Archive for July, 2012

Baked mackerel with mustard and thyme

26 July 2012

During the first couple of weeks the persistent Breton drizzle rarely abated, the rolling clouds swept from deep coal to lighter greys, with barely a glint of blue. We went on foggy walks through swampy fields, tore out weeds under the rain, wore thick sweaters, spent evenings by the fireplace. There wasn’t much outdoor cooking.

And when it is too wet to grill mackerel on an open fire, the next best thing is to slather the fish with mustard on both sides and bake it in the oven. This is how we always prepared mackerel in the family. Short of outdoor grilling, it is the best.

Fish is pretty easy going and doesn’t need much in terms of preparation; the tricky and single most important thing is the cooking time. It is very easy to overcook and that ruins everything. This is particularly acute with mackerel: well cooked it is succulent, overdone it becomes heartlessly dry.

I usually count one mackerel per person, but here we’ve found very small line-caught mackerel that were barely enough for one, and occasionally I’ve seen mackerel large enough to be shared. When I’m not sure I seek advice from the fishmonger.

One medium mackerel per person, whole but gutted
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme
Olive oil
Hot Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Season the gutted belly cavity of the mackerel with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper; stuff with a sprig of thyme.

Drizzle a little olive oil onto a baking dish large enough to hold all the mackerel.

Slather a thin layer of mustard on both sides of each fish, place into the baking dish and slide into the oven.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes; this depends on the size of the fish, naturally, and larger ones could take a few minutes longer. **As it is absolutely essential not to overcook fish, rather risk having to pop it back into the oven for a minute if it is still raw inside (the flesh would still be slightly translucent).**

Serve immediately, preferably with mashed potatoes.

Rhubarb raspberry crostata

21 July 2012

I wasn’t going to make this, I admit. I saw the crostata on Lottie + Doof when it was published a few weeks ago and somehow dismissed it, as I might have snubbed a recipe that combines rhubarb and strawberries. In my mind rhubarb is not enhanced by berries of any sort. (Rosemary as a gentle herbal boost, on the other hand, is a different story.)

But I arrived in Brittany in the midst of what everyone claimed to be the worst summer (summer?) in recent memory. I’d already enjoyed a generous dose of sun and heat in New York, so I didn’t mind much, and the terrible weather had brought with it a few perks: still plenty of rhubarb at the market and lots of raspberries in the garden, bravely defying the odds on overgrown bushes left to fend for themselves all year long. (Also elders still in bloom! But more on that later.)

I bought rhubarb, as I always do; eyed the raspberries calling out for prompt picking; and remembered that a friend had recently raved about this crostata. The decision seemed to make itself.

As it turned out, I loved everything about the recipe. The crust is great. The technique of bending it back over the pie so simple and clever. And, well, the combination of rhubarb and raspberry really is well inspired, after all. (I did add a sprig of rosemary to infuse the filling as it was cooking, it was irresistible. Otherwise everything remains pretty much the same.)

The great thing here is that the crust and rolling technique can be used with all kinds of fruit. I imagine peach slices tossed with a little sugar and a few sprigs of thyme simply placed on the crust (uncooked) before baking would be excellent, too.

Recipe by Karen DeMasco in Bon Appétit via Lottie + Doof

For the  crust

1 cup (125 g) white flour

1/2 cup (75 g) whole wheat flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp sea salt

3/4 (170g) cup butter

1 large egg

1 Tbsp whole milk

Keep the butter well chilled.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, and salt.

Cut the cold butter into cubes, add to the flour mixture, and combine until the dough has the texture of coarse oatmeal.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and milk to combine well. Add the egg/milk to the flour/butter mixture, and work the dough just enough so that it can be gathered into a ball. If you need a little more moisture (I did), add some water, a few drops at a time, until the dough can be shaped.

Flatten the ball and place in the refrigerator, covered snugly with parchment paper, to rest for at least 1 1/2 hours and up to 2 days.

*

For the filling

1/4 cup (30 g) cornstarch

4 cups (about 500 g) rhubarb

1 pint raspberries

2/3 cup (135 g) sugar

1 sprig rosemary

In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 3 Tbsps water and set aside.

Wash, peel as necessary, and cut the rhubarb into 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces. Never wash raspberries but check through them to remove leaves or any damaged berries.

Combine the rhubarb, raspberries, rosemary, and sugar in a large heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the sugar dissolves and the juices are released, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the diluted cornstarch and bring to a boil, then transfer to a bowl and chill until cool, about 30 minutes. **The rhubarb will not be soft, the slices still intact; it will cook through later as the crostata bakes in the oven.**

*

The crostata

Flour for rolling the dough

1 egg and 1 tsp milk for the egg wash

A little brown sugar for sprinkling on the edges of the crostata

Remove dough from refrigerator and allow about 15 minutes for it to soften with the ambient heat and become easy to handle (but not too much or the dough becomes sticky and difficult to roll).

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Roll out the dough onto a large piece of floured parchment paper to about 12″ (30 cm), taking good care that it doesn’t stick and adding flour if necessary.

Beat one egg with a tsp milk and brush the crust with the egg wash (this helps seal the crust so the juices from the fruit don’t make it soggy).

Remove the sprig rosemary from the cooled filling and scoop the filling carefully onto the crust, spreading it evenly from the center outward leaving a 2″ (5 cm) border. Gently fold the edges of the dough back over the filling.

Brush the borders with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Slide the parchment paper with the crostata onto a baking sheet, then into the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the filling bubbly, about 45 minutes.

Let the crostata cool. Serve with crème fraîche or whipped cream.

PS: Photos are of the uncooked crostata and here I added a few fresh raspberries just before baking. This is not reflected in the recipe.


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