Whisky Cured Gravlax (Lox)

I was pretty bad for a while about posting here, but I didn’t stop cooking, which means there are a bunch of really delicious things I made… but I don’t remember just exactly how I made them anymore. :/ I really ought to try harder to write down the things I am pleased with. On that note, here is my gravlax recipe before it is lost to time and the eccentricities of my memory! Hopefully next time I make it I will remember to take pictures and add them in.

You’ll need saran wrap, one large glass casserole dish, and one slightly smaller glass casserole dish (Yes, glass is best; metal or plastic are liable to take on the fish smell and I don’t know about you but I’d be sad next time I made tiramisu and got a salmon flavor in it!) You’ll also need a chunk of skin-on salmon, as fresh as possible; about four cups of salt; two cups of sugar; two cups of brown sugar; two oranges; a couple packages of fresh dill; and at least two shots of smoky whisky. More might be better. 😉

Set your bigger dish on the counter and drape it with saran wrap. Lay overlapping strips both lengthwise and widthwise; you’ll be wrapping the fish in this eventually, so make sure you have plenty.

Mix the salt and both sugars in a big bowl. You can easily scale this up or down depending on the size of your salmon; you want about half salt and half sugar. Stir it up so it is evenly mixed, and pour half of it in a long pile down the middle of the casserole dish.

Thinly slice one of the oranges and lay the slices on top of the salt. Layer half of the fresh dill on top of the orange slices, and drizzle the whole shebang with a shot or so of the whisky. If you haven’t used the entire orange, squeeze from fresh juice on top, too.

Lay the salmon flesh side down on top of the salt, oranges, dill, and whisky; make sure all of the fish is resting on the layers of cure ingredients, and if necessary pick the fish back up and shift it around. If it isn’t touching the dry cure, it won’t cure properly and you’ll just have raw fish.

Now lay the rest of the dill on top of the fish. Thinly slice the other orange and lay those over the dill. Drizzle with a shot whisky (and a squeeze of fresh orange juice if you can) and cover with the remaining salt/sugar mixture.

Fold the saran wrap over and wrap it as tightly as you can. The goal is to press the cure and seasonings into the flesh of the salmon. Place the other casserole dish on top of the fish bundle and weight it down; I used three two-liter bottles of soda. Pop the whole thing in the fridge for 48 hours.

At the end of 48 hours, unwrap the fish. Discard the liquid in the dish, the oranges, the dill, the salt and sugar. Rinse the fish thoroughly. Like, really thoroughly, for a couple of minutes, in cold water. You want to get rid of any an all excess salt; trust me, there is plenty in it by now!

Get out a large platter or rinse and dry the big casserole dish. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels and put it on the plate or dish. Stick it back in the fridge and leave it, uncovered, overnight. This is supposed to allow the fish to dry out a little and also give time for the remaining salt to equalize throughout the meat. There will be surprisingly little smell, in my experience.

In the morning, use a VERY sharp knife to slice the fish, as thinly as possible, against the grain.

Viola, gravlax!

Once you have made it, you can mess with the proportions a bit and adjust it to your personal taste. If you like it saltier, make your dry cure 60/40 with more salt, and the reverse if you’d like it less salty or more sweet. You can also adjust the quantities of white sugar versus brown sugar, try different whiskies, add more orange or more dill… whatever you think would taste good to you. You can even get exotic and try different herbs or liquors; oooh, maybe it’d be good with lime and tequila!

Loaded Potato Skins a.k.a. Crack Potatoes

Bake a potato in the microwave while you mince garlic and dice red onions. 

Cut the potato in half and scoop a cup in the middle.

Put it hollow-down on a pan and brush the skin with olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt.

Put it in the oven for 10 min at 425, till the skin gets wrinkly.

Add ranch dressing and diced chicken to the onions and garlic.

When the potato skins are done, turn them over, put in a dollop of barbecue sauce in the scooped-out hollow,  followed by a scoop of the chicken-ranch-garlic-onion mix.

Top it with a slice of pepperjack and broil it until it turns brown and bubbly.

You need like eight million of them. Seriously,  we can’t stop eating them.

Chicksa’s First Seder

That went well. So well, in fact, that I forgot to take any pictures at all. 

Karen brought brisket, Daddy brought mashed potatoes, and Allesy brought flour-less chocolate cake. I roasted a bunch of the vegetables from the CSA box with my usual method- golden beets, purple carrots, orange carrots, and a butternut squash; cut into bite sized chunks and tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then bake at 400 degrees until they are fork tender. 

Red Moscato, almonds, and red delicious apples makes good haroset. 

