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PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 8:00 am 
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Pan-fried fillets of salt cod (or any white fish) with polenta, leeks and sausage

A current project of mine is to come up with Dravean con-cuisine, and this recipe is fairly close to being representative of Dravean food: somewhere between Northern Italian/Balkan/Middle European. So, I suppose it could be better described as:

Filètei de merlun fraicei cu polènta, porrei e locança
[fiˈlɛti de merˈluŋ ˈfraiʃi ku puˈlɛŋtǝ ˈpori e luˈkaŋʃǝ]

To serve two, you will need:

2 x 225g fillets of white fish: cod, haddock or hake would be my preferences. Skin on, please.
125g cornmeal (denizens of the UK: not cornflour! Either pay top price for "polenta", or go to the part of the shop where they sell Carribean foods and buy a bag of cornmeal. It's cheaper.)
1 litre boiling water
1 leek, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic
maybe 200g-odd of dried sausage. Saucisson sec or a northern Italian salami would be appropriate. Not chorizo, however.
salt and pepper
flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

First, salt your fish*. Take a plate and cover it in salt. Lay your fillets skin-side down on the plate, then cover the flesh with more salt. No, cover it in salt. Not just a few shakes, you want the entire thing covered in salt. Set aside for five minutes. If you're worried about flies, etc, you can cover the plate with a clean tea-towel. Don't put it in the fridge yet, otherwise it will bloody stink the thing out. After five or so minutes, rinse off the salt and pat dry with some kitchen roll. Cover loosely with cling-film and chuck in the fridge while you make your polenta.

Place a large pan over a medium heat so that your water is simmering, not at a rolling boil. Throw in a pinch of salt, not too much. In a slow, steady stream, pour in your cornmeal, whisking vigorously. If you don't whisk at this stage, it will go lumpy and nobody wants that. Keep whisking: it will thicken pretty quickly. After about ten or so minutes of whisking, turn the heat down low. Traditionally, one is supposed to stir polenta constantly throughout its cooking time so it doesn't catch on the base of the pan. Fuck that shit, I am not standing and stirring something for forty minutes. A muscular stir every couple of minutes should prevent it from catching. I tend to stand and read a book while doing this, or compose hexameters in my head.

While your polenta is doing its business (which should take about 40 minutes total), get your leeks and sausage going. Generously oil a large frying-pan with your choice of oil: groundnut in my case. Sautée the thinly sliced sausage until done. Transfer to a pile of kitchen towels to drain and reserve. Return the pan to a medium heat. Crush the garlic with the flat of your knife, take off the skin and chuck in the pan with the leeks. Sautée over a medium-low heat until tender: try not to burn anything. Mix into the cooked polenta and set aside in a warm place.

Now the fish: preheat your frying pan to a very high heat. Very high. When you pour in the oil for frying, it should smoke. If it smokes, the pan is hot enough. Take your fish fillets and once again dry off the skin side with some kitchen roll: the secret to crispy skin is totally dry skin and a very high heat. Place in your hot pan, skin side down. Do not move them about. You are not making a stir-fry. Resist the temptation: this fish should only be moved once, when you turn it over. Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook the fish for about three minutes or so, depending on how thick your fillets are. Once the flesh has gone from translucent to opaque about halfway up the thickness of the fillet, it should be ready to turn over. Season the flesh with some black pepper and flip the fish. Throw your sausage back in the pan with the fish to reheat. The fish should take only a couple of minutes to finish cooking. Remove from the pan and set aside, otherwise it'll over-cook.

To serve, divide the polenta between two plates and scatter over the sausage. Top with the fish fillets (served skin-side up, of course, so everyone can see how wonderfully crispy the skin is) and garnish with the parsley.

*Salting the fish is pretty much optional, those on low-sodium diets can forgo this step. However, if you do, make sure your fish is extremely fresh. Salting draws out moisure, firming up the flesh and mitigating to some degree any unpleasant odours (as well as making the fish slightly salty): in the UK supermarkets generally sell fresh fish vacuum-packed, which tends to make the flesh waterlogged; salting greatly improves such fish. It's also a useful trick to know if, to pluck an example at random, you're late placing the fish order and all your fishmonger can send you is forty fillets of hake which isn't exactly at its best and oh fuck there's a hundred covers booked in for tonight.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 9:32 am 
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You obviously know a lot more than I do about these things, so feel free to ignore me.

