A Wicked Scoff...Recipes and Food with Newfoundland and New England Influences.

This blog is dedicated to bring recipes, photographs, anecdotes, reviews and other insights on everything food related. As the name suggests, "A Wicked Scoff" will have a regional flare, a fusion if you will, of both Newfoundland and New England perspectives of the culinary world around me. Thanks for visiting and please come back often as updates will be frequent. Oh yeah, I also like tasting and cooking with regional beers. Expect a beer of the month, often paired with recipes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baked Cod with Zesty Walnut-Cilantro Sauce

I got this recipe from Jacques Pepin's cookbook Fast Food My Way. This is a great cookbook, and Jacques has a cooking philosophy that I can relate to..simple ingredients that are adaptable to what you have or personally like. Nothing fancy, but the final results seem like haute cuisine somehow.

My wife made this recipe shortly after we got the book. I didn't try it because I was in the mood for pan fried cod instead. Jacques recipes calls for raw garlic, and I had to deal with garlic kisses for the rest of that night. This time, I opted for roasted garlic, which is much milder. I also made a few other substitutions, namely lime juice and zest for apple cider vinegar, a dash of Tabasco for extra heat, and chili powder for extra zest, and to run with the whole southwest flavor theme that runs through this dish. You can use any firm, mild white fish for this, but I used cod.

Walnut-Cilantro Sauce


1 cup walnuts
3 garlic cloves, halved
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

zest & juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 tsp each of cumin and chili powder
1/4 tsp each of salt & pepper
a few shakes of Tabasco or hot sauce
1/2 cup V8 juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped fine

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place garlic in a bit of aluminum foil
with a drizzle of olive oil and wrap tightly, and place in the oven.

Once the oven is preheated, spread walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 7-8 minutes. Remove the nuts once they are lightly browned, as well as the garlic. Place the walnuts, roasted garlic and remaining ingredients except for the cilantro in a small food processor or blender and blend until creamy. Stir in the chopped cilantro. Sauce may be stored in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Baked Cod


4 cod fillets (about 6 oz each)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp each salt & pepper

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange the cod, season with salt and pepper and rub with the oil. Cook for 12 minutes, or until cooked through in the same 400 degree oven.

To serve the dish, spoon a couple of large spoonfuls of the sauce on warmed plates, lay a fillet on top of the sauce, add a little more sauce, a slice of lime and a few shakes of chili powder.

Enjoy. This dish is delicious!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Birthday Feast Part II

Here is part two of my birthday supper from last week.

Brussels Sprout with Calabrase and Lemon

For my veggie side dish I wanted to cook something I had not done before. I have only prepared Brussels sprout a couple of times and thus an original dish was easy to accomplish. I scanned a few online recipes for inspiration and after seeing that bacon and vinegar were usual accompaniments I used those same flavors. I did not have bacon in the house but I did have a spicy Italian calbrase salami, and I though lemon zest and juice would be a nice change instead of vinegar as a way to provide acid to the dish. Plus I figured the lemon flavor would pair nicely with the fish. In addition, the calabrase, with the chili flakes would add an element of heat and savory unlike just bacon. The dish turned out to be a real winner! Here is how I put it together:

1 pound of Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved

Boil the sprouts in a little salted water for about 5 minutes

In the meantime, heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a medium saute pan of medium-high heat, and add:
- 1/2 an onion, minced
- 2 ounces of Calabrase (or other dry salami), julienne

Cook until the onions are tender and add the par-cooked Brussels sprouts. Saute for a couple of minutes so the Brussels sprouts pick up some color. Then add the juice and zest of half a lemon.
Season with a little kosher salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Pan Roasted Cod Fillets

The fish entree was really quite simple. I bought a nice thick, 1lb piece of cod loin and cut it into 4 equally sized pieces.

In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, heat 2 Tbsp of Oil and 2 Tbsp butter.

Season the fish with salt and pepper, and press into panko crumbs.

Add the fish to the hot skillet and cook on one side for 3-4 minutes, until browned and then flip. Add the zest and juice of one lemon and another small pat of butter. Add the pan to a preheated 350 degree oven and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with chopped chives.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Birthday Weekend Feast I

Yesterday was my birthday, and this past weekend I cooked up a couple good scoffs. Sunday I went with traditional, comforting meat and potatoes, but on Saturday I attempted two new dishes. The first was a cheddar cheese risotto, inspired by Nigela Lawson and the second was a Brussels sprout side dish I came up with. The veg and starch were paired with some panko crusted and roasted cod fillets.

Here is how it looked and how I put it all together.

Cheddar Cheese Risotto

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 fat green onions, finely sliced (white parts only)
1/2 a medium white onion, diced fine
1/2 a stalk of celery, sliced fine
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 cups hot chicken stock
1 cup chopped cheddar cheese (I used a combination of extra sharp and garlic and herb cheddar by Cabot of Vermont)
2-3 tablespoons minced chives

Melt the butter and oil in a deep skillet and cook the onion, green onion and celery over medium heat until soft...about 5-6 minutes. In the meantime pour the stock in a sauce pan and bring it up to temperature.

Add the rice and stir/cook with the vegetables for a couple of minutes so each grain is kissed with the oil, then crank up the heat and add the wine and mustard, stirring until the wine is absorbed and the alcohol evaporates. Reduce the heat.

Begin ladling in the hot stock, letting all the liquid become absorbed as you stir before adding the next one. Keep the rice at a gentle simmer.

Stir and ladle until the rice is al dente (has a little bite), about 20 minutes, then add the cheese, stirring it into the rice until it melts. Taste for seasoning.

