Saturday, January 1, 2011

I'm back and have Salt Crust Roasted Fish to show for it

Oh hey! I’m still alive in case you weren’t sure. I survived my first semester of law school and have been super lazy ever since.

My past couple of weeks have consisted of waking up at 1030am, playing Call of Duty Black Ops, calling my mom and talking about nothing in particular, making dinner for Adam and I regularly (woot!), playing fetch with my BFF Louie, and taking showers at 4pm. It’s been pretty awesome.

You’ll be happy to know that my old cooking skillz have not been entirely pushed out of my brain by contract law and civil procedure, and I am just as enthused about trying new recipes as I was BLS (before law school).  I’m going to try really hard to cook more next semester and will definitely make more of an effort to blog every now and then. I’ve got a long list of recipes to try this year, friends.

One that had been on my list for a long time was Salt Crust Roasted Fish. NYE dinner:

It was pretty impressive coming out of the oven. Basically, you prepare the fish by packing wet salt over it and roasting it at a high heat. The salt makes a crust that must be cracked away from the fish after pulling it out of the oven. Peel the skin off and what’s left is one perfectly roasted, perfectly seasoned and exceptionally moist fish.

I’ve seen this method done on a show once (was it Tyler Florence on Conan?) and found a couple of recipes on that were similar. There are a few variations: some pour straight dry salt over the fish to cover it, some mix salt with egg whites, some mix salt with water. The water-salt method seemed the easiest and least messy so I stuck with that.

If you know me well, you know how much I like salt. And you know we have no less than 4 types of salt in our kitchen. And even with that kind of bias, I PROMISE this dish doesn’t taste overly salty. The skin of the fish tastes a little salty but that gets tossed out (or consumed by the chef when no one is looking).

Happy New Year, everyone.

Salt Crust Roasted Fish
Serves 4
The recipe I’ve posted below uses a cooking time/weight ratio I found on I added my own herbs. (As you should as well.)

•  2 pounds coarse salt
•  1 cup water
•  a 2-pound whole red snapper (I used Thai red snapper), Branzino or Sea Bass, cleaned, leaving head and tail in tact
•  half a lemon, thinly sliced
•  fresh herbs for stuffing the fish and placing over it, like thyme, parsley, or dill
•  fine-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 450. In a large bowl, add water to the salt a little bit at a time. It should feel like wet snow. If you can pack it into a ball and threaten your husband with it, you’re good.

Sprinkle some of the salt on the bottom of a parchment lined baking pan that is slightly larger than your fish. Place the fish on top. Stuff the fish with slices of lemon and herbs. Place a few sprigs of herbs and lemon on top. Save a few slices of lemon and herbs for garnish.

Pack the salt onto the fish leaving no major holes or gaps. The fish must be completely covered in salt.

Place the fish in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Bang the pan on the oven a few times to loosen the salt crust. Alternatively, you can crack it with the back of a knife (careful not the damage the fish!). If you’re brave, do what I did: carefully grab the parchment paper from beneath the fish and quickly flip the whole thing over on its back. The salt will crack away on its own. Just be careful not to burn yourself (or lose your fish on the floor).

Peel the skin away from the fish with a fork. It should come right off. Transfer the fish to a serving platter, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with herbs and fresh lemon.

Pack the salt onto the fish leaving no holes or gaps. The fish must be completely covered in salt.

Place the fish in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven. Bang the pan on the counter a few times to loosen the salt crust. Alternatively, you can gently crack it with the back of a knife (careful not the damage the fish!). If you’re brave, do what I did: carefully grab the parchment paper from beneath the fish and quickly flip the whole thing over on its back. The salt will crack away on its own. Just be careful not to burn yourself (or lose your fish on the floor).

Peel the skin away from the fish with a fork. It should come right off. Transfer the fish to a serving platter, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with herbs and fresh lemon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Just so you know...

