Archive for the ‘frying’ Category

Clam fritters, conch fritters, lobster fritters…I suppose you could fritter anything. But the first time I had them with mussels, I knew that I would never fritter my life away with any other!

It was a fall afternoon in Newport, Rhode Island, at the now-defunct Newport Yachting Center’s annual Oyster Festival. We’re gorging on freshly shucked oysters and clams, boiled shrimp, and…what have we here? I never heard of a mussel fritter before, but once I took a bite, there was no turning back.

They couldn’t be easier to make, but it is crucial to have the right fritter batter. And that starts with a Rhode Island product called Drum Rock fritter mix. If you live in New England, you can find it in just about any seafood department at Whole Foods. If you live further away, you can check out their website (www.drumrockproducts.com) or try your luck with a local brand of fritter mix.

fritter ingredients

 

If you’re using fresh mussels, be sure to clean them well and remove the beards. Steam them in a pot over a small amount of water. As they open, they will release their flavorful juices and you want to save every drop of that broth for the fritters. Here in New England, frozen mussel meats are available in some seafood stores. All you need to do is thaw them, steam them saving the broth, and you’re ready to go.

For the fritters:
1 lb. fritter mix
2 cups cooked mussel meats
1/2 cup mussel broth (saved from steaming mussels)
1/4 to 1/2 cup good quality beer (I use Sam Adams Boston Lager)
Avocado oil or lard for frying (I don’t use canola or vegetable oils)

 

Steam the mussel meats until they’re just cooked. Remove the mussel meats, and reserve 1/2 cup of the broth. Pulse the mussel meats in a food processor, but leave ’em chunky…or chop by hand.

Put the fritter mix in a large bowl. Add the mussel meats, mussel broth, and beer. Stir gently until just mixed. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes and do not stir again. (If you’ve got guests coming, you can prepare up to this part ahead of time, covering the bowl with a wet towel, and leaving it at room temperature.)

Using a thermometer, heat the oil in a deep pan to 350 degrees, and using a small spoon or scoop, drop the fritters in the hot oil, turning gently, cooking 3 to 4 minutes until golden.

Drain them on paper towels, and season with salt and pepper immediately. Serve right away!

 

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An easy, delicious dipping sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Ponzu sauce

The perfect dipping sauce for these mussel fritters is made from two ingredients: mayo and Ponzu sauce, a citrus-based soy sauce. Combine both ingredients in a bowl. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

This is a great appetizer when you’ve got guests visiting over the holidays. You can make the pesto ahead of time, and serve it in just a few minutes.

Chourico (or chorizo in Spanish) is as important to the Portuguese as bacon is to us Lithuanians. Here in Southern New England, they pronounce it “sha-rees,” not the exaggerated “chaw-reezo,” like you hear on “Chopped.”

I was joking with a friend the other day that if I won the lottery, I could buy a lifetime supply of chourico at my favorite store: Mello’s in Fall River, Mass. His response was: “Is there such a thing as a lifetime supply of chourico?!”

Good point!

If you’ve had really great chourico, you’re always looking for new ways to include it in your cooking. Arugula is one of the easiest greens to grow in the spring or fall garden. And it’s readily available in any supermarket produce section.

Inspired by chef Chuck Hughe’s recipe, this is a great chourico appetizer that’s really easy to make. Whip up the arugula pesto ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. Then when guests come, just slice the chourico, saute it in a pan until brown, and serve.

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3 cups fresh baby arugula
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup + one tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano or other good quality parmesan cheese
2 lbs. chourico, sliced into 1/2″ pieces

Combine the arugula, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and the 1/2 cup of cheese in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Set the tablespoon of cheese aside for garnishing later.

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Remove the casing from the chourico and slice it into 1/2″ thick pieces. Saute the chourico in a pan until both sides are caramelized and golden.

Place the chourico on a plate, topping with some of the pesto. Sprinkle a touch of the grated cheese to garnish. Serve immediately, while the chourico is still hot!

 

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Great fried shrimp is like sea candy…you just can’t get enough. This recipe is easy and really delicious. Never use anything but wild-caught American shrimp!

