Category Archives: Fish

Spring Lamb and (tardy) Salmon Burgers {CtBF}

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Lamb is a favorite at my house. Fortuitously, lamb is also this week’s selection to celebrate spring holidays as Cook the Book Fridays cooks through the last spring season from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. This week’s recipe covers the full menu: Roast Lamb with Braised Vegetables and Salsa Verde.

Sourcing the lamb shoulder was a bit challenging. These days, according to the butcher at several local grocery chains, most lamb comes in pre-packaged. That means instead of a whole shoulder, the store is shipped packages of shoulder chops. Just as I decided we would butterfly and grill a leg of lamb instead and only follow the recipe for the braised vegetables and salsa verde, my ever-resourceful husband located a whole lamb shoulder at a more urban meat market not too far away.

“Before”

Our whole shoulder had some extra bony parts that needed to be separated (we think it was the top part of the ribs). They aren’t very meaty but will add lots of flavor to a lamb stock – coming to my kitchen some time soon.

“After” (trimmed by Howard the in-house butcher)

This dinner was very easy to put together – and impressive enough for company. Slits in the lamb are stuffed with garlic and anchovies before roasting the lamb for a few hours in a pan with white wine to keep things moist. I felt I could have used much less liquid for the same effect. The toughest part was carefully flipping the lamb twice without not having it splash down into its wine bath, making a big mess.

While the lamb roasts, we cut up a variety of vegetables to braise in butter and water (I was out of chicken stock). Baby potatoes, carrot rounds, parsnip batons and turnip wedges cooked with some sautéed shallots and sprigs of thyme. I usually steam or roast my vegetables, so I was happy to learn this easy and delicious technique.

While the lamb roasts, I also put together the salsa verde. You can use any variety of herbs. I used parsley, sage, tarragon and oregano (the last two from my herb garden). Lemon zest, green olives, capers, garlic, more shallot and a large dose of olive oil complement the herbs to create a lovely sauce.

When everything is done, this is served in shallow bowls: vegetables and their flavorful liquid provide the base for chunks of tender lamb. Each guest can spoon salsa verde over the lamb and vegetables to taste.

We enjoyed this one though I’m more likely to repeat the braised vegetables or the salsa verde than the roast lamb shoulder. This time around, I skipped the Panisse Puffs which were a spectacular failure when I made them back in July 2017. With leftovers, I might try to make socca – chickpea pancakes – to sop up the tasty juices.

The lamb meal was much more successful that last week’s Salmon Burgers from Dorie Greenspan’s newest book Everyday Dorie. It’s not that we didn’t like the burgers exactly, but we felt like there are better uses for fresh wild salmon. The flavors and texture were nice enough, but when salmon is $17 a pound, I’d much rather eat that fillet grilled. I think we’d have liked these just as much if I’d used canned wild salmon. I might even try that another time.

I sautéed the first batch of burgers in a non-stick cast-iron grill pan where it stuck in all the grooves. That happens with everything I cook in that pan, not sure why. For the second batch, I switched to my cast-iron skillet with much better results — more surface area to sear plus no sticking.

I forgot to make the pickled onions, but the burgers tasted good on Martin’s potato rolls topped with sliced avocado with the recommended cole slaw on the side.

The salmon burgers were good, just not good enough to repeat with fresh salmon.

The lamb recipe can be found on page 203 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen and the salmon burgers are on page 174 of Everyday Dorie. If you’re curious what the other members of Cook the Book Fridays thought of these recipes, check out their posts following links for lamb here and salmon burgers here.

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Salt Cod Double Take

 

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Salt cod has been around for a long time.  Back in the days before refrigeration, salting was one way to preserve foods for longer storage.  I first became acquainted with it when I moved to New England and noticed that a barrel of dried fish would appear in the grocery store around the holidays.  Ever curious, I bought some and looked up what to do with in “The Joy of Cooking” (this was pre-Internet).  Brandade, a salt cod and potato puree, was the “gateway” recipe for preparing this flavorful (from the salt) mild fish.  Over the years, I’ve prepared salt cod a few times, when I saw it for sale, but it had been a while since I’ve seen it around.

When Brandade came up as December’s bonus recipe for Cook the Book Fridays, I smiled, remembering this hearty dish fondly.  It took me a while to track down the dried fish, so I missed the earlier recipe, but it came up again this week with Salt Cod Fritters.

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When using salt cod, you must plan ahead.  A day or two of soaking with regular water changes is required to leach the salt from the fish so that it’s edible (i.e. not unbearably salty).  Once the fish has been de-salted, it’s time to make brandade, which is surprisingly simple, not much more work than making mashed potatoes.

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David Lebovitz’s version starts by infusing olive oil with garlic and thyme.  Then, the fish is simmered with chunks of peeled potatoes until everything is tender.  After draining, the fish and potatoes are pureed in a stand mixer along with cream, the garlic-infused oil, salt and pepper, which makes the richest, most delicious mashed potatoes you’ve ever had.  To turn this into dinner, there’s one more step.  The brandade is transferred to a baking dish, sprinkled with bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese, and baked until lightly browned and bubbly.  The dish of brandade can be served with a salad for dinner (that’s what we did) along with some toasted bread.  It could also be served as a spread for a party appetizer.

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We ate half of the brandade for dinner.  A day or two later, I made salt cod fritters with the other half.  You might know that I’m terrified of deep-frying.  I also can’t get my head around the volume of oil required to do this.  It grosses me out.  I was happy to hear from some of the other cooks in this group that shallow-frying worked too.

I liked that the salt cod balls, made from brandade mixed with bread crumbs, could be rolled earlier in the day.  That left only the step of mixing the batter and cooking for dinnertime.  The well-seasoned beer batter sits for half an hour, which leaves ample time to mix up the tartare sauce.

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To cook the fritters, the salt cod balls are dunked in the batter and the excess drained off (as best as you can, not so easy), then fried in hot oil.  The batter was thick and when I placed the balls in the oil, more of the batter dripped off, creating a little pancake base.  This happened each time I turned the fritters, resulting in pyramid shapes instead of balls.

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Towards the end, I tried flattening the balls into patties before dipping and frying.  I found this to be less frustrating.  I’ve successfully converted from pan-frying to baking my crab cakes, so I also wonder whether the batter-coated patties can be baked instead of pan-fried.

I think the fritters are intended as an appetizer, but I served them with salad for dinner.

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I would definitely make brandade again and might make the fritters.  Both would make fabulous additions to the Feast of Seven Fishes that we attend on Christmas Eve.  Lauren, if you’re reading this, what do you think?  I’ll try to remember to ask you again in December.

Check out what the other bloggers from Cook the Book Fridays thought about salt cod fritters or brandade.  You can find the recipes in David Lebovitz’s delicious book My Paris Kitchen on page 73 (fritters) and page 144 (brandade).