Galley and Kitchen: What’s on our Spice Racks

Penzeys Spices_n

So that we’re ready to hit the ground running (or to hit the kitchen cooking) when we return to Point Hope in August, we place our Penzeys Spices order in April. 

Onboard our summer home, the sailing vessel Bandon, galley space is limited and so the question If you had to choose just a few herbs and spices… is answered out of necessity. Sea salt, Tellicherry pepper, powdered garlic, powdered wasabi, an Italian seasoning blend, herbs de provence and a couple of spicy chili-pepper-based blends or rubs are essentials in our kitchen. We also keep on hand soy sauce, Cholula sauce, olive oil (both light olive oil for frying and extra virgin for other uses), and when we can, sherry. Our meals tend to center around fresh seafood, and these minerals, herbs, spices and condiments go well with fresh fish.

Up in Point Hope where our kitchen is much larger, our herb and  spice collection is far more extensive and includes a variety of extracts as well. We’ve discovered that even something as basic as salt can vary greatly from one type to another. For example, smoked sea salt can be the “secret ingredient” that makes a stew, soup or chili stand out. And if you haven’t tried grey sea salt on fish, you’re in for a pleasant surprise when you do. It’s usually packaged coarse or slightly coarse, but it’s  damp, so don’t be tempted to put it in a grinding mill. Use it in its coarse form. Also called Celtic sea salt or sel gris, this mineral-rich salt from the Brittany region of France  is especially nice on broiled salmon. Like many others in this food-appreciating time we live in, we’ve come a long way from the days when Morton’s Iodized  was the only salt in our kitchen.

Another change we’ve been making is a gradual shift away from prepared spice and herb blends toward our own hand-crafted blends. We keep our old bottles of blends like Northwoods Fire, Southwest Seasoning, Italian Seasoning, Curry Seasoning and so forth, but these days those bottles are filled with similar-but-unique creations. The modifications we make to the original recipes have resulted in blends we are really pleased with, and it’s satisfying to grind and mix our own chili-pepper-based rubs. Carefully considering the ingredients that go into these blends has led us to a fuller understanding of herbs and spices.

This past year our “great discovery” was Penzeys Spices’ whole smoked chipotle chili peppers. Ground with our immersion blender as we need them, these peppers add a rich, smokey heat to chili, squash soups, cloudberry or raspberry chipotle sauce, and chicken noodle soup. Blended into a rub, smoked chipotle’s add another dimension to broiled halibut, salmon, moose or pork. 

The spice we’re most anticipating using in the coming year is high-grade Kashmir Mogra saffron. We’ve been using Spanish Coupé  which is very nice, but we’ve been wondering if the higher quality Kashmir Mogra is worth it. We’ll let you know what we conclude this fall.

Less than two weeks till we’re back aboard Bandon in Seward!

Whole Sheefish (or any fish) Poached in Foil

sheefish whole poached in foil_n

A large fish poached and served whole makes for a dramatic presentation and a first-class dining experience. You don’t need a fancy fish poacher to pull this off. Aluminum foil works beautifully in the galley, on the grill, over a campfire, or in the kitchen. Here are the basics. 

Sheefish whole poach_n

This past winter, we’ve been dining on sheefish (inconnu) in the six-to-eight-pound class. Measuring 25 – 30 inches, these fish of the far north are just small enough to fit into our oven and serve whole. Because sheefish is bony and not easily filleted, they are well-suited to this cooking method; when served, the meat comes easily off the bones. With firm white meat in large, sweet, flakey chunks, sheefish are comparable to striped bass, European seabass, Japanese seabass (suzuki) and similar fish. Here in Alaska, foil poaching works beautifully with salmon, rockfish, char and small halibut.

Poaching and steaming recipes need not be complicated. Although we generally start with a court bouillon or dashi and add Chardonnay when we have it, equal parts of water and Chardonnay alone make a perfectly acceptable basic poaching stock. No wine on hand? A little water – enough to keep the fish bathed in steam – is sufficient. Anything else is a matter of taste. We’ve found it difficult to improve on a combination of sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, lemon, butter and bacon. Olive oil makes a good substitution for butter and bacon.

One of the beautiful things about this recipe is that the ingredients can be prepared beforehand so that they’re ready for a shore lunch or camp dinner to celebrate a special catch.