But I was wondering, how likely is it for a landlocked central european country to have traditional meals that involve white fish? This seems strange to me for two reasons: first, because iirc Dravea was landlocked, and thus more likely to be eating river fish than sea fish; and second because the nearest coastline, again iirc, is the mediterreanean, and white fish (cod, coley, haddock, hake, pollack, etc) are all endemic to the north atlantic, ideally the far north of the atlantic (and in some cases the north pacific as well) and aren't found in any numbers in the mediterranean.

I'd expect Draveans to primarily be eating carp, catfish, danubian salmon, etc, like the hungarians do, and for more exotic meals ship over some mediterranean oily fish from the adriatic (brown trout, adriatic salmon, bream, seabream, seabass, swordfish, etc). I suppose, though, that you do get sharks in the mediterranean, and sharkmeat is white - most people probably don't realise that the 'huss' sold alongside cod, plaice etc in fish and chip shops is actually sharkmeat. Quite a different taste and texture, though, I think. Maybe this is a traditional expensive meal with imported sharkmeat, but for price reasons the shark has been replaced by mass-imported atlantic whitefish in modern popular cuisine?

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 9:42 am 
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:00 pm 
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And salmon, obviously (we get our salmon from the sea, but atlantic salmon is also found in rivers, and other types of salmon are primarily freshwater, iirc).

But yes, salting is a good reason why central europe would have these fish (and smoking, I guess - know whether smoked fish were traded in the same way?).

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:02 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:55 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2013 5:11 am 
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Mega-Garlic Parmesan Pasta

Simple, strong, and divine. For a meal for one, or side dish for two:

1. Boil 1/2 pound of your choice of pasta according to package instructions. Noodle and macaroni types work equally well. Drain, but do not rinse, and set aside for a moment (in the strainer or in a separate bowl or whatever).
2. Put 2 - 3 tbsp butter into the same pot and let it melt. If there is enough residual heat to get the butter melted and bubbling then that's sufficient, otherwise return to low heat until that condition is met.
3. 2 - 4 fat cloves of garlic, to your preference, are pressed through a garlic press and added to the butter.
4. Stir around just long enough to distribute garlic in butter, plus maybe 5 - 10 seconds to let the heat mellow it just slightly. Add pasta back to the pan while it's still hot, and toss to coat evenly in butter/garlic.
5. Serve covered in a blanket of freshly grated or shredded parmesan, or any comparable hard salty cheese. Generally, use amount sufficient to mostly hide the pasta from view, but not so much you have a ludicrous mountain of it.
6. Postprandial breath mints may be of assistance.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 3:06 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 5:36 pm 
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Oh, why not.

Chicken
I don't normally eat chicken, since it's surprisingly expensive and has little taste - if I'm splashing out on meat, I prefer to get something that actually tastes of meat. But every now and then I feel like trying to do something with it.
This was one of the more succesful attempts.

Steps:
- take chicken. In this case it was some sort of filleted chicken - thigh, mainly? Selected primarily by being what was cheapest
- lay chicken in oven-proof dish
- drizzle over some basil-infused olive oil
- add a few splashes of lemon juice
- add some garlic (not too much, it's not meant to be garlic chicken), some cayenne pepper (it's not meant to be chili chicken either), black pepper, thyme. I also used some sumac - never sure if it really adds anything to the taste or not, I've not experimented rigourously with it, but it smells nice and the colour is a nice addition
- add some torn up chunks of mushroom
- put in oven. I went for around 180.
- take out of oven ten minutes later, ensure nothing is sticking to dish, put back in
- mix together a relatively small amount of milk, a bit of white wine, and some pesto alla genovese. Again, I just used a small spoon of pesto, didn't want to drown everything out.
- take chicken out of oven another ten minutes later, pour over mixture. The idea isn't to have the chicken submerged, just enough mixture to pour over all the chicken. By this stage there was a fair amount of liquid anyway, between the chicken and the mushrooms both shedding water...
- add small slices of mild soft cheese to the top of the chicken
- return to oven
- remove from oven after another ten minutes or so
- eat.

