pricing albacore for canning

IMG_0443If you’re planning to can tuna this year, and you just so happen to at or near the Oregon coast, be sure to use my handy, research-based, certified Master Food Preserver vetted, proofread (etc., etc.) guide to canning tuna.  (Or check out more tips if you want to can salmon.)  I’m going to amend it with more info about buying tuna, with thanks again to fellow MFP and tuna canning expert Dale Dow, who clarifies:

To order fish, a rough rule of thumb is to order one pound of fish (whole fish, not fillets) per half-pint jar.  This is the whole fish and about 50% wastage is expected.  But the size of the fish, the skill of the fishmonger, and the skill of filling the jars all determine how many jars can be filled.  In other words, I’d say,”I want 24 pounds of tuna for canning, filleted” if I planned to do a canner full.  It is cheaper to filet your own if you have the skill and time.

Thanks, Dale!

nose-to-tail eating in eugene

IMG_3012Surely not for the faint of heart, but a great pleasure for adventurous eaters: nose-to-tail cooking.  Popularized by British Chef Fergus Henderson, the concept asks cooks to honor the animal by consuming as much of it as possible.  This usually translates into sausages and terrines and soups, many European specialties, but there are also some wonderful options in Asian and Central American restaurants, too.  Many Americans find the idea of eating “the nasty bits,” as Anthony Bourdain calls them, revolting, but I think it’s worth our consideration as meat-eaters and ethical diners.

The duck chins, above, are Exhibit A.

IMG_3018At least with the larger mammals.  Tiny squid?  Well, it’s just pleasure to eat them whole.  Above, hotaru ika sushi at Kamitori, one of the finest preparations of squid I’ve ever eaten in my life.  Hotaru means firefly, and these little guys, about an inch or two long, bioluminesce in the dark water.  And since I’ve long suspected that squid were ruined for me after the most exquisite experience eating ika sashimi on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Japan, freshly hauled from the water, I’m so grateful.  Once again Chef Masa has filled me with unspeakable joy by serving sea creatures with respect and craft.  And no eyeballs, which were kindly removed.

Also, I was honored to join some of my students for an adventure this week at Spring Garden restaurant in Springfield, where we tried some of the more unusual items on the menu, including rabbit in a clay pot with ginger, salt-and-pepper fried chicken cartilage, stir-fried elk with onions and peppers, “saliva” chicken in a spicy sauce, and a dish that will horrify the local sportsfans among us, spicy duck chins with their little tongues a-waggin’ (top photo).  Below, you can see the English translation of the menu and the other dishes we enjoyed.

Spring Garden is a challenge, but it also has great possibilities on the Chinese menu even if you’re not into nose-to-tail cooking or exotic birds and reptiles.  You might also, if you must, order from the American menu with all the standards.  If you’re curious about the duck chins, which are of course the lower part of the duck bill, they are crunchy on the tip, and you eat the tongue, then pick at the meat at the base of the bill.  The chicken cartilage was crunchy, as expected; it was chopped into chunks and deep-fried in a batter lively with salt and Sichuan peppercorn, and decorated with chiles. Saliva chicken seemed to be steamed chicken in a spicy sauce — probably my favorite of all the dishes of the night.

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Spring Garden Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

smoked trout spread at the seashore

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I know the delicious pastries, custards, and pies are distracting, but you may have noticed some of Noisette Pastry Kitchen‘s savory offerings.  Of particular interest: any quiche, pot pies, the goat cheese scones, takeaway pork rillettes and pâté, cassoulet for three people in a pie tin for $18 (YES! best deal in town), and fillets of smoked trout seal-wrapped for the most marvelous…IMG_2964

…smoked trout spread.  I’m eating it while watching the spectacular waves outside my hotel on the coast, where I escaped to work on my book proposal.  Smoked trout is brainfood, but you might choose instead to prepare it for a televised spectacle or something.  You surely have something better to do than sit inside and write a proposal.  Might I suggest making it for a winter beach picnic with someone you <3 ?

