A Wicked Scoff...Recipes and Food with Newfoundland and New England Influences.

This blog is dedicated to bring recipes, photographs, anecdotes, reviews and other insights on everything food related. As the name suggests, "A Wicked Scoff" will have a regional flare, a fusion if you will, of both Newfoundland and New England perspectives of the culinary world around me. Thanks for visiting and please come back often as updates will be frequent. Oh yeah, I also like tasting and cooking with regional beers. Expect a beer of the month, often paired with recipes.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Herb Roasted Chicken and Gourmet Poutine

I was in Maine a couple of weekends ago, and on the drive home we had to pass by the city of Portland. If you're a follower of this blog, you may remember that I spoke of Portland and one of it's best eateries in one of my first posts. The restaurant I am referring to is Duck Fat, where one of the finest poutines in the world can be had. Excellent french fries, great cheese curds and a rich flavorful gravy and you have a recipe for poutine success. A simple dish that requires nothing more than a few really good ingredients to make it one of my favorite comfort foods. It may not sound good to some, and it surely is not healthy, but let me tell you it tastes heavenly! Salty, cheesy, french fried goodness with gravy all over it...now honestly, how is that not good!

Anyways, to cut to the chase, I did not make a return visit to Duck Fat the other week as I had originally hoped. My wife's desire to have a Moe's sub won out. Nevertheless, I was able to get a gourmet poutine...I just had to whip it up myself. My homemade poutine consisted of herb roasted chicken breast, steamed broccoli (that makes it healthy) and salt and pepper oven fries with herb and garlic cheese curds, and a savory chicken gravy. Here's how I made it. Instruction based on a dinner for two.

Herb Roasted Chicken

While I usually like to brine or marinate my chicken, there is not always time, as was the case when I made this dish on a work night. The key for juicy, crispy and tasty chicken will be to cook it on a high heat, season it well, and do not over cook the meat. For white meat chicken breast, I use an instant read thermometer and remove the chicken from the oven the second it reaches 160 degrees in the thickest part of the breast.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and add two large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts to an appropriately sized roaster or Pyrex tray (or similar). Drizzle a little olive oil and using your hands, coat the chicken with the oil. Season all sides with kosher salt, fresh pepper, dry summer savory and fresh rosemary and/or thyme. Add a splash of water or chicken stock to the bottom of the pan. Cook in the oven, uncovered until internal temperature of 160 is reached...about 45 minutes. If the skin is over browning, cover with foil wrap, or conversely if it isn't crispy enough, use the broiler for a bit.

Chicken Gravy

Remove the chicken from the roasting pan so it can rest. Heat the pan on the stove top over a medium-high heat and add:
- 2 Tbsp of dry white wine, and begin "deglazing" the pan using a wooden spoon to scrape free all the browned bits. Those bits mean flavor.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock/broth (canned is fine) and bring to a boil.

Now is the time to thicken the gravy. I use a small Mason jar as a shaker to make a slurry, which I make by combining a couple of heaping tablespoons of flour, a teaspoon of corn starch and about a 1/4 cup of water. Screw on the lid and give it a good shake until you have a think, smooth lump-free slurry. You may need to add a little more water if it is too thick. A pancake batter consistency or slightly looser would be fine. Once the gravy is boiling, slowly drizzle the slurry and combine vigorously with a whisk. You may not need all the slurry so keep adding until you reach the desired consistency. Reduce the heat and simmer the gravy for at least 2-3 minutes in order to cook off the raw flour taste. The gravy will continue to thicken slightly so keep this in mind. Taste the gravy and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

For the oven fries, the recipe I always use is posted in an earlier posting. For this dish I used 4 medium potatoes and seasoned the fries with kosher salt, black pepper, and a little dried summer savory. With regards to the cheese for the poutine, it's very important to use real cheese curds, not grated cheddar or mozzarella if you want to have the real poutine experience. I'm fortunate that my local grocery store carries fresh cheese curds from a local producer. Better yet, they have some flavored varieties. For this meal, I used their garlic and herb curds, which paired very nicely with the chicken. They were quite garlicky, which is a good thing as long as your significant other is also eating them.

The steamed broccoli is super easy, and one of my favorite ways to eat a bunch of veg. I use fresh broccoli, wash it, cut it into smaller pieces, put a steamer basket in a large sauce pan, add an inch or two of water, bring to a boil, add the broccoli and cook for about 6-7 minutes. It doesn't get much easier than that. I like mine just with a little salt, but I don't mind a little pad of butter either.