Remove the pan from the heat, still stirring as you do, and then serve onto warmed plates, and garnish with the chopped chives.

next time....Brussels Sprouts with Calabrase, and pan roasted cod

Friday, November 6, 2009

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Growing up in rural Newfoundland, I didn't eat a lot of squash. In fact, I didn't eat any squash or a lot of "exotic" vegetables. Our vegetable intake consisted of what was grown locally (potatoes, carrots, rutabaga, cabbage, beets, turnip greens), cans (peas, tomatoes and corn), frozen (broccoli, peas, brussel sprouts, spinach) and what the local grocery had (iceberg lettuce, tomatoes wrapped in cellophane and green peppers). Nowadays, markets all over Newfoundland carry the same produce as you would find in any market here in New England, bok choy and lemon grass included. I bet there are also many Newfoundlander's who grow there own variety of squashes. I myself grow butternut squash and the availability of this variety at local farmer stands has become one of my new favorite things about fall. So far this season I must have made three pots of butternut squash soup. In the past I've simply simmered the raw squash in chicken stock as a way to start the soup, but now I pre-roast the squash. The difference is noticeable and am I sold on this method. The squash develops much more flavor and gets slightly carmelized around its edges, which really adds depth to the final product.

For my version of this classic soup, I keep it fairly simple. I cut the squash in half and roast it. I saute an onion and a little garlic, add the cooked squash, top it off with chicken stock, and puree. Sometimes I add a splash of seasonal autumn beer, and I always add a few glugs of pure Massachusetts maple syrup. Seasoned with salt and pepper, topped with carmelized shallots and a sprinkle of freshly chopped herbs and you're all set! This makes a great first course for a weekend meal. Add a pan seared scallop to the mix and you have an elegant and more hearty lunch.

Here's how I put it all together.

Preheat your oven to 400 and drizzle a little olive on a baking sheet.
Cut 1 large (or 2 smaller) butternut squash in half and remove the seeds.
Lay cut side down on the oiled pan and roast until tender, about 45 minute to an hour.
Let cool until you can handle them and scoop out the pulp.

It is also a good idea to warp a few cloves of garlic in tin foil with a drop of oil, and toss it in the oven with the squash. After about 20-30 minutes you'll have wonderfully roasted garlic that will be mellow, sweet and flavorful...and a great addition to the soup.

While the squash is roasting, you can prep the base of the soup, which is carmelized onion.

In a Dutch Oven or pot, set over a medium heat, add:
- 2 Tbsp of butter
- 2 Tbsp of olive oil
- 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced (or the whites of two leeks, or a combination of the two)
Saute for a few minutes, and reduce heat to medium-low and let the onions/leeks develop some caramalization.

Before adding the scooped out squash pulp, increase the heat to medium high and deglaze the pot with a half a cup of ale (beer). I used a Sam Adams Oktoberfest which contains some fall spices. A pumpkin ale would also be great. If you don't have those use a brown/red ale, or just use chicken stock.

Add the pulp and a couple of cloves of roasted garlic and then add enough chicken stock to just cover the squash, about 4 cups.

Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Use a hand wand mixer to puree the soup until it is smooth (you can do it in batches in a blender if you do not have one). Add an additional 2 cups of chicken stock and about a 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with a drizzle of maple syrup and some carmelized onions or shallots, along with some chopped herbs. I like parsley and/or chives.

Soups up!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sausage, Peppers and Penne

A Wicked Scoff has been on the road quite a bit recently, as I have been all over New England for my archaeological consulting work. While the weather, hiking and fall scenery was awesome, I am glad to be home again, cooking my own meals. I did however have many good scoffs at restaurants, pizza dives and diners in various towns, eating many bowls of clam chowder and oven toasted grinders (aka subs or hoagies), as well as some really good Thai food, an incredible grass fed organic black angus burger, farm raised elk, and too many grilled Reuben sandwiches to count. Some of the best places I ate was the Common Man's "Boiler Room" in Plymouth New Hampshire and the Black Door in Montpelier Vermont.

This weekend I will be cooking up a storm of my own, and have some new favorites dishes to share, notably a roasted butternut squash soup with caramelized shallots and a splash of Octoberfest beer. In the meantime, here is a quick and simple recipe for one of my all time favorite pasta dishes which I often make during the work week. Make sure to make enough for leftovers to bring to work.

Italian Sausage, Peppers and Penne

For this meal, I use hot Italian sausage, but you can use sweet sausage just the same. I like red bell peppers for this, but it is fine to use any colour of bell pepper, green, red, orange or yellow. The same holds true for the pasta, use whatever you have. Penne is classic for sausage and peppers, so that's what I like (I use a multigrain). Other than that, some olive oil, garlic, red onion, fresh parsley, and real Parmesan cheese are all the ingredients you'll need. Pretty simple.

To begin, bring about an inch of water to a simmer in a deep skillet, preferably one with a lid.
Add 1 pound of sausage , cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remover the lid and continue to simmer until the water has evaporated. Continue to cook the sausage until browned on all sides. Be sure not to poke, prod and pierce the sausage. Let the fat, flavour and juices remain inside where they belong. Once the sausages have browned nicely, set aside in a warm oven while the onions, garlic and peppers cook.

While the sausages are cooking, prepare your vegetables and get a large pot of salted water on the boil. Follow package directions for the pasta and cook until al dente.

For the veggies, thinly slice
- 1 large red onion, halved and sliced
- 2 large/3 medium red bell peppers

Once the sausage is cooked, add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to the pan and set heat to medium high
Saute the onions and peppers until tender and slightly caramelized...about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add
- a pinch of salt and pepper
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced/smashed
- 1 tsp of dried oregano or Italian seasoning

Cook for a couple of minutes and return sausage to the skillet. Drain the cooked pasta and add to the skillet.

