dadscookgoodfood

Two dads who enjoy cooking for their families

Archive for the category “seafood”

Fishin’ for a Simple yet Delicious Lenten Dish

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For Christians around the world, Lent means more time to pray, reflect and do penance or some acts of charity and sacrifices, including abstaining from meat on all Fridays and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and eating fish instead. This practice goes back to the early days of the Church when the observation of Lent began in AD 313.

The word, Lent, refers to the spring season and that the 40 days of Lent usually falls mostly during the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring. Coincidentally, the Spring Festival (or otherwise known as the Lunar New Year) is sometimes celebrated at the start of Lent and is considered a very important celebration among the Chinese. Curiously, exceptions from celebrating the beginning of the Lunar Year are sometimes even sought from the Catholic Church. Spring is usually associated with a gradual increase in temperature, including the warming of waters where life is renewed: plants begin to grow and schools of fish come out in abundance to feed and spawn. Incidentally, eating fish during the Lunar New Year is considered a surplus of money and good luck.

Similarly, because of the fish’s abundance during spring time in many places, the practice of eating fish (or seafood) among Christians during Lent was a satisfactory alternative to eating meat, except for Eastern Christians who are known to abstain from fish. With the advent of trade liberalization, places where fish used to be scarce and expensive have become easily available. This is why Pompano (Pomfret), which tastes good and is easy to cook, can even be found in Ontario! And because presumably, eating fish is healthier than eating meat, giving up meat for Lent reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases; in effect making you healthier. It’s interesting that this simple sacrifice can make a whole lot of difference to one’s life!

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BAKED POMPANO
(adapted from Kulinarya’s Fried Fish Packets, 2008)

Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 40 minutes

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Ingredients:

1 pompano (150 to 200 grams each)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 head of yellow onion, chopped finely
1 medium sized tomato, diced
1 thumb sized ginger, cut into thin strips
2 celery stalks, chopped finely
1 lemon, juiced
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 tbsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. dried parsley
Pepper and salt to taste
1 tbsp. canola oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375’F.
2. Clean the fish in cold water, ensuring that entrails from the cavity are removed. Score both sides of the fish with a sharp knife then rub the fish with salt, pepper and juice from 1/2 of the lemon including its cavity. Set aside and marinade for 30 minutes.
1. Preheat oven to 375’F.

fish2

3. Prepare stuffing by mixing all ingredients in a bowl: garlic, onions, tomato, ginger, celery, dried parsley, green onion, and lemon zest. Add juice from the other ½ of the lemon and add salt and pepper to taste.

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4. Stuff the fish’s cavity and belly with the mixture then lay it on a greased aluminum foil.

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5. Add some of the stuffing on top of the fish then wrap with the foil and crumple both ends.

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6. Lay the wrapped fish on a baking pan and bake the fish for 40 minutes.

7. Remove the fish from the foil and serve on a platter. This is best served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and lemon juice and steamed rice.

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A taste of seafood that’s simply good!

seafood soup

Time really flies when you’re having fun! It’s almost two years since we began sharing recipes and stories about reasons why dads can also cook good food.  I noticed that these past two years, we’ve shared recipes that are not only from us but from other people as well. We thought that tweaking some of these recipes a bit to suit our taste would be okay.

The recipe today is no exception!  It was adapted from Skipper/Sy’s  Asian Seafood Noodle Soup but with simple ingredients. Also, because winter is a mere two weeks away, I thought of sharing a recipe for dads and moms whose concern is having a tasty meal that is complete yet within a shoestring budget.  Hope you enjoy this as much as my family and I did!

SEAFOOD NOODLE SOUP

Ingredients:

½ lb. shrimp, medium size, washed, de-shelled and deveined

2-3 pcs. strips of pork belly (or low salt bacon), cut

1 pack fish balls, cut into two and fried

3-5 leaves from Chinese cabbage, chopped

1/4 cup mung bean sprouts

4-5 pcs. of fresh shitake mushrooms, washed and cut in half

8 cups of seafood stock (a combination of fish and shrimp bouillon dissolved in 8 cups of water)

1 pack of Cantonese style steamed noodles (yellow)

2-3 tbsp of soy sauce

1 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 tbsp. scallions, minced

2 tbsp. toasted onions

1 tbsp.  ground pepper

Salt to taste

How do we do it? Let’s begin by…

noodlesfishballschinese cabbagedissolve brothpork belly

1. Preparing the ingredients: set aside noodles, slice and fry the fishballs in oil, chop the Chinese cabbage, wash the bean sprouts, dissolve the fish and shrimp broth cubes in hot water, and slice the pork belly.

