Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Herb Roasted Branzino with Garlic and Lemons Recipe

So, I made this guy last night, and let me tell you he tasted delicious. I haven't cooked a whole fish in a while, mainly because I haven't caught anything worth stuffing and roasting in quite some time, so when I happened across several beautiful whole Branzino's while traipsing through our local Whole Foods Market, I just had to get one.

Branzino, a.k.a. European Sea Bass or Loup de Mer, is a medium-sized, light and flaky fish that is akin to Rockfish, but has a much richer, almost butterier texture. It's a bit boney, so you'll have to pick through it carefully, but it's a wonderful fish to serve table side and perfect for two people to jam their forks into.

For cooking, I decided to roast my Branzino on a big pile of herbs from my garden that have miraculously remained intact due some crazy warm weather this season. I started by busting out my tried and true Le Creuset oval skillet, which is perfect for roasted a small to medium-sized fish since it can withstand high over heat. I laid a big pile of herbs on the skillet-- in this case, rosemary, thyme and sage, but you can use whatever you have.
Next, I washed and patted dry my already scaled and gutted fish.
I then rubbed this bad boy inside and out with a generous amount of salt and pepper and good quality olive oil. I used a chunky grey sea salt as well as a rosemary salt blend FYI.
I then chopped up a whole mess of garlic (like 5 big cloves) and blended that with some lemon zest and red pepper flakes and rubbed the fish inside and out again.
I stuffed the fish with more herbs and slices of lemon and drizzled even more olive oil over the whole shebang. Finally I poured about a cup of dry white wine into the pan and covered the pan tightly with heavy duty tin foil before placing it into a 450 degree oven.
After about 15 minutes, I removed the tin foil and let the fish continue to cook about another 5 minutes (just to crisp up a bit on the outside) before I removed it to a plate for service along with some roasted brussels sprouts.
And, this was all that was left at the end of the meal, so I'd say it was a success.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pan-Seared Scallops with Chive Beurre Blanc Sauce Recipe

Cast-iron seared scallops rest atop a chive-infused buttery, creamy pillow of goodness.
Seared "dry-pack" scallops meet butter, cream, chives, shallots and wine. What's not to like? This super-easy recipe makes for an elegant presentation that simply screams, "I busted my ass in the kitchen all day" but alas, you really didn't. Why? Because this sauce can be whipped up in minutes, and as along as you have a screaming hot pan, your scallops will be expertly caramelized in no time as well.
But first. You must use a super-hot cast-iron pan and those suckers better be nice and dry and well-seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides. Once you got this in place, the scallops will take care of themselves, as long as you don't screw up and overcook them. The key here is, minutes on each side with the smaller, thinner scallops requiring a minute or less on each side. Pinch their little scallopy sides to make sure they remain nice and tender as you cook them, and take them out of the pan WHILE they are still just a bit soft in the middle.

For the beurre blanc, which is far from a traditional beurre blanc in that it contains cream and Dijon mustard as well as little to no real reduction, make sure your shallots are very finely minced. Also, avoid using any super-oaky white wine in this sauce since that will overpower its simple flavor profile.

Finally, feel free to play with this sauce a bit. If it's too thick add a bit more wine or incorporate any other fresh herbs you might have on hand (or none at all).

Now, go forth and make thee some scallops!

Seared Scallops in Chive Beurre Blanc Sauce

Makes 4 servings

For Sauce

1/3 cup minced shallots

1/4 cup dry, un-oaked white wine

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives and extra chives for garnish

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon softened butter

In a small saucepan, boil shallots, white wine and champagne vinegar on medium-high until most, but not all, the liquid has evaporated, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn down heat to medium and whisk in heavy cream and mustard. Whisk constantly until mixture reduces to about 1 cup.

Strain sauce into another saucepan, pressing down well on solids. Discard solids and return saucepan to medium-low heat.

Add chives and season with salt and pepper. Turn heat down to low and whisk in butter. Remove sauce from heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

For Scallops

1 pound dry-pack sea scallops (about 12 scallops)

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat a medium-sized cast-iron pan to medium-high.

Pat scallops dry with a paper towel and season both sides well with salt and pepper.

