Monday, June 9, 2014

Spicy Catfish Casserole

This recipe embodies the phrase, Don't Judge a Book by its Cover. I'll be the first to admit that it looks messy as hell. Even the title of casserole, which is more lenient in terms of looks, doesn't quite make up for the fact that it just kind of looks like, glop. However, it's delicious and its precisely this homogenous look that brings together a rather interesting assortment of flavors into one cohesive whole. I created this recipe in the Bengali style of "chorchori" which, as far as I can tell, means mash. Basically, all the ingredients are cooked well and long to the point where they are melting and then stirred together to mix. Often this recipe is cooked with tiny whole fish, which are first deep fried and, thus, retain their structural integrity in the mash. Eggplant is a staple, while potatoes may or may not be added. Give it a chance!

2 lbs Catfish nuggets
1 pod of Garlic, minced, or to taste
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 jalapenos, 1/4 inch round slices
1 8oz package sliced mushrooms
1 medium purple eggplant, sliced and then cut into sixths
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsps ground coriander
2 tsps ground cumin
1 tsp red chili powder
Salt to taste

1. Prep the ingredients. Mix the turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili powder and salt together. Save half the spice mixture. Coat the catfish well with the other half. I generally just use my hand for this step, but if you have sensitive skin, beware the pepper. Also, I really like garlic, so I use an entire pod. Of course, that is not necessary. I have to say though, even with a pod, its not overly garlicky to my taste. 

1. Add the vegetable oil to the pain over medium high heat. Once, it starts shimmering, add the onions in and fry till translucent. 

2. Add the garlic in and stir fry for about 3 secs or as it starts to brown, but not burn. 

3. Add the the rest of the spice mixture and stir fry for 30 more seconds until the spices are aromatic. 

4. Add in the fish and coat well. Fry for about 5-7 mins until the fish have taking on a more solid shape. The fish will release some water and turn the onion, garlic and spices in a paste. You don't want to cook it till the water has dried up because you want to use to paste to coat the veggies. 

5. Add in the vegetable and stir fry until well coated with the onion and spice mixture. 

6. Lower the heat to simmer, cover and cook for 20-30 min, stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom is not sticking too much. It's ok if it stick a little as long as it does not burn. The veggies and fish are going to release a lot of water. That's ok, just let it cook. 

7. Cook on low heat until the fish and vegetables are cooked through. At that point, take off the cover, turn the heat to high and start reducing down the water. DO NOT add salt until the end. As the water evaporates, the dish will get more salty.  This is the step where things can burn easily, so I would stir relatively often. Stir gently, taking care not break apart the fish too much. Some breakage is inevitable and will lend flavor to the fish, but the trick is to keep the fish intact as possible and form the vegetables into more of a mixture. Once you think you have about a tbsp of water left, turn off the stove and let it sit. 

8. Plate over hot rice and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

More food art!

My friend forwarded this to me and I thought it was perfect for this blog. I especially like Vietnam's flag! It's been a good year for lychees!


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tandoori Chicken Saute with Mushrooms

I have previously heralded the advantages of spice mixes, but this post will center around spice pastes. Cooking with spice pastes is, is possible, even easier than mixes because often, all you need is a protein and the paste itself and you're good to go. This particular recipe is a little bit more involved than mixing two ingredients together, but worth it! More people are probably familiar with Tandoori Chicken, the bright red roast chicken ubiquitous at all Indian buffets. While its true that tandoori is generally a roast, named after the oven its cooked in, I find that the tangy spice blend also works very well in curries.  

A traditional tandoor oven

2 pounds of boneless chicken, cut into 1-2 inch cubes

2 tbsp of Ghee (or butter or oil)
10 oz of baby bella mushrooms, cut in halves. 
1 medium white onion, cut into strips
2 tbsp yogurt
4 tbsp Tandoori paste
Juice from 1/4 of a lime
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Marinate the chicken in a mixture of the tandoori paste, yogurt and lime juice. Minimum 1 hour, but the longer the better. 

2. Prep the mushrooms and onions while you wait

3. Warm up half the ghee up in a pan on medium to low heat. Add the onions. Fry till the onions are translucent and soft. A little browned but not burnt. You should still be able to easily separate the strands. Remove from heat and put aside.

4. Add the rest of the ghee to the pan. You can reuse the same pan as long as there are no burnt bits left over. Once the ghee is hot, add the chicken and mushrooms and stir fry quickly. 

5. After the initial sear, the meat may start to water a little bit. At this point, turn the heat to low, and cover. Cook for about 20 min or until the chicken is just cooked through, but still soft. 

6. Take off the cover, turn the heat to high and reduce the water until the sauce is clinging to the mushrooms and chicken. There should only be about a tablespoon of excess sauce. At this point, add the onions back in. Stir for a few minutes and then remove from heat. Both the meat and the onions can be a little browned at this point.

7. I like to plate the onions first and then pile the chicken and mushrooms around them 

This is best eaten with naan, chapatis or other breads. It works with rice, but there just isn't enough gravy to coat the rice properly.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pork Stew

So, I normally do not cook pork. Given the large Muslim population where we grew up in India, pig was rarity and somehow, that aversion spilled over to the Hindu population as well. As kids in the states, we ate pork only in restaurants and even then, mostly as toppings on pizza. However, as I sprouted my wings and left the nest, I ventured into trying out "the other white meat". 

This particular recipe came about during Pork Month at Hmart. For weeks, I would walk by and see people buying pounds and pounds of pork from the butcher, so finally I gave in to indirect peer pressure and got some pork picnic. What exactly is pork picnic you ask? I have no idea! At last, not until I turned to google. Turns out, Pork Butt and Pork Picnic are upper and lower parts of a pork's shoulder, respectively. Picnic has more bone and is sold with skin on where as Butt has a small bone and a smaller fat cap. Granted, I did not buy the entire Picnic, but mine still came with a sufficient large piece of skin. I got home and really had no idea where to begin, so I thought, stew! Can't go wrong with stew, especially when its spicy and this is how it went....