Result:
I had this chicken with - because yes, I'm horribly plebeian and lazy sometimes - some oven-roasted onion rings and roesti, and some green vegetables.
Not an overwhelmingly powerful taste (it's chicken), but I thought it was really nice. The chicken was moist throughout (though fully cooked) and tasty, not dry and tasteless as I often find chicken. The concomitant liquid ended up being effectively mopped up by the batter of the onion rings and by the roesti - wasn't too liquid, although I suppose some might want to thicken it artificially.
One thing that might have been a bit wrong was the cheese. It was perfectly pleasant, but by the end I thought maybe the cheese was a touch too strong for the other flavours. I felt that in principle it was a good idea, though, and I think next time I'll just use slightly less, or maybe put it in earlier so that it melts and spreads more. [I certainly wouldn't do this if you don't have a nice mild soft cheese - this is not a job for your ripe camembert... (this one was a chaource)]

Now I have a dilemma. I'd planned to use the remaining chicken tomorrow with some coconut milk (which I've never used before) and chillis and stuff... but now I'm thinking I may just do the same thing again... [Doesn't help that the coconut comes in sachets that are far too large, so I'll probably end up throwing most of it away]

Anyway, that's the view from culinary philistine country today.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 2:27 pm 
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It may be bland on its own, but chicken is a) the healthiest of the meats, after fish and b) extremely versatile. I use a lot of chicken because it keeps the protein content of my meals up and their glycemic index down (which is important for 2/3 of the people in this house), without having to worry much about the health issues caused by a high rate of eating mammals.

And because chicken is indispensible for about a billion recipes. It would be a poorer world without, say, marinated, pan-blackened chicken breast served with pearl couscous and roast vegetables all drizzled with harissa - or chicken and tofu stir-fried with snow peas, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and scallions in a thickened-broth sauce with a little soy sauce and sichuan pepper. Or chicken+cheese enchiladas served with either beans and rice or posole in a puddle of red or green chili sauce and a sopaipilla on the side. Or even just something simple, like chopped chicken and tortellini in pesto. Anytime you can't figure out what to do with some chicken, just ask me, I know tons of things. A few of them are in this thread already.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:03 pm 
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I guess there are places where chicken is expensive
around here it's way cheaper than any other meat but I get put off eating it sometimes because a couple blocks down the hill from me is a big grey monolith where chickens go to become a non-count noun and it's been sporting some blatant but chronically uninvestigated violations of whatever regulations there might possibly be on that kind of operation -- including dumping chicken guts into the storm drain -- and about three or four times a week the smell wafts up into the neighbourhood and it's hard to have an appetite for bird

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:05 pm 
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WHITE PEOPLE CHICKEN IS NOT STRONG. IN AFRICA YOU GET STRONG CHICKEN, MAKES YOU STRONG


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:10 pm 
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I don't eat a lot of chicken either, because I prefer not to buy the really cheap chicken breast, both for culinary reasons (a bit bland in taste) and for ethical reasons. they are raised under horrible circumstances, and often only for the most popular part; the chicken breast. I feel a bit less guilty for buying legs or wings or something as at least here I think they don't really raise the chicken for those parts. However, I always consider that kind of thing more food that you eat together with others, rather than a regular week night dinner for myself.

In general I don't really eat that much meat. Usually when I do I eat pork: bacon, ground pork+beef (in a 50/50 ratio, it's sold here like that and is very cheap), sausage, shoarma pork (some kind of turkish/greek/middle east thing I suppose?)...


