August 13, 2015
This is Mentaiko – spiced pollack roe. Originally Korean, it's become a Japanese staple. I think of it as soft Asian bottarga with a little chile kick. And I use it in almost everything I'd use bottarga in. Sometimes it stands in for uni, although more for texture than for flavor, and it makes a really delicious pasta dish. You can find mentaiko at most Asian markets; I bought mine at Sunrise Mart.
But my favorite way to eat mentaiko? Very simply. Squeeze the roe out of the sac onto a small bowl of hot rice and mix like crazy.
If you're looking for a good pasta recipe, here's one I like very much from Grace Keh: it's not only an excellent recipe, but a very good explanation of exactly what to expect when you're using mentaiko.
And while we're on recipes I like…. A recent post on Zester about savory peaches intrigued me too much to resist. I've never thought of using peaches as if they were a vegetable and the result was really fantastic. The peaches I used were hard as rocks – so hard I peeled them like apples – but in the end they were tender, fragrant and absolutely delicious. If you've never thought about peaches with ginger and garlic, they're a fine surprise. They made a perfect accompaniment to a bowl of spicy Chinese noodles.
August 2, 2015
Finding head-on shrimp is increasingly difficult – and that's a shame.
Why do you want the heads on? Because they make this gorgeous red stock (the color comes from the fat in their heads):
This is what the stock looks like when it's cooking:
And here is how you make it:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
heads and shells of ¾ pound medium shrimp
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
¾ cup wine
4 cups water
Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp and put them in separate bowls. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the shrimp heads, onion, carrot, and parsley, and cook over medium heat, covered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shrimp shells, ¾ cup of white wine, and 4 cups of water and simmer very gently, uncovered for about an hour and a half to make an intense stock (it will turn bright orange from the fat in the shrimp heads). Strain the liquid into a bowl and set aside. There will be about 1 ½ cups stock.
What do you do with it? It will improve almost anything you're making with fish. As part of the liquid in paella, it's superb. If you're making a seafood pasta, cook the pasta just al dente and finish it, briefly, in the stock. It's the start of a lovely bisque….
Where did I find these wonderful, sustainable (and expensive) sun shrimp? You can order them by mail – or if you're lucky enough to live in the Berkshires, you can order them from Rubiner's every week.