Monday, September 24, 2012

Fried Catfish Fajita Tacos w/ Spicy Tartar Sauce

It's going to be a busy week, I can already tell!  But I'm trying to think positively, and fit in as much sleep as I can =)

I had a discussion with a friend a couple weeks ago about the proper way to cook catfish.  He said that he tried to be "healthy" and saute it with some vegetables and said it tasted awful.  I sort of looked at him in a puzzled look and began to laugh.  I then went on to tell him that it was common knowledge that the only way you can cook catfish is to fry it!  Am I right?!

So that got me in the mood for some catfish.  I've been on a fish taco kick, so I figured it would be a good addition to tacos, as well! Throw on some spicy homemade tartar sauce and you've got yourself a tasty lunch!



2 catfish fillets, cut into 4 strips
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup flour
2 eggs, whisked
1-2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup cornmeal
oil, for frying
salt and pepper, to taste

1 green bell pepper, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 small onion, julienned
1 tablespoon olive oil

Spicy Tartar Sauce:

1 cup mayonaisse
2 pickles slices - about 1/4 cup (I used sweet dill sandwich slices, but feel free to use cornichons or butter, or whatever suits your fancy!), minced
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste (obviously you want a lot if you want it to be spicy!)

Tortillas, warmed

Set up a 3 compartment breading station - one pan for flour, one pan for egg wash, and one pan for cornmeal.

In the first pan, combine the paprika, black pepper, salt, oregano, sugar, garlic powder, cayenne, and flour.

In the next pan, combine the eggs and the water.  Make sure it is fairly well whisked together.

And in the third pan, place your cornmeal.

Heat enough oil in a heavy-bottomed pan to come up about an inch.  Heat under medium high heat until temperature reaches about 375F.

Fry catfish until white throughout and exterior is golden brown, about 3-5 minutes, flipping once.  Place on paper towel-lined plate and season with salt and pepper.

In a large saute pan, heat up olive oil under medium high heat.  Add bell peppers and onions.  Saute until onions are translucent and tender, but still somewhat crisp, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To make tartar sauce, combine mayo, pickles, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce in a medium bowl.  The more Tabasco the better, in my opinion!

To make your tacos, place one piece of fried catfish on top of a warmed tortilla.  Top with onion and bell pepper mixture and desired amount of tartar sauce.

For some reason, I've been loving making fish tacos for lunch.  It's so fast and easy - and pretty darn tasty!  How do you prepare your catfish?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How to Open Clams

I'm back!  Well, I've been back since Monday, but I've been crazy busy getting the house in order and ready for school to start back up next week.  Oh, and working like crazy!

It was definitely nice to have a break away from it all and to hang out with a big bunch of our friends.

Anyway, I've been in a really big how-to mode lately, so here's another one.  I promise I'll get back to recipes soon enough!

I know what you're thinking.  Why on Earth would I want to open up a clam when I can just steam the sucker and have it open up on it's own?  Well... personally, I don't like picking through clam shells in a dish.  If it's just a bowl of clams, then yeah, that's okay.  But if I'm having a bowl of pasta and clam shells keep me from just shoveling it all in my mouth (attractive, right?), then opening these bad boys up before hand is a useful task!

A lot of people prefer to have an actual clam knife for the job, but I find a normal butter knife does well in a pinch.  Especially if you don't have clams very often, it would be pointless to run out and buy a clam knife for a once a year task.  Right?  Right.

It's also a lot easier to do if you rinse the clams under cold water, then place them back in the refrigerator for about an hour so they have time to "relax" - their shells won't be so tightly sealed.  Alright, so let's get to it.

#1.  Hold the oyster in the palm of your hand, with your thumb on the "bump" of the clam gently holding it down.  Place the blade of your butter or clam knife in between the clam shells, and with the same hand you're holding it with, gently, but forcefully push the knife through the shells.


