Crispy Skin Salmon with Super Sexy White Wine, Lemon, and Butter Sauce with Herbs, Shallots, and Heirloom Tomatoes

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I should start by saying that this recipe is really about the sauce, not the fish (or chicken, steak, seafood or pasta) you pour it over, though anything you serve it with will be massively enhanced. This may seem weird since we live in a culture where figuring out what’s for dinner involves choosing your protein as the main event of almost every meal and choosing the spicing and sauce is really just about picking what flavors you feel like that day. So this easy and addictive recipe kind of turns that way of thinking on its head.

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You may be wondering,  how can a recipe be all (mostly) about a sauce? What is so special about this sauce that she is going on about it like it’s the best thing since she discovered crème brûlée?  And finally, why is the sauce super sexy? Well, I’ll tell you. For one thing, I can’t think of any other recipe that I have made which literally gets my dog drooling (not to mention anyone else in the house) within 15 minutes of starting, EVERY SINGLE TIME. Like, to where it’s icky and she embarrasses herself.

bells

But enough about Bella. I want to say first of all that this is based on something I had in a lovely posh restaurant in Tel Aviv (Bertie), and it was literally the best fish I had ever had. This was shocking for a few reasons. 1) It was just some basic St Denise fillets that were served with the skins seared crispy, then presented skin side up in a hot cast iron pan of something very much like this sauce, that is to say, as close as I can guess it without having asked the chef. 2) I am VERY hard to please when dining out.

After much research, and a wonderful tutorial I found here I recreated the seared skin effect with some salmon fillets, which we would then eat with mayo and mustard on the side. It was good, and I got the technique down, but I was still deeply unsatisfied, mostly because I am very sensitive to flavors and smells, and I can’t have my fish even the slightest bit fishy. Not having access to super fresh fish as often as I would prefer (like, still alive in the store), I must be satisfied with frozen fillets, and pray each time I buy that the fillets were as fresh as possible when flash frozen. I waited about 6 months before attempting to recreate the sauce, mostly because I thought it would be impossible, but also because I didn’t want to insult the memory of that perfect dish. Luckily for me, I was haunted by the wonderful balance of flavors, the harmony of which was what foodies such as myself might call “transcendent” , so I finally rolled up my sleeves and took a crack at it, and I’m so very glad I did, because now I get to share it with all of you. My sister, the Chef has been quoted as calling it “one of the two best fish recipes I have ever tasted”, so I’m pretty sure I nailed it.

*First descale fillets, if they are not already descaled. I do this while they are frozen, under cold running water, with a small serrated knife with a rounded edge, for best results. If you can get descaled fillets, check them anyway, often some scales are left behind and even one scale can ruin my meal. This is a good time to look for bones they may have overlooked as well. When finished, put aside in a bowl to defrost. Once defrosted, press fillets between 2 clean kitchen towels or several paper towels to remove as much liquid as possible, so that they will sear properly and not splatter hot oil all over you. Finally run your finger over the skin to smooth the skin back in place, in the direction the scales used to point, and set aside, until you are ready to sear.

Super Sexy Salmon Sauce: (Make once fish is prepped)

These measurements are PER FILLET (per serving basically), so if you are making 3 salmon (or any other fish) fillets, multiply all ingredients by 3.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (if you only have salted, leave out salt from recipe or add later to taste)
  • 2 large thinly sliced shallots (1/4 of a medium sized red onion if you don’t have shallots)
  • 1 large smashed and minced garlic clove
  • 4 thin slices of Jalapeno (or  few dashes of Tabasco if you are in a pinch)
  • 3 small tri-color (1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 purply red/green heirloom cherry, or grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise in halves.
  • the leaves from 1 sprig of fresh thyme. (see notes on using and storing fresh herbs here)
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Fresh juice of 1/2 a large lemon
  • 1/8 cup water (more as needed to cook down sauce)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 tsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)

method: That’s right, that’s all there is to it.

