Seafood in Coconut Broth

Serious Eats (the best cooking website ever IMO) posted about Marcus Samuelsson’s salmon in a sea of coconut milk from his recently published Marcus Off Duty (http://www.amazon.com/Marcus-Off-Duty-Recipes-Cook/dp/0470940581).  I love salmon, I love coconut milk, so I made a riff on it (no way the Bob was eating avocado in soup, hearts of palm don’t kill me, and the miso seemed sort of out of place).  It was pretty good.  But then I got to thinking, what I really wanted was a coconut shellfish soup.

So recently I have been making one with what I would call more of a procedure/plan rather than a recipe. Lobster tails  are key here (our Harris Teeter has them for four to six bucks a piece for small wild caught Canadian ones – you probably wouldn’t steam them and serve them with drawn butter but they work admirably in this preparation) as are shrimps (head on if you can find them). I set a cup of light chicken broth (though you could really just use water) on the stove and toss in the lobster shells, shrimp shells, shrimp heads if I have them, and some aromatics (usually lemon grass, a Thai chili, some cilantro stems, a slice of ginger, a kafir lime leaf, a few scallions, and a couple smashed cloves of garlic).  Then I let it boil. Meanwhile, sous vide the lobster and shrimp meat (around 130 ish) for 20-30 minutes.  This doesn’t have to be perfectly exact since they will be going into hot broth.

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Add water to the broth as necessary and after about 20-30 minutes you should have a rich broth redolent of the sea.  It really is that easy. Fish everything out and strain through a cheese cloth (usually only necessary if there were shrimp heads) until you have a broth that looks something like this:

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At that point add coconut milk to taste (though really don’t use the light stuff) and toss in some Asian greens (this time I used the tops of baby bok choi) and sliced water chestnuts.

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While the greens are softening prepare a nuoc cham type sauce (palm sugar, fish sauce, lime, chili, garlic).  I doctored the nuoc cham from the market run by the chaps from Toki Underground in Union Station (http://unionmarketdc.com/market/artisans/honeycomb-grocer/) by adding some garlic and a hint of agave.  As an aside, that market  is seriously amazing since they make so many Asian sauces fresh so I don’t have to any more.  Also chop up some scallions and cilantro leaves. And pull out your chili garlic oil (you can make this ahead, just buy from the Asian market – or if you live in DC swing by Union Market and pick it up from Honeycomb). Seriously I can’t tell you how great having that shop around is.  It’s like somebody’s nice Asian grandmother in the form of tatted up hipsters.

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When the leaves are cooked as you like them, dump in the nuoc cham and seafood  and you’re good to go.

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There are so many ways to serve this. You could omit the greens and serve it alone as a fancy appetizer – which is quite charming for dinner parties.  But on most nights I want a full meal in that bowl so I pour it over rice or pre-cooked fresh ramen noodles (also from Honeycomb – have I mentioned that place is ah-mazing?). Finish with fried garlic and a drizzle of chili oil.

However you serve it, you get a satisfying dish that packs all of the sweet, sour, spicy, and salty flavors one craves from Southeast Asian cuisine. And if you hate seafood, just stick with good homemade chicken stock, sous vide a breast so it stays tender and use that. I bet it will be good too. Or pork … the options abound!

Sous Vide Butter Chicken

I don’t often cook Indian food at home and I don’t often consider something called “butter chicken” Indian food. But the Bob loves the stuff. And then I recently tried the version from Rasika – which was very good.

Then, last weekend the NYT cooking newsletter showed up in my inbox and Sam Sifton had a butter chicken recipe with bone in chicken thighs and ground nuts. Ok well that’s like the murg makhani that my grandmother makes. So I decided to give it a shot.

Since I had promised Bob his favorite Indian restaurant food I decided to go with boneless chicken. But boneless skinless breasts that most restaurants use are dry even if simmered in cream. Instead I made a yogurt and spice marinade and tossed cut up thighs into the sous vide for 2 hours.

While they were cooking I sautéed a red onion in butter until soft and slightly brown. I added some garlic, ginger, san marzano tomatoes, tomato paste, turmeric, garam masala, fenugreek, 2 black cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick (fished out before serving), ground cumin, and chili powder. (I didn’t have a fresh chili which would have been preferable).

All of this is just to taste, so experiment because it will depend on the strength and freshness of your spices. I let it cook (adding water if it looked too dry – while the sous vide did it’s magic on the chicken). I fired off the chicken when it was ready, stirred the yogurt marinade into the curry, added a dollop (more than a dollop) of heavy cream, some cilantro and sliced scallions. I say bring it on Vikram Sundaram!

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I served this with leftover palak paneer with home made paneer and naan and rice from the local Indian joint (it’s just way easier that way).

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Tip on the plain rice: reheat it in the microwave with really good butter and saffron on top, it’s divine.

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Oh and if you don’t have a sous vide machine I say use thighs and leave the bone in, tender chicken really is key here.

Duck with Chive Fried Rice

One of my favorite Chinese restaurant meals is crispy duck and a side of stir fried chives. Obviously I can’t make the perfect Peking duck at home (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN2snMPi3sc) so I decided to try something different. I sous vided a duck breast for perfect meat. Then I removed the skin, crisped it and let it cool.  While it was cooling I made some fried rice with Chinese chives and shitake mushrooms.  To serve I crunched up the skin (in a bag with a rolling pin) and served it over the rice.  Voilà all the flavor I was craving and crunchy crackling to boot.

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Summer Sides

While I can pretty much eat tomato and watermelon salad every single day during the summer but I’ve been adding some different sides to the rotation this week.

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Charred shisito peppers topped with a little smoked maldon sea salt are about as easy as you can get.

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Buttered farmer’s market potatoes with garlic chives pretty much effortless as well. Especially when they are as beautiful as these.

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And bacon roasted carrots and radishes tossed with basil are an unusual but vibrant addition with any grilled meat.

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And finally my take on the bizarre Korean side dish of cheese corn. This used cream and gochujang instead of mayonnaise and was topped with scallions, Amish cheddar and cotija cheese. Now there’s some fusion for you. And it was delicious too!