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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Fish/Seafood/Caviar

TIP OF THE DAY: Potato Crusted Fish

After we jad this delicious potato-crusted cod at Blaue Gans restaurant in New York City, we created our own version at home.

You can use cod, halibut or other thick, flaky white fish. Blaue Gans set the fish atop a cucumber, yogurt and tarragon salad. You can use any vegetables or grain.

There are variations of potato crust that use potato flakes or mashed potatoes. But to look as pretty (and get as crunchy) as this, you need to grate long slices of fresh potato. You also must use a nonstick pan so the potato crust doesn’t stick.

You need to coat the fish with a flavored paste so the potato crust will adhere. This recipe uses pesto. You can also make a garlic or wasabi paste*.

And, you can “go gourmet” by making parsley and/or carrot oil, a few drops of flavored olive oil, or a bit of carrot or red bell pepper purée.

   

potato-crusted-cod-blauegansNYC-230

A beauty: potato-crusted cod. Photo courtesy Blaue Gans | NYC.

 

RECIPE: POTATO-CRUSTED COD

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 cod fillets, 6 ounces each
  • 4 tablespoons pesto
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled into strips and squeezed dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  
    For The Parsley Vinaigrette†

  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 ice cubes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    *Mix 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste with 4 tablespoons mayonnaiseor full-fat plain yogurt.

    †Recipe adapted from Chef Michael Schlow.

     

    box-grater-230

    Use a box grater to cut thick strips. Photo courtesy Cuisipro.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the vinaigrette: Blanch the parsley in a saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain, rinse, squeeze dry and pat with paper towels to remove remaining moisture. Transfer to a blender, add the ice cubes and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the remaining olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F.

    3. GRATE the potatoes and squeeze out all the excess water. If the potatoes are wet, they will not get crisp.

    4. SPREAD one side of each fillet with 1 tablespoon of pesto. Press the grated potato onto the pesto.

    5. HEAT the olive oil in a nonstick pan. The oil is hot when it flows smoothly over the bottom of the pan and glistens. It you’re not certain that it’s hot enough, add a small piece of garlic or onion. It will sizzle immediately when the oil is hot enough.

     
    6. PLACE the fish potato side down in the pan. Cook undisturbed for 5 minutes.

    7. MOVE the fish to a baking pan, potato side up. Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Steamed Mussels (Moules Marinière)

    mussels-fried-moules-frites-duplexonthird-230

    A classic bowl of mussels. Photo courtesy
    Duplex On Third | Los Angeles.

     

    Recently we joined a group for dinner at a French bistro.

    Others dug into rilletes and onion soup hidden under a heavy layer of Gruyère, cassoulet and steak frites. We, still feeling guilty about all the Easter candy consumed pre- and post-holiday, opted for the steak tartare and moules marinière, steamed mussels.

    As we devoured mussel after plump mussel, we pondered:

    This is such an easy to make, better-for-you, delicious dish. Why do we no longer make it at home?

    It turns out that our chief obstacle, sand, no longer exists.

    Wild mussels can be quite sandy, requiring soaking after soaking. We lacked the patience for it, especially when after all the soaking we still bit into grains of sand.

    But these days, most mussels don’t grow on the ocean floor; they’re farm raised, in bags that hang vertically on ropes above the ocean floor. They’re pretty sand-free. (Yay!)

    All you need is a good fish store; and you can even find quality frozen mussels that do the trick (check out VitalChoice.com—no thawing required, just pop them in the pot).

     
    The two most popular recipes hail from France and Italy:

  • Classic Mussels (Moules Marinière), made with garlic, onions/shallots, parsley, tarragon, white wine.
  • Mussels Fra Diavolo, made with fresh basil, crushed chili flakes, garlic, olive oil and tomatoes.
  •  
    Many Recipe Variations

    After you’re comfortable with the basic recipe, you can go all out with seasonings.

    Flex Mussels in New York City serves 21 different recipes, from the classics to cuisine-specific riffs from Indian (cinnamon, curry, garlic, star anise, white wine) to Thai (coconut broth, coriander, curry, kaffir lime, lemongrass, lime, ginger, garlic).

