Braised salmon head curry, Southeast Asian style

Salmon head curry on top of rice

The face, that is what’s for dinner! Someone once told me that salmon are the pigs of the ocean – large, fatty, and succulent. And most importantly, there are significant taste differences from cut to cut. Nose to tail cooking, taking the culinary world by storm. For salmon, just like a pig, the most flavorful and satisfying cuts of meat are its cheeks, jaw, and collar. No question about it.

Now, I don’t live in a complete vacuum and appreciate that for many, fish heads are flat out disgusting. Ugly looking, smelly, ultra fishy, and unappetizing all-around, reserved only for Asians and their funky fish head soups! Well, that is not too far from the truth except for one grievous oversight – assuming that fish heads are unappetizing. Sure, eating the eye socket of a salmon head is not on everyone’s list of good eats, but eating the salmon’s cheek meat and collar/neck meat should be! It is, simply put, unctuously amazing and full of gelatinous umami.

This recipe is the perfect introduction to serving salmon heads to your uninitiated friends. It highlights the best of the salmon head by pairing it with a delicious Southeast Asian style curry. The curry not only flavors the salmon head, but vice versa. The essence of the salmon head helps create a curry that will rock your socks off. You will keep soaking your rice in this curry sauce even when the fish is all gone. And not to fail mentioning, the addition of using tamarind pulp (for its tantalizing sourness), Asian products (don’t use American style chili or curry powder, buy from an Asian market), and plenty of Taiwan basil (with its unique flavor profile, which is much different from the sweet Italian style basil) together all craft an unforgettable culinary adventure. Perfect to share with friends or selfishly devour in the confines of your home.

Raw Salmon Heads

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Salmon Roe and Fried Egg Rice Bowl

Salmon roe and fried egg rice bowl

We already know that a sexy running egg is just about excellent on just about any savory dish. A silky and yokey egg adds lusciousness and richness to any dish.  This is all the more true when the egg is over rice. Rice may be the ultimate vehicle for soaping up an egg’s gloriousness.

But what happens when you have an egg on top of an egg? It is ultra fertility in a plate. I love to top my fried or poached eggs with more eggs, particularly fish eggs. The salty, briny fish roe pair remarkably with velvety eggs. Salmon roe is currently my favorite fish egg to use. Salmon roe are large, beautiful orbs of fishy delight. The highlight is not just the strong oceanic taste, but its bursting texture. It is like pop rocks from the sea.

When salmon roe, a fried egg, and rice are paired in a bowl, it is a deeply satisfying and comforting meal. This is one of my favorite quick meals to whip up for myself when eating alone, which happens a little too frequently.

Salmon fish egg, fried egg, rice bowl

 

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Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese on Tater Tots

Buffalo chicken mac and cheese on tater tots

You need a game time hit? This recipe is your grand slam. It takes the best of three remarkable bar foods, and hurricanes them all together into one, unmatched flavor-bomb.  Tangy and lip-smacking Buffalo Chicken meets creamy and decadent unbaked Mac and Cheese meets the crispy and salty Tater Tots. It will leave your party guests in stunned amazement.

This recipe does take time to prepare and cook, but ultimately also easy to make. I cheat and use frozen tater tots, which is totally acceptable. We also do not bake the mac and cheese. This not only saves on cooking time, but helps keep the mac and cheese all the more saucy and creamy smooth to ladle on the tater tots. This buffalo chicken mac and cheese on tater tots brings together an array of tastes and textures, and presents it in one smorgasbord of a game winning, Superbowl-worthy, party plate.

buffalo chicken mac and cheese on tater tots

 

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Chicken Kimchi Jjigae Soup, An Ultimate Cold Defense

Chicken Kimchi Jjigae Soup

What happens when you mix together two comforting soups? Culinary galaxies collide and wormholes of flavors are carved across dimensions. In other words, it is out of this world delicious. And quite possibly, an ultimate defense against colds and illnesses.