... this whole law school thing is taking up all of my time. This is me NOT cooking... Instead, this is me eating the risotto Adam made for dinner:

and looking very tired... because civ. pro. makes me very tired.

The end.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pozole Rojo

One thing I forgot to add during that last post: Marcela Valladolid totally stole my cooking show. (Mexican Made Easy!). Whatever, Marcela. Just because your name is more Spanish than mine and you wear cute clothes and actually lived in Mexico and probably speak native Spanish and went to Ritz Escoffier in Paris doesn't mean you're better than me.

Well, maybe it does a little.

But I still have my family recipes. And I think my aunts would agree that even though their niece is super annoying for occasionally responding to their Spanish conversations IN ENGLISH (...gringa), at least she can cook.

(In my defense, everyone speaks really fast. I can't think at warp speed in Spanish!)

So, how about pozole for a Sunday dinner?

Some of my favorite memories as a child involve eating pozole at my aunt's house with my cousins. She'd literally make enough for 20 people and I can remember fishing around in a giant pot for pieces of meat that didn't look like pork feet. (...gringa.)

(In my defense again, my mom says she would NEVER make pozole with pig feet. She thinks it's weird too even though she grew up on that kind of meat. So there. DECISION AFFIRMED.)

My aunt sent me her pozole recipe and specified a few things:

1) you must use pork espinazo (spine), trositos (small pieces of meat, usually shoulder), and patitas (feet).
2) you must use Jaunitas brand hominy
3) you must use Las Palmas Brand red sauce.

I broke the first cardinal rule of pozole. I only used shoulder because I didn't feel like driving to the next town over to find a carniceria that sold espinazo or patitas. (Although I probably would have left the patitas out to tell you the truth.) I live in a town where there are no carnicerias. Or Mexican people. (Just kidding.) (Mostly.)

So, in case you don't know much else about pozole besides the three primary ingredients I just specified, pozole is a stew that tends to be a special occasion dish. My uncles would probably tell you that it cures hangovers too. En serio. And my mom would tell you that it cures the flu. Like many Mexican dishes, it simmers for a good part of the afternoon, until the meat is tender and the flavors are just right.

Hey mom, how long do you think it's going to take for the pozole to be done?

It's done when it's done, Andrea.

That's the kind of dish this is. Take your time. Your house will smell like my aunt's house, and that is a very very good thing.

Pozole Rojo
Serves 6
You can make pozole with different sauces: red (rojo) as I did here, green (verde), or blanco (white) with no sauce. Make sure you include plenty of toppings to go around the table--they are an essential part of the dish.

• 1 lb. pork spine, 1.5 lbs pork shoulder cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces, and 1 pig's foot cut in half (ask the butcher); alternatively 2.5 lbs pork shoulder cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
• 1 small onion, sliced
• 1 19-oz can of Las Palmas enchilada salsa (I used spicy--try medium or mild if you aren't sure); alternatively, you can make your own red sauce like I did for the Carne Deshebrada post
• 2 28-oz cans Juanita's hominy, drained and rinsed
• 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
• 1 tablespoon oregano
• 5 cups water of beef broth
• salt and pepper to taste
• vegetable oil

• 1 medium onion, finely chopped
• 3 limes cut into wedges
• 3 cups sliced cabbage
• 6 radishes, thinly sliced
• 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
• tortillas

Preheat a large pot to medium high and pour in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Brown meat on each side for about 5-7 minutes.

Once meat is browned, pour the salsa, 5 cups of water or broth, onion, garlic and oregano in pot. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours, or until meat is ropey and tender.

Add the hominy and continue to simmer for 20 minutes longer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with toppings.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I helped my mother make flan all the time when I was little. Our family recipe: Royal Flan!

I told you my mom doesn't bake. That's what Pan Queso* Lady on the beach is for!

Yes--as I have affectionately named her, "Pan Queso Lady." At the beach near my mother's home is a women who sells flan, cheesecake and pies. I love her. So much. The first thing I do when visiting my mom in Mexico is track down Pan Queso Lady so I can enjoy a slice of flan or pie while tanning on the beach.

