Seafood

I’m relatively new to the sous vide world, but it’s something that has always intrigued me. Sous-vide cooking involves placing food items in a sealed plastic bag and immersing the bag in a water bath for an extended time, set at a specific temperature, to evenly cook the food. This method was first popularized in the 1960s, as a method of cooking foie gras (fattened goose liver) to the desired temperature without losing any liquid in the process. It’s become very popular over the past 10 years; in fact, the barbacoa, steak, and carnitas served at Chipotle are all prepared using the sous vide method in a central location before being shipped to their restaurants.

It sounds daunting to dive into a new cooking method, especially one that has precise temperature and time requirements, but more tools are coming to market to make sous vide a breeze. Case in point is the Oliso Induction Smart Hub, which the company recently sent me to try. This device comes in two parts: an induction cooktop, which heats food efficiently (and super quickly) using magnetic induction, and the sous vide Smart Top, which sets atop the induction cooktop. I like this concept since the induction cooktop can be used in a variety of ways, independent of the sous vide oven; I use it to rapidly boil water without heating up the whole house, or to fry up a couple eggs in just a few seconds.

There’s a whole world to sous vide, with all sorts of charts and graphs (or as one of my favorite bands–Grandaddy–would say, “Chartsengrafs“), but I wanted to present a simple recipe to help folks dip their toes into this new adventure. Salmon is an ideal choice, since it’s very easy to tell when fish has been improperly cooked, and this method guarantees perfect texture every time.

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When first drafting my debut cookbook, The Ancestral Table, I was hesitant to add my recipe for Sole Meunière. After all, it contains only a few ingredients – fish, butter, and lemon, mostly – not exactly a huge culinary journey. But as time marched on, I’ve come to realize that this is one of my most treasured recipes from the book, in part because it’s so simple and satisfying. A couple weeks back, as we made it again for dinner, I decided to share my recipe on this blog.

Because flounder is easy to find here in the South, we’ve been using it instead of the traditional sole. Other flatfish, like plaice or turbot, will also work fine. Fun fact: flatfish have four fillets!

From the book:

Sole meunière is a classic French dish and an easy inclusion in this cookbook; Julia Child, best known for introducing gourmet French cuisine to the United States, had what she considered to be a “culinary revelation” when she first tasted this dish. It’s easy to see why, as the combination of mild white fish, browned butter, and lemon is basic but striking and never gets old.

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Mee Kati (หมี่กะทิ) is a noodle dish that is popular in Thailand (and some parts of Laos); thin rice noodles are steeped in coconut milk, giving them a creamy flavor that is distinct from their more popular cousins, Pad Thai and Pad See Ew.

Mee Kati is often sold by street vendors, where they use food coloring to give the noodles a pink hue. It’s a very unique visual experience, but one we’re going to forgo in this recipe (feel free to add about 1/2 tsp beet powder to the coconut milk broth in step #3 if you’re up for it).

Some usual Thai suspects are on hand in this recipe, to include limes, chiles, shrimp paste, and tamarind–but a more uncommon addition is soybean paste; either red miso paste or Korean doenjang will work nicely.

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Nakji Jeongol (낙지전골) is a Korean octopus stew that deserves a bit of primer, since the world of Korean soups and stews can be pretty intimidating. In Korea, most meals are accompanied with some form of soup, categorized into two main categories: soups like guk or tang, and stews like jjigae or jeongol.

Soups are typically thin, simple, and simmered for extended periods. In general, guk are meatless, and a little watery; last year I posted a recipe for the popular Gul Guk (Oyster Soup). Tang are, you guess it, made with meat (a favorite of mine, Gamjatang, is made with pork neck and potatoes – it appears in my first cookbook, The Ancestral Table).

Stews are more ornate, adorned with fresh vegetables, and served in large, family-style dishes. Jjigae are typically made with a single defining ingredient; Kimchi Jjigae and Sundubu Jjigae, the latter made with curdled tofu, are the most popular. Jeongol contain a variety of ingredients, and are a little more elaborate; historically, jeongol were served for members of the royal court, while jjigae were for commoners.

