A blog about cooking and food, and how to make it taste good and be healthy. The dishes are almost all gluten/dairy free, and many are vegetarian. The focus is on techniques and ingredients over recipes - this is about everyday cooking, and that means making it work with whats on hand!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Seafood Dinner

One useful thing to be able to do in the kitchen is prepare several dishes at once. A few simple side dishes can add extra flavors and textures to meal, creating a more satisfying (and often more nutritious) meal. The trick is to be able to use time efficiently in preparing and cooking ingredients. This dinner consists of crispy baked cod, aromatic steamed shrimp, grilled corn, and caramelized fennel.

The first thing to get going is the fennel. Chop the bulbs into coleslaw-like shreds, and cook them with salt and olive oil, covered, over medium heat. This will take 45 minutes or longer, so be patient while you cook everything else. The goal when caramelizing is to break down the sugars, and you need to make sure not to burn them once become simple sugars. Browning is good, but more than a little burning is bad. If the fennel starts drying out sticking, you can deglaze with water or a little wine.

While the fennel cooks, heat about an inch of water for steaming the shrimp. While it comes to a boil, prepare and add some ginger slices, lemongrass, and a bay leaf. You can also start some rice cooking. Once the water is boiling, reduce to a simmer and you can move onto the next step.

Pictures of the preparation steps are missing for the cod, but it is quite simple. You can bake the fish on a baking dish, but I prefer a cedar plank. Either way, preheat the oven and the cooking surface to 400 degrees. The crust is ground tostada mixed into a thick paste with olive oil, salt, garlic powder and lemon pepper. The tostadas make a cood crust because they are already crispy, and aren't as salty as tortilla chips. Cover the fish with the paste and cook for 10-12 minutes, and then broil for 2-3 minutes more to ensure crispiness.
The shrimp takes about 10 minutes to steam, so if you put it on shortly after the fish goes in the oven, they will be ready at the same time. I used the fennel leaves as a bed for steaming the shrimp, trying to add just a little more flavor. I steamed these with their shells on, which in general given more flavor to the shrimp flesh, but I am not sure if it resulted in the aromatic flavors not being absorbed fully.

Somewhere in there find time to grill up the corn. Cut the corn from the cob and toss with lime juice, salt, pepper, and, if you want, minced jalapeno.

You probably don't have the time or energy to cook like this everyday, but this meal was ready in under an hour. If you are confident in your ability to efficiently prepare some simple dishes, you can get a lot cooked up in a short time.

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