Thursday, December 27, 2012

Feast of the Seven Fishes 2012 - Mexican Inspired

Bahia Falsa Oysters

Because most of the seafood we eat comes from Baja California (via Catalina Offshore Products), we decided that it made sense to take our inspiration for this year's Feast of the Seven Fishes from south of the border as well.

Bay Scallop Ceviche
Bay Scallop Ceviche

We kept this simple to highlight the lovely sweet flavor of the Bay Scallops - marinated for a few hours in lime juice with onion and Serrano chile and then finished with some cilantro and fresh tomato from the garden (yes, we still have tomatoes growing at the end of December).

Camarones a la Plancha
Camarones a la Plancha

Cleaned, butterflied and briefly marinated in our "Taco Shop Hot Sauce" before a quick sear on a grill pan. So good.

Bahia Falsa Oysters
Bahia Falsa Oysters

This was our first experience with Bahia Falsa oysters. They are a bit on the briny side for me, but I still enjoyed them. We had some raw (with a bit of  Taco Shop Hot Sauce) and some lightly grilled in the shell so that they were just warm, but not fully cooked. The oysters paired nicely with a bottle of Allagash Tripel.

Venus Clams and Carlsbad Mussels a la Mexicana
Venus Clams and Carlsbad Mussels a la Mexican

Another simple prep - steamed and then tossed with a sauce of barely cooked tomato, onion, garlic and roasted green chile. The Venus Clams were particularly nice.

Tortitas de Cameron Seco (Dried Shrimp Fritters)
Tortitas de Cameron Seco (Dried Shrimp Fritters)

Probably the most complex dish of the night. These fritters are made using an egg-based batter much like the coating on a chile relleno, but with the addition of ground up dried shrimp. They get deep fried, and then simmered in an earthy red chile sauce. Sherry liked these. I was less keen on them.

Cabrilla Grouper
Cabrilla Grouper

We finished the meal off with fish and saucy black beans. The fish was two different varieties of grouper. The Cabrilla Grouper pictured above had a meaty, "tastes like chicken" texture.

Baqueta Grouper
Baqueta Grouper

The Baqueta Grouper was perhaps a bit less photogenic, but far and away our favorite of the two fish. It flaked in big, soft chunks and had a beautiful flavor.

This year our tally was six dishes and eight fishes. Keeping the preparation simple on most of the dishes helped make it a more relaxed affair than some of our past feasts, but no less enjoyable.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Food Photo Round-Up #2 - Part 2


We've been on a bit of a Korean food kick lately. Case in point above, Samgyeopsal - slices of grilled pork belly, painted with Korean chili paste and eaten wrapped in a lettuce leaf with some sliced garlic.

And below, our take on Daeji Bulgogi - Korean spicy bbq pork:

Daeji Bulgogi

We haven't been neglecting Mexican food, though. We recently did up a big batch of tamales:


When we make tamales, we do a variety of fillings. Sherry wraps them in different shapes so that we can tell which is which.

Keeping with the masa theme, here is our first go at making gorditas:


The key to a gordita is that the masa is thicker than a tortilla. When you fry it, it gets crispy on the outside, but still has a soft texture in the middle. These ones were filled with chorizo and cheese.

Rounding out the Mexican fare is a breakfast of Huevos Cubanos - eggs in saucy black beans with fried plantains and bacon:

Huevos Cubanos

We had this dish when we were in Veracruz, and finally got around to making it ourselves.

Not a picture of food, but the dining room at Misión 19 in Tijuana:

Mision 19 in Tijuana

We went down for dinner with a group of like-minded folks and had a really great meal.

Turning to inspiration from across the pond, we recently made fondant potatoes for the first time:

Fondant Potatoes

A popular side dish in the UK that you rarely see on menus here, fondant potatoes get browned in olive oil and then get finished in the oven with the addition of stock and butter. The result is golden on the outside and tender on the inside.

Sherry was craving crêpes the other day, so she got out Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and found this Gâteau de Crêpes à la Florentine:

Gateau de Crepes a la Florentine

Rich and decadent. I love the way it feels to take a bite as your fork cuts through the many layers of crêpes.

