Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mom's Sea Bass Recipe


Codfish or sea bass

1 medium tomato, diced


Green onion

1 clove garlic , minced

Rice Wine ( 米酒)


Black pepper


How to:

1. Heat a little bit of vegetable oil or olive oil

2. Pan fry ¾ of tomato, ginger, green onion until tomato is soft but not mushy

3. Put codfish or sea bass into this sauce and add minced garlic, wine, lemon juice, black pepper.

Add more water if the sauce looks dry. Spread some sauce on the top of codfish when cooking so the fish will absorb the flavor.

4. Cook until codfish is just done. Don't overcook.

5. Put the fish on plate and leave the sauce in cooking pan.

6. Add salt (and/or more black pepper, lemon juice) to the sauce and continue to reduce until the sauce become more concentrated.

7. Before turning off the stove, stir the fresh ¼ diced tomato to the sauce. Spoon the sauce on the top of fish.

8. Garnish with shredded ( 切絲) green onion and wedge of lemon.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Marcella Hazan's Polenta Bake

One of my favorite cookbooks is The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan. The copy I have is actually borrowed...ok stolen from a friend's house and it belonged to the landlord. This Italian original was published in 1976, which is probably when my copy of this book was purchased. By the time I had this book in my hands, it has been splattered with sauce, dog eared, and marked with comments in pencil.

This book so far has never failed me. The recipe that I tried over the weekend was Hazan's polenta bake: layers of polenta with bachemel sauce, tomato-meat sauce, and fresh Parmesan cheese. The creamy bachemal sauce cuts the tartness of the tomato sauce, and baked together it's a pretty guilty pleasure.

Make no mistake about it: Hazan is from the traditional school of cooking, requiring standing over the stove and patience. But technique-wise, this dish is not too hard at all. Hazan gives such specific instructions that I will copy it here verbatim -- following her instructions exactly (yes, including 'raining the polenta grain by grain,' has served pretty fantastic results!)

Polenta with Meat Sauce
Serves six
Bechamel Sauce (see below)
Polenta (see below)
2 cups Meat sauce (more on that here)
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 450F.
Make the Bechamel sauce, keeping it on the thin side by cooking it less. It should have the consistency of sour cream.
Slice the cold polenta horizontally into three layers, each about 1/2 inch high. (I only had two layers but it worked fine).
Lightly butter an 11 inch lasagne pan (I used a 9x9 and it was fine). Cover with a layer of polenta.
Spread a thin layer of bechamel sauce over the polenta. Then spread the meat sauce and sprinkle with parmasan cheese. Repeat until the final layer of polenta, bachemal, meat sauce, and Parmesan.
Bake in the uppermost level of over for 10-15 minutes until heated through and cheese melts.

(I made this the night before up to the point when the dish is ready for the oven and just kept it in the fridge. Return to room temperature when you are ready to bake.)

Bechamel Sauce
2 cups whole milk
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoons salt

In a small sauce pan, heat milk until almost boiling.
While heating the milk, melt butter over low heat in sauce pan.
When butter is melted, add all the flour, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. Let flour and butter bubble for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Don't let the flour become colored.
Turn off the heat and add milk 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring it constantly. As soon as the first 2 tablespoons have been incorporated, add the next 2 tablespoons. When about 1/2 cup of milk has been added, you can start adding 1/4 cup milk at a time. Never add more than 1/4 cup at a time.
When all the milk has been incorporated (the mixture will be thin), turn the heat to low, add the salt, and stir-cook until the sauce is about the consistency of thick cream.

Note: Sauce is best made right before you are ready to use it. If you make it ahead of time, reheat it slowly until it is the right consistency.

6.5 cups water
2 cup polenta
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt

Bring water to boil in large kettle.
Add the salt, turn the heat to medium low so the water is just simmering, and add the polenta in a very thin stream, stirring with a long wooden spoon. The stream of polenta must be so thin that you can see the individual grains. A good way to do it is to let a fistful of cormeal run through nearly closed fingers. Never stop stirring and keep water at a slow simmer.
Continue stirring for 20 minutes after all the cormeal has been added. The polenta is done when it tears away from the side of the pot.
Pour polenta into pan and cool to set.

