Friday, April 6, 2012

Gefilte Fish Update

Whew! Ungh! Those fishmongers don't know a damn thing about filleting. It took me forEVER to remove all those bones.

So, let's see. I kept the tasty part of the fish in the refridgerator. Meanwhile, into a large pot was put the bones and head and tail from the fish, a large onion cut into quarters, a generous dash of black pepper, and about 3/4ths of a chinese carrot. The onion included the orange-brown outer skins, because it adds a nice color to the stock. Yea, I know, stupid. But it does make dealing with the onion easier too. A chinese carrot is the kind of huge carrots you find frequently here in chinatown- each carrot is roughly the size of 3-4 regular carrots.

I would have put all of this into a cheese cloth for easier removal later, but I couldn't find any in the stores. Naturally, after putting everything into the pot, I found some.

That simmered for 3 hours, with occasional scum skimming from the top. Once this was done, the stock was filtered by hand very carefully. Lovely smell, nice dark color. This was set aside for later, although 2-3 cups was separated from that as well. I'll get to this later.

The fish was inspected and bones ruthlessly eliminated. Now, a lot of people will tell you to chop the fish into little cubes. This is useful if you are hand chopping everything together later. I, however, am not. I have a meat grinder, and my meat grinder works best with meat when it is cut into long, fat strips. So I cut my fish into long fat strips. Don't judge me.

I also rough chopped a large onion (or peel this time) and added it to the fish strips. Both the fish and the onion went into the meat grinder together. Once the fish was ground, it was sprinkled with 2-3 dashes of kosher salt and roughly mixed by hand. This was just to make sure the salt was evenly distributed. I cracked 8 eggs and the whites went into the fish.

Separate the fish into two portions. Put the first portion into a food processor. Blend until smooth. Repeat with the other portion, then combine. Add a cup of matzoh meal.

What's that? I have a box of matzoh meal in my cupboard which expired in June, 2009. Hm, no. Off to the supermarket! It's closed for good friday. Well, damn. Hell with it, I have a box of Streitz's egg matzoh upstairs, fresh. Well, freshly bought a week ago. It's still perfectly good. I crumbled up two sheets roughly, then stuck them into my mortal and pestle and made my own damn matzoh meal, then added that to the fish and mixed it in by hand.

Remember those two-3 cups of stock you held in reserve? Take that and dump it into a small pot or pan and heat to simmering. Take some of the fish and mold it into a mini piece of gefilte fish. Drop this gently into the simmering stock. Simmer for ten minutes, flipping halfway in between. Eat it, and adjust the main batch for taste (this is known as batch testing ;) ). Don't forget the horseradish!

Once satisfied, cover the bowl with clingwrap and stick it into the refrigerator for at least an hour before cooking.

Quick note. I thought it tasted delicious, with a slight almost smoky underflavor from the type of fish. I enjoyed it immensely, however. My wife loathes gefilte fish, but I know she's only ever had in from a jar. Brave soul, she was willing to try my homemade stuff. To her surprise, she actually liked it. It is honestly and truly a completely different creature than the stuff from the jar.

Preparing for Passover

Whew, Passover is tonight and my Seder is tomorrow night. As I have today off from work, I did some necessary shopping this morning, with more to come later.

I decided this year to make my own gefilte fish. Here in Chinatown there are several fishmongers. Chinatown fishmongers still have a bad reputation because of what they used to be like. However, the combination of new York health inspectors doing their job, a clientele who suddenly cares about not being poisoned, and people realizing that you can partially tell the quality of a fishmonger just by the smell.

I made one foolish mistake. I assumed that they would have Whitefish. Looking back it would seem obvious- the chinese don't eat whitefish and neither do many other people.

I arrived at my preferred fishmonger early this morning, around 8:45 or so, just in time to see the fresh live fish being offloaded from the delivery truck, and fishmongers spreading and tamping down the ice for the day. No, they didn't have whitefish. No they didn't have cod. They probably had pike, but I don't like pike. Well, how about tilapia? The man pointed to the live tanks being refilled from the truck. Exxxxxllent. How much? $3.50 a pound? Sold. I got about twelve pounds of fish, had them filleted for me, kept the heads and bones and such for the stock. It ended up being about four and a half pounds of meat, which is just how much I wanted.