#2. Pull the knife through until it cuts through the muscle.  Twist the knife to pry the shells apart and slide along the top shell to cut the other muscle.  Break the shell free from the hinge and discard.


#3.  Use the knife to release the clam from the bottom shell.  And voila, shelled clams! 

Do you shell your clams?  Or do you not mind rooting through the shells in a dish?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to Butterfly Shrimp

Happy hump day guys!  Glad this week is almost over because Friday we set sail on our house boat trip!  And it's definitely a much needed vacation for Andy and I!

I thought I'd do a really quick how-to post today. 

One of my favorite things growing up was fried butterflied shrimp.  It's incredibly easy to butterfly those little guys, and you don't necessarily have to fry them afterwards.  Butterflying is useful because it gives the shrimp a neat appearance and increases the surface area for even cooking.  I ended up baking these guys off and tossing them into a summer vegetable pasta dish, but feel free to use them however you see fit!

#1.  Peel your shrimp, leaving the tail on or off, depending on your preference.

#2.  Lay the shrimp down flat and with a small knife (paring knives work great), make a deep cut that nearly slices the shrimp completely in half.  You'll want it to open like a book, basically.

#3.  Pull out the vein (digestive tract) and rinse shrimp under cold water to clean.

And voila!  Butterflied shrimp.  Now you can bread these suckers, use them for nigiri sushi, or cook them and toss them into your favorite pasta dish like we did!  The possibilities are endless!

You probably won't hear from me again until next week, as I'm cutting myself off from technology starting Friday morning - I might go through withdrawals because I've NEVER done that before.  EVER.  Good thing there will be plenty of beer on the house boat =)

Have a good week guys!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

How to Fillet a Roundfish

How is everyone doing today?  It's really starting to look a lot like fall around here and I LOVE it!  It's definitely my favorite season of the year!

We're going on a boat trip next weekend, and I'm sure we'll be doing a lot of fishing, so I thought this tutorial would come in handy! 

Believe it or not, filleting a fish isn't the same from fish to fish.  Some fish are bottom-feeders (flat fish) and some are upright swimmers (roundfish).  Since most of the fish people eat are roundfish (i.e. salmon, tilapia, snapper, bluefish, etc.), I figured this way of filleting a fish would be most useful.  That's not to say you couldn't figure out how to fillet a flat fish (i.e. sole, flounder, etc.) with this tutorial.  You just end up with 2 extra fillets, but it's obvious how you get them.

Anyway, let's get to it. 

This bluefish was calling my name at my fish monger's counter, so I just had to bring him home!

#1. With a chef's knife, cut down to the backbone of the fish, just behind the gills.  Be careful not to remove the head.

#2. Turn the knife toward the tail to make a 90 degree angle.  Using smooth strokes, cut from the head to the tail, parallel to the backbone.  


You should feel the knife glide along the backbone so that you get the most flesh as possible.  You'll also hear "clicking" noises.  That's just your knife cutting through the small pin bones and gliding along the backbone.  Continue until the fillet is cut completely from the bones.  


Flip the fish over and repeat on other side.

#3. Trim any excess skin or belly fat from the fillet.  Remove any leftover pin bones in the fillet.

#4.  You can use this fillet skin-on or skin-off.  If you wanted to skin the fish, cut a vertical slit on the tail end of the fillet, about 1 inch inward.  Don't cut all the way through, just until you reach the skin.  Then hold your knife flat, but at a little bit of an angle, so that it glides against the skin, but not the flesh.  With your other hand, hold the piece of skin and simultaneously push your knife forward while pulling on the skin end.  And voila, skinned fillets!

We ended up making fish tacos out of this beautiful bluefish, and I kept the carcass for fish stock. 

How do you fillet your fish?!

Hope you guys have a great rest of your weekend!  I'll be working away!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Braised Rabbit w/ Orzo

It's the end of another quarter of culinary school!  Woohoo!  Still rocking that 4.0 GPA, and so READY for these 2 weeks off.  We'll be setting sail on a boat trip in the next couple of weeks with a big group of our friends, so we're definitely looking forward to that.  Pictures will ensue, I'm sure!

