Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How To Cook Seafood, Vol.3

Are there reasons why you don't cook more seafood at home?
Do you have difficulty, or feel intimidated, preparing seafood at home?
Do you know how to best cook fish and shellfish?

As I have previously said, on repeated occasions, Americans don't eat enough seafood. You should eat seafood at least twice a week, garnering its significant health benefits. A significant reason why people don't eat enough seafood is that many are not comfortable cooking seafood at home. They feel intimidated, and don't want to potentially ruin an expensive piece of fish. I have found that even some of my more food-oriented friends still are not confident cooking seafood. So how do we change that? How do we give people more confidence in preparing seafood at home?

Welcome to the third edition of How To Cook Seafood series where I present advice and recipes for seafood from chefs. The advice is geared for home cooks, simple suggestions and recipes that most anyone can do at home. My hope is that it will spur on more people to cook seafood at home. If any chef is interested in participating in this series, please contact me.

For this edition, I am showcasing a few chefs who were featured at the Mohegan Sun WineFest. which was held this past weekend. They participated in free chef demonstrations held within the Grand Wine Tasting hall. With their seafood cooking advice presented here they are also providing a suggested wine pairing for their recipes.

Chef Michele Ragussis,, a native New Englander, has worked as a chef for more than 18 years, and uses the influences of her Greek and Italian heritage in her cooking. Her skills have been displayed on a number of television cooking shows, including Food Network Star, Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, NBC's Food Fighters and Midnight Feast.  Michele states:

"My favorite Fish (Shellfish), all year round, is clams. I always have clams on one of my menus and consider them to be such a versatile food. In the winter, I love to make them a little heartier so I make a Steamed Littleneck dish with Portuguese Chourico, Kale and White Beans. It is almost like a hearty seafood stew. Growing up in New England, and living by the water clams, were a staple in my family and this is a recipe I love to make. Pair it with some crusty bread and you can’t go wrong."

Ingredients:
12 Littleneck or Cherrystone Clams
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup white beans
1 stick chourico
1 bunch kale
1 bottle of Portuguese Vinho Verde wine
1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon butter
Salt & pepper

In a large Saute pan, add 1 teaspoon blended oil. On medium heat, add diced onion, garlic, and chourico, Cook for about three minutes, until the onions are slightly cooked and the chourico is rendered. Add the clams, chopped kale and white beans. Add salt & pepper and then a cup of the wine. Cover and let it steam until the clams open, which should take about 8-10 minutes. Then, add the butter and cover for another two minutes. Before you serve, add the parsley and get your crusty bread ready. With this dish, enjoy the same Vinho Verde wine that you used for cooking.

Chef Robert Sisca, a resident of Rjode Island and a graduate of Johnson & Wales, honed his culinary skills in New York City at One If By Land, Two If By Sea before becoming Sous Chef at the famed seafood restaurant, Le Bernardin. Currently, Chef Sisca is the Executive Chef Partner at Bistro du Midi, Robert states:

Cooking seafood at home can be a daunting task, but by following three simple rules it can a much more enjoyable experience.

1. Always buy fresh fish. Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin taught me that the #1 rule of cooking is that all starts with the ingredients. Make sure it is always fresh, and then just let the food be the superstar on the plate. Always ask your local fishmonger to smell the fish. If their product is top quality, they will be confident in what they are selling and should have no problem letting you do this.

2. Do not overcook your fish. This is one of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to cooking fish at home. Don’t be so afraid of cooking fish all the way through, this will most likely only lead to it being dry. The best method to cook fish properly is to temper it. Tempering the fish omits the possibility of the overcooking the outside and having a raw center. To temper the fish, first let it sit at room temperature for approximately 10-15 minutes. Second, use a cake tester or skewer to gauge the internal temperature. This is another trick of the trade that I learned from Chef Eric Ripert. During a regular service at Le Bernardin, we would cook anywhere from 800-1000 portions of fish and every piece had to be checked with a skewer. When you think the fish is cooked, simply put the skewer into the thickest part of fish. The skewer should not be hot or cold, hot means the fish is overcooked and cold means it is undercooked. It should be warm.