Chicken soup is for the soul and always a cold day’s rescue. There is good reason why mothers urge their offspring to indulge in chicken soup when feeling sick, down, or out. After all, chicken soup does have anti-inflammatory properties. Kimchi jjigae is a hearty Korean stew, and it is also for the soul. Kimchi jjigae takes the best of kimchi, the remarkable celebrity of spicy fermented cabbage, and throws it into a blistering hot, tangy, and utterly satisfying and multi-layered tastes with tofu, pork, seafood, and more. Elements such as unique bacterias (from the kimchi fermentation), ginger, and garlic are all strong combatants against the evils of sickness.

This recipe takes the best of both worlds. Using left-over chicken stock (I always have some stored in my freezer), this hybrid chicken kimchi jjigae soup is an utlimate winter dish. Typically, the soup base of kimchi jjigae uses either simple water or an anchovy-based broth. Replacing the traditional with an unctuous and rich chicken soup transforms the kimchi jjigae into something even more special and heart-warming. And all of this can be achieved in 30 minutes or less.

Chicken soup kimchi jjigae

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Mushroom Goat Cheese Pate on Flatbread

Mushroom goat cheese pate flatbread pizza

Pate, the classical French spread of cold meat and offal. Its popularity has skyrocketed, as chefs use pate to measure themselves and prominently display their creativity. Move over chicken liver pate. Magical qualities of human ingenuity and unconscious satisfaction exude from the lowly, royal paste of ground meats. What I find so fascinating is that while pate can look and sound brutally unappetizing – honestly, it is pulverized and pureed meats and organs with alcohol and other flavorings – it is also utterly comforting and satisfies our innate carnivorous desires.

But what happens if you are a vegetarian? Or simply still have made the conversion to enjoying offal-filled pate?

So why not remove the meat? Crazy…but delicious. Mushroom pate has grown from a novel variation to a more common type of pate. While it does not carry the same unctuous characteristics of meaty pate, mushroom pate is remarkably loaded with umami and rich layers of forest flavors. This is particularly true when more exotic mushrooms are used, such as morels, shiitakes, chanterelles, and oyster. This mushroom pate is a great dish to serve in a party. Creamy, full of depth, and intoxicated with aromatics like white wine, herbs, and tangy goat cheese. This pate makes for a generous spread on bread and pita, but I like to have it on a toasted flatbread, like a mini-healthy pizza. Perfect for game day or any gathering for that matter. Pate in!

Mushrooms and white wine sauteing

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Korean bulgogi nachos with kimchi sour cream

Korean bulgogi bbq nachos with kimchi sour cream

Time to run a trick play on your friends. Nachos is an ultimate party dish. This recipe calls an audible on the traditional nacho dish and re-imagines it with Korean flavors. The best of Korean BBQ is incorporated into these nachos and will be a guaranteed hit at your next football party or gathering. Much of this can be made in advance and then easily assembled right before serving. Going long for flavor.

The salty, sweet and onion taste of the bulgogi is a natural companion to tortilla chips and melted cheese. The complex flavors of the Korean BBQ are a welcome addition and leave friends guessing as to why this nacho is so delicious. But the Korean bulgogi is just one important element. A kimchi sour cream dressing is poured all over the nachos. This creamy mixture masks the strong kimchi flavors of fermented spiciness, ginger, and garlic to a level that is acceptable to all types of eaters, yet maintains the integrity of the kimchi taste. Sour cream and kimchi, what a great combination. The final kicker to this dish is the “salsa”. Diced scallions are mixed with a vinegary combination of pureed parsley, serrano chili, and sesame oil.

This is a touchdown plate, so make the call!

Korean bulgogi bbq nachos with kimchi sour cream

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Spaghetti with bottarga tomato sauce (dried fish roe)

spaghetti with bottarga tomato sauce

Impress your dinner guests at your next Mediterranean themed event by serving them bottarga. To those that know, it is both a delicacy and is renown as the poor man’s caviar. Bottarga is pressed dried eggs of either a tuna or grey mullet. The roe sack is removed from the fish, salted and sun-dried for a couple of days, pressed, hung, and dried. To the uninitiated, this may not sound all too appetizing. But I assure you, there is a reason this humble, born out of necessity ingredient is a common household ingredient among Italian fishermen yet can go for real dollars when you purchase at an high-end restaurant.