So, right now I have the stock pot boiling and I'm going to make some lovely, fresh stock.

Funniest part of it all? Seeing the fish dumped on the clean table and having the shit beaten out of them with a chair leg before being cut open. Maybe that sounds sick, but the fact that it was an honest to god chair leg is what cracks me up.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chicken and Spaghetti with lemon-wasabi "aioli" (mayo)

My wife has learned that when she texts me at night and asks what is for dinner, my response will often be a simple one word reply: stuff. Stuff generally means that I have no idea, I'm making it up as I go along, and I'm probably making it right now and can't respond. On occasion I am done cooking but too exhausted to explain in detail.

So, dinner last night was "stuff." and delicious stuff it was.

Put up a large pot of water to boil.

Into a large flat pan, I put two chicken quarters- leg and thigh together. This was heated on a medium heat for a while, until both top and bottom were partially cooked, and much of the fat had rendered out. I then added water and a fair amount of lemon juice, covering the pan. Does the lemon juice do anything? Truthfully, I don't know. It certain,y can't be tasted, but the chicken tends to be more tender. I suspect that the acid helps to tenderize the meat, but I might be completely making this up. Whatever the case, continue to cook on a medium heat, flipping occasionally and adding water and lemon juice as needed.

Meanwhile, chop four medium sized celery stalks- not all the way on the outside of the bunch, nor in the core. Flavorful but tender. Before chopping,slice them through lengthwise. This allows the celery to lay flat while being chopped, and gives you smaller and more delicate pieces. Put into a large mixing bowl and put aside. Chop a small Spanish onion into small pieces and add to the celery. I wanted a little bit more green, so I also chopped the heart of some romaine lettuce and added this as well to the celery. Stick the bowl in the refrigerator until ready to use.

By this point, hopefully, the pot of water should be boiling. Dump in a box of spaghetti and crush it down to cook as normal.

Take a half to whole teaspoon of wasabi powder and combine with a few tablespoons of water. Set aside for a few minutes to allow the flavor to develope. Repeat with chinese mustard powder.

In another mixing bowl, combine two heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise, a squirt of lemon juice, wasabi, chinese mustard, a pinch of black pepper, a pinch of dill. After adding each ingredient, whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust as needed. It should be fairly liquidy and flow readily. You should have the flavor of the wasabi without the heat, acidity from the lemon, creaminess from the mayo, and all the flavors should be pretty harmonic. This is your "aioli" which I only call because it is easier to say than lemon wasabi mayo. stick this bowl into the refrigerator until ready to use.

The spaghetti should be done by now. Pour into colander to strain, and wash with cold water. Don't be afraid of using too much cold water. Dig in there with your hands and mix the spaghetti up, making sure there are no hotspots- mayonnaise doesn't play friendly with hot pasta. Once the spaghetti is cold- and I mean use the coldest water you can get from your sink- strain thoroughly and add to the bowl with the celery, onion, and romaine. Toss to mix the ingredients together. Pour the aioli over the spaghetti. Scrape some but not every speck of the aioli from the sides. Toss the aioli and spaghetti together until well combined (the spaghetti should have just a very thin coating of aioli, nothing too goopy) then put the bowl in the refrigerator.

By this time, the chicken should be done. Remove the chicken pieces to a cutting board. Remove any skin or fat and toss away. Cut away small chunks of the chicken and toss into the bowl with the aioli remnants. Take your time and get as much meat as you can. Once you are done, throw out the carcasses.

If you have taken your time and been thorough, the chicken will have cooled rapidly to warm at best if not room temperature- the high degree of moisture in a cool kitchen will drop the temperature like a stone. Toss the chicken in the bowl, allowing the chicken to get the last of the aioli off the sides of the bowl and getting an extremely thin coating. If you like, this can be served immediately or can go in the refridgerator for a half hour or an hour. Serve the chicken atop the spaghetti when ready to serve.

This was really something I threw together and ended up being really delighted. I wanted something both cool and refreshing, delicate in flavor. In the spring and summer, this would be something really nice to make, and I am very pleased about how well it turned out.

So, there's my pasta recipe.