Add a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley.
Plate the pasta, and two sausages per serving.
Grate a healthy portion of Parmesan cheese over the plate a,d add more freshly ground pepper.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

One of the tastiest, most comforting soups I can think of is French Onion Soup. With bubbling Swiss cheese covering a rich, beefy broth full of caramelized onions, it really hits the spot. All too often however I get a really bad version of this classic soup at restaurants. Sometimes the broth is like brine, and way too salty. Other times there is no broth to speak of, just big soggy croutons underlying a bland mild cheese that is definitely not Swiss or Gruyere...or even an aged cheddar.

I know when I'm eating a really good French Onion Soup. The broth does not have to be homemade from scratch (although that would be an excellent bonus), but it can not be from a bouillon cube. The onions do have to be cooked low and slow to get the proper canalization, and there should be a je ne sais quois, a little extra depth of flavor in the broth. In classic versions of the recipe, this extra body usually comes from the addition of dry sherry or cognac, but I've also seen red wine added instead. To make this dish my own as I often like to do, I used beer...and not just any beer. I chose the straggler from my Saranac Beer Fall variety pack, the Bavarian Black Forest beer. The carmel malts and the dark creamy texture of the beer were the perfect compliment to the sweetness of the onions and the richness of the beef broth. The overall flavor of the soup was spectacular. I served the soup to my wife and she did not know there was beer in there, but knew there was a secret something extra providing complexity to the soup.

Here is my recipe....enough to fill 4 French Onion Soup crocks.

In a large, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven, heat:
3 Tbsp butter and 3Tbsp olive oil over a medium-low heat

5 medium sized yellow onions, sliced thin.
Saute slowly for 15 minutes, making sure the onions do not burn.

2 cloves of garlic minced
A pinch of dried thyme and summer savory

Continue to slow cook the onions and garlic over a low-medium heat until the onions develop a brown color, about another 20 minutes.

Deglaze the pot by adding 1 cup of dark beer.

Increase the heat to high to cook off the alcohol and bring the mixture to a boil.

Add 4 cups of beef broth (carton/canned is fine...low sodium) and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.

While the soup is simmering away, grate a pile of good Swiss of Gruyere cheese (classic) and cut 4 slices of fresh French bread. Toast the bread before assembling the soup.

Once the soup is cooked, taste for seasoning. Add some black pepper and salt as needed. Distribute the soup amongst 4 crocks, top each crock with a piece of the toasted bread, and top off with a small handful of the grated cheese. Place in a hot oven or under the broiler until the cheese is browning and bubbling.

Serve right away and enjoy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

As promised, I am posting my attempt at classic French cooking, following Julia Child's recipe for Boeuf Bouruignon. This was undertaken after watching the movie Julie and Julia, in which this famous dish makes a cameo appearance. The day after the movie, I did a quick Internet search to find the recipe (see below), found a great site with scans from the cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, made a quick trip to the market, and I was all set. I rarely follow recipes. I either come up with my own thing, based on what I have or what I am in the mood for...or I skim a few different recipes of something, get inspired and come up with my own hybrid version.

Here is the link to the recipe.


There are actually three recipes to follow, as the main dish contains "brown braised onions" and "sauteed mushrooms". I followed the recipes exactly, and the dish came out marvelous.

I would recommend trying this the traditional way the first time you make it...just so you can taste it. What I also wish I had the opportunity to do would be to make this with game..ideally moose or caribou. Maybe I can find some venison in these parts and try that. For those of you who have access to game, I encourage you try that, and let me know how it turns out. This would be an excellent dish to cook up at the cabin on a cold fall or winter day. A bottle of wine in the stew, and a few bottles on the table to drink and wash it all down would make for deliciously rich meal.

Brown-braised onions and mushrooms, combined and being reheated in a skillet

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sunday Breakfast. Poached Eggs and Chorico Hash

This past weekend, my wife and I watched "Julie and Julia", the new hit movie about the life and times of famous American chef Julia Child and the birth of her revolutionary cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". But that's only half the story. The other side of the movie follows the modern true story of Julie, a bored government worker who takes on the daunting mission of cooking every recipe from Child's book in a single year, posting the whole thing on her blog.

The movie was quite enjoyable. For foodies I'm sure it was especially fun. I found myself laughing and craving butter throughout the film, long after I had devoured my popcorn. When I woke up Sunday morning I was ready to cook. For beakfast I whipped up a quick potato and Portuguese chorico hash with a poached egg and toasted French bread. The poached egg was inspired from a scene in the movie, plus my wife loves them.

Later that day I tackled Julia's "Boeuf Bourguignon, a delicious rich stew with carrots, pearl onions, mushrooms and a lot of red wine. First I share the eggs and hash with you, and the boeuf will follow soon.

In a large non-stick skillet or wok pan, heat:

1 Tbsp of olive oil
Dice 2 medium potatoes, and saute over medium heat.
When cooking hash browns like these from raw potato, I find that it is best to keep the heat on medium so the potatoes have a chance to cook through....about 10 minutes. Once they are nearly cooked (taste one), add
1 2-3 inch piece of Portuguese chorico sausage, diced.

Saute together for a couple of minutes, season with salt, pepper and a few shakes of paprika and a dash of cayenne if you like some extra heat. Keep the hash warm while cooking the eggs.

Poached Eggs
For the eggs, fill a flat bottom pan with two inches of water and bring to a simmer. Crack eggs individually into a small bowl, and slide one at a time into the simmering pot. It is important to use fresh eggs so they do not spread throughout the pan. Gently give the water a swoosh to create a slight whirlpool action and the eggs will begin to set and gather themselves. Some of the whites will escape, but don't worry. Using a spoon or spatula, gather the edges of each egg to encourage it staying in one place. Keep a gentle motion in the water so the eggs swim to doneness. In no time, you will have a delicate, runny egg. By all means cook longer for preferred doneness. Remove with a slotted spoon and pat let air dry for a few seconds. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve atop the hash with a nice slice of toasted bread and butter.