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Smoked Trout Spread

Serves 4 with crackers or celery sticks.

  • Half a brick of cream cheese (about 4 oz.)
  • 1/4 cup of creme fraiche or sour cream
  • Half a smoked trout fillet
  • Handful of parsley
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Chives (optional)

Soften the cream cheese in the microwave for about 5 seconds, or let sit out for 15 minutes.  Combine the cream cheese and creme fraiche or sour cream in a food processor, and process until big chunks are gone.  Add trout, parsley, and shallots and process just until combined.  Taste and correct seasonings (mine needed salt but not pepper, since the fillets were smoked with cracked black peppercorns).  Top with more parsley or chopped chives.

 

let there be light

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Stircrazy and freezing, I escaped to the beach for the day last weekend.  It’s been really cold for Eugene, and before you get all indignant about how much colder it is where you live, understand it’s a damp, grey, depressing cold that seeps into your bones like some kind of necrotizing zombie cold.  You can’t shake it, and it tries to eat your brain.

So I fled.IMG_4138IMG_4154

And there was light.  And it was good.

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And there were also crabs right off the boat at Luna Sea restaurant in Yachats.  Also good.  I ate a crab dinner and brought some extras home to share.  Last night, we had crab with linguini, red chard, and garlic, with lovely little smoked cayenne chips from Crossroads Farm sprinkled on top.  Tonight it’s Oregon crab soup.

thai hot and sour green tomato stirfry

One more green tomato dish, this one a delicious and gorgeous Thai hot and sour stirfry that goes particularly well with fish, shrimp, or pork.  The marinade is delicious on its own, but when you add chopped green tomatoes, it’s really quite something.  Some folks have an issue with eating partially cooked green tomatoes because they can be a bit slimy, but I find chopping them into smaller pieces and using a strong sauce, plus the contrasting textures of soft cherry tomatoes and fleshy fish, make that issue moot.

Whew!  My green tomatoes are done for the year, but here are all my ideas for green tomatoes. Try:

Thai Hot & Sour Green Tomato Stirfry

Serves 4 with another dish.  Great with grilled salmon — pour the sauce on top of cooked salmon and arrange tomatoes around fish for a beautiful presentation.

  • 1 lb. fillet of fresh salmon to grill (fatty Chinook is best; substitute shrimp or pork)
  • 1 lb. or as many green tomatoes as you like, cut into bite-sized chunks (err on the small side)
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes for color and sweetness, halved
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 medium white onion, sliced pole-to-pole thinly
  • A couple of red Italian frying peppers (the long skinny sweet peppers), sliced thinly
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • white pepper to taste

Prepare your ingredients before you start grilling the salmon (or shrimp or pork).  Chop the green tomatoes in bite-sized pieces and halve the cherry tomatoes; mince the garlic; slice the onion and peppers.  Mix together fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar in a small bowl, and use a bit to marinate your salmon.

Grill salmon.  As it is cooking:

Heat wok until very hot on high heat.  Add oil and wait a minute to pre-heat, then sear green tomatoes and onion.  Add garlic and peppers after onions and tomatoes brown a bit, cook a moment longer, then remove from heat.  Add fish sauce mixture and white pepper to taste.  Let sit and marinate while the fish finishes grilling.

Plate the grilled fish, and carefully pour sauce over fish.  Arrange tomatoes around fish and serve with jasmine rice and another dish for a complete meal.

first impressions: riffle nw in portland

I’ve never been satisfied with the realities of the seafood restaurant, perhaps because the concept is so promising but the execution so terribly difficult.  A new restaurant in the Pearl, Riffle NW, takes on the challenge.  The menu is promising with very fresh fish entrees, a handful of raw offerings and small plates, and simple sides.  I like it that they restrain from the temptations of a huge selection, or worse, taking the lazy route of the deep fryer.