    If you’re old enough to remember Alice’s Restaurant—the hit song, which begat the feature film and cookbook—Alice liked to vary her recipes. On steamed mussels, she commented:

    “Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.”

    Now, let’s get ready to make mussels!

    HOW TO BUY & CLEAN MUSSELS

    For dinner, figure two-thirds of a pound of mussels in the shell per person—more for hearty eaters. Leftover mussels are delicious the next day, either warmed or chilled with a green salad and vinaigrette.

    Mussels and other some other bivavles (clams, cockles, oysters) are sold live, kept cold on ice. Unlike other seafood, once a bivalve is no longer alive, the flesh decomposes quickly.

    Buy mussels with moist shells (not dry-looking) that are tightly closed, with no external blemishes. Western mussels have black shells. You may find New Zealand mussels, which have green shells and tend to be meatier.

    Even if you buy farm-raised mussels, you may want still want to go through the classic rinsing process.

  • Set them in a pot filled with cold water with a tablespoon of dry mustard. After 20 minutes, drain and move them to a colander.
  • Srub them under running water to eliminate any debris.
  • Check for beards, straw-like filaments that can get protrude from the two halves of the shell. Pull them off and discard. (Most farm-raised mussels won’t have beards.)

  • What about partially opened mussels?

    Most people who cook bivalves know to discard these: They may be dead. But here’s a trick:

    Tap them firmly a few times with a spoon or other implement. If they’re alive, they will slowly close their shells. If there’s no motion, consider them dead and toss them in the trash.

    And definitely toss any mussels with cracked shells prior to cooking. Bacteria may have entered through the crack.

    What if you’re not going to cook the mussels immediately?

    You can keep the mussels for a few days if you place them in a bowl or other container in the coldest part of the refrigerator (generally the rear of the bottom shelf). First line the bowl with a plastic storage bag filled with ice resting on top. Cover with a damp paper towel.

     

    RECIPE: MOULES MARINIÈRE

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot (about 6 shallots)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley and/or tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Optional: garlic cloves, sliced celery and/or carrot
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 4 dozen mussels
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Garnish: chopped fresh parsley
  • Optional garnish: halved cherry tomatoes or strips/dice of red bell pepper for color
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the first six ingredients (through the cayenne) in a large pot, and simmer until reduced to a half cup. Strain into a large pot and add the mussels.

     

    spicy-mussels-barnjooNYC-230

    Spicy mussels. If you like heat, add sliced jalapeno or crushed red pepper flakes—or make Mussels Fra Diavolo. Photo courtesy Barnjoon | NYC.

     

    2. COOK 5 to 10 minutes or until the shells open, shaking the pot from time to time. With a slotted spoon, remove the mussels to individual soup bowls (ideally, large and shallow), retaining the liquid in the pot.

    3. MAKE the sauce: Add the butter and optional salt to the liquid in the mussels pot.

    MUSSELS FRA DIAVOLO

    Fra diavolo means “brother devil” in Italian, a nickname given to a Neapolitan guerrilla leader in his feisty childhood. The spicy-hot recipe was named in his honor. (The Italian word for mussels is cozza, plural cozze, pronounced CUT-sah and CUT-say).)

    The recipe features marinara sauce (you can use tomato paste and tomato purée) and heat from crushed red pepper.

    Here’s a recipe from Chef Jasper White.

    In Italy, it is often served atop a dish of linguine.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Starkist Gourmet Selects Tuna Pouches

    starkist-gourmet-selects-pouches-230

    We keep tuna pouches at the office as better-for-you options for lunch and snacking. Photo courtesy Starkist.

     

    We’ve been enjoying tuna pouches since they first appeared. Especially at the office, they provide a convenient, better-for-you option for lunch or snacking.

    We especially like the flavored tuna pouches, which are tasty enough to require no mayonnaise. We just add the contents to a piece of toast, or onto leafy greens.

    StarKist has expanded the flavored tuna options with a new product line, StarKist Gourmet Selects Pouches, that includes real veggies in each pouch. We received samples of the three internationally-inspired flavors:

  • Mexican had a nice touch of sundried tomato.
  • Mexican has a very mild amount of heat. We’re not fans of major heat, but we’d like a bit more jalapeño.
  • Thai is tasty, although it didn’t have a particular Thai distinctiveness—just a bit of sweetness and some heat, which sizzled in our mouth long after the dish was consumed.
  •  
    There are recipes for cooked dishes using the tuna on the back of each pouch.

