Fish – Zester Daily Zester Daily Fri, 05 Jan 2018 10:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pop-Tarts Get Adult Treatment With Lobster /chefs-wrecipe/pop-tarts-get-adult-treatment-with-lobster/ /chefs-wrecipe/pop-tarts-get-adult-treatment-with-lobster/#respond Sat, 02 Dec 2017 10:00:27 +0000 /?p=76210 Lobster Pop-Tarts in a Duralit toaster, Barton G. Los Angeles. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

On special occasions and holidays, we want great food and we want fun. For chef Attila Bollok at Barton G. Los Angeles, every day is a celebration because all the dishes are visually extravagant or slyly clever. In his kitchen at Barton G., Bollok showed me how to prepare his signature dish, lobster Pop-Tarts. The perfect dish for special events and holiday entertaining.

In the busy kitchen, Bollok is a chef who keeps his cool even when he and his staff are preparing food for as many as 400 dinners. Moving quickly around the small space, he always refers to his colleagues as “chef” and always says “please.”

That temperament might have come from his Hungarian grandmother who taught him how to cook when he was a young boy. But his good-natured cool also comes from the confidence born of solid training with culinary greats. As a teenager he did an apprenticeship at La Caravelle. He learned fundamentals at the French Culinary Institute (renamed the International Culinary Center). He worked side by side with David Burke at Fishtail and Comme Ça and Scott Conant at Scarpetta.

When Barton G. Weiss, the creator of the original Barton G. in Miami’s South Beach, was looking for a classically trained French chef who could help him launch a restaurant in Los Angeles, Bollok was ready for the challenge.

Serious food, served with a big order of fun

Chef Attila Bollok holding Lobster Pop-Tarts in his kitchen at Barton G. Los Angeles. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Chef Attila Bollok holding lobster Pop-Tarts in his kitchen at Barton G. Los Angeles. Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

When Bollok walks into his kitchen at Barton G. Los Angeles, he puts on his apron and a party hat.

In his kitchen there are the usual stock pots, knives, cutting boards and utensils. Look above the stainless steel counters and you will see brightly painted metal pelicans and green mini-Tiki statues staring back at you. Next to his chef’s knives and ladles there are rows of giant forks, swords and candy-colored Duralit toasters.

Out in the dining room, complimentary bread arrives at the table looking like DayGlo doughnuts. The Diamonds Are Forever cocktail comes with a liquid nitrogen vodka popsicle stirrer. The Rakes and Ho salad is plated in a mini-wheelbarrow. The Great American Steak arrives with a 2-foot-tall fork stabbed into its properly charred flesh. If you like sweets and you order the Marie Antoinette’s Head — Let Them Eat Cake, a mannequin’s head arrives with a 2-foot-high cotton candy hairdo on a plate of mini-cakes and ice creams.

Yet even when creating food with a theatrical flair, Bollok is a serious chef who talks passionately about locally sourced ingredients and keeping food interesting with a play of textures and balanced flavors.

Bollok enjoys the way his dishes balance whimsy with quality ingredients. His lobster Pop-Tarts look like plump versions of the jam-filled toaster Pop-Tarts kids eat for breakfast. But cut them open and out tumble moist lobster pieces coated with luxurious herb-scented béchamel, an adult treat, for certain, and a lot of fun.

Barton G.’s Lobster Pop-Tarts

In the kitchen at Barton G. Los Angeles, lobster meat on béchamel sauce and Gruyere cheese on phyllo sheets moistened with clarified butter to make Lobster Pop-Tarts. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

In the kitchen at Barton G. Los Angeles, lobster meat on béchamel sauce and Gruyere cheese on phyllo sheets moistened with clarified butter make lobster Pop-Tarts. Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

Written out, there are a lot of steps, but in the video Bollok shows how easy it is to prepare his lobster Pop-Tarts.

Cooked and frozen lobster meat can be purchased from fish markets and in some upscale grocery stores. For best results, Bollok suggests the extra effort of cooking a live lobster and extracting the meat. That way you will also have shells to make quality lobster stock.

Making lobster stock is not difficult. Once you have steamed the lobsters by submerging their heads in boiling water and cooking them for 15-30 minutes depending on their size, extract the meat and reserve. Place all the shells in a pot with carrots, garlic, celery and onions. Add water to cover and simmer the shells with the aromatics for 30 minutes. Strain and discard all solids. Reserve stock to use immediately or freeze in an airtight container for later use.

So you can work assembly-line-style, place all the ingredients on a counter or large cutting board.

The delicate phyllo sheets can dry out, so once they are removed from the package, cover them with a damp kitchen towel.

Prep time if cooking lobsters and making stock: 1 hour

Prep time if using cooked lobster meat and prepared stock: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time if cooking lobsters and making stock: 1 hour 30 minutes

Total time if using cooked lobster meat and prepared stock: 40 minutes

Yield: 9 Pop-Tarts

For the lobster béchamel:

1/4 pound unsalted butter

1/4 pound all-purpose flour

2/3 quart whole milk

1 cup stock, preferably homemade lobster stock or store-bought clam juice or 1 tablespoon powdered soup base with water added to taste

1/4 pound Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 ounce fresh chives, washed, minced

1 ounce fresh tarragon, washed, minced

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Pop-Tart:

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter to create 1 cup clarified butter

1 box Athens brand phyllo dough

1/4 pound Gruyere cheese, thin sliced into 2-inch by  3½-inch strips

1 pound lobster meat, roughly chopped

1 egg yolk, beaten


1. Make roux by heating butter, being careful not to brown, and adding the flour. To avoid clumping, sprinkle flour in small amounts into hot butter. To make a “roux blanc,” whisk flour into butter to incorporate, being careful not to brown. Once flour is incorporated and there are no lumps, whisk in milk.

2. Add stock. For 5 minutes, stir well and simmer to thicken. Use a heat-proof spatula to remove any sauce sticking to the side of the pot. Wisk together with sauce. When finished, the béchamel should be smooth, without lumps.

3. Sprinkle in Parmesan cheese and whisk over heat to incorporate.

4. To cool the béchamel, place ice cubes into a small stainless steel mixing bowl, then spatula the hot sauce into a second small mixing bowl. Place the second bowl on top of the ice cubes. Use a spatula to fold the sauce into itself to cool evenly.

5. To keep herbs green and fresh tasting, once the béchamel has cooled, sprinkle on the chives and tarragon and incorporate. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spoon béchamel into a pastry bag, seal, refrigerate and reserve.

6. Place butter into small saucepan over low heat. After the butter melts, skim the solids off the top and discard. Reserve clarified butter at room temperature.