Add oil to pan. When it begins to shimmer and is almost the point of smoking add your  scallops. Cook scallops in on each side until nicely browned and caramelized. Be careful not to overcook.

To serve: spoon warm sauce onto individual plates and top with three scallops each. Garnish with a lemon wedge and fresh sprigs of chive.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission. Pin It Now!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

5 Chocolate Flavors That Should Be Banned

How we eat chocolates in the Morris household
The other day while stampeding the Carytown Martin's with everyone else, I happened across a box of Russell Stover milk chocolates marked half off and couldn't resist.

I have a long history with Russell Stover. We go way back, all the way to my childhood when every Christmas my grandmother insisted on giving us kids a box of R. Stover assorted chocolates from her own personal stash. This was all good and well until we actually opened the box to discover that each oblong chocolate goody was coated in some kind of white pasty funk. Flipping the box over, the mystery of the off-color chocolates would be immediately solved when it was revealed that the "Use By" date had expired years ago.

For a kid, this was nothing short of torturous. In fact, it was almost as bad as receiving your very own box of candy only to find that it's filled with nothing but cherry cordials, and it was definitely on par with opening up your trick or treat bag while an old lady drops in a couple of boxes of raisins.

It's been years since I've actually bought my own box of R. Stover's. I figure this is due to the fact that a) they're expensive and b) I've never been able to get that crunchy, stale chocolate taste out of my head, so now that I am in my 40's 30's, I figured it's time to revisit my sugar-laden nemesis and give that infamous box of R. Stover's another try.

Luckily, the chocolates were fresh or as fresh as a box of chocolates on sale at a grocery store can be. Thanks to the handy dandy enclosed chocolate map, I was able to go straight for the best ones: the coconut cluster, the peanut butter crunch, the chocolate truffle and the caramel. However, this soon left me with a crap shoot of flavors, ranging from butter cream to Roman nougat (as opposed to nougat named after some other European empire?) which led me to develop this list of chocolate flavors that I feel should be yanked from the box.

1. Molasses Chew: This particular flavor made the list not because it's pucker-up crappy tasting, but because it's a total fake-out. When you first take a bite, for a brief, blissful moment you think you're eating a caramel, then wham, the rug is pulled out from under you as a sickly sweet fermented molasses flavor takes over. Molasses belongs in baked beans. It should never come in contact with milk chocolate. Period.

2. Orange Cream: What do you get when you take all the elements of a creamsicle and stuff it inside a cute, little round piece of milk chocolate? You get nasty, that's what you get. Orange and chocolate have never mixed well in my book, but when it involves marrying a bunch of orange fluff with a perfectly decent piece of milk chocolate, I've got to draw the line. I'm convinced that R. Stover markets this flavor to old people exclusively, so sadly this one's never going away.

3. Strawberry Cream: See number 2, but add in a dash of Nestle Quick Strawberry milk mixed with a jar of Marshmallow Fluff and you've got yourself one bastardized piece of fruit.

4. Raspberry Caramel: Once again, a perfectly decent chocolate covered caramel gets tampered with. This time, it's with the addition of raspberry flavoring. From the outside, it looks like a caramel, all nice and square. If you take your finger and give it a little push, a bit of an indent if you will (come on, you know you do it) it looks like caramel inside, so you're safe. Wrong! Bite into that sucker and you too can have a mouth filled with a chewy, sickly sweet raspberry goo that eventually settles into your metal fillings like spackling paste.

5. Maple Nut Butter: Even the title of this chocolate is confusing. What is a "maple nut" and can you make butter out of it? Who the hell knows. All I know is that I want my maple drizzled on a pancake or a waffle that's served up with a mess of fried chicken. There's just too much going on with this candy flavor-wise and the texture of the filling reminds me of the interior of a 3 Musketeers, all fluffy and whatnot. Finally, I detect nary a bit of butter flavor mixed into this chocolate, which in my opinion, was its only selling point to begin with.

Got a chocolate you love to hate? Feel free to share.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Lady's Brunch Burger

Oh, the good old days....
A fried burger topped with fried egg, fried bacon and fried donuts glazed in sugar...not so good after all.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Made a Top 6 List!

