Pan Seared Black Cod with Anchovy-Herb Vinaigrette

Pan Seared Black Cod with Anchovy-Herb Vinaigrette

It’s been non-stop for me over the past few weeks and although I’ve had a fantastic time, this gal was starting to feel a bit run down.

I needed sleep.

I needed to give my party pants a break.

And I needed to get back in my own {tiny} kitchen.

Pan Seared Black Cod with Anchovy-Herb Vinaigrette

And that’s where I was all weekend long.

Well, it was where I was after I went to the store to stock up on fresh produce because I think the only green thing I consumed over our 4-day Vegas trip was the lime in my grey goose tonic.

Gluttony is my name.

Pan Seared Black Cod with Anchovy-Herb Vinaigrette

To fuel up for the weekend of cooking, I wanted something light but fulfilling–definitely some fish. Now my default is usually sushi or fish tacos when I get a hankering for fish but I then remembered a nearby fishmonger that I’ve been wanting to try – Catalina Offshore Products. They get their product every day directly off the boat from the fishermen — cannot get any fresher than that!

So I popped on in….drooled over all of their premium grade uni, oysters, sushi grade fish and chopped it up with some of their staff. AMAZING!!! For all of you folks in the San Diego area who may be wary about seafood—come here! They’ll put to rest any fears that you may have.

I somehow practiced some self restraint and only picked up a few fillets of their gorgeous black cod for lunch. Black cod is a tender fish that is a bit on the fattier side –think of sea bass– and incredibly delish.

I chose to pan sear the fillets because it’s quick and gives the fish a lovely crunchy crust without overcooking the meat. And the secret to pan searing fish? You’ve got to get the skillet/pan screaming hot before adding the oil and do not —let me repeat…DO NOT mess around with trying to flip the fish around a gazillion times. You’ve got to let it crisp up on the first side and then when it’s ready, meaning when you can slide a spatula underneath it without any resistance, then flip it!

Pan Seared Black Cod with Anchovy-Herb Vinaigrette

Because I’m obsessed with anchovy paste lately, I decided to make a quick herby vinaigrette with anchovy paste for that much needed acidity to cut the natural fattiness of the fish. And for all of you anchovy haters — get over it! The paste adds a subtle, salty, sea flavor that I’m sure you wouldn’t guess it was anchovy if I hadn’t told you.

For reals…..

Since I was aiming for a lighter dish, I served my fish with these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes that I also tossed in some of the vinaigrette. They were beautiful and sweet. But if you’re looking for a little starch — a sunchoke puree or even garlic noodles would be the bomb-diggity.

Yeah….I just went there.

The finished dish is a show stopper if I dare say so myself. Crisp and tender fish with bright acidity from the vinaigrette. And guess what? If you get your act together, this beauty can be done in 20 minutes…..25 minutes if you want to take a leisurely approach.

Fantastic if you’re having folks over or just when you want to make yourself something delish. Because let’s face it, I don’t care if you’re just learning how to cook, an intermediate cook or chef extraordinaire —the food you create should make you want to smile and do a little happy dance.

And this little number made me do both….times 100.

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Pan Seared Black Cod with Anchovy-Herb Vinaigrette
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon anchovy paste
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon roughly chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 champagne vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
2 black cod fillets, skin-on, de-boned (5-6 ounces each)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3-4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 cups heirloom cherry tomatoes, quartered

Combine the anchovy paste, shallots, garlic, herbs, lemon juice and vinegar in a blender and blend at medium speed for about 20 seconds. With the blender running on low, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the vinaigrette has become emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Score the skin side of each of the fish fillets and use paper towels to pat them dry. Season the fillets with kosher salt and pepper.

Choose a skillet that can handle a high level of heat (ie. cast iron, stainless steel, etc.) Heat the skillet over high heat so that it becomes screaming hot. Once it reaches the desired temperature, add the oil and swirl it around the skillet. Carefully place each fillet, skin side down into the oil. Using a spatula, gently press down on the fillets so that they don’t curl up on the sides. Toss the thyme sprigs into the oil on the side of the fish –this will help flavor the oil.

Cook the first side of the fish for about 3 minutes — depending on the thickness of the fillets. Be careful not to flip the fish before the skin has crisped up and formed a crust. Once the first side has cooked, about 2/3 way through, flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the fillets from the skillet.

Toss the tomatoes in a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette. Plate 1/2 of the dressed tomatoes on each plate. Top each mound of tomatoes with a cod fillet. Drizzle the fish with additional vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

Ch-ch-ch–Chimichurri Sauce!

Chimichurri Sauce

Happy CHIMICHURRI FRIDAY!