7. Before assembling, heat oven to 375 F.

8. Place all Pop-Tart ingredients on a counter or large cutting board to create what chefs call mise en place. That way, you will be able to create the Pop-Tarts quickly so the phyllo sheets will not dry out.

9. Place the phyllo sheets on the counter. Cover them with a damp towel so they do not dry out. On the video, Bollock demonstrates all these easy steps.

10. You will need a total of six large phyllo sheets for each set of three Pop-Tarts. Work with two phyllo sheets at a time. Lay the two sheets on a flat surface. Paint the top sheet with melted clarified butter. Make sure the entire sheet is painted with butter, even the edges. Lay the next two sheets on top of the first two. Paint with melted butter. Lay the next two sheets on top and paint those.

11. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the six stacked sheets into three sections. A ruler might be helpful so the Pop-Tarts will be the same size.

12. Work assembly-line-style to build three Pop-Tarts at the same time. Lay a piece of Gruyere in the middle of the top phyllo sheet.

13. Pipe 1 to 2 ounces of béchamel on top of each piece of Gruyere. Use more or less béchamel, depending on how moist you want your Pop-Tarts.

14. Add pieces of lobster meat on top of the béchamel. Line the pieces straight so when you fold over the phyllo sheets, the packet will have a perfect rectangular shape.

15. Fold the phyllo sheets the long way on each side of the lobster. The overlapping sheets should cover the lobster.

16. On each end of the folded packet, trim off 1 inch of the phyllo. Seal the long seam of the phyllo packet by brushing on melted clarified butter.

17. To create a rectangular Pop-Tart shape, lay a chef’s knife against the end of the lobster filling. Bend the end of the phyllo packet against the knife and press down on the packet to create a clean fold. Do the same on the other end. The result will be a fat rectangular, Pop-Tart shape. Where the two ends are folded together, press gently so they seal.

18. Turn each Pop-Tart folded side down. Brush the top of each Pop-Tart with beaten egg yolk to create a golden crust.

19. Gently lay lobster Pop-Tarts on a baking tray painted with clarified butter or on a sheet of parchment paper or a nonstick Silpat sheet. Place in preheated 375 F oven 10 to 12 minutes. Do not turn over. Check after 8 minutes to make certain they are not burning. Once the Pop-Tarts are golden brown, they are done.

20. Serve hot from the oven.

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

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Anatomy Of A Perfect Lobster Roll, Maine Style /fish-wrecipe/anatomy-perfect-lobster-roll-maine-style/ /fish-wrecipe/anatomy-perfect-lobster-roll-maine-style/#comments Sat, 07 Oct 2017 09:00:22 +0000 /?p=75613 Perfect lobster roll. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brenda Athanus

Years before the current popularity of lobster rolls my friend, Joel, a food-obsessed antique dealer, proposed we make a personal study of lobster rolls along the coast of Maine. It was a challenge I instantly accepted because, up to that point, I had never had a real lobster “roll.”

Lobster sandwiches are what I grew up eating in our inland town, on untoasted white bread with a thick slathering of lobster salad and the crust cut off, leftovers from Friday night’s lobster dinner. Central Maine families, like mine, traveled to the coast once a summer and we always ate lobsters-in-the rough, clams, corn, drawn butter and wild Maine blueberry pie. That’s how it was.

After eating a lobster roll at a different place for 20 straight days, we had rolled our eyes 20 separate times. These lobster rolls on cold buns contained tiny pieces of lobster meat with too much mayonnaise added. Limp French fries overwhelmed the plate with not a pickle in sight.

We dreamed of finding a classic lobster roll with no frills. It would be so overfilled with lobster salad we couldn’t wait another minute to take a bite. We wanted it served in an old-fashioned, cardboard sleeve holding it upright, keeping it safe from tumbling over. The roll would be grilled to a golden brown with melted butter captured in every morsel The lobster chunks would be large enough to show reverence and appreciation, the salad bound with the smallest amount of mayonnaise, just to hold it together. The lobster roll would be served with homemade bread and butter pickles.

When we made it to 50 lobster rolls with our dreams unfulfilled, I suggested,”Maybe we should create our own.” So, into my kitchen we went with a bag of lively lobsters, a pound of homemade butter, a package of very fresh top-split hot dog rolls, a jar of my own pickles and an unopened jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise, the only brand my mother bought. Have I mentioned my mother’s lobster sandwich was perfect?

Lobster roll bun. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brenda Athanus

Lobster roll bun. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brenda Athanus

In a large pot, steam a 1½-pound lobster for each lobster roll, being careful not to overcook them. The lobster should be steamed for 14 to 15 minutes for a hard shell, which I prefer over a new shell lobster because I like the firmer texture. Chill the whole lobsters and when cool enough, shell out the claws, knuckles and tails into a colander over a bowl.

With a pair of scissors in one hand, squeeze out the juices from each piece of lobster with the other hand. Cut all the meat into one-inch chunks and place in a clean, dry bowl. Add enough mayonnaise to only hold the meat together, no excess. Start by adding a tablespoon and mix, add more as you go, because you can’t take it out, go slowly. I always add finely chopped chives to the mixture for appearance, a delicate secondary flavor that brings balance and harmony. Chill the salad for a minimum of half an hour.

In a skillet, melt really good butter — allow a tablespoon and a half for each roll. Dip the sides of each roll into the melted butter. Slowly toast one side and then the other. A little tip: The more often you flip the rolls from one side to the other the more deeply the butter will soak in. Keep the skillet on medium heat and do not take your eyes off the pan. When both sides of the roll are golden brown, like a perfect piece of toast, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner. Turn the rolls onto their underside and in less then a minute the split will open and literally smile at you.

All that is left is to fill the buns with the chilled lobster salad. With well-cleaned hands, grab a good handful and place it in one end and repeat this on the opposite side. Lastly, fill in the middle. If there are spots that need more, fill them in. We want a copiously filled lobster roll. After all, how often do you eat them? Indulge yourself and your guests.

Lobster salad filling. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brenda Athanus

Lobster salad filling. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brenda Athanus

In general, paprika is sprinkled over the top, but I prefer smoked paprika because it enhances the sweetness of the lobster and elevates it to lobster roll perfection. There is no better accompaniment then a simple side of homemade bread and butter pickles for balance and a palate cleanser.

If, when you take the first bite, two or three pieces of lobster salad haven’t fallen in your lap, then you haven’t filled them enough.

