Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pan Roasted Sea Bass

The kids wanted pizza the other night, which was fine, but I was definitely craving something a little more.. uhh.. not pizza. So I stopped by my favorite fish market to see what they had on hand. Sea bass... yeah, that was definitely better than pizza! I picked up a half pound of the sea bass and some steamers and was happily on my way to a nice grown up dinner.

As you can see from the picture, sea bass filets are very thick, so if you're used to cooking thinner filets, this can pose some interesting challenges. One of the best ways I've found to conquer this challenge, and also create a wonderful flavor and texture is by pan roasting it. Pan roasting will create a beautiful crust on the fish (or any thick cut of meat) and leave the inside moist and tender. Trust me, you gotta try this!

skinless sea bass filets, cut into about 4 oz pieces
canola oil (or another oil with a high smoke point)
desired seasonings (try to avoid herbs, they'll burn.. salt and pepper will do more than you think here)
oven proof skillet

Preheat the oven to 450ºF about 10 minutes before you start.

Heat the canola oil in the oven proof skillet until it's very hot, almost to the smoke point (the oil will seem to shimmer).

Season the fish with salt and pepper, cajun seasoning is also good. Place in hot skillet and let it sear (don't crowd the pan, make sure the pan is large enough to accomodate the fish without the pieces touching, if the pieces don't have enough space, you won't be able to get a sear). Don't try to turn the fish too soon or it will stick to the pan and you won't get that nice crust. This should take about 3 minutes or so. Turn the fish with a flexible spatula and allow to begin searing on the other side about 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and place in preheated oven. Cook fish until it flakes easily with a fork (the 8oz filet I had took about 12 minutes).

Serve with your favorite sauce (lemon butter, white wine reduction, etc).

Easy Cheese Soup

If you're a parent, you more than likely run ito the same problem I do on some weeknights... you either forgot to defrost what you had planned to make, or you just have so much going on that you never even thought about what to make for dinner. That's where this soup comes in. I almost always have all of the ingredients on hand, none of the ingredients require long defrost times or cooking times and because you can prepare several of the ingredients at once, this comes together fairly quickly (around 30 minutes total). Of course there are other advantages to this as well, like it makes a good amount of soup (no cooking the next night!) and it's very kid friendly, even with the veggies... let's face it... there's very little you can't get kids to eat if there's enough cheese involved :) So, in the spirit of supporting busy, absent-minded parents of picky kids everywhere... I give you my Easy Cheese Soup.

10-12 slices bacon
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
14 oz bag frozen broccoli
1 Tbs canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
16 oz block of velveeta
2-2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
10 oz can creamed corn
pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Line a cookie sheet with foil and place a cooling rack on it. Lay the bacon slices on the cooling rack and bake for 15-20 minutes until the bacon reaches the desired doneness.* When bacon is done, chop. (you can also take the easy way out and use the pre-cooked bacon)

Cook cubed potatoes in boiling, salted water until tender.

Prepare broccoli according to package directions. (note: these 3 steps can be done simultaneously).

When the potatoes are done, drain into a collander and rinse the pan lightly to remove any starch stuck to the pan. Return the pan to the burner over medium heat. Add canola oil and onions and saute until onions are tender and transluscent.

Cut the Velveeta into chunks and add to the pan with the onions. Add just enough chicken broth to aid in the melting (about a cup), stir occasionally. When Velveeta is melted, add the creamed corn, chopped bacon, potatoes and broccoli and another 1 to 1 1/2 cups of broth to get the soup to the consistnecy you like. Heat through and serve.

*This is a great way to make large amounts of bacon with very little effort or mess. For thick sliced bacon, add another 5-10 minutes.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Classic Meatloaf

It's comfort food season! Football is on, Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations are all over the place, and the weather is finally settling down a little bit down here in Hades... I mean Florida (well, by settling down, I mean we had a few evenings that went below 70º, it's not much, but it's the best a New England girl can hope for until at least Novemeber down here). This is the time of year that I like to really kick in my New England roots. I break out the autumn scented candles, and I cook real comfort food meals on Sundays... with the football game on in the background, it's the closest to home I can get... and I'll take it :)

Today's meal is meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans. I know, I have said in the past that I don't really care for "classic" meatloaf, but I have finally accomplished the mission of finding a recipe that the kids like, but that I also can eat. Not only, can I eat this one, I actually LIKE it... amazing, I know (I still draw the line at meatloaf sandwiches though... no thanks). Now if I could only make it look nice... and as you can see from the picture, I have yet to accomplish that part of the mission, but hey... I'm ok with it.

This recipe is from the 50's Primetime Cafe at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

2 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
4 eggs
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
½ cup diced onions
1/4 cup diced green peppers
1/4 cup diced red peppers
2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
Cracked black pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste
½ cup Meatloaf Glaze (recipe below)

Dice peppers and onions and set aside for later use. Combine meats and seasonings. Add vegetables. Mold meat mixture into a loaf on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350º F oven for 1 hour (internal temp 155º).

Brush meatloaf with meatloaf glaze. Bake another 10 minutes. Let meatloaf set 10 minutes, cut loaf and serve.

For the glaze:

½ cup ketchup
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tsp Dijon mustard
½ Tsp worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients until mixture is smooth.