Monthly Archives: August 2015

August 24, 2015 – Hungry Uncle’s Kitchen

As we move into the final stretches of summer the bounty of the fields is really shining. Enjoy it while you can. Before you know it the leaves will be falling and then-don’t even get me started. Yeah I know, you winter-sport types love that time of year and even I have enjoyed snow shoeing, ice climbing and other adrenaline fueled endeavors but let’s be honest only the partially insane truly like being out in that frozen white crap. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…. but it’s so fresh and invigorating. Really, you look forward to having no circulation in your fingers, toes and other appendages?!? Listen, I’m not Dr. Phil and I’m NOT here to discuss your feelings………..now back to the subject at hand, poached cod with a Provencal inspired sauce and zucchini.

INGREDIENTS-Serves 2

For the cod-

  • About ¾. lb. of skinned, deboned cod cut into equal portions.
  • Black cod, aka Sablefish, is too strong and not appropriate for this dish.
  • 4 medium size sea scallops.
  • 1 quart  of chicken stock.
  • A shallow pan large enough to hold the fish covered by the stock without too much extra room. If you use too large a pan you’ll have add extra stock.

For the zucchini-

  • 2 medium-large zucchini sliced into ¼ inch discs.
  • A 4 quart pan filled about half-way with water.

For the sauce-

  • 1.5 cups of freshly, peeled and seeded tomatoes. If you can’t find fresh you can substitute canned.
  • 1 tsp. of sliced garlic.
  • ½ cup of scallions sliced into 1/8 – 1/4 inch rings
  • 2 tbsp. of minced flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme-fresh is preferable but wasn’t available at the time of this recipe. As general rule if you use fresh as opposed to dried, triple the amount (i.e. 1 tsp. of dried equals
  • 1 tbsp. or 3 tsp. of fresh)
  • 1 tsp. dried basil.
  • Smoked salt.
  • Sea salt.
  • Ground black pepper.
  • 1/3 cup of off-dry white wine. If that’s not available you can compensate by adding pinch of sugar when you add the wine.
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter.
  • A large bowl filled with ice water.
  • A medium frying pan.
  • A  3-4 quart pot filled half way with water.

COOKING

Sauce-

  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Cut shallow slits in the tomato skins starting at the bottom (non-stem side). Come up the tomato just an inch or two. You’re creating more or less an “x”.
  • Put the tomatoes in the boiling water.
  • Remove them with a slotted spoon after 25 seconds and put immediately into the ice water for about a minute to stop the cooking process. Remove the tomatoes and discard the ice water
  • It will now be very easy to peel the skin away.
  • After peeling, cut into quarters, remove the seeds with your fingers and chop into ¼ inch pieces.
  • Place the chopped tomatoes back in the bowl.
  • Slice the garlic and scallions and mince the parsley. Place each in a small bowl.
  • Measure out the thyme and basil and place in a small bowl.
  • Preheat your pan to medium and add the butter.
  • When the butter has melted add the garlic and cook just until it become fragrant- about two minutes. If the garlic starts to brown turn down the heat.
  • Add the tomatoes, turn up the heat until the mixture reaches a high simmer/low boil. Cook for about 3-4 minutes (tossing or stirring occasionally) or until the liquid has reduced by about 2/3rds.
  • Add the wine and dried herbs, cook for about 2-3 minutes ( again tossing or stirring).
  • Add the parsley and cook for about an additional two minutes (tossing or stirring).
  • Turn off the heat and season with the smoked salt and pepper.
  • Note- the sauce should still flow when moved around in the pan. You want some liquid but definitely not soupy.

Fish/scallops-

  • Take your fish and scallops out of the fridge for about 20 minutes before cooking. They will cook more evenly.
  • After adding the tomatoes to the sauce pour the stock into the pan and warm on medium-low heat. It should never come to a simmer or boil. You should be able to dip your finger without getting burnt.
  • After adding the dried herbs to the sauce, place the fillets into the warm broth. It should take no more than 3-4 minutes to poach. If the fillets are of uneven thickness, start the thicker ones first. If a fillet is too thick to be covered by the broth you will have to carefully turn it over half-way through cooking by using a spatula and your fingers. The fish is very delicate at this point and can fall apart if you’re not careful.
  • After about 2 minutes of cooking add the scallops.
  • When the fish just starts to flake it will be done. Using a slotted spatula carefully transfer the fillets to a warmed plate. The scallops should be done cooking around the same time. Don’t overcook them unless you want a large pencil eraser.

Zucchini-

  • You want your pot of water to be boiling around the time you add the fish to the stock.
  • Add the zucchini and boil for about 90 seconds. You can cook more or less depending on desired degree of doneness.
  • Drain through a colander.

Plating-

  • Place ¼ of the zucchini slices on a plate and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste.
  • Top the zucchini with some of the sauce.
  • Place a piece of the cod on the zucchini and top with two scallops, season with sea salt and pepper.
  • Finish with some more sauce

NO, THERE’S NO BBQ HERE….NOT EVEN A TOUCH

Wasn’t that more enjoyable than listening to me rant about the winter. Until next time happy cooking and eating.