Main photo: Classic lobster roll. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brenda Athanus

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Greek Classics For A Special Dinner At Home /cooking/greek-classics-for-a-special-dinner-at-home/ /cooking/greek-classics-for-a-special-dinner-at-home/#respond Thu, 14 Sep 2017 09:00:54 +0000 /?p=75664 Stifado, braised beef with feta cheese and onions. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clifford A. Wright

Greek food is one that is festive, healthy, simple and delicious, and Greek restaurants are always fun to go to. Greek food is easy to cook at home too, as long as you have the basic staples — none of which are exotic — such as olive oil, tomatoes, oregano, lemon and feta cheese.

When I crave Greek food I don’t bother Googling “Greek restaurants” but simply open the refrigerator. Here are two very simple recipes I make when I think, “How about Greek tonight?” Both use feta cheese, one with meat, one with seafood. I was introduced to both these dishes during my travels in Greece and realized that they are very doable at home.

The stifado is simple braised beef with lots of garlic, onions and interesting spicing. The baked shrimp with feta is probably even easier to do, and I’ve never made it without people asking for seconds.


Stifado, braised beef with feta cheese and onions. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clifford A. Wright

Stifado, braised beef with feta cheese and onions. Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

This recipe, called stifatho or stifado in Greek, is a braised beef with onions that is simply one recipe among thousands, since every family makes it a little differently and it is so typical of rustic Greek mountain cooking.

The name comes from the Italian stufato, and the Greek version probably results from the influence of Venetian overlordship in the Middle Ages when Venice played such a large role in Greek affairs, especially in the Ionian Sea. On the other hand, the spices, the clove and cinnamon, as well as the walnuts and currants, point to some Turkish or other Levantine influence, too, which is logical when we remember that the Turks controlled most of Greece for 500 years.

These soul-satisfying tastes are perfect once the weather becomes cool. This is a recipe that you can change any way you want, just as a Greek cook would. Maybe you would like to add carrots or potatoes or remove the walnuts — well, go ahead, it’s a free-form Greek stew.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: about 2 3/4 hours

Yield: 4 servings


5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 pounds boneless beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes, or 4 pounds beef short ribs

1 medium onion, chopped

10 garlic cloves, lightly crushed

1 cup tomato purée (canned or fresh)

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 pounds small white onions, both ends sliced off and peeled

2 tablespoons currants

1 cup walnut halves

1 cup crumbled imported Greek or Bulgarian feta cheese


1. In a skillet, heat 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat, then brown the meat on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a flameproof casserole. Add the chopped onion and garlic cloves to the skillet with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato purée, wine and wine vinegar to deglaze the skillet. Pour this over the meat in the casserole. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and sugar, and season with salt and pepper.

2. Cover the casserole and braise over low heat for 1 hour. Add the small onions and currants and cook until meat falls off the bone (if using short ribs), about 1 hour more. Add the walnuts and cook 20 minutes more. Add the feta cheese and cook 5 minutes then serve.

Baked Shrimp With Feta Cheese

Garides me feta, shrimp with feta, is usually cooked in an earthenware casserole called youvetsi (or giouvetsi), derived from the Turkish, that is like an earthenware Spanish casserole or cazuela. It is a taverna type of dish popular in the islands.

Diane Kochilas, author ofThe Food and Wine of Greece,” told me that it is a specialty from Thessaloniki, but it is also well known among the tavernas around Piraeus, the port of Athens. Some people add ouzo or replace the white wine with retsina. This is one of my favorite shrimp dishes, and it is easy to prepare at home.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: about 1 hour

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined if necessary

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion or 3 shallots, finely chopped

5 scallions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 pound Greek or Bulgarian feta cheese, crumbled in large chunks

Fresh parsley leaves for garnish


1. Place the shelled shrimp in a large bowl and pour the lemon juice over. Toss and set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then cook, stirring occasionally, the onion or shallots and scallions until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, garlic and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Stir well, reduce the heat to low and simmer until dense, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Preheat the oven to 450  F.

4. Spoon some sauce into a large baking dish. Spread the shrimp around the dish and cover with the remaining sauce. Spread the feta cheese around, pushing the chunks of cheese down into the sauce. Place in the oven and bake until the shrimp are cooked and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve garnished with parsley leaves.

Main photo: Baked shrimp with feta cheese. Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

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Asian-Style Congee Gets Comfy With Summer Bounty /cooking/asian-style-congee-gets-comfy-with-summers-bounty/ /cooking/asian-style-congee-gets-comfy-with-summers-bounty/#respond Sat, 02 Sep 2017 09:00:13 +0000 /?p=74115 Corn-Lobster Congee topped with chopped tomatoes and sliced scallions. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

For many people the arrival of vine-ripened tomatoes marks the beginning of summer. But for me, it’s the mounds of corn at our farmers market. With countless ways to enjoy corn, one of the most delicious is to use corn kernels in an Asian-style congee or rice porridge.

Certainly the easiest way to enjoy corn is to strip off the husks and place the cobs into boiling water or onto a blazingly hot grill. Featured center stage, a bowl of freshly cooked corn on the cob is wonderful. But corn is also an able supporting player when the kernels are cut off the cob and added to salads, soups, stews and pasta.

Congee, the best kept secret of the Asian kitchen

A meal in itself, congee is Asian comfort food. Putting good use to leftover rice, the most basic congee is a stew of boiled rice. Many cuisines have made the dish their own by layering in flavor with combinations of stocks, fragrant oils, fresh and dried herbs, spices, vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood.

Congee comes in many consistencies. Some feature the broth as much as the rice. Other versions have very little liquid and the congee has a consistency similar to porridge.

Any rice varietal will work nicely to make congee. Short grain, long grain, white or brown rice, it doesn’t matter. When the cooked rice is added to a liquid over heat, the starches thicken to create a sauce. Water can be used as the liquid, but a home-made stock adds much more flavor.

My congee borrows the general technique but is not an attempt to create an authentic dish as prepared in the Philippines, China, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia or Vietnam.

Because the starting point for congee is so flavor neutral, a variety of vegetables, seasonings and stocks can be added. A fine dice of carrots, green beans or broccoli works well, as does a shredding of kale, spinach or sorrel. Instead of olive oil, use sesame or truffle oil. Add aromatics such as raw garlic, fried garlic chips, turmeric, cilantro, cumin, saffron, pimentón or oregano. Homemade broth brings another level of flavor. You can use a dominating liquid like beef stock flavored with anise or take a more delicate approach using shrimp stock with a saffron infusion.

As an ingredient in congee, corn is an ideal companion because the firm sweet kernels contrast well with the creaminess of the boiled rice.

