29 November 2011

Catfish sandwiches

Mrs. Dude recently had another lovely birthday. She is more ravishing today than the day that I met her.

On her birthday, she can pick whatever she wants to eat. Some years it is complicated. Some years it is simple.

On this year, our year of moving, packing, unpacking, job-changing, settling in to a new city and all the excitement that has entailed, Mrs. Dude chose simple. She chose catfish sandwiches, bless her heart, a recipe that I first cooked for her in the late 1990s.
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 ½ tablespoons drained bottled capers, chopped fine
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
a pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon bottled cocktail sauce, or to taste

Mix the ingredients above to make the sauce.


For the sandwich:
all-purpose flour seasoned with salt and pepper for dredging the fish
2 large eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
cornmeal for dredging the fish
four ½-pound catfish fillets, halved crosswise
vegetable oil for deep-frying the fish
8 soft sandwich rolls, split
soft-leafed lettuce for the sandwiches
2 tomatoes, sliced thin
16 slices of lean bacon, cooked

Slice the tomatoes.


Fry the bacon until crispy. Set aside the bacon on paper towels until ready to serve.

Make several trays. One with flour. One with the beaten eggs. One with the cornmeal.

Dredge the catfish through the flour, until thoroughly coated. Then dredge through the eggs. Again, thoroughly coat. Finally dredge through the cornmeal. You'll have a nice, layered catfish fillet at this point.

cornmealed catfish

Put 2 inches of oil in a deep pot. Heat the oil in the pot to 350°F.

Hot oil

Set the fish gently into the hot oil. The trick with screaming hot oil is to not be afraid of it. If you drop the fish in from a height, you'll splash and burn yourself. Set the fish gently into the oil and you won't splash and won't burn. Really.

Fried catfish

Cook a few minutes (1-3) per side, until nicely browned.

Fried catfish

Remove from the oil after you've cooked on both sides. Set on a paper towel to drain.

Assemble the sandwich with a nice bread, sauce, lettuce, tomato, catfish and bacon. Mmmmmmmmm.... bacon...

Catfish sandwich

Served with:

Served with

Happy birthday, beautiful.

24 November 2011

How food stylists make gnarly food look edible


Thanksgiving preparation: Volume 4.

This is a re-post. As you finish your preparations for your turkey feast, don't forget the gravy. This is one you can mostly do in advance.


Smoked turkey provides a bit of a challenge when it comes to making gravy. How do you catch and maintain quality drippings and schmutz when you have your turkey on a grill? Clearly not insurmountable, but a bit of a challenge nonetheless. Well, why not skip that step entirely. A stock-based gravy, then. I use a small modification to Ruhlman's version of gravy, which you can make in advance, and if you're organized, doesn't need to be some crazy last step.
4 tbsp flour
6 tbsp butter
1 large onion
kosher salt as needed
heart and gizzards
1 cup white wine
4 cups turkey stock
Melt 4 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add the flour, a bit at a time, whisking constantly. Continue to stir over medium heat while this roux darkens to a nice golden brown.

Remove from heat, and set aside the roux.

Meanwhile, finely mince the onion, the heart and gizzards.

Melt the remaining butter in a pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent. Toss in the heart and gizzard bits.  Turn up the heat to medium-high. Continue cooking, until you start to develop a nice layer of brown schmutz on the pan and on the outside of the meat, about 8 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the wine. Stir to remove any delicious brown stuff on the bottom of the pan. When you've removed all the schmutz from the pan, add the turkey stock. Add back the roux, a bit at a time, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

Simmer over low heat for thirty minutes, to reduce slightly and to meld the flavours. Serve.

This gravy is easily as rich and flavourful as anything you make directly using drippings from the pan. And the convenience of making it a bit in advance, combined with the sheer ridiculous flavour, makes it a no-brainer to add to your turkey feast.


23 November 2011

Thanksgiving preparation: Volume 3.

This is a re-post. This is the real deal, getting ready to serve the bird for Thanksgiving.

I'm not much for the "traditional" ChristmasThanksgiving dinner. Turkey is far from my favourite bird. It's not as flavourful as goose, and certainly more dry than a duck. But I have a deal with my wife. If I make her traditional Christmas dinner, that is, turkey, cranberry sauce, salad, veggies and rhubarb pie, then I'm allowed to cook whatever I want for the rest of the holidays.

