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Dec 17, 2012

Chinese Style Ginger Steamed Fish

After going to Kam Sen, I was definitely feeling the Asian theme, and I didn’t want to eat my bean curd salad alone, so…. I had stumbled upon a recipe for ginger steamed fish a while ago but didn’t make it because I couldn’t find any good fresh fish and no bok choy to boot. But, while I was in White plains, I decided to cruise over to Eastchester Fish Market, a small fish shop with four large cases filled with fresh, never frozen fish, and it was my lucky day because they had a tray full of thick, glistening halibut steaks. You could really use any white flesh fish like striped bass, sole, flounder, trout, etc, but I think the fatty, buttery and firm flesh of the halibut would stand up to the strong ginger flavor well.

When I got home, I did a little research and found a very simple recipe on epicurious.com accompanied by a great demonstration video by Culinary Institute of America’s Chef Shirley Cheng. The dish was very, very easy to make and after goofing around experimenting with the spicy pepper bean curd stick salad for a couple hours, I was grateful to have a quick and easy dinner recipe. I did not have a basket steamer that would fit a large bowl in it, so I just put two small panna cotta ramekins in the bottom of my broadest stock pot with a couple of inches of water and placed a large shallow bowl with my fish filets on top of them and sealed the pot with a tight lid to improvise.

I really liked the results, the flavor was very delicate and the shot of piping hot oil at the end released all the fragrance of the scallions and ginger. The best part was the texture of the halibut, which I had never steamed before. it was perfectly moist and fork tender, yet the thickness of the filets and the skin helped hold the flesh together. For me, the start ingredient was the five spice powder. Five spice powder is a common Chinese spice blend that has many variants (like masalas), but the most common mixture includes star anise, cloves, and cinnamon, sichuan pepper and ground fennel. A little bit goes a long way, so just a dash of this spice really adds a lot of complexity.  

My only complaint was that there could have been more ginger flavor. In some bites, I would get a matchstick of ginger and the ginger would be overpowering, however in other bites without ginger, the flavor was unrecognizable. I would tweak this by mincing the ginger and adding a dash of ginger juice to the marinade to infuse the dish.

Ginger steamed halibut with baby bok choy

Adapted from Epicurious July 2008 “Steamed Scallion Ginger Fish Fillets with Bok Choy”

Bok Choy Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds baby bok choy

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 (1/4-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
    • 2 tablespoons water

Method

Trim off tough bottoms of each head, separate leaves and rinse thoroughly.

Heat oil in wok until hot and then fry ginger, scallions and garlic until fragrant (about 45 seconds). Stir in bok choy, salt, sugar, pepper and water and mix to coat evenly and then cover for 2 minutes.

Remove lid, stir again and remove from heat.

Ginger Steamed Halibut Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup Shaohsing rice wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
    • 1 teaspoon ginger juice
    • 2 pounds halibut fillet, cut into 8 pieces
    • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, finely minced
    • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
      • 8 scallions (white and green parts), cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths, then thinly julienned lengthwise

Method

Combine soy sauce, sugar, rice wine and five spice powder and drizzle 1 tbsp. of the mixture over each fish fillet (reserve remaining marinade for later). Place ginger on top of each fillet and refrigerate for 15 minutes to marinate.

Place steamer basket in a large saucepan with a couple of inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place plated fish into basket and cover to steam for 7-8 minutes or until done.

Remove fish from steamer to clean plate. Heat vegetable oil in small skillet until hot. Garnish fish fillets with scallions and drizzle with remaining marinade. Drizzle hot oil over fish fillets and serve immediately.

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Dec 5, 2012

Artisanal Cheese Crostinis

Artisanal Cheese Crostinis


I really love cheese. I know that is like saying, I really love going to the beach but, it’s true. There aren’t any cheese shops in the Hudson valley. Forget “good” cheese shops, there aren’t any** (**gross exaggeration, what I mean is, there are, like, two.) Which makes me wonder…there are cheese shops, right? Where you all live? I think there have to be, and I’m not sure what’s going on here, but there is, thankfully, a cheese shop in New Paltz, The Cheese Plate. It’s a really cute little store, run by a husband and wife duo for almost a year, and they have a pretty decent spread of cheese. I was randomly in the mood for Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve, but they had never heard of it… Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve is a very popular cheese, so you would think they would have at least been aware of it, but, nope. Things like this make me nervous, but, they were still really nice and very knowledgeable.