The bottarga flavor is an incredible combination of maritime treasures, salty fishiness, captivating umami, and creamy silkiness. Needless to say, it is one unique ingredient that tastes like none other. When paired intelligently with acid, butter, or olive oil, it can create a dish that will make you close your eyes and feel as if you’re next to the deep, gorgeous blue Mediterranean sea without a care in the world.

Typically, bottarga is served simply. One preparation is grated bottarga in a pasta with olive oil and garlic. Another is sliced bottarga on a crostini with butter. This recipe is one that is less traditional, but a compromise. This recipe highlights the flavors and textures of the bottarga as it melts into the tomato sauce, yet aspects of strong oceanic taste are dampened a tad. This makes the dish more accommodative to a larger audience. Luckily, this dish is easy to make and again, an ideal way to showcase your Mediterranean knowledge with a spaghetti packed with the unique, orange-colored bottarga, in a friendly manner.

grated bottarga

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Ricotta cheese spread with honey, thyme and orange

Ricotta cheese spread with honey, thyme, and orange zest

Whenever I have friends over for dinner, a cheese plate of some variety has to be served. Typically, my adoration for fresh and raw ricotta cheese is on display. I am a ricotta cheese advocate.

Ultimately, ricotta cheese is crafted by the byproduct of the cheese-making process. It basically makes use of the left-over materials made from making other cheeses that would be discarded. Sounds unappetizing, but behold it is not. Mild, light, creamy, smooth and an amazing vessel to use with other flavors, ricotta cheese is a solid addition to any cheese plate – particularly when spread onto a rustic slice of bread and made into a crostini.

This recipe transforms the ricotta cheese into a cheese spread fit for any theme. The flavors of honey, fresh thyme, and orange zest are homey and comforting. The honey introduces natural sweetness while the thyme adds beautiful, herbaceous aromatics. But the orange zest, oh the orange zest. This is the ingredient that takes this ordinary spread and makes it something more. The orange zest livens up the cheese spread, and when combined with the honey and thyme, transfigures ricotta cheese into royalty.

Ricotta cheese spread with rustic bread

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Apple cider braised pork belly and daikon turnips

Seared pork belly

Apples, pork, and turnips – a delicious wintery combination and classic plate to serve your friends on a cold evening. Braised pork belly is one of nature’s most comforting meat dishes. The succulence and decadency that only a pig can provide is further heightened when it is its belly and slowly cooked in an aromatic liquid. Fatty, tasty, and oh so captivating all at once.

This is one of my favorite braised pork belly recipes. For this recipe, I use Asian style turnips, such as daikon or the Korean longer version of daikon. They lend better to braises. The richness of the pork belly pairs generously with the fresh sweetness of apple cider and rustic aromatics of French clove, cinnamon, fennel seeds, ginger, nutmeg, and coriander. The natural sugars of the apple cider bring out the zestiness of the aromatics and crafts a flavorful Jacuzzi to braise the pork belly and turnips. As the pork belly cooks, low and slow, the unctuous pork fat renders and further flavors the braising liquid. In turn, the turnips are like sponges. The turnips soak in all the flavors of the braising liquid and by the cooking end, are transformed into loaded morsels of amazingness.

To further heighten this experience, I like to carmelize and char brown sugar over this entire dish right before serving by blasting it all in a hot oven. The almost burnt brown sugar brings an even further eliminate of unique sweetness to this dish, making it all the more satisfying. This dish is fairly straight-forward to prepare, and when made in advance, is an easy and fantastic main course to serve your friends and family.

Braised pork belly and turnips in apple cider

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Seared duck breasts and legs with balsamic vinegar agrodolce

Seared duck breast and leg with balsamic agrodolce

Whenever duck is on the table, regardless of the occasion, the meal feels grand yet homey at the same time. The creature’s sovereign elegance is personified in mystical French dishes, such as pressed duck or any duck dish at La Tour d’Argent. Yet, this same supreme duck is found across countryside dinner tables with families that treasure the comfort and warmth only the fatty and succulent duck meat can provide.