Well, what better way to heighten the flavour of a turkey, than to brine it and smoke it. I start the night before with a fresh, unaltered turkey. Three points to keep in mind before you start. First is that most turkeys have been extensively injected with salty chicken or turkey broth. While that makes the flavour stronger, it also makes them fairly salty. If you brine a pre-treated turkey, you'll create an inedible salt bomb. Secondly, don't forget if you're starting with a frozen turkey, it'll take a day per 5 pounds to thaw it in the fridge, and it needs to be thawed (or nearly thawed) when you place it in the brine. We started thawing our 10 pounder a day and a half prior to brining. Third, smoking takes longer than roasting a turkey. That said, for food safety sake, don't stuff your turkey, and don't smoke a bird bigger than 16 pounds. You'll need thirty minutes per pound, so anything bigger than that will be too long in the danger zone, and you don't want to serve your family a big poultry bag of Campylobacter. You really, really don't.

Okay, the brine:
1 ½ gallon water
1 ½ cup salt (2 ¼ cups Kosher or coarse salt - Kosher salt is flaked to make it less dense)
¾ cup sugar
½ cup dried tarragon
1 ½ tsp black pepper
Boil the water to get rid of any chlorine in it. Let cool to room temperature. Mix in the salt and sugar until they're dissolved. Add the tarragon and pepper. Place in a large container. (I reserve a bucket just for brining a turkey every year - it's carefully labeled, to ensure we don't use it to bleach the floor):

food only

Place in a sink, so that when you add the turkey to it it doesn't overflow all over the kitchen counter. Not speaking from experience, or anything. Nope. Nope. Didn't happen to me *ever*. (At least, not since the first time).


Remove the turkey neck and the bag with the guts in it, (I save the neck and heart for making gravy). Submerge the turkey in the brine, and place back in the fridge. Leave in the brine for approximately twelve hours.

The next morning, remove the turkey from the brine, briefly rinse in the sink, and pat dry.

Clean the turkey

When dry, rub the bird down with olive oil. This will crisp the skin up nicely, as there's not enough fat in turkey skin to make it nice. Truss or not. I won't discuss trussing, because my trussing skills are pretty rough (see the photos). Fire up your smoker to a toasty 225°F. Place the bird breast side up in your smoker. We're using indirect heat here. I use wet hickory for smoke (hickory that's been soaking a few hours in water) and charcoal (not briquettes - it's easier to control the heat with lump charcoal) for heat.

Turkey on the smoker

Smoke for thirty minutes per pound. Half way through, open up the smoker and and rotate the bird so the other side of the bird is facing the heat source.

This photo is at about three quarters done:

Smoked turkey

Sadly, photos taken after this point aren't beautiful (it got dark, and I had to use a flash). But look at that turkey deliciousness!

Take the bird down when a meat thermometer shows 180°F at multiple checked points (don't start checking too early, you don't want to put too many holes in this bird!). Let the bird rest 10-15 minutes before carving. Carve and serve.

These days, this is the only way I enjoy turkey. The smoke adds a reallllly great flavour, and the brine makes the bird salty and moist. Roast turkey is truly bland and boring in comparison. The other bonus point? Having the bird on the smoker leaves the oven free to make pie or bread or any number of other things. It's like having a second oven for the holidays.



22 November 2011

Thanksgiving preparation: Volume 2.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, we can't forget the appetizers. This is a repost of a delightful appetizer to serve your guests before dining on turkey.

I'm in danger of seeming a miso fanatic.  But it's a tasty source of umami flavours, and, well...  Umami!

We recently had the great fortune to dine at Morimoto Napa, while visiting the lovely wineries of Napa Valley.  It's a pity I forgot my camera in the car, because in addition to being one of the tastiest meals of my life, it was also one of the most beautiful.  But none of the dishes was more magnificent than the bagna càuda.  It was an umami bomb coated in vegetable oil.  A little blob of brown paste at the bottom of a ceramic container, covered in a deep layer of olive oil, and warmed by a candle underneath, this stuff was like heaven.  Rich, sweet, delicious.  A hot dip for the perfect and crisp vegetables that were served.  And when I asked the server what it was, he said it was a dip made of anchovy paste, miso and dashi.  Well here's my attempt to re-create that delightful umami bomb.

Traditional bagna càuda is (according to the Wikipedias) Piedmontese for "hot sauce":
The dish, which is served and consumed in a manner similar to fondue, is made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, butter, and in some parts of the region cream.
I used the bagna càuda recipe in Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking as the starting point, and modified it, more olive oil (though most of it not mixed in), plus red miso - I had no dashi on hand for this attempt:
3 large heads garlic
1 cup whole milk
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp anchovy paste
½ tsp red miso
salt and pepper
Crush and peel the cloves in 3 large heads of garlic.

Crushed garlic

Cover with water, and bring to a boil.