In honor or the end of the quarter, I wanted to whip up something special for Andy and myself.  I sent Andy the following text:

Me: Rabbit.  Braised.  For Dinner.
Andy: F yeah! That sounds awesome!
Me: I didn't think you'd complain about that.

And I'm pretty sure he didn't know what it entailed, but the fact that it was something different and unknown, he was all about it.  And neither he or I were disappointed because the first words out of his mouth after taking a bite were "mmmmm."  That's always a good sign right?! 

If you have trouble tracking down some rabbit meat - check your local butcher.  That's where I stumbled across mine!


2 lb. rabbit, cut into quarters
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/4 cup onions, diced
3 garlic cloved, slivered
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1 cup red zinfandel 
1 large tomato, concassee (peeled, seeded, roughly chopped)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh sage, minced
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 & 1/2 cups orzo, cooked
Shredded Parmesan, for garnish

Heat a large dutch oven under medium high heat.  Add olive oil and heat until shimmering.  Season rabbit pieces with salt and pepper, and in batches, brown both sides.  Remove from pot and reserve.

Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, carrot, and celery to pot and cook until lightly browned. 

Return rabbit to pot and add in sun-dried tomatoes, zinfandel, tomato concasee, thyme, sage, and chicken stock.  Bring mixture to a simmer and cover.  Cook for about 45 minutes, or until rabbit is tender and begins to pull away from the bones.

Remove the rabbit from the pot and separate from bones.  Shred into bite-sized pieces and discard bones.

Strain the sauce, but reserve the vegetables.  Return sauce to pot and reduce by half to thicken slightly, about 10 minutes.  Season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.  Mount with butter for extra shine and flavor.

Add reserved meat and vegetables back into pot.  Stir in parsley and basil.

Serve mixture over hot orzo and garnish with shredded Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

This is definitely a fall comfort meal!  We've got leftovers, but I don't think they'll last very long - I'm thinking about having a big bowl for lunch right now!

Have you ever had rabbit?  What's your favorite way to eat it?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Spicy & Sweet Squash Bowl

It's Secret Recipe Club reveal day!  It's basically the Secret Santa of the food blog world.  It's always fun to discover a new blog and peruse their recipe collection!

I immediately fell in love with my blog assignment this month - The Cookin' Chemist.  Tessa is a pharmacist by day, foodie by night!  I can relate to her in a way because my original career path was to become a pharmacist... but we all know how that panned out.  But anyway, I've always loved the science behind food more than anything, so I have a feeling Tessa and I have quite a bit in common!  And plus, our husbands are our main test subjects for our dishes =)

There's plenty to love about Tessa's dishes.  You'll find anything from Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies to a Whole Grain Artesian Free-Form Loaf.  But because we've been trying to eat healthier around these parts, I saw this Spicy & Sweet Squash Bowl and knew that I'd found my choice!  I only adapted a couple of things - instead of quinoa, I used couscous.  And I had brought home some granola from school, so I used that as my crunch factor instead of some pecans.

Adapted from The Cookin' Chemist

1 cup couscous
1 & 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

salt, to taste

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1 cup fresh spinach, roughly torn

1/4 cup crunchy granola

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Coat the squash with olive oil, white sugar, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon curry powder, and salt to taste. Roast until fork tender, about 25-35 minutes depending on how large you cut the squash cubes.

Place the couscous in a medium saucepan with the broth, 2 teaspoons curry, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes until the liquid is completely absorbed. Let sit for a few minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Mix with spinach, cilantro, and butternut squash pieces.

Divide the couscous mixture between plates/bowls. Top with the crunchy granola and dig on in!

This was so tasty!  Everything I expected and then some!  Spicy.  Sweet.  Perfect =)

Thanks for letting me stalk your blog Tessa!

This post is also featured on Danielle's blog Mostly Food & Crafts!