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Octopus Revisited

27 Dec

So my family cooked some magnificent tapas over Christmas and I just couldn’t wait to post these up. I also got a new camera, so I am still working out all of the details of how to use it!

We made some octopus (Galician style), and I plated it nicely along with a spinach whip cream. We also had some great olives, caper berries, anchovies, and a scallop lardon salad to go with it.

Ingredients for the spinach whip cream

Frying up the potatoes and onions for the Tortilla

The octupus before and after cooking

Lardons (Bacon!)

Other ingredients for the scallop salad

Tortilla, olives, caperberries, and anchovies

Molded Pulpo a la Gallega

Scallop and Lardon Salad

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Fun with Pasta

25 Dec

I haven’t been able to post in a while with Christmas and work getting in the way! But I’ve been taking pictures though. Here is little experiment with stuffed pasta I did the other day. I decided to mix up the recipe I generally use for pasta dough (100g flour, 1 egg, 25g melted butter) and see how it would turn out.

Confit and Sautee

I stuffed the pasta with garlic confit, sauteed scallops and crimini mushrooms. As for the sauces, I did a really simple roma tomato coulis and a shitake, lobster, and yellow foot mushroom sauce.

Mushrooms, Pasta and Coulis

I brushed the pasta with some of the oil I had used to confit the garlic, and garnished it with a little piece that was fried until crispy.

Arrangement

BLT Time!

17 Dec

BLT time! This is going to be a quick post. I made this delicious, yet really simple salad and BLT a couple of days ago. I sliced ripe plantains for the salad and fried them up until they were crispy. The sugars in the plantains worked really well with the bacon. I think next time I might be a bit more adventurous and come up with something more complicated that involves both ingredients. Here are a few non-fancy pictures:

 

The ingredients

Top view

Yum!

On another note, I have been planning with my family for Christmas meals and desserts. I’ll be doing a hefty post on that soon. I have also been thinking of running some polls for what I should cook next. Once I fiddle with the polling widget I’ll try that out. After Christmas I am thinking of doing a duck confit special, so do stay tuned in the coming weeks for some spectacular posts!

Pan de Jamon

16 Dec

Pan de Jamon (Ham Bread) is a Venezuelan Christmas specialty bread that I always look forward to. It is quite simply a rolled bread with ham, bacon, olives, capers, and raisins. Although it originated in Venezuela, it can be credited to Portuguese immigrant bakers whom have historically operated all the bakeries in Venezuela. I have missed Pan de Jamon dearly after I left Venezuela in 2003. Recently however, I convinced my mom to make some.

The main ingredients and the pliable dough

The rolling process
All ready to roll up

Once the bread is all rolled up it gets perforated so the excess humidity can escape, and painted with some egg wash what had sugar, salt, and water.

Before and after baking

The result was delicious! It is savory, sweet, crunchy, and just all around a delicious treat.

Slices
Spiral on the inside from the rolling

Here is the recipe!

Brioche & Gravlax

13 Dec

Over the weekend I played around making Brioche de Nanterre and gravlax. I had only made brioche once a while ago, but it turned out fairly well this second time. As for the gravlax, I make it often because it so simple and delicious. Brioche is really nothing more than a leavened bread with eggs and half the amount of flour in butter. The result is quite obviously a rich and buttery bread that is perfect for breakfast.

I started making the brioche by weighing all the ingredients and proofing the yeast in milk. Soon after I mixed the ingredients and worked the butter into the dough–a process that requires a lot of patience.

Ingredients and Mixing Well

Once my dough was worked I left it to proof in a warm and humid area. In hindsight the dough could have used a bit more kneading, but there’s always a third time for everything I suppose.

Dough ready for proofing

While the dough was resting, i started on the Gravlax. Gravlax is the Scandinavian method of curing salmon (or any fatty fish). Essentially the filet is covered with salt, sugar, and herbs and refrigerated. Overnight the salmon will let go of all the water effectively curing it and firming it up.

Slicing the already cured salmon

Once the dough had rested overnight, shaped it and placed into a baking pan. There are numerous ways to shape brioche, the most famous being the brioche a tete. Here I chose the Nanterre style in which the dough is cut just before baking so it yields separable individual sized buns.

Buttery brioche

Once the brioche was ready, I sliced it and plated it with some red onions, hard boiled egg, parsley, capers, chives, paprika, and obviously the gravlax.

Open face mini sandwich!
Bird’s eye view of the goodies

Here is the recipe for the brioche and gravlax.

