July 13, 2014

Salt Cod Fritters with Spicy Cilantro Sauce

Salt cod is cod fish that has been preserved by drying and salting. Before it can be used, salt cod must be either soaked in cold water for a few days, changing the water two to three times a day, or boiled to rehydrate and remove some of the salt.

It is most commonly used in brandade, a French gratin of mashed potatoes mixed with salt cod, garlic, and olive oil (which is smeared on bread and is heavenly); with ackee fruit in the national dish of Jamaica; in New England fish cakes; in a casserole with potatoes & onions; or battered & fried (as I did).

So, why use dried and salted fish when you could use fresh fillets? NPR compares salt cod to prosciutto, asking "Why eat prosciutto [...] when you could have fresh ham?"
This is not a gratuitous comparison. As Harold McGee writes in his encyclopedic work of food science, On Food and Cooking
The best of these [salted fish] are the piscatory equivalent of salt-cured hams. 
In both, salt buys time for transformation: it preserves them long and gently enough for enzymes of both fish and harmless salt-tolerant bacteria to break down flavorless proteins and fats into savory fragments, which then react further to create flavors of great complexity.
I made these fritters in a Girls' Night Out cooking class that I taught on Friday. Having never seen, used, or eaten salt cod before, most of the women in class were skeptical. However, this recipe was a hit!

Salt Cod Fritters

July 3, 2014

Blackberry Thyme Margarita

Photos by Corey Woodruff

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to preview the reimagined menu at The Grill at