Corn-Lobster Congee

Corn-Lobster Congee in stock pot with corn kernels, lobster meat, chopped tomatoes and sliced scallions. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Corn-Lobster Congee in stock pot with corn kernels, lobster meat, chopped tomatoes and sliced scallions. Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

If lobster is not available, another protein can be used. Cooked or raw fish, crab meat or shrimp can be substituted for lobster. Or, shredded roast chicken or roast pork will pair nicely with the corn. A vegetarian version is easy to make by using homemade vegetable stock and fresh farmers market vegetables and herbs.

Cooking a lobster is probably easier than you might think. Bring 3 inches of water to boil in a large pot. Hold the lobster’s head submerged in the boiling water. Cover the pot with a lid. Cook five minutes. Remove the lid, submerge the part of the lobster that is not yet red. Cover. Cook another three minutes. Transfer the lobster to the sink. Reserve the water in the large pot.

When the lobster is cool to the touch, hold it over a large bowl. Remove the legs, claws and tail, reserving any liquid to add to the stock. Discard only the dark colored egg sack. The green tomalley is a delicacy and should be saved to be eaten warm on toast.

Removing the meat from the tail is relatively easy. Use kitchen shears to cut the shell underneath lengthwise and across the top of the tail. The meat will come out without effort. Cracking open the claws takes a bit more work and sometimes requires the use of a hammer. The body meat is especially sweet and requires the use of a pointed stick to separate the meat from the cartilage.

Some of the meat will be cooked. Some will be raw. Both can be used in the recipe.

Place all the shells into the pot with the cooking water and simmer covered thirty minutes. Strain out the shells and reserve the lobster stock.

Refrigerate the lobster meat and stock until needed. The preperation of the lobster can be accomplished a day ahead. If all that sounds like too much effort, use the other proteins mentioned above.

Homemade stock is preferable to canned, boxed or frozen stocks, which are often overly salted and can have a stale taste. Homemade chicken stock is a good substitute if other stocks are not available.

Because rice varietals absorb liquid at differing rates, have enough stock on hand. Adjust the amount of stock as you cook until you have the consistency you enjoy. If you want your congee to have more soup, use six cups of stock. If you would prefer less soup, use four cups. Taste and adjust the seasonings as well.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 ears corn, husks and tassels removed, washed, kernels cut off the cobs

1 medium yellow onion, washed, root end, top and outer skin removed, roughly chopped

4 large scallions, washed, root end and discolored leaves removed

4 to 6 cups homemade stock, lobster stock if available or use chicken stock or water

4 cups cooked rice

3 cups cooked or raw lobster meat (approximately two 2-pound lobsters) or another protein

1 basket cherry tomatoes, washed, each tomato cut into quarters

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cayenne to taste (optional)

1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)


1. Add olive oil to a heated pot on a medium flame. Sauté corn kernels until lightly browned.

2. Add chopped onions and sauté until lightly browned.

3. Fine chop scallion green parts. Cut white part into ¼-inch lengths and reserve.

4. Add scallion green parts to the sauté.

5. Pour stock into pot, stir well and simmer five minutes.

6. Add rice. Stir well. Continue to simmer.

7. The longer the rice cooks in the liquid, the softer it will become. If cooked too long, the rice will dissolve creating an unpleasant texture. When the consistency is what you like, shred the lobster meat and add along with the chopped cherry tomatoes. Stir well. Simmer two minutes.

8. Season to taste with sea salt, black pepper, cayenne (optional) and sweet butter (optional).

9. Serve congee hot in large bowls. Top with white scallion lengths.

Main photo: Corn-Lobster Congee topped with chopped tomatoes and sliced scallions. Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

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Fire, Fish And Fresh Herbs For Divine Summer Dining /cooking/fire-fish-and-fresh-herbs-for-divine-summer-dining/ /cooking/fire-fish-and-fresh-herbs-for-divine-summer-dining/#respond Sat, 22 Jul 2017 09:00:53 +0000 /?p=74179 Grilled swordfish in fresh orange juice and thyme. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clifford A. Wright

The summer grill party is one of the most beloved of summer gastronomic experiences. We fire up the grill, people gather round impatiently, and on go the hamburgers, the hot dogs, the pork spareribs, the chicken breasts, the steaks. But why not take your grilling game up a notch this year?

Taking on a challenge can mean grilling something you don’t usually try, working with a theme, or grilling something big that needs attention and then to be carved, such as a whole half turkey breast on the bone with its skin. There’s an amazing taste if you’ve never tried. It comes off the grill and you slice it like a big ham. One could go the non-simple direction, such as stuffed roll-ups of veal scallopini or spit-roasted meat.

For a themed meal, grill something from a particular cuisine, or paired foods, or something historical, or foods of the same color or cut, or mixed grills. In the recipes below the theme is three kinds of fish steaks and three kinds of fresh herbs. Choose three kinds of firm fleshed fish steak and pair them with a fresh herb for grilling. Here are three that work.

Grilled swordfish with fresh orange juice and fresh thyme

This preparation is inspired by the way they would cook swordfish in Sicily. Swordfish is very popular in Sicily as they are found in the Straits of Messina and elsewhere around Sicily. The firm flesh of swordfish is perfect for grilling.

Prep and cooking time: 1 1/4 hours

Yield: 2 servings


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 2 oranges

1 bay leaf, crumbled

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Two 5-ounce swordfish steaks, 3/4 inch thick

3 tablespoons fresh thyme and thyme sprigs for garnish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill on high for 20 minutes.

2. In a ceramic or glass baking pan, swish the olive oil, orange juice, bay leaf, and garlic until mixed. Place the swordfish steaks in the marinade and coat with the thyme and salt and pepper and leave for 1 to 2 hours.

3. Grill the swordfish on the hottest part of the grill and grill until almost springy to the touch, 6 to 8 minutes in all, basting with the leftover marinade and turning carefully only once. Remove from the grill and serve.

Grilled fish with oregano, chile and olive oil

Grilled fish with oregano, chile and olive oil. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clifford A. Wright

Grilled fish with oregano, chile and olive oil. Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

If there is one thing I miss since I moved to California, it’s bluefish, which we can’t get here. Bluefish is a dark-fleshed Atlantic fish when raw that is excellent grilled over a hot fire for a few minutes. When the “blues are running” as they say in New England or Long Island, grills come out and people make all kinds of things with bluefish: bluefish balls, bluefish fritters, bluefish pate, bluefish grill. If you’re elsewhere in the country, then you’ll want to use mackerel, bonito, yellowtail, mahimahi, or angelshark. Note in the recipe that you are using fillets, not steaks, and the fillet needs its skin on.