     

    Last fall we wrote about Starkist Tuna Creation’s flavored pouches in Lemon Pepper and Sweet & Spicy, with proceeds benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project. They were 4.5 ounces apiece—just right for lunch.

    The new Gourmet Selects pouches are in a much smaller size: 2.6 ounces, good for kids but not enough for this not-so-delicate eater. Still, we’d be happy to have a carton of them delivered to the office to take the place of our often less-good-for-you snacks.
     
    NEWS FOR EXPECTANT & NEW MOMS

    Some pregnant women have limited their fish and seafood intake, due to past studies concerned about the amount of mercury in some fish.

    A new report from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee encourages women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or are breastfeeding to eat at least 8 to 12 ounces (2 to 3 servings) of fish each week.

    According to 2014 FDA research, women can safely consume up to 67 ounces—33 servings—of canned albacore tuna each week.

    The advice, expected to be adopted and included in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, comes at a time when seafood consumption in the U.S. is at an all-time low, especially among moms and moms-to-be.

    Thanks to Bumble Bee for spreading the word about the new recommendations.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Fish Garnish

    mahi-mahi-garnish-spin-crumbs-crab-bonefishgrill-230

    Dorado (mahi-mahi), garnished with
    creamed spinach, toasted breadcrumbs and
    crabmeat. Photo courtesy Bonefish Grill.

     

    You may be eating more grilled, pan-sautéed or poached fish for health or for Lent. But it doesn’t have to be dull.

    The photo at left shows “Dorado Rockefeller,” a riff on Oysters Rockefeller, which tops oysters with creamed spinach and toasted breadcrumbs.

    At Bonefish Grill, a piece of dorado (mahi mahi) gets a similar treatment. But because Bonefish Grill is a seafood palace, they crowned the dish with crab meat.

    Since most fish is bland in color, use the garnish as an opportunity to add brightness to the plate.
     
    PLACE THE FISH ON A BED

    Instead of—or in addition to—garnishing the top of the fish, create visual interest by placing grains or vegetables under the fish:

  • Asparagus, string beans, carrots
  • Lentils or other legume or pulse (beans, chickpeas, peas, etc.)
  • Mashed potatoes or cauliflower
  • Mixed vegetables
  • Ratatouille
  • Succotash
  •  
    CHOOSE A COLORFUL SAUCE

  • Diced, seasoned canned tomatoes
  • Red pasta sauce, from mild marinara to spicy puttanesca
  • Salsa, red or green
  • Sautéed, steamed or creamed spinach (standing in as a sauce)
  • Sliced cherry/grape tomato vinaigrette with minced fresh herbs (see photo below)
  •  

    GARNISHES FOR FISH

    When you use a lightly-dressed salad as a garnish, the vinaigrette serves as a sauce.

  • Baby greens salad
  • Diced green, orange, red and/or yellow bell peppers
  • Fresh herbs or herb salad
  • Fruit: halved grapes, lemon or lime slices, olives, pink/red grapefruit segments
  • Lemon-lime slices
  • Toasted bread crumbs (recipe below)
  • Sliced grape/cherry tomatoes with fresh herbs
  • Sautéed red jalapeño slices (remove the seeds and white pith)
  • Thin-sliced vegetables: chiles, cucumber, sauteéd mushrooms with herbs, summer squash, tomato
  •  

    steamed-cod-asian-sauce-salsa-bonefishgrill-230

    Steamed cod, citrus Thai sauce, tomato salsa. Photo courtesy Bonefish Grill.

     

    RECIPE: TOASTED BREAD CRUMBS

    These taste best with a rustic or sourdough loaf. The bread can be fresh or day-old. The recipe can be made 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups fine bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the crust and cut or tear the bread into chunks approximately one inch in size. Pulse in a food processor to desired consistency.