Today’s Nakji Jeongol has a fair amount of add-ins, but the basic recipe is very simple: marinate the octopus, prepare the soup base, throw it all together. There is no single set of add-ins, so feel free to throw in whatever you have available to you (for example, I used cilantro because the more traditional herb, perilla, is hard to find where I live). Frozen packages of pre-cleaned octopus can be found in most Asian markets, or you can get some fresh (and likely cleaned, but here’s a quick video if needed) from your local fishmonger.

One fairly uncommon ingredient in the soup base is doenjang, which is the Korean version of miso paste; if you’re not able to find it locally, it is sold online, or red miso paste will work in a pinch. If you’re curious as to my thoughts on fermented soy, here is something I wrote earlier this year (spoiler alert: I think fermented soy is fine).

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Gumbo is a stew of Louisiana origin, dating back as far as the 18th century. As with Jambalaya, there are two popular versions of gumbo, Creole and Cajun; generally, the former includes tomatoes, while the latter omits them. It can be made with all sorts of meats, from chicken, to rabbit, to nutria, to oysters; today, we’re going to make one with shrimp and andouille sausage.

There are several ways to prepare gumbo, many of them influenced by how you thicken the stew. Most methods today include a French-inspired flour roux, while others use okra or filé powder (ground sassafras leaves) – or combination – as a thickener. I’ve found that mochiko (sweet rice flour) makes the best gluten-free roux for gumbo, with plain white rice flour coming in second – but on their own, they’re not quite enough to thicken the gumbo to what I’d like (I tried simply adding more flour, but it overtook the dish’s texture and flavor). In the end, a combination of rice flour roux and okra worked best, as the roux dampened okra’s sliminess, and adding a bit of optional gumbo filé powder at the end gave the stew a perfect earthiness, befitting a warm Southern kitchen.

Gumbo is often characterized by its dark roux, made by stirring the roux over an open flame for up to an hour, right until it’s at the threshold of being burnt. I’ve found that a rice flour roux tends to burn too quickly when compared to a traditional wheat flour roux, so my solution is pretty simple: roast the flour in the oven to a golden brown before turning it into a roux. This also gives you some time to multitask, and simmer up a quick shellfish broth using shrimp shells and clam juice, while the flour browns.

The origin of the word “gumbo” is a bit of a mystery. It’s commonly thought that it is either derived from the Choctaw word for filé powder (kombo), since the spice came from similar Native stews from the region, or the Bantu word for okra (ki ngombo) – as the vegetable was introduced to the area via the West African slave trade. Regardless of its origin, gumbo is a perfect example of the cultural melting pot that eventually came to exemplify Louisiana cuisine, with its French, Native, and African influences.

Finally, I would like to note that this isn’t a weeknight-friendly meal (unless, of course, you have a weeknight off, or you’re unemployed). But that’s the beauty of gumbo – when you spend a couple hours pouring yourself into a cooking project, a bit of your soul joins the dish.

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Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is a traditional dish from Porto, in Northwest Portugal. As I’ve written in an earlier post using bacalhau, the Portuguese were one of the first European cultures to fish for cod, off the coast of Newfoundland after Columbus discovered the New World. Salted cod has been an integral part of Portuguese culture, and it’s often said that you can cook a new dish using bacalhau every day of the year – it’s often cited that there are over 1,000 total recipes to be found.

Advances in fishing technology in the mid 20th century had collapsed the Northwest Atlantic cod market by the 1990s – cod takes a long time to mature, and overfishing had run rampant. Today, bacalhau is most often made using cod harvested from Arctic waters under more strict quotas.

Bacalhau is made by salting and drying the fish in the sun; while it was originally a method of preservation (salted cod keeps a long time even without refrigeration), its unique, strong flavor is unmistakable and delicious, and its popularity endures today. The only downside to eating bacalhau is that it requires a bit of foresight, since it needs to be soaked overnight to reconstitute the fish.

If you’re new to using bacalhau, you might be surprised to find that it’s available in many common grocery stores, often sold near the cured meats section. For example, my local Publix grocery store sells a few different varieties of bacalhau. I like to keep some in the fridge at all times; I’ll generally throw some in a bowl of water, then put it in the fridge to soak overnight, and either pan-fry it to enjoy with my breakfast, or making something fancy like today’s recipe.

