Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cajun Crab Cakes

Maybe it's an escape from the cold weather here in Maine, but for some reason we seem to be on a bit of a spicy Cajun kick at the Bic household these days. Last Friday night I made pan-blackened haddock along with some red beans and rice. And just this Tuesday night I made our favorite spicy Cajun crab cakes.

With crab cakes and me, it was love at first bite. I've tried about a dozen recipes and liked all of them--but this recipe is my very favorite. It's inspired by a recipe for "Louisiana Deviled Crab Cakes" that appeared in (the sadly now defunct) Gourmet magazine in April, 2001. I've spiced up the timid original recipe quite a bit and converted it to make use of clarified butter--which improves its flavor remarkably.

Try them sometime! Along with a simple green salad, a loaf of French bread, and a cold bottle of dry white wine they make for a delicious and fun meal in not very much time at all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pan Blackened Haddock

Friday was another cold day in a long stretch of cold and blustery weather here in Portland. Ms. Bic and I decided some spicy Louisiana fare would be just the ticket to warm us up--body and soul. Neither one of us felt like spending a lot of time cooking though.

It turned out we had some Cajun red beans in the freezer. They do take a while to make, so whenever I make them, I make an extra big batch and freeze some. They're as good after being frozen for a few months as the day they were made. On top of some steamed and lightly buttered long-grain white rice, they're soul-satisfying and delicious. Here's the recipe.

Although redfish and catfish are the usual varieties of fish pan blackened in Cajun country, haddock from the cold waters of the North Atlantic is at least as delicious and is what's beautifully fresh and almost always available here in Maine--so that's what I use in my recipe. If fresh haddock isn't available, use whatever fresh and mild white-fleshed fish fillets you can find--fresh is the key word here. Farm raised fresh catfish is now readily available throughout North America and its mild flavor and good texture go well with pan-blackened flavors. In any case, here's my recipe for pan blackened haddock. Most pan blackened fish recipes require an outdoor-vented commercial-quality exhaust fan over the stove to clear the prodigious amounts of smoke they create. This recipe doesn't and can be cooked in just about any kitchen.

You'll notice I suggest frying the fish in clarified butter. If you haven't clarified butter before, it's a great (and simple) skill to add to your cooking repertoire. Clarified butter has a significantly higher smoking point than "regular" butter which makes it ideal for high-temperature frying in recipes where you want the flavor only butter can provide. Here's how to clarify butter.

Try both the blackened fish, and the rice and beans sometime. If you don't have the time (or the inclination) to make the rice and beans together with the fish, a baguette with some butter--and a simple green salad round out the blackened fish very nicely and easily.

Don't forget the wine. Something cold, tart, and white. An American, Chilean, or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would be perfect.

Update 12/24/09: For my Cajun Crab Cake recipe--which also utilizes clarified butter--click here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Beer-Teriyaki Marinated Pork Chops

Ever since I've been a teenager, I've loved just about anything grilled with a teriyaki sauce.

This pork chop recipe is one of my very favorites.  It has evolved from a recipe appearing in (sadly now defunct) Gourmet magazine back in 1993. They used apple cider vinegar in their version. I think substituting unseasoned rice vinegar gives the pork a cleaner, brighter flavor. Also, I now rely on a instant read digital thermometer to determine the doneness of the pork. They're available for under $10 and there's just no excuse not to own one.

Monday, I bought a couple of locally and naturally raised, bone-in, center cut pork chops at Whole Foods. Besides the fact that the pigs are treated humanely, these chops taste a lot better than industrially raised pork and to me are well worth the extra money. I think bone-in chops taste better than boneless. Also, classy fellow that I am, I just like chewing on the bone.

Anyway, I marinated the chops overnight, turned them once first thing Tuesday morning, and embarked on a busy day knowing a good dinner was going to happen with not much more work involved. All that was left to do besides actually grilling the chops was to make a quick and easy (I'll post the recipe soon) soba noodle salad. I knocked that off in little more than the 20 minutes it took to preheat the gas grill. Then, with a nice glass of cool white wine in hand, I grilled the chops. Dinner was delicious.

Regarding the beverage choices: the wines mentioned in my Jerk Pork Chop post would all work well here. So would a dry sake if you're so inclined--as would a Japanese beer.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baby Greens With Baked Goat Cheese

Busy days around here lately.

I was working at the paying job all day yesterday--hence, no blogging. Similar deal today.

I'm headed out to do the food shopping for tonight's dinner very soon--then, it's off to the homeless shelter to work until six. Home a little later in time for a cocktail and (fettuccine and kale?) dinner. It's destined to be another weak blogging day, I'm afraid.

Before I leave, I do want to post that baked goat cheese salad recipe I was on about Sunday afternoon. It's a dependable way to turn out delicious (and authentic) bistro-style baked goat cheese at home. Baked or fried goat cheese recipes are notoriously finicky--often leading to incinerated globs of cheese and breading stuck to the pan or baking sheet. This recipe really works. Trust me. The key is thoroughly freezing the cheese after coating and before baking the rounds. Give it a try. I suspect it'll become a "standard" at your house. It certainly has at ours.

Click here for the recipe.