seafood Tag

Spicy mussel and burnt mushroom toast w/ broth

overcooking mussels is not a victimless crime.  do not engage.

Amongst all the abundant obstacles in between humanity and happiness, I am perhaps most snuggly and intimate with one in particular.  Jealousy.  I am jealous a lot, both in frequency and of subjects.  If you had just crossed my path in a white linen dress resting around a decently shaped neck, chances are, in the privacy of my somber awareness, I hated the shit out of you.  I don’t want to.  But it doesn’t matter what I want.  I am betrothed to my involuntary raid on all signs of missing things.

What does this have to do with mussels or mushrooms, or toasts for that matter?  Well, for it stands as a mascot for a particular specimen of humankind – one of many others of course – who consistently requests for my envy in every encounters:

Self-enjoying party hosts.

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SALMON RED CURRY CEVICHE

CEVICHE… IS A MONICA AND CHANDLER.

My relationship with foods can be summarized into two types of romance: Ross and Rachel, or Monica and Chandler.

Either it has been a life-long marathon of unshakable attractions, torments, break-ups and make-ups, which I’ll admit including a vast array of things going from pearl bubble teas to cans of SPAM.  Or, I spend my whole life staring at it without much urge or lust, but one day, out of no where, it’s like coal on fire.

I was never a fanatic for ceviche, presumably, chalky-pale chunks of seafoods swimming in a cloudy sour pool.  I mean, I’d eat it if it was right in front of me when I’m marinating in a sweltering hot summer day while my butt-cheeks are unnaturally sticking together and the next frappuccino is 1/2-block-away-too-far.  It promises not to give me any culinarily transmitted diseases, and I promise not to call its number unless necessary, but the casual hook-up pretty much stops there.  It just never really gave me the butterflies is what I’m saying.  Then 18 months ago, I went to Lisbon where I stepped into a restaurant called A Cevicheria that pulled a string in my heart, where I started to look at their playful yet genuine takes on this dish with a whole new set of eyes.  Like noticing a small dimple that has always been there, it’s still ceviche, but all of a sudden, kind of cute.  Reasonably I should have dragged it home immediately, pick a church and make babies, but, a good romance is never without suspense.

It took destiny another 18 months to make the move.  This time, it ran into me.  It was a mid-summer night when I was laying in bed under the brisk wind of air-conditioning, holding an imaginary cigarette for dramatic effect, and it called out my name, a shrimp ceviche recipe by Lauren Egdal from Comparti Catering.  Evidently, that recipe isn’t the one you see me engaged to at this very moment, but it’s very much inspired by.  The idea of using coconut milk to form the base of the ceviche, giving it body, deriving it away from being just “cloudy sour pool”, elevating it even, into something tangy and delicious that one can mop up with a piece of bread, is quite frankly going to be our wedding vows.  The cold, creamy and citrusy red curry sauce gives just enough savoriness and aroma to bite-size pieces of semi-cured salmon, which is sufficiently attractive in itself.  But you’ll learn, as I did, that the true sexiness of a ceviche lies in its popping elements of surprises.  In this case, the sauce is perfumed with lime leaves, Thai basils and tarragons, and lightened up by soft dragonfruits and cherry tomatoes.  Tangy, salty, sweet, creamy and fragrant.

And did I mention it takes less than 30 minutes?  Now who’s blushing?

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THREE CHEESE OYSTER GRATIN

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MY MOJO (COULD HAVE) SANK INTO A MENTAL ABYSS SO DEEP, IT WOULD TAKE A KRISPY KREME-SUBMARINE TO RETRIEVE

  

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Hello.  Sorry.  I think it’s been awhile.  I don’t know if there was a guideline on the Successful Food Blogging Manual specifically on post-frequencies, but I’m sure an entire week of blankness and neglect would on the other hand, dominate the entire Troubleshoots Section (As well as questions like this: What to do when you accidentally publish an unfinished post?)(Answer: Call 911.)(And: What is a writer’s block?)(Answer: Eat a donut.).  Well, the truth is… that I wish there was a more socially excusable answer for my absence, you know, dog theft, broken hips, dead grandparents… house fire?  Because really, anything is better than what I’m about to confess, which is the silent gasps among food-bloggers, the leading Do-Not’s under the manual’s flashing red, Skull-headed Section that you should probably read before Getting Started (Side by side with: Bad-mouthing Jesus.)(And also: Cursing out children).  But the truth is that, in the past week, as honestly as I can put it… I simply got tired of foods.