Prep and cooking time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste in a mortar

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves

1 dried red chile, crumbled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 pounds bluefish or bonito fillets (about 3/4 inch thick)


1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat the gas grill on high for 15 minutes.

2. Lightly brush the grill with some olive oil. Stir together the remaining olive oil, garlic, oregano, chile, salt and pepper. Coat the bluefish with this mixture and lay skin side down on the grill.

3. Grill for 5 to 6 minutes while basting occasionally. Carefully flip the fish with a spatula and grill another 5 to 6 minutes, basting some more. Remove to a platter and serve.

Grilled salmon with tomato relish and mint

Grilled salmon with tomato relish and mint. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clifford A. Wright

Grilled salmon with tomato relish and mint. Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

The grilled salmon gets a treatment of salsa cruda, a raw sauce made of tomato, garlic and mint that can be made quickly in a food processor, which whips it into a froth very quickly. Serve the sauce on the side or spooned on top of the salmon.

Prep and cooking time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


6 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and drained of water

1/2 cup loosely-packed fresh mint leaves

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet, in 4 pieces


1. Preheat a gas grill on high for 20 minutes or preheat a broiler or prepare a charcoal fire.

2. Place the tomatoes, mint leaves, garlic, and olive oil in the food processor and run until the salsa is frothy, 30 to 45 seconds. Season with salt and pepper and stir.

3. Season the salmon with oil, salt, and pepper on both sides and place skin side down on the grill. After 4 to 5 minutes, flip with a spatula and grill for another 3 to 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Serve immediately with the salsa.

Main photo: Grilled swordfish in fresh orange juice and thyme. Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

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4 Quick Tricks Banish Boring Summer Salads /cooking/4-quick-tricks-banish-boring-summer-salads/ /cooking/4-quick-tricks-banish-boring-summer-salads/#respond Wed, 12 Jul 2017 09:00:13 +0000 /?p=68073 Carrot and radicchio salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

The grill is blasting away, people are licking their chops, and you’re asking yourself, “what sides?” A great approach is a salad, of course. But why stop at merely one salad? And too often that salad is one of the heavy mayonnaise-based standbys, macaroni salad or potato salad.

An approach I love is four salads, all of which should be easy to make and easy to make ahead of time. The first is a refreshing and simple salad of julienned carrots and a slightly bitter red radicchio that you can put together while the meat cooks. Young carrots are cut into matchsticks with radicchio sliced into strips and tossed with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and that’s it.

Make the most of ripe tomatoes

Tomato, egg and olive salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright Photo credit: Clifford A. Wright

Tomato, egg and olive salad. Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

A second nice salad is a tomato, egg and olive salad. You would assemble this beautiful dish as you would a work of art. It’s stunning to look at and eat. Choose vine-ripened juicy tomatoes, preferably from your own tomato plant, and the best olives, not too bitter, not too salty.

Hard-boil the eggs and slice them interspersed with sliced tomatoes and black olives, all arranged in a spiral, and garnish with parsley, extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. Do not refrigerate this dish.

Take bean salad inspiration from Greece

Mavromakita fasolia (black-eyed pea salad). Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Mavromakita fasolia (black-eyed pea salad). Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

Many people must have a bean salad in summer, and a wonderful Greek version is made with canned black-eyed peas. Canned beans will work fine, as long as they are packed only in water. If you can’t find beans canned in water, you can boil some dried black-eyed peas instead.

After this step, the salad takes just five minutes to put together. For six servings, open two 15-ounce cans of black-eyed peas and rinse them. Toss with two trimmed and finely chopped scallions, a little salt, one small finely chopped clove of garlic, three tablespoons chopped fresh dill, five tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Show off seafood in a rice salad from Sicily

Riso al mare (seafood rice salad). Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Riso al mare (seafood rice salad). Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

The last of our summer salads is a bit more involved, but not hard, and I provide you a recipe below. Years ago, in Sicily, I had a riso al mare, a seafood rice salad, that was probably the best I’ve ever had.

We were skin diving off the tiny port of San Gregorio and were exhausted and ravenous when we exited the water, which may have helped in the enjoyment of this salad.

Riso al mare (Seafood Rice Salad)

Rice for riso al mare (seafood rice salad). Credit: Copyright 2015 Michelle van Vliet

Rice for riso al mare (seafood rice salad). Credit: Copyright 2017 Michelle van Vliet

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Total time: 60 minutes

Yield: 6 servings


6 mussels, scrubbed and bearded just before cooking

6 littleneck clams, scrubbed

1/2 carrot, peeled

1 squid, skin pinched off, viscera removed, tentacles cut off below the eyes, washed clean

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/2 cups medium-grain rice (Spanish rice)

2 1/2 cups water

Salt to taste

6 cooked medium shrimp, shelled and very finely chopped

One 3-ounce can tuna packed in oil, very finely chopped with its oil

3 ounces Norwegian or Scottish smoked salmon, finely chopped

2 canned hearts of palm, drained and finely chopped

2 teaspoons beluga or salmon caviar (or 1/2 teaspoon black or red lumpfish caviar)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Place the mussels and clams into a pot with a few tablespoons of water and turn the heat to high. Cover and cook until they open, 4 to 8 minutes. Discard any that do not open and remain firmly shut. Let the mussels and clams cool, remove from their shells, and chop very finely. Set aside in a mixing bowl.

2. Place the carrot in a small saucepan, covered with water, and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil and cook until crisp-tender (or whatever you prefer), about 10 minutes. Drain and chop finely.

3. Put the squid body and tentacles into the pot you cooked the mollusks. Add 3 tablespoons water and cook on a high heat until firm, about 4 minutes. Let cool, and chop the body finely. Cut the tentacles in half and set aside. Add the rest of the chopped squid to the mixing bowl with the clams and mussels.

4. In a heavy 4-quart enameled cast-iron pot or flame-proof casserole with a heavy lid, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Add the water and 2 teaspoons salt, reduce the heat to very low, cover and cook undisturbed for 12 minutes. Do not lift the lid until then. Check to see if the rice is cooked and all the water has been absorbed. If it hasn’t, add a little boiling water and cook until tender. Transfer the cooked rice to a second large mixing bowl, spreading it out so it will cool faster.

5. Once the rice is completely cooled, use a fork to toss it well with the mussels, clams, carrot, squid, shrimp, tuna, smoked salmon, hearts of palm, caviar, olive oil and parsley. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.

