Category Archives: Seafood

Gyoza!!

IMG_9711We are blessed to have an amazing and awesome houseguest who is staying with us for several weeks. Hooray! It is a great thing to have someone who likes to cook, living with us and cooking in our kitchen! Last night she introduced us to the joy of gyoza, aka potstickers. This is something I would NEVER have attempted on my own, but she demystified the process and showed us how very fun and easy (and delicious) they could be.

There were no measurements or written recipe, so I just soaked up this info while watching:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined and chopped up (we used the easy-peasy frozen kind)
  • chopped up can of water chestnuts
  • chopped up green onions (3-4??)
  • little bit of sesame oil
  • minced garlic
  • minced ginger
  • little bit soy sauce?
  • wonton wrappers

Mix up all ingredients.  Put teaspoon? of mixture in half of wonton wrapper (they’re round). Seal with water and make a little pocket. Line up on tray. When you have a few dozen, put a little bit of oil in bottom of nonstick pan. Add gyoza and cook until they are browned on the bottom. Add a little bit of water and cover to steam cook the rest of the way. Probably takes about 5-8 minutes per batch. Eat. ENJOY!

Matzo Shortage 2008!

ready for the Seder

I guess I wasn’t the only one who drove all over town looking for matzo last week before Passover began. Unlike others, I found one box of matzo. However, I could not find, to save my life, kosher-for-passover matzo meal or chrain (grated, bottled horseradish).

I drove to no less than seven stores in search of matzo meal and chrain (I’d bought the matzo a few days earlier on what turns out to be a fortunate lark). I’m talking: Whole Foods, Andronico’s, Afikomen, Star Grocery, two Safeways (note to self: Safeway had the best assortment of Kosher-for-Passover foods, sans matzo, matzo meal and chrain), and (you never know–but they ended up having no Passover items at all) Trader Joe’s. NO matzo meal. NO chrain. And though this was a day before Passover began, I was still surprised: after all, Passover lasts EIGHT days. There’s got to be enough kosher-for-Passover eats for eight days and it was incredible to me that stores ran out before the holiday even began.

But here’s the important question, the reason for my frantic matzo meal and chrain search…

How was I going to make gefilte fish?! Matzo meal is a crucial ingredient (other than ground up whitefish) in gefilte fish, and chrain is a crucial accompaniment. And gefilte fish is, at least in our household, a crucial dish served at the Seder table. Alas, I found an old container of matzo meal from Passover past. Not entirely kosher–and I fretted before I used it, rationalizing that I’d done my best to hunt down matzo meal, to no avail. (I wonder how many other Jewish families had to make compromises this year with the matzo shortage).

gefilte fish prepared

I was first acquainted with gefilte fish when I used to buy and devour the kind in jars. I remember my preference used to be Rokeach brand over Manischevitz. But that all changed when I tasted my mother-in-law’s gefilte fish for the first time. She made hers by hand. It was fantastic–the texture of the gefilte fish was firm but not like something out of a rubber mold, the aspic just light and with distinguishable flavors.

I had to make mine from scratch too! I watched her make gefilte fish the next year, helped her form them, put them into the boiling broth, complete with fish heads, and vowed to make my own from that point on.

I thought it would be complicated–it isn’t very complicated at all. Just a tad time consuming with a very delicious outcome. You’ll want to start the gefilte fish the day before the dinner because it requires overnight chilling in the fridge to assure a firm aspic. And remember to put your order in for ground up whitefish far ahead of Passover (and also to buy your matzo meal in advance) so that you have all you need without the stress of hunting down ingredients.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Slainte!

Yesterday, I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with my husband and my wonderful friends, Anne and Ryan.  Yes, I know this post is a day late, but just try to blog after drinking a few glasses of Black Bush with Black Velvet (Guinness and champagne) chasers, and see how far you’ll get. 

Although my family cannot claim to have any Irish blood in it whatsoever, my mom always liked to make corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day (my husband is about a quarter Irish, though).  And I know it’s currently in vogue to prepare more “authentic” meals than corned beef, I still like to make (and eat) it.   Besides, people expect it.  This year, I decided to supplement it a little bit, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover a St. Patrick’s Day menu in the Lucques restaurant cookbook when I was looking for a recipe for Guinness ice cream.  I surprised myself by preparing nearly the entire menu.

As a starter  (this wasn’t in the cookbook),  I served Irish chedder and Cashel blue (also Irish, from Neal’s Yard), and made Irish soda bread as an accompaniment.   The soda bread is pretty easy to make – I think my husband could make it.  But next time, I’ll forgo sprinkling the sugar on top.

The first course in the cookbook was a pureed watercress soup a la minute, with croutons spread with “gentlemen’s relish”.  The “relish” was basically an anchovy butter with shallots, parsley and lemon.  The soup was a little on the mild side, but the relish perked it up quite nicely.  I also threw in a bunch of chives at the end.

