Mussels in Ginger Coconut Milk Broth


(serves 2 people)

1 lb mussels
1 small onion, thinly sliced then roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 TSP tomato paste
1 can of coconut milk
1 fresh hot pepper (or dried hot chili pepper flakes)
1/2 cup of dry vermouth or white wine
1/2 cup water
large bunch of cilantro, loosely chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

Clean and de-beard your mussels under cold water. Discard any that are open or have broken shells. If you bought wild mussels, soak them in cold fresh water for 20 minutes before cooking.

In a large soup pot, heat up the olive oil on medium-low heat. Saute the onions, garlic, ginger and tomato paste, stirring regularly so that the garlic does not burn. Add the coconut milk, vermouth, and water. Add in a few slices of your hot pepper (I used 4 thin slices of a jalapeno, but if you want it really hot, add more. If you use dried pepper flakes, start with just a pinch). Add a pinch of salt and the same of freshly ground pepper.

Simmer for 15 minutes so that the flavors blend. Add a bit more water if it starts to thicken too much.

Taste for salt and pepper, but leave it just slightly under-salted.

Stir in the mussels and cilantro, cover and simmer until all the mussels are open.

Serve in a bowl with lots of the broth and good bread on the side.

p.s. fun tip for eating mussels: use an empty shell as your utensil to pinch the meat out of the other shells.

A Lemon Spin on Mignonette

Last night, we had our annual family lobster feast. While much of my family still goes for the butter-lemon sauce, I have taken to the sharper taste of mignonette. This year, we played around with the ingredients a bit and I really liked the outcome.

Lemon Mignonette
1 large shallot (or 2 small ones), finely chopped or minced
1/2 cup of red wine vinegar
juice from 1 lemon
splash of balsamic vinegar
pinch of black pepper

Mix the ingredients together and let it rest for 20 minutes before serving so the shallots have a chance to sweeten the vinegar.

Tilda’s Curry Bluefish Stew

There is nothing like eating fish you catch yourself. We are up in Nantucket taking a short vacation with the family. The day after our arrival, my father and I caught a few bluefish and cooked them that evening with my dad’s classic “slather in mustard-and-mayo, then saute” method. This trip, our St. Lucian nanny, Clothilda, also came with us and she offered to make her curry fish stew if we caught some more.

Great point lighthouse and my dad reeling in the line

Talk about a motivator! We were on a mission. It took some determination and patience, but we finally landed ourselves a couple more blues and last night Tilda made her stew while I played sous-chef and took notes.

Tilda’s Curry Bluefish Stew

4 medium bluefish filets (this recipe would also be great for snapper and tilapia)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced into thin lengths (1” to 2” long)
1 green pepper, sliced into thin lengths (1” to 2” long)
8 garlic cloves, peeled then crushed or minced
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper
2 – 3 limes
3 medium tomatoes, sliced

A few hours before cooking, cut the fish filets into single-serving portions and sprinkle each side with a pinch of salt and pepper and fresh lime juice. Cover and return to the fridge until you cook.

Heat up the olive oil on medium high heat and add all the vegetables except for the sliced tomatoes (these get saved for the very end). Saute together for several minutes, then add the curry, turmeric, the tomato paste, about 1/4 tsp of table salt and a big pinch of black pepper.

Steps in the process

Taste for salt and heat. If you want it hotter, add more hot curry powder or some crushed red pepper flakes.

Once all the vegetables are cooked, remove half to a bowl and turn the stove burner down to low.

Place the filets on top of the vegetables still in the pot and squeeze the juice of a lime over the filets. Cover the fish with the remaining vegetables and then layer the thin slices of tomatoes on top.

Cover the pan so that the fish will steam, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes (if you are using a thinner filet like tilapia, check the fish after 10 minutes).

Taste for salt and pepper, and serve with rice. Delish!

Lulu’s Baked Halibut with Mushrooms and Cream


Some days you see a recipe and weather be damned.  That’s what happened to me when I was flipping through Richard Olney’s homage to Lulu Peyraud, Lulu’s Provencal Table and saw:

“Baked Halibut with Mushrooms and Cream”

Yes, I’m a sucker for breadcrumbs.

I cooked the dish that very night to bid adieu to L’s mother, flying back to Sydney the next day.  I made a few small adaptations, and the results were absolutely delicious and comforting.  This dish will be back on the menu again in future, no question.

