Saturday, January 31, 2015

Baked Patagonian Toothfish

The perennial problem with dinner parties is in trying to find dishes that can be prepared "a la minute" and still being around for guests. So in preparation for an upcoming dinner, I thought it would be fun to do a baked fish dish - perhaps with some strongish tapenade flavors. I was planning to use cod, but my fishmonger didn't have any true cod, so I used Chilean Sea Bass (aka Patagonian toothfish). You want a thick, firm white fish that can stand the heat of the oven.
Today's was practice. So the ingredients are probably a bit off. Also I cooked about 1 1/2 lbs of fish for 2 of us for a Saturday lunch. Clearly too much.

Ingredients (Tapenade)

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1T capers, rinsed
1 clove garlic chopped
1 medium shallot chopped
1t habanero vodka (I make this by steeping dried habaneros in vodka)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil. 
A small handful of parsley leaves
2 anchovy fillets
A few grinds of black pepper


Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until combined. There will be a few small olive chunks - you don't want a paste.

Ingredients (Fish)

2 Roma tomatoes sliced very thingy longwise.
1/2 medium yellow onion sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lb firm, thick white fish. I did this in a single piece, but for the party we will do individual pieces
3T olive oil
1/2 quantity of tapenade
pepper to taste


Combine the tomatoes, onions, garlic, 1t of the oil in a mixing bowl. Leave to stand. Pat the fish dry. Oil the fish. Lightly oil a baking dish (I used a low sided enameled casserole dish).  Place the fish into the baking dish skin side down. Make a few (depending on the way you have portioned the fish) deep slits in the top surface of the fish. Spread the tapenade directly onto the fish, rubbing it into the slits. Shingle the tomatoes on top of the fish. Top with the onion/oil/garlic mixture.
Bake in a 450F oven for 20 minutes, leave to rest at least 10 more.

Note, of course the temperature of your oven, the type of dish and the thickness of the fish will factor into the timing. So watch the fish after 10 minutes.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chicken in Milk with butternut squash

I won't post the recipe here - but here's the link. It isn't a Chris original, I pinched it from Jamie Oliver - he deserves all the credit.

However there are a couple of caveats:

  • Do make sure that you use whole milk. 
  • The amount called for is an Imperial pint - i.e. 2 1/2 US cups
  • The garlic is a bit more harsh than I was expecting.
  • It is probably a good idea to squeeze the garlic out from its peel. The recipe calls for unpeeled. I cooked it that way, but then found that the skin was annoying. Squeeze the garlic out on to the chicken
  • Do make sure that the chicken is a snug fit. You want the milk to come above half way up the chicken
I served it with some butternut squash - done in a way I had never tried before (and yes this is mine!)


1 butternut squash - thin end cut peeled and cut into 1/4" medallions, the bulb end peeled, seeded and cut into wedges.
Light coating of oil for cast iron griddle
Salt/pepper to taste
Small pat of butter to coat the squash after fruing


Microwave the medallions for 15 minutes on 50% power - essentially cooking them through. Do the same with the wedges but for a shorter time - about 10 minutes.
Heat the griddle on medium high heat until a drop of water dances and steams. Lightly coat with oil (I used grapeseed) - don't bother with extra virgin olive oil, it is too expensive and any flavor compunds are lost at this temperature anyway.
Fry the medallions and wedges until well browned on each side (about 5 min/side). Season, toss with butter and serve.
I used these as a base to serve the chicken on. Quick, easy, delicious. Ticks all of the boxes.


Saturday, January 17, 2015


During the evening of the first of the big (fortunately not everything in Texas is bigger) earthquakes in the Dallas area, we were having dinner with some friends at FT33. Matt McAllister dropped by the table and asked how we liked the butter. It was very good, very much in the European cultured style. He mentioned that it was made in house. Of course that conversation provided the inspiration to go off and make some. Madame was away for a bit, so that seemed like the ideal time. I wanted to make sure that I had time to find a cleaning crew if it went badly. I cultured the cream using some store bought creme fraiche, but didn't culture it for long enough. The 1 quart of cream, 4 oz. of creme fraiche yielded 21 oz of butter.


1 Quart (US quart - 32 oz, 4 cups....) heavy whipping cream
4 oz creme fraiche
3/4 t kosher salt


Stir together the cream and creme fraiche. Leave in a warm place for 24 - 36 hours until the desired level of tanginess is reached. Note, I was too impatient, and the place wasn't warm enough.
Refrigerate the cream mixture until ready to make the butter.
Chill the bowl of a stand mixer. 
Pour the cream into the mixer bowl, and beat with the regular mixing paddle (not the whisk) on a medium slow speed. The cream will go through stages. After a few minutes it will have increased in volume and then thickened to the texture of whipped cream. That took about 1/2 the time - about 10 minutes. (Note that whisking cream for whipping is a much faster process). The cream volume then decreases and the cream becomes the texture of icing. All of a sudden, the cream separates into a thick fatty substance (proto-butter) and a milky liquid (traditional buttermilk). At that point the mixture sloshes about in the bowl. The buttermilk has a tendency to want to jump out of the bowl. The solids + paddle + buttermilk give much opportunity for mess making.
When the butter has reached that stage, transfer it to a fine mesh strainer, lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth. Allow the buttermilk to drain. Squeeze the solids to force more liquid out.
Rinse the solids with a lot of water (while in the cheesecloth, but don't dilute the buttermilk). Turn the butter onto a cold counter, knead it a bit by hand (it didn't show signs of melting). Flatten it, ad the salt and then knead for longer to incorporate the salt.
Form a log in parchment paper, place the log inside a plastic sealable bag and refrigerate.  

I drank the buttermilk immediately. It was fantastic. Not that acidic, slightly off flavor and disgusting texture of the stuff in a green carton.