3. Consider the seasons and resources available to you when deciding to cook fish. Deciding how you want to cook your fish, before you decide what type of fish you will cook is always a great starting point. Different types of fish taste better utilizing various cooking methods such as grilled, baked, seared or poached. The best method depends on characteristics such as how much natural fat is in the fish.

Recipe: Pan-Roasted Monkfish with Grilled and Roasted Eggplant

Step One: Slice an Eggplant thin, about 1/4 inch, and then marinate in 50 grams of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic and 1 spring of thyme, for up to 30 minutes. Grill each side, rotating 90 degrees once just long enough to create grill marks and set aside.
Step Two: Sweat 2 cloves of Garlic and 2.5 tablespoons of Olive oil in Sauté Pan until aromatic and slightly translucent. Add 500 grams of chopped canned whole tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Peel and dice two eggplants. In a second sauté pan add 2 cloves of Garlic and 2.5 tablespoons of Olive oil, and cook diced eggplant until tender. Combine Tomato and Eggplant into one pan add 1/2 bunch of sage, 1/2 bunch of basil, and 2 springs of thyme, and cook until desired consistency. When ready to plate add 10 grams of capers and 50 grams of tomato sauce and season well.
Step Three: Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons of blended oil in heavy bottomed oven safe sauté pan over med-high heat. Dust lightly one side of four, 5 ounce monkfish filets with flour (all-purpose or Wondra). Add fish to pan flour side down and immediately put in oven until internal temperature reaches 115 degrees for medium rare or 125-130 for more medium (cooked through). Remove from oven and rest fish with sear side up for additional minute or two. To slice, place on cutting board sear side down and slice ¾ inch slices.
Step Four: Place grilled eggplant slices on plate, spoon tomato and eggplant mixture onto sliced eggplant. Place monkfish on top of tomato and eggplant mixture. Season monkfish with salt and pepper and garnish with micro greens.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rant: Snowmaggedon & Deflategate

As a fan of the New England Patriots, I'm looking forward to their Super Bowl appearance next Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, I think it's going to be an excellent game, a true clash of football professionals. Unfortunately, the media has been over-saturated with the issue of Deflategate, partially due to the NFL's slow progress in their investigation. As such, it seems I should dedicate this week's Rant to Deflategate, but that isn't going to happen. There are much more important issues to address, rather than talk about some deflated balls.

Snowmageddon! Snowpocalypse!

The weather reports are indicating a potential blizzard to begin tonight and continue all day tomorrow. We could potentially receive more than two feet of snow, sending plows out all day and night to try to remove snow from the roads. Individuals may be using shovels or snow blowers to clean their driveways or parking spots. It will be an inconvenience, and travel on Tuesday could be difficult. Some of your plans might be disrupted for that day.

In preparation of that potential blizzard, the supermarkets yesterday were packed, and today, they will likely be packed as well. It happens before every possible storm. A sudden rush for bread and water, a stockpiling of alleged necessities. You would think people were preparing for being locked in their houses for a week or more, or that they expected the supermarkets to shut down for a week. Is all of that necessary?  Not really.

For the vast majority of us, these snow storms won't be any more of a single day problem. The city's response is quick enough that the roads should be accessible within a day of any snowstorm. Even if homeowners lose their power in their home for an extended time, they will still be able to drive to a supermarket, restaurant or hotel if necessary. A repeat of an extended shutdown, like that caused by the Blizzard of 1978, will probably never happen again. And if we are only looking at a single day problem, then there is no need for the urgent stockpiling.

Who doesn't have enough food and drink in their home to last through a day or two? There are too many people stockpiling food who really don't need to do so. It is far too often based on an irrational fear. And it can be a problem for those people who might actually have a true need to purchase basic supplies. Stop the unnecessary worrying each time a storm approaches. If you live in New England, you should be used to winter storms, and have prepared for them long before they even approach. Stop crowding the supermarket the day or two before a storm, picking up food and drink that you probably don't even need.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting wine and food items that are upcoming. **********************************************************
1)  This Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14, “Top Chef” star Tiffani Faison is closing her restaurant for normal service to host her annual “Valentine’s Day Meat Market.” Beginning at 8pm, Sweet Cheeks will be transformed from an authentic Southern BBQ destination into a prom night to remember.