Continue reading “Lulu’s Baked Halibut with Mushrooms and Cream”

Provencal Fish Stew

I only like to blog the successes unless there is humor or an interesting lesson in the duds. “Giff is an idiot” doesn’t qualify as a lesson. Too obvious. I am pleased to say that last night’s meal was an unqualified success. Even I, who tends to be hypercritical of my own dishes (to Lisl’s annoyance), loved this. Essentially, you make a really good vegetable stew with provencal flavors, and then finish it off with the fish and serve on a bed of rice. Most satisfying!

wine bottleOur fishmonger had some really good looking tuna, so I had him cut some 1/2 slices adding up to just over a pound. I think a firm fleshed fish like tuna or halibut is best for this recipe.

We served this dish with a delicious white wine from the Jongieux region in France called Carrel Vin de Savoie, and some freshly baked bread.

Provencal Fish Stew
Serves 4 to 6

~1 lb raw tuna, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large vidalia onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
7 small/medium garlic cloves (and if you really love garlic, it can take more)
large handful of kalamata olives, chopped
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine (or dry vermouth)
1/2 cup water
handful of parsley, chopped
handful of fennel fronds, chopped
large sprig of thyme (or several, tied together)
1 bay leaf
4 or 5 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 medium red onion, sliced into rings
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
olive oil
served with 1 cup of long grain white rice

fish stew mise

In a dutch oven or stew pot, heat up a splash of olive oil on moderate heat and saute the onions until translucent. Add in the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes, then add in the chopped celery, fennel, green pepper and garlic, along with a couple pinches of salt (not too much since the olives will add saltiness). Continue to saute for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and letting the vegetables get tender.

Finely chop the parsley and fennel frond and add to the pot. Toss in a bay leaf and a large sprig of fresh thyme, along with the 1/2 cup of white wine, 1/2 cup of water, crushed tomatoes, kalamata olives, and juice from half a lemon. Stir all together and cook on a light simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.

fish stew - in process

Thinly slice the tomatoes and add to the pot. Thinly slice the red onion into rings and stir into the pot. Cover and continue to cook on a light simmer for 20 to 30 more minutes, letting all the flavors meld together. Taste for salt and pepper.

Slice the tuna into rough cubes about 1/2 to 1 inch a side. Start cooking your rice.

When your rice is 5 to 10 minutes from being done, add the tuna to the stew pot. The fish should only need 5 to 10 minutes to become firm and cook through, no more.

Plate by spooning a mound of rice into a bowl, ladle the fish stew on top, and then grind a little fresh pepper.

fish stew

Baked Halibut

I was mentally preparing to braise a pork shoulder today when I happened upon Kalofagas this morning. One look at Peter’s grouper baked in parchment paper, and my brain said, “now this is what you want!” Lisl and I are both suffering from colds, and the light taste of Mediterranean summer just seemed perfect. Indeed, it was so.

A segue: I’m very picky about the freshness of my fish, and until I find a fishmonger I trust, I tend to stay away. When I lived in San Francisco a decade ago, I would trek out to the Chinese markets in Sunset because the freshness was so superior to the normal supermarkets. We’ve now been in Rye, NY for two years, but I will admit that it took Peter’s post to get me to test out a fish market in Port Chester. The upside is that I was very impressed. One look at the eyes of the whole snappers behind the glass and I knew that they dealt in fresh fish.

Back to this recipe, the amounts here feed two quite nicely. It’s a delicious, fast meal to put together, and the ingredients are quite similar to how I like to cook mussels. The below is similar to Peter’s recipe, but not identical, so I recommend you check out his blog as well if you haven’t already.

Baked Halibut

A 1 lb halibut steak (or filets)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rings or half-rings
2 cloves garlic, minced
half a green pepper, chopped
3 campari tomatoes (or a handful of cherry tomatoes)
1/4 cup dry vermouth
pinch of dry basil
several leaves of fresh oregano
salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400F.

Heat up a splash of olive oil on medium-low heat and saute the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes. Then add in the green pepper, saute for a few minutes. Then add in the vermouth and a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Cook for a few more minutes then remove from the heat.

baked halibut veg

Lay the halibut on a piece of parchment paper that extends several inches past the length-wise ends of the steak. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top, then spoon out the vegetables and liquid on top of the fish. Sprinkle a pinch of dried basil leaves on top, dot a few oregano leaves around, and place two slices of lemon on each end of the steak. Fold the sides of the parchment paper up towards the middle and tuck one over the other and refold a few times to create a seal and get the paper snug with the fish. Twist each end of paper and tie off with kitchen string.

