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.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Artisan Bread Boule

Merry Christmas to all A Wicked Scoff readers. I hope the holidays have been treating you well, and you've been keeping your belly full. I know I have. As some of you may know, A Wicked Scoff has been getting some special, and well appreciated media coverage from Downhome Magazine (http://downhomelife.com/blog.php?id=1126) as both one of their feature blogs on downhomelife.com and also as a special column in the new January 2011 issue of the magazine. To any of you who have found your way here via Downhome, welcome, and please keep coming back and sending in your comments as I have many new and exciting creations to post for the new year.

Speaking of the January issue of Downhome Magazine, the featured recipe was my version of a Seafood Chowder, a thick, rich and creamy chowder featuring fresh cod, salmon, shrimp and scallops. In the article I photographed the chowder in a homemade, artisan-style European bread boule (bowl). To compliment the chowder recipe, I wanted to share this very simple and tasty bread recipe with you here.  I found the inspiration for the recipe after some quick internet searching for a bread boule recipe. The search can be overwhelming, so I found a few I liked and came up with my own, adding some beer and adjusting the amounts of flour, water and salt. The process is super easy, as I used a stand mixer to make the dough, let it rise, place it in the refrigerator overnight, and make the boules on a pizza stone in a very hot oven. The result is a tangy and tasty piece of homemade bread. Here's how you make them.

- 2 cups of water (lukewarm, between 100-110 degree Fahrenheit)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast (2 small packets)
- 1 cup of lager beer, at room temperature (I used Jockey Horse from Newfoundland)
-1 Tbsp Kosher salt
- 6 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)

- In a large bowl or your stand mixer bowl, add the warm water and the yeast, stir and let rest for a few minutes. Turn the mixer on low speed with the dough hook attachment and add the salt and beer, followed by gradually adding the flour. Let the mixer work the dough for 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. At this stage, the bread can be made, but for better flavor it is best to let it rest in the fridge for at least a day, but will last for a week or more. This also means you can make the dough the night before, saving you time before the day you are going top serve the bread. Place the risen dough (do not punch down) in the fridge and keep it there in a large covered bowl (allow room for some expansion) until ready to use.

When ready to cook the bread, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack and preheat the stone in a hot 500 degree oven for 30 minutes. Take the dough out of the fridge and cut softball sized portions for each bread boule and knead quickly into a ball. You may need to flour the board to help form the dough balls. On the top rack of the oven, place a shallow pan of water (a moist oven will help give the bread a nice crust). Give each boule a slit or criss-cross on the top with a sharp serrated knife or razor blade. Once the stone is hot, place 2 pr 3 balls of dough at a time onto the stone using a pizza peel (make sure to add cornmeal or flour to the peel so the dough doesn't stick). Cook the boules for about 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and feel hollow when you give them a knock with your knuckles. Place on a wire rack and let cool for as long as you can resist to cut off the top and hollow out for soup bowls. Fill with your favorite chowder, soup or chili!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fish Heads, Fish Heads....Seafood Stock

Fish heads, fish heads, roly, poly fish heads. Fish heads, fish heads, eat em up yum! The opening lyrics to the 1980 comical song about fish heads by Barnes and Barnes hit the nail on the head, as they are yum!

While fish heads are indeed yummy, as I can't think of a tastier piece of seafood than fresh cod cheeks, the focus of this Wicked Scoff entry is to illustrate how you can use fish heads, and other "throw away" portions of fish to make your own seafood stock. Seafood stock is an essential ingredient to making dishes like chowder, fish stews, and the like richer and more authentic. While you can readily find powdered and liquid seafood stock or clam juice in every supermarket these days (and these are fine in a pinch), if you have access to whole fish, you owe it to yourself to make your own stock. Alternatively you can also easily adapt this simply formula to make shellfish stock by substituting shellfish "shells" such as lobster, shrimp and crab. Whatever the case, you'll be left with a flavorful stock that you can either use right away, store for a few days in the refrigerator, or even freeze for weeks.


- 3-5 pounds of fresh fish (such as cod or haddock) heads, bones and trimmings
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 ribs of celery, roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- small handful of fresh herbs such as lemon-thyme, thyme or parsley
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 12 cups of water


In a large stock pot, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onions, carrot and celery and saute for a couple of minutes until they become somewhat translucent. Add the fish head/bones and trimmings and all remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, and watch the mixture for about 5 minutes, skimming off any scum that will float to the top. Reduce the heat to a low boil or simmer, skimming off the scum as necessary. Cook for an additional 20 to 25 minutes. Strain/push the stock through a large fine sieve, and pass through again with the sieve lined with cheesecloth to insure all the particles are left behind, so you are left with a clear stock. Pour into containers (or even icecube trays) and and store in the fridge or freezer until ready to use. This yields about 10 cups of stock.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shepherd's Pie...the ultimate comfort food

Last week I saw a picture of shepherd's pie in a Williams Sonoma catalog, and I ultimately began craving a hot plateful of this comfort food classic. This traditional English or Irish meat and potatoes pie is quite popular here in New England, and as far as I can tell it is a well used go to meal in Newfoundland kitchens. With both Newfoundland's and New England's connection to Ireland and England, this should of course come as no surprise.

I don't know why but for whatever reason, I have rarely had Shepherd's Pie. I guess it just wasn't something we had much. While I always see it on the menus of restaurants and pubs, I always end up ordering something else. After seeing that picture last week though, I knew I had been missing out. Before tying my hand at making this old world dish, a little research was in order. My elementary understanding of Sheppards Pie was that it consisted of well seasoned ground beef mixed with onions, carrots, peas, and other vegetables, topped with mashed potatoes, and sometimes with or without cheese. In actual fact though, by definition, Shepherd's Pie contains lamb, and its beefy cousin is referred to as cottage pie. Whatever. The dish likely originated not by using fresh ground meat (beef or lamb) but instead by using leftover cooked meat. Since I was using beef and not lamb, I decided to give the historical character of the dish some homage by using slow cooked chuck roast, which I braised with vegetables and shredded, which in essence mimicked the left over meat element....only much better I think since I gave it a lot of TLC.

