Today we have an entrant for the second course of the Diced! competition. Contestants were instructed to create or find a recipe for an entree and any sides containing the following ingredients: White Fish, Cauliflower, white pepper and Brie Cheese. They were instructed to make their dish and create a blog post about it, including pictures. You can help determine who advances to the next round. After the last post, I will post a poll where you can vote for contestants to move on. Vote for the post you like the best. You can vote because of the inventiveness, the yummyness, the use of ingredients, the quality of the writing and pictures or for any other reason. The poll will be active for one week only. Check back and vote. In the event of a tie, the Ranting Chef will choose who advances. More information about Diced! can be found here.
Due to the generosity of the following companies, we have some really awesome products as a prize to the winner of this Diced! competition. In addition to the prizes below, I am working to secure additional ones. The winner will receive:
- Mr Bar-B-Q 20 Piece Gourmet Tool Set
- The following products from Talisman Designs
- Dodo Book for Cooks – This is a great book for anyone in the kitchen. It has places to put your favorite recipes as well as handy conversion charts.
- Zak Serveware Gift Set
Today’s contestant, Misha, is currently living and working in Japan, a few hours southwest of Tokyo in a city called Mishima. He makes a living teaching English in elementary schools and kindergartens. Misha loves spending time in nature, cooking up a storm, and living well on a tight budget. Feel free to stop by his blog, http://www.poormankitchen.wordpress.com, whenever you get a chance. Here’s Misha…
Croque Chou-fleur: Revenge is a Fish Best Served Cod
When I signed up to participate in the Diced! competition, I was excited by the prospect of testing my ability to use pre-assigned ingredients to make a tasty and beautiful dish. And so far, it has been quite the challenge.
What I didn’t expect was that my hunting and gathering skills would also be tested. Living in Japan has its perks, but it makes some ingredients really hard to find/acquire at a reasonable price. Ingredients like cauliflower, which I’ve only seen a handful of times in local grocery stores. Or brie, which can normally only be acquired if you are willing to give up your first born child.
Let’s be clear, though. I’m not complaining in the slightest. Hunting and gathering adds to the fun. It makes the experience into a more complete adventure. Each round starts with me drafting recipes and collecting ingredients, and then ends with me in the kitchen creating my entry.
But this round looks to be a little different. True, I have to search far and wide for brie and cauliflower. And white pepper can be found if you know where to look. But white fish? Well, I live on the southern peninsula of an island nation, so it isn’t exactly in short supply. In fact, my area is known for it.
Cod, called tara in Japanese, is a bit of a local specialty. Tara is written using the character 鱈, which is comprised of the character 魚, which means “fish,” and the character 雪, which means “snow.” Yup, you guessed it. Where I live, the season for “snow fish” is right now. Lucky, lucky me.
Japanese people grill it, bake it, roast it, simmer it slowly for hours in sweet soy sauce based broths, and even make it into sashimi (which is fantastic). But the real money of cod fishing in Japan lies not in the meat, but in the reproductive organs. Shirako, which are the sperm sacks of male cod, are a winter delicacy in hot soups. Tarako, which are the roe of the female cod, are salted and spiced to create an absolutely delicious variation on caviar. I absolutely love tarako. I mean, I can’t live without the stuff. It makes a really nice spaghetti sauce.
Inspired, I decided to use the meat of the male and the cured roe of the female cod in my recipes this round. All you need to make the best of these tough winter months is a little imagination, some elbow grease, and some cod eggs.
Croque Chou-fleur w/ Brie and Tarako
- a large egg
- 1 cup cauliflower
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 tsp of white pepper
- 3/4 cup of shredded mozzerella
- 1/4 teaspoon of dried parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon of thyme
- sliced brie
- 200g of cured cod roe (a.k.a tarako)
- four stalks of garlic chives
- olive oil
- As a quick disclaimer, this recipe is tough. It took me a few tries to get it to turn out. There are a few things which can end up throwing a wrench into the works, so I’ll do my best to point them out along the way.
- First, cut the cauliflower into small florets. Do your best to cut off as much stem as possible while still keeping the floret intact. Steam it, but make sure to only give it a few minutes. It should still have some crunch.
- While the cauliflower is steaming, peel and mince the garlic as finely as you can.
- Use a grater to rice the steamed florets. This next bit is very important. Use a ricer or paper towels to get as much moisture as possible out of the cauliflower. The water content will turn this recipe into a soggy mess if you skip this step.
- Preheat the oven to 190◦C.
- Mix in the cheese, the egg, white pepper, salt, thyme, and parsley. Use a spoon or your hands to thoroughly combine everything.
- The moment of truth has come. Put a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray, then press the cauliflower mixture onto the tray in the shape of a square. Do your best to make it an even thickness of about a 1/3 of an inch.
- Pop it in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until it turns bubbly golden brown and the edges are crisp.
- While the croque is baking, prepare the stuffing. Slice the brie as thin as you can. Cut a hole in the tarako roe sack and gently massage the eggs out. Lastly, cut the ends off the garlic chives and mince them.
- Once the croque is ready, take it out and arrange the brie, tarako, and garlic chives (in that order) on one half of the pseudo-bread. Then, fold it over, gently press it down, and place it back into the oven for another five minutes (or until the cheese is melted).
- Slice and serve.
Chopped Cod Salad w/ Shiso Pesto
- two fillets of cod (no scales)
- 12 to 15 leaves of fresh shiso
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
- Japanese spider greens (or any greens of your choice)
- one small red onion
- four stalks of garlic chives
- lemon juice
- olive oil
- The dressing is first. Stack your shiso leaves and shake as much moisture off them as you can. Fold the stack three or four times, then mince them as finely as you can. Make sure to mince them with the rough, pale side of the leaf up (otherwise you’ll rub off all those delicious aromatic oils).
- Peel and mince the garlic. Place both the shiso and the garlic into a food processor (or you can use a blending wand). Add a splash of lemon juice, white pepper, salt to taste. Gradually add enough olive oil to create a thick (yet aqueous) sauce. Blend it like there is no tomorrow. Once finished, set your shiso pesto aside.
- Rub the cod fillets with a little bit of white pepper and salt. Put a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray. Place the cod on the tray skin side down and pop them in the oven at about 180◦C for 8 minutes. Flip the fillets, then give them another 4 minutes. Remember, check for doneness. The thickness of your cod fillet will inform how long you need to cook it.
- Chop the veggies for the salad. Cut the base off your mizuna and cut it into half inch lengths. Do the same with the garlic chives. Last, peel and slice the red onion as thin as you can.
- When the cod is ready, pull it apart into large flakes. While it is still hot, toss it in the pesto you set aside and gently dredge the meat in your sauce.
- Arrange your salad, then pile the pesto glazed cod on top.