Place on a baking tray. If you have too much parchment paper hanging off the ends to fit in the oven easily, trim with scissor. Bake for 15 minutes, then check one of the packets. If you have a steak, remove the backbone from the middle, carefully half the fish, and plate. Spoon the delicious broth over the top.

baked halibut wrapped
Note: bottom image above is after baking

I kept the below picture of the halibut steak because it interested me. I can’t quite put my finger on why; perhaps because it has that grainy, soft-focus, de-saturated look I adore in Orangette’s pictures.


P.S. Now that I’m cooking fish again, I have to tackle an interesting but never-attempted technique: baking a whole fish packed in salt.

A Fun Week with the Blogosphere; Saffron Soup with Mussels

Even though work has been on the brutal side this week, we’ve had some great interactions with the food blogosphere. So first of all, thank you again to all who submitted to Low and Slow. I hope to get the posts up today or tomorrow.

On Wednesday night, Lisl and I went out for dinner in New York City with Stacey from Stacey’s Snacks, a favorite blog of ours, and her supermodel husband Henry. It was a great dinner with lively conversation, and Henry showed wonderful forbearance as we geeked out for a bit on food blogs, photography, etc. Perhaps patience is a bit of requirement when it comes to food blogger spouses since the most common phrase heard by us all, after “this is delicious!”, is probably “take the picture already!

jugalbandi photosSpeaking of photographs, I received a wonderful treat in the mail yesterday from Bee and Jai over at Jugalbandi, another one of my favorite blogs. I’ve been in love with their photography for a while now, and they were kind enough to send me two prints that in short order will be framed and hung in our house. I love great art on the walls, particularly when there is a personal connection, so to say I am gleeful is putting it mildly.

Lastly, on Monday, Constables’ Larder was a guest poster on The Haphazard Gourmet Girls blog, as part of their censored literature series. HGG is an interesting food activist blog. Readers know that we’re not highly activist on this blog, but I really like strong, intelligent voices that are trying to make a difference. That fits HGG in spades, and Eddie, I hope we get a chance to meet you in person as well one of these days, maybe up on that old whaling island we both like to go to.

The full post is here (link), where we paired a dish with Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening. I am not going to duplicate the full post and description, but I am going to re-post the recipe here, which I adapted from Simon Hopkinson’s Roast Chicken and Other Stories.

saffron soup with mussels

Saffron Soup with Mussels, adapted from Simon Hopkinson

Serves 4

1/2 cup butter
2 large spanish or sweet onions, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp Pernod
1/2 bottle of dry white wine
Leaves of 2 tarragon sprigs, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
Pinch of dried thyme
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 to 3 lbs mussels, de-bearded and washed
2 medium red potatoes, cut into 1/4 to 1/3 inch dice
1 tsp saffron threads
1/2 cup half and half or light cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 lemon
salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, melt the butter on low heat and cook the onion and garlic until translucent. Turn up the heat to medium, add the Pernod, and after 30 seconds or so, add the white wine. Add the chopped tarragon, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes before adding the chicken stock and bringing the soup back up to a heavier simmer.

Hopkinson calls for putting the mussels in a large pot and straining the soup over them. I think it is easier to place a collander in a large bowl, and pour the soup into the collander thus separating the onions and herbs from the liquid. Toss the bay leaf and put the contents of the collander back in the soup pot, and pour the liquid in the bowl over the mussels in your second large pot. Bring that to a boil , cover, and cook until the mussels are just opening. To prevent burning yourself with splatter, remove the mussels to a bowl with a slotted spoon, then pour the remaining liquid through a fine sieve (or cheesecloth) back into the main soup pot.

Add the potatoes, saffron, and a few grindings of salt and pepper. Tread carefully with the salt – this soup does not need much. Bring the soup back to a boil and then simmer until the potato is tender. (Note: if you are in a hurry, you can partially boil or steam the potatoes earlier in the process). Turn off the heat, stir in the cream and the juice of half a lemon. Add salt, pepper, lemon juice to taste. Garnish with a few sprigs of tarragon and serve with some slices of a really good baguette and a medium-bodied red, like a young Rioja (nothing too fruity or too strong).

mussel shell


Chorizo & Mussels

mussels chorizo bowl

Lisl had a work dinner tonight so, eating solo, I wanted something fast and simple. We had a few leftover mussels from the weekend, and of course mussels fit that bill. I have been wanting to cook mussels with chorizo for some time, so checked out foodblogsearch and decided to play with MattBites’ Clams & Chorizo recipe (which he picked up from Epicurious).

I followed the recipe pretty closely, so will not duplicate here. It was delicious. Obviously I switched from clams to mussels, but you don’t need to change anything other than shortening the cooking by a couple minutes (mussels cooks faster). Speaking of Epicurious and mussels, I want to try this one too (a carrot ginger broth)!