Bon appetit!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Meatball and Tomato Soup

Last weekend I kicked off my fall soupfest. This tomato-meatball soup was a great way to start, as it was fresh, hearty and very satisfying for a cool Sunday evening meal. Crushed canned tomatoes with dried herbs, tiny homemade meatballs, onions, garlic, peppers, chicken stock and white beans combine in an experimental creation that I can't wait to make again for family and friends.

The first step is to make the meatballs. You can use whatever ground meat you desire for this soup, turkey, chicken, beef, pork or veal. I used turkey.

In a large bowl, combine and mix well:
2 lbs lean ground turkey
2 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 Tbsp Italian herb mix (dried)
1/2 cup dried Italian breadcrumbs
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp each of salt and pepper

Using a teaspoon, scoop meat mixture and make small, golf ball sized meatballs.

In a large Dutch oven, heat a little olive oil over medium high heat, and brown the meatballs.

While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the following vegetables, which will be sauteed after the meatballs are browned.

1 large onion, diced small
1 red bell pepper, diced small
1 green bell pepper, diced small
1 carrot, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
Once the meatballs are browned, reserve to the side and saute the vegetables. Add the onion, peppers and carrot, reserving the garlic until near the end so it does not burn. Season with a touch of salt and pepper. If you need to, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the dutch oven. Saute the vegetables until they are tender and the onion is translucent, but not browned. Add garlic, and the meatballs, and cook together for a couple of minutes.

Next, add a splash of white wine, two large cans of crushed tomatoes, and use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add 4 cups of chicken stock (canned/carton or homemade), 1 tablespoon of the dried Italian herbs, 1 teaspoon of dried savory (optional) and reduce heat to low. Throw in a bay leaf for good measure. Let simmer for 30 minutes or longer is you can wait. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper. If you want a little heat (in addition to the spicy meatball) add some more red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. Add one drained can of northern white beans, drained and rinsed, and cook for another 10 minutes, until the beans are warmed through.

Served in warm bowls with some good bread and wine.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall is here at last.

Fall is my favorite season, and it has most certainly arrived here in New England. The days are shorter and the days are a little more crisp. Hockey has started and leaves are turning the brilliant reds and oranges that New England is famous for. From a culinary perspective fall inspires me to cook the many fruits of the harvest, notably root vegetables, apples and squashes. These afford extremely well to warm hearty meals like soups, stews and roasted meats, as well as spiced desserts like apple crisp. This past week alone I've been out apple picking at one of many local orchards, enjoying my wife's apple crisp and making rich soups.

Another thing I have been doing with the onset of fall has been sampling some of the great autumn themed beers available. Not only are Octoberfest and Pumpkin Spice beers delicious seasonal brews, but they are also excellent to cook with.

My selection for beer of the month for October is actually a variety of beers, specially packed by the Mack Brewing Company's Saranac Beer, out of Utica New York (http://www.saranac.com/home/).

This "12 beers a falling" variety pack features six wonderful beers great for fall refreshment (http://www.saranac.com/page/12-beers-a-falling). Included in the variety pack are the seasonally available Octoberfest and Pumpkin Ale, in addition to their IPA, Irish Red Ale, the Bavarian Black Forest, and the Carmel Porter. Each is distinctively excellent. I actually made a French Onion Soup last night with the Black Forest beer that was very tasty. This coming weekend I will be using the Pumpkin Ale in a butternut squash soup recipe I'm deveoping, and lastly the Octoberfest will be part of my brined and roasted pork rib roast for this coming Sunday. All of these recipies will be posted in the coming days.

In the meantime, enjoy the cool, crisp refreshing fall air. Get outdoors and hike in the woods, and prepare your firewood for winter. Work up and appetite, quench your thirst with a cold ale or warm mulled apple cider, and fill your belly with a hearty bowl of soup or stew.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Now that NFL football season is upon us and Sunday tailgating and excessive munching has begun, I though it is time I release my favorite chili recipe. This hearty chili pack a bit of heat but nothing that can't be tamed by the sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese and the chips. If you like it hotter, simply add more of the chipotle peppers, or I would recommend letting your guests spice it up on their own with red pepper flakes or hot sauce. this chili will satisfy as it is very meaty with loads of beans and veggies. The dark chocolate helps balance the flavors of the chilies. Give it a try.


1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

Heat oil over a medium-high heat in a large heavy bottom pot and add:

1 ½ lbs lean ground beef

1 ½ lbs ground buffalo

Cook until browned (but not necessarily fully cooked through). Set aside in a large bowl and mix with the following combination of seasonings:

Spice Mix

2 Tbsp Chili Powder 1 tsp Tabasco Sauce

2 Tbsp Paprika 3 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

1 Tbsp Ancho Chili Powder ½ tsp chili flakes

1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika 1 Tbsp black pepper

Pinch of Kosher Salt 1 Tbsp cumin

Reserve seasoned meat mixture for later.

In the same heavy bottom pot heat over medium-high:

2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

Once oil shimmers, add and stir occasionally:

2 medium yellow onions, diced

3 green bell peppers, diced

Pinch of Kosher Salt and a few grinds of black pepper

Once onions and peppers cook for 3-4 minutes, add and stir occasionally

½ lb mushrooms, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

3 jalapeƱo peppers, seeds and veins removed

Cook for 3-4 minutes and add:

Beef/Buffalo mixture

1 cup beef broth

1 small can tomato paste

2 large cans of whole tomatoes

4 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, minced

2 Tbsp dark chocolate (77% cocoa), chopped

Additional spices to taste (chili powder, cumin, paprika, pepper, chili flakes, etc)

Cover and simmer the chili on a low heat on the stove top for at least 1 hour to combine the flavors.

