Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Can't Find Fish or Shellfish Stock? Make It At Home! (Recipe)

So, it turns out it's stupid easy to make homemade fish stock (recipe included)

In preparing an article for the soon-to-begin The Ravenous Traveler culinary travel column on, I interviewed the Spanish cooking school bncKitchen to learn the secrets of paella, and the recipe that they sent me called for fish fume. Fish fume is a reduced fish stock or fish glace (glace de poisson), and, though I've eaten it a hundred times as part of risottos and soups, I soon discovered that fish stock isn't so easy to find in the United States.

At first, this seemed like nonsense: Shouldn't fish stock be located somewhere near the chicken broth? But the more I researched, the more I got the point: Fish stock should be fresh. It is too delicate to stay fresh on grocery shelves, and I would have to make my own if I were to create a killer paella.

Prepare to get your hands dirty. Ok, it's not that bad.

So I visited the nearest seafood shop (ABC Seafood on Powell for all you Portlanders) and asked for trimmings. Now, for anyone else who hadn't already dug their grave like had, they could have just purchased shrimp with heads and tails on and then removed the choice shrimp meat and made stock using the leftovers (shells, heads, and tails). This is pure common sense. It is free and so easy that it quickly feels as natural as turning a turkey carcass into stock or saving broccoli stems to make a rich vegetable soup. In my case, unfortunately, I had already purchased the shrimp for my paella without heads.

At the seafood shop, I tried to buy shrimp shells or alternative trimmings—neither of which the shop had for sale. Fortunately, they did have fresh local crab for $3/lbs. I bought a pound, and, combined with the shrimp tails, it was enough to make the three cups of fish stock that I needed. Plus, I got to Portlandize paella by substituting local crab for cuttlefish.

Here's my recipe for fish or shellfish stock using a whole crab and shrimp tails. Note that you can substitute a number of lesser fish parts for the crab and shrimp shells. For example, you can make fish or shellfish stock using the shells from lobster or king crab or from the bones, tails, and heads of white fish (more oily fish make an oily stock—ugh!).

Fish or Shellfish Stock Recipe:
Yields 3 to 4 cups of stock depending on your tastes

complete shell from 1lbs whole crab
tails from 1lbs shrimp
1/2 chopped onion
1 chopped piece of celery
1 chopped tomato
handful of thyme
two bay leaves
5 peppercorns
(optional: tbsp butter)

Recipe for making shellfish stock:
1. Add shrimp tail shells and crab shells to a pot; add four cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add all of the other ingredients and reduce to a simmer.

2. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes or until fish stock has reduced to the desired consistency.

3. Strain using a metal colander or metal wire strainer. Make sure there aren't any pieces of shell left in there, and you're done. Freeze or use immediately.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Challenge: Not a Fan of Pinotage? Think Again.

Untangling this cowboy wine from South Africa

I first tried pinotage in San Francisco. I was working with sommelier and wine consultant Hector Osuna who has a great passion for southern-hemisphere wines. He poured out a glass of pinotage at Eos Restaurant and ask for descriptors. Rough. Tobacco. Leather. Other descriptors came from around the room. Ok, said Hector, how about band aids?

On my trip to South Africa last year, I tried to focus on pinotage wines. I wanted to taste using local senses and become a part of the community. South Africans were eating lots of boerewors (delicious sausages heavily spiced with nutmeg and cloves) and other barbecued meats. Farm fresh salads and other simple vegetable dishes were served on the side. After drinking several bandaidy pinotages paired with smokey meats things began to make sense. The pinotages added a nice fruit component to the meat without taking away from its inherent meatiness. 

Here's the challenge: The next time you're barbecuing or eating a meaty, grilled dish, pair it with one or both of the following wines. Why not make your own boerewors? Just buy ground pork and beef and follow this recipe (if you don't feel like stuffing the casing, you can make a loose sausage or patties to get a true taste of South Africa).

Wine Review

2009 Kanonkop Estate Wine Pinotage

Short Review: Proof there's a god
Literary Equivalent: Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian or Isak Dinesen's short story The Monkey
Stats: 100% Pinotage, grown in Stellenbosch
Review: For those expecting too much barnyardiness on the nose, this wine will be a pleasant surprise. It's fruit forward with plum and black cheery, and it made me instantly thirsty. On the palate, the wine tasted like a dry version of cherry pie, if that makes any sense. Fresh pink lady apple, smokey, pepper, charred bell pepper, aged steak, light blueberry syrup. Vibrant acidity, full bodied, and delicious medium finish. This pinotage will make you think again about pinotage. Also, Kanonkop's pinotage was featured on Wine Spectator's Best 100 Wines of the World (2010). It costs $30-35.

 2011 Middelvlei Pinotage Merlot

Short Review: A step back from the barnyard and into the farmhouse
Stats: 50% Pinotage, 50% Merlot, grown in Stellenbosch
Review: The merlot makes this wine a bit more accessible than a straight pinotage. Nose of under-ripe plum followed by smells of dirt and diesel. Bandaids and barnyard are also there; let it breathe for an hour to greatly reduce their appearance. On the palate: more under-ripe plum and dirt with mushrooms and candied ginger. Acidity is a little lacking, but the tannins are very soft. Medium to full bodied.

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