Blanching garlic

Discard the boiling water, and retain the garlic. Repeat twice. These steps extract some of the stronger, bitter flavours of the garlic, and mellows it a bit. It also extracts a tiny bit of the color, resulting in pure white gloves of garlic.

Blanched garlic

Now pour in the milk.  Bring the milk to a boil, and boil for ten minutes, or until the garlic is tender.  Discard all but 1 tbsp of the milk.  Again, this extracts some of the fat soluble bitter compounds.  This is going to be some very mellow garlic.

Purée the garlic in a food processor until smooth.  Add the anchovy paste, the miso, the reserved milk, salt and pepper to taste and 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Purée until smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, place some of the paste in a small serving dish.  Heat in the microwave (or over a candle, if you have such an apparatus).  Heat the remaining olive oil on the stove until hot and cover the hot paste with hot olive oil.  Serve immediately with fresh chopped vegetables.

Bagna cauda

This was really great. Very tasty, but missing something. It wasn't as dark in colour or rich in depth of flavour as what we had at Morimoto Napa. Still, we all ate a ton of this.  When I asked Mrs. Dude, "If what we had at Morimoto was an A+, and and F is the bottom grade, where does this fit?" She thought for a moment, "B-". Okay, well clearly I have some work to do to get this up to par. But really, if on any scale that Morimoto ranks an A+, I get a B-, I suppose I can't be too sad.

I'll be working on this recipe some more. Stay tuned.


21 November 2011

Thanksgiving preparation: Volume 1.

This is a repost. So, we're getting ready for Thanksgiving here in the Dude household. I cook the Thanksgiving meal, despite the fact that I'm not the American in the family. But here we go, what do we prepare first? My dad's cranberry sauce. You have to have this sauce with your turkey. Get it ready early, it keeps in the fridge for several weeks.


I was 25 before I ever tasted canned cranberry sauce. Jiggly. Bland. Gelatinous. Yuck. I can understand why cranberry sauce is an afterthought for most folks. In our home, it's a centerpiece.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were enormous food events for my family when I was a child. My mother would make turkey, gravy, corn, salad, broccoli, bubbat and pumpkin pie. My father would make cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce was a religious thing for him. He would make enormous pots of the stuff, and wouldn't only serve it for holidays. Cranberry sauce was a year round thing for us. And rightly so! This cranberry sauce will change your life.

Dad's cranberry sauce started with the recipe in the old version of the Joy of Cooking, but was refined to be less sweet and more bright. I think you'll amaze your guests with this recipe:

Sort the cranberries. While they ship well, I find fresh cranberries often contain as much as one fifth rotten berries. Wash them and measure them.

Washed cranberries

Use the following ratio:
1 23 cup water
45 cup sugar
4 cup cranberries (sorted and washed)
Mix the water and sugar in a heavy pot. Bring to a boil, until the sugar dissolves. Then add cranberries.

Boiling cranberries

Lower to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 30 or so minutes, stirring periodically. Use the spoon to crush the cranberries. You don't want a homogeneous mixture, but a nice lumpy sauce, with mostly broken berries but a very few whole ones.

Saucing cranberries

Zest some lemons and oranges to make:
2 tsp lemon zest
3 tsp orange zest
Orange and lemon

You'll want to add the zest last, as the longer you cook it, the more the zest flavour dulls.

Orange and lemon zest

Stir in the zest, and taste. Adjust the sugar and zest to taste. Let cool, and serve at room temperature or cold. (We generally make this ahead of time, but it's not much work and can easily be done while cooking a turkey).

Cranberry sauce

Thanks for the recipe, Dad.


17 November 2011


You may have noticed a small fish deficit on Indirect Heat. Do we have something against the fishies here? Do we dislike the taste of fish flesh?

No. It's just that fish doesn't photograph well. Chicken looks terrible raw, but looks pretty tasty when cooked. Fish - looks flaky and pale raw. Looks pretty gnarly cooked.

We've discovered something interesting here in the Boston area. We could purchase hake in Baltimore. We can purchase hake here. But hake is completely absent from the grocers and fishmongers of southern California. We didn't see it even once.

Well, we're loving having it here again. And we've had it several times since we got out here. It's a quick and easy dinner to make.

Pre-heat your oven to 300°F. Heat 3 tbsp of butter in a pan over medium heat.


Lay your fillets of hake in the pan and season with salt liberally (and a wee dash of pepper).


Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil over high heat.

Flip the hake after 6 minutes. Sear a few minutes on the other side, and transfer the pan to the oven.

While it's cooking in the oven, toss a few arugula leaves in the boiling water. Wilt the leaves in the hot water for 30 seconds.


Fish the arugula out of the water, and set on a plate, arranged as a holder for hake.