10-15 minutes before serving, add:

1 can Dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can Black beans, drained and rinsed

Serve in bowls topped with sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese and minced green onion and parsley or cilantro. Serve with multi-grain Tostitos to scoop up the chili goodness.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chicken Breast Roll-Ups

Last night I cooked what used to be a go-to meal for me, but also one I had not made as long as I could remember. In fact my wife said I'd never made it for her and we've been living together for four years now. The meal I'm referring to are chicken breast roll-ups. They're a pretty simple recipe, one I got some years ago out of the original volume of the Downhomer (now Downhome) Household Almanac and Cookbook ( http://www.shopdownhome.com/item.php?id=205). Basically that recipe called for chicken breasts pounded flat, dipped in a mixture of melted butter and Worcestershire Sauce, breaded in traditional Newfoundland savory dressing, tucked into a roll, and baked. These are quite tasty, and I especially loved them served with scalloped potatoes.

For some reason yesterday afternoon, this recipe popped into my head, and when I got home from work I was anxious to give it a try...but this time with a little twist. One thing I wanted to do was make use of things I already had on hand, for both the chicken roll-ups and for the side dishes. For the chicken, I knew I wanted to use savory, and I also knew I wanted to spice up the marinade. I had some fresh broccoli, as well as a large sweet potato and some Yukon gold spuds in the pantry. I also wanted to play along with the traditional savory dressing. I love using panko, but I felt that all Panko wasn't what I wanted, so I made fresh bread crumbs as well, out of some country potato bread I had left from this past weekend (I now refer to potato bread as the "where have you been all my life" bread..well I say the same thing about sourdough too). Lastly, I had some artisan cheeses leftover from a party this weekend and I snuck (to sneak) a piece of Gruyere into each roll-up. Anyways...here's what I came up with.

Chicken Roll-Ups

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded to about a 1/2 or 3/4 inch thick

In a bowl or Pyrex dish combine the following
- 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Tbsp Italian Salad Dressing
- 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 Tbsp White Wine
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes
- a dash of salt and pepper

Add the chicken breasts in the marinade and leave for about an hour.

For the breadcrumb dressing/coating, combine
-1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbsp dried summer savory, rubbed in the palm of your hand
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
- 1/2 tsp of fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease and Pyrex dish large enough to hold 4 roll-ups.

One at a time, dredge the chicken breasts in the breadcrumb mixture. Try and get an even coast but some bare batches are fine. Lay a slice of cheese in the middle and roll up the breast. Lay seam side down in the dish and press some more of the breadcrumbs onto the top so that it has a complete crust. Repeat for the other three chicken breasts. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until internal temperature is 160 degrees and inner juices run clear.

Sweet Potato and Gold Potato Dollar Chips

For the spuds, I pealed 1 large sweet potato and 3 large Yukon Gold's, which gave me about an even number of chips. I sliced the spuds into thick round chips (think thick potato chips) that were about a 1/4 to a 1/3 of an inch thick. I call these dollar chips, and I've heard that around Newfoundland. I'm not sure what they're called elsewhere (these are also some good pan fried in shortening in a cast iron pan...that's the way Mom used to cook them for me for a nice treat when I'd come home for lunch from school some days). After soaking in water for a bit, I drained them and added a few "glugs" of vegetable oil, and seasoned them with 1 Tbsp of savory (I wanted to bring the savory into a couple of elements of the dish), 1 tsp of garlic powder, and salt and pepper.

To cook the potatoes I separated them onto their own baking sheet since the sweet potatoes cook quicker. I set them into the oven while I was prepping the chicken breast, and I hauled the sweet potatoes out after about 10-12 minutes, gave them a flip, and let them rest on the stove top. Once the chicken was done I popped them in for another few minutes to brown the other side. The Yukon Golds took almost as long as the chicken.

This was a super easy, and delicious meal! I got back to my roots and held true to my philosophy of keeping it simple, using what you have, seasoning it well and making it tasty!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mediterranean Pizza

This is one of my favorite pizza recipes, and it is one that features bright flavors of the Mediterranean region, namely pesto, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts, paired with herb and garlic grilled chicken, thin sliced red onion, Parmesan cheese and grated part-skim mozzarella. The basil and garlic from the pesto carry through in every bite, while the sun dried tomatoes give a sweet tangy punch. Each bite is different, as you can bite into a quartered artichoke heart or into a juicy piece of grilled chicken. Whether you decide to make it pan pizza style or go for the crispy thin crust from the pizza stone, each variety has its special pleasantry. With the thicker, chewier crust the whole thing melds in perfect harmony and it deeply satisfying. The thin flat bread crust however let the topping stand out even more, and it transforms the pizza into something a little more sophisticated. Each will please you as I think the flavor combination here make for a truly outstanding pizza!

Mediterranean Pizza

See recipe for basic pizza dough from an earlier blog. This is enough dough for 2 large pan pizzas (cookie sheets) or 3 round pies on the stone.

This is a simple pie to put together as I use store bought pesto, canned quartered artichoke hearts, canned roasted red peppers and a jar of sun dried tomatoes in olive oil. The chicken is the most time consuming part (although this is a great way to use up any leftover chicken you might have), and then it's just slicing the onion and grating the cheese.