Ok…it’s not really Chimichurri Friday-–it’s Aloha Friday. But as far as I’m concerned, every day should have chimichurri in it.

Chimichurri Sauce

The sauce originates from Argentina and is FULL of fresh herbs, citrus and spices. It’s incredibly aromatic and bright and is perfect over grilled meats, seafood, in sammiches and as a dip.

And. I. LOVE. IT.

I’ve posted the recipe alongside other dishes before but I thought this showstopper deserved a post on its own.

Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri has similar flavor profiles to pesto as both contain fresh herbs and spicy garlic. But since chimichurri does not contain nuts or cheeses, it can be considered a slimmer substitute for pestos. Both as a spread or even in pastas like my Chimichurri Orzo.

Chimichurri Sauce

So this weekend, break out the grill and throw a few steaks (or chicken…or lamb chops…) and some seafood on the fire. Slather the grilled goodness with Chimichurri Sauce and show all the MOM(s) in your life how much you love them.

Have a fabulous Mother’s Day Weekend!

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Chimichurri Sauce
Makes approximately 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 large bunch fresh cilantro
1 large bunch fresh Italian parsley
6-8 sprigs fresh oregano
4 large garlic cloves
1 large serrano chili pepper*
zest of 1 lime
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon red chili flakes*
1 teaspoon honey or agave
¾ – 1 cup olive oil, more if needed
kosher salt
black pepper

In a food processor or blender, add all of the ingredients except the kosher salt and pepper. Pulse several times until the herbs have broken down.

Stream in the olive oil and blend until the items have fully incorporated. Sprinkle in ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Pulse to combine. More olive oil can be added if a smoother, loose texture is desired. Check for seasonings and add additional salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate until ready to be used.

*Chili amounts can be adjusted based on heat level preference.

(Isaan) Pork Larb Gai – Thai Minced Pork Salad

Pork Larb Gai

Larb (also often spelled as laap or laab) has been one of my favorite Thai dishes for a long time. It essentially translates to “minced meat salad” and can be made from a variety of different proteins – pork, beef, chicken, fish, duck, etc.

The word larb means “to chop up” in Thai. That’s right folks–authentic larb aficionados use a cleaver to chop/mince their proteins until they reach the perfect consistency. But truthfully, I’m a tad lazy and use pre-ground pork/chicken/turkey.

Andy Ricker, chef and author of Pok Pok does a beautiful job narrating his adventures of Thai cuisine and does an infinitely superior job of explaining the nuances of larb than I ever could. In a nutshell, there are two different schools of larb — the Northern Thai version and Northeastern Thai (Isaan) version. I gravitate towards the Isaan style that is heavily laden with citrus and toasted rice powder. The Northern style also uses various proteins and herbs but often includes pork/beef blood.

Pork Larb

I’m obsessed with Isaan-style larb because it’s truly a flavor explosion (I’m so cheesy). It’s incredibly savory with the garlic, shallots, fish sauce……bright and aromatic from the tons of citrus & fresh herbs…..and rather “earthy” from the toasted rice powder. Whether you eat it with sticky rice or as lettuce wraps, larb has multiple layers of texture, especially when you take intermittent bites of fresh cucumber slices, cabbage or fresh chiles.

My version isn’t totally authentic but it definitely is my homage to the original and can be whipped up in about 20 minutes. Not bad at all when you need a quick bite and its lightness is perfect for a warm summer meal.

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(Isaan) Pork Larb Gai – Thai Minced Pork Salad

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon warm water
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
1 tablespoon minced Thai chiles, divided
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 pound ground pork
2 scallions, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon toasted rice powder*
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly torn
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, roughly torn
accoutrements: extra fresh herbs, lime wedges, cabbage, lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, steamed rice

In a bowl, create the sauce by whisking together the sugar and warm water until dissolved. Add in 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons fish sauce and 1/2 teaspoon minced chiles (more to taste). Set the sauce aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add 1/4 teaspoon minced chiles (more to taste), red chili flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Increase the heat to medium-high and add in the pork.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the pork around the wok/skillet while breaking it apart to a crumbled consistency. Cook the pork until it is no longer pink, approximately 3-4 minutes. Stir in the remaining fish sauce and scallions.

Remove the wok/skillet from the heat. Toss in the rice powder, remaining lime juice, red onions, mint, cilantro, and basil. Stir in a few spoonfuls of the sauce to taste. Plate the larb with extra fresh herbs, whole chiles, lime wedges, sliced cucumbers, lettuce and cabbage. Serve with either steamed rice or whole lettuce leaves for wraps. The remaining sauce can be served alongside as a dipping sauce.