6. Arrange attractively on an oval platter and garnish each end with the squid tentacles and parsley sprigs.

Main photo: Carrot and radicchio salad. Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

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4 Red-Hot Grilling Surprises For July Fourth /cooking/4-red-hot-grilling-surprises-july-fourth/ /cooking/4-red-hot-grilling-surprises-july-fourth/#respond Fri, 30 Jun 2017 09:00:14 +0000 /?p=67305 Grilled pork chops oregano. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

July Fourth begs for a magnificent grill party. It’s summer, it’s a great celebration of the nation’s birth and everyone is outdoors and in party mode. Why hold back on July Fourth? Why not grill everything? With a couple of days’ planning, you can really do something amazingly and deliciously different.

Here are four great ideas for the barbecue. There’s no reason why you can’t do all of the these dishes, although it does require that planning. You will have to consider how many people you’re cooking for, think about how large your grill is and make plans for placing all the dishes on the grill.

Getting organized for easy grilling

Colorful peppers on the grill. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Colorful peppers on the grill. Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

There’s something else many people forget when they grill, but it makes everything easier. Remember to set up a little work station next to the grill to put foods that are cooking too fast, spatulas, mitts and your drink. Even a crummy card table will do. When building your grill fire, remember to pile up the coals to one side of the grill so you also have a “cool” side to move food that is either cooking too fast or is flaring up.

Grilled pork chops are a popular dish in the summer in Greece. In this recipe, though, they are cut quite thin, so you might want to buy a whole loin and slice it yourself or seek out “thin-sliced pork chops,” which many supermarkets sell. In any case, it works with any thickness of chop.

The pork is marinated in garlic and oregano and then grilled until it is golden brown with black grid marks. Then sprinkle the whole oregano leaves on top. You can serve this with a grilled vegetable platter.

You may have heard of the pasta dish called penne all’arrabbiata, angry pasta, so-called because of the use of piquant chiles. This is chicken arrabbiata. It’s “angry” because it is highly spiced with cayenne pepper.

Getting spicy with ‘angry chicken’

Chicken Arrabbiata (angry chicken). Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Chicken Arrabbiata (angry chicken). Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

This chicken gets grilled so if you use the breasts instead of the thighs it will cook quicker. You can leave the chicken skin on or remove it. Crispy skin is delicious, but trying to get the skin crispy on a grill is tricky because of flare-ups. You’ll have to grill by means of indirect heat, pushing the coals to one side.

Many people shy away from grilling whole fish for a variety of reasons. One way to make grilling fish easier is to place a rectangular cast iron griddle over a portion of the grilling grate and cook the fish on top.

If you do that, the griddle must be on the grill for at least 45 minutes to get sufficiently hot before cooking. I suggest several fish below, but it all depends on what’s locally available.

Finding the right fish for the grill

Blue mackerel and idiot fish (kinki fish). Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Blue mackerel and idiot fish (kinki fish). Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

Parsley-stuffed grilled porgy and mackerel are two small-fish dishes ideal for a fast grill. You may not necessarily have these two fish available, so use whatever is the freshest whole fish of like size.

I like the contrast between the mild tasting white flesh of the porgies, also called scup, and the darker, denser meat of the mackerel. Because 50 percent of the weight of a whole fish is lost in the trimming these, 4 pounds of fish will yield 2 pounds or less of fillet.

But you can use any fish: The red fish in the photo is a Pacific fish called idiot fish, kinki fish, or shortspine thornyhead (Sebastolobus alascanus). It has delicious soft flesh.

Complementing with the right grilled sides

Peperoni in Graticola (Grilled red, green, and yellow peppers) Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Peperoni in Graticola (Grilled red, green, and yellow peppers) Credit: Copyright 2017 Clifford A. Wright

I think it’s always nice to have grilled vegetables with any grill party. Grilled red, green and yellow peppers make a very attractive presentation. Their flavor is a natural accompaniment to grilled meats. The charred skin of the peppers is peeled off before serving, leaving the smoky flavor. You don’t have to core or halve the peppers before grilling.

Grilled Pork Chops Oregano

Prep time: 4 hours

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Total time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


1 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh oregano and 2 tablespoons whole leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

14 to 16 pork chops (about 2 pounds), sliced 1/4-inch thick


1. Mix the olive oil, garlic, onion, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste in a 9-by-12-inch ceramic or glass baking pan. Dip both sides of the pork chops into this mixture and then leave to marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 4 hours, turning several times. Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling.

2. Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on medium high.

3. Remove the pork chops from the marinade and discard the marinade. Place the pork chops with any marinade ingredients adhering to them on the grill. Cook, turning only once, until golden brown with black grid marks, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the whole oregano leaves. Serve hot.

Chicken Arrabbiata

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


1 small onion, chopped fine

3 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts (skinless, optional)


1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire to one side of the grill or preheat one side of a gas grill on high for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together the onion, tomato paste, olive oil, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste until well blended.

3. Flatten the chicken thighs or breasts by pounding gently with the side of a heavy cleaver or a mallet between two sheets of wax paper. Coat the chicken with the tomato paste mixture.

4. Place the chicken on the cool side of the grill, and cook until the chicken is dark and springy to the touch, turning once, about 20 to 24 minutes (less time for breasts). Baste with any remaining sauce and serve.

Main photo: Grilled Pork Chops Oregano. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

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Don’t Toss Lobster Shells /cooking/how-to-use-lobster-shells/ /cooking/how-to-use-lobster-shells/#respond Wed, 31 May 2017 18:50:11 +0000 /?p=1454

Lobsters, crabs and shrimp are crustaceans and are not, strictly speaking, shellfish. They do not have shells, even though we call them that. Their “shells” are properly called carapaces. These hard carapaces have joints for movement and grow with the animal and can be sloughed off. When cooked, crustaceans will turn color — shrimp from translucent white-bluish-gray to pink or orange and white, and lobsters from blue-black-scarlet to bright orange-red.

Home cooks too often throw away shells — I’m going to call them shells because carapaces is too cumbersome. It’s important not to throw them away because they’re a resource for the extraction of even more flavor. They’re cheap because you’ve already bought them for their meat, and they make a good foundation for broth.

These shells that we so casually chuck when eating a steamed lobster or shrimp cocktail are rich in flavor. When you make your first lobster or shrimp broth using these shells you will kick yourself when you think of the hundreds of dollars you have thrown into the garbage over past years.