Yes, if you were a food-blogger, along with the acute urge to weep after a deflated cake (Answer: Ingest alcohol and blog about that instead) and recipe-deficit (Answer: Put down the donut and make that a sandwich), this complication too can happen.  But different from how I’d imagine it, which should’ve been a natural and peaceful death following a long and beautiful journey, this temporary episode came prematurely due to a self-inflicted and unforeseeable cause.  In short, I simply got tired of foods because there had been simply, too much fooding.  Can there be such a thing?  Yes.  As briefly mentioned before, I partook in an annual Beijing’s restaurants review for a city magazine, thinking it was going to be the best blogging-perk ever, but after cramming almost twenty restaurants into the past mere four weeks (that’s 3~5 restaurants per week!), things started to get a little… overcooked.  Like a bridezilla on her third wedding, I had managed to turn the single, most appreciated aspect of my otherwise ungrateful life, into just another demeaning chore.  To say the least, it backfired.

Even though this miscalculated experiment, for my wellness sake, timely ended last Thursday, it has left me in a prolonged state of mental paralysis where I just wanted to suck my thumbs in peace and not having to come up with another word to describe a meal other than cursing it out.  I wanted to just exist… on soda crackers for a month.  Or so at least, fortunately, it only felt that way.  To my surprise as well, thanks to a book here and there, it only took a few days for the cravings to cook again to slowly creep back in, and literally, exploded over this weekend.  In hindsight, if the two dishes I made over the weekend had flopped, my mojo would’ve sank into a mental abyss so deep it would take a krispy krem-submarine to retrieve.  But no, they didn’t flop.  In fact, they were both smashing success, and one of them being what I’m about to tell you – the three cheese oyster gratin.

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This recipe was inspired by what we didn’t have at Vin Vi, one of the better restaurants/izakaya we’ve dined at during this entire process, which was on their menu but unavailable the day we visited.  I’ve always loved izakaya-style cheesy grilled oysters/kaki mayo, where shucked in-shell oysters are topped with a mixture of Kewpie-mayonnaise and cheese, then go under high heat to be melted into the gloriously broken, greasy, and unapologetic beauties that they are.  Its absence from that meal (perhaps thankfully to that) had left a vacuum in my oyster-deprived heart that, even after the most vicious eating-fatigue, must be filled.  But if there was one thing I didn’t like about kaki mayo, it’d be the pool of oil they often sit on, being the aftermath of post-high heat mayonnaise that had inevitably separated.

So I substituted the mayonnaise with a thick béchamel sauce infused with dry white wine and loaded it with shredded white cheddar, gruyere, and a daring pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.  Then after blanketing the shucked oysters from all directions with this stringy goo, it was then covered again with freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, more freshly grated nutmegs (the key, people, the key), and a few/or many little nubs of unsalted butter.  Baked under the top-broiler for 13~15 minutes, the sweet oysters had released their juices to be blended as part of the cheesy pool of joy, slightly shrivelled and firmed up but still supple to the bite, smoldering under a crust of golden and bubbly surface.  I’d warn you that it was hot, but again it might had been too late.  After all, even I, who have been subjected to an entire month of human-foie gras feeding regimen and was already at the stage of over-ripened-for-harvest, couldn’t resist to (huff~ huff~ huff~) tuck one into my mouth right out of the oven and part the burning white sea with a torn piece of crusty sourdough.

And guess what, it was worth the burn, worth the paralyzing month of restaurant-hammering that ultimately led to it, worth every dragging agony to crawl back to the kitchen to make it, and now the what’s-one-more bulge of fat sticking out from places I don’t even know exist on my body.  Hey, my friends, if you ever feel tired of foods, going in or churning out.  Take a couple days off, eat some soda crackers.  Then come back, and make this.  And I promise you, all shall be good again.