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1 lb. wild-caught USA shrimp
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I use Cup4Cup GF flour to keep it gluten-free)
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
2 tablespoons Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 raw egg, scrambled
avocado oil or pork fat, for frying

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Combine the flour, corn meal, Prudhomme seasoning (see below) and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Scramble the egg in another bowl and set aside.

Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Remove the entire shell, or leave the tip of the tail, depending on your preference.

Heat a pan with an inch of the oil. When it reaches 325 degrees, it’s ready for frying.

Dip the shrimp in the egg, and shake off any excess. Then toss the shrimp in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Carefully place the shrimp in the pan of oil.

Cook the shrimp for about 45 seconds, flip them over, and cook for another 45 seconds, until they’re golden brown. Don’t crowd the pan and never over-cook shrimp!

Drain on paper towels and serve immediately!

 

The shrimp are delicious by themselves, but here’s an easy remoulade to make along with them…

1 cup mayo
1/4 cup Gulden’s mustard
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon dill pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Combine the ingredients and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

 

It’s a bit of a cheat, but I find the Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic seasoning has great flavor and works really well for this. I also use it on fish: simply pan saute a filet in butter, and sprinkle on the seasoning. I originally started with the small jar found in most supermarkets, but then quickly graduated to the jumbo size can found online!

 

If you want to make your own seafood seasoning, a combination of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and cayenne will get you a result that’s pretty close to the Prudhomme seasoning.

 

 

Cooler fall weather always gets us craving for comfort foods, and this is one we discovered on a trip to Spain in 2014. Croquettes are the Spanish equivalent of chicken nuggets: they’re found on every kids’ menu…and my daughter ordered them just about everywhere we went! So it’s no surprise that I “got the order” to make a batch of croquettes this weekend!

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I found a great recipe for croquettes in Saveur magazine, and decided to try it out. I was a bit clumsy at making them at first–they do need a bit of finesse–but by the end of the batch, I got the hang of it. And to make them gluten-free, I simply substituted GF flour and breadcrumbs for the all-purpose flour and Panko.

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2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
6 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
6 oz. ham, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour like Cup4Cup)
2 eggs
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs)
avocado oil for frying

 

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Peel the potatoes, cut them into 1″ cubes and boil them in salted water until tender. Drain and set them aside.

Melt the butter in the same pot the potatoes were in, then add the onions and saute until translucent. Put the potatoes back in the pot and add 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until smooth. Add more cream, if needed, but be careful not to make it mushy.

Add the cheese and mix until it has melted in. Add the ham and mix again. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the contents of the pot into a metal bowl and place it in the freezer to cool, stirring every 10 minutes until the mashed potato mix is cold, but not frozen.

Line up three bowls: flour (or GF flour) in the first bowl, eggs (scrambled) in the second bowl, Panko (or GF breadcrumbs) in the third.

Remove the mashed potato mix from the freezer, and with floured hands, grab enough to gently roll a small meatball in your hands. (I’ve found that starting with a round shape makes it easier to work with.)

Roll the ball in the flour, then the egg, then drop in the Panko and roll again. With the ball in your hand, gently squeeze into a tubular shape, and then place it on a sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Continue with the rest of the potato mixture. (You may need to add another egg or two if you run out.)

Once you’ve rolled all the croquettes, place the sheet pan in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up.

Heat a pan with 2″ of oil to 350 degrees. Remove the croquettes from the freezer, and working in small batches, fry them until golden brown. Place on paper towels, and quickly season lightly with salt while hot, if desired.

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The croquettes freeze really well, so this batch goes a long way. Once they’ve been fried, let them cool completely to room temp. Place them in Ziploc freezer bags and store in the freezer. When it’s time to cook them, let them thaw for about 15 minutes, then place in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for another 15 minutes.

 

The Saturday before Labor Day is traditionally considered to be International Bacon Day. So that makes it today!

Let’s face it: there are few foods as magical as bacon. Add bacon to just about any dish you’re preparing, and it elevates it to incredible new heights of flavor. The BLT is possibly the greatest food combination ever invented: just a few simple, fresh ingredients, when placed together, transforming into one of the most amazing sandwiches on planet Earth.

