Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Roasted Mustard Salmon

Despite being really crazy at work, I have had time to cook for the family. What I have been relying on are old standbys that the husband and kids love - they come out great every time and are quick and easy.

As I have written about before, my husband does not love fish (his love for tuna from the can boggles my mind). However, he does love salmon and this way in particular.

Some things to note.

1. When I buy fish, I buy fresh not frozen, and I usually buy on the same day I am making the fish. I usually go to Whole Foods (or some other store that is very clean - I am a bit obsessive about this point) and look for what is on sale, then talk to the fish guy about when it came in, quality, etc. This way, I get the freshest, best fish I can.

2. Fish should not smell fishy. Really. This is how you know it is fresh. It should have a slightly oceany smell but not very strong (like tuna from a can for instance).

3. I usually ask for a center cut and ask that the pieces be of the same size and thickness. This way, they all cook about the same time. Also, I ask them to remove any pin bones and depending on the fish, the skin. Some people like the skin - so up to you.

Roasted Mustard Salmon

1 side salmon
1 tsp olive oil
2-3 tsp dijon mustard - enough to put a thin layer on top of the salmon
salt and pepper
1 tsp herbs de provence or thyme

1. Preheat oven to 425. Or preheat broiler.
2. Place salmon in roasting pan or on tray rubbed with olive oil. Smear mustard on top of salmon so it is all over the top. Sprinkle with herbs and salt and pepper.
3. Put in oven for 10-12 minutes or until it is pink through and flakes. (Fish will continue cooking after you remove it from the oven - so best way to check is simply to stick a knife in and see if it is almost evenly pink throughout. If it is, pull it out. If you like it more rare, cook for less time.)

That's it!!! There are lots of variations on this. Sometimes I mix some breadcrumbs or panko with the mustard and put that on top. Sometimes I stick some slices of lemon underneath. Sometimes I put parmesan cheese on top of the mustard. They all work.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Grilled Whole Chicken

Yesterday was probably one of the most beautiful days in Chicago this year. The sun was out, it was in the low 70's and the sky was blue. Really a perfect day for grilling.

I often have used our grill (gas one I should mention) as a second oven. On holidays and other times when I simply run out of room, I have used it to roast vegetables in a pan, keep side dishes warm, make sauces or grill main courses.

And while I have rotisseried whole chickens and flattened them and grilled them, I never have used the grill to "grill/roast" a whole one.

Until yesterday.

Let me tell you something. This is a great way to make whole chicken. Easy, no fuss and the taste was terrific. It had some of the smokiness of the grill and the meat was incredibly juicy, with crisp lightly browned skin. Delicious.

Grilled Whole Chicken

Whole Chicken - About 3 1/2 lbs. Washed and Trimmed
1 lemon cut in half
10 sprigs of fresh thyme/rosemary or other fresh herbs
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil (about 1 tsp)

1. Heat the grill - both sides.
2. Prepare the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the lemon and herbs. Rub with salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil.
3. When the grill is heated, turn off one side. Put the chicken on that side. Close the cover.
4. Cook the chicken for between 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours or until temp in thickest part is 175-180 or juices run clear. If one side cooks quicker than the other, turn the chicken so the less cooked part is closer to the heated side. Be careful not to spill out the juices.
5. Let rest for about 10 minutes and serve!

Happy Spring!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pasta Balloon Tie

So the kids named this pasta dish - I think it was because of the shape of the pasta I used - gemelli - which sort of looks like two pieces of string twisted together. Like a balloon tie!

But more to the point, this is a non-meat take on Pasta Carbonara! Creamy, delicious - (no smokiness because of lack of bacon/smoked meat, but really good nonetheless. I could have experimented with some liquid smoke or smoked salt/pepper - may try that next time).

I find that when I use fun shapes the kids tend to be more adventurous in what the eat so...

Pasta Balloon Tie

Some sort of pasta (I used 1/2 box of Gemelli)
2 egg yolks
1 cup finely diced fontina or monterey jack cheese
pinch of salt and pepper
dash of hot red pepper flakes (to taste - don't use too much!)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

1. Start making pasta as usual.
2. In a large bowl that you can mix the pasta in later, mix together all ingredients except the grated parmesan.
3. Drain pasta.
4. As soon as it is drained, pour pasta over mixture in the bowl. Continue tossing with sauce until the cheese is a bit melted and all pasta is covered with sauce.
5. Serve with grated parmesan.

A couple of things you can add...

1. Saute some onions in olive oil - carmelized would be delicious - toss with the pasta and sauce AFTER so the hot onions don't cook the egg.
2. Spinach. Once the pasta is tossed with the sauce, add some chopped spinach. The heat will wilt it some.
3. Other fresh herbs. In addition to parsley - try some chopped fresh basil!
4. Lemon zest. Add some freshly grated lemon zest to the sauce.