saute pork

2. Warm wok or sautéing pan. Pour vegetable oil then stir fry pork belly, adding some soy sauce until a brownish glaze can be seen at the bottom of the pan then set aside. Note that when using bacon; add a few drops of soy sauce only for additional flavouring. Use the bacon/pork belly oil for sautéing.

shrimp

3. Split the shrimp into half; add some salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Then fry in wok using the bacon oil for 10-15 minutes until the shrimps turn pink then set aside. Remember not to overcook!

ginger

4. Sauté the ginger until the aroma comes out, approximately for 5 minutes. Add onions and caramelize for 3-5 minutes. Here you can actually see the brownish colour that came from the pork belly.

deglaze

5. Add some of the seafood stock slowly and deglaze the pan. Deglazing adds the pork belly and shrimp flavours to the soup. Add the rest of the stock and boil in high heat. Once stock boils, reduce to medium heat and let stock simmer for 10-15 minutes.

shitake

6. On a separate pan, sauté the shitake mushrooms for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are wilted, add some soy sauce then set aside.

noodles

7. Meanwhile, heat a pot half-filled with water. Add some salt and oil then at rolling boil, cook the noodles using a spider strainer basket or spider skimmer for 1-2 minutes.

arrange

8. Place the cooked noodles in individual bowls. Add the rest of the ingredients: fish balls, shrimps, pork, Chinese cabbage, shitake mushrooms scallions and some sesame oil.

seafood soup

9. Add to each bowl some seafood stock. Top with toasted onions and scallions. Serve and enjoy!

A sampling of Quebec City at Le Cochon Dingue

signage

Call this one an exemption. The Dads latest mantra was to redefine what good food means but admittedly, once in a while, we allow ourselves to be distracted and try out something…uh, novel. 😀

This was certainly true when we went on a trip to Quebec City where my wife treated us to one of the city’s most popular restaurants, Le Cochon Dingue (The Crazy Pig).It was our chance to learn more of the province’s culture through a sampling of their food. Other than discovering a bit of the city’s character through the city’s cobbled stone streets, churches and small villages famous for their classic French artisan designs (a word I just learned from my wife), we believed that the best way to discovering more of Quebec was through their food. This is why my family and I didn’t mind losing our way a bit just to eat at a local family restaurant.

artisan village

However, looking for Le Cochon Dingue was not as easy as we thought. Other than an unexpected downpour, the winding, steep and sometimes, slippery streets of the city made it more challenging to find our way.

funiculaire

But through sheer persistence, a fair grasp of la langue français, and hungry tummies, we found an easier way to go to Champlain Avenue via a funiculaire at one of the highest points in the city which finally brought us down to a street parallel to Champlain, where Le Cochon Dingue was located.

al fresco

At one point, I thought we could dine a la Champs Elysees in Paris; where dining al fresco was the norm but the rains gave us no choice but to dine inside.

diners rev
I learned that the restaurant has been there since 1979. You would understand why Le Cochon Dingue withstood the test of time as soon as you enter the place. You are greeted with “Bonjour!” by servers who appear to have been there since Day One and a warm, homey ambience.

board sign

Most of its customers also appear to be regular and local patrons , with a number of visitors like us; discovering Quebec for the first time. Despite being tagged as a family restaurant, Le Cochon Dingue, however, can cater to even the most sophisticated palate. Quebec, after all, is not just poutine! Check out their menu which lists not only French such as a la mer (from the sea-seafood), steak frites et autres grillades (slow-cooked steak and fries),  and  ‘le cochon at its best’ but European sandwiches, Italian pate, and even American food!

pot pie

My wife ordered their “famous sea food pot pie,” which was absolutely delicious. The pastry pie was not too buttery but baked just right and filled with lobster, crab, shrimps, scallops, salmon with diced potatoes cooked in light cream and herbs. It is, to the French, magnifique! It was so good that our kids could not stop asking for “more pot pie…”even when we were having lunch in a Japanese restaurant the next day!

steak

I ordered grilled AAA Angus beef flank steak, which I savored it to the last piece. The smoky flavor and texture of the steak was complemented by the lightly salted buttered gravy. What a treat! In fact, I wouldn’t mind going back to this place but next time, I might just check out their fish and salad. No more excuses. ;-D

Pho-tastic Soup!

Pho soup

Now that spring has finally dawned on us, the frigid nights are temporarily a thing of the past. However, the mild weather reminds me of a family trip to Baguio City; not to mention an occasional rain and thunderstorm in the morning or early evening. I remember taking some hot soup then with vegetables and some La Union seafood thrown in good measure. This experience was very much similar to enjoying fish tinola at a small restaurant in the cooler hinterlands of rain-fed Bukidnon. Yes, despite the higher price (no pun intended) I had to pay, the experience of sipping good seafood soup is possible even in a mountain resort city or a landlocked province. With these experiences in mind, I thought of taking an extra mile by cooking seafood pho despite the limitation of being in an ocean-less city!