And finally over to Spain for some gazpacho:


We had a record tomato harvest this year, and gazpacho is a great way to use them when they are ripe. We used to make gazpacho in the blender, but we've migrated to a more rustic, chunky version that we like a lot better.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Food Photo Round-Up #2

Bacon and Egg

It's been too long since our last food photo round-up and I've got way too many pictures for one post, so I'm going to split this one up into two.

We'll start things off with some simple, but delicious bacon and eggs. A friend of ours now has three yard chickens, and we've been lucky enough to score some of their eggs from time to time. They look beautiful, and taste great.

Next up, a favorite snack of ours - memelitas. Sherry learned how to make them from our landlady in Oaxaca.


Continuing with the Mexican theme, here are some chicken chilaquiles with saucy black beans:

Chicken Chilaquiles with Saucy Black Beans

A new addition to our Mexican repertoire this year is Mole de Olla:

Mole de Olla

It is a delicious soup/stew (mine usually ends up more of a stew) with an earthy red chile base. I've been playing around with variations and I'll do up a recipe post soon.

Speaking of Mexican braised dishes, pork chile verde is a regular of ours:

Pork Chile Verde with Saucy Black Beans

We've been visiting Tijuana a lot recently, and one of the many things they do really well there is birria tacos. The ones we had at Tacos Fitos outside Mercado Hidalgo were fantastic. We haven't reached that level yet, but this version was very tasty:

Taco de Birria de Res

While visiting an avocado grove in Temecula, we had some really nice salads. With that on the brain, we tried one of our own - avocado, beet and orange. The flavor combination was a bit aggressive, but it sure was pretty:

Beet Avocado and Orange Salad

We need to make more Indian lentil (dal) dishes. This one was Toor Dal Uttar Pradesh Style, based on a recipe from Camellia Panjabi's 50 Great Curries of India:

Such rich flavor and vibrant colors.

We love a good hamburger. Recently, Sherry stacked one up so nicely that it reminded me of a burger advertisement with all of the layers nicely stacked. Pretty, but hard to get your mouth around...


We've had some ups and downs with ribs the past few years, but things were definitely on an up note this July 4th. Pork spare ribs - smokey and succulent:

Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

I've been messing around with "modernist" techniques a bit lately - in particular, with cheese. This is a Mac and Cheese that uses Sodium Citrate to get a silky-smooth texture:

Modernist Mac 'n Cheese

I haven't got it fully sorted out yet, but it is fun to play with. The sausage is decidedly un-"modernist" - a homemade Sicilian sausage, one of our favorite recipes from Rytek Kutas' Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing.

Speaking of meat curing, and returning full circle to bacon, this was our most recent batch:

Dry Cured Bacon

We added a step to our normal process to dry cure it in the magic fridge for a week before smoking. The result was very, very good - a really intense, concentrated flavor and texture. I think it will become a standard practice for us.

Phew - that's it for the first part of the round-up. Stay tuned for the next half!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Grilled Sardines

Grilled Sardines

We've been on the lookout for sardines ever since we had them a few years back at Sea Rocket Bistro. When fresh pacific sardines showed up at Catalina Offshore last week, we jumped at the chance to get some.

Grilled Sardines

After gutting them (they had already been scaled), the prep was a simple marinade of garlic, lemon juice, parsley, salt, pepper, and just a drizzle of olive oil.

A wooden skewer through the mouth and down the center keeps them flat and makes them easier to eat.

Grilled Sardines

A few minutes on the grill, and they are done:

Grilled Sardines

To eat them, you grab the skewer and use a fork, starting just below the head, to peel away the meat from each side. If you do it right, the bones stay on your plate and you get a nice sardine filet.

Grilled Sardines

Sardine filet not pictured above because it was in my belly.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

IPAison - A West Coast IPA with Saison Yeast

IPAison West Coast IPA with Saison Yeast

We like IPAs and we like Saisons, so what would we get if we tried combining the two styles?

A very tasty beer, indeed.

We used a West Coast style IPA malt and hop profile, but rather than using our typical California ale yeast we used a Saison strain instead. The Saison yeast (we used White Labs WLP568) adds subtle spicy/fruity overtones that work really well with the hop profile.

We also experimented with some new (for us) hop varieties in this beer, since our go-to hops (Simcoe and Amarillo) were not available.

The "IPAison" has been a really nice summer beer. We'll definitely be putting this recipe (or variants of it) in our regular brewing rotation.