So yeah, I'm a little bit excited here, since I've been blogging for about a year and half, which ain't nothing in the big blogosphere picture. In fact, I did this whole blogging thing totally backwards by starting out as a journalist and author only to transition into blogging. Why the hell did you do that, you ask? Partly because print pubs don't pay jack anymore, but mostly because I love having the freedom to control my own content. The feeling is akin to hitting a nude beach for the first time and stripping off your top. It's frightening, exhilarating, even a bit chilly in parts. Most of all, it's kinda dirty, yet still tolerated by the prudish. Note: I may or may not be speaking from experience here, so let me just plead the fif.

Food writer Robey Martin, of Richmond, VA alt weekly extraordinaire Style Weekly, recently listed Fatback and Foie Gras as one of her "Six suggestions for a new year of eating in Richmond" along with the ubiquitous Matt the Marinara, who always seems to have his finger on the pulse of something uber-tasty and off the traditional eats radar. I love hitting up his blog as well as his tumblr to get a sense of where and what he's been eating lately. His rec's almost always end up making my short list, and oogling his shots of that never ending meal at Jose Andre's Minibar helped me to kill a solid half day.

Speaking of food porny photos, Tim Vidra of the blog E.A.T. was also mentioned in the Style article, and not only is his photography sinfully delicious, but he's got some darned good recipes in there, many of which are rather close to my heart as you'll see.

I highly recommend giving both of these gents a visit.

In the meantime, here's an excerpt from Robey's article (she is also a reviewer, by the way):

6. Read your local food writers. Kendra Bailey Morris churns local daily. She's readily available for questions on how to make the best tater-tot casserole or other Southern staple. Matt Sadler's new Tumblr, (keeping it local even on platform) tells about his travels and how they rate to where he lives. Tim Vidra, unfailingly makes me want to jump through my screen into his food pictorials. He can't get any more local unless he becomes a plant.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

The Friendliest Little Restaurant on Earth

Hometown Restaurant Peterstown, WV
Sometimes you've just got to go back to the basics, to those warm and familiar places that bring you comfort, especially in times of need. Recently, I lost my youngest cousin, Evan. He passed away tragically and far too young. The emptiness that is left inside my heart still resonates with each heavy breath, so much so that I wish I could sigh the sadness right out of me, but I can't. Instead, like the rest of my family I'm filled with a constant dull ache and an insatiable yearning for him to return to us.

It's times like these that I eye my surroundings with a keener vision. Perhaps I'm just seeking that proverbial pat on the back from a stranger which will remind me that yes, there is still plenty right with this world (don't we all seek this to some extent?) or maybe I'm simply craving an earnest, "How ya'll doing today?" from a total stranger so I'll be reminded of home. These minute gestures magically seem to fill the void, or at least a little part of it and that's enough for now.

Hometown Restaurant
, located in the quaint mountain town of Peterstown, West Virginia which sits right along the Virginia/West Virginia line, fills my void.
Serving up good old country cooking with a decidedly West Virginia mountain flair (think brown beans and cornbread and my personal food addiction, the West Virginia slaw dog), Hometown is a no-frills, come-on-in-and-grab-yourself-a-seat spot located on the main road in town. There's a nice, little salad bar with all the usuals, including a particularly good homemade potato salad, along with a hot bar of rotating lunch specials that are appropriately doused in some kind of gravy.
Hometown's real-deal slaw dog with homemade chili sauce on a buttered New England split bun
There's an a la carte menu available offering up an array of tasty, home cooked goodies, ranging from Texas toast hamburgers (another West Virginia tradition) and country ham dinners to vegetable plates and fried fish meals that are all VERY reasonably priced.
Nearly everything at this 26 year old restaurant is made from scratch and it's pure grandma's cooking, especially the homemade cakes, pies and rolls. We sampled a coconut cream pie that boasted the tallest, most perfect meringue I've ever seen. It was so good we devoured it before I could even get a snapshot, so I guess you'll have to get your own slice to really see what I mean.
While the food is undoubtedly good, it's the company that makes this place so special. We weren't at our table all of five minutes before an older gentleman on the other side of the room got up from his table, walked over to us, shook our hands and simply said "Welcome". He then returned to his table and quietly finished his meal. Who does this anymore? He wasn't an employee, and as far as I know not affiliated with the restaurant other than being a patron, yet he took the time to make us feel special in a place where everyone knows everyone, but no one knew us.
As we worked through our meal of slaw dogs, beans and cornbread and blackberry cobbler, nearly everyone who walked by our table took a moment to wave a kind hello along with a quick "how ya'll doing?" From local farmers still in their overalls to a large group of dust-covered men coming in from a nearby construction site to the restaurant's seasoned servers, many of whom have been working here for 20-plus years, it was as if the whole place had invited us into their private dining room.