So, nothing says a small dinner party quite like duck. Serving duck, either whole or de-boned, makes for a festive friend or family gathering. When a duck is served at a dinner party, it is special, rustic, and leaves guests spellbound. One of my favorite family meals, and to host within a small group of 4-6 people, is serving seared duck breasts and legs. The gamey and unctuous duck pairs perfectly with a sweet, sour and vinegary balsamic agrodolce. This simple Italian sauce packs a wallop, and brings the best out of the meaty duck with its gorgeous crispy duck skin. The dish is so profound that I do not include any other ingredients, such as garlic or herbs. The duck’s flavor and the counterbalancing agrodolce are powerful and tasty as they are.

Seared duck breast, leg and balsamic agrodolce

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Duck Gizzard, Offal, & Brussel Sprout Salad, French Country Style

Duck gizzard and offal, brussel sprout salad, french style

What to do with those duck gizzards and other internal organs? A gizzard is the is the second stomach of the duck. Each store bought whole duck comes with a pouch of goodies that include the gizzards, kidneys, livers, and heart. It just does not feel right to throw them away, yet they also are not exactly the foie gras quality you get at a restaurant.

Duck gizzards, liver, and other offal pack incredible and unique flavor. It is remarkable how such humble and often discarded ingredients can taste so delicious with just a simple searing. The secret is to cooking all the offal like steak – medium rare to medium. Once overcooked, they become less delectable and dry.

This recipe does justice to the duck gizzards by borrowing a couple of pages from the French country way of cooking. The offal are treated with honesty, and in turn, produce a profound salad. Rather than using lettuce, this duck gizzard & offal salad uses pan-fried brussel sprout leaves. This makes the dish feel as if it would feel at home on a winter dinner table in the French countryside. A dijon vinaigrette helps dampen the offal flavor and ties the salad together. Not only is this a great way to make use of your duck gizzards, but it is one fun and entertaining plate to serve at a dinner party. If roasted or seared duck is on your menu, then this salad must make its way as a starter. Any adventurous eater or foodie will immediately find the allure in the offal and the flavors of the seared gizzards with pan-fried brussel sprouts will win over fans.

Duck gizzards and offal

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Tomato and Onion with Gorgonzola Dressing, a Steakhouse Classic

Tomato and Onion with Gorgonzola Dressing

Tomato, Onion and Gorgonzola. This is the King of Salads and one of my favorite dishes. I fell in love with this dish at Spark’s, the famous (and my favorite) steakhouse in New York City. For me, this is the epitome of what an appetizer should be before a huge big piece of meat.

The fresh sunshine from the tomato. The sharp yet subtly sweet notes of the raw red onion. The luscious & sensual creamy dressing. The moldy, adventurous, and cavernous taste of the mountain gorgonzola cheese, the Italian version of blue cheese. All these simple and honest flavors collide in the most beautiful of notes in one, elegant salad.

This tomato and onion salad with gorgonzola dressing is not just perfect at a steakhouse, but at any dinner party. Serving this salad to your friends or guests will make them feel like royalty. All the better for entertaining, this dish does not require any cooking.

Block of Gorgonzola, Mountain

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Pizzelle cookie wonderland, Italian holiday treats

Pizzelle, Italian traditional cookies

When Christmas or Easter come around, there are always pizzelles in my mom’s kitchen. This is another Italian tradition to lives on. Pizzelle are simple sugar waffle cookies that pack a punch. The waffle cookie is a straight-forward mixture of eggs, sugar, and flour, but spiced up with vanilla, lemon and star anise.

Pizzelles are easy to make, but with one catch. In order to have the pizzelle tradition thrive in your house or in a party, you will need to have a pizzelle maker. This is a specialized pizzelle press, like a waffle maker, that will prepare and cook the pizzelle cookies.

These individual-sized dessert pizzas are perfect for holiday parties and family gatherings. They look cool and have a storied history that you can share. They are one of the world’s oldest cookies. More importantly, any Italian in the group will immediately feel reminiscent of their childhood, and that’s what holidays are all about.