    2. TOAST the crumbs in the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

    3. TOSS the breadcrumbs frequently until golden brown and crunchy, about 5 minutes,. Season with a bit of salt to taste.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Sashimi Cubes, 21st Century Sashimi Art

    sashimi-cubes-RASushi-230

    A sushi chef interprets sashimi for the 21st
    century. Photo courtesy RA Sushi | Orlando.

     

    The sashimi tradition dates back to Japan’s Muromachi period, approximately 1337 to 1573 C.E. In the 1500s, when someone thought to cut up raw fish and dip the pieces into soy sauce, sashimi was born.

    The marriage with pads of rice (nigiri sushi) and in seaweed-wrapped rolls, both known as sushi, came later. Modern sushi was created by Hanaya Yohei (1799–1858) at the end of the Edo period (1603 and 1868). He invented it in Edo, the city that is now Tokyo. It was an early form of fast food.

    Today, sushi chefs train for years to achieve a level 1 certification, and prepare both sushi and sashimi (see the differences below). But back to sashimi:

    In this beautiful evolution from RA Sushi (see photo), the fish is cut into cubes. If you think you don’t have the knife skills to make sashimi at home, think again.

     

    This is much easier for a home cook to do than cutting the thin slivers of fish in a way that sushi chefs take years to master.

    A Japanese saying, “kasshu hojo,” means that cutting is the most important; cooking skill comes second. But fear not: All you need to can serve this beautiful plate at home is a sharp knife and an eye for straight lines. (Don’t have an eye? Use a washed ruler or other straight edge.)

    Then, enjoy this “special occasion” dish that is so easy to make, you can enjoy it anytime.

     
    RECIPE: SASHIMI CUBES

    Ingredients

  • Fillets of salmon, tuna and yellowtail
  • 2 shrimp per person
  • Soy sauce
  • Wasabi
  • Optional: grated ginger
  • Optional: grated lemon or lime zest
  • Optional garnish: microgreens
  • Optional: lemon or lime wedges
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STEAM or use other technique to lightly cook the shrimp (or for contrast, you can grill them). To get the elongated shape shown in the photo, cook the shrimp on skewers.

    2. CUT the fish into bite-size cubes, about one inch square.

    3. PLATE, ideally in a square grid on a square plate, as shown in the photo. But large round plates work, too. Garnish with the shrimp some pretty microgreens.

    4. SERVE with soy sauce and wasabi. To make the soy sauce more interesting, mix it with fresh grated ginger (lots!) and a bit of lemon or lime zest. We always serve sushi and sashimi with lemon or lime wedges, and squeeze the fresh juice over the fish before dipping the pieces in soy sauce.

     

    SQUARE PLATES

    You can buy square plates with angled rims or without rims.
     

    Or, if you don’t want to make an investment, pick up some very inexpensive yet attractive white plastic square plates, in 8-inch or 10-3/4-inch sizes.
     
    SUSHI & SASHMI: THE DIFFERENCE

    What Is Sushi?

    Sushi is a dish made of vinegared rice (it also has a bit of sugar to counter the vinegar) that can be variously combined with thin slices of seafood, vegetables, egg and, in the world of nouvelle cuisine, other items from beef to barbecue chicken to fresh fruit.

     

    sashimi-bamboosushi-portland-230

    A traditional deluxe sashimi plate. Photo courtesy Bamboo Sushi | Portland, Oregon.

     
    Sushi does not mean “raw fish,” but “vinegar[ed] rice.” While much of the fish used to make sushi is raw, some of the items are blanched, boiled, broiled, marinated or sautéed, either for a tender consistency or to kill any microscopic parasites.

    Sushi was originally developed as a snack food—as the story goes, to serve at gambling parlors so the gamblers could take quick bites without stopping the action. There are different styles of sushi:

  • Chirashi-sushi, fish and other items served on top of a bowl of vinegared sushi rice (chirashi means to scatter).
  • Maki-sushi, rolled sushi (including hand rolls, temaki—maki means roll).
  • Nigiri-sushi, slices of fish or other foods on pads of rice (nigiri means hand-formed).
  • Oshi-sushi, squares or rectangles of pressed rice topped with vinegared or cooked fish, made in a wooden mold (oshi means pushed or pressed).
  • Stuffed sushi, including chakin-zushi or fukusa-sushi, ingredients wrapped in a thin egg crêpe; and inari-sushi, with ingredients stuffed into a small pouch of fried bean curd (tofu).
     