Now you're ready to assemble your poutine. Using warmed plates (lay them in the oven for a couple of minutes before the gravy is ready. There will be enough heat left from when the chicken was cooking to warm them nicely), plate the chicken, and the broccoli, and next the fries. Scatter the cheese curds over the fries and begin spooning the hot gravy over the cheese and fries.

It does not get much better than this!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Summer Harvest...Mexican Cooking

Summer is in the air here in the northeastern US these past couple weeks. After a mostly mild and wet summer it has been hot and muggy of late. Thank god for air conditioning. Despite the weather, it has been a good season for my tomatoes and hot peppers . Besides that, local sweet corn is in peak season, as is other great produce like summer squash and zucchini. With all these great vegetable and it being too hot to turn on the stove, what better food to make than homemade Mexican condiments, and grilled chicken and corn. As you can see in the spread below, yesterday after work I got busy marinading chicken breasts in a chili-lime rub, making a classic pico de gallo (a fresh tomato salsa), a chunky guacamole and a fire roasted salsa.

Pico de Gallo

Combine the following in a bowl. You can eat it right away, or refridgerate and let the flavors meld for a while.

4 large tomatoes (I used a "better boy" hybrid I grew myself...they were big), diced small
1/2 a Vidalia (or other sweet/mild) onion, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
1/4 Cup fresh cilantro, chopped
the juice and zest of 1 lime
a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper

In a bowl, roughly mash 4 ripe avocados (I use a potato masher)
Combine with:
1/2 cup red onion, minced fine
2 jalapenos, minced
juice and zest of 1 to 2 limes
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped fine
a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper
1/4 tsp of ancho chili powder

Fire Roasted Salsa
In a glass bowl, drizzle a little oil over
2 poblano peppers
3 jalapenos
3 large tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, halved

Coat the veggies in the oil and place on a hot grill. Occasionally turn the peppers. onion and tomato so all sides get slightly charred. Remove from the flame and let rest. Once cool enough to handle, peel the tough skin off the peppers.In a food processor, add:
- grilled tomatoes, poblanos, onions and jalapenos
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup of cilantro
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 TBSP of lime juice

Pulse the food processor until mixture is well combined. The salsa should not be overly chunky.

Chili-Lime Grilled Chicken

In a large resealable bag, combine

- the juice and zest of 1 lime
- 2 TBSP of olive oil
- 1 tsp of ancho chili powder
- 1 tsp of garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp of cumin
- 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
- a few dashes of salt and pepper

mix and add 4 done-in chicken breasts. Seal the bag and massage the chicken around to ensure it is well covered with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat your grill to med-high, and cook chicken just until internal temprature in the thickest part reaches 160 degrees. Any more and your chicken will overcook and begin to become dry. I also season my chicken with a little salt and pepper while on the grill. What you want is a crispy skin, and succulent, juicy chicken breast meat. The flavor of the lime and ancho chili doesn't take long in the marinade to work its way into the meat so this makes for an excellent preparation on a work night or impromptu weekend dinner. Great served with the fire roasted salsa and/or a Mexican salsa verde (tomatillo salsa).

When served with some grilled sweet corn, corn chips and an ice cold Corona, and you'll have an yourself a feista!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

From the Boston States...Maine and New Hampshire

This past weekend my wife and I traveled to beautiful coastal Maine. The purpose of the trip was for the wedding of a college friend of my wife's on Southport Island, near Boothbay Harbor. The wedding was 3 in the afternoon, so in order to give us some time to explore Boothbay a little, we left western Massachusetts at 6 AM in order to beat "beach traffic" and to not make the 4 1/2 hour drive any longer by getting stuck in freeway traffic. We arrived in Boothbay Harbor by 10:30, and what a sight. The harbor was full of boats of all shapes and sizes, from kayaks to yachts, sailboats and lobster boats, and everything else in between. We meandered down to our ocean side hotel, the Fisherman's Wharf Inn, parked our car, and decided to explore the quaint shops and side streets around the harbor front.

We've had some really hot weather this past week, and it was into the 80's even here in Maine, and before noon. That's too hot for a fair skinned Newfoundlander like myself. Anyways that's what cold beer are for. Another highlight of our trip was getting to see my wife's very good friend Elizabeth, and meet her new man. They arrived in town a bit after us and we we meeting them for lunch before the wedding. Mary and I scouted out the harbor front eat and settled on a place called McSeagull's (http://www.mcseagullsonline.com/enter/) where there was deck dining, live music and lots a lobster on the menu. Since I don't like lobster (I know I'm a freak) I went for the bowl of clam chowder, and a couple of pints of icy Shipyard summer ale (http://www.shipyard.com/). The beer was delicious, and the chowder was definitely as good as I've ever had....probably the heaviest on the clams for sure, which is a good thing. It was thick and creamy, with celery, onion, potatoes, and little pieces of salty, smoky bacon. I haven't tried my hand at making clam chowder yet, but this was surely a recipe to attempt to recreate.

