Posted in Experiments

Drying Squid

Drying Squid 1

I use a fair amount of commercially dried squid in various Asian recipes but I hadn’t ever thought to try drying them myself until I discovered a package of medium sized ones at the bottom of my freezer. They were a little freezer burned and really beyond the best quality, but rather than throw them out I decided to experiment.

I initially tried putting them in the oven on very low heat but that proved to be very slow and so I simply put them on a tray and used a household fan to desiccate them to a translucent, almost brittle dryness in only 6 or 7 hours. In the inset picture, you can see the ‘raw’ rings, and the dried ones illustrate the freezer burning in the little white patches here and there.

Anyway, I was pleased with the result thus far. I have more experimenting to do as yet, but if you read on, you can see some of the further ‘experimentation’ I di with this batch… Continue reading “Drying Squid”

Posted in Notable Nosh

Seared Scallops at Lapointe

Lapointe's 1

I had this appetizer of grilled scallops at Lapointe Seafood Grill in Ottawa’s Byward Market way back in the summertime. In truth, the dish wasn’t especially memorable and I might well have not featured it in a post except for the fact that it employed a couple of interesting additions that I thought would be worth trying at home and thus deserving of a mention here…

The dish was described on the menu as follows:

Lapointe's 2

Now, first, I have to say that the plating job in this case was really sub-standard, which really detracted from the overall enjoyment. The arugula was largely placed with spinach that was haphazardly strewn on the platter, as were with the scallops and the ragged pieces (not sections) of orange.

The scallops, however, were very nicely grilled, having been seared to a caramelized crispiness on the outside while being tender, and still slightly translucent on the inside. I am not sure what happened to the ‘maple espresso’ dressing promised in the menu description as neither of these flavors were apparent in what I was served. Possibly the kitchen had none on hand due to some disaster or other, and had to improvise. As it happened, the dressing I did receive was tangy and very nice so, while I was a bit disappointed at not getting the interesting sounding dressing that was promised, I still enjoyed this part of the dish.

What I really enjoyed, here, was the pairing of orange, nuts and scallop. I am not a huge fan of pistachios, and would prefer, say, hazelnuts, or the like, but the flavor combination here worked very well. I actually resurrected my notes for this appetizer while looking for ideas to use with some lovely sea scallops I received as a gift. I am not sure exactly how I will go about it as yet, but I do wish to capture something of that very pleasant pairing with at least some of my scallops. I will be sure to share the results of any experiments along those lines, of course …

Posted in In my Kitchen...

Grilled Octopus Skewers

Octopus Skewers A

I did up this little appetizer using a couple of octopus tentacles I had left over from using the rest of the beast in a different recipe. I first thought of doing something sort of Asian with ginger and soy, but I decided, instead, to marinate my sections of tentacle with lemon juice and herbs before gilling them on skewers.

The tentacles had been blanched and frozen before use and so needed no further tenderizing. I cut each into sections and then marinated the pieces in a few tablespoons of olive oil, along with a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, a quarter teaspoon of pureed garlic, and about one eighth of a teaspoon of dried thyme with just a few needles of rosemary crushed into the mix with a pinch of salt. I let this sit for about a half hour so.

Finally, I threaded the pieces on skewers and grilled them over high heat for a couple of minutes on each side, basting with the marinade as I did so. I served them, as you can see, over thinly sliced lemon and the result was very pleasant indeed. I have not used thyme with octopus or squid before and I liked the combination. Next time, I think I may try a more complex Herbes de Provence blend…

Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Sea Bass Sashimi and Sushi

Sea Bass Sashimi and Sushi 1

A while ago, I got to try Sea Bass for the first time. At least, I think I did…

It is a sad truth that there is a lot of fraudulent substitution when it comes to seafood, and this happens no less in sushi restaurants than it does with fishmongers, or down-market fish-and-chip places. While researching for this post, I happened to find quite a few different pictures of Sea Bas on the web that didn’t look much like the fish in the above picture. This might be concerning, except it turns out that there are quite a few varieties of Sea Bass, including ‘White Sea Bass’ and ‘Striped Sea Bass’.  Still, even though the Wasabi restaurant in Ottawa is pretty reputable place, one never knows …

Anyway, when I am trying a sashimi selection, I like to try it as nigiri sushi as well, and I did this for my first experience with Sea Bass. Here you can see that sashimi portion of my order is formed into a nice little ‘rosette’ and garnished with Masago, or Smelt roe. This is actually almost a tasteless ingredient and didn’t affect the experience of the fish other than adding a little visual interest.

Unfortunately, I really wasn’t all that keen on this choice for sashimi. The flesh was a little fibrous, but other than that it had a rather soft texture that wasn’t all that pleasant, and it seemed to leave a slight ‘residue’ in the mouth. This suggested something less than peak freshness, but there were no other off tastes that would further tend to that conclusion. What flavor there was actually had the very slightly muddy taste I associate with fresh fish rather than the marine varieties… it is chiefly for this reason that I began to suspect that my ‘Sea Bass’ may have been something else…

In any event, on my next trip south, I will try and sample ‘Sea Bass’ in a few other establishments and see if I can learn a little more….

Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Japanese Seafood Chowder

Japanese Seafood Chowder

Well, this particular creation of Wasabi in Ottawa was pretty interesting in concept but not, unfortunately, in execution…

The menu described this being ‘Shrimp, scallop and fish in light miso’ but it was pretty hard to see how what I was served matched that description in any material fashion. Firstly, I was rather expecting that the chowder would be a dashi based miso soup lightly thickened in some fashion to make it a ‘chowder’ of sorts. Here though, the medium was definitely a chowder that had been thickened, as far as I could tell, with potato, as is the case with many western chowders. There was, however, no dashi flavor, nor (more to the point) any hint of miso at all. Basically, the only real taste was something akin to a cross between potato and mushroom soup.