For all you single ladies and gentleman, or for the Valentine’s Day sweethearts that are searching for an alternative night, Sweet Cheeks has you covered. Upon arrival, rock your old prom dresses and baby blue matching suits and pose for the prom photographer. A BBQ dinner will be served before you dance and mingle with friends while sipping on spiked punch bowls without the fear of your high school teachers catching you.

COST: $75 per person RSVP:
Must be 21+ to attend and consume alcohol; valid government ID required.
To purchase tickets visit: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/meat-market-sweet-cheeks-presents-prom-night-tickets-15243429508?aff=es2&rank=1

2) Legal Crossing will celebrate their first Valentine’s Day with a three-course customizable menu featuring the best from land and sea throughout Valentine’s Day weekend.

The menu will be presented as follows:

AMUSE
She-Crab Soup (blue crab, oloroso sherry, crab roe)
FIRST COURSE
-choice of-
Oysters & Pearls (hackleback caviar, myer lemon-crème fraiche sorbet)
Coquilles St Jaques (black trumpet duxelle, lobster veloute)
MAINS
-choice of-
Lobster Mousseline Stuffed Dover Sole (potato duchess, herbed baby carrots, champagne beurre blanc)
Chateaubriand (sauce béarnaise, potato duchess, herbed baby carrots)
DESSERT COURSE
-choice of-
Warm Chocolate Ganache Fondue (long stem strawberries, dried figs, baby bananas, housemade marshmallows)
Baked Alaska (almond brittle ice cream, candied cherries)

WHEN: Friday, February 13 through Sunday, February 15
COST: Three-course prix fixe: $50 per person
Reservations can be made by contacting 617-477-2900

3) On February 10, Legal Sea Foods in Park Square will host a four-course pairings menu as an early celebration for Valentine’s Day. For one night only, guests will indulge in this romance-inspired chef’s tasting menu with exclusive wine pairings to delight their palates.

The menu will be presented as follows:

FIRST COURSE
Oysters on the Half Shell (Champagne Pomegranate Mignonette)
JCB “No. 21” Cremant de Bourgogne, Burgundy, NV
SECOND COURSE
Seared Diver Scallops (Frutti di Mare Risotto, Béarnaise Sauce)
Bonny Doon “Le Cigare Blanc,” Beeswax Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, 2008
THIRD COURSE
Grilled Tuna Steak (Leek & Cheddar Potato Au Gratin, Cipollini Onion Jam)
Lemelson Vineyards “Thea’s Selection” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2001
DESSERT COURSE
Strawberry-Rhubarb Bread Pudding (Chocolate, Crème Anglaise)
Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui, Piemonte, 2012

COST: $40 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9397

4) On Thursday, January 29, from 6:30pm-9:30pm, CHOPPS American Bar and Grill will host a Bourbon Dinner, a 5 course tasting menu that is paired with Bourbon based cocktails. You'll enjoy a dinner prepared by Chef David Verdo, paired with different types of bourbons. They will discuss different characteristics of Bourbons, its popularity, and have some great laughs as well.This sounds like an excellent event and I recommend it.

Cost: $70 per person
To purchase tickets, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/chopps-american-bar-and-grill-bourbon-dinner-tickets-15171042998

5) This Valentine’s Day, The Beehive will indulge lovers with “Three Days of Lovin’” - a three-day long event featuring Valentine’s Day inspired dishes from Executive Chef Marc Orfaly, drink specials from Moët & Chandon and Domaine Chandon, and live jazz and soul performances from Friday, February 13 through Sunday, February 15.

On Saturday, February 14, guests can enjoy a special prix fixe menu for $65 per person. Chef Orfaly will be serving romantic specials including: Crispy Oysters; Escargot Risotto; Herb Crusted Prime Rib with whipped potatoes, english peas, roasted cipollini onions and red wine sauce; Swordfish Puttanesca with tomato, capers, olives, lemon and linguine; and Confit Lamb Shank with gnocchi, grilled heirloom carrots and broccoli rabe. The meal will end on a sweet note as guests share desserts such as Chocolate Truffle Pot De Crème and Strawberry Cheesecake. The prix fixe menu will be served exclusively on Saturday, February 14.