BLT wraps: home-cured and smoked bacon, local farmstead romaine, home garden tomatoes.

 

If I’m buying bacon, I go on-line to Burger’s Smokehouse, a family run business in Missouri that has made great bacon for decades. The prices are good, and they include shipping. (www.smokehouse.com) I buy in quantity and freeze what I don’t need right away. My favorite is the thick-sliced country bacon “steaks.”

But I also make my own.

Bacon comes from the pork belly, and they’re easy to find in any good butcher shop. But to get something a notch above, I’ll buy a heritage breed, like Berkshire pork, from Heritage Pork International. (www.heritagepork.com)  I follow the simple curing techniques outlined in “Charcuterie,” a great book written by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

To cure bacon, all you really need is salt and sugar, and what they in the curing biz call “pink salt,” which is not to be confused with salt that happens to be pink, like Himalayan salt you would find in a gourmet store. Pink salt is bright pink to let you know that this is a special salt that should only be used in small quantities for curing. The reason is it contains nitrites. Nitrites delay the spoilage of the meat, and help keep the flavors of spices and smoke. They also keep the meat nice and pink instead of an unappetizing gray. That’s good. But nitrites can break down into nitrosamines, which have been known to cause cancer in lab animals. But let’s face it: you would need to eat a ton of cured meat to really worry about this.

To make the basic dry cure:

1/2 lb. kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 oz. pink salt
optional ingredients: granulated garlic, granulated onion

Mix the ingredients well. An important note: all salts do not all weigh the same, so go by the weight and not a cup measurement.

Once you rub the pork belly with the basic dry cure, place it in a large Ziploc bag, squeeze the air out of it, and seal it tightly. If it’s too big for the bag, you can either cut the belly into two pieces, or wrap it tightly with several layers of plastic wrap. Place it in a container in the fridge for a couple of weeks, flipping it over every few days to let gravity do its work. You’ll see that the salt will draw moisture out of the meat and form a brine. This brine will continue to cure your pork belly, so leave it in there. (The container will capture any liquid that might seep out.)

In two or three weeks, once the pork belly has been cured, wash the brine off the meat, and pat it dry with paper towels. Now it’s time to cook. You can simply cook the pork belly at 200 degrees for about 2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. I place the pork belly in a digital smoker, which allows me to set an exact temperature. I smoke it at 250 degrees for 2 hours, using hickory chips.

 

 

 

Bellies in the smoker

Bellies in the smoker.

 

 

Smoked bacon

Smoked bacon!

That’s it. You have achieved bacon!

The reward is so worth the effort. Just remember that you still need to slice the bacon and fry it. Don’t eat it straight out of the smoker. That first slice you cut off your bacon and toss in a pan to lightly fry for a few moments will be the best bite you’ve ever had in your life!
And if you’re making one slab of bacon, why not make it three or four? It freezes well. And…you will eat it. You know you will!

Frying in the pan!

Frying in the pan!

I had a pound of leftover lobster meat (I know, I know…how could you ever have leftover lobster?!) So I wrapped it tightly and kept it frozen. When I had a craving for crab cakes, I figured I’d try my recipe out with lobster instead. So good, I sprained my arm patting myself on the back!

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1 lb. cooked lobster meat (thawed, if frozen)
1 cup mayo (I like Hellman’s)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard (I like Maille)
3/4 cup saltine crackers or oyster crackers
1 to 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
Olive oil

In a bowl, combine the mayo, mustard and the Old Bay Seasoning.

Chop the lobster into small pieces and add it to the mayo/mustard mix.

Pulse the crackers in a food processor until it resembles oatmeal. Add it to the bowl and gently combine the ingredients.

Form small patties. I use either a small beef slider mold or the lid from a small mouth Mason jar. I won’t kid you: it gets messy, but it’s worth it! Place the patties on a sheet pan lined with Reynold’s non-stick aluminum foil.

Place the sheet pan in the freezer for about 15 minutes to stiffen up the patties.

Heat some olive oil in a pan. Cook the patties on both sides until golden brown.