    What Is Sashimi?

    Sashimi is sliced fish that is served with a bowl of regular boiled rice (no vinegar) on the side. The word sashimi means “pierced body”: sashi means pierced or stuck, and mi means body or meat. It may derive from the culinary practice of keeping the fish’s tail and fin with the cut slices to identify the fish being eaten.

    Sashimi fish is cut into thicker pieces, since it neither has to drape over a rice nor curve into a roll.

    Check out the different types of sushi and sashimi in our glossary.

      

  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fish Fillet Vs. Fish Steak

    salmon-filet-dailyperricone-230

    A salmon fillet: no bone, but skin on the
    bottom. Photo courtesy DailyPerricone.com.

     

    You’ll note that some fish recipes, like the one below for Pretzel-Crusted Tuna, call for fish steaks. Other recipes call for fillets. What’s the difference?

    It’s all about the cut.
     
    FISH FILLET

  • To fillet (it’s a verb as well as a noun), the flesh is cut whole away from the backbone of the fish by cutting lengthwise along one side, parallel to the backbone.
  • Fillets do not contain any pieces of the larger bones, but some species have smaller, intramuscular bones (called pins) within the flesh.
  • Butterfly fillets are a specialty cut, produced by cutting the fillets on each side in such a way that they are held together by the flesh and skin of the belly.
  • The skin may be removed before the fish is filleted.
  •  

    What’s the difference between a fillet and a filet?

    Just the language, which impacts spelling and pronunciation. Fillet (FILL-it) is English and filet (fee-LAY) is French.

     

    FISH STEAK

  • With a steak, the flesh is cut crosswise (perpendicular to the spine), cutting through the bone. The resulting steak may include a piece of bone and skin, or it can be boneless and skinless, especially with larger fish.
  • Steaks are usually cut with fish that are larger than 10 pounds.
  • With very large fish (a swordfish or tuna can be hundreds of pounds, if not 1,000 pounds or more), a cross-cut is too large for a single serving. With such large fish, the steaks are cut into smaller pieces that resemble fillets, but are more even/rectangular.
  •  
    IS ONE BETTER THAN THE OTHER?

    Considered more elegant in appearance than steaks, fillets have been traditionally used by restaurant chefs. More casual eateries are more likely to use salmon steaks these days; and of course, they’re in your grocer’s fresh and frozen fish cases.

     

    salmon-steak-tbilisi.all.biz-230

    A salmon steak. Photo courtesy Tbilisi.all.biz.

     

    However, more than a few people claim that bone-in beef steaks taste so much better than boneless cuts. So why wouldn’t it be the same with bone-in fish?

    This article does a very good job of explaining why the argument for bone superiority may be specious.

    There are also recipes that require one or the other by definition. Fish and chips, for example, requires fillets.

    A final consideration: Because they are thicker than fish fillets, fish steaks are less likely to fall apart when cooking. Cod, dorado (mahi-mahi), tuna, larger varieties of salmon, and swordfish are typically cut into steaks.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pretzel Crusted Tuna

    pretzel-crusted-ahi-bonefishgrill-230r

    A delicious way to prepare tuna steaks: with
    a pretzel crust! Photo courtesy Bonefish Grill.

     

    Beyond panko: Turn pretzels into a tasty crust for seared fish.

    We love the appeal of this seared tuna recipe from Bonefish Grill. Not only do we love tuna; but the pretzels offer a fun alternative to the sesame crusted tuna recipe we typically use.