For the chicken, I like to marinate bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in a little olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, chili flakes, Italian seasoning and black pepper, for at least a couple of hours. The I simply season it with some salt and grill the chicken (or roast it) until it is just done, at 160 degrees. When it is cool enough to handle, I pick the meat off the bone and give It a rough chop. 2 bone-in breasts are plenty for 3 pizzas.

To prep the pizzas, use the pesto as you would pizza sauce, and spared evenly across the dough. Next top with the chicken, artichokes, chopped sun-dried tomatoes , chopped roasted red peppers, a handful of grated mozzarella, thin slice red onion on top, and some Parmesan cheese grated around the edge of the crust. Cook it in the hot oven until the cheese browns and the crust has also browned on the bottom.

Let me know how it turns out!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fish and Chips II

Beer Battered Deep Fried Cod

Every now and then you just got to have something fried. As I've said in previous posts, it's hard to find really good deep fried fish and chips in these parts, and it had become a goal of mine to start making my own. One a month, this will be a guilty pleasure. I do not own a deep fryer (fry-o-later) but that doesn't stop me from being able to deep fry...as long as I am careful. This time I used a wok, but I was without a thermometer so that I could control the temperature. I'll have that for the next batch of fish fry goodness. When deep frying on the stove top, you have to be extremely careful because trouble can begin without a moments notice. You can not let the oil get too hot (hence the need for a thermometer) and you can not leave it unattended. Too many times in Newfoundland a house burns to the ground because of someone cooking a feed of chips and either not being careful enough or worse yet, try and do so after getting home with a few too many black horse in them. If you don't feel comfortable using the stove top, deep fry only with a deep fryer.

I like to think that I know a thing or two about deep fried cod. Besides having eaten my share over the years, I've also worked the fryer at a couple fish and chips places in St. John's back in college. My most notable experience was as fish cook at the famous Ches' Fish and Chips (http://www.chessfishandchips.ca/home.html). While I did not have a hand in making the batter from scratch at Ches', as they have their own secret and special blend you just add water too, I did learn alot about the proper thickness of the batter, cod portion preparation, cooking temperatures and times, etc. For the recipe below, I use a homemade beer batter that is light and thin, that frys up crispy and bubbly. For the cod, I used thick loin fillets and sliced them into roughly 3 0z portions.


For the batter, in a large mixing bowl combine with a whisk:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper1 Tbsp baking powder
- 2 beaten egg yolks
and add gradually, whisking constantly
- 1 cup of light beer

Allow to rest in the fridge for an hour or two. Before using, add 2 egg whites beaten. This will make the batter nice and light. In order to get the right thickness, I dip my fingers in the batter and begin to count until I can see my fingers to through the batter as I let it drip off. You're looking for a two count to see your fingers begin to show through the batter. Anything longer will be too thick and produce unwanted dough around the fish. If you need to thin your batter, add a little more beer to get it right. This is enough batter to cook at least 2 pounds of fish.

In a large pot, or deep fryer heat 3-4 inches of vegetable oil to 375 degrees.

While oil is heating, portion the cod into 3-4 oz portions, season with a little salt in flour, and dredge in some flour. The flour is key in having the wet batter stick to the fish. Once the oil comes up to temperature begin cooking the fish. Don't over crowd the pot and cook the fish in batches. Once a piece is done, transfer to a wire rack, season with kosher salt and keep warm in a low oven. To "drop" your fish into the oil, submerge the floured portion in the batter, hold from one end and let the excess drip off, and slowly lay the fish in the hot oil. Hold it for a few seconds and slowly release it away from you. Keep an eye on it and turn it once one side becomes golden brown. Getting the fish cooked right is pretty easy for portions this size. Generally speaking, when it is well browned, it is done just right.

Served with some hand cut oven fries, and lots of fresh lemon juice, malt vinegar and salt and this was some of the best fish and chips I've had. It was most definitely the best I've had in this neck of the woods. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Herb Roasted Chicken and Gourmet Poutine

I was in Maine a couple of weekends ago, and on the drive home we had to pass by the city of Portland. If you're a follower of this blog, you may remember that I spoke of Portland and one of it's best eateries in one of my first posts. The restaurant I am referring to is Duck Fat, where one of the finest poutines in the world can be had. Excellent french fries, great cheese curds and a rich flavorful gravy and you have a recipe for poutine success. A simple dish that requires nothing more than a few really good ingredients to make it one of my favorite comfort foods. It may not sound good to some, and it surely is not healthy, but let me tell you it tastes heavenly! Salty, cheesy, french fried goodness with gravy all over it...now honestly, how is that not good!

Anyways, to cut to the chase, I did not make a return visit to Duck Fat the other week as I had originally hoped. My wife's desire to have a Moe's sub won out. Nevertheless, I was able to get a gourmet poutine...I just had to whip it up myself. My homemade poutine consisted of herb roasted chicken breast, steamed broccoli (that makes it healthy) and salt and pepper oven fries with herb and garlic cheese curds, and a savory chicken gravy. Here's how I made it. Instruction based on a dinner for two.

Herb Roasted Chicken

While I usually like to brine or marinate my chicken, there is not always time, as was the case when I made this dish on a work night. The key for juicy, crispy and tasty chicken will be to cook it on a high heat, season it well, and do not over cook the meat. For white meat chicken breast, I use an instant read thermometer and remove the chicken from the oven the second it reaches 160 degrees in the thickest part of the breast.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and add two large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts to an appropriately sized roaster or Pyrex tray (or similar). Drizzle a little olive oil and using your hands, coat the chicken with the oil. Season all sides with kosher salt, fresh pepper, dry summer savory and fresh rosemary and/or thyme. Add a splash of water or chicken stock to the bottom of the pan. Cook in the oven, uncovered until internal temperature of 160 is reached...about 45 minutes. If the skin is over browning, cover with foil wrap, or conversely if it isn't crispy enough, use the broiler for a bit.