Why limit the love to one day? Guests can enjoy luxe specials in addition to the regular menu on Friday, February 13 and Sunday, February 15 as well as a lover’s weekend brunch on both Saturday and Sunday from 10AM to 3PM. All weekend long guests can get in the mood with one of The Beehive’s Valentine’s Day drink specials featuring Moët & Chandon and Domaine Chandon, and wine enthusiasts will appreciate The Beehive’s extensive wine list featuring exceptional sparkling and reserve wines. Reservations are highly recommended.

COST: Menu specials à la carte. The prix fixe dinner menu on Saturday is $65 per person.
Reservations are highly recommended by calling 617-423-0069

6) For Valentine's Day, check out M.C. Spiedo, where chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier have crafted a 3-course Valentine¹s Day menu, for $49 per person, featuring both house-favorites and decadent specials (all items also available a la carte).

Some of the menu highlights include, but are not limited, to:

Appetizers
· Grand Trencher: selection of meats and cheeses ($15)
· Fluke Crudo: Maine uni, passion fruit, crispy black olives, radish
Entrees
· Braised Pork Belly Cassoulet: pork sausage, crispy duck, roasted pear ($34)
· Grilled Filet Mignon: seared scallops, baby turnips, beech mushroom, horseradish cream ($38)
· Wild Atlantic Salmon: roasted fennel, pinenut sauce ($29)
Dessert
· Affogato: espresso ice cream, anise cookie crumble, whipped cream, coco nibs ($7)
· Gianduja Cheesecake: chocolate-hazelnut cheesecake with shaved hazelnuts, raspberry sauce, meringue ($7)

7) For Valentine's Day, you could check out Coppa, where  chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette will celebrate Valentine¹s Day with a 3-course menu for $55, with the option of an additional $35 for wine pairing and $15 for a cheese supplement (including the return of their Lady and the Tramp spaghetti and meatballs)

Highlights include but are not limited to:

1st Course
· Zucca Passata: Italian pumpkin hummus, pomegranate, salsa verde, cucumber
· Crudo of Scallop: N¹duja impasto, harissa, crispy quinoa
2nd Course
· ³Lady and the Tramp² Spaghetti e Polpette: Coppa spaghetti and meatballs
· Cappelletti con Pastinaca: Parsnip-filled pasta, bra duro, smoked hazelnut, rye
· Porchetta Spalla: Slow roasted pork shoulder, hay smoked carrot, sunflower seed puree
3rd Course
· Sundae: Olive oil cake, pistachio gelato, luxardo cherries
· Tiramisu: House-made espresso and Frangelico soaked ladyfingers, mascarpone and cocoa

8) Executive Chef Chris Coombs and Chef de Cuisine Adrienne Mosier introduce a new dish to delight the senses for guests of Deuxave. The latest menu addition is a Perigord Truffle Studded Roast Giannone Chicken ($99). All of Giannone’s chickens are organic and grown naturally and free range. At Deuxave, these qualities are enhanced with the addition of 10 grams of Black Perigord Truffles. The luxurious date night dish serves two and is presented tableside along with Robuchon potatoes, heirloom carrots, crispy mushrooms, Brussels sprouts leaves, red watercress and truffle honey juice.

WHEN: Available daily, for a limited time only
Sunday – Wednesday: 5pm-10pm; Thursday – Saturday: 5pm-11pm
To make a reservation, please call 617-517-5915

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Seafood Expo North America: Reasons To Go

Thousands of creatures from the sea are going to descend on Boston in two months, A deluge of seafood which will make it one of the top events of the year. This epic event occurs each year and I'm planning to attend once again, and hope that you will do so too.

From March 15-17, the Seafood Expo North America (SENA) will return to Boston, probably the largest seafood event in the country. If you are a writer, from freelancer to a blogger, and cover any topics related to seafood, from recipes to sustainability, then I strongly encourage you to attend. As I have said repeatedly before, "the seafood show is fertile soil for a myriad of story ideas as each exhibit booth has its own unique and interesting story." Any writer who attends this show should easily find the seeds for at least a dozen stories, and likely many more. Last year, I wrote over 20 articles inspired by SENA.