    We endeavored to recreate the recipe at home, and discovered that:

  • The recipe can be used with any thick fish fillet or steak.
  • It is easiest to crush pretzel sticks; thin and uniform, they crush quickly and evenly.
  • But you can use any pretzel. We also tried the gluten-free Pretzel Crisps we had on hand, and whole wheat pretzels from Snyder’s Of Hanover (which also makes GF pretzel sticks).
  • Our favorite crust was made from Utz sesame pretzels. But we think our choice going forward will be to add some toasted sesame seeds to whole wheat pretzels.
  • Don’t add much salt to the red wine sauce, unless you’re using salt-free pretzels. Otherwise, there’s plenty of salt in the pretzel crust.
  • Check out the history of pretzels, below. Without prayers and kids, we wouldn’t have them.
  •  
    RECIPE: PRETZEL-CRUSTED TUNA

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 2 tuna steaks
  • 1 cup crushed pretzels
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  •  
    For The Sauce

  • 1 shallot
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or canola oil
  • Pinch salt
  •  

    Preparation

    1. Pulse the pretzels in a food processor to the consistency of bread crumbs. Set aside.

    2. MAKE the sauce: Mince the shallot and heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until soft. Then add the wine and deglaze the pan. Simmer the sauce for three minutes so the alcohol evaporates and the sauce thickens.

    3. HEAT a cast iron skillet over high heat and add the butter or oil. Press the tops of the tuna steaks into the pretzel crumbs to coat. When the fat starts to smoke, place the fish face down in the pan.

    4. COOK for 4-5 minutes top down, then flip over and cook for another 3 minutes to serve rare, as they do at Bonefish Grill.

    5. SERVE with the sauce on the side, so the crumbs stay crisper.
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SKILLET & A FRYING PAN

    It’s this easy: A skillet has slanted sides. A frying pan, also called a sauté pan, has straight sides that are higher than the skillet’s. (For this recipe, use whatever you have.)

    Why the two different side shapes?

    Frying/Sauté Pan Benefits

     

    homemade-pretzels-ws-230

    Dough for the original pretzels, called pretiola, were twisted to resemble a child’s arms folded in prayer. Photo courtesy Williams Sonoma. Here’s a recipe to bake your own homemade soft pretzels.

     
    If both pans are the same size, the frying/sauté pan will have a slightly larger surface area. In a 12-inch diameter pan, it can make the difference when fitting in pieces of chicken or other food, so you can cook everything in one batch.

    The other benefits of a frying/sauté pan: Liquids are less likely to splash out of the higher, straight sides; and lids fit more tightly, limiting evaporation.

    Skillet Benefits

    Chefs prefer the sloping sides of a skillet for quick cooking techniques like stir-frying, where the ingredients need to be moved around continuously. A skillet is also a better option for a frittata, served straight from the pan.

    It is a fun fact in cooking that a skillet is better for sautéeing than a sauté pan. The sloping sides make it easier to move pieces of food around while constantly stirring, and to more easily shake the pan to toss the food for even cooking. For the best sear, choose a cast iron skillet. It gets hotter than other metals.

    You can, of course, sauté your food in a straight-sided sauté pan, but it requires more work: constant stirring and turning.

    Guessing that the straight-sided frying pan may have come first, and the skillet adapted for greater flexibility, we tried to locate the facts. What we found was this, in Wikipedia:

    Before the introduction of the kitchen stove in the mid-19th century, a commonly used cast iron cooking pan called a spider had a handle and three legs used to stand up in the coals and ashes of the fire. Cooking pots and pans with legless, flat bottoms were designed when cooking stoves became popular; this period of the late 19th century saw the introduction of the flat cast iron skillet.

    Related Pans

    Professionals use a sauteuse (saw-TOOZ), a pan that combines the best higher sides of the sauté pan and the sloping sides of the skillet. It is also called a fait-tout (fay-TOOT), which literally means that it “does everything”.”

    Finally, mention must be made of the grill pan. It’s a frying pan with very low sides and series of parallel ridges on the cooking surface, which both enables cooking with radiant heat like a grill, and allows the fat to drain down.

     
    THE HISTORY OF PRETZELS

    It was all for the kids. In 610 C.E., monks in the what is today southern France northern Italy twisted and baked scraps of dough as a reward for children who had memorized their Bible verses and prayers.

    The shape represented the monks’ concept of a child’s arms folded in prayer. The monks called this soft, baked dough a “pretiola,” Latin for “little reward.”

    The word evolved into the Italian “brachiola,” which means “little arms.” Over the next few centuries, the pretiola journeyed through the French and Italian wine regions, crossed the Alps, traveled through Austria and arrived in Germany, where it became known as the Bretzel or Pretzel.