Riffle seems as if it’s been around longer than just a few months.  The restaurant is not too loud, which is nice and surprising given the concrete floors and open design, but there are some kinks in service and communication that will be worked out over time, I’m sure.  One can see the raw bar and a brick oven from the dining area.  The bar is small and hard to approach if patrons are clotted at the bar tables, but it looks like a very friendly, open space once you get there, with a projection of old cooking shows on one concrete wall.  The main restaurant seating is slightly too crowded, with some seating around the side of the restaurant perched on platforms that give me vertigo (something exacerbated by my wheelchair vantage point, no doubt), and an area that opens out to the street that looks better.

I’m not sure the drink menu slid into a wooden bar that slides into a slot on the tabletop is a good idea, but they’ll figure that out once someone spills a glass of merlot down through the slot and on to her Jimmy Choos.

The cocktails are mature and sophisticated, unsurprisingly given the team behind the bar. And this country bumpkin is still enchanted by gigantic ice cubes.  I’m not too proud to admit it.  I was also tickled to see my darling Becherovka incorporated in an interpretation of a Beton called a Room D (rye, Becherovka, tonic water, and lemon and grapefruit).  We also enjoyed a Riffle Collins, which incorporated another of my cocktail favorites, celery juice, with gin, lime, and absinthe, and comped Vieux Carrés, a perfect version of the classic, when our entrees were late.  Excellent waiter.

If I have only one suggestion, it would be to boost the boldness of the sides and sauces, and work on matches made in heaven.  The seafood is very good, but the mains and sides seemed not to have much chemistry, and I suspect stronger spices and vinegared salads might complement some of the lighter fish. I don’t think this is a cardinal sin by any means, just a quibble, since the food is good and can be even better.  It’s miles better than the last new place we tried, Smallwares, which had the extremely odd problem of having too much umami in everything — the chef is enamored with seaweed and fish sauce and other glutamates, enough so that it blunts the palate and makes you want to wash out your mouth with fresh water.

But at Riffle, everything we had was mild, including the beet-cured salmon carpaccio with a bacon aioli, ice lettuce, and hazelnuts.  The beet flavor wasn’t even noticeable and it would be wonderful if it was — perhaps with a beet salad instead of the insipid, broken aioli?  The mackerel, allegedly served with a “summer vegetable salad,” had a red pepper-fennel slaw that was bright and cheery and excellent with this deliciously strong, oily, fish, but also a weird, slightly sweet and taupe vegetable purée of some sort that didn’t work at all.  We ate clean, cold little kusshi oysters with a “bloody mary” sauce, which was too much like cocktail sauce to be interesting.  Just a lemon would have been better, now that I think of it.  We both loved the smoked tomato broth with the ling cod, but wish the fish had been poached in it, as the broth didn’t really permeate the flesh, and it was difficult to eat the full-length frenched green beans nestled under the fish.  The kale and beans side was our fault — it didn’t work with anything, but it was tasty, if not Miss Oregon 2012.

Probably the star of the night, which negates much of what I’ve said about stronger flavors and even fish, was the giant mountain of shredded brussels sprouts with walnut, a citrus dressing, and some kind of snowy white cheese that might have been pecorino or a relation.  I would have been happy just eating that all night.

Desserts looked appetizing for the sweet tooth, especially if “semifreddo” doesn’t mean “half a baguette” as Retrogrouch claimed it did (thank you yet again, Google), and instead is a frozen chocolate concoction.  We opted for sugared donut holes with a very vibrant, raspberry-forward raspberry curd, and we were glad we did.

I’ll be watching this restaurant with curiosity.  It’s the first new one I’ve seen in a while in PDX that seems like it has potential for longevity.  Tonight they’ll be debuting “Neighborhood Night,” which really does seem like fun: they’ll serve house-made spicy sausage with a melange of peppers on a semolina roll with a salad.  Next time I’ll have to come up for that…I’ll be the neighbor from the wrong side of the tracks, or the poor relation, or something.  Best of luck, Rifflers, and see you again!

grilled albacore tuna with rosé, ginger, and charred scallion

Oregon albacore are in range of our fishing fleets on the coast, so it’s time to get busy!  I put together a quick set of links that will help you buy, cook, and can your own.  Our albacore are not only an important part of the state’s fishing industry, they’re a fish that’s sustainably caught wild, the only type of albacore tuna and one of very few types of tuna that meet the “Best Choice” distinction in the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They are caught young, so there’s no mercury build-up issues, either.

