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Fish Dish: Coconut Curry Ahi Over Udon

I was excited to find that my local market has started stocking Full Circle all natural, wild caught, US fish in its freezer section.  I live on the Gulf Coast and can get fresh Gulf seafood but these are not indigenous fishcicles.  So I have decided to share this culinary voyage with you.  I won’t be providing recipes per se but instructions on how I fixed each Fish Dish.

Fish Dish: Coconut Curry Ahi Tuna Over Udon

Ahi Tuna

I had my first Thai dish about 2 years ago but it has quickly become my favorite Asian cuisine.  I am in love with the sweet/hot contrast especially in the red curry coconut sauce, although I do love all of the curries.  Thai generally comes in three temperatures: hot, hotter, and holy s%@#!  I was afraid that the powerful flavor of the curry would overwhelm a more delicate fish so I chose the Ahi tuna for this recipe.

I brought 2 quarts of water to a boil and seasoned it with salt and a couple of small pieces of fresh ginger.  In the water I boiled my Udon noodles until done.  I set the Udon to the side and finely diced the ginger.  My next task was to saute onions, chilies, carrots and the ginger in a little olive oil simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  I removed the veggies and in the remaining oil I added my tuna.  I cooked the tuna just long enough to brown the side (about 2 minutes) then I turned it over.  I then added enough curry-coconut sauce to come half-way up the filet, reduced the heat and let simmer, covered, about 10 minutes.  In essence I poached the tuna in curry sauce.

The curry sauce is frighteningly easy to make.  First add a few tablespoons of canola oil to a medium-hot pan.  Next add a few tablespoons of red curry paste (available at that Asian market you’ve been wanting to go into but haven’t had a reason to yet.  You’re welcome).  Stir, heating through and then pour in a can of coconut milk.  Combine and simmer for a few minutes.  Jar and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.  NOTE: The more curry you use the hotter it will be.

Plating: Udon first, then tuna, pour the sauce over both, top with veggies and I garnished mine with almond slivers, and roughly chopped fresh basil and cilantro.  A squirt or two of freshly squeezed lime juice adds a little pop to the dish.

Culinary Secret: Balance

With all of the spices, herbs and other sundry ingredients at our disposal these days it is easy to get wrapped up in the pomp while forgetting about the circumstance.  It is so tempting to add an entire day of Food Network into one meal.  But it should not take longer to say a dish than it takes to make it.

Balance and Harmony: Asian FoodThese ingredients and techniques are not something you want to use in every single meal.  The pursuit of a truly great meal, or life for that matter, is balance.  This philosophy is practiced with great skill by chefs in Asia and France.

Just because you have a few tricks in your bag doesn’t mean you should perform them all.  Some things simply do not need embellishment.  I’ll try to give a few examples.

At my last chef post there was one recipe, chicken salad, on the menu that I was told I could not tinker with.  If you are doing a sweet application to a savory dish it is important not to lose the savory aspect of it.  This chicken salad was sweeter than most of our desserts.  It was putrid.  A cup of sugar to every pound of chicken.  The other ingredients were mayo, cinnamon, red delicious apples, celery and pecans.  All sweet or neutral flavors.  To make matters worse the chicken was not seasoned so there wasn’t even salt and pepper to counter all of the sweetness.  There was no balance.  To this day it is the worst dish I have ever served on a menu.

When doing a sweet/savory dish you need to add heat or acidity to remind the palate this is a savory dish.  Cayenne pepper or a touch of Tabasco would have made that chicken salad better.  Asian and Caribbean chefs do sweet/savory well because of their judicious use of chilies and/or acids (whether from citrus or vinegar): sweet and sour, sweet and hot.

Balance is important in textures as well.  A well balanced recipe will have two or more contrasting textures – crispy and tender, crunchy and soft.  Just a touch of resistance that gives way to something gooey is charming.

Another place to strive for balance is in the menu as a whole.  Do you have an entrée that is technically challenging?  Then make sure your other courses are simple to execute.  Not only will it make things better for the cook but also for the diner.