I can think of no better way to welcome your guests than to create an atmosphere where food, fellowship and good old-fashioned mountain-style hospitality is all that matters.

And, if you feel like you might need an extra prayer or two said on your behalf, Hometown's got you covered. Just fill out this form with any prayer requests and drop it in the box on your way out. It sure beats just grabbing a mint.
What Hometown Restaurant offers its diners is not unique. No one's claiming to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the soul-satisfying, stick-to-your-guts, home-cooked food they serve each week. What makes Hometown so special in my book are the little things-- the way a stranger shakes your hand with purpose, how a waitress beams with pride as she lays down that piece of towering homemade coconut cream pie, and how a passer-by who you've never met takes the time to stop by your table just to offer a "glad you're here" as if somehow he magically knows your heart is heavy.

Hometown Restaurant
Route 219
Peterstown, West Virginia
No booze
No bad language

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

A Sweet and Gentle Soul

In loving memory of Evan C. Bailey, January 5, 1978 - December 28, 2011

A Sweet and Gentle Soul

A gentle soul found peace today
Beyond the star-filled sky
Touched by water just in time
Nevermore to die

Leaving shattered hearts behind
With a mighty void to fill
Your memory will comfort us
And live with us still

Gone so soon in earthly time
Your mortal race is run
Now the ages beckon you
Your life has just begun

Your Savior waits to take your hand
As the angels sing with joy
Welcome home oh gentle soul
Our newest little boy

Love Uncle Kent

Poem by Kent G. Bailey

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Bakin' Bacon Recipe

Gets even better w/ poached eggs, buttery biscuits and Mimosas
I'm a bacon fanatic. Certainly, I am not reinventing the wheel with this declaration, but facts is facts. Bacon is a big part of my life, and over the years I've tinkered with many a bacon recipe, from frying it in cast-iron (deliciously greasy, but time consuming and messy) to microwaving (quick and easy, but too dry and often inconsistently cooked) so when I stumbled across this very cool recipe for baked bacon, I just had to give it a try. What intrigued me most about this version of baking bacon in the oven was that the author recommends starting the process in a cold oven, which if you think about it, makes total sense in that it facilitates a slower, more even cooking process from start to finish.

So, New Year's Day became all about baking bacon.

According to the directions, I started by wrapping a large ridged sheet pan in heavy duty foil. Then, I laid out all the bacon side by side. I recommend using quality thick-cut bacon for this recipe. Next, I popped the whole shebang into the oven (center rack) and THEN cranked the heat up to 400 degrees. You must be sure to put the bacon into a cold oven. P.S. If you're really feeling creative, at this point you can also drizzle bacon with molasses or sprinkle it with brown sugar and cayenne pepper before roasting it in the oven for additional flavor. (Thanks Karol Thompkins!)
Next, I roasted the bacon for approximately 20-24 minutes. Obviously, oven temps vary depending on the make, model, age and accuracy of your particular oven, but I ended up somewhere in that time range. Also, about three-quarters through the cooking process, I flipped the bacon over to promote more even cooking. One thing I did notice of culinary note is if your oven is a bit cockeyed (or perhaps the floors of your kitchen slope as mine do) the bacon resting in the rendered fat will cook faster than the rest of the meat. With this in mind, I recommend turning your pan at least once during the cooking process. This should be your end result:
After your bacon is done the way you like it, remove it to drain on paper towels (be sure to save your grease for making cornbread). Once the pan has cooled, simply ball up the foil and toss it away for easy clean-up.
Serve up your bacon with your favorite accoutrements. Store any leftover cooked bacon in ziplock bags in the fridge for BLT's, biscuit sandwiches or nibbling.

©2011 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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