Pho (pronounced as fa, not fo) is a Vietnamese clear soup, which is a combination of soup stock (usually beef or chicken boiled with coriander, ginger, onions, anise, nutmeg, salt, rock sugar), meat, rice noodles, fresh vegetables (bean sprouts), hoisin sauce, Sriracha sauce (hot sauce) and herbs (mint leaves) served in a bowl. It’s a complete meal in itself; where anyone can add more ingredients (e.g. beef balls, fish balls) to it and is best eaten when it’s piping hot (a term I attribute to my mother’s description of her soup recipes)! I have cooked beef pho on several occasions so I knew that it would be challenging to switch to seafood pho. Given the fact that fresh seafood in our city is close to none, the next best thing is to buy the cultured ones; for example, fish grown in fishponds. But because I was on a tight budget, I bought some frozen seafood (shrimps), ‘hybrid’ seafood (fishballs) and cultured seafood (salmon’s head). It turned out that this was a wise move! 😀

However, the next hurdle was preparing the pho. I knew that even if I would use the ever-reliable Crockpot and switch on the exhaust fan to high gear, steam from the broth will still fill our kitchen with a powerful fishy stench. My family almost disowned and abandoned me the day I prepared the fish stock! Lemon scented air fresheners hardly worked. It was only when I added the Pho herb bag, star anise, ginger and all the other herbs did the stench slowly disappeared like magic! Lesson learned: herbs can be added even when boiling the fish and not just peppercorns, salt and water alone! It occurred to me that salt and fish head in boiling water recreates a humid summer day in our kitchen, complete with ‘seashore scent!’ Harharhar… 😀

At the end of this seemingly arduous preparation, everyone was rewarded with delicious seafood pho. My family’s patience and fishy gripes were rewarded with hot, tasty and delicious pho that they enjoyed to the last drop! Talk about the power of food!

SEAFOOD PHO

Ingredients:

Pho ingredients

For the initial fish stock:
1 salmon head, cleaned, gills removed
2 cloves of garlic, grated
3 pcs star anise
1.5 litres of water
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cracked peppercorn

For the Crockpot:
1 medium-sized onion, charred/grilled in oil
1 thumb-sized ginger, charred/grrilled in oil and grated
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 Pho herb bag (usually available in Asian or Vietnamese groceries)
1 pc fish or shrimp bouillon for additional flavouring
1 tbsp. pepper
½ inch of yellow rock sugar
1.5 litres of water

For the soup bowl:
1 cup of bean sprouts, washed
1 pack of Vietnamese rice noodles
200 gms. of fish balls, sliced and fried in olive oil
500 gms. of shrimps, deveined and de-shelled and fried in olive oil
Lime wedges
¼ cup scallions, chopped
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha sauce (optional)

Directions:

1. Place all the following ingredients in a pot: salmon head, water, salt, some of the grated garlic (2 cloves), cracked peppercorns and star anise. Bring it to a gentle simmer then boil for ten minutes. Throw away the scum that rises to the surface and make sure that you have your exhaust fan on to high gear to lessen your kitchen’s fishy smell!

2. Once the salmon head is cooked (you can tell by checking the flesh if it’s soft), drain and discard water, transfer the fish to the Crockpot and pour fresh warm water. Add the slightly burnt ginger, 2 cloves of grated garlic, charred onion, pepper, yellow rock sugar, and fish bouillon and the pho herb bag.

Pho bag

3. Cook for 4 hours in HIGH heat or 8 hours in LOW heat.

4. Once the stock is cooked, remove the pho bag. Check for taste and adjust seasoning. Jaden Hair emphasized that this is important. In addition, ensure that Crockpot is in a warm mode to keep the broth hot.

Pho broth

5. Meanwhile, pour boiling water over the noodles and leave for 5 minutes then drain.

Pho noodles

6. Divide noodles in bowls and add the following ingredients: fried fishballs, scallions, fried shrimps, bean sprouts, mint leaves, hoisin sauce, and sriracha sauce if desired.

Mint leaves

7. Ladle the hot soup stock, squeeze a wedge of lemon or lime, serve and enjoy!

Pho soup

*The Dads give credit to Merrilees Parker’s Seafood Pho recipe which was featured in Lifestyle Food: http://www.lifestylefood.com.au/recipes/6459/seafood-pho and Jaden Hair’s Beef Pho featured in her Steamy Kitchen website from which this pho recipe was adapted from.

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