*If you cannot find pre-ground toasted rice powder, you can easily make your own. Toast uncooked jasmine rice in a skillet over low heat until golden brown. Once cooled, transfer the toasted rice into a spice grinder and grind until you get a fine powder.

On Tiny Giants, Mom’s Birthday, and Petite Filet Mignon….

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Today is Mom’s 72nd Birthday–though she probably wouldn’t have been too happy with me that I shared her actually age. But let’s be honest, Mom always looked a decade younger than she really was.

Mom

I find that the older I get, the more nostalgic I become. Funny enough, I don’t seem to recall the characteristics about Mom that drove me nuts when I was a quasi-rebellious teenager. It’s the quirky things I tend to reminisce about her that make us all crack up.

Mom

Like how she used to have the coldest little feet (even in the summer!) and would always find the need to prop them on our bare legs to warm them up. BRRRR!

Or how she would schmooze with strangers and hustle for us when it was fundraising time. She sold over 100+ pies each year for my cheerleading fundraisers and would be top in BINGO sales for our high school. Yup, don’t even try to step up to her.

girls

Or how she would always call everyone người đẹp (beautiful) instead of using their names.

Mom would also constantly rearrange all the furniture in the house and reposition her incredible bonsai collection. Seriously, I would come home on the weekends from college and there would be a new configuration in the living room—EVERY time! One minute she would bring in a bonsai arrangement into a room and then next, she would have switched it out for a different one. When I used to ask her what she was doing, she would just laugh and say “I’m having fun.”

I guess she was “playing house” in her house.

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And boy, did this woman love her steaks. I mean seriously love her steaks.

Without fail, for Mother’s Day or her birthday, we would be off to some restaurant to celebrate. Now granted, she would do the “mom” thing and say it didn’t matter where we would take her out (or even that we didn’t have to) but the moment we’d be seated at a restaurant, she’d always order a filet mignon or bone-in ribeye.

Petite Filet Mignon

So in honor of Mom’s birthday and her carnivorous love of steaks, I made this tender Petite Filet Mignon. After soaking up some great flavors for a few hours, I seared the filets on a screaming hot cast iron pan and finished it off in the oven.

Absolutely delicious and Mom would have loved it.

Petite Filet Mignon

Have you heard that wonderful saying that I am who I am today because I stand on the shoulders of Giants?

Well, it just so happens that one of my main Giants was a little 4’9” Vietnamese woman. Vivacious, tough, loyal, tenacious—and of course, steak-loving.

Happy Birthday, Mom. We all love and miss you.

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Petite Filet Mignon
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon minced garlic
10-12 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced chopped sage
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 6-ounce petite filet mignon steaks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
course sea salt (optional)

In a resealable plastic bag, add the garlic, herbs, chili flakes, 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper and filets. Rub the marinade all over the filets. Squeeze out as much air as possible and then seal the bag. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Place a cast iron skillet on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Remove the filets from the plastic bag and discard the marinade. Use paper towels to dry off some of the marinade and then liberally season the filets with additional black pepper. Allow the filets to sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes.

After the cast iron skillet has heated in the oven for 15-20 minutes, carefully remove the skillet and place on a burner over medium-high heat. Add the butter, oil and allow it to melt together before placing the filets in. Sear the filets for 2-3 minutes on each side. While the filets are searing, repeatedly spoon the butter/oil over the tops of the meat to baste. Once both sides have seared, transfer the skillet with the filets back into the oven.

Roast the filets at 400 degrees F for 7-8 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees F for medium-rare. Allow the filets to rest for 5-10 minutes and sprinkle the tops with sea salt to finish (optional). Serve warm.

Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops

Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops

I’ve been rather bad about reporting on our Family Dinners over the past few months. And not because our menus weren’t delish but somehow amongst the endless events, time slipped by.

December’s dinner menu featured Mexican-inspired fare. We had a variety of fresh salsas, chicharrón, ceviche, salmon-dill tacos, rice, and beans. I whipped up some mango margaritas and my beer braised carnitas. And although it may not have been Latin, our sis, P, made a ridiculously amazing chocolate bread pudding. The icing on the cake? It was our adorable nephew, Leonidas’ 1st birthday!

February Family Dinner

For January, we let my seester, T, and our niece pick the theme as they’re Jan-Babies. So we were off to the islands for mouthwatering, ono grindz! Our spread included mai tais and my take on hamachi-ponzu shooters. Our eldest seester created a wonderfully light yet fulfilling banana leaf-wrapped monk fish with a curry sauce. And for dessert? Big seester made molten lava chocolate cakes and paired them with my toasted coconut ice cream and guava ice cream.