Chicken Gravy

Remove the chicken from the roasting pan so it can rest. Heat the pan on the stove top over a medium-high heat and add:
- 2 Tbsp of dry white wine, and begin "deglazing" the pan using a wooden spoon to scrape free all the browned bits. Those bits mean flavor.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock/broth (canned is fine) and bring to a boil.

Now is the time to thicken the gravy. I use a small Mason jar as a shaker to make a slurry, which I make by combining a couple of heaping tablespoons of flour, a teaspoon of corn starch and about a 1/4 cup of water. Screw on the lid and give it a good shake until you have a think, smooth lump-free slurry. You may need to add a little more water if it is too thick. A pancake batter consistency or slightly looser would be fine. Once the gravy is boiling, slowly drizzle the slurry and combine vigorously with a whisk. You may not need all the slurry so keep adding until you reach the desired consistency. Reduce the heat and simmer the gravy for at least 2-3 minutes in order to cook off the raw flour taste. The gravy will continue to thicken slightly so keep this in mind. Taste the gravy and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

For the oven fries, the recipe I always use is posted in an earlier posting. For this dish I used 4 medium potatoes and seasoned the fries with kosher salt, black pepper, and a little dried summer savory. With regards to the cheese for the poutine, it's very important to use real cheese curds, not grated cheddar or mozzarella if you want to have the real poutine experience. I'm fortunate that my local grocery store carries fresh cheese curds from a local producer. Better yet, they have some flavored varieties. For this meal, I used their garlic and herb curds, which paired very nicely with the chicken. They were quite garlicky, which is a good thing as long as your significant other is also eating them.

The steamed broccoli is super easy, and one of my favorite ways to eat a bunch of veg. I use fresh broccoli, wash it, cut it into smaller pieces, put a steamer basket in a large sauce pan, add an inch or two of water, bring to a boil, add the broccoli and cook for about 6-7 minutes. It doesn't get much easier than that. I like mine just with a little salt, but I don't mind a little pad of butter either.

Now you're ready to assemble your poutine. Using warmed plates (lay them in the oven for a couple of minutes before the gravy is ready. There will be enough heat left from when the chicken was cooking to warm them nicely), plate the chicken, and the broccoli, and next the fries. Scatter the cheese curds over the fries and begin spooning the hot gravy over the cheese and fries.

It does not get much better than this!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Summer Harvest...Mexican Cooking

Summer is in the air here in the northeastern US these past couple weeks. After a mostly mild and wet summer it has been hot and muggy of late. Thank god for air conditioning. Despite the weather, it has been a good season for my tomatoes and hot peppers . Besides that, local sweet corn is in peak season, as is other great produce like summer squash and zucchini. With all these great vegetable and it being too hot to turn on the stove, what better food to make than homemade Mexican condiments, and grilled chicken and corn. As you can see in the spread below, yesterday after work I got busy marinading chicken breasts in a chili-lime rub, making a classic pico de gallo (a fresh tomato salsa), a chunky guacamole and a fire roasted salsa.

Pico de Gallo

Combine the following in a bowl. You can eat it right away, or refridgerate and let the flavors meld for a while.

4 large tomatoes (I used a "better boy" hybrid I grew myself...they were big), diced small
1/2 a Vidalia (or other sweet/mild) onion, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
1/4 Cup fresh cilantro, chopped
the juice and zest of 1 lime
a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper

In a bowl, roughly mash 4 ripe avocados (I use a potato masher)
Combine with:
1/2 cup red onion, minced fine
2 jalapenos, minced
juice and zest of 1 to 2 limes
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped fine
a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper
1/4 tsp of ancho chili powder

Fire Roasted Salsa
In a glass bowl, drizzle a little oil over
2 poblano peppers
3 jalapenos
3 large tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, halved

Coat the veggies in the oil and place on a hot grill. Occasionally turn the peppers. onion and tomato so all sides get slightly charred. Remove from the flame and let rest. Once cool enough to handle, peel the tough skin off the peppers.In a food processor, add:
- grilled tomatoes, poblanos, onions and jalapenos
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup of cilantro
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 TBSP of lime juice

Pulse the food processor until mixture is well combined. The salsa should not be overly chunky.

Chili-Lime Grilled Chicken

In a large resealable bag, combine

- the juice and zest of 1 lime
- 2 TBSP of olive oil
- 1 tsp of ancho chili powder
- 1 tsp of garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp of cumin
- 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
- a few dashes of salt and pepper

mix and add 4 done-in chicken breasts. Seal the bag and massage the chicken around to ensure it is well covered with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat your grill to med-high, and cook chicken just until internal temprature in the thickest part reaches 160 degrees. Any more and your chicken will overcook and begin to become dry. I also season my chicken with a little salt and pepper while on the grill. What you want is a crispy skin, and succulent, juicy chicken breast meat. The flavor of the lime and ancho chili doesn't take long in the marinade to work its way into the meat so this makes for an excellent preparation on a work night or impromptu weekend dinner. Great served with the fire roasted salsa and/or a Mexican salsa verde (tomatillo salsa).

When served with some grilled sweet corn, corn chips and an ice cold Corona, and you'll have an yourself a feista!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

From the Boston States...Maine and New Hampshire

This past weekend my wife and I traveled to beautiful coastal Maine. The purpose of the trip was for the wedding of a college friend of my wife's on Southport Island, near Boothbay Harbor. The wedding was 3 in the afternoon, so in order to give us some time to explore Boothbay a little, we left western Massachusetts at 6 AM in order to beat "beach traffic" and to not make the 4 1/2 hour drive any longer by getting stuck in freeway traffic. We arrived in Boothbay Harbor by 10:30, and what a sight. The harbor was full of boats of all shapes and sizes, from kayaks to yachts, sailboats and lobster boats, and everything else in between. We meandered down to our ocean side hotel, the Fisherman's Wharf Inn, parked our car, and decided to explore the quaint shops and side streets around the harbor front.