You can buy your fish at any of our local fish markets, who get them from the fleets on the coast.  Or, if you are in the neighborhood, head down to the docks where the boats are moored, and buy some on your own. You can see what catch is in, and where, in this updated guide from the Oregon Albacore Commission sent to me by a Facebook friend.

This video guide from the Oregon Sea Grant will tell you, if you’re feeling shy, how to buy off the boat.

If you’re interested in canning albacore, which will make all other canned tuna seem like  cat food, click for my tuna guide.  It’s an annotated and illustrated version of the MFP handout on canning tuna, with a load of tips.

And if you just want to grill some albacore, try this recipe, an adaptation of one of my favorite tuna recipes, tuna with ginger sauce.  In college, I received my first New York Times cookbook, and would make tuna with ginger sauce when I lost the battle to be economical at the old Berkeley Bowl. It was a gorgeous recipe invented by the chef at Huberts in New York, a man who lived the dream and left teaching English to become a chef.  It called for fresh tuna marinated in the surprising combination of ginger, red wine, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil, paprika, and the surprising ingredient of scallions charred over a stove burner.  Then the fish was lightly grilled and served with a sauce that blended light versions of the ingredients in the marinade — white wine, rice vinegar, shallots — and finished with cream and butter.

But because it was just for me, and I couldn’t be bothered with a fancy sauce opening two (two!) bottles of wine, it became Tuna with a Ginger Marinade and Some of the Marinade Boiled Down with Butter to Make a Sauce.  I present an only slightly more sophisticated version here, and I apologize about the picture, which features a piece of tuna grilled a bit too long.

Tips: This is a recipe that is made to approximate, really.  I just eyeball the amounts, and I’ve even used (egads) pickled ginger instead of the real stuff.  You really want to aim for very rare in the middle for the maximum flavor and texture.  I like rosé better than the red wine called for in the original recipe, as the red wine does that purple dye thing that always looks unpleasant.  I’ve increased the marinade time considerably, which only salutes the strong, bold flesh of the albacore.  I have marinated and grilled tuna steaks, a whole loin, and little sashimi-quality medallions.  It’s foolproof.

Grilled Tuna with Rosé, Ginger, and Charred Scallions

Serves 4.

  • 1.5 to 2-lb. albacore tuna loin
  • 2 cups dry rosé on the darker side of pink (Spanish, cruder So. France are nice)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, best quality
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce, best quality (I use low-salt Japanese soy)
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • piece of fresh ginger about 2 inches square, grated with ginger grater
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-6 fresh scallions

Cut the loin into four pieces.  Salt and pepper the pieces, and place in a Ziploc bag.  Add the wine, vinegar, soy, sesame oil, and grated ginger.  Wash and trim the roots off the scallions.  Turn on a stove burner on high, and place the whole scallions on the burner.  Char the scallions, both green and white parts, all over; about 25% should be black.  Add scallions to marinade bag.  Place bag in a larger bowl or dish, and refrigerate.

Marinate from 12 to 24 hours, flipping the bag every so often.

When you’re ready to grill, remove the fish from the marinade and cut it carefully into medallions.  The size and number will depend on the fish, but aim to serve two medallions a person (the picture above shows that it will fall apart if you don’t cut the fish into medallions before grilling).

Preheat and oil your grill, then sear the tuna pieces over high heat for one or two minutes on each side.  Aim to serve very rare in the middle.