Incidentally, wakame (dried kelp) and dried bonito flakes are an ideal base for fish stock for campers and sailors. These ingredients are light, easy to store, and last indefinitely. This dashi-style stock can be enhanced with salt, soy sauce, white wine, sherry or sake.sheefish

See more of Detlef Buettner’s beautiful art at: http://home.gci.net/~lifesize.fish/salmonids.htm

Poached fish is an excellent meal to serve with freshly baked French bread or sourdough bread. We and our guests enjoyed the above sheefish served on saffron rice cooked in a clam juice broth, spooning the poaching broth onto our rice and fish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole fish, scaled, gutted, gilled, rinsed off and patted dry.
  • aluminum foil sufficient to entirely wrap around the fish. We double wrap to prevent leaking.
  • poaching/steaming liquid – approximately 1/3 cup per pound of fish. (About 2 1/2 cups for an 8-pound fish.) See below for easy poaching liquid recipe.
  • 1 tbsp butter per pound of fish. (An 8-pound fish takes 1 stick of butter.)
  • very thin slices of lemon to cover one side of fish
  • strips of bacon to cover one side of fish. (about 5 strips for an 8-pound fish)
  • lemon juice to rinse stomach cavity – approximately 2 tbsp for an 8-pound fish
  • sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to rub into cavity and both sides of fish – approximately 2 – 3 tbsp sea salt for an 8-pound fish

Directions:

  1. Place large baking sheet in oven and preheat to 450 °F.
  2. Arrange aluminum foil on flat surface. Thoroughly coat foil with butter where fish will be placed.
  3. Rub lemon juice into fish’s stomach cavity. 
  4. Use a very sharp knife to make shallow diagonal slashes spaced about 1 inch apart from the head of the fish to the tail. Do this on both sides.
  5. Rub salt and pepper mixture onto both sides of fish and into cavity.
  6. Place fish onto buttered foil.
  7. Rub butter into fish’s cavity. Rub remaining butter on top side of fish.
  8. Arrange lemon slices on top side of fish.
  9. Arrange bacon slices atop fish.
  10. Pour poaching liquid along the sides of fish, taking care not to rinse the off the top of the fish.
  11. Close foil around fish and place on baking sheet (or on grill, etc.) Cook until a few dorsal fin rays can be easily pulled from fish. Total time will be approximately 5 – 6 minutes per pound. An 8-pound fish will cook for 40 minutes.
  12. Note: We like to remove the bacon when the fish is finished cooking, crisp it up in a pan, and return the bacon to the top of the fish prior to serving. The bacon drippings can be drizzled atop the fish as well.

Poaching Liquid Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 5 inch square of wakame (dried kelp – available in Asian grocers.)
  • 5 grams (0.17 ounces) dried bonito flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp miso paste (optional)
  • Optional: replace 1/2 cup water with white wine or sake

Directions:

  1. Place water in pan and heat over high heat. Add wakame and salt, stir occasionally and continue heating but do not boil.
  2. When Wakame is soft, add bonito flakes. Cook briefly in steaming water and stir gently. Do not boil.
  3. Pour mixture through wire strainer into pan or bowl.
  4. If desired, return strained soup to low heat and stir in miso paste till dissolved.

Chocolate Pots for Two

Chocolate Pots for Two_n

Creamy dark chocolate pots with an almond essence are an elegant dessert, perfect for two.

Our holiday guest has left and we are back to just the two of us in our home in the Arctic. I like to scale down recipes so that Jack and I can enjoy freshly made sweets without having too many around to tempt us. These chocolate pots are rich and delicious, and half-cup servings provided a gourmet finish to a meal of caribou stroganoff. While I flavored these with a hint of almond, adding orange zest, a sprig of mint, or a very thin curl of lime peel would be among numerous other delectable variations. We topped the pots with a chocolate covered pomegranate.

Chocolate Pots

Ingredients: (For two 1/2 cup servings)

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Directions

  1. Place chocolate chips, sugar and cream in a small pot.
  2. Heat chocolate mixture over low heat. Stir continuously until mixture is smooth. Turn off heat.
  3. Whisk yolks and extracts in a small bowl.
  4. Slowly pour half of the melted chocolate mixture into egg yolks while whisking to temper eggs.
  5. Pour egg mixture back into small pot.
  6. Heat pot over low heat while stirring continuously for 3 – 5 minutes. Mixture should thicken slightly.
  7. Pour chocolate into two decorative ramekins.
  8. Let chill in refrigerator uncovered. Serve fully chilled and topped with something fun – a candied nut or a chocolate covered espresso bean.

Portabella Cap Stuffed with Yelloweye Rockfish

This summer’s fishing has brought us riches of our one of our favorite species, Sebastes ruberrimus, yelloweye rockfish. The collar meat of yelloweye, especially the smaller two to five pound fish, has a lobster-like texture and taste that we’ve enjoyed experimenting with and have even served as one would lobster with drawn butter. In this creation, we combined yelloweye with another favorite, Portabella mushroom caps, and paired it with a Willamette Valley Chardonnay for one of the easiest and best meals of the summer.

