Sunday, February 26, 2012

Linguini with Crab, Chilies, Mint, Lemon

This is the antithesis to winter's heavy, dense meals.  A refreshing punch of heat is tamed by fresh citrus and herb.  A light pasta dish nicely paired with a green salad and grilled baguette slices rubbed with a split garlic clove.  Quick to bring to the table and easy to throw together, this is a weeknight meal you'll look forward to between the pasta casseroles and braised meats.  This could also be enjoyed on Fridays during Lent, if follow rules like that.

The best part of this recipe is the heat level you want to bring- I used jalapenos and red chilies, as I wanted to invite a fair amount of zing to enjoy with the citrus and mint to balance the flavors.  For less heat, banana, Anaheim, or just plain bell peppers would work, although you'll miss a bit of the fun. 
I made a joke at work that I was going to exsanguinate over what I considered to be a serious paper cut.  It was close to arterial spurt, honestly.  I completely forgot about my almost-life-threatening incident by the time I was home, but was quickly reminded when squeezing the lemon directly into the wound.  That will get your attention, and handling hot peppers with the upper-body injury didn''t really help the situation.   

As any dish, especially those with few items, the quality of your ingredients is 99% the outcome of the meal.  Fresh lemon juice of course, there's no way you still squeeze lemon out of a yellow plastic lemon-shaped container.  Find fresh mint leaves, it makes this dish sing.  I know paying $12-$15/lb for good canned crabmeat is not cheap, but you will get 3-4 meals out of it.  Extra points if you procure fresh Dungeness crab meat.  If the smallest canned variety is 16 oz, you'll have to double this recipe or do what I did and fry up some crab cakes to freeze for later use.  Don't try and save an opened can of crabmeat, as it will deteriorate quickly.

Linguini with Crab, Chilies, Mint, Lemon
3-4 servings

8 oz linguini
4 TB unsalted butter, divided
1/4 C shallots, minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2-3 chilies- jalapeno, red Thai, Anaheim, or banana pepper, seeded and sliced thinly into rounds
2 TB fresh lemon juice
2 ts lemon zest
freshly cracked black pepper
8 oz good quality canned crabmeat, or fresh
1/3 C fresh mint leaves, hand torn, divided

Cook the pasta in standard fashion- in boiling salted water until just al dente.  Save 2 C of the cooking water. 

While pasta is cooking, saute the shallots in a large skillet over medium heat with 1 TB butter and 1 TB of EVOO.  After 4-5 minutes and the shallots are soft, add in the garlic and cook for another minute, stirring frequently.  Add 1 TB lemon juice and 1/4 C of the pasta cooking water, stir and let cook for 60 seconds.  Add in the pasta, 1/2 C more reserved pasta water, toss the mixture with tongs for a minute to coat all the linguini with sauce. 

Add in the remaining 3 TB butter, 1 TB good EVOO, the chili peppers, 1 TB lemon juice, 1 ts lemon zest, half of the mint leaves, a pinch of pepper and the crab.  Stir until the butter melts and everything is looking heated through and delicious, you may add a bit more pasta water if more hydration is desired.  Serve with a touch of the lemon zest and torn mint leaves atop, a squirt of lemon may also be lovely. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Baked Cod with Green Goddess Crust

I had some of this awesome dip left over.
I spread it all over a beautiful cod fillet that was seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper.
I melted a tablespoon of butter and mixed that with a half cup of fresh bread crumbs. (or panko)
I sprinkled the bread crumbs over the fish covered in awesome dip.
I put it in the oven at three fifty for about 20-22 minutes until done. (flakes with fork)
I ate it and it was awesome.  
I think you should do it too.  

Baked Cod with Green Goddess Crust
2 servings
12 oz cod fillet
1/2 C green goddess dressing
1/3 C fresh bread crumbs
1 TB butter
lemon wedge

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Beef Stroganoff

Beef stroganoff was not featured in the rotation of familiar weeknight dinners like goulash, tuna casserole, and meatloaf in our house.  Mushrooms were frowned upon, and I don't think we bought too much meat from the tender areas of the cow.  Why do that when you can spend half for twice the amount?  It is quick recipe though, like most dinners on school days.  Beef stroganoff is a winter classic, even if your winters are a bit warmer than most.  This season has been abnormally warm, upsetting tree huggers like myself who understand the ramifications of what we're doing to our earth and the 300 miles or so of gas around it.  Do I want 4 hour commutes from work in 6" of blinding snow? Of course not.  Will I appreciate the brutal allergy season next spring/summer/fall from the lack of freezing temperatures? Hell no.  Backyard hockey rinks that are puddles of disappointment? Not worth it.  Do you like to ski or board? Not this year.  Now I'm not super crunchy, but most of my beer bottles end up hitting the recycling bin.  I don't bike my fixie to work or drive a Prius.  I like to step on the (gas) pedal with the best of em, and I often come in first.  You don't go through two sets of brake pads in 14 months by being worried about your hydrocarbon emissions.  Hey, not my idea to have a lifetime warranty on a consumable part, thanks carX.  All this while maintaining an estimated 216,122 miles driven accident-free, a stretch just recently ended.  If you don't count the removal of side mirror via garage door a few years ago, that's my mulligan. Damn thing came out of nowhere.  I just want my winter so I can enjoy things like this beef stroganoff, or other chilly night faves like this soup or a different take on the aforementioned tuna casserole.  Then again, is it really only a few weeks to spring training?
Beef Stroganoff
serves 4-6

4 TB butter, unsalted
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 lb cremini or white button mushrooms, sliced 1/4"
2 TB cognac or brandy
1 C homemade chicken stock, or store-bought low salt stock
3/4 C sour cream
1 TB dijon mustard
1 to 1 1/4 lb beef tenderloin, sliced into strips 1/4" thick and 2" long

The easiest method for this dish is to use two large skillets, in which you melt 1.5 TB of butter in each.  Over medium to medium-high heat, one is for the onion and the other is for the mushrooms.  Season each with S&P and cook until the onion if soft and shrooms are browned, about 5 minutes.  Add a splash of cognac or brandy to the mushrooms, turn up heat to high until mostly evaporated, 10-15 seconds.  Add the shrooms to the onions, then wipe out that skillet with paper towel, don't burn the skin on your phalanges.  To the mushroom skillet, introduce the stock and bring to a boil until reduced to 1/4 C or so, about 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and stir in the sour cream, mustard, and an additional hit of black pepper to taste.  Stir occasionally while simmering until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Keep warm over low heat, do not boil.  

In your clean skillet, melt the remaining 1 TB butter with EVOO.  Your meat should be room temp and seasoned with S&P.  Over high heat, cook the tenderloin strips quickly until just medium, about 1 minute per side.  Do this in batches until all the loin is cooked, add any juices collected from resting meat to the party.  Add the meat to the mushroom sauce and stir until everything is warmed through.  Serve immediately over egg noodles, rice, or whatever you'd like. Garnish with pepper to taste, I prefer this one quite generous with the spice.  A hunk of crusty bread and a large green salad with homemade garlic-rosemary sourdough croutons would be a delicious way to round out this meal.