    Here’s more of pretzel history.

      

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    RECIPE: Raw Scallops With Grapefruit

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    Raw scallops and grapefruit. Use dill or fennel fronds for decoration. Photo by Glen Allsop courtesy Estela Restaurant | NYC.

     

    Before the tastiest citrus goes away until next season, consider this super-easy yet elegant (and low-calorie!) first course. Estela Restaurant in New York City made it with small “cocktail” grapefruits, but we added some blood orange (rosy red) and cara cara orange (deep pink) for color.

    Sauvignon blanc white wines are known for their grapefruit or grassy notes. We poured one of each style—a grapefruity wine from California, a grassy one from France—although you’ll need to consult your wine store if you want to be sure your wines have these flavor profiles.

    A drizzle of olive oil, expecially a grassy one, is a great complement.

    RECIPE: RAW SCALLOPS WITH CITRUS

    Ingredients

  • Sea scallops, the largest you can find
  • Citrus of choice (blood orange, cara cara orange, pink/red/white grapefruit)
  • Sea salt
  • Seasoning of choice: chili flakes or fresh-ground pepper, fresh dill, other favorite
  • Optional condiment: extra virgin olive oil
  • Optional garnish: dill sprig or citrus zest
  • Preparation

    1. PEEL the citrus and remove the pith. Slice the fruit into widths that will match the scallops (to the extent possible).

    2. RINSE the scallops and slice horizontally. Your can choose how thick or thin to slice them, but aim for four slices per scallop.

    3. PLATE the fruit and scallops. Depending on their comparative sizes, you can plate them as shown in the photo, or place the scallops atop the sliced fruit.

    4. DRIZZLE a small amount of the optional olive oil over the food, or in a circle or droplets around it. Sprinkle with sea salt and optional chili flakes. Garnish as desired (you can grate citrus zest over the dish, or sprinkle it around the rim of the plate) and serve.

     
      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Frozen Food Day

    While fresh is fashionable, we can’t ignore the importance of frozen foods today, National Frozen Food Day.

    Frozen food revolutionized the way Americans consume food. First came the joy of off-season fruits and vegetables (which are tastier and a fraction of the price when purchased frozen at their peak than shipped fresh from South America or elsewhere). Then the ability to buy larger quantities when on sale. Then the convenience for busy moms.

    In 1984, President Ronald Regan declared March 6th to be National Frozen Food Day, stating: “…I call upon the American people to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

    Our ceremony consists of frozen foods for breakfast and dinner, at least. We already had a delicious Cedarlane omelet, and cooking SeaPak frozen butterfly shrimp for lunch (thanks, SeaPak, for the samples).

    (For dinner, it’s the last day of New York Restaurant Week and we’re heading out.)

    Most supermarkets today have 2-3 aisles of frozen foods, and many Americans rely upon the convenience of frozen food for their weekly dinners and other meals.

       

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    Today, it’s jumbo butterfly shrimp for lunch at THE NIBBLE. You can bake or fry the frozen shrimp. Photo courtesy SeaPak.

     

    btrflyshrimp_scaloppini_seapak-230

    Butterfly shrimp “scallopini” with lemon, butter, garlic, parsley and white wine. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy SeaPak.

     

    WHO INVENTED FROZEN FOOD?

    Since ancient times, foods were frozen in climates that were cold enough to freeze them (here’s more about early freezing and refrigeration). But the invention of the home refrigerator-freezer after World War II brought modern-age frozen food into every home.

    Many people think that Clarence Birdseye invented frozen food; but in fact, others preceded him. However, before Birdseye, foods were frozen at a fairly slow rate. This caused large ice crystals to form, which ruptured the cell membranes of the food. When the food was defrosted, the ice crystals melted and water would leak from the food, taking with it flavor and texture.

    What Birdseye did invent, in 1924 was the quick freezing method, which produces the type of quality frozen foods that we know today.

    While working as a fur trader in Labrador, Newfoundland, Birdseye discovered that the fish that he caught froze almost immediately after being pulled from the water—and that the fish was just as delicious when thawed out months later. He developed quick-freezing methods that retained the taste and texture of foods.