Italian meat sauce -- super quick or super slow

I have been a big fan of Marcella Hazan's book that I stole. Her meat sauce requires some patience but the result is a really mellow, smooth sauce.

The meat sauce is perfect with fresh angel hair pasta or use it in the polenta bake or lasagne.

If you don't have time to make Marcella Hazan's awesome meat sauce, I usually simmer a good store bought sauce to fake it. It tastes intense and home-made as long as you simmer it down to reduce the sauce. Here's what I do:

Sautee one cup of ground beef and one cup of mild Italian sausage.
Combine it with one jar of Rao's Marinara sauce or Romano's Marinara Sauce.
Add 1-2 tablespoons sugar and fresh ground pepper (Rao's sauce is especially tart, so I'd definitely use the sugar).
Simmer over low heat with the lid partially open (or what I sometimes do is put a splatter screen over it) until sauce is reduced by 1/4 or at least when the meat sauce is very thick.
Throw away the jars before guests arrive.

If you fancy yourself an Italian grandma, here is Hazan's recipe:

Bolognese Meat Sauce

1 Tbs vegetable oil
3 Tbs butter
1/2 C. chopped onion
2/3 C. chopped celery
2/3 C. chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
1 C. whole milk
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 C. dry white wine
1 1/2 C canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut in with their juice
freshly graded parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1. Put oil and butter in a pot with chopped onion. Turn heat on to medium. Cook and stir onion until translucent. Add chopped celery and carrot. Cook for 2 minutes more, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.

2. Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Break up the meat and stir well, cooking until the beef has lost its raw, red color.

3. Add the milk and let simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. This can take a while. Add the 1/8 tsp of grated nutmeg and stir.

4. Add the wine and let simmer until it has evaporated. This can take a while. Add tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest simmer with ocassional bubbles breaking. Cook uncovered for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. If the sauce begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat, add 1/2 C of water to keep it from sticking to the pot. At the end, however, no water should remain and the fat must be separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

Hazan says you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef for a tastier sauce.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Southern Comfort - Buttermilk Pie

The trouble with buttermilk is that you can only buy it in quarts, so you always have some leftovers. After making some buttermilk oatmeal pancakes over Christmas, I found this buttermilk pie recipe courtesy of the fantastic Makeup Alley Food Board. This recipe is perfect for using up leftover buttermilk and doesn't require too many other fancy ingredients.

Buttermilk pie is a custard-like pie that's a Southern specialty. It also lends easily to variations by adding lemon and berries, cooked apple slices, or even chocolate.

Many of the recipes I had seen on other websites called for a lot more butter and egg yolks in the custard but Debby at Makeup Alley gave me her very refreshing and healthier recipe below.

Debby's Buttermilk Pie

A 9 inch pie dish

One package of gingersnaps, enough to make 1 1/2 cups of crumbs
About 1/3 to 1/2 cup melted butter

Pulse the gingersnaps in a food processor until they become very fine crumbs. Moisten the crumbs with the melted butter until it resembles the texture of wet sand. Press tightly into the pie dish.

For filling:
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 cups lowfat buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour (Debby used 4 but I think 3 is enough)
freshly grated lemon zest from one lemon
about 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (my own addition)
freshly grated nutmeg (a sprinkling)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk together sugar, buttermilk, eggs, flour, vanilla, lemon zest, salt and nutmeg. Make sure that there are no lumps (I had some trouble with this so I poured the custard over a sieve first).

Pour the filling into the shell. Bake the pie for about 45 minutes until puffed, golden brown, and set.

Let the pie cool on a rack and serve it at room temp or chilled with berries and whip cream.

To make apple buttermilk pie, slice two tart apples (granny smith works well), cook with a little sugar and cinnamon until juices have evaporated and apples are soft. Put apple slices on the bottom of the pie dish before pouring the buttermilk custard mixture.