Remove the hake from the oven. Place on top of the bed of arugula and serve.


So, sorry for that shot. It doesn't look all that great, but holy moley was it tasty. HOLY MOLEY! Squeeze a wee bit o' lemon juice on there. And serve with a nice white wine. We had it with this:

served with



15 November 2011

Roast beef

Roast beef

Life in the Dude household is still very busy. We haven't had the time to dedicate to a smoked brisket, for example. It's all been about speed. Utility. But we have done our best to not sacrifice tastiness.

So how about a quick roast? Not only is roast beef delicious, but if you whip up a quick loaf of bread, with some horseradish, leftovers are starting to look pretty awesome...

Okay, so it's Saturday night, you've been unpacking all day. Pull a
top-round roast
out of the fridge an hour and a half before you cook to bring it up to room temperature. Pre-heat the oven to 300°F. Liberally salt and pepper the roast. Roast for one to one and a half hours, until the internal temperature measures 125°F with a meat thermometer (for medium-rare).

Pull out of the oven. Let rest 20 minutes.

Roast beef

Slice thinly. Serve with horseradish on the side.

Roast beef

Quick. Simple. And tasty.


10 November 2011



Coq au vin

We have family visiting our new abode in the Boston metro area. And for dinner, we needed something delicious. Relatively low effort. And comfort foody. Foodish. Foodly. Right.

Braised chicken fits the bill. Coq au vin, to be precise. French for rooster in wine, this is a rich, tasty preparation of chicken. I prepare it here with chicken thighs, as I simply don't know where to get a rooster. It's a good way to break down an older rooster. Much like bbq, braising softens tough cuts of meat.

I used the recipe from James Peterson's Meat:
8 large chicken thighs
1 bottle dry red wine
1 onion, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
bouquet garni (thyme, rosemary and parsley)
¾ pound thick-cut bacon
1 ¼ pounds mushrooms
2 10 oz packages pearl onions, blanched
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
red wine vinegar

I chose a Côtes du Rhône for the marinade.


I marinated the chicken for four hours in the wine, onions, carrots, garlic and bouquet garni. Here's the obligatory shot of raw chicken in marinade. Avert your eyes. You've been warned. Raw chicken does not photograph well.

Raw chicken

Chop the bacon into large chunks. Fry over medium heat until crisp.


Fish out the bacon bits and set aside. Retrieve the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Fry in the bacon grease over medium heat until nicely browned all over. A few minutes on each side.

Browning chicken

Place the browned chicken back into the marinade.


Heat over medium heat until the liquid starts to boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for three hours.

During the cooking, remove a quarter cup of broth. In a separate covered pot, steam the mushrooms in the broth for twelve minutes until mostly cooked. Remove the mushrooms and cool.

Steamed mushrooms

Return the remaining broth to the chicken pot.

Remove another quarter cup of broth. Steam the blanched pearl onions until softened, about fifteen minutes.


Reomve the onions and set aside. Return remaining broth to the chicken pot.

Continue to cook until done, approximately three hours, until chicken accepts a knife easily. Go ahead. Stab it. When done, remove the chicken from the broth, and cover to keep it hot. Pour the remaining broth through a fine sieve. Heat until it is reduced to about one and a half cups.

Meanwhile, mix the butter and flour into a fine paste.

Beurre manié

This is called a beurre manié, and is for thickening sauces. Add to the broth, a bit at a time, stirring, until the broth reaches a nice saucy consistency. I used about ¾ of it to thicken the sauce. Continue cooking the sauce a few minutes to eliminate the raw flour flavour. Season with salt, pepper and red wine vinegar to taste.


Assemble the coq au vin. Place the mushrooms, bacon and onions on top of a piece of chicken. Drizzle liberally with sauce. And serve.

Coq au vin

The chicken will be stained internally with a nice red colour. And the flavour is very comforting. Warm and juicy on a cold day, this is good stuff.


08 November 2011

Blanched pearl onions

Pearl onions

Starting to learn our bearings around the city. Turns out, we're not far from all kinds of deliciosity, including the lovely H-mart in Burlington. Naturally, we made a run out there to get the ingredients to make homemade ramen.

We like to add various veggies and leftover meats to our ramen broth when we serve it. A delightful veggie is pearl onions, but to prepare more than a couple it can be a pain. Unless you blanche them.

Cut the root end of each onion. Toss into a pot of boiling water, and boil for 60 seconds, no more, no less.

Blanching pearls

Remove from the hot water, and cool. Squeeze the onion out of the peel, out the cut end. Be careful, or you'll end up firing the onion across the room.

Use to garnish a salad, or toss in some ramen broth. Delicioso.

Blanched pearls