Thursday, September 29, 2011

1 fish 2 Fish, Old Fish New Fish

What is this!? A post!? An update!? It can’t be!

Yes, we’re back; hopefully, to stay. The Culinary Conquistadors have returned with their same mission, their same quest to explore and conquer the foodie unknown, and their same penchant for dirtying six pots to cook one potato.

I understand your incredulity. Our disappearances have been long and many, and our promises of return empty and impotent. However, now that Lukas and I have both graduated (sorry for the wait on that one, Mom and Dad) and have started serious careers, hopefully things will be stable enough for us to start making regular updates again.

So please, noble follower, take this humble offering as a sign of our penance.

Now, Lukas and I have been planning some type of grand seafood adventure for quite a while now. Mostly this planning involved the following text messages:

D: “Yo, I bought tuna steaks at Heinen’s.”
L: “Yo, I’m out of town.”
L: “Hey. Want to make those tuna steak’s tonight?”
D: “Tht’s whaat se sed.”
L: “What?”
D: “Ihave t goto bd.”

Eventually, however, my sobriety and Luke’s schedule finally lined up, and we set about making our Ginger and Jalapeno Glaze Yellow Fin Tuna. Albeit, with a special guest…

This Guy

That thing up there with the under bite, is a barramundi, a fresh-ish (it breeds in salty estuaries) water fish common to Australia and Southern Asia. Internationally, it’s known more commonly as Asian Seabass, unless you’re in Thailand, where the fish is known as Pla Krapong (snicker). Similar in taste to perch, barramundi is a staple in Australian seafood, even being called the “quintessential” table fish by some food experts. Our barramundi came from a farm in the US, but that doesn’t mean that it was low quality! If you’ll indulge me for a brief moment, as a cooking blog, the Culinary Conquistadors are committed not just to recipes but to food itself, and the farms, rivers, and oceans that bring it to us. Hence, I would like to make a brief plug for farm-raised seafood. It’s a foolish mistake to associate “farm-raised” with “poor quality” and “bad taste.” Not only can many hardy fish such tilapia, trout, and yes, barramundi, be farm-raised with great taste and quality, it can be done so with minimal impact to the environment. Don’t be afraid to try farm-raised fish, you might be pleasantly surprised, and you’ll be doing your part to end overfishing of our seas and rivers. For a list of ocean-friendly fish available, check out this link to the New Enlgand Aquarium:

Okay, enough soapboxing, on to the cooking. Tonight we had three things to prepare: our Ginger and Jalapeno Glaze Yellow Fin Tuna, Rosemary and Lemon Baked Barramundi, and the Summer Fruit and Gorgonzola Salad. Be warned, that almost everything in today’s entry cooks pretty fast, so don’t expect much down time if you do it the same way we did.

So, for your tuna, you’re going to need to gather the following:
½ Jalapeno
1 tblspoon Ginger (grated)
1 Clove Garlic (chopped)
2 Limes (juiced)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Pinch Sugar
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt/Black Pepper
Yellowfin (Ahi) or Albacore Tuna (Around a pound for this recipe); Sliced into serving size steaks

So first things first, making the glaze. Thinly slice the jalapeno (you can remove the seeds and membrane if you want to keep it milder) and combine it with the lime juice, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, some salt and pepper, oil, and ginger. Fresh ginger is best for this: simply scrape off the skin with a potato peeler and use a very fine cheese grater. If you like, a handful of chopped, fresh cilantro wouldn’t be out of place here.

Next, heat about a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on high. Liberally salt and pepper the tuna, and toss it in. Sear the tuna steaks for about 30 seconds a side, so that a very thin crispy, crust forms, but the middle is still very rare. As you’re searing the steaks, pour in about half of the glaze mixture. After cooking, remove from heat and pour on the rest of the sauce. Garnish with parsley or avocado if you want your friends and family to think that you’re artisanal, or maybe just from California.
Easy right?

The Barramundi proved a little more difficult for us. First off, I had no idea he was coming to the party. Secondly, instead of coming in a reddish, personality-less chunk, like the tuna, our barramundi came with a face.

First, defacing the fish. While it’s not entirely necessary to remove the head of a barramundi, when you have a pack of elementary school girls milling about, the comedic value is not to be wasted. After fiddling around with 5 or 6 different knives, we finally found one sharp enough to work.

We then set about debating whether to hack the fish head off with one almighty whack, or try to finesse it off with our meager skill. Finally, the internet was consulted, and we learned that the best way to remove a barramundi head is to slide the knife behind the skull, near the gills, cutting towards the front of the fish.

Head removed: Check
Children Disgusted: Double Check

The barramundi was prepared in a pretty standard way. We laid the now headless fish on wax paper in a glass baking pan, scored the sides three times, and drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil. We stuffed the scores with rosemary, liberally salt-and-peppered (should that be one word?) the whole thing and slid it into the oven to bake. After baking, the flesh and scales can be peeled off easily.

Summer Fruit and Gorgonzola Salad
This salad has the great qualities of being easy to make while still being a little exotic.
First, we gathered up the following:
Gorgonzola (room temp to soften)
2 pears (Bartlett? The brown ones.)
Dried Cranberries
Slivered Almonds
Spring Mix (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Start…Congrats, you’ve unlocked easy salad mode.)

Preheat your grille, and then rinse out your lettuce and toss it with the cranberries and the almonds. If you have helpers, have them do this while you half the pears lengthwise and dig out the cores. Stuff the cavities liberally with gorgonzola. Take them over to your grille and grill them cheese down for about 30 seconds. This will soften the cheese and hopefully put beautiful grill lines on the pears (if you have a working grill, that is), while adding a little bit of a smoky flavor to the whole thing. Pull them off, and at them to the top off your salad, or serve them by themselves alongside. If you have any balsamic syrup, you wouldn’t be amiss to drizzle a little on.

And there you are. You have officially conquered the seas. At least one of us is impressed.

PS: I am incredibly inept with this whole computer thing. Look for more pictures to be added later.