At my last post I made hummus from scratch.  My recipe was quite complex containing I believe 17 ingredients and none of them the traditional Tahini.  Everyone said it was the best hummus in the city. I didn’t use that many ingredients because I was trying to impress anyone.  I did it because every hummus I have ever tasted was lacking something.  They seemed to always feature one of three flavors – garlic, cilantro or cumin.  Well I want all three of them and in abundance.

Conversely my scratch made salsa was very simple; six ingredients.  Again our customers thought it was the best in town.  The main thing to remember is that if you start with quality ingredients then you do not need a lot of flashy stuff; a little bit will do.

If there is one thing I can give someone new to cooking it is the lesson of balance.

Shirataki Noodles a Miracle Food?

In Asia they have long enjoyed a type of pasta made from the konjac root. Big deal, right? Pasta is pasta. Not true of this particular pasta. Shirataki or hiragana noodles have only 3 grams of carbohydrates but 1 gram of lean protein and just 20 calories in a 4 ounce serving. Most Americans have heard of them thanks to Rocco DiSirito’s recent appearance on the Rachael Ray Show.

Shirataki noodles are mostly water and glucomannan (from the konjac root), a water-soluble dietary fiber. Though they have little flavor of their own, they easily absorb the flavor of whatever they are served with. Their are some varieties that include tofu, this slightly increases the protein. More importantly it makes the texture more tender. The tofu-less variety tends to have a rubbery texture that may seem odd to the Western palate.

Cheflebrity Ming Tsai, owner of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and the host of American Public Television’s Simply Ming recently contributed a recipe using shirataki noodles to Men’s Health Magazine. Here it is:

Soy Pork Shirataki Stir-Fry

Canola oil
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup naturally brewed soy sauce (sub in low-sodium soy, if you prefer)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 head bok choy, rinsed, spun dry, and cut into pieces
1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens separated
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-by-1-inch pieces
1 lb ground pork, browned
2 cups fettuccine-type shirataki noodles, packed, rinsed well (three times), and drained

How to make it:
1. Coat the bottom of a saucepan lightly with canola oil and place it on medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the lime juice, soy sauce, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and let the mixture reduce by a third to a syrup consistency, 8 to 10 minutes. To check consistency, pour a line of syrup on a cool dish and hold it vertically. If the line holds with a few drips, it’s ready.

3. Use some oil to lightly coat the bottom of a large, hot wok over high heat. (If you don’t have a wok, you can use a skillet over high heat.) When the oil is shimmering, add the bok choy, scallion whites, and red bell peppers, and stir-fry until they’re slightly softened, about 1 minute. Add the pork, noodles, and garlic-ginger-soy syrup, and stir to coat the noodles with sauce. Check for flavor, and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve family-style on a platter, garnished with scallion greens. Serves 4

Per serving: 461 calories, 35 grams (g) protein, 27 g carbohydrates, 25 g fat, 7 g fiber

The Men’s Health piece features more information and recipes for this amazing pasta.

Fish Dish: Grilled Salmon with Soy-Honey Glaze

I was excited to find that my local market has started stocking Full Circle all natural, wild caught, US fish in its freezer section.  I live on the Gulf Coast and can get fresh Gulf seafood but these are not indigenous fishcicles.  So I have decided to share this culinary voyage with you.  I won’t be providing recipes per se but instructions on how I fixed each Fish Dish.

Fish Dish: Grilled Salmon with Soy-Honey Glaze & Wasabi-Lemon Sauce with Sesame-Teriyaki Udon.
salmon
I made the Soy-Honey glaze by combining a tablespoon or so of Soy Sauce and an equal amount of honey.  This is in essence a Teriyaki sauce.  For some heat I added a pinch of dried chili flakes.

I seasoned the salmon filets with salt & pepper and grilled them in an indoor grill (George Foreman type) until medium rare, about 4 minutes.  I then brushed the filets with the glaze and cooked another minute to seal the glaze.

For the udon just boil them in water according to directions and toss with soy-honey glaze.  The wasabi-lemon sauce was made by adding 1 tsp. wasabi paste to 1 tablespoon mayonnaise then stirring with the juice of one lemon.  I sprinkled sesame seeds for color, texture and flavor.  As you can see the finished product was very colorful and tasted great.  It was also quite healthy.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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