A West Coast IPA brewed with a Saison Yeast.

Total batch size = 5 gallons; Partial Mash in 3 gallon beverage cooler; ~3 gallon 60 minute stove-top boil; late malt extract addition; dry hopped for aroma; target abv of 7%

3 lb Briess Golden Light Dry Malt Extract (DME)
2 1/4 lb Briess Pilsen Dry Malt Extract (DME)
5 lb 2-Row Pale Malt
1/2 lb Carapils/Dextrin Malt
1/2 lb Wheat Malt
2 oz Centennial Hops
1 1/2 oz Zythos Hops
1 1/2 oz Summit Hops
1 1/2 oz Horizon Hops
1 tablet Whirlfloc
White Labs WLP568 Saison Ale Yeast Blend

Hop Schedule:
1 oz Centennial - 60 minutes boil
1/2 oz Horizon - 30 minutes boil
1/2 oz Zythos - 25 minutes boil
1/2 oz Summit - 15 minutes boil
1/2 oz Horizon - 2 minutes boil
1/2 oz Zythos - 2 minutes boil
1/4 oz Summit - 0 minutes boil
1 oz Centennial - Dry Hop in Secondary Fermenter
3/4 oz Summit - Dry Hop in Secondary Fermenter
1/2 oz Horizon - Dry Hop in Secondary Fermenter
1/2 oz Zythos - Dry Hop in Secondary Fermenter

Heat 8 quarts water to 165 degrees for a target mash temperature of 150 degrees. Place the 6 pounds of crushed grain (2-Row Pale, Wheat and Carapils) into a large mesh bag. Pour the hot water into the beverage cooler, then lower the grain bag into the water very slowly, pushing and prodding with a large spoon to ensure all the grain is wet (this can take several minutes). Put the lid on the cooler and allow to rest 60 minutes.

While the grains are mashing, heat another 5-6 quarts of water to 180-185 degrees for sparging (rinsing the grains). Near the end of the 60 minutes, heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in your brew pot.

After the first mash is complete, remove the cooler lid and open the spigot to draw off about 2 quarts of wort into a large pitcher. The first few draws will likely be cloudy with grain particles; pour it gently back into the cooler over the grain bag to help filter it. Draw off the remaining wort by the pitcher-full and carefully pour that wort into the boiling water in your brew pot; continue until only a trickle of wort leaves the spigot. Pour about 5 quarts of your hot sparge water over the grain bag in the cooler. Gently lift the bag up and down to thoroughly re-wet the grains (but don't slosh). Cover and let sit about 5 minutes. Use the spigot and a pitcher to draw off all of the second wort and add it to your brew pot. (Alternatively, heat the sparge water to 195 and carefully add it a pint at a time while you draw off the first wort. Keep the liquid level 1 inch over the grain bed until all sparge water has been added, then slowly draw off the remainder.)

You should have about 3 gallons of wort. Bring the wort to a boil and add hops according to the schedule. With 15-20 minutes remaining in the boil, begin adding the DME one cup at a time, stirring to dissolve. At time zero, continue adding DME off the heat until all has been added (if needed, return to low heat for a few minutes to help dissolve the extract). Stir in 1 tablet Whirlfloc. Cover and let sit 10-15 minutes.

Move brew pot to an ice bath and cool quickly to less than 80 degrees. Transfer wort to a primary fermenter (straining off the hops if desired). Add water to reach the 5 gallon mark. Swirl vigorously then pitch the yeast.

Ferment in primary for 1 week, then transfer to secondary. After 4 days, add dry hops from hop schedule. Bottle or keg after fermentation is complete (2 to 3 weeks in secondary).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Some Dishes with Fishes - Round Six

Shrimp al Mojo de Ajo

Here we are again with another look back at some of the fish dishes we've had in the past few months. Above is Shrimp al Mojo de Ajo - shrimp in a slowly caramelized garlic sauce. Some bread for dipping is a necessity - you can't let any of that sauce go to waste!

Grilled Yellowtail Collar
Grilled Yellowtail Collar

We've gotten these Yellowtail collars from Catalina Offshore a couple of times now, and really enjoy them. We give them a quick brine and then toss them on the grill. They taste great and there is a surprising amount of meat on them.