2lbs Pork, preferably with some fat and skin
2 large onions, halved and then quartered
1 pod of garlic, about 10-12 cloves, coarsely chopped
3 dried red chili pepper
2 tablespoon Sesame oil, adjust as necessary
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 quart chicken broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Rub the pork down with 1 tbsp of sesame oil and some salt and pepper. I would a half teaspoon of each.
2. Heat a heavy bottom pan or a dutch oven until its very very hot on high heat. 
3. Quickly sear the pork evenly on both sides, 30 seconds should be enough. I like a little thicker sear so I let it got for a little longer on each side. 

4. Removed the pork from the pan and let it sit a room temp. 
5. Put the remaining sesame oil into the pain and add the onion, garlic and red chilies. Stir fry quickly for about 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice, soy sauce and chicken broth and stir to combine. 

6. Place the pork on top of the onions. Cover and turn the heat to simmer. Simmer for about 2 -3 hours or until you can separate the meat with a fork. Taste and add, salt or pepper to adjust.

7. Remove the pork from the pot. Cut off any remaining fat or skin. Slice up the meat and serve on a bed of gravy and onions. 

This recipe turned out a lot better than I could have hoped for. The beauty lies in its simplicity. The few ingredients make it quick to prep and also allows the pork to really shine through. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Hello all!

I thought I would have more time to post on this blog, but, alas, I have over estimated the trials of third year medical school. Here is a quick picture post of my dumpling making adventures with my old roommate. The process is pretty self explanatory. Chop ingredients, stir together, fill dumplings, fry/boil, devour. We make two different kinds. Chive, Shrimp and scrambled egg. Pork, lotus root and cumin. Also, we used a northern style dumpling wrapper so the dumplings were a bit thicker. 

The Chives, Shrimp and Egg

This was such an interesting combination. Apparently, this is quite common mixture of ingredients where my roommate was from which is in the northern part of China. The eggs really keep the dumplings moist inside. We didn't add any extra seasonings but I think I would add a pinch of five spice to give it a little kick.

The Lotus Root, Pork and Cumin

I had never cooked with lotus root before, but it was surprisingly a delicious ingredient. It had a very mild, starchy flavor and a great crunch. However, we made the mistake of buying lean pork, like dumpling neophytes. If you want moist, pork dumplings, get the fattiest meat you can find. I know people who go to butchers to have them grind up meat with chunks of fat thrown in for just that reason. So, forget the calorie count for a day and embrace the fat. And the delicious moistness of your dumplings. Regardless, though, our dumplings tasted pretty darn good even without the fatty additions, but they were just a little bit dry. 

The Assembly

Floured surface

A little dollop

Pinch the ends together and them crimp

The finished product!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vegetable Fried Rice with Chili Oil

Hello again!

It's been a while since I posted! I was studying for boards and things just were crazy.  But all that's done and the most demanding rotation is behind me, so hopefully I can get back to cooking and posting about delicious concoctions. Now this recipe is one of my favorite quick eats, mostly because I always have leftover rice and its always a great way to getting rid of random things that you might have in fridge. This recipe is with fresh veggies, but honestly, you can use just about anything. The only things I would stay away from are things that tend to give off a lot of water, like zucchini/squash and most greens. You want the veggies to maintain their crispness. Now, the chili oil is definitely optional, but I think its the secret to making this dish a notch above your generic fried rice. 

2 tablespoons Sesame Oil
1 bunch scallions, white part 1/2 cm long, green part 1 inch long
1 broccoli head, cut into smaller florets
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
5 cups of slightly undercooked Jasmine Rice, preferably cooked in a rice cooker. 
Soy sauce to taste (see chili fish recipe for my preferred brand)
1 tablespoon chili oil (adjust depending on spice tolerance)

1. Start the rice cooking in the rice cooker. I would use slightly less water than you normally use so that the rice is still a bit firm when the cooker stops cooking. This way, it does not turn to mush when you fry it in the wok. 

2. Heat 1 Tbsp of the sesame oil in a wok (or any pan with high sides) on high heat. Careful! Sesame oil heats much faster than other oil. 

3. Add in all the sliced veggies and stir quickly, coating all the veggies in oil evenly. Keep stirring to make sure none of veggies are sticking to the wok, but it does not need to be continuous. Add a little bit of soy sauce to taste.

4. When the vegetables are cooked through, lower the heat and add the cooked rice into the wok and stir. Before adding the rice, make sure the veggies haven't released too much water. If there are more than two tbsps of water, spoon it out. 

5. Add in the rest of the sesame oil, the chili oil and soy sauce to taste. Cook for 3-5 min. Stir! Plate! Consume!

I would strongly suggest playing around with different ingredients and proportions with this recipe. I've used bell pepper, bamboo shots, lotus root, increased the rice proportion, added less chili oil, etc., depending on what I had on hand. If you do decide to add protein, I may cook it separately and add it in with the rice because your vegetables will cook long before the meat does. The only thing that I've been consistent on is using sesame oil. I love the flavor that it gives to the rice and the smell is just so tantalizing! Everyone in your home will come running!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Food Art!

Short post this time. Over the weekend, I was reminded of these photographs by British photographer, Carl Warner, that I came across in my undergrad. Since then, they have increased in popularity (and price!) and there are a lot more awesome creations to peruse. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

 Check out the pics here ->
Amazing Foodscapes

This one is my personal favorite...

Salmon Sea