The next course was buttered cockles on champ.  Since “cockles” are pretty rare here on the west coast (they’re not indigenous to Northern America, nor are they farmed here), I substituted littleneck clams.  The clams are sauteed with green onions, then white wine (I substituted champagne) and broth are added to steam them open, then they’re finished with a handful of parsley, snow pea sprouts, peas, butter and more green onions.  Champ (pronounced “sham”)   is a traditional Irish mashed potato dish.  There’s as many versions of it as there are cooks making it, but it usually calls for loosely mashed potatoes with lots of butter, cream and green onions.  When we visited my father-in-law, he prepared a version with smoked ham and mayonnaise.  I decided to go tweak Lucques’ version, which called for green garlic instead of green onions (I used both).    I sauteed the aromatics in plenty of butter, added cream, then added unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes that were previously boiled whole and smashed with the heel of my hand, then mashed them a little further over the heat as the cream reduced and absorbed into the potatoes.  Yummy and heart-stopping.  Lucques’ cookbook also suggested served brown scones with this, but I decided that it was a (carb) bridge too far.   

The main course, obviously, was corned beef with boiled cabbage, turnips, potatoes and carrots.  Instead of boiling the brisket for the entire time, the Lucques cookbook says to just bring the brisket to a boil, add onions and spices, then cover to pot and cook it in the oven for four hours.  The brisket is then removed from the broth and baked in the oven in a separate dish at a higher temperature to “crisp” the top.  In the meantime, the other vegetables are cooked in the remaining broth.  I made a parsley-whole grain mustard-shallot sauce to go with this, but I think I would have like fresh horseradish as well. 

Finally, for dessert, we had Guinness chocolate spice bundt cake, with Guinness ice cream.  I’ve made Guinness chocolate cakes before, and the recipe I’d used previously was a dense 3 layer chocolate cake with a ganache frosting, which was quite a production to bake and assemble.  I think that the spices, along with the addition of molasses, in the cake served to add extra oomph to the Guinness flavor, which was overwhelmed by the chocolate in the previously made version.  The ice-cream also had molasses in it, which also served to amp up the Guinness flavor.  My husband, who proclaimed he’d only have “a little taste” of the ice cream, found himself scooping up a third serving.  The only difficulty I found with the ice cream is that it was slightly too icy.  Next time, I’ll use only cream and no milk, plus I’ll boil down the molasses with the Guinness a little longer. 

 Alas, I don’t have many pictures, but I take comfort in the fact the any pictures taken would have borne witness to general debauchery, so you’ll have to take my word that it was a tasty meal.  A hostess’s hint:  These courses are pretty heavy, so start serving early and space lots of time in between.  Do as much of the prep work (chopping all the veggies and herbs, baking the cake, making the sauces, freezing the ice cream, etc.) as possible the day before.  That way, you can celebrate instead of being stuck in the kitchen the entire time.  And, uh, it’s a lot easier to cook while inebrieted if your mise is already in place.

crawfish in san francisco?

Isleton crawfish
Isleton Crawfish
Originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.

every year my husband and i hold a crawfish boil, complete with crawfish etouffee made from fresh peeled tails. an unlikely pair of hosts (a Jew (born in Louisiana) and a Korean) for a Louisiana style crawfish boil!

where do we get the live crawfish? we get them fedex’d from Louisiana (and now that I’m reading Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” I’m feeling MIGHTY guilty about burning all that fossil fuel for one meal). “did you know you can get crawfish right here in the bay area?” asked one of our guests.

we blinked.
“out in isleton,” he said, chewing. “they even have a crawfish festival.”

hrm.
my husband and i got a hankering for crawfish the other week–and headed out to isleton, which is a small steamboat town located in the sacramento river delta. we almost missed the town center, a collection of ramshackle wood buildings that an outsider would call “rustic” and “charming.” but maybe you could call it rundown, too. we would have zipped on by if not for the crawfish illustrations on the sides of a building. “this is it!” we brought our car to a halt.

we walked into isleton joe’s, the restaurant with the most prominent crawfish signage. the bartender was wiping down the bar, “you here for a crawfish dinner?”

we eyed the restaurant, completely barren. “yep,” wondering why it was so empty. we’re wary of empty restaurants.

“we’re closed. we don’t serve except on weekends, and then we close at–” our disappointment drowned out the rest of her words.

we went outside back into the summer delta heat. across the street was a dive bar with a “crawfish served here” sign hung up on its porch. we walked in THERE. “you in for crawfish?!” bellowed the bartender in there. there were four guys at the bar, all of them turned around and greeted us with smiles.

“yep.”

“well, we’re closed for dinner! no crawfish here!” he yelled good naturedly.

so there’s crawfish in isleton, california. except um, according to my husband, “we finally found isleton and a local source for crawfish but they don’t open on any day that ends in ‘Y’.”

best bet is to head there mid-day on a weekend, i think!