  1. Melt butter in a deep frying pan that has a matching cover, on MEDIUM, not high heat. When melted add sliced shallots, minced garlic, jalapeno, thyme, bay leaf, and tomatoes in that order, and saute covered for about 5-10 minutes. This will vary based on how hot your stoves burners are. The shallots and garlic should slowly sizzle and become translucent, not brown. If they sizzle too much when you add them, turn down the heat.
  2. The smell should already be making you light headed.supersexysauce
  3. Once cooked through, uncover pan, add white wine, and cook off alcohol, uncovered, about 3-5 more minutes.
  4. Add lemon juice, water, salt and pepper and stir, then re-cover, turn flame down to LOW, and simmer for about 5-7 more minutes, then turn off heat and leave it to rest. Alternately, you can use a cast iron pan, and keep the sauce hot in the oven while you sear your salmon fillets.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil per fillet in a frying pan on medium/high until it is ready to sear. Pat dry fillets then lay them SKIN SIDE DOWN in a regular (not non-stick) pan. Immediately turn down the heat to medium, and gently hold down with metal spatula to prevent warping  for first two minutes. This will sear the skin, but cook the fish evenly without burning. See the full tutorial here, it’s not so complicated and really comes out perfect if you follow his directions. [However. If you really want to cheat, just use a non-stick pan with no oil or butter. Cook skin side down first for about 6 minutes covered on a medium high heat, (heat the pan before placing the fish in, but not too much, because you don’t want to burn the Teflon) and when the top turns opaque, tun it over, and cook the other side uncovered for about 4 minutes. This is super easy, and will turn out beautiful fillets, though not as crispy as doing the the more scientific way, you save yourself the embarrassment of messed up skin] until Once fish is mostly cooked through (5-6 minutes) gently nudge it from the sides with the spatula too see if it will come loose. Don’t force it, it will release when it is ready. Once the skin releases and the fish is mostly cooked through, turn it over and cook just for 10 more seconds, to sear closed the top layer and finish cooking.
  6. Remove fillets to wide shallow bowls, and let rest, skin side up.
  7. Turn on sauce again and heat up uncovered, 3-4 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  8. Pour sauce around but not over each fillet, and serve with a cold crisp white chardonnay and some fresh bread and butter for wiping up the sauce, if there is any left. This will possibly spare you the potential embarrassment of licking the plates in front of your family, friends, or guests… which I should warn you, you will end up doing anyway.
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Cinnamon & Spice Banana Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chunks and Toasted Pecans

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Warm spicy banana pecan chocolate melty goodness right out of the oven. MnnnnnnMnnnMnn!

My husband cant sing enough praises about this recipe, in fact it was the one that he says cinched the marriage proposal. It was good then, but it’s also one I have been developing for the last 3 years and I think, possibly, maybe, it’s finally truly perfect.

These are in fact so easy and wonderful, I honestly can believe how good they are considering the little amount of work they require.

NOTE: This was originally a loaf recipe, so it makes a few more muffins than normal. My pics are of a DOUBLE RECIPE, but I will be giving you the normal recipe for 16-18 regular sized muffins, so have a 12 cup muffin tin, as well as a 6 cup muffin tin ready for the regular recipe.

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Ingredients: In 2 separate bowls, 1 for wet ingredients, 1 for dry.

Dry:

1 2/3 cups flour (white all purpose)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1 bar good dark chocolate, (100g) chopped (or chunks or chips if you can find)

Wet:

2/3 cup white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 large room temperature eggs, mixed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large, or 3 small RIPE bananas, sliced (folded in at the very end, to the whole mixture, otherwise they break down and you don’t get chunks, just banana flavor and moistness)

*Do NOT add wet ingredients to dry ingredients until you are ready to bake! The baking soda needs the sour cream to react, and rise. The reaction starts immediately, and stops eventually, so once you mix them, they should go straight into the muffin cups and then into the preheated oven. If you want to make them non-dairy, leave out the baking SODA and the sour cream and use 1 teaspoon baking POWDER instead, which doesn’t need a catalyst.

Method: Preheat oven to 375F, or 190C and line muffin cups

1) Toast chopped pecans in a dry frying pan over a low flame while mixing often, until they are a toasty brown, NOT burned. You are looking for a warm nutty smell. Watch them. it’s SO easy to burn nuts while toasting them. Stop early if you are unsure. Chop Chocolate.

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2) In large bowl, mix together: flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, chopped pecan, and chocolate pieces.