BBQ Zone – Clifton NJ – August 10, 2015

We’ve all heard the hackneyed old saying “never judge a book by its cover”. I’ve always tried to keep that in mind when trying a restaurant for the first time.  I was meeting a close friend and regular dining companion for dinner and as usual we tried to find a locale with taste bud exciting food. There would no compressed wheat germ cakes on a bed of pea shoots with a dressing of ionized carrot juice emulsified with cod liver oil and reverse osmosis apple cider vinegar….God, that sounds really foul; kind of like rabbit food meets medieval medicine-where did it come from? I have no idea. Strange things must be afoot in the brain of this writer.

Located in a small non-descript strip mall, you are greeted by an un-cramped space that can be best described as “upscale fast food restaurant”. Clean and bright with a counter for ordering and a couple of self-service beverage coolers. I looked at the menu and something stuck me as a little odd. Touted as a BBQ restaurant, the place seemed to have a rather “un-barbecue-ish” menu. Yes, there were the classic options of chicken, brisket and ribs but also many non-typical choices such as burritos and beef/chicken shawarma.

They also had a create your own salad area which my friend told me turns out some tasty, fresh options. We both chose the ribs. One with a classic BBQ sauce and the other with a garlic butter type dressing. We’re the ribs good? Oh yes quite so.  In fact, I’ve been to very few hardcore barbecue only restaurants that could come close to these. To be fully transparent, I usually prefer a smokier than not rib when eating BBQ. These may not be of that variety but it in no way detracts from the enjoyment. Flawlessly cooked full spare ribs with an outstanding crust. There’s nothing quite like biting into a fall off the bone rib to be met with a frim charred exterior “bark” followed by succulent, juicy pork meat with just the right amount of fat.  Despite being full, I continued to devour the ribs until my stomach put up a closed for business sign. I boxed up the rest and had enough left for lunch the next day. All this for $14.00, you’re hard pressed to find a much better deal.

Hungry Uncle - Normal

It would have been easy to have skewed my opinion of BBQ Zone based on it having an atypical menu for something touted as a barbecue joint. That would have been a big mistake. This concept may be a bit unusual but it works. It is a place where you can eat quickly and without being subject to the toxic waste known as fast food. From their website, “We now live in a world where people live very hectic lives , eating on the go is not so much of a choice as it is a necessity. BBQ zone will meet that need with a healthier alternative to your typical fast food restaurant. While maintaining comparable prices we aim to make BBQ zone a cornerstone of the neighborhood.” To the McRib sandwich….may you R.I.P once and for all…Lazarus doesn’t need any competition.

Hungry Uncle’s Kitchen – August 3, 2015

Come Igor, if we time the lightning strike properly, we’ll be able to harness the perfect amount of energy from the storm……. Look Igor, look, we’ve done it; we’ve regenerated previously dead tissue. It is, ALIVE! A brave new world for science and mankind…famous, we’ll be famous…………….. Well, fortunately I’m not Dr. Frankenstein and while the events in my kitchen don’t have the ethical ramifications or thought provocations of Mary Shelley’s early 19th century novel, they certainly can stimulate your taste buds and olfactory glands.

Not to mention that the creation of food products, similar to the ravings of the aforementioned (mostly) fictional character, is the intersection of creativity, science and nature.

It’s been several months since Hungry Uncle Foods began distributing our first Barbeque Sauce and I’d like to thank everyone for the positive feedback. Since the Bajan Barbeque was so well received, I thought the time had come to hunker down in my Secret New Jersey Test Kitchen and create something new. As those of you who have followed me know, I’m very inspired by both local and distant travel. While I’ve made my way around the world one the highlights has always been the food.  It’ serves as reflection of the people and their cultures and I find very few things more enjoyable than dining or cooking on someone’s “home turf”. Yes, there can be language barriers but it’s always amazed me how often food transcends that. Sometimes a simple smile or “thumbs up” can say more than a hundred words. I once had the pleasure of making dumplings with a lovely woman in her small Beijing kitchen without a word being spoken-honestly though I did feel better knowing that the translator was at my side should the need arise; my Mandarin totals about three phrases.  It’s experiences like that, many conversations with chefs, trips to farms, and the good fortune of finely tuned taste buds/ sense of smell that have helped to create my broad culinary lexicon. No, cooking cannot be successful without a basic understanding of technique and ingredients which certainly is the science and nature of it all.  However, it’s the creative part that gets me the most excited in the kitchen. At times there’s an instant winner while others it takes months of perfecting and fine tuning.

After decades, it’s still amazing the effect of a touch more or less of a given ingredient can make. Mistakes can lead to interesting culinary developments for both the trained and self-taught chef.

So what’s next? You’ll have wait a bit longer. Oh, so you’d like a hint? You know the old saying, I could tell you but then I’d have to…..” Perhaps I’m being a bit draconian. The genesis comes from close to home while its maturity comes from the other side of the planet. These varied traditions have been combined to create another sauce that I hope you will find as enjoyable as the first.

The Nikola Tesla of the kitchen? That’s up to you to decide.