The promise of actual seafood in the dish was also pretty optimistic. I could tell that a few of the chewier pieces were fish, and there were some tiny pieces of shrimp, but neither was in abundant supply and there was no scallop as far as I could tell. Indeed, the majority of solid pieces in this brew were actually potato.

The only real Japanese aspects to this dish were the strip of Wakame floating on top, and the Panko on the side. The Wakame was alright, I suppose (but added more for garnish than anything substantial), and the Panko was somewhat interesting. Normally, crackers or the like are provided with soups so they can be crushed and added in for a thicker heartier result. Thickening was hardly needed here but, if a little was sprinkled on each spoonful, it did lend a slightly enhanced texture.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I really enjoyed this all that much, but I still think the idea is good. An actual miso style soup thickened with potato, and with lots of good seafood added, would be very good. I guess though, I will have to do it myself …

Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Octopus Appetizer Duo

Octopus Duo 1

I very much like visiting the E18teen restaurant in Ottawa. Last time I was there, I tried an appetizer named an ‘Octopus duo’, which featured grilled octopus and something that was referred to as a ‘Carpaccio’. I was a bit intrigued by the latter, but, after sampling it, I am still a little unclear as how I came to be given that name…

Anyway, the menu description elaborated a  little and described the presentation as including ‘Citrus Fennel, Harissa Aioli, Sweety Drops and Torched Orange’. The ‘Sweety Drops’ , it turns out, were the pretty little tear-drop shaped red peppers scattered here and there. They were lightly pickled and were tasty enough, but didn’t really complement the main features in any significant way, I thought. I also found that to be the case with the Harissa Aioli … it was nicely spiced and pleasant enough, but just not a particularly good accompaniment.

In contrast, I liked the torched orange quite a bit… it added just a nice hint of smoke, and the ‘Citrus Fennel’ was a very good addition. This consisted of the very small slices of stem that, like the peppers, were lightly pickled. Here the pickling, though not especially suggestive of citrus, had a nice sweetness contrasting the acidity and was very pleasant.

The grilled octopus tentacles were the best part of the dish, being expertly grilled to yield the perfect chewiness of texture and  a lovely sweetness. The ‘Carpaccio’ however, was a disappointment, It was not, as I imagined, thin slices of raw octopus, but rather consisted of the unusual slice of ‘jellied’ octopus laid beneath the tentacles. When I first saw this, I asked if they pieces had been prepared in aspic but was told that the octopus tentacles had been simmered and then cooled in the simmering liquid until it congealed into a gel. It was sliced nicely, I suppose,  but, though I love octopus in many different styles, this was the first time that I have ever actually disliked it…

Well… this dish just didn’t work much for me, as you can probably tell. Still, I won’t fault E18teen too heavily for that. Not every dish is going to be a winner and usually I love everything they do. Better luck next time, I guess…

Posted in Recipes

Deep-Fried Baby Octopus

Deep-Fried Baby Octopus II 1

In my recent ‘Foodstuff’ post featuring Baby Octopus, I did a quick little dish to try them out in which I deep-fried them whole with a seasoned coating. Today’s recipe is also a deep-fried appetizer style dish but I changed the approach very slightly: The last time, I fried the octopuses whole (except for the heads) and I used a fairly heavily seasoned cornstarch to coat them. This time, I decided to try marinating in order to influence the flavor (and perhaps the texture), and I tried using non-glutinous rice flour rather than cornstarch… Continue reading “Deep-Fried Baby Octopus”

Posted in Foodstuffs

Foodstuff: Baby Octopus

Baby Octopus 1

To be honest, I am not 100% sure that what you see here are, in fact baby octopuses. It said so on the package, but, for all I know they are the adults of a very small species. Thus far, though, the only sort I have cooked at home from fresh have been much larger sorts and so I bought a couple of packages when I saw them in my local supermarket freezer cabinet.

These little guys are only 5 or 6 inches long overall (the red thing in the corner of the picture is the handle of a pairing knife, for comparison’s sake). If you recall my previous ‘Foodstuff’ post on Octopus, the larger sort generally require a bit of tenderizing before being cooked. I figured, however, that these tiny ones can probably be fried or grilled without any other preparation. I decided to try a simple deep-fry to test… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Baby Octopus”

Posted in Dim Sum

Dim Sum: Steamed Squid 蒸魷魚

Yangtze Steamed Squid

Steamed squid is a regular offering in dim sum restaurants and is a dish I rarely pass up. Sometimes, you find squid steamed with a curry sauce but, in my experience, the curry sauce usually served is a bit insipid and I generally don’t care for it.

The offering you see pictured above is one I was recently served at the Yangtze Dining Lounge in Ottawa. Most of the dishes I had that day were not actually that great but this particular one was first class. Commonly, squid pieces are often dusted in a flour of some sort before steaming but these were steamed ‘clean’ and the effect was very well done.

The pieces of ‘tube’ were very plump and thick and I would have guessed that they came from a fairly large specimen but the tentacles that were also steamed alongside were obviously from very tiny squid. I am not sure if the body flesh came from a different animal than the tentacles, or whether the flesh ‘plumped’ up during the steaming process. In any event, the cooking was expertly executed and the result especially tender. As usual, ginger, and a little scallion were added, and both of these were added deftly so as to just give a hint of their presence in the background. I have had this dish many times, both at home and in restaurants, and this was one of the best.