I was asking for some new and different cheeses to make up a cheese board for girl’s night…and while they did offer some fine suggestions, there was nothing new about any of it….same old, same old, have you ever heard of Morbier? Well, how about some Taleggio… there are actually some really great local cheeses that I had never found when I was in nyc, especially the ones from Sprout Creek Farm, that are really special, but for some reason this shop didn’t carry any of that. Not that any of that matters, because I still walked away with four awesome cheeses, two old favorites, one old enemy (Stilton, which is embarrassing to admit), and one totally new cheese.

The new cheese was intriguing and tasted just like caccio pepe: Harpersfield semi-hard cheese infused with Lapsang Souchong Black Tea. It was hard and dry and begged to be paired with pasta or tomatoes. Loved it, and can’t wait to play around with it a little later. But for today….

I decided to test a couple of different ideas for some easy artisanal cheese crostinis for girl’s night tomorrow (to soak up some of that wine!). I had some Fromage d’Affinios, Stilton and Humboldt Fog chevre.


Fromage d’Affinios with Concord Thyme Jam

I have included this cheese on almost every cheese board I have ever made from the time I was introduced to it at Murray’s years ago. This cheese is like a refined brie, silkier, smoother, more delicate in flavor, with a floral aftertaste, reminiscent of lavender, which is so elegant. When I first served this to a girlfriend years ago, her literal reactions was: ‘Omigod, DUDE, I wanna f*$@k this cheese!’ which tells you in, one beautiful sentence, more than an entire treatise on Fromage d'Affinois could ever impart. This is a cheese that will make you want to f#$%k dairy. And that's saying something (I either just sold you on this cheese or seriously grossed you out, but I can handle it. The real question is, can you?) The concord grape jam was great with the cheese, but the extra sprinkle of thyme on the top of the crostinis is what really stole my heart.


Summer Stilton with raw honey and fresh cracked black pepper

I haven’t bought Stilton in a long time. It’s something I always bought to make black and blue burgers, but nothing much beyond that. But, thank god for cheese shops, because that lovely couple insisted the Stilton had to be on my cheese board, and they were right. In fact, in the shop, they served it to me on baguette with honey, which I thought was extraordinarily generous of them, and it was killer. They explained that this Stilton is particularly sweeter in flavor and is actually some of the best Stilton you can get in the year because it is made with summer cow’s milk, which is flavored by all the lovely things they get to graze on in the summer months. I tweaked this recipe a bit by crushing a generous amount of fresh black pepper over the raw honey before crumbling the stilton over it to serve. Blue cheese with honey on a crusty baguette is a very traditional European way of consuming this treat, and that spice of the black pepper adds a fun twist on the classic. (By the way, this was the crowd favorite when I served it at girl’s night, and that’s rare, considering it was blue and the d’Affinios was on the board.)

 

Humboldt Fog with shaved Anjou pear and balsamic glaze

I love a good goat cheese, and Humboldt Fog was a no-brainer for me because it’s fresh, tangy, smooth and has that beautiful line of vegetable ash down the middle of it which makes it so pretty for presentation. I did this with a thinly shaved Anjou pear and some balsamic glaze, which are really typical flavors that I loved. I found that shaving the pear into thin slices on the mandolin made the crostini so much easier to eat and also much prettier to plate.


Humboldt Fog with grilled persimmon and balsamic glaze

I originally wanted to do this dish with a grilled peach and some fresh thyme, but, not a single local grocery store had a stone fruit in sight. Nada. We are talking apples or berries, honeys. The Hudson Valley never fails to disappoint with their grocery store game. But who needs a plum when you’ve got more persimmon’s than you know what to do with? These guys are EVERYWHERE right now, so I figured, why not? They are a beautiful color!

And that’s about it. These particular persimmons were very ripe and unfortunately tasted like Splenda-water. I drizzled a little lime juice on the slices after I grilled them which totally transformed the taste and with the balsamic glaze, the flavor was actually really nice. I still would rather use a peach or a plum, but, the persimmon was an excellent substitution and the color was really pretty.

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