Prepare the sauce, if you like.  Strain the ginger and scallions from the marinade and bring to a boil on the stove.  Reduce the marinade by half.  Melt a pat of butter in a hot skillet, then strain the marinade into the butter, whisking gently.  The best way to serve it is to slice tuna into strips and arrange on the plate like a little fan, then pour sauce over tuna and serve.  I usually just serve the medallions and pour the sauce over, though.

Great with rice and rice pilaf, with a side of steamed spinach.

happy as a clam

The intense, intensive week of reading historic cookbooks is over, and I’m tired but elated I had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful scholars in Cambridge.  A longer post is in the works, I promise, but for now, let’s just say I am as happy…

…as these guys.  Raw, steamed, fried, or whichever way you like us.

for earth day: a most unnatural dish

“She was not fashioned to swim in Heaven, she is a Fish of Earth, she swims in Terra-firma.” – Djuna Barnes

I call it salmon déjeuner sur l’herbe.  And I celebrate the place on this earth for the unworldly, the out of place, the odd couples, the unnatural, the freakish, and the fish out of water.  We must remember there’s not just one way to celebrate the earth, and the earthlovers who don’t dance around under the moon may just swimming through the universe sauced, nestled in with colecrop and rosemary flowers, and crowned with Johnny Jump-up.

Édouard Manet’s painting “Déjeuner sur l’Herbe” (“The Luncheon on the Grass”) was the talk of the town in 1863 when it was refused by the Parisian Academy’s annual Salon exhibition for its uncanny and offensive content.  It was real and not real, familiar and outlandish.  It’s hard for us to imagine that these women were seen as prostitutes, for who else would be picnicking on the grass with two fully clothed men?  That they were students or artists was worse.

What I see when I look at this painting, though, is a look of boredom and longing.  The picnic basket overturned with fruit uneaten, a waste.  Every glance is distracted, away on a different trajectory.  It must have been a dreadful bore to listen to hours of mansplaining.  One woman picks flowers; at least she has been able to escape into the landscape and stretch her limbs.  But this one begs us, silent, to choose body over mind. We can read her as any number of allegories — youth, modernity, sexuality, art, even the earth. But most of all it’s about difference.  Manet went on to exhibit it in the Salon des Refusés (the Rejects Salon) in an annex of the sanctioned Salon.  And although it was booed and hissed, some people liked this fish out of water.  He wasn’t alone.

I’ve been thinking about this painting ever since the Nature Conservancy asked me to do a post for Earth Day as part of their picnic campaign this year.  The salmon was kind of an accident.  Even better for a fish of the earth.  I should remind you that the Earth provides food for 7 billion lovely, individual people and you can learn more about this year’s Earth Day on April 22, or even host your own Earth Day picnic along with thousands of others, if you so please.

My picnic, my déjeuner sur l’herbe, is a beautiful Oregon chinook salmon on black rice with flowers and herbs plucked from my garden at the moment winter broke into spring.  Try it — a shower of herbflowers on any finished dish.  It’s such a joyful and simple way to celebrate the seasons and continuing bounty we receive from our planet.  The salmon itself was clothed in an aluminum foil packet and oven-poached in a broth made of white wine, fennel fronds, dill pickle juice, and butter, at 325 degrees.  When it was done, I blended a little of the broth in with a small head of frisée, chives, and walnuts to make a fresh green sauce. Can be eaten warm or cold.

Happy Earth Day!

razor sharp: clam recipe ideas from a disgruntled shopper

PartyCart razor clam ceviche with chermoula

I went into a local fish store recently and saw a big heap of razor clams (silqua patula).  They’re the long, skinny clams that when pounded flat yield a piece of meat about as big as a nice T-bone.  I had had them recently on the coast in Yachats, pan-fried, and I wondered what other popular ways they might be served. I was thinking about a delicious abalone rice I had had in Japan, where a small abalone we procured on a boat trip in the Sea of Japan was chopped up and added to the rice water to make the most delicious, subtle rice.