Linguine and shrimp

The next time you have lobster — or crab, crawfish, or shrimp, even if it’s only one — place a large pot near the table and as people finish cracking and removing the meat from their lobster make sure they throw the empty cracked pieces, arms, legs, fan tails, claws, tail shell and body into the pot. Cover with cold water by two inches and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for a few hours. If you don’t have that time, boil for one hour, replenishing the water by a cup or two. There’s no need to salt or add anything to the broth. Strain the broth, discarding all the shells, and let cool. Once the broth is cool, pour into quart or pint plastic containers with lids until nearly full and freeze until needed.

You’ll find myriad uses for this versatile broth. You can always make a bisque with the addition of some shellfish and cream. I especially like to use the shellfish broth to finish pasta. Only your imagination can limit the combinations of pasta type and seafood, and using your homemade broth will add a layer of fresh flavor.

Linguine and shrimp are good classic ingredients for this type of dish. In a flameproof casserole, heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat with two crushed garlic cloves. Remove and discard the garlic once it has turned light golden, then add half a small onion finely chopped and cook until it is translucent in about three minutes while you are stirring.

Meanwhile, cook about three-quarters of a pound of linguine in a large pot of water and when it is half-cooked, transfer it to the casserole with one pound of shelled shrimp, salt to taste (it should taste like the ocean), a half teaspoon of red chili flakes, and a half cup finely chopped parsley. Toss the linguine and add two cups of the shellfish broth and cook, tossing gently, while the linguine absorbs the broth. Add more broth until the linguine is al dente. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Zester Daily contributor Clifford A. Wright won the James Beard / KitchenAid Cookbook of the Year Award and the James Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food in 2000 for “A Mediterranean Feast.” His latest book is “Hot & Cheesy” (Wiley) about cooking with cheese.

Photo: The author’s annual lobster fest, 2010. Credit: Michelle van Vliet.

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5 Ways To Cook The Kippers Sir Laurence Olivier Craved /recipe/satisfying-a-craving-for-kippers-salty-sweetness/ /recipe/satisfying-a-craving-for-kippers-salty-sweetness/#comments Tue, 23 May 2017 09:00:20 +0000 /?p=52838 Kippers demand to be eaten with hot toast and butter and gallons of hot, strong Assam tea.

Tonight’s the night. It’s kippers for tea. I eat them about once a year, usually in the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness when I am consumed by a deep craving for the gently smoked herrings that were one of the mainstays of the British Empire. I thoroughly enjoy their succulent, salty sweetness, but I usually have to lie down afterward, while the kitchen is impregnated with their particularly pungent, unmistakable aroma.

Kippers demand to be eaten with mountains of toast and butter and gallons of hot, strong Assam tea — never coffee, which fails to provide the right touch of astringency to offset the oily richness. They also need silent concentration to avoid stuck bones; indeed, your only companion should be a copy of “The Times” (as long as you don’t choke over the letters page).

With its mineral flashes of pewter, gold and amber, and bronzed flesh, the kipper is a magnificent beast but not for those who faint at the sight of a fish bone. Yes, you can buy fillets but that is like listening to a Spotify compilation of Mozart “hits” instead of watching “Figaro” at the Met.

Kipper dyes were introduced during World War I to compensate for reduced smoking times brought about by cost-cutting measures. Scottish smokehouses invented the commercial coal tar dye Brown FK (for kippers). The habit stuck and many kippers are still treated with colorants, which give them a brassy Hawaiian tan or radioactive glow.

Where the best kippers are produced

The best undyed artisanal kippers, glossy and plump, are produced in Scotland (Loch Fyne, Mallaig or Stornoway, in particular); the Isle of Man (their famous Manx kippers are small and delicate); Craster in Northumberland; and Whitby in Yorkshire (split through the back rather than the belly).

Alas, in Britain, the humble herring no longer commands the everyday popularity it once had, as captured in the words of an old Scottish folk song, “Of all the fish that swim in the sea, the herring is the fish for me.” Pardon the pun, but the tide is starting to turn and they are expecting large numbers for the annual Herring Festival that takes place in Clovelly, Devon, in mid-November.

Once, herring, or “silver darlings” as they are also known, swam in shoals as large as armies. By 1913, more than 6,000 Scottish girls migrated south to England’s east coast each season, following the catch in a kind of fishy transhumance. The fishwives slept in tumbledown shacks known as kip houses — from which the British slang term, “having a kip” derives.


Picture 1 of 4

Kippers on the bone are usually sold in pairs (for example, two herrings each split and "butterflied" flat, the flesh side of one placed on top of the other). Credit: Clarissa Hyman

As the century progressed, a price was paid for overfishing. Changing tastes also caused a decline, perhaps because of the herring’s association with poverty. Good management has since increased stocks, and herring is back on bistro tables, especially now that the health benefits of oily fish are widely recognized.

How a herring becomes a kipper

To turn the herring into a kipper, it is gutted, split along the backbone, opened out and lightly salted, and hung on wooden pegs or “tenterhooks” while it is cold-smoked over oak or beech wood. Surprisingly, the kipper in its present form dates back only to the early 19th century, when a Northumbrian curer launched his “kippered” herring on the London market, borrowing the term from a technique used with salmon. The best kippers are a skillful blend of smoke and salt, with gentle but lingering flavors and buttery moist textures.

In its state-owned heyday, first-class travelers on British Rail used to be able to enjoy their legendary breakfast kipper, served on starched tablecloths by smartly uniformed stewards as the train chugged through a green and pleasant land. The Brighton Belle rail line was particularly renowned for its grilled kippers, which were much loved by the actor Lord Laurence Olivier who campaigned in 1972 to save them when British Rail tried to drop them from the menu. Olivier would have them for high tea when rehearsing in London and traveling home to Brighton — accompanied  by a bottle of Champagne.

Oh, you long-lost railway kipper, resplendent amidst the rattling china and silverware … I must stop before I come over all poetical … but somehow I fear no verse will ever be written about the vegetarian sausage or bacon baguette.

Cooking your kipper

Broil: Dot with butter, place in a foil-lined pan under a medium-high broiler and cook for a few minutes, flesh side up (you are really just re-heating the kippers rather than “cooking”). Serve with freshly ground black pepper and lemon wedges.

Jugging: Remove the heads (if you prefer), fold the fish sides together. Place into a large jug. Fill with boiling water and cover so the kippers are immersed except for the tails. Leave for five minutes then pull out by the tails. Serve with a lump of butter on each. Perhaps the least odiferous of the techniques.

Steaming: This variation originated at a Blackpool seaside boarding house landlady, quoted by Sheila Hutchins in “Grannie’s Kitchen” (1979). Stand a colander over a pan of boiling water and spread a piece of foil in it. Place the kippers onto the foil and cover with the pan lid. Steam for 5 minutes.