Seafood Impromptu

9 Dec

Recently I had a hankering for a fish stew. However, living far away from the sea sometimes poses a bit of a problem when trying to find good seafood. Obviously Toronto has an immense offer for just about anything if you’re willing to spend the time and money to find it. Thankfully the St. Lawrence Market has a wonderful selection of seafood, and so do most of the large supermarkets. While this is all fine and dandy, traffic sometimes gets in the way of getting to these fine food emporiums and I am left with whatever is in the fridge/freezer. Although I am an advocate of using the freshest ingredients, sometimes convenience trumps everything else. I really wanted fish stew but only had frozen shrimp, octopus, and scallops. I quickly ran down to the corner supermarket and got some fish fillets and mussels in their rather diminutive seafood section.  Now the problem was lack of fish bones (a critical element in making a fish stock).  I would generally cook all the proteins for the stew separately and bring them together and the end with the base of the stew (which has the fishy stock). However given the circumstances I cooked each element in the same pot while conserving all the juices. Once I had filtered all those juices it served as my stock base. The result was surprisingly good.

At the same time I decided to make 3 small amuse bouches: ceviche, pan seared and prosciutto wrapped scallop, and paprika and potato octopus. I started with the ceviche, lime cured fish, because it would take the longest. I sliced some tilapia into fine strips and combined with red onions, red peppers, lime juice, salt, white pepper, and a touch of a minced scotch bonnet. I placed it in the fridge for roughly 6 hours to let it cure.

Slicing the tilapia for the ceviche

As for my stew, I started with a some softened onions and herbs which I then added the mussels and steamed with some white wine. As I said, I conserved the juice which I then added to the bit of liquid I steamed the fish, and the other seafood with the exception of the octopus.

Base for the mussels and broth

Cooking the mussels with white wine

Octopus, unlike most things, benefits from being frozen. I thawed mine and plopped in in a large pot of salted boiling water for roughly 25 minutes until it was cooked and tender. Once I had my seafood juice stock base I simply added tomato and a few other ingredients and let it cook for a while. Once the base was ready I just added the seafood and voila!

Adding the seafood to the tomato and broth

The scallops were a bit of a different story. I decided to saute them in butter. I pulled one out before it was cooked all the way and then re-sauteed it after I had wrapped it in a slice of prosciutto.

Sautéing the scallops

I used a few pieces of octopus for the amuse bouche. I simply rolled them in some cooked potato slices I tossed in olive oil with paprika.

Amuse Bouche Trio: Prosciutto Seared Scallop, Octupus Galician Style, and Ceviche

As for the stew, I served with some garlic bread and a shot of sherry.

Seafood with garlic toast and sherry

Here is the recipe. Yum!

Luscious Pork

7 Dec

Sorry for the absence dear readers and food porn spectators! But as promised, here is the carnitas tacos post.

Carnitas literally means “little meats” in Spanish. In a nutshell, it is a typical Mexican preparation where the pork is first confit in lard, shred, and then fried. Quite obviously it is not a dish for the fainthearted or health conscious individual. However, for porketarians–that is true believers in the protein supremacy of king pork–carnitas is a delightful treat.

As with most traditional recipes, carnitas suffers from what I like to think of as the “grandma” syndrome. Let me elaborate. More often than not, staple dish recipes tend to have multiple different methods and interpretations. This often degenerates into something that goes along these lines: “my grandma used to cook this with the following special ingredients A, B and C that really made the dish better than other people’s version.” Although specific ingredients can often achieve amazing improvements upon preparations, I find that these claims are often more emotional than rational. Undoubtedly food preferences are intrinsically tied to memories and emotions. However, a reasonable level of objectivity is needed when determining what are better ways of preparing a specific dish that would please most people (not just those that had that grandmother that cooked it in a particular way). That objectivity can be found in methods as opposed to ingredients. Great methods can sometimes mean the difference between a great dish, and a mediocre one. The test of a great chef isn’t his use of amazing, fancy or expensive elements, but his dash of creativity and the right methods for the ingredients he has on hand. Carnitas is a dish that perfectly lends itself to such a test. Generally speaking it is made with pork shoulder (one of the cheapest cuts), and lard.

Here I sliced about a pound of pork fat that the butcher gave me for free and cooked it at low heat with a bit of water for about an hour and a half until most of it had rendered into lard. Needless to say I trimmed all the fat of the shoulder and used it in the rendering process. I cut the meat into fist sized chunks and cooked it in the rendered fat (which I had strained into a clean pot) at very low heat along with a variety of peppers, onions, garlic, orange peel, bay leaves, coriander, cumin, and peppercorns.

Pork Fat and Shoulder

After three hours or so I took out the meat and pulled it discarding of any connective tissue or fatty parts. Once I had cleaned all the shred meat I sauteed it with a bit of the cooking lard along with some more coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt. At the same time I sliced some tortilla chips and fried them for some tasty chips!

Shreded Pork and Fresh Chips

Previously I had made a Pico de Gallo, just tomato, peppers, onions, garlic, lime juice, a bit of oil, pepper, and obviously salt. In the meantime I had some beans cooking with some bacon, sauteed onions, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, coriander and pepper.

Pico de Gallo and Bean Puree

Once I had the pork ready along with the pico de gallo and beans I threw together a bit of rice with lime juice and finely chopped coriander. The rest was delicious history.

Chips, Carnitas Tacos, and Lime and Cilantro Rice

Here are the recipes. Yum!