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THREE CHEESE OYSTER GRATIN

Ingredients

  • 8~10 large shucked oysters
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) shredded white cheddar
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) shredded gruyere
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/3 tsp sea salt, plus more to adjust
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus more to top
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese to top

Instructions

  1. Rinse and clean the oysters to get rid of any impurities, gently dab dry, then set aside. In a pot over medium heat, melt the unsalted butter then cook the flour for 1 min. Whisk in the whole milk and dry white wine, and continue whisking until the mixture comes to a simmer and has fully thickened, then keep cooking for 5~6 min until reduced slightly and the alcohol has evaporated. Turn off the heat, then add the shredded white cheddar, shredded gruyere, grated garlic, sea salt, ground black pepper, ground white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg, and stir with a fork until the cheese has fully melted (taste and re-season with sea salt if needed).
  2. Preheat the top broiler on high. In a shallow oven-proof skillet, spread 1/2 of the cheese sauce on the bottom, then arrange the oysters evenly and cover with the rest of the cheese sauce. Grate enough Parmigiano cheese to entirely cover the surface, then scatter a few extra nubs of unsalted butter here and there. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 13~15 min, until it's bubbly and golden browned. Grate another generous pinch of fresh nutmeg over the top (do not be shy with the nutmeg!), then serve immediately with crusty sourdough.
https://ladyandpups.com/2015/04/13/three-cheese-oyster-gratin/
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LAST SHIT – THE 3 FOUNDING DONBURI, THE ART OF EATING CANNED MEATS

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(THEY CAN) TRANSFORM INTO SURPRISING DELICIOUSNESS OF ELEGANCE AND COMPLEXITY

THIS is the last post (for awhile at least) of the new week-long segment, The Shits I Eat When I’m By Myself.  Jason is coming home tomorrow, and if you were any decent, none of us is ever going to speak of what happened here in the last few days…  But even though we’re near the end of an epic run, I have meticulously kept the best, and I hope you agree, for the last.

I’m going to share with you what I eat, sunny or rainy, broke or stashed, then-young and now-old, then-slim and now-lumpy… by myself or not, doesn’t matter.  This.  This is what I actually eat, love to eat, and I mean, like all the time.  This is what raised me, put me through college, and every other weekday-nights along with the lovely grin of Jon Stewart.  This, completes me.  I never had a name for this before, but for the sake of easy reference, I will now call it – The 3 Founding Donburi, The Art of Eating Canned Meats.

Donburi, is Japanese “rice bowl”, with various toppings that ranges widely.  The integrity of well-cooked short-grain rice is, of course, important, which is a subject I won’t even touch today for it’s so not the focus here (fine, two words, rice cooker!).  The focus here is the topping, and the topping, my friend, is a promiscuous playground for something that we all, at any given moment, got 1 or 2 stashed in a dark corner within the pantry.

Canned meats.

Good sardines in olive oil from Europe, bad sardines in olive oil from Europe, not-bad sardines in tomato sauce from Southeast Asia, corned beef, tuna, salmon… SPAM!  Misunderstood and badly represented, where people see them as shunned practices of desperation, I see them as cherished and indulging delicacies.  Good quality canned sardines (or even just the OK ones), with just a light touch of acidity, grated ginger and scallions piled over warm rice, can transform into surprising deliciousness of elegance and complexity.  How can I douse sichuan chili oil over diced SPAM, with a few drops of black vinegar and calling it a thing?!  Well, that is too, what doubters said at the historical moment when somebody thought why not smearing a bit of mustard over hotdogs…  Then browned corned beef, mixed with chopped kimchi and gochujang, toasted sesame oil and grated garlic… will have you breathing stinky and happy.

Each of the donburi will take… 2 min to put together at the most (not including the cooking-time of the rice).  Less than the time it takes to boil a pot of water.  And they will have you asking yourself, where have they been all your life?

Well… they’ve been right here.

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THAI SPICY BRINY COCKLE SALAD

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AS HAPPY AS A CLAM

It’s veterinarian-day for me again, how about you?  Whatever your day’s like, appetize it with this spicy, herby, briny and juicy cockle salad (you heard right), from one of Fatty Crab’s and Fatty Cue’s Zak Pelaccio.  It tastes like the ocean with an attitude, certainly one of my favourite, and most interesting and delicious treatment of shellfish yet.  And I promise it will kick-open your palette, get you ready for whatever that’s on your plate.  Wish you a day as happy as a clam.

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Serves:  4 as appetizer

Adapted from Zak Pelaccio’s Eat With Your Hands

I like to use an assortment of cockles and clams for this dish.  In this case, tiny cockles for their meats plus larger/prettier clams for their shells.  You can choose whatever variety you like.  The original recipe does not include the kaffir lime leaf, but I added it because I think it gave the dish a sharper edge.  Use if you have it available (they freeze really well in the freezer).


THAI SPICY BRINY COCKLE SALAD

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs assortment of cockles and clams
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup rice wine or white wine
  • 2 ~ 3 small red Thai chili
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lime leaf (if available), with the stem removed
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 4 small Asian shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. Bring 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup of rice wine (or white wine if you prefer) to a boil. Add the clams and cover the lid. Cook for 2 min, then remove the lid and start picking out clams as they open (clams open at different speed so this way, you can avoid over-cooking them). Once all the clams have opened, continue to simmer the liquid until it's reduced to 1/4 cup.
  2. Meanwhile, remove the clams from the shells (you should have about 1 cup of clam-meats). Keeping a few shells that are bigger and prettier.
  3. In a stone-mortar, mash the red chili, the garlics and lime leaf until paste-like. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, light brown sugar, finely sliced Asian shallots, chopped mint leaves, chopped cilantro and the clam-meats. Mix to combine.
  4. Scatter the preserved shells over the serving platter, then spoon the clams to fill the shells. Pour the reduced clam-juice over. Serve with extra lime.
https://ladyandpups.com/2014/10/26/thai-spicy-briny-cockle-salad/
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SPICY SALMON MINI HAND ROLLS

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Let me cut to the chase with this one.  Because along with what has officially come as the “holiday/party season”, also came a bubbling frenzy of ideas that harasses my otherwise unambitious nature to just relax through it all.  I mean really, really self-tormenting thoughts, such as the fixation on the idea of a Christmas goose (goose!… I must’ve lost my mind.), the racing finger-snapping sounds that repeats “hors d’oeuvre, hors d’oeuvre, hors d’oeuvre!” and then “cookies, cookies, cookies!”, plus a reignited and very unhealthy obsession to tackle the ever–evil, ever-defiant croissant dough which, let’s not kid ourselves, will end in tears (I wonder where that came from…).  All in all I mean, I’m busy.

But then, speaking of hors d’oeuvre…

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HOW TO KILL AN OYSTER

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Behold, the months marked with the letter “R” are already upon us, and as you may have been once told in stories, that this is the time a particular… defiant kind of sea monsters roam wild and await the braves who dare to challenge.  Enlightened by ancient (probably also desperately hungry) wisdoms who discovered that there are briny, delicious glories hidden inside these ugly and unseemly creatures with tough shells, courageous heroes have charged fearlessly to claim the price (literally charged for it), while the most and rest of us timidly standing on the sideline, too daunted by their impossible presence (and being charged for it).  But this year, this year the fear stops.  This year, this year we stop feeling belittled.  Grab the swords (sort of), and with the help of a mighty hammer (non-lightening charged), we are going to defeat these monsters once and for all, and feast on their flesh.  Because you know what, the difficulty is all but myth, and the deliciousness is not.

You don’t need a professional or a demi-god for that matter.  Because this, this is how mortals kill a sea monsters.

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insights to your shrimp dumplings

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There are days, you know,  not everyday, but days when I really… hate this.  I mean, what is this anyways?  A self-published “web-blog” about me making dinner.  Talk about being a loving sponge when it comes to self-absorbing not to mention a shameless evasion from unemployment.  Oops, did I not mention that?  As many more dignified others who might do this as a hobby aside, I on my other sorry hand, just do this.  No other self-sustaining professions at day, heck or even a non-profit charity to excuse myself of, it’s a testimony of prolonged immaturity and chronic, explicit laziness, hardly anything to be carved on my tombstone.  So yeah, as this self-absorbing continues, sometimes I really hate this.

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