Once I had the meat figured out, I needed to determine how I would pick the other ingredients. To the meat mixture I chose to add pearl onions (mini onions you can find in the frozen vegetable section of your grocer), carrots, peas (the classic New England variation uses corn) and garlic, with additions of beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, red wine, a little tomato flavor and herbs. The potato layer consisted of mashed potatoes. I kept it fairly simple, but made them light, creamy and flavorful by adding a little butter, milk, garlic, some Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Lastly, the question of to add cheese on the top or not to, was not even a question at all. Keeping with the English theme, I chose cheddar, and an orange sharp aged cheddar at that.

The batch I made was enough to make two medium sized casseroles, and might just fit in your largest lasagna dish. As you can see in the pics, I used two smaller pans, but this recipe would also work great if divided into individual gratin dishes....pub style. You can also freeze either the beef and vegetable mixture, or freeze a fully assembled pie and thaw and cook when you're ready. I have to say, this was one of the tastiest and most satisfying dishes I have had in a while. It was so good in fact I had it for supper, lunch and supper again over two days, second helpings not included. Here's how I did it.

- 3 lb chuck roast (or use ground beef and saute with veggies instead of slow roasting)
- 3 large carrots, diced
- 1 lb pearl onions (or two large yellow onions, diced)
- 4-6 cloves garlic, crushed
-1/4 cup beef stock
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup of chili sauce (or ketchup)
- dried herbs (or fresh) such as savory and thyme
- 1 cup of frozen or fresh green peas
- about 2-3 pounds of potatoes (8 medium)
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk or milk
- grated Parmesan cheese
- grated sharp cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven, heat vegetable over medium high heat. Trim excess fat and silver skin from chuck roast, and cube into pieces no larger than 2 inches wide. Adding a few pieces at a time, sear the beef in the hot oil. Cook the beef in small batches to keep the oil hot as you want to brown the beef and not steam it. Once all the beef is browned, return it all to the pot and add onions, diced carrots, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Add about 1 tablespoon of dried herbs (more if fresh) such as savory, thyme or rosemary. Mix well and deglaze the pan with the Worcestershire sauce, red wine and beef stock. Add the chili sauce or ketchup, stir, cover and coo low and slow in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove from the oven and using a pair of forks, shred the beef pulling it apart. The excess liquid should get reabsorbed into the tender beef. Add the peas (see picture). This entire process can be done the day before (as I did) and assembled into the pies the next night prior to supper.

For the topping you your favorite mashed potato recipe. I boiled my spuds in some salted water and mashed them with a little butter, milt, salt, pepper, parsley, grated Parm and some leftover roasted garlic cloves. They were light and fluffy.

To assemble the pies, spread a layer of the meat and vegetable filling on the bottom of whatever dish you like to use. Try and get at least an inch of filling. Top with the hot mashed potatoes, spread with a butter knife and top with as much cheese as you think you deserve. I was a good boy last week so I went down the extra cheesy road. I recommend that route! Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Let rest a couple of minutes before slicing and eat your heart out. This pie is deadly! While I put a lot of extra work into this version by searing and slow cooking, and shredding the chuck roast, I think it was the way to go. However to be fair, I plan on making a weeknight friendly version with ground beef or ground lamb (or even meatloaf mix which has ground beef, pork and veal) just to see if the extra work is worth it. I'm sure it will be good as well. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, feed your cravings!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Wicked Good Egg...Get Crackin

Today was another one of those hectic work days where by the time I got home from work, walked the dog, ran some errands and did some chores, it was after 8, and I had yet to eat supper. On days like this I often turn to one of my favorite foods to bail me out, without compromising taste and nourishment....eggs. I love breakfast and brunch and unlike some people I have no issue with eating breakfast for supper/dinner. I've always been that way. I always thought it was a real treat when occasionally as a kid Mom would make eggs, fried bologna, hash browns, toast for supper, orange juice and all. That's still one of my favorite suppers. Needless to say I am also a fan of the diners and restaurants that serve an all-day breakfast.

So, back to my habit of weekday supper and eggs. With the voice of James Barber (The Urban Peasant) in the back of my head telling me to use what I have on hand and be creative with ingredients, I always seem to be able to pull together a satisfying supper. By using a combination of what I have in the fridge, whether it be bell peppers, hot peppers, mushrooms, onions, sweet potato, potatoes, garlic, herbs, cheeses, bacon or sausage, I am always able to make something unique and tasty without too much time or hassle. Sometimes I incorporate the eggs and the other ingredients together to make omelets or frittatas  (and my favorite...the skinny frittata), while other times I make a hash out of potato and veggies (with or without meat) and top it with fried or poached eggs. When I'm extra hungry and in need of some extra carbs I have a slice or two of toast with jam to go along side. You can't beat toast and strawberry-rhubarb or partridgeberry jam with savory hash and eggs.

  As you can see in the photos I like to have my eggs in a variety of ways. Over the coming weeks I plan to submit recipes for some of the specific combinations I have created. I have potato and bell pepper hash with chorico sausage and poached eggs, sweet potato hash with bacon,  a Mexican skinny frittata with salsa and hot sauce, a linguica sausage, potato and onion hash with fried eggs, and the list goes on. Stay tuned.In the meantime, the next evening you get home from work and are short on time and energy, give breatfast a try.
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