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:16 pm 
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I guess if you need to eat a lot of meat, chicken makes sense, yes. I generally get around the problem of the unhealthiness of mammalmeat by not eating much meat.
I'm afraid that just listing a series of meals with chicken in them isn't going to magically make me like chicken. I think I've explained already that I find it quite bland, and hence rarely worth the price (of course, anything bland will be 'versatile', but 'nothing' is more versatile than anything, and much cheaper). While chicken can improve some meals (eg caesar salads), I've very rarely found anything where it improved it enough for me to regularly want to spend the extra money and consume the extra calories (eg chicken and tortellini in pesto sounds perfectly fine, but I'd mostly just cut out the chicken - almost exactly the same end product, but cheaper and healthier). So I only really do chicken very rarely to provide a little variety. Stir-fried, mostly. And now and then I want to do something with a sauce or something where something solid and chunky is required (eg my plan with the coconut chicken). There's also an interesting thing involving marinading in chinese spices and very slowly steaming over many hours and then frying that when done right gives an unusual crispy-but-elastic effect, but i'm not sure it's worth the time and effort and I never get it right anyway. I also know a guy who makes excellent roast chicken, but when I do it myself it usually ends up too dry, and besides a roast chicken is rarely more something for more than one person (and if I am making food for more than one person, I'd normally want to make something nicer than chicken).
[incidentally, not the most appealing menu options for me there - I really don't like badly burnt meat, I'm not sure how people eat it. Besides, I worry i'm being too extravagant and wasteful just eating meat at all, let alone taking perfectly food meat and charcoalising it! I guess I haven't worked hard enough at training my palette. (what's pearl couscous, by the way? Is that like giant couscous, or what?)]

As I say, though, I'm a philistine, and clearly less of a refined gourmet than yourself (and, judging by some of your ingredients, I have to fear rather less wealthy, also). I'm sure you're right about the indispensibleness of chicken to contemporary sophisticated cuisine, but I hope you understand that not everybody eats the same way you do. Some of us have unrefined and simple tastes, and have barely progressed beyond the assuaging hunger stage. Not everyone is going to like the things you like.

[I hardly ever find myself needing to find something to do with something like chicken, thank you - I only buy extravagancies like meat when I already have a definite plan for them in mind. (Which is a problem sometimes, since it means I tend to ignore the many recipebooks lying around, since I always know in advance what I'm doing)]

-----

Anyway, I set aside the finally-doing-something-with-coconut plan and just made the same chicken meal again tonight.
I reduced the amount of cheese added at the end, to the correct amount, didn't bother with the sumac (made no discernable difference other than in colour), added an onion rather than using onion rings, slightly reduced the thyme, added a dash of worcestershire sauce at the beginning, turned the chicken over for the middle third of the cooking, and was a little more daring with the pesto and with the wine. The result was even better than before - an interesting but fairly mild-mannered taste that I felt went well with the chicken, which itself was lusciously soft and not dry at all, but still had texture and firmness.
An experiment for next time might be moving up adding the sauce to earlier in the process. I also should think of something more healthy and interesting to do it with.

Anyway, Rad, would you like to tell me what I'm doing wrong?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:33 pm 
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But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
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I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:48 pm 
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Kereb suggests there might be expensive places to buy chicken and the first word of your post is 'Waitrose'? I thought the whole point of london was you could get cheap halal chicken from smiling bahamians or something


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:58 pm 
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god yeah chicken thighs cost less than half that here
is Waitrose's like a UK version of Whole Foods or something?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 5:12 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 5:22 pm 
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also stop calling meat 'an extravagance', you pretentious ponce


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 5:42 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 6:19 pm 
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But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
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I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 6:43 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 7:55 pm 
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Chicken here is ¥59/100g in Seiyu (Walmart) - that's roughly $0.60 or £0.40. It's significantly cheaper than even the cheap places in the UK, to the extent that whenever I cooked curry in the UK, I did it vegetarian with chickpeas, but switched back to making it with chicken when I came here...


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:43 am 
Avisaru
Avisaru

Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2007 1:47 pm
Posts: 734
Location: Leiden, the Netherlands
You know that you are doing something wrong when your roasted chicken legs come out dry, right? Or did you think the universe just doesn't want you to eat chicken legs and makes them dry to stop you from eating them?


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 04, 2013 5:58 am 
Avisaru
Avisaru
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Joined: Fri Sep 13, 2002 12:45 pm
Posts: 702
Location: Hole of Aspiration


Last edited by Pthagnar on Fri Oct 04, 2013 5:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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