You stuff your face while tanning in a swimsuit?

That is correct and I'm not sorry.

The last time I stuffed my face with flan on the beach in Mexico, I thought to myself, I could probably make this. And as it turns out, I can. I am 100% sure that you can, as well.

Flan is a traditional Latin caramel custard that bakes crustless and in a pie dish. Pan Queso Lady sells hers by the slice in a pool of caramel sauce. Chocoflan one-ups regular flan by adding a layer of moist chocolate cake to the dessert.

Caramel, custard, chocolate cake: take that Pan Queso Lady!

(Just kidding please don't ever stop selling baked goods on the beach, Pan Queso Lady.)

It looks so complicated to make, but trust me, the method for chocoflan is very straight forward. I searched far and wide for a good recipe, and found one that is moderately easy and fairly traditional. I know there are a lot of steps, but that is no reason to shy away from chocoflan! I promise, the results are worth every single second it takes.

Adapted from Marcela Valladolid via
serves 10
What caught my eye about this recipe, in addition to its relative ease, is its use of buttermilk in the chocolate cake layer. Buttermilk has long been the secret weapon in my mother-in-law's chocolate cake as it produces extremely moist results. Make your life easier by measuring all your ingredients and prepping your baking pan before embarking on this culinary journey.

You will need:
• 12-cup capacity Bundt pan
• a roasting pan large enough to hold the Bundt pan
• Softened butter, to coat pan
• 1/2cup store bought cajeta, dolce de leche, or caramel sauce

For the cake:
• 10 tablespoons butter, room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 egg, room temperature
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/3 cup cocoa powder
• 1 1/4 cups buttermilk

For the flan:
• 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
• 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
• 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
• 3 eggs
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For garnish:
• 1/4 cup cajeta or caramel sauce
• 1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans

Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Thoroughly coat your Bundt pan with butter, then coat the bottom with 1/4 cup cajeta. Place the Bundt pan in a large roasting pan. (The roasting pan will serve as a water bath during baking.)

For the cake: Add the butter and sugar to a bowl and using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, beat until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa in a medium bowl. Beat 1/3 of the flour mixture, and 1/2 of the buttermilk into the egg mixture. Repeat, ending with the flour mixture. Blend until well incorporated.

For the flan: In a blender, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream cheese, eggs and vanilla. Blend on high for 30 seconds.

Scoop the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan and spreading evenly. Slowly pour the flan mixture over the cake batter.

Cover with foil and add about 1-inch of hot water to the roasting pan.

Note: Don't worry about the cake layer being on the bottom of the Budt pan. The two batters will flip while baking so that when you invert your dessert onto a platter, the flan layer will be on top and the chocolate cake will be on the bottom, just as in my first pictures. If you have no idea what I'm talking about right now, just continue on with the recipe.

Carefully slide the pan into the oven, and bake approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the surface of the cake is firm to the touch, or an inserted toothpick comes out clean. OVEN TIMES WILL VARY! Begin checking your flan with a toothpick at the 1 hour mark and continue to do so every 10-15 minutes until a toothpick, is indeed, clean when removed from your cake. Once the cake is done, carefully remove from the water bath and cool completely to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Invert a large, rimmed serving platter over the Bundt pan, grasp tightly together, giggle a little and flip over. Remove the pan and scrape any remaining cajeta or caramel sauce from the pan onto the cake. I add an extra 1/4 cup of the caramel once the cake is inverted for garnish. You may also add the chopped pecans to the top the cake at this stage, if desired.

Flan is traditionally served chilled, but I think it tastes just as yummy at room temperature!

*"Pan queso" refers to
cheesecake in Spanish, or at least it does in my family.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I love you, Larb

No, not lard. Not lard, everyone. Don't make that face... I'm trying to help you!

If you love Thai food you might know all about larb.