So I asked the fishmonger who was helping me if he knew any other ways to cook razor clams other than pan-fried.  He said he had never had them and didn’t know, so he’d get someone else.  Fair enough.

The second person told me that they must be pan-fried. That was the only way to eat them.

Really? I asked.

Yes, he said, dismissively. The only way.

I replied, so nobody EVER eats them any other way?

Nope, he said.  Cover them in breadcrumbs and panfry them.  You just want to cook them quickly.  I WOULD NOT chop them up and put them in a chowder.  They’re too nice for that.  You’d waste them.

Naturally, I said, trying not to be annoyed.  But what about without breadcrumbs?  Maybe quickly seared and tossed with pasta, or a light sauté with butter and wine?  You’ve never heard of any other recipe from anyone else?

You ought to be on Top Chef! exclaimed the first fishmonger.

Nope, he said. There’s only one way.

Do you think anyone else here might know another way? I said.

Nope, he said.

Clearly not.

I really thought about whether I wanted to name the fish store, but I usually like them very much, so I’ll leave it to word of mouth.  If you know someone who works at a fish store that sells razor clams in Eugene, direct them to my blog, if you please.  At this place, the service can be taciturn at times, and they rarely have time to chat — but they let you know it.  This time, I was asked if I needed help the second I stepped up to the counter and then again about two minutes later, then had my order totaled up and presented to me as finished twice before I was finished choosing.  I’m not the speediest customer in the world, but I wasn’t exactly dawdling, either. But I understand how intense it gets behind the counter.  I don’t understand, though, when businesses don’t educate their staff well about the items they’re selling.  It means a lost sale.  Period.

Soooo…for those who are interested, since razor clam season is still open in Washington and Oregon, and the clams should still be around for a week or so, here are some other ways to prepare razor clams.

1) Razor clam ceviche with chermoula, an herb sauce with garlic and cumin from Morocco on a homemade pita chip.  I had the one pictured above at PartyCart.  There might still be some if you hurry down there.  There’s another recipe for razor clam ceviche with bright chili and red onions, plus the nice briny flavor of samphire (aka sea beans) here.

2) Two ideas posted in this thread of people searching like me.  The first is an impossibly long, slow braise, which makes octopus and squid tender, so I guess it works with big clams, too: “[Portland’s Wildwood Restaurant Chef Dustin] Clark sears pounded, tenderized [razor] clams in olive oil, then simmers them in an intense sauce of preserved tomato, fennel, shallot, white wine and green garlic for a long time in a slow oven. ‘I like to reduce the sauce way down because the clams will exude juice as they cook,’ Clark says. ‘The clams need to cook for an hour or two to have a chance to relax and become really, really tender.'”

3) And the second idea is rather brilliant, a PNW gravlax-style cured razor clam with conifer tips instead of fennel fronds:  “Equal parts sea salt and sugar, pinch or fresh pepper, pine needles or cedar tips. Chop the needles or cedar mix in with the rest. Coat liberally onto clams, wrap in cling film, place in flat container with weight on top of it. Wait 2 days then brush off and slice and eat on some crisp bread, or better yet, very fast, like 10 seconds on each side, sear, slice into inch long strips and place on light salad.”

4)  Thai razor clam salad with pickled vegetables, crushed peanuts, fresh green mint, Thai basil, Vietnamese sawtooth cilantro (which they’re selling at Grey’s right now as a start), and fried garlic and shallot.   The recipe is complex, but I think that you could improvise and still have a wonderful offering.  I don’t know what vegetables they use, probably a pickled mustard green.  But you could quick pickle carrots or cucumber or cabbage with salt for a couple of hours on the counter (toss with a handful of salt, let sit, then rinse off the pickles and squeeze all the water out of them).  Or maybe use chopped pickled chard stems?  Not remotely authentic but DELICIOUS.  Or heck, just use chopped fresh carrots and cabbage.

I’ve also seen razor clams grilled in their shells and dressed with a vinaigrette.  Or butter.  Can’t go wrong there.  Any other ideas?  I’m open.