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I grow several varieties of squash and pumpkins in my garden every year, so I’ve got an overload of blossoms. But it was only recently, after my daughter had a taste of fried squash blossoms at a favorite restaurant, Plum Point Bistro in Saunderstown, RI, did she start asking me to prepare them at home.

At the restaurant, we were served a savory version, the blossoms stuffed with ricotta cheese, lightly battered, fried and served with a delicious tomato sauce.

At home, we went for a sweeter version for breakfast, using gluten-free pancake mix as the base, experimenting with two fillings: raspberry preserves or strawberry cream cheese.

Because we need to keep things gluten-free in our home, I simply followed the directions on the box of pancake mix, using fat-free milk instead of whole milk and a little less of the dry ingredients to make the batter thinner than I would use for regular pancakes. I use King Arthur Gluten-Free Pancake Mix, which requires adding an egg and melted butter to make a smooth, slightly sweet batter. I set that aside and let it rest for a few minutes.

Next, it’s off to the garden to snip a handful of squash blossoms. I prefer the ones that are open. They’re easier to stuff, but it’s also easier to spot the little critters that like to make themselves comfortable inside. I carefully snip the blossoms off the plant, then give them a light shake, which is enough to convince the bugs inside to fly out. It’s pretty cool to find a happy bee inside every blossom that I snip.

 

 

Other than making sure all foreign particles (and insects) have been removed from the blossoms, no other preparation is needed. I snip the stems right up to the blossom, and they’re ready to be stuffed.

 

Blossoms stuffed with strawberry cream cheese and the fantastic raspberry preserves from Briermere Farms on the North Fork of Long Island!

 

 

I heat a few inches of olive oil in a pan, then start the process: I stuff the blossoms, closing the flower petals around the stuffing, then carefully dip them in the pancake batter, and release them gently into the oil, flipping them as they fry, until they’re golden in color.

 

 

I drain them on paper towels, dust them with powdered sugar, and they’re ready to be enjoyed.

 

 

 

 

Maybe you saw the story in the news recently: the nephew of Colonel Sanders himself revealed the 11 secret herbs and spices that made KFC’s original recipe chicken a worldwide success. He claimed he worked for his uncle for many years and had to make huge batches of the seasoning mix. The article reduced the amounts to a more user-friendly version, which I put together last night.

You have to understand something…although I’m a big proponent of grass-fed this and pastured that, I have a weakness. My kryptonite is KFC’s original recipe chicken. There’s a KFC right next door to a local Home Depot in my area and my car literally drives itself to the pick-up window…I can’t help it. I justify the consumption of grease by asking for no sides–no biscuit, no nothing. I get one breast and one thigh, and I drive off, steering my car with my knees as I indulge in my dirty secret.

Making the KFC chicken recipe at home means I do have some control over product quality. I use pastured or organic chicken. I use clean oil. And I oven-fry my chicken, meaning I fry it in oil until golden brown, then finish the cooking process in the oven.

I have to say, the recipe really works! Maybe if I placed the real KFC side-by-side with my home-made chicken, I’d notice a difference. But it was pretty damn close and absolutely delicious! If I could change one thing, I would use smaller chicken pieces next time. I used large pieces and the meat-to-breading ratio was off. Though it was mighty tasty, I was craving more breading per bite.

 

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon dried mustard
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
5 lbs. chicken pieces…your choice
oil, for frying

 

Combine the flour and the “11 herbs and spices” in a bowl. Mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk and the egg. Add the chicken pieces to this bowl and let the chicken soak in it for 10 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour a couple of inches of the oil into a pan with high sides and heat to 340 degrees, using a thermometer. Don’t go too high up, because oil expands when hot and could spill over.

Take the chicken pieces and coat them with the seasoning mix one at a time, making sure you coat them well. Carefully place the chicken in the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan…work in small batches. Too much chicken could cause the oil to spill over the top.

Fry the chicken pieces until golden…no need to cook them all the way through. Place the pieces on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil. When all the chicken has been fried, place the baking sheet in the oven and cook until the chicken pieces reach an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees.

 

 

April 7 is National Beer Day!