Ground meat--turkey, pork , chicken, beef or sometimes fish--in a savory citrusy fish sauce dressing typically served with sticky rice and sometimes eaten in lettuce cups. And hey, remember ceviche de soya made with reconstituted soya meat? You can substitute soya meat for ground pork, etc. and make this dish vegetarian. Vegan, even. There is no lard in this recipe. Now you know.

I saw Giada De Laurentiis make this recipe as a quick, weeknight alternative to take-out Thai larb and decided to give it a go. Believe it or not, it is just as good, if not better than any larb I've had in a Thai restaurant. Adam sure thinks so.

He set the table too. One spoon and a plate. Pretty good, huh?

So go ahead and try making larb at home on a Monday night like we always do. It isn't as complicated as many Thai dishes. It isn't like curry, for example, which requires 10 million ingredients. You can't mess it up, guys.

Closely adapted from Giada De Laurentiis via
serves 4
Adam thinks larb made with pork tastes best. On most nights, however, we try to cut down on fat by using ground turkey or chicken. If you do choose a leaner meat, keep in mind that you may need a little more oil to help it brown. Also, this recipe calls for lemongrass. Most Asian markets carry it (I actually found mine at Whole Foods) but if you absolutely cannot find any, go ahead and leave it out. This is supposed to be easy Monday night cooking, right? The lemongrass rounds this dish out and certainly makes the larb more delicious, but by no means does it make the dish. The fish sauce, however, does. Don't even think about leaving that out! It may smell weird out of the bottle, but trust me, it will all taste very yummy in the end.

• 1/3 cup fresh lime juice, from about 5 limes
• 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from 1 large lemon
• 2 tablespoons fish sauce
• 2 tablespoons honey

• 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
• 1/2 red onion, diced
• 3 shallots, thinly sliced
• 1 (4-inch) piece lemongrass, minced (about 1/4 cup)
• 1 Thai chile, such as prik kee noo, or 1 serrano chile, stemmed and thinly sliced
• Kosher salt
• 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey, pork, chicken beef, or reconstituted soy meat
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated


Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, lemon juice, fish sauce and honey. Set aside.

Larb: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, lemongrass, chile, and salt, to taste. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and season with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat and vegetables are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the dressing to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mint. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Spoon the turkey mixture onto the lettuce leaves and arrange on a serving platter. Serve with sticky rice or plain white rice.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili and Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

I am SO behind in posting recipes! But guess what? I can get back to catching up and cooking now... We have a house. In our home country. And all of our kitchen appliances are out of storage.

Like the slow cooker.

And the ice cream maker.

I am a huge sucker for kitchen appliances. And since I'm starting law school in just a couple of weeks, you'll probably see a ton more slow cooker recipes from me. It's a super convenient appliance, especially if you aren't home all day and don't have time to get dinner started. (Yes, Kate, I turned our conversation into a blog post!) This chili recipe is as easy as dropping ingredients in the pot and turning it on, and what's better is that you can use up any leftover vegetables you have in the fridge, and the rest of the ingredients can sit in the pantry. Many a day has this been my go-to recipe when we're pressed for time or are too lazy to go shopping.

I bought Adam the ice cream maker as a birthday present when we were dating knowing full well that we'd probably get married and I'd get to use it too. It worked out exactly the way I planned!

And we actually use it quite a bit (when it isn't locked away in storage). Ice cream is one of those foods where it's easy to get fun and creative. Our greatest ice cream hits? Coffee toffee, browned butter pecan, and now fresh strawberry. But I can't take all the credit for making such yummy strawberry ice-cream; we happened to pick out really delicious strawberries from a farm stand that day and I think it made all the difference.

Here's the deal. If you have neither a slow cooker nor an ice cream maker, it's okay. You can come over to my house and eat homemade ice cream and you can stew the chili in a pot over the stove.

It's good to be in our own home in our own country. Get ready for law-school-wife-Andrea to take over this blog. Things might get really interesting!

