Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mound of Flounder with Simple Salad and Sweet-Savory Red Potatoes

Here is another easy one, especially considering it allows for sloppiness. Though they're a bit atypical, the salad and potatoes are easy -- in fact, they have been covered in past posts -- and the fish is a classic cast-iron prep. If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, a regular will do. As always, adjust portions as needed.

For Fish:
- Flounder filet
- Kosher salt and black pepper (a few dashes)
- Crushed red pepper (about 1 tsp)
- Flat-leaf Italian Parsley (chop a handful for raw filet, chop a handful for garnish after  -- it's best to do the chopping immediately before you need it, the flavors will be most alive)
- Dash olive oil to coat
- 3/4 cup peanut oil (for frying)

For Potatoes:
- 2 red potatoes, cubed
- crushed red pepper (1 tsp)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil

For Salad:
- Red or green leaf, Boston or Romaine lettuce
- 1 carrot, julienned
- Feta or Goat cheese to top
- 2-3 radishes, sliced
- Handful of almonds, toasted and crushed
- Kosher salt and black pepper (to taste)
- Your favorite dressing (oil and vinegar, or a fruit-based vinaigrette, is suggested)

Pour a tall one and let's get started ...

First, the fish should be room temperature when you season it. Prepare a dry rub of the oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and parsley and apply to fish, lightly rubbing into the flesh. Let fish sit for the moment at room temp. Add cooking oil to skillet and place on burner, heating to med-high heat.

Second, pre-heat oven or convection to 425 F. Cube potatoes, place on baking sheet and season, tossing to coat. Place in oven, they will take approx. 20 minutes to finish. Occasionally stir with spatula and check doneness with fork.

Third, wash lettuce and dry/spin. Chop vegetables and combine with lettuce, carrots and radishes in a bowl. Reserve cheese, nuts and dressing until you're almost ready to serve.

Next, when oil is ready (wet your fingers and splash a few drops of water in it -- when it cracks, you're ready) place fish in it face down and let cook for 3 minutes, frequently slipping a metal spatula beneath to prevent sticking (you should have enough oil to prevent this). Flip, and cook another 2-3 minutes. The flesh and skin should start to become crispy when done, and the flesh of the fish will want to break apart. Carefully remove from oil to a plate and dab with paper towel to remove excess oil. Let cool a moment.

In the meantime, the potatoes should be done or close at this point ... when a fork can easily penetrate and cubes are soft, all is good. Remove from heat.

The flounder is likely inclined toward falling apart -- LET IT!!! Plate it, allowing it fall into a mound. It's actually easy to eat this way, and will taste fantastic no matter what. The cast-iron and oil will have worked their magic. Garnish with remaining chopped parsley.

Add final ingredients to salad. Plate everything and enjoy with a cold glass of Pinot Griogio, Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc.

Tonight's music: Watching My Life Go By by Michael Hedges and Funnel Cloud by Hem.

Technology tip: Turn off the TV, put down the cellphone ... unplug and go outside. Enjoy that morning or afternoon sun, or that autumn moon ... listen to the late season birds ... talk a walk ... reconnect your soul.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thai Drunken Noodles

Drunken noodles have been a favorite of mine to order at Thai restaurants for years. It's a simple recipe and so flavorful -- moreover, you can do a lot with it when you make your own. The name of the dish almost always serves as a misnomer for those unfamiliar; eating the dish will not make you drunk, as it has no alcohol in it. The title implies how much beer you need to drink to counter the spiciness of the food. BUT, that too is misguided ... because fluid will only make excessive spiciness more intense. Instead, use bread or some kind of potato dish. As always, adjust proportions for your table ...

INGREDIENTS ( ... most of the work is in the prep here ...)

  • - 7 ounces 1/4-inch-wide flat rice noodles (half a 14-ounce package). Of interest here ... many restaurants will use dried rice pasta flakes instead of dried flat noodles (1/4'') for this dish. Either works, so choose what you will.

  • - 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • - 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • - 1/8 cup chopped fresh Thai chiles
  • - 3/4 pounds chopped chicken (or tofu, shrimp or beef)
  • - 1/8 cup fish sauce
  • - 1/8 cup black soy sauce (use regular if you can't find the black variety -- one is made from soy beans, the other from soya).
  • -1/8 cup Golden Mountain sauce or light soy sauce (this is fairly easy to find, but if you can't just add a little more soy sauce from the previous ingredient)
  • - 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • -2-3 large plum tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges
  • - 2 Anaheim chiles or Italian frying peppers, OR 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • -1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves* or regular basil leaves (some cooks will add the basil leaves near the end of the saute so that they will wilt some ... this is a personal preference. Wilting them will impart a deeper basil flavor to the dish, while adding them fresh on top just before serving will add the fresh green flavor.

GET a short drink and let's get to work ....

Put on water to boil with a dash of salt. Give enough time to get close to a boil ...

Meanwhile, heat oil in medium pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and Thai chiles; sauté 30 seconds. 

Add noodles to boiling water.

Then, add chicken (or whatever meat/tofu) and next four ingredients to pot/skillet and sauté until meat is cooked through. 

When rice noodles are done (soft but still 'spaghetti' consistency), drain and rinse with cold water. 

Back to the pot/skillet -- add noodles, tomatoes, and Anaheim (or substitute) chiles; toss to coat. Transfer to plate or bowl, sprinkle with basil leaves, and serve.

Isn't that EASY?!! Yes Yes!!

Tonight's music: Gaucho by Steely Dan (yes, again)

Technology Tip: okay ... at this point, web-based services/apps (or, 'Web 2.0) have been around awhile. Which ones are you still using? Is it Facebook? Myspace? Flickr? Yahoo? Shutterfly? Photobucket? Vudu? Dropbox? Friendster (are they still around?!). There are still HUNDREDS. But maybe not as many as, say, five years ago -- the buzz is over and now it's GAME time. For the companies, it's a question of staying power, and what they want to do in both an innovative and commercial sense; for consumers, it's an issue of where they want to put their time and INFORMATION. The bottom line? Feel free to experiment, as always, but those days are largely behind us -- the current Web 2.0 climate demands users be more aware and discerning of their actions. In 2004, one could create accounts across the web at numerous social media and sharing sites just for fun ... maybe you'd remember to come back and check in a few months, maybe not. But, things are a little different now. The social media landscape is changing. Facebook is king today, but will it be tomorrow? 

Be careful, not just for mere safety but for expediency  -- and most of all, privacy.