Amorette brought me a whole chicken, which I crock-potted, which is the first recipe and link I will be saving for future reference. It’s super easy; pull all the gross bits out of the chicken (Honestly? I discarded them. I know some people use them, but I don’t care for the flavor of them unless they are used to enrich my Mama’s gravy, and I wasn’t making gravy). Coarsely chop several onions and separate they layers with your fingers. I used yellow ones; the pieces were about an inch and a half square. In the crock pot, drizzle the onions with olive oil and sprinkle heavily with seasonings of your choice. I used rosemary, parsley, dill weed, salt, and black pepper. Add minced garlic to your taste, so I used quite a bit. Toss it all together. Let the oil coat the sides of the crock pot also. Remove most of the onions, but leave a layer that completely covers the bottom of the crock pot. Put the chicken in the pot, open-end up. Stuff it with onions. Cram ’em in there. Dump in about half a cup of soy sauce; some of it will leak out, that’s okay. Settle the chicken in the crock pot breast-side down, so the richness of the dark meat will drain down and help moisten the white meat. Crock pot on high for ~6 hours; time will vary depending on the crock pot. Do not add liquid; it will generate it’s own. I got started serving dinner late, so it was in there for more like 8 hours. It literally fell apart, it was so tender and moist. And it tasted amazing. I separated the meat into chunks with a fork, and put it in a serving dish with the juice and caramelized onions. If I had crocked it less long, I think I would have made gravy from the juice instead. Something to try next time. Note: I coagulates and looks gross when you refrigerate it, but it reheats nicely in the microwave.

I also had two successes coming up with desserts that are kosher for Passover. First, because the macaroons at the local grocery store were made with flour (WTF?) and they didn’t carry the canned kosher macaroons, I made macaroons with this recipe. They were good, but I think they needed more coconut vs egg whites; they ended up kind of flat, although they tasted great. I will experiment next time. Alternatively, I might try this recipe instead, the picture for which is more like the cookies I had in mind. 

Using some of those macaroons, I made a pie crust. I just pressed the still-warm macaroons into the pie plate. Then I followed this recipe. I will be making it again, I have to say. Fortunately, I happened to have kosher cornstarch, so I didn’t even have to go buy any. And I bought strawberries from one of the local trucks. Pick out the prettiest, reddest, sweetest looking berries and arrange them in you pie crust. You could totally use a graham cracker crust, or any other crust, but the the coconut macaroon crust was awesome. So, when you have your crust tightly packed with strawberries, pick out the ugliest ones and puree them until you have at least one cup of puree. In a small saucepan add the puree, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tbsp cornstarch, and 1/3 cup water. Whisk to combine and heat over medium heat until it boils. Simmer for one minute, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Stir it until there is no risk of it sticking and burning. Pour it over the berries, filling gaps and covering berries evenly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Amazing.

We may do this again next year. 🙂

 

Invented Thai-style stir-fry stew… thing.

So, this is a case of a meal not turning out the way I wanted, but being salvageable anyway. It was supposed to be a Thai stir fry over rice; the coconut sauce didn’t thicken the way the recipe said it would- well, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, either- so I dumped it all in one pot and decided it was a very thick stew. The boys are insisting that it go in the ‘win’ column, and say they “…want to eat this every day for a very long time!”

I’m not going to make it every day, but I am going to write it down. 🙂

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Cook your rice. I did mine in the bottom of a big pot on the stove top. It was much larger than necessary, but this turned out to be good because everything else ended up in there as well. 

In a large wok (or skillet) pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil, garlic powder, black pepper, cumin, yellow curry powder, and salt. Get ’em pretty hot and add 14 oz of beef sliced against the grain to bite sized and not more than 1/4 inch thick. Sautee until cooked through. Add half a finely diced purple onion and four cloves of diced garlic. Sautee a while longer while you add six or ten leaves of fresh cilantro. It should smell freaking good right now. Add a couple of cups of hard vegetables, sliced thinly. You can use whatever you have around; I used carrots, tiny broccoli florets- seriously, they were the leftovers from a bigger bag and barely fingertip sized- and a handful of slivered almonds. You could also use bell peppers- well, any peppers, depending on your tolerance for spice- eggplant, basil, galanga, lemongrass, zucchini, leeks, bamboo, water chestnuts, green onion, radishes, or bok choy. I expect you could use califlower too; the broccoli turned out nicely. Some of those veggies you aren’t likely to have around, but if you do you could use them… and if you don’t, you can use whatever you do have. 🙂

Anyway. Sautee until the veggies are hot and just getting tender- but not wilted or soggy. Dump the whole thing in with the rice, leaving as much of the oil and seasoning mixture in the wok as possible. Sautee about three cups of sugar snap peas in this until they are just tender. They should still crunch (note: you could use snow peas, or long beans, or edamame, or whatever. I just have snap peas from my CSA box). Dump them in with the rice and meat mixture, again leaving as much oil as possible. If necessary, add a little more olive oil and seasonings, and sautee more cilantro and garlic with a tablespoon or so of flour. It should make a thin paste. When it thickens and starts to stick, add 3 cans of coconut milk and a slosh of lime juice. I got bored waiting for it to thicken, so after a while I turned up the heat, simmered it a bit, dumped it in with the rice, meat, and vegetables, and stirred it all up. The rice absorbed a little of the coconut milk and it because  a little thicker; still not what I had set out for, but I have to admit it was tasty. 