The best part was sopping up the leftover broth with hunks of cuban bread, which Lisl made this weekend from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible. Lisl has been experimenting with starting loafs with the bread maker, then moving to the oven, and will probably write up some thoughts as she progresses.

cuban bread

It was amusing to check into twitter before heading back to work and see that bitchin camero, a food blog I like a lot, had also made chorizo mussels for dinner. Now I’m curious to see what her version looked like. Ah social media and the shrinking world…

Shrimp and Bacon Tortilla Rolls

Shrimp Rolls
Tonight I decided to try an experiment of stuffed shrimp, bacon and cheese tortilla rolls. The following amounts made about 12 rolls.

40 medium-sized shrimp (cleaned and de-veined)
6 strips of thickly cut bacon
2 shallots
two handfuls of fresh cilantro
1/3 pound of monterey jack or cheddar cheese
2 limes
Black pepper
12 flour tortillas (6″ in diameter)
Canola Oil
Wooden toothpicks

1. In a large frying pan, cook your bacon until it is cooked but not yet crispy. Remove to a plate with a piece of paper towel to soak up excess grease.

2. In the bacon fat and while the pan is still quite hot, saute your shrimp cooking both sides for a minute or two until the shrimp loses its translucency. Remove from pan, loosely chop, and place in a medium bowl.

3. Finely chop the shallots and saute in the bacon fat on low heat for a couple minutes until they start to turn translucent. Remove and add to bowl (pour out any extra bacon fat that comes with the shallots). Then chop up your bacon and add to bowl.

4. Loosely chop up your cilantro (can never have too much fresh cilantro in my opinion) and add to bowl. Chop your cheese into small cubes (1/4 inch) and add to bowl. Finally add a touch of freshly ground pepper and the juice of a lime, and mix all the ingredients together.

5. Before you create your rolls, you want to warm up the tortillas so that they don’t split during the rolling process. At burrito shops, I have seen them use a kind of steamer, but at home I just warm them one at a time in a medium sized frying pan big enough to hold the 6″ tortilla, on low heat.

6. Take a warmed tortilla, and add a couple spoonfuls of the mixture to the bottom third. Fold over the bottom, then fold in the two sides, then continue the rolling process with the sides tucked in. Try to keep it fairly tight, and once you have complete the roll process, keep the shape in place with two wooden toothpicks (the toothpicks are essential, or the rolls will unravel when you cook them – in the bottom picture you can see the holes where the toothpicks went).

7. In a medium saucepan, heat up about an inch or two of canola oil until very hot. Add your tortilla rolls in batches and cook until they turn golden brown. Remove the tortillas with a slotted spoon or pair of tongs, and place on paper towel to pick up excess oil.

8. Remove the toothpicks and serve with slices of fresh lime

Notes: The next time I try this, I want to try to get my hands on some Chinese spring roll wrappers which would be thinner than the tortillas (which have the advantage of being available in most supermarkets). You can also experiment with creating a dipping sauce — I can imagine continuing in the lime/cilantro vein or going in a sour cream/yogurt direction. Lastly, the next time I do it, I might try not chopping ingredients as much but rather layering them more neatly in the rolls (thin strips of bacon and cheese, for example, and leaving the shrimp whole).

Shrimp Rolls

Bluefish Marinade

Bluefish Marinade
I write in a state the Aussies would describe as “shattered”. Combine drive + ferry + shopping + fractious and bored 3 yr old.

Imagine how pleased I was, however, to arrive on island and find out that my father had just caught two bluefish, and could spare the filets from one. Bingo! This dish was extremely simple, and while I would never call bluefish one of the world’s greatest eating fish, when it is super-fresh it can be quite tasty.

Bluefish filets, skinned
Big handful of cilantro, chopped
3 limes
1/4 cup of minced ginger
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Big handful of grape tomatoes

In a baking dish, I marinated the skinned and cleaned filets in cilantro (aka coriander), minced ginger, and the juice of 3 small limes, making sure that all sides were nicely coated. I also added a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. I covered the dish with plastic wrap and placed in the oven to marinate for a couple hours, turning the filets two or three times during that process.

I removed from the fridge a little before putting in oven, allowing dish and fish to return to room temperature. Then I took a handful of grape tomatoes and quartered them, scattering the quarters around and on the fish.

I preheated the oven to 375F and baked the fish for about 15 minutes. The actual time will depend on the thickness of your filets. You can check for done-ness by gently prying into the flesh to make sure that it is entirely white (no translucency) and cooked. Serve with some fresh pepper. Note: I suspect this dish would also be good with some capers added.

Brant Point
View of Brant Point