SENA is a huge trade show, and there will be over 1000 exhibitors, from over 40 countries, showcasing a wide diversity of products and services. Even if you attend all three days, you still won't have enough time to visit all of the booths. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about a myriad of seafood issues, to talk to numerous seafood businesses, to explore the seafood industry. You can discovery more about different countries, such as by visiting the pavilions for Japan or Iceland. In addition, the show is fun, with plenty of delicious seafood samples, from lobster to oysters. Ever had salmon bacon? Fried alligator? You never know what might be available to sample at SENA.

We all know that seafood is at the crux of some of the most important food issues in the world. The range of seafood topics touches on so many crucial matters, from sustainability to health. Not only is it delicious, but it provides numerous health benefits. It is integral to the economic health of many local businesses, from fishermen to restaurants. The potential extinction of certain fish species is a major concern that needs to be addressed. These are all issues which need more coverage by the media, and which you can make your own contributions.

Why do I care? First, I view our local writers and bloggers as a community and I believe we all benefit by helping each other, giving recommendations for excellent events. Second, I feel that seafood is a vital topic which more people need to write about so that we raise attention to all of its urgent issues. That will benefit all of us in many ways. It is with greater exposure and cooperative efforts that we can cause change in the seafood industry.

And as another incentive, SENA is also held in conjunction with the New England Food Show, where you will find a plethora of food and drink related products and services, from wine to cheese, spirits to locally produced foods. You can easily visit both shows, and the Food Show will give you fodder for even more stories. If you go to both of these shows, you won't be able to complain about writer's block for months at least.

So I hope to see you this year at the Seafood Expo North America. And if you want to read more about SENA, check out my posts from last year's show.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rant: Life's Most Persistent & Urgent Question

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, "What are you doing for others?" If we just touch one life through an act of kindness, we can make a difference. Who knows what someone else will accomplish because you helped them, or you inspired them to do the same?
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

So, what are you doing for others?

I write about food & drink, which on the surface may seem to be a rather inconsequential topic, especially when measured against some of the world's most compelling problems. It might seem my writing is primarily about luxury items, none of which are essential to the lives of my readers. However, if you look deeper at my writings, if you look more closely at the nature of the topics I address and my reasons behind my articles, you'll realize I address more consequential issues, doing my small part to make this a better world.

So, what are you doing for others?

When I write a positive restaurant review, wine review, spirit review, book review, or event review, part of the reason behind that review is to support and promote the object of my review. I want the object of that review to succeed because I believe they are worthy of my support and promotion. My review remains neutral and unbiased, but it can still be considered a reward of sorts to an object which has proven itself deserving. For example, if I enjoy a restaurant, I want my readers to patronize that business so that it succeeds and remains around for many years. If I love a wine, I want others to buy it as too so that the winery does well, and stays in business, continuing to make delicious wine. And when my reviews provides criticism, it is because I want the produce to succeed  and am offering my advice and suggestions as to how they can accomplish such.

So, what are you doing for others?

I often promote charitable events, especially in my Sips & Nibbles column, that are connected to the food & drink world. I want my readers to contribute to such charities, to help others in need. In the local area, we have plenty of excellent chefs who devote much time and effort to charitable matters and they deserve our support in those endeavors. If I can persuade my readers to attend some of those charitable events, or even just to contribute to the cause, all the better.

So, what are you doing for others?

Through some of my more serious Monday Rants, I address vital issues which I want my readers to consider, and sometimes take action. These Rants are offered to help people, to direct them to proper action and thought. For example, every year, my most important Rant is to tell people Don't Drink & Drive. It is a sentiment that also ends up in other posts during the year, and my intent is to help try to prevent a tragedy. When discussing alcohol, it is a vital issue to address and I always hope that people listen when I raise this topic.

So, what are you doing for others?

Every Tuesday, I write about a seafood-related topic and many of those posts have serious intentions, from promoting sustainability as well as providing health advice. These are issues which affect all of us, no matter our station in life. Eating seafood can reduce your chance of cardiovascular disease by 33%, and who wouldn't benefit from that? Protecting seafood species is also vital to our world's survival, so promoting sustainability is an essential issues.  

So, what are you doing for others?

I want you to understand that writing about food & drink doesn't have to be inconsequential. It too can discuss some vital issues, and lead to positive change. It can help and support others.It can make a difference in someone's life. It can inspire others to take action. And doing this with my writing makes me feel better about my own life.

So, what are you doing for others?