Pizzelles in the Press

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Panettone french toast, a holiday morning breakfast treat

Panettone French Toast

In an Italian household, Christmas and the Holiday Season just does not feel like home without Panettone, the cake bread of luxury.

When the panettone is unveiled, exuberance rings forth. Surely, these cheers are not broadcasted because of everyone’s affinity for the panettone’s taste. Quite honestly, people tend to find faults with at least one of the major ingredients that comprise this traditional sweet bread. This eggy, challah-like bread is studded with candied orange, citron, lemon zest, raisins and other dried fruits. But for whatever shortcomings one has with the panettone’s flavors, it is more than made up for in the sense of culture and tradition that the panettone represents. This Milanese dessert bread is now forever ingrained and due to that, it lives on forever, every Christmas holiday.

One of the panettone’s highlights is its fluffy texture. The bread is airy and puffy, which makes it super soft and fun to eat. While I’m a big fan of panettone stand-alone, I’m an even bigger fan of panettone french toast. This is one of my favorite ways to eat the panettone, and it makes for a great Christmas morning breakfast. It is quick to make and can easily serve a large family gathering or lots of friends. And thanks to the flavors the french toast imparts, such as the cinnamon, nutmeg, whipped cream, butter and maple syrup served on top, helps transform the panettone into a plate everyone wants to eat.

Whole Panettone

 

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Salmon sashimi and a different dipping sauce

Salmon sashimi with grey poupon, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce

Salmon sashimi is one of my cherished dishes and makes for a great party appetizer. The fattiness of the salmon just melts in your mouth, which is one of my favorite sensations. And the taste is so pristine and is like that of the ocean.

Wasabi and soy sauce, horseradish zippines with umami salty goodness. It is an ultimate concoction in any right. We are ingrained to believe that no piece of sushi, particularly salmon sashimi, is complete without it. I was brainwashed too by this wasabi think tank.

My mom and I were driven by necessary to replace our beloved wasabi and soy sauce mixture. One day, we ran out of wasabi and we had plenty of salmon sashimi that needed a sauce. We toyed around and devised a stellar replacement for wasabi and soy sauce. This new concoction carries similar elements but is in a league of its own with ingredients like Grey Poupon, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. It is a noble soy-based sauce for the sashimi king of fishes, the lovely and unctuous salmon.

Give this dish and sauce the green light for your New Year’s festivities. This, along with a salmon roe dish, will make for happy party guests.

Grey Poupon and Soy Sauce

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Twice baked royale potato with salmon roe and goat cheese

Twice baked potato royale with salmon roe and goat cheese

Decadence. Elegance. Sexiness.

This wonderful twice baked potato royale is made for New Year’s Eve and other holiday celebrations. It is an almost perfect tiny package of comfort. A portion of the mini potato’s flesh is scooped out in order to house ingredients like goat cheese and custard. And because there is salmon roe gently perched on top of the mini twice baked potatoes, you do not feel unclassy grabbing these delicious bites by the half-dozen.

Everyone loves potatoes. I’ve yet to cross an individual that threw their hands up in protest for receiving a potato on a plate. This mini twice baked potato royale steps it up many notches. What sets this recipe apart is the addition of the salmon roe. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that once you add salmon roe caviar to a plate, it becomes more special. While not as sweet and refined as its more expensive caviar counterparts – sturgeon – it is definitely a delicacy.

Potatoes in water, butter, bay leaves

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Fried turkey recipe with an indoor electric fryer

Sliced fried turkey served with pan gravy

“It may be quirky, but once you go fried turkey, everything else is just malarkey” – Joe Biden

Once or twice a year, families don a turkey and proceed to grimy devour, what typically comes out, a dried and flavorless bird. Oh the horror stories of families and loves lost due to dry, inedible baked turkey. These individuals only have to look in a mirror for blame.

Fried turkey is the only way to cook a whole turkey. Whether it is for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or an ordinary summer evening, frying turkey offers a near fool-proof manner to prepare a succulent and delicious turkey. We all know anything fried is better.