With island music playing throughout dinner, it was almost—almost like we were in Hawai’i. <le sigh….>

Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops

For this month, we revisited Italia. Big seester got me a ravioli mold for Christmas and we were eager to give them a try. For our entrées, we had raviolis three ways: butternut squash with brown butter sage sauce, spicy sausage with a marinara sauce, and lump crab with a pesto sauce. They were quite the success considering it was our first time making raviolis. And because I learned from October’s Family Dinner, I invested in a hand crank pasta machine. Best…idea…ever.

Since I knew it was going to take us some time to get the raviolis to the dinner table, I wanted to make a heartier-than-usual appetizer. We’re a big fan of lamb chops so I turned to my trusted recipe using a ton of rosemary and garlic. By slicing the racks into rib chops while giving them ample time to marinate, the lamb is able to seep in a ton of great flavor. And because my fam loves condiments, I made a quick and herbaceous gremolata to pair with the lamb to help brighten the gamey flavor.

We also found that a light sprinkle of sea salt over the rib chops not only added the perfect seasoning but it also added some great texture. My fam gobbled these appetizers up in no time flat but they can also be served as a mouthwatering entrée.

Can’t wait until next month’s Fam-Din!

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Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

Lamb
½ cup chopped rosemary
2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
16 lamb rib chops, Frenched and trimmed (approximately 2 Frenched racks)
kosher salt and black pepper

Gremolata
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper

Optional
sea salt

In a small bowl, mix together the rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, red chili flakes and olive oil. Place the lamb rib chops in a large shallow dish or gallon sized resealable bags. Season the lamb well with kosher salt and black pepper. Pour the herb mixture over the lamb and turn the chops around to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours (I like mine to marinate overnight).

Prepare gremolata by adding parsley, basil, garlic, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes into a food processor. Pulse to combine. On low, stream in the olive oil until you reach a smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the lamb 15 minutes before cooking. Preheat grill to medium high. Grill the chops on each side for 2-3 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F for rare or 135-140 degrees F for medium. Allow the lamb to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve the lamb rib chops with a sprinkle of sea salt over the top (optional) and gremolata.

Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Bacon-Herb Butter

Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Bacon-Herb Butter

I have vivid memories waking up when I was a kid to the smell of turkey roasting on Thanksgiving morning.

Our clan would arrive to my folks house around lunchtime and we would begin enjoying several delicious Vietnamese dishes, courtesy of mom and the aunties. While waiting for the turkey, we would watch movies, play games, snack, and catch up with the latest gossip.

We would then feast again once the turkey came out of the oven—a turkey with Asian flavors that Mom created with five-spice and tons of garlic. To this day, Mom’s turkey is still the juiciest and most flavorful I’ve ever had.

After the turkey and sides were devoured, we would continue with the chatting and games. And hours later, believe it or not, the family would have one last meal. Usually Cháo (Vietnamese rice porridge) or Bún Bò Huế (Spicy Beef Noodle Soup)–something warm and comforting to close out the night.

Needless to say, it was among my favorite times of the year. Not just because of the incredible food (and trust me, it was incredible) but because of the memories that surrounded these feasts.

Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Bacon-Herb Butter

But if prepping a turkey appears too daunting for you, opt for roasting a chicken or a few Cornish game hens. Either will provide a succulent alternative and can be roasted in a fraction of the time.

And because I subscribe to the belief that bacon makes EVERYTHING better, try out this compound butter filled with fresh herbs and smoked bacon I used on game hens I made for dinner for some friends. The smokiness from the bacon and bright herbs were wonderful with the hens.

With that Friends, stay tuned for Wednesday’s post as I share a scrumptious and easy dessert that could be appreciated at any Thanksgiving feast. And because I love y’all, I’ll be announcing a gorgeous giveaway, too. True Story!

Happy Monday and here’s to a short work week! Yippee!!!

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Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Bacon-Herb Butter
Serves 4

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 strips thick-sliced smoked bacon, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
½ tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
kosher salt
black pepper
2 Cornish game hens, cleaned and dried
1 small yellow onion, quartered
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a food processor, pulse together the butter, bacon, and herbs until combined. Season the mixture with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper.

Take each hen and slide your fingers between the skin and breast meat to loosen. Be careful not to tear the skin. Gently rub 2-3 tablespoons of the butter mixture underneath the skin. Inside the cavity, heavily salt and pepper the hen. Stuff the cavity with the remaining butter mixture and quartered onion. Rub the exterior of the hens with olive oil and generously season with kosher salt and black pepper. Truss the hens with kitchen twine.

Place the hens on a large, rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan. Rotating the pan halfway through cooking, roast the hens until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh registers 170 degrees–about 45-50 minutes. Carefully remove the hens and rest on a cutting board. Loosely tent with aluminum foil and allow hens to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.