     
    Another revolution in frozen food came in 1948, when Sea Island Packing Company (SeaPak) in Georgia developed the Individual Quick Freezing (IQF) to flash freeze shrimp, lock in flavor at its original state of freshness. This new process forever changed the way the shrimp industry (and others) would freeze products. [Source]

     
    The First Home Freezer

    The first home refrigerator with a small freezing compartment that held two ice cube trays was launched in the 1923 (it was a Frigidaire—Source.)

    Large “deep freezers” for retail use only became common during the 1940s. That’s why people in period novels and films went to the neighborhood drug store to get ice cream! Big freezers did not go into mass production for home use until after World War II. Along with new refrigerator-freezer units, they enabled American homes to stock ice cream and other frozen foods.

    Prior to World War II, Americans primarily ate locally and regionally grown foods. The technology didn’t exist to pack and transport fresh foods over greater distances. Consequently, only those who lived near coastal waterways had access to shrimp, clams, oysters, and other seafood.

    Since shrimp is America’s #1 consumed seafood—a lot of that, for both home and foodservice use, is frozen—and SeaPak Shrimp & Seafood Company is the #1-selling retail brand of frozen shrimp entrees, we make them our choice for lunch. Check out all the varieties at SeaPak.com.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Serve Fish

    Did you give up meat for Lent? Are you looking for different ways to add fish to your diet?

    Here are recommendations from Chef Charlie Baggs, of Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations in Chicago, to which we’ve added some of our own suggestions.

    The original article was written for Flavor & The Menu, a magazine and website for chefs that made these suggestions for their menu during the six weeks of Lent when seafood sales soar.

    Chef Baggs offers different techniques for cooking seafood in both traditional and more modern preparations. You can try a different one every day!

  • Baked: clams/oysters/clambake, en papillote; quiche; Salmon Wellington, smoked cod flan, wrapped in phyllo dough with dill and lemon sauce.
  • Boiled/steamed: crab, fish boil, gefilte fish, lobster, mussels, quenelles, shrimp cocktail, whole fish/fillets.
  • Cured/raw: carpaccio, ceviche, clams/oysters on the half shell, gravlax, sashimi/sushi, tartare.
  • Deep-fried: battered (calamari, clams, fish & chips, fish sticks, nuggets, poppers, tempura), breaded, fritters.
  • Dips and spreads: crab dip, smoked trout or whitefish, taramasalata.
  •    

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    Make a hearty bouillabaisse. Photo courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

     

    shrimp-fondue-230

    How about shrimp fondue? Photo courtesy The Melting Pot.

     
  • Grilled/broiled: fillets or whole fish—cod, mixed grill, octopus, salmon, sardines, skate, shrimp, snapper, squid, whitefish or other favorite; skewers/kebabs.
  • International: curry, fish tacos, seafood paella, stir-fried, Szechuan Fish, many more.
  • Pan-fried/sautéed: blackened, croquettes, frogs’ legs, trout, soft-shell crab, sablefish (black cod), salmon or trout patties.
  • Pickled: herring or salmon.
  • Poached: Salmon and whitefish; using shallow and deep poaching techniques.
  • Roasted: Whole fish, fillets or steaks
  • Roe/caviar: lumpfish, salmon roe, tobiko and whitefish caviars.
  • Smoked: halibut, kippered haddock (finnan haddie), herring, mackerel, salmon, scallops, smoked fish platter with bagels and cream cheese; sturgeon, trout, turbot, whitefish.
  • Soups: bouillabaisse; fish or seafood bisque or chowder.
  • Stews/casseroles: bouillabaisse, cioppino, etouffee, gumbo, New Orleans barbecued shrimp.
  • Stir-fried: Asian-style stir fry.
  • With starch: blini (buckwheat pancakes), crêpes/pancakes, jambalaya, pasta, pizza with clams, pot pie, risotto, shrimp and grits.
  • Other: Caesar salad with anchovies, escargots, lobster roll, crab/lobster/shrimp salad, seafood mousse, shrimp fondue.
  •  
    We’re sure we’ve left out other favorites. Don’t hesitate to let us know.
     
    Read the full article about Lenten dishes on Flavor & The Menu.

      

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