Baking: Wrap the whole fish in a foil parcel, and bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve in the parcel.

Uncooked: There was a fashion in the 1960s and ’70s for uncooked kippers. They were boned, sliced thinly and marinaded in oil and lemon juice. Jane Grigson, in “Good Things” (1971), suggested thinly sliced raw fillets should be “arranged in strips around the edge of some well-buttered rye bread with an egg yolk in the middle as sauce” and served with vodka or schnapps.

Kipper Pate

Kippers on the bone are usually sold in pairs (for example, two herrings each split and “butterflied” flat, the flesh side of one placed on top of the other).

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Yield: 4 servings, as an appetizer

Ingredients, per person:

1½ cups cooked kipper flesh (This recipe also works well with other smoked fish.)

¼ stick of unsalted butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese

juice of 1 lemon

Cayenne pepper or paprika (to taste)

2 tablespoons fresh-chopped parsley


1. Blend or mash the kipper with the butter, cream cheese, lemon juice, cayenne and parsley.

2. Press into a ramekin or one larger pot, cover with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours.

3. Serve with crackers or buttered toast and a lemon wedge.

Main photo: Kippers demand to be eaten with hot toast and butter and gallons of hot, strong Assam tea. Credit: Clarissa Hyman

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How To Get The Most From Delicate, Flavorful Trout /recipe/get-delicate-flavorful-trout/ /recipe/get-delicate-flavorful-trout/#respond Thu, 04 May 2017 09:00:01 +0000 /?p=65455 Trout is a versatile and sustainable seafood choice. Credit: Copyright iStockPhoto

As a seafood lover, writer and cook, I’ve lost track of the number of times people have asked me how to prepare delicate, flaky fish. This group includes the wildly popular tilapia, as well as flounder, sole and, my personal favorite, trout. Mild yet unusually complex in flavor and easy to cook, trout is the country’s oldest and most successful example of aquaculture. Rich in protein, vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids, it provides numerous delights with each bite.

A relative of salmon, trout ranges in color from silvery green to coppery brown and with orange-red, brown or black spots scattered over its skin. Influenced by diet and habitat, its delicate flesh runs from cream to red in color. In terms of size, it grows up to 50 pounds in the wild. Farm-raised trout weigh between 8 and 16 ounces.

Common trout species

Sarah J. Dippold holding a rainbow trout. Credit: Copyright Jim Dippold

Sarah J. Dippold holding a rainbow trout. Credit: Copyright Jim Dippold

Several species of trout exist. If you are or happen to know or are related to serious trout anglers, as I am, you may have access to brown and sea trout. Although the same species, brown trout reside in rivers while sea trout spend time in oceans. They both possess copper skin and pale pink flesh.

Then there is steelhead. Sometimes confused with salmon, this species has reddish flesh and a flavor reminiscent of salmon. Highly versatile, it can stand in for salmon in recipes. Classified as a sport fish, wild steelhead cannot be sold in markets. What you see in your fishmonger’s case or on restaurant menus is a product of aquaculture.

The most recognizable species may be the beautiful, multicolored rainbow trout. Adorned with a hot pink or coral stripe running from head to tail on both sides and a smattering of black spots, this striking fish ranges in body color from yellow to blue-green. When caught in the wild, rainbow trout have a pronounced nutty taste. The farm-raised version is milder in flavor and has creamy white to pink flesh.

Another name that may sound familiar is brook or speckled trout. Considered by many to be the best-tasting trout, this fish isn’t actually a trout. Instead it’s a type of char.

Tips for buying trout

Trout can be purchased from markets either as a whole fish or in fillets. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Trout can be purchased from markets either as a whole fish or in fillets. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

At markets, trout is sold whole and as fillets. When shopping for this fish, you should look for shiny skin, bright eyes, moist flesh and a fresh, clean smell. Whole trout should have a layer of transparent slime over it; the more slime, the better and fresher the fish will be.

Whole trout tends to have more flavor than boned fillets. The only downside is that you may have to take out the tiny pin bones. However, you can always ask the fishmonger to do this for you.

Rainbow trout may be marketed as golden trout. Occasionally it gets mislabeled as steelhead. Just remember that steelhead has a bolder coloring than rainbow trout.

How to cook trout

Pan searing is a simple choice for preparing trout. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Pan searing is a simple choice for preparing trout. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

When cooking trout, my go-to methods are pan searing, grilling or smoking. In the case of pan searing, I heat a smidgen of olive oil in a nonstick frying pan. Once the oil is hot, I place the fillets skin-side down in the pan. As soon as their edges turn ivory in color and flake when probed with a fork, about 2 to 3 minutes, I gently turn over the fish and allow the fillets to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. That’s all it takes to pan sear trout.

A fast-cooking fish, trout also does well when baked, broiled, poached or steamed. No matter which cooking method I choose, I leave the skin on the trout. It will hold the meat together as the fish cooks.

Flavor pairings for trout

Trout has a nutty flavor that pairs well with many foods. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Trout has a nutty flavor that pairs well with many foods. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Trout’s nutty taste marries with myriad foods. Apples, carrots, celery, oranges, scallions, shallots and tomatoes partner well, as do mint, tarragon and thyme. It is also enlivened by a splash of cider, lemon juice or wine or a sprinkling of crumbled bacon or sliced olives. Almonds, pecans, pine nuts and walnuts make delicious coatings for this fish. Even so, I often prepare trout in a simple manner: With a mere sprinkle of salt and pepper and drizzle of olive oil or lemon juice, the fish will shine.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch rates U.S. farm-raised rainbow trout as an “eco-best” seafood choice because it is raised in an environmentally sound manner. Low in mercury, it can be safely consumed at least four times per month.

Cerignola-topped Trout

Cerignola-topped Trout. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Cerignola-topped Trout. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 6 minutes

Total time: 11 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt, to taste

Ground black pepper, to taste

4 (6-ounce) trout fillets

Handful of Cerignola olives, roughly chopped

Extra virgin olive oil, to taste (optional)


1. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. As the oil is heating, season the trout fillets with salt and pepper.

2. Lay the trout skin-side down in the hot pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the borders begin to turn ivory in color and the fish flakes when probed with a fork. Gently turn over the fillets and allow the fish to cook on the other side for 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Place the fillets on plates. Cover the tops with equal amounts of chopped olives. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the olives, if desired. Serve hot.

Main photo: Trout is a versatile and sustainable seafood choice. Credit: Copyright iStockPhoto

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