There you go. 🙂

Asian-Style Sauteed Vegetables

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The meat is just some steaks I had in the freezer*, which I thawed, sprinkled with salt and garlic pepper, and seared in a screaming hot pan for two minutes on each side. They were very rare. Next time I want to do that I need to marinate them in something flavorful, because while the flavor of the meat was very nice it was too bland for my taste. It could have been better.

The veggies, though, those came out nicely. I grated carrots, chopped cabbage finely, and diced onions, and sliced radishes into thin circles. They all went into the wok (a large frying pan would work) with a very little bit of oil, salt and pepper, and minced garlic. I sauteed them until they were almost tender enough to eat, then I put in some bok choy leaves (you can cook it whole, but I prefer to pull it apart), about a half a cup of soy sauce, and put the lid on the pan. I let them cook on medium for about 2 minutes, then added several cups of spinach and replaced the lid again. When those were slightly wilted I removed the pan from the heat and squeezed fresh tangerine juice over the top.

I’ll be cooking bok choy and spinach this way again for sure. Saul says the fine-cut vegetables were really good, too, but I personally liked the bok choy and spinach better. 

* I buy meat from Prime Selections. A guy- his name is David- drives a truck out from Santa Monica and delivers my order to my door, no charge. I think it is better if you can find a person who drives a delivery truck; I know I pay less than it says on a website because David cuts me a deal. The meat is of very good quality with an excellent price, arrives in single-serving, vacuum-sealed packages, and is guaranteed for one year. A $420 order has fed four people, plus some guests, for about three months; that boils down to less than $35 per person per month for meat. Not too shabby, I think. Prime Selections has three locations in California They do deliver by mail throughout the lower 48 states, but I am not sure if you get as good of a deal. There are also periodically sales where they do free shipping if you order a certain number of items at once. 🙂

Sarah’s Bean Treatment

So, I have this friend who has repeatedly taught me how to treat dried beans so they don’t give everyone terrible… um, stomach aches. And every time she teaches me, I forget how to do it. So this time, I am writing it down so Ic an find it for next time!

1. Raise water to a boil

2. Add dried beans

3. Return to boil.

4. Keep at a rolling boil for 10-15 minutes (this kills the sugar that gives you gas)

5. After boiling, allow to sit in water until the beans are soft.
This can take anywhere from 1 to three hours. I poking around on the internet, I discovered that the California Dry Bean Advisory board recommends the above method, with the addition of an overnight soak and a thorough rinse before cooking. 75-90% of the indigestible sugars that cause gas will dissolve into the water and be rinsed away.

Bacon-Wrapped Cabbage and Rosemary Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Dinner was not super healthy tonight, but it was quick and easy, which meant I could go back to bed. I haven’t been feeling super.

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I need a better method for getting pictures on here than my cell phone camera and Instagram. I swear, it looked much more appetizing in person than in the picture!

 

Rosemary Parmesan Potatoes

I made these first.  I didn’t use red potatoes. They do have alower glycemic index, but I didn’t have any one hand, so I used what I had. I think they were some kind of yellow potato. Anyway. Cut the potatoes into bite sizes, cover them in the oil and seasonings, and dump them in a not very thick layer in a glass pan. I use a lot of rosemary- Saul likes Rosemary, did I mention?- a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper. You could use garlic too, and I have sometimes, but I didn’t feel like mincing garlic tonight. Stir ’em one in a while so they crisp and brown on more than one side, and so they don’t stick to the pan so much. When they are done- about 30 minutes at 350- sprinkle the parmesan over the top and put them back in. Turn the oven up to about 425 until the cheese is brown and bubbly, then remove. Use a spatula to loosen the potatoes from the pan while it is still very hot, otherwise the cheese will cool, stick, and the whole thing will be very difficult to serve.

 

Bacon-Wrapped Cabbage

After I started the potatoes, I started the cabbage. I pretty much just followed this recipe. I just used a little olive oil on a brush instead of butter. I have now made it both on the barbecue and in the oven. The first time I made it on the barbecue, and it cooked but the bacon mostly didn’t get crispy, because someone though medium heat with the grill closed was too hot. So the next time I followed the directions and made sure no one second guessed me… and they burned. :/ They were still edible, but only just. And only if you like slightly carbonized food, which I do, but most people don’t.

This time, I made them in the oven, starting at about 350 degrees. I started the potatoes, then got these ready and put them in on the bottom rack, under the potatoes. When the potatoes were done, I took them out and let the cabbage roast longer at 425.At the very end I opened the packets up, sprinkled on a little garlic pepper, and let the bacon crisp some more. It worked better;  like them better this way.

It does mean that the potatoes were done sooner, so next time I will start the potatoes, then start the cabbage. When the potatoes are ready to have the cheese added, I’ll take them out and set them aside until the cabbage is done, then add the cheese. The cabbage will stay hot in it’s foil nest plenty long enough for the cheese to melt. 🙂