Getting Your Hands Dirty
Red Wine Popsicles
After a party there are often myriad bottles of wine with a little bit left in the bottle. Or you may open a bottle of wine one night, and not have a chance to finish it the next night before it oxidizes. Taste it and if it is no longer drinkable but hasn’t turned to vinegar, turn it into this sweet grown-up treat by reducing the liquid and adding flavorings. If you don’t have popsicle molds, use small paper cups. If you can’t get popsicle sticks, large wooden skiers cut to size will work in a pinch.
Makes 10 popsicles
- 3 1/2 cups red wine (equivalent to one 750ml bottle)
- Peel of 1 orange
- 4 cardamom pods, crushed
- 6 whole cloves
- 8 black peppercorns, crushed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup sugar
1. Heat all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir, lower the heat, bring to a simmer and reduce the liquid until you have one cup remaining, about 15 minutes. Reducing it to this point is important because the freezing point of wine is lower than water, so the alcohol content must be cooked down. Remove from the heat and let the liquid cool for 20 minutes.
2. Stir in three cups of water.
3. Carefully ladle the liquid into popsicle molds, place a popsicle stick in each one and freeze overnight.
Classic & Modern Make a Pair
Frontera Grill’s Now-Classic Ceviche
I never tire of this ceviche: the lilt of fresh-fresh fish infused with straight-ahead flavors of Mexican street food (lime, chiles, onion, cilantro) and finished to a consistency that’s perfect for piling on tortilla chips or tostadas. That’s my favorite way to eat ceviche, the sweet, toasty corn flavor of the crisp-fried corn tortilla being the perfect counterpoint to soft-textured brilliance of good ceviche. We’ve had this ceviche on the menu at Frontera Grill for over two decades.
Working Ahead: The fish can be marinated in lime and completely drained (even if you’re going to add back some of the juice) early in the day you’re going to serve; cover tightly and refrigerate. All the vegetables and the cilantro can be prepped, mixed, covered and refrigerated early in the day, too. Mix and season the ceviche within two hours of serving; keep it refrigerated until the last moment.
Makes about 4 cups, enough for 6 to 8 as a starter
- 1 pound “sashimi-quality” skinless meaty ocean fish fillet (halibut, snapper and bass are great choices), cut into ½-inch cubes
- About 1 ½ cups fresh lime juice
- 1 small white onion, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
- Hot green chiles to taste (roughly 2 or 3 serranos or 1 large jalapeño), stemmed and roughly chopped
- ¼ cup pitted green olives, preferably manzanillos
- 1 large (about 10-ounce) ripe round tomato, cored, seeded (if you wish) and cut into ¼-inch pieces
- ** OR ¼ cup (lightly packed, about 1 ounce) soft sundried tomatoes, chopped into 1/8-inch pieces
- ¼ small jícama, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch pieces (optional, but suggested if using sundried tomatoes)
- ¼ cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- About 16 ounces of sturdy tortilla chips or 3- to 4-inch tostadas (preferably chips or tostadas from a local tortillería), for serving
1. “Cook” the fish in the lime juice. In a large non-reactive bowl (stainless steel or glass are best), combine the fish, lime juice and onion. The fish cubes should float freely in the juice; if they don’t, add a little more juice. Cover and refrigerate until the fish is as “done” as you like: 30 minutes to an hour for medium-rare, 3 to 4 hours for “cooked” all the way through. If you’re planning to serve your ceviche on chips or tostadas, tip off all the lime juice; to serve in dishes or glasses, tip off about half the juice. (Sad to say that the juice is fishy tasting at this point and can’t easily be used for another preparation or another round of ceviche. In Peru, however, they season it, pour it into shot glasses and serve it as sangre de tigre—tiger’s blood.)
2. Flavor the ceviche. In a mini food processor, process the green chile and olives until finely chopped (or finely chopped by hand). Add to the fish along with the tomato, optional jícama, cilantro and olive oil. Stir well, then season with salt (usually about a scant teaspoon) and sugar. Refrigerate until ready to serve—preferably no longer than an hour or two. Serve the “dry” version with the chips or tostadas for your guests to use a little edible plates; serve the “wet” version in small dishes or glasses.
Tsukune are Japanese chicken meatballs, often grilled, sometimes poached or cooked on a layoutdle, teppanyaki style. The moment I tried making them with duck, I was hooked. Since my favorite thing about duck is often times the crispy skin, I found a way to use the duck cracklings as a garnish to provide roasted flavor and needed textural contrast. These balls will be some of your favorites and are exactly the kind of easy going supper item that can also be great for entertaining, izakaya style. A word about the sauce. Its superb. Try using leftover sauce on broiled fish or with sake steamed chicken rice bowls.
- Meat from one whole standard Pekin (Long Island) duckling roughly 2#, skin reserved, bones reserved, center frame chopped and reserved
- 1 cup minced scallion
- 3T brown miso
- 1T black sesame seeds
- 2t grated ginger
- 2t grated garlic
- 1T toasted sesame oil
- 2T yuzu kosho (yuzu chili paste)…I sometimes use a little more, I love this stuff
- 1/4 t ground star anise
1. Bone the duck, or have butcher do it for you. Freeze the bones for another use such as soup or sauce making, duck bones are awesome to have on hand. Slice the pieces of skin in one inch strips. Reserve all pieces of skin no matter how small.
2. Grind the meat to resemble coarse hamburger. You can dice the meat and pulse in a food processor if need be, but I like to use the meat grinding attachment on my Kitchen Aid standing mixer. Combine meat with remaining ingredients. Reserve to the fridge to let sit while you make the sauce and crisp the skins.
3. Place skin in a small sauce pan with 2T water and set over low flame.
4. Over the course of next 15-30 minutes the mixture will boil, the fat will begin to render and the skin will fry into cracklings in its own fat. When the skin is browned and crispy, dry the cracklings on a paper toweling and keep warm. Reserve the fat for cooking, its superb for frying potatoes or sautéing mushrooms or in many terrinne or pate recipes.
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup sake
- 1 dried hot chile, whole
- 1T brown sugar
- 1 star anise pod
- a few slices of fresh ginger
- 1 shallot chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pot and reduce at a simmer to about a generous 3Ž4 cup…strain, cool and use to nap and sauce the tsukune.
I like to form small balls out of the meat mixture and place two at the end of short sturdy bamboo cocktail forks and grill gently over charcoal. You can broil them, grill them using a grill pan, fry them, poach them or sauté them. You can do all those while skewered or for ease, cook and then serve on small skewers. Do not overcook. You want them between medium rare and medium, serve on small plates, napped with the sauce (you will have leftover sauce) and sprinkled with the cracklings. I always place a small bowl of Japanese hot mustard at the table as well.
Serve with Japanese steamed rice, a simple green vegetable and some roasted mushrooms.
Smoking for Non-Smokers
Cedar Smoked Salmon
- 16 pieces salmon filets, cut in blocks 2 to 3 ounces each
- 3 ounces olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces cedar chips
1. On a sheet pan rub salmon with olive oil and season with kosher salt.
2. Put the cedar chips in the bottom of the stove top smoker and set on the stove.
3. Lay salmon on the smoker grate or in a perforated insert in the top of the smoker.
4. Turn on high heat for 5 to 6 minutes and smoke/bake until salmon is medium to medium rare, remove from smoker and serve.
For another take on smoked salmon with Chef Kent Rathbun, watch below!