baby Octopus

Spring is finally here, officially anyways. I think it is? It’s been raining for the past four days straight here on the east coast so you wouldn’t know it to look outside. Nonetheless it hasn’t stopped me from making some favorite dishes that come back into season once the winter departs.

One of my favorite dishes is Linguine with Baby Octopus. Personally I think octopus gets a bad wrap. It can be heard in various dark culinary corners that it’s “too rubbery” or “it has no taste”. For those I direct people to the mastermind of Jiro and how his disciples carefully massage an octopus for hours to bring out the flavor and soften the tentacled beast.

Ok, so I don’t got that far. But I do believe octopus can be an awesome ingredient, especially to a pasta dish. Linguine with Baby octopus is an incredibly easy recipe to make and variations of it can be found in almost any pasta cookbook old and new.

I’ve taken my favorite aspects of preparing this dish from a few different recipes, combining the ingredients I feel work well and discarding others that don’t quite make the grade.

So, here we go:

First, and most importantly. You need to find fresh baby octopus that is preferably already cleaned and ‘de-beaked!’ (Yes octopus have little beaks inside and you do not want to chomp down on one in the middle of your dinner!).  The below recipe is for an average dinner that should easily feed 3-4 hungry people.

Ingredients:

1 lb fresh baby octopus (cleaned and de-beaked) (Usually can be found in any decent farmers market).

EVOO

6 scallions chopped into 1 inch pieces

About 3/4 cup of fresh mint roughly chopped

Course Black Pepper and Kosher Salt

3 Lemons

1 lb dry Linguine (Or any long pasta you prefer)

1 tablespoon of chili flakes

1 sprig fresh basil

*********

In a large metal bowl put in 1/3 cup EVOO, your scallions, mint, and the juice of 2 lemons (be sure to remove any pits that you might accidentally drop in). Season with salt and pepper. Incorporate well and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Once boiling add a dash of salt to the water and drop your pasta in cooking it until al dente.

While your pasta is cooking heat up a large pan with 1/3 cup EVOO on the stove. Drop in your baby octopus cooking them until they curl up and reduce down in size. Throw in a dash of salt and pepper for seasoning. Once your octopus are almost complete, put in your herbs from the metal bowl. Reduce heat to low, stirring every so often as to prevent anything that might stick to the bottom of the pan.

Your pasta should be finishing up around this point. Drain the pasta from the water, saving roughly a cup of pasta water in case you need to add later. Once drained pour your pasta into your sauce pan with the octopus and herbs. Incorporate thoroughly while adding your chili flakes. Your pasta should be coated nicely with the sauce but not drowning in it. Add more salt and pepper to for a bit more additional seasoning. Dress with a few fresh sprigs of basil for presentation.

The end result should be an array of tastes that combine the hint of lemon juice, mint, and subtle kick of the chili flakes. The octopus should be tender enough to have these ingredients latch on to all the flavors while the greens create a nice balance of texture.

The dish can be served hot or cold. Personally, I like to let the dish sit and incorporate its flavors for at least 15 minutes before serving.

20180519_17085820180519_17091020180519_17092020180519_17093620180519_170951

Funfetti Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Baking doesn’t have to be difficult. Many times it is. Many times I’ve stared thru the little glass door to the oven, nervously hoping I didn’t overfill the cake pan with batter. Inevitably when the batter pours over the edge of the pan I reconsider why I even attempted baking a cake in the first place (again).

But it doesn’t have to be difficult or nerve-wracking. After a few attempts and failures at making a layer cake I’ve managed to figure out some easy steps you can use also to bake your next cake.

Today I decided to give the all to popular ‘Funfetti’ cake a try. It’s all the rage on the foodie shows, and perhaps the funnest cake one can bake without too much hassle.

Here are a few easy steps to follow:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Buy 3 boxes of cake mix from the store. (You can make your own but remember – this is the easy recipe option!)

Follow the easy instructions on the cake mix box which usually is 1 cup water, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, cake batter and 3 eggs. If you have a stand mixer use that option, as it’s easier to mix together with a stand mixer rather than try to mix it together old school style by hand.

Once the batter is mixed thoroughly add up to 1/2 cup of sprinkles into the batter, allowing the mixer to get them well incorporated within the mix.

Take three 8″ cake pans and coat them liberally with either PAM cooking spray or Crisco.

Pour the batter into the cake pan being sure not to overfill the pan – a common mistake!

(Note: if you overfill the batter into the cake pan you will quickly have a mess in your oven and unfortunately might need to start over after cleaning up the mess)

Bake all (3) filled cake pans in the oven at 350 degrees for 18-23 minutes depending on your oven. (I check the center of the cake with a dry knife every 5 minutes or so after the first 10 minutes in the oven)

The next step is the frosting. Personally I am not a huge fan of over frosting. For this recipe I decided to make a Vanilla Buttercream Frosting – just enough to fill the layers of the cake.

In your clean mixer add 3 cups of confectioners sugar, 3 tbsp of Vanilla extract, 1/3 unsalted butter that is room temperature. Start the mixer allowing the ingredients to incorporate fully. Slowly add a tablespoon of whole milk as your mixture comes together until the texture is creamy and soft. (see photo below).  Put the frosting mix in the fridge while your cakes finish off in the oven.

Finally, remove your cakes allowing them to cool for at least 30 minutes before you remove them from their pans. I like to cut the the dome tops off the cakes so everything is nice and even. Take your frosting out of the fridge allowing it to return to room temp. It needs to be room temp to spread on the cake – if it’s too cold or stiff you will tear the cake very easily.

Liberally spread the buttercream frosting on the first layer, add the second layer, and if you choose to the top layer. For me, as mentioned earlier, I only like a little frosting so I decided to only incorporate frosting to layer the cakes but not to top the cake or for the sides. Plus I like the open top showing off the sprinkles!

And just like that – you have Funfetti cake. Enjoy!

20180512_182705

20180512_13433720180512_14401920180512_18272120180512_182738