Seared Swordfish with Thyme
Seared Swordfish with Thyme

While mediocre Swordfish can be uninspiring, good Swordfish is truly outstanding. Juicy and flavorful, you don't need to do much to it.

Bay Scallops in Caramel Sauce
Bay Scallops in Caramel Sauce

This was an experiment that wasn't quite a success. The sweetness of the Vietnamese caramel sauce combined with the natural sweetness of the scallops was a bit much. It was pretty, though!

Callo de Hacha Scallops
Callo de Hacha Scallops

A more successful dish was these Callo de Hacha Scallops (so named because they look like the head of an axe when in the shell). We didn't do much to them, and just barely cooked them through. Fantastic, subtle flavor.

California King Salmon
California King Salmon

Because we've been trying to eat local fish, and salmon don't grow around here, we haven't had it very much. We really like it, though, so when Catalina Offshore got some in from Northern California we decided that was local enough.

Black Gill Sandwich
Black Gill Sandwich

I love a good fish sandwich. This one was Black Gill Rock Cod (a new favorite fish of ours), panko-crusted. Don't forget the pickles!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tijuana Seafood - Tacos Kokopelli, El Mazateno, Erizo

Grilled Octopus at Tacos Kokopelli in Tijuana

We were back in Tijuana this past Saturday for our second weekend in a row. This time we went on a progressive seafood meal organized by Turista Libre and Life&Food.

When we ate at the Tacos Kokopelli stand at last weekend's Baja Beer Fest, I thought their name seemed familiar. It turns out that they were our first stop on this trip.

Tacos Kokopelli in Tijuana

Tacos Kokopelli is a little stand in front of a print shop a few blocks south and east of the tourist stretch on Revolución.

We had two of the same tacos we had last weekend - the "Kraken" (grilled octopus) and the Marlin Pibil. They were even better this time around.

Kraken octopus taco at Tacos Kokopelli in Tijuana

We got the octopus served inside a green chile before being wrapped in the corn tortilla. The chile not only adds great flavor, but it also acts as a barrier to help keep your taco from falling apart. We may have to steal this technique when making tacos at home.

Our second stop was El Mazateño - a Sinaloan seafood restaurant. The place was surprisingly large inside and was bustling with activity.

Mariscos El Mazateno in Tijuana

We first tried a cup of their shrimp broth - rich, quite spicy and a great way to whet your appetite:

Shrimp broth at Mariscos El Mazateno in Tijuana

Then the main event - their famous camarón enchilado (spicy shrimp) taco:

Camaron enchilado taco at Mariscos El Mazateno in Tijuana

Not overly hot, but very flavorful and a generous portion. We piled them up with the provided pico de gallo, shredded cabbage and sauces and got down to the serious business of trying to eat the tacos before they self destructed.

Our last seafood stop was Erizo Baja Fish House and Market - one of the places run by Baja Med restaurateur Javier Plascencia.

Erizo Baja Fish House and Market in Tijuana

We relaxed in the comfortable, modern space and enjoyed fish and mango tostadas:

Fish and mango tostada at Erizo Baja Fish House and Market in Tijuana

I'm not always a fan of fruit and seafood mixed together, but this tostada was fantastic. Everything was perfectly seasoned and the brightness of the mango went very well with the fish (a ceviche of Cabichuco - a type of white sea bass).

That was the end of the seafood portion of the program - now it was time for dessert!

Tepoznieves in Tijuana

Tepoznieves is an ice cream chain originating in Tepoztlán - a small town outside of Mexico city. They carry a ridiculous number of flavors - ranging from the standard favorites to the bizarre.

Tepoznieves in Tijuana

I went relatively conservative - pistachio, coconut with gin, and mangolin (mango with red chile):

Tepoznieves in Tijuana

My favorite of the flavors I tried was the mangolin (hidden at the bottom of the cup pictured above). It reminded me of an ice cream version of the fresh mango with chile you can get from street vendors all over Mexico.

We highly recommend all of the places we stopped on this trip, and more importantly, we recommend that you get yourself down to Tijuana.

Tacos Kokopelli
Avenida Ocampo near the corner of Bulevar Agua Caliente

Mariscos El Mazateño
Calzada Tecnologico, No. 473
Tomas Aquino

Erizo Baja Fish House and Market
Ave. Sonora 3808

Sánchez Taboada 10737