Now, I’m not a big beer drinker, but I do like to cook with it. One of my favorite things in the world is beer-battered fish. And it doesn’t have to be greasy if you do it right. (Scroll down to the bottom to see how to make this gluten-free!)

When you fry at home, you can do things the right way: start with clean oil, heat it to the right temperature, and then throw it out when it’s done. When you go to a fast-food place, that oil has been sitting there all day (if not all week)…it’s been used hundreds of times…it absorbs the flavors of whatever was fried before your food got dropped in there…and quite frankly, it’s beat up.

What got me started with this whole beer-batter-at-home process was stumbling upon some amazing fresh local cod at my neighborhood seafood store: Bridgeport Seafood in Tiverton, Rhode Island. My buddy, Dave, said that the cod came from just off Sakonnet Point that day. Good enough for me!

I use vegetable oil and, using a thermometer, heat it to 350 degrees. I always watch the temp of my oil…it can get too hot very quickly…and by the same token, the temp can drop quickly if I throw in a whole bunch of fish into the pot all at once. Using one of those deep fryers made for home use is also a good way of cooking and controlling temperature. I’m careful not to put too much oil in my pot (halfway up is fine) or it could spill over, since oil expands as it gets hotter.

Here’s all you need for great beer batter:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
12 oz. bottle of beer (Sam Adams Boston Lager works for me)
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 3 hours.

Cut your fish into pieces that aren’t too big and will fit in your pot easily. The thickness of the fish may vary and so may the cooking times of each piece. When the oil reaches 350, simply dip the fish into the batter and let as much batter drip off as you like before you carefully place the fish into the oil. Fry until golden brown.

 

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What good is fried fish without tartare sauce, right? Don’t tell me you’re using the stuff in a jar after frying the fish yourself!

1/2 cup mayo
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Frank’s Red Hot cayenne sauce
Grinding of black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped capers
1 teaspoon lemon zest, using micro plane zester

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate for an hour before using.

 

To make beer-batter gluten-free, simply substitute GF flour for the all-purpose flour. (I like Cup4Cup.) And now, you can get gluten-free beer that tastes pretty damn good. Use it instead of regular beer, and you’ve got a beer batter that’s gluten-free!

When I was a kid, no visit to a Chinese restaurant was complete without an order of those sweet, greasy and radioactive red spare ribs. They came in that foil-lined bag that barely kept them warm until my dad got us home to devour them along with the other classics: fried dumplings, and won ton soup with fried won tons on the side. I still see those ribs on menus even today, and despite my cravings, I just don’t eat fire-engine-red-dyed food anymore.

Imagine my excitement when I saw a recipe for those classic spare ribs in a food magazine. I figured I’d just make them without the food coloring. It totally worked.

I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe exactly as written, and this was no exception. For one thing, it called for dry sherry. I didn’t have it so, I used dry marsala wine. I didn’t even have the pork ribs, so I substituted a beautiful slab of grass-fed beef flap. It was awesome.

1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dry marsala wine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or through a press
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
2 lbs. beef flap (skirt steak or hanger steak works, too)

 

To make the marinade, combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, madeira, garlic, sugar and Chinese five spice in a bowl. Mix well.

Trim the excess fat and silver skin off the beef flap, and if it’s thick, slice it lengthwise to make a thinner piece of meat about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.

Place the meat in the marinade, making sure it gets well coated on all sides. Marinate the meat at room temperature for about 30 minutes. If you have a thicker cut of meat, you can marinate it longer.

Drain and discard the marinade.

Heat a cast iron pan and add a little lard or oil. Place the beef flap pieces in the pan, searing well on one side before flipping over to the other. If the meat is thin, you can cook it to a medium-rare right there on the stove top. You might need to finish the beef in a 350-degree oven if you’re using a thicker cut.

 

To make the Chinese ribs with this marinade: simply place the ribs and the marinade in a Ziploc bag at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and place the ribs on a baking sheet with a wire rack on top. Save the marinade…and baste the ribs with it every 30 minutes, turning the ribs over as you do so. Cook until the ribs are done, about 2 hours.