Ingredients for two servings:

  • ½ pound collar meat from yelloweye rockfish, chopped into small pieces. (Substitute similar fish such as red snapper, red porgy, striped bass or walleye)
  • 2 portabella mushroom caps, stems removed
  • 2 portabella mushroom stems (from above), chopped coarse
  • egg whites from 2 eggs
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine, divided into equal parts
  • ½ cup rice crackers (sesame flavor is good) crumbled fairly fine
  • 2 tsp soy sauce, separated into 1 tsp each
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp finely chopped tarragon
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a frying pan large enough to hold the 2 mushroom caps and heat over medium low heat.
  2. Add the mushrooms, gill side up, and cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1 tsp soy sauce and half the garlic. Turn the caps and move around so the gills absorb the soy sauce. Cook until mushroom is tender.
  4. Meanwhile, combine yelloweye meat, crackers, parmesan, tarragon, egg whites, chopped portabella stems, a healthy dollop of olive oil, a few grinds of pepper and the remaining garlic and soy sauce in a bowl, mixing ingredients together.
  5. Heat a frying pan over medium-high to high heat (you want enough heat to drive off moisture), add olive oil to cover the bottom, and add the yelloweye mixture, stirring frequently for about two minutes. Add sherry and continue cooking until browned, stirring frequently. Avoid overcooking.
  6. Place cooked yelloweye mixture on sautéed mushroom caps, garnish with a few tarragon leaves, (or, nori, or, better still, a shiso leaf, if available)

We served this dish with home fried potatoes, asparagus sautéed in butter and lemon, and a creamy Chardonnay with touch of oak, toasted almonds, and hints of fall fruit.

Afternoon Delight – Strawberries and Zabaglione

Cold, windy, rainy days are perfect days for making something special. This bowl of Strawberries and Zabaglione created with egg yolks, sugar and port wine took only about 15 minutes to prepare – and about two minutes to make disappear.

Some days on Resurrection Bay, glorious sunshine and turquoise waters allow us to imagine we are in the Bahamas rather than Alaska. But this afternoon’s dark skies, white-capped waters and steady drum of cold rain made it a good day to keep the companionway hatch closed and remain cozily tucked into our sailboat with a warm fire in our Dickinson fireplace.

With a few simple ingredients, I whipped up a lovely afternoon snack which had just enough warmth to it to keep the chill outside at bay.

Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp port wine

Directions

  1. Whisk all ingredients together over a double boiler until it is not quite as thick as pudding.
  2. Serve immediately over berries. Top with sliced almonds or a spring of fresh mint.

Five Layer Port Berry Tart – Enjoying Summer Berries and Living Larger (if you’re not careful)

A crunchy cookie crust coated with dark chocolate is the foundation for this delicious tart. Layer on sliced almonds and pastry cream. Then finish with port wine-marinated berries. Yum!

Summer has always meant berries to me. When I was young, we would pick buckets of blackberries in thickets behind our home. I have fond memories of hot, sun-drenched, juicy strawberries at a “you-pick” farm…one for the container, one for me. All throughout my summers…berries. I can never seem to get enough of them. Maybe it is because their season is so fleeting.

In their short growing season, wild berries grow abundantly in Alaska. In the past, we’ve picked salmonberries, raspberries, blueberries and currents here on the Kenai Peninsula. This summer, our departure will beat the arrival of these ripening berries. Sigh. Fortunately, the local Seward grocery store supplied me with strawberries and blueberries to meet my berry craving.

This galley-sized tart serves four and was prepared in a Denby pasta bowl. In a traditional kitchen, you might double this recipe and bake it in a fluted tart or a springform pan. A dash of almond or vanilla extract might also be a nice flavor in the pastry cream. These are not staples in Bandon’s galley. Any berries could be used in this recipe. I would imagine ripe peaches would also be delicious.

Five Layer Port Berry Tart

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter (separated into 2 portions of 2 tbsp each)
  • 12 rectangles of dark chocolate bar
  • 1/3 cup of sliced almonds