Vegetarian Chili
Serves 4
I began making this recipe way back when I started cooking solo (i.e., in college without my mom). It started out as a Rachael Ray recipe and morphed and changed in my kitchen over the years... But that's the great thing about chili, right? It's so easy to make it your own. I'm going to give you a starter recipe that is great as is, and then some recommendations on other spices and veggies you might consider adding depending on who's coming to dinner and your own personal level of heat tolerance. We like our chili super hot, but if my in-laws were coming to dinner, for example, I might focus on making this recipe more smoky (extra cumin or smoked paprika, maybe) than hot in my mouth. Comprende? Just keep tasting your chili as you add the spices and you should be good to go.

• 1 medium yellow skinned onion, chopped
• 1 cup of chopped carrots
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
• 1 1/2 cups pale beer or vegetable stock
• 1 (14- ounce) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
• 1 (14-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed (goodbye extra sodium)
• 1 (14-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 cup fat free vegetarian refried beans
• 1-2 chipotles en adobo
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
• 2 tablespoons chili powder ( I really like Valle del Sol from Whole Foods)
• freshly ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon coarse salt

If you were me, you might also add:
• Several dashes of jalapeƱo based hot sauce
• 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
• 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika

Other vegetables options:
• bell peppers
• celery
• zucchini
• corn
• or anything in your fridge you'd like to use up

Toppings and Bottomings for serving:
• 8 ounces (2 cups shredded or crumbled) cheese: I use Cotija (my favorite), but spicy monterey jack or smoked cheddar would be delicious too
• Chopped cilantro
• Mexican Crema or Sour Cream
• Blue and red corn tortilla chips or black bean tortilla chips, for dipping
• Baked or boiled potatoes--Adam's personal favorite
• Corn bread or muffins
• Extra hot sauce for the table

Stir all ingredients (except toppings and bottomings) together in the pot of a slow cooker. Turn slow cooker to low and simmer 6-8 hours.

If you don't have a slow cooker, you may simmer the chili a large pot on top of the stove for a minimum of one hour. Keep in mind however that the longer this chili stews, the more it's flavors will marry and the more delicious it will be by dinner time.

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream
Adapted from and Williams Sonoma Mastering: Frozen Desserts
Make sure you choose really fresh and delicious strawberries for this recipe.

• 3 cups half-and-half
• 6 egg yolks
• 1 cup sugar
• Pinch of salt
• 2 cups sliced strawberries
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Puree 3/4 cup of the strawberries in a blender or a food processor.

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the half-and-half until steam begins to rise from the surface, 4 to 5 minutes.

In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended. Gradually (VERY VERY gradually so that you don't get scrambled eggs) add the hot half-and-half, whisking constantly until fully incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a clean saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 8 to 10 minutes; do not allow the custard to boil.

Pour the custard and the pureed strawberries through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl and stir in the sliced strawberries and vanilla. Nestle the bowl in a larger one filled halfway with ice and water and cool the custard to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.

Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Bread

I'm still here. And we're FINALLY moving this weekend so hopefully I'll be able to get back into a more steady routine of blogging! Hooray!

In the meantime, I thought I'd share this

because my lovely second mama, Carrie requested it. Moist, yummy, banana walnut quick bread made slightly healthier with whole wheat flour and less sugar. You can even swap the oil for apple sauce to make the recipe lower in fat. Good deal, right?

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Bread
adapted from
serves 12
Whole wheat pastry flour is great for cakes and breads as it yields a lighter and fluffier result than regular whole wheat flour. You can substitute whole wheat flour in this recipe if you'd like, but be prepared for a more coarse and dense cake texture.

1/3 cup vegetable oil OR 1/3 cup applesauce for lower fat
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat oil, brown sugar and honey together. Add eggs, and mix well. Stir in bananas and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt. Add baking soda to hot water, stir to mix, and then add to batter. Blend in chopped nuts. (You may save a few nuts to sprinkle over the top of batter if you'd like.) Spread batter into greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 1/2 hour before slicing.
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