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I’m really starting to find beauty in simple meals. Like I mentioned a few weeks ago when sharing my recipe for three-ingredient Spaghetti Squash Bolognese Boats, I’ve had less time in the kitchen than usual (new babies will do that). It’s always tempting to reach for a takeout menu, but I’ve been determined to simply find quicker solutions for dinners. For example, I’ve been making a lot of pressure-cooker risotto, since it reheats well for lunches throughout the week.

This week’s recipe is similar in its approach – it contains just a few ingredients, and comes together in minutes. It’s a popular preparation in Hawaii, found on many restaurant menus. But to be honest, once I figured out how easy it is to prepare at home, I’ve had a hard time shelling out money to let someone else make it for me.

Furikake is a Japanese rice seasoning typically made with dried fish, sesame seeds, and seaweed. It was initially distributed in the early 1900s under the name Gohan No Tomo (“A friend for rice”) as a possible source of calcium (early recipes used ground fish bones). At first, the seasoning was too pricey for everyday eaters, but by 1948 it was commercially produced by Nissin foods (most famous for their Top Ramen), to help combat malnutrition in the Japanese population.

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Friendly reminder that the Kindle version of my debut cookbook, The Ancestral Table, is available for $2.99 on Amazon for today (Nov 24th) only!

Jambalaya has its origins in European cuisine, and it is commonly believed that the dish is the result of Spaniards living in New Orleans attempting to recreate Paella using local ingredients. The word Jambalaya itself comes from the Provençal (Southern France) word Jambalaia, which means “mish-mash”. Some folktales posit that the word is a combination of Jamón (“ham”) and Paella, but that falls a bit flat when you consider that ham is not a traditional ingredient in Jambalaya.

But what are traditional ingredients, you might ask? Good question. First, there are two major types of Jambalaya – Creole (or “Red”) and Cajun. The main difference between the two is that Creole Jambalaya, the more popular version of the two, contains tomatoes (the Cajun version has more rural roots, where tomatoes weren’t readily available).

Aside from the standard “holy trinity” mirepoix of onion, celery, and bell pepper, there are plenty of proteins used in this dish: shrimp, sausage, alligator, chicken, crawfish, oysters, and nutria rat. For this recipe I used the most readily-available proteins: sausage, shrimp, and chicken; if you have access to some of the more adventurous ingredients from this list, go for it.

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One of my favorite parts of moving to the South last year is that I can now dive head-first into a new food culture. For example, take today’s New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp. A local friend asked me if I had tried “BBQ Shrimp” yet; I immediately thought of shrimp doused in smokey-sweet KC-style barbecue sauce, which sounded a bit weird (but not altogether terrible, honestly). My friend then explained that BBQ Shrimp here in the South is not like your typical barbecue experience. Instead, it’s a crispy shrimp dish flavored with hot sauce, butter, and rosemary, typically served as an appetizer.

Barbecue Shrimp was first popularized by Pascal’s Manale Restaurant in New Orleans during the 1950s. This dish has an “old timey” feel to it today, mostly because of its liberal use of Worcestershire sauce (made famous by Lea & Perrins back in the 1830s). The end result is a little tangy, a bit spicy, and very robust in flavor. One thing I really appreciate about this dish is that it lets the shrimp take center stage. Moreover, it’s relatively cheap to throw together once you get your hands on some high-quality shrimp (especially when you consider the fact that this dish will set you back $26 at the original restaurant!). Head-on shrimp is traditionally used, but I won’t tell on you if you use shelled shrimp.

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As summer’s heat comes full swing, I’ve been less apt to spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Sometimes a cold meal like my recent Ahi Poke or Gazpacho creations come to mind, but other times I still want something hot – so long as it doesn’t require heating up the whole kitchen. I think this Thai Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry is a perfect solution, as it only takes a few minutes on the burner, and since it’s mostly vegetables, it also comes off more as a light meal than a big feast. 

One of my favorite finds during my April trip to Tabasco was their Garlic Pepper sauce. It carries the same flavor as their original sauce, but with an added garlic accent that is complimentary without being distracting. It seemed like an excellent fit for this Stir-Fry, and I was right!

This Thai version of Sweet and Sour differs a bit from the sticky/sweet Chinese-American version we’re all more accustomed to. The main difference is that it’s mostly vegetables, with shrimp an optional add-in. It’s also more on the sour side than sweet, which fares really well with the fresh cucumbers found in the final product.

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