Pastry Cream

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup low fat milk

Berry Topping

  • 1 cup of berries, I used sliced strawberries and whole blueberries
  • 2 tsp of brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp port wine
  • a few sliced almonds to garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Thoroughly mix together all-purpose flour and 2 tbsp brown sugar.
  3. Cut in unsalted butter.
  4. Mix to form dough ball (add drips of cold water if more moisture is needed to form dough).
  5. Press dough evenly into greased bakeware.
  6. Use tines of fork to prick dough all over the bottom and up the sides of the dough.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Let crust cool on wire rack in bakeware.
  9. On low heat, in a medium saucepan, melt chocolate and 2 tbsp of unsalted butter. Stir constantly.
  10. When chocolate mixture is thoroughly melted and mixed, spread evenly onto cooled crust, ensuring bottom and sides of crust are coated.
  11. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of sliced almonds onto melted chocolate. Press almonds into melted chocolate. Let cool and harden.
  12. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks and 1/4 cup brown sugar until fully incorporated.
  13. Add semolina to egg mixture and whisk until fully incorporated. Set aside.
  14. Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan on medium heat just until it boils.
  15. Whisk in heated milk mixture to egg mixture tablespoon by tablespoon, in order to avoid cooking eggs.
  16. Pour egg and milk mixture back into saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until it thickens (should coat a wooden spoon).
  17. Continue cooking and stirring for two additional minutes. Cool pastry cream completely. Place plastic wrap over pastry cream to avoid developing a skin.
  18. Take remaining 2 tsp of brown sugar and mix with 2 tbsp of port wine.
  19. Pour port wine mixture over berries and let marinate while pastry cream is cooling.
  20. When ready to assemble, strain berries out of port wine mixture.
  21. Assemble tart by spreading cooled pastry cream evenly over chocolate coated crust and then placing strained berries atop pastry cream. Sprinkle a few sliced almonds on top of the berry layer and enjoy immediately.

The crust and pastry cream can be made ahead of time and will keep well in the fridge. Then you can easily assemble this delightful dessert right before you serve it. We did share two of the four servings with our dock neighbors to avoid living too “large!”

Rockfish Meunière on Whole Wheat Pasta

A fillet prepared à la meunière and served on pasta is one of our favorites when cooking with firm, delicately flavored white fish. We modify the traditional recipe, which means “miller’s wife” (descriptive of the flour this method employs) by using olive oil instead of butter and by skipping the lemon and butter finishing sauce.

Our three favorite methods for preparing fish, in no particular order, are as follows: sashimi – raw, thinly sliced fish dipped in a soy sauce and wasabi mixture; shioyaki – fish salted and then broiled or grilled; and à la meunière – dredged in seasoned flour and pan fried. These three preparation methods are the epitome of simplicity, emphasizing the freshness of the fish rather than sauces or seasonings, and can be accomplished in even the most bare-bones of kitchens. While they won’t adequately cover every species of fish (some species do well only when poached, and a few others shine best when deep fried), they are good methods to have in one’s repertoire.

A collar – the meat just behind the fish’s head, including the pectoral and ventral fins – is a good candidate for meunière. Pictured is the collar from a two to three pound yelloweye rockfish.

Each cooking method works particularly well with certain species of fish. Chinook salmon, for example, is a superb fish for shioyaki and a much underutilized sashimi fish. Yellowtail and other tuna are excellent served as sashimi. When you think of meunière, think of fish that is white, firm but not dense, and mildly or even delicately flavored. Some of the best candidates are sole, flounder, greenling and Pacific rockfish in the genus Sebastes such as black rockfish, copper rockfish, yelloweye and so forth.

Rockfish à la Meunière on Pasta for Two

Ingredients:

  • two fish fillets 1/4 to 1/2 pounds each (110 to 230 grams), cleaned, skin removed, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels. Do not use a thick cut of fish for this. The fillets should be fairly thin – less than an inch thick (2.5 cm) as opposed to using part of a fillet from a large fish.
  • 1/3 cup semolina flour. (All-purpose or other flour is fine, but semolina will result in a very pleasant additional crunch and fuller texture to the finished fillet.)
  • 1/2 tablespoon herbs de Provence, plus 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence, separate
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 3 to 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • olive oil for frying
  • enough pasta for two servings
Directions:
  1. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain off water, return to pot and toss with about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence. Set aside. (Or do this simultaneously while cooking the fish.)
  2. In a plastic Ziplock bag, or in a mixing bowl or on a plate, mix together the flour, 1/2 tablespoons herbs de Provence, salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Thoroughly dredge the fillets in the flour mixture and set aside on a plate or cutting board. Left over flour can be used as a bed for the fillets.
  4. In a frying pan large enough to hold both fillets, add olive oil to about 1/8 inch depth. Heat over medium to medium-low until oil causes a pinch of flour to sizzle.
  5. Position fillets in pan making sure they do not touch. Cook uncovered over medium to medium-low heat for about 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. Carefully turn the fillets over. Add garlic slices and pine nuts and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes. The first few times you cook fish this way, you may have to break the fillets apart to check for doneness as it will vary depending on thickness, type of fish and cooking temperature.
  7. Place pasta on dinner plates. Remove fillets from pan and place on pasta. Use a slotted spoon to separate garlic and pine nuts from oil and sprinkle on fish and pasta.
  8. Serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

We served the pasta and fillet with a side of fish collars, also prepared à la meunière, and brussels sprouts sliced in half, seasoned with salt and pepper, and pan roasted. This is a simple yet elegant meal that can be prepared in a galley, on a camp stove, or in virtually any kitchen.