This recipe post is the manner of which we prepare fried turkey for our Thanksgivings. Today, we now use an electric indoor turkey fryer. This ensures a safer and more consistent cooking process, and helps reduce the likelihood a turkey oil bomb goes off and takes our your house.

Fried turkey pulled from indoor electric fryer

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Smoked beef brisket BBQ spaghetti

Smoked beef brisket BBQ spaghetti with cheddar cheese

It is Sketti Time! Noodles and BBQ, a heavenly hybrid. I wish I could proclaim this genius was my creation. Inception came from a food show highlighting some of the menu items at Neely’s BBQ in Memphis. The BBQ Spaghetti had me floored in stunned amazement. Immediately, I knew I had to do my own rendition of this dish.

We had left-overs from preparing a smoked beef brisket. There was no contest as to what the left-over brisket’s fate would become – smoked beef brisket BBQ spaghetti. This remarkable dish is so straight-forward (once you have the brisket handy) and utterly loaded with American flavors that make you proud to be an American. I took a different route by using smoked beef brisket. Most recipes will use pulled pork. In my opinion, the beef brisket is the real man’s choice. The succulent cubes of beef provide more meaty texture to the chewy spaghetti noodles and the smokey beef fat really makes its way through the nooks and crannies of the noodles. But the real kicker are the toppings. BBQ sauce with smoked beef brisket and spaghetti is already a winning combination. But the inclusions of shredded cheddar cheese and scallions make this dish legend.

BBQ spaghetti topped with cheese 2

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Dry-rubbed smoked beef brisket with a propane gas smoker

Diced, dry-rubbed smoked beef brisket

BBQ, one of America’s oldest and proudest religions. Those in its congregation surely take smoking their meats seriously. Sometimes perhaps, too seriously. And for that, I thank them. I don’t come from a long line of home-smoking BBQ ancestry. Nor do I hail from an area that places BBQ on a pedestal and demonizes those that bastardize and cut corners. But this does not preclude one from rolling up his sleeves and fashioning up some succulent, tender and charred briskets of beef.

I apologize in advance to anyone from the great state of Texas and to those that are BBQ gods from which may find elements of this write-up offensive and trailing away from the grandeur of tradition. To prepare delicious smoked beef brisket is by no means difficult. From a cooking skill-set perspective, it is remarkably simply. Where expertise factors in are controlling the variables that truly make amazing BBQ, such as smoke type, temperature, and duration of cooking. These are factors that no science can dictate and where feel, and “been there, done that” feel take hold. But that being said, even a novice that understands the notion of low & slow, and continually feels up the wood chip coffers so there’s constant smoke present in the cooking process, can create savory smoked beef brisket BBQ.

Finished smoked beef brisket

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Roasted Steelhead Trout Lettuce Wraps, Korean French Style

Steelhead Trout Korean Lettuce Wrap

We all love to eat with our hands. It appeals to our inner child and leaves us satisfied and smiling. One of my favorite ways to eat with my hands is to create burritos using leafy, green lettuce leaves. This is a Korean manner of eating. The freshness and crunchy texture of the pods of lettuce offers such a great vessel for stuffing with greasy grilled meats, unctuous seafood, rice, kimchi, other pickled vegetables, sauces, and more. I am utterly addicted to this manner of eating, and it is such a delight to unveil at dinner parties.

I love to create these Korean inspired lettuce wraps with fatty fishes. If you’re a huge fan of salmon, like me, you ought to give steelhead trout a try. It is similar in taste and texture, and is almost always in full supply at Costco.

This recipe takes the fun of eating with our hands and fill its full of Korean and French-inspired flavors. We will first create a beurre blanc of sorts to coat the fish. This is typically a reduce white wine/vinegar sauce with tons of butter. We kick the beurre blanc up an Asian notch with ginger and soy sauce flavors. We then also introduce honey, in order to create a glaze that will caramelize the steelhead trout in the oven. The roasted steelhead trout with the ginger soy beurre blanc flavors are tasty in themselves, but then heightened with a scallion-fresno chili topping, rice, and the lettuce wrap in this bombastic recipe.

Steelhead Trout Lettuce Wrap Ingredients, Korean Style

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