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3) In medium sized bowl, mix together: white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, sour cream, and vanilla.DSC_0068

4) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mix just until combined, then fold in bananas.

DSC_00745) add mixture to muffin cups, up to the tops but not overflowing.

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6) Bake for 12-16 minutes with a timer, or until the middles look golden brown and set but not dry. Gently press down on the top of one if you are not sure. You can try using a toothpick but you are likely to hit banana or chocolate, so its not the best test. they will literally smell and taste better than the best spice cake you have ever had.

Banana Chocolate chunk spiced muffins with toasted peacansHow simple they look, yet they hold many secrets…

Allow to cool in pan or on rack for 5-10 minutes, then enjoy warm with a big glass of milk. They keep in a tupperware out of the fridge for a good 3-4 days, if they last that long.

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Homemade Jalapeno Poppers, The Last Bastion of The “Restaurants Do it Better” Misconception

Best Superbowl Appetizer

I remember the first time I ever had a Jalapeno popper. I was 16, cutting study-hall (read: we don’t know what to do with you kids so sit here and do your homework) so that I could hang out with the seniors down the street at what was one of the best deli’s in West Hampton Beach. I had never heard of such a thing before, and that first bite revealing the creamy melty interior was otherworldly. I could see the layers of orange cheddar, white cream cheese, and green jalapeno, and was just blown away by how well it all worked together. It was hot and cheesy, with just a mild spice and the perfect creamy crunch. I was in love.

Game Day Jalapeno Poppers

I have always craved brilliantly conceived and executed appetizers because they were delicious, (think Fridays’ stuffed potato skins, Friendlys’ Mozzarella sticks, and Outback Steakhouses’ 3 cheese fries with that insane dipping sauce…) but even more so because it just didn’t seem like the kind of thing people could do at home. No one I knew had a deep fryer yet, (this was in the 90’s before the food culture revolution when the only place you could buy such a thing was on the late night TV insomniacs shopping channels) so it just seemed like a non-starter. A moo point.

moo pointThank You Joey Tribbiani.

Later on, these things started becoming available to the mainstream, and I’m going to upset a lot of food supply marketing people when I say this… you don’t even need one. All you do need is a medium sized pot at least 4 inches deep and some frying oil, vegetable works just fine. You can even go out and buy a frying thermometer, which I recommend if you are going to be making doughnuts or other temperature sensitive fried foods, but really, all you need to know is this. Get your oil hot enough so that after you put the food in, it rises to the surface after about 30 seconds. If it sinks and stays down, the oil is too cold. If it never sinks, the oil is too hot. That’s it, that’s all you need to know. You see, easy.

I had been dreaming about these little monsters for ages, and literally couldn’t remember the last time I had a good popper other than that first time, when I started going off about them to my husband. He was unconvinced of their goodness and you just can’t find anyone out here who has even heard of them, so I promptly went online to see if it was possible to do at home. Guess what?!@! IT IS! I found this recipe at blogchef.net and modified it because the crust didn’t seem substantial enough, but you are free to try it his way. I also made a bigger batch since we bought too many Jalapenos and also, we just can’t ever get enough of a good thing.

hot peppers!

Ingredients: (serves 4-8 depending how many everyone wants)

  • A big bag of Jalapenos, we used about 7-10 that were each about 8-10 inches in length. I think it would be cool to use the smaller ones and much prettier, but this was what we had.
  • 16 oz plain cream cheese
  • A nice big block of either good quality shredded sharp yellow or white cheddar (I recommend Cabot), or shredded manchego cheese, which was what I used since I can’t get the former here. Anywhere from 1 cup to 1 and 1/2 cups should be enough.
  • A large container of seasoned bread crumbs, working with about a cup at a time.
  • Plain white flour (at least 1-2 cups, working with about a cup at a time).
  • Whole Milk (2% or 3% is also fine (at least 1-2 cups) working with about a cup at a time.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Kitchen Tools:

  • A large metal slotted spoon for removing poppers from oil
  • Paper towels
  • 2 pairs of Latex gloves for working with!!! Those oils can BURN your face and eyes… but that story for another time (remind me to tell you sometime about the great chili fiasco of 08′).