The rest of the day in Boothbay was really great, a beautiful outdoor wedding, followed by drinks with friends back at McSeagulls. Sunday morning we had to get on the road before lunch time as we had a long afternoon of driving ahead of us, even more for me as I needed to go all the way to Albany. After finding a Tim Hortons in Brunswick, Maine, I was in good spirits, and Mary had requested that we get our afternoon meal at her favorite sub shop, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Moe's is more than a sub shop, it is a sub haven (http://www.moesitaliansandwiches.com/) . While they offer standard sub sandwich varieties, the only real option is the Moe's Original, a soft white bread roll, stuffed with Moe's special mild salami (if you like bologna you'll love this salami), thinly sliced green peppers and mild white onions, zesty sliced pickles, tomato, a few bits of black olives and a special seasoned oil blend with chili flakes. We picked up our subs, with some kettle cooked potato chips (sour cream and onion for me....yum) and some ginger ale (it's good for a hangover) and we were all set. We drove out of the busy downtown, and found a small vacant lot just before the highway. These sandwiches were spectacular. This is most definitely a stop off the highway if you ever drive through the narrow section of coastal New Hampshire between Maine and Massachusetts. You can also stop for some cheap New Hampshire booze. You know, a 26 ox bottle of Newfoundland's famous Screech dark rum only costs you $10.99 there. Needless to say, my liqour cabinet is well stocked. More on Screech in an upcoming post!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In Cod We Trust

My recent trip to Newfoundland was really spectacular. From sea kayaking in Trinity Bay, hiking many miles of the East Coast Trail (http://www.eastcoasttrail.com/), a boat tour (and a Dildo Island boat tour at that....thanks Gerald and Dennis), a winery tour (http://www.rodrigueswinery.com), live Irish music, a garden party, touring the Cape Shore including Cape St. Mary's, camping at La Manche park, cod fishing, dining out at Bacalou (2 impressive meals), and spending quality time with family and friends...I really was able to do it all. When people have since asked me if I did get to do all that I wanted, I jokingly say I didn't eat enough fish and chips. On second thought, that's no joke...I didn't eat enough fish and chips!

While my waistline is probably thanking me, I was limited to only a single "feed" of fish and chips...and what a meal it was! While I had plans to get fish and chips in St. John's, and also possibly on the southern shore, I knew my first choice had to be my old stompin grounds out around the bay in my hometown of Green's Harbour. Until recently, this restaurant/take-out was known as Taylor's (and probably always will be in my mind) but has since been sold and renamed to "CJ's". It's good to know however that they still have the same cook behind the closed door, dishing out what I could tell were the same recipes, although I did find that the fish batter had improved, as it was a little thinner and lighter. This place really has the best chips, dressing and gravy I've ever had, and their fried chicken is also outstanding. It's better than Mary Brown's and that's saying something (my sister gave me once of her wings and it was better than I rememmbred). On this occasion however I needed to have the deep fried cod, and the 3 piece dinner at that, with dressing and gravy. Served with a tasty creamy coleslaw, and some peas and carrots, and tarter sauce, it was a meal fit for a bayman prince. The cod was super fresh and the batter was crispy. I don't usually order 3 pieces of fish but I inhaled this meal and had room for more (even on top of the wing and two glasses of Black Horse beer). It's really too bad I can't find deep fried fish like this here in New York and New England. I'm going to have to start making it for myself as a treat once a month!

Besides the deep fried cod, I did have cod more than once while I was home. The best of the bunch had to be the pan fried cod I cooked on the second last day of my trip, using cod my wife, father-in-law and myself caught that afternoon, on the first day of the food fishery. For appetizers we had succulent cod tongues and cheeks with a lemon/malt vinegar tarter sauce, and for the main meal we feasted on morsels of pan fried cod, oven baked fries, peas, gravy, and fresh corn. There really is nothing like eating extremely fresh fish, cooked the day it comes out of the water. For my money, cod is king when it comes to my favorite type of fish to cook and eat.

I am still excited for having the opportunity to get out on the water, and catch cod this summer. It really is a shame that Newfoundlanders only get a couple weeks a year to get out and do the same, to put food on their tables, in their freezers, and in their bellies, when the inshore cod fishery and hand lining is such an intrinsic part of our culture, our heritage and way of life. While I don't know if there will ever be any more than this for our "food fishery" at least we have it. It could be worse I suppose.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin