Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Seafood Feast!

One of the few culinary tradition we have in our family is a seafood feast the night of Christmas Eve. I'm not Italian, I'm Polish but I tend to refer to this meal as "Seven Fishes" because it's a more familiar term than our Polish "Wigilia". It's basically a meatless meal that consists of 12 dishes. My mom and grandparents had a smorgasbord that included some less desirable things like eel and herring. Growing up we always had stuffed shrimp, stuffed flounder, fried scallops, twice baked potatoes and a couple of vegetables (we didn't really follow that 12 dish thing!).

I wanted to have an early "Wigilia" with my Philly friends this year and for an added challenge decided to make seven different fishes. It was a bit of a cultural combo - we had everything from vegetarian gulumpkis to calamari in red sauce over linguini! Here's the menu:


Not bad right? I've admitted this before - when I'm entertaining I STINK at taking pictures. Luckily Ron was around to snap a few of the appetizers.

Deviled Eggs with Crab:

Stuffed Clams:

Flatbread with Anchovies, Olives, Tomatoes & Caramelized Onions:

And this delicious Salmon Rillette:
We changed this recipe a touch by using Ron's home smoked salmon in the spread and lined the bowl that we were using as a mold with store bought smoked salmon.

Then I stopped taking pictures - you'll just have to believe me that the rest was delicious! I'll be posted a recipe for veggie gulumpki soon - it was a crowd favorite.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Best Bay Scallops Ever & A Dinner Party

I've mentioned before that I'm from the North Fork of Long Island and that means that I'm occasionally blessed with awesome seafood. Remember this clammy feast? A few weekends ago my parents were in town and they brought me some peconic bay scallops that were so fresh and sweet that I couldn't stop popping raw ones in my mouth. I normally only get to eat them once a year - Christmas Eve when we deep fry them (yeah - yum) so this was a really special treat!

We had a few friends over for a dinner party - 8 people altogether including me and Ron and my parents. I wanted to make something that didn't require any last minute cooking - the star (besides the scallops - I'll tell you about those in a second) was a giant pork roast that I slow cooked in lots of white wine and herbs until it was fall apart tender.

While that cooked away in the oven I prepared the rest of the meal. Side dishes included white beans and greens:
I made these with dried beans, someone please tell me how to make them taste as good as the ones out of the can. They're always half undercooked, half overcooked. In spite of that these still game out pretty tasty. Amazing what salt, pepper, lots of tomato paste and a couple ladles of that pork cooking liquid will do!

I also made my absolute favorite salad - mixed greens with roasted butternut squash, paper thin red onions, goat cheese, pepitas and a maple vinaigrette. So good.

Oh, what's that in the bottom left you ask? That's the scallop dish I made - did you think I was gonna leave you hanging? Talk about how awesome it was and then not give you the recipe? Don't you worry. First thing you should know is that it's a Ina Garten recipe so you know it's gonna be awesome and second, just listen to the name "bay scallop gratin". GRATIN - I'm in. You puree delicious thing like butter and garlic and parsley and lemon juice all together and smear them on top of scallops that have been splashed with white wine (I didn't have the pernod that the recipe called for) and top them with panko bread crumbs (the recipe called for mixing them into the butter mixture, I thought that was weird so I threw them on top) and bake. What comes out of the oven is a dish that people will RAVE about. Take a look:
Oops! I almost forgot the last ingredient that puts this over the top - prosciutto! See it under the bread crumbs mixed in with the butter? Yup, PROSCIUTTO mixed with BUTTER.

And of course there was dessert - but that's for next time. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Brined Chicken

I used a recipe similar to this Mark Rhulman brined chicken recipe from this fantastic charcuterie book to make the most delicious and good-looking chicken I've ever made. Although there is one thing that really, really stinks about it - I'll never be able to make a un-brined chicken again. It's not that it's difficult to brine a chicken, throw the ingredients in a pot and simmer until everything is dissolved and let cool before dunking in your whole chicken or start with a small amount of water and simmer the ingredients and add a ton ice like they do in the recipe linked above.


See, easy right? It's just that it requires a bit of planning - you have to know the night before that you're having chicken for dinner the next day, no grabbing one on your way home from work. But luckily I have a feeling that planning ahead to have chicken for dinner won't be an issue when the results look like this:


And even better than the look of the chicken was the taste. Soaking in the salty/sweet/herby water leaves the meat seasoned all the way through. It's a taste I could never achieve just by seasoning the outside. Oh and if you have time after you pull the chicken out of the brine leave it uncovered in your fridge to really let the chicken skin dry out - then you'll have crispy chicken skin, what's better than that?

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Pumpkin whoopie pies with cream cheese frosting - need I say more?

I followed this recipe from Bon Appetit for the cake part, using the pumpkin flesh I talked about in my last blog instead of canned pumkin. The only other change was that I didn't grease my parchment and the bottoms got a little golden and didn't stick - I'd definitely go parchment-less.

The filling is a standard cream cheese frosting recipe from Martha Stewart.

Bake the cookies, make the filling, stuff, taste test, feed to friends.