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Method: (prep time 45 minutes)

  • Wearing latex or rubber gloves, use a knife to carefully slice off the stems, cut the Jalapenos in halves, and cut out the pith (white parts) and all the seeds.
  • Cut Jalapenos to the sizes you want, we experimented with longer ones, and more bite sized ones, as you will see in the photos. Both were great, depends on your personal preference.
  • Once that is all done, carefully discard gloves.
  • In a bowl, mix up cream cheese, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon milk if your cream cheese is too firm. Ours comes fresh from the dairy so it’s already very creamy and easy to mix. (Alternately, you can layer the melty cheese on top of the cream cheese stuffed peppers, you will see why this might be a better idea in a minute).

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  • Put on your second pair of gloves, and stuff peppers with cheese mixture. If you are layering on melty cheese, do that now as well.

2013-01-20 20.42.51As you can see, we mixed it all together, which made them explode a little in the oil, so next time I’m going to try it with the layering. I think its also better for the textural experience, I like to see those threads of melty cheese stretching on for days when I bite in to something cheesy.

  • This part is important, dip each popper in milk, then roll in flour, and let it REST for 10 minutes.

2013-01-20 20.52.00Fun Fact: That’s G’s hand doing the dirty work!

  • Now, you are going to set up 3 bowls, one with milk, one with flour, and one with breadcrumbs, and prepare a surface to lay the poppers while you are working.

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  • After they have sat for 10 minutes, dip each one again in milk, then roll in flour, then back in milk, then roll in breadcrumbs. It will get messy, but doing the flour twice gives it a real nice crunchy coating.

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  • Once you have breaded the very last one, it’s time to FRY!!!!!!
  • Pour oil into pot until it comes up about 2-3 inches from the bottom.
  • Heat oil over high flame until a toothpick tip held in the oil bubbles happily.
  • Now you can gently add your first popper to the oil. If it sinks and then comes up to the surface after about 30 seconds, you can add more poppers until there is no room left. I had to do 3 batches. 1 dinner plate full of poppers per batch, or about 10 poppers per batch.

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  • Fry each batch for 3 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Remove one at a time with a metal slotted spoon, and place directly onto paper towels to dry and crisp up.

See how they exploded a bit? I think that’s because the Manchego was mixed in, rather than layered on top of the cream cheese. But boy did they taste AMAZING!!!

  • Remove any stray bits from the oil, repeat temperature test, and fry the second batch. I use my digital oven timer and they come out perfect in 3 minutes and evenly cooked every time.

I promise, if you are faced with the option to do these yourself or buy the processed frozen ones, TRUST me, do it yourself. Homemade  is almost always better. I left a plateful uncooked to freeze so that I can wow my chef sister with them the next time she comes to visit, the great thing about these is you can do all the work one day, then freeze them until you are ready to serve for a dinner party or Superbowl Sunday, and then just fry them right up on the spot! YUM! They were delish, with a mild heat, that you only really noticed when they started to cool down, but by then, well, they were all gone. 🙂

*Update: My cheffy sister came to visit for the weekend and sample some of the recent goings on in our kitchen (saved in the freezer for her imminent arrival). This meant sampling Asian chicken dumplings with their insane garlic scallion sweet and spicy dipping sauce, chocolate cream cheese glazed cinnamon buns, my husbands first amazing attempt at a classic new york cheesecake with a cookie crust and a creamsicle twist, herbed squash on toast with ricotta and onion marmalade, and of course, our beautiful Jalapeno poppers experiment. The poppers went into the oil frozen this time, and by 3 minutes the outsides were a gorgeous brown, but the insides were still a bit cold, so I would recommend frying for a full 5 minutes with the timer set. We just popped them into the toaster oven to finish warming the insides, on the highest heat for about 5 minutes, which did the job splendidly. Make sure that the oil is HOT when they go in, and resist the temptation to remove them until they bob up to the top and have been floating on the surface for about a minute. Salt generously when they come out of the fryer, (5 or 6 shakes over the whole thing) and serve. Watch out. they are hot inside!!! I went to bed with the smell of cheesy jalapeno in the air and dreamed of poppers dancing, dipping and swirling through the ether.

Popperjoy