We've had some really hot weather this past week, and it was into the 80's even here in Maine, and before noon. That's too hot for a fair skinned Newfoundlander like myself. Anyways that's what cold beer are for. Another highlight of our trip was getting to see my wife's very good friend Elizabeth, and meet her new man. They arrived in town a bit after us and we we meeting them for lunch before the wedding. Mary and I scouted out the harbor front eat and settled on a place called McSeagull's (http://www.mcseagullsonline.com/enter/) where there was deck dining, live music and lots a lobster on the menu. Since I don't like lobster (I know I'm a freak) I went for the bowl of clam chowder, and a couple of pints of icy Shipyard summer ale (http://www.shipyard.com/). The beer was delicious, and the chowder was definitely as good as I've ever had....probably the heaviest on the clams for sure, which is a good thing. It was thick and creamy, with celery, onion, potatoes, and little pieces of salty, smoky bacon. I haven't tried my hand at making clam chowder yet, but this was surely a recipe to attempt to recreate.

The rest of the day in Boothbay was really great, a beautiful outdoor wedding, followed by drinks with friends back at McSeagulls. Sunday morning we had to get on the road before lunch time as we had a long afternoon of driving ahead of us, even more for me as I needed to go all the way to Albany. After finding a Tim Hortons in Brunswick, Maine, I was in good spirits, and Mary had requested that we get our afternoon meal at her favorite sub shop, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Moe's is more than a sub shop, it is a sub haven (http://www.moesitaliansandwiches.com/) . While they offer standard sub sandwich varieties, the only real option is the Moe's Original, a soft white bread roll, stuffed with Moe's special mild salami (if you like bologna you'll love this salami), thinly sliced green peppers and mild white onions, zesty sliced pickles, tomato, a few bits of black olives and a special seasoned oil blend with chili flakes. We picked up our subs, with some kettle cooked potato chips (sour cream and onion for me....yum) and some ginger ale (it's good for a hangover) and we were all set. We drove out of the busy downtown, and found a small vacant lot just before the highway. These sandwiches were spectacular. This is most definitely a stop off the highway if you ever drive through the narrow section of coastal New Hampshire between Maine and Massachusetts. You can also stop for some cheap New Hampshire booze. You know, a 26 ox bottle of Newfoundland's famous Screech dark rum only costs you $10.99 there. Needless to say, my liqour cabinet is well stocked. More on Screech in an upcoming post!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In Cod We Trust

My recent trip to Newfoundland was really spectacular. From sea kayaking in Trinity Bay, hiking many miles of the East Coast Trail (http://www.eastcoasttrail.com/), a boat tour (and a Dildo Island boat tour at that....thanks Gerald and Dennis), a winery tour (http://www.rodrigueswinery.com), live Irish music, a garden party, touring the Cape Shore including Cape St. Mary's, camping at La Manche park, cod fishing, dining out at Bacalou (2 impressive meals), and spending quality time with family and friends...I really was able to do it all. When people have since asked me if I did get to do all that I wanted, I jokingly say I didn't eat enough fish and chips. On second thought, that's no joke...I didn't eat enough fish and chips!

While my waistline is probably thanking me, I was limited to only a single "feed" of fish and chips...and what a meal it was! While I had plans to get fish and chips in St. John's, and also possibly on the southern shore, I knew my first choice had to be my old stompin grounds out around the bay in my hometown of Green's Harbour. Until recently, this restaurant/take-out was known as Taylor's (and probably always will be in my mind) but has since been sold and renamed to "CJ's". It's good to know however that they still have the same cook behind the closed door, dishing out what I could tell were the same recipes, although I did find that the fish batter had improved, as it was a little thinner and lighter. This place really has the best chips, dressing and gravy I've ever had, and their fried chicken is also outstanding. It's better than Mary Brown's and that's saying something (my sister gave me once of her wings and it was better than I rememmbred). On this occasion however I needed to have the deep fried cod, and the 3 piece dinner at that, with dressing and gravy. Served with a tasty creamy coleslaw, and some peas and carrots, and tarter sauce, it was a meal fit for a bayman prince. The cod was super fresh and the batter was crispy. I don't usually order 3 pieces of fish but I inhaled this meal and had room for more (even on top of the wing and two glasses of Black Horse beer). It's really too bad I can't find deep fried fish like this here in New York and New England. I'm going to have to start making it for myself as a treat once a month!

Besides the deep fried cod, I did have cod more than once while I was home. The best of the bunch had to be the pan fried cod I cooked on the second last day of my trip, using cod my wife, father-in-law and myself caught that afternoon, on the first day of the food fishery. For appetizers we had succulent cod tongues and cheeks with a lemon/malt vinegar tarter sauce, and for the main meal we feasted on morsels of pan fried cod, oven baked fries, peas, gravy, and fresh corn. There really is nothing like eating extremely fresh fish, cooked the day it comes out of the water. For my money, cod is king when it comes to my favorite type of fish to cook and eat.

I am still excited for having the opportunity to get out on the water, and catch cod this summer. It really is a shame that Newfoundlanders only get a couple weeks a year to get out and do the same, to put food on their tables, in their freezers, and in their bellies, when the inshore cod fishery and hand lining is such an intrinsic part of our culture, our heritage and way of life. While I don't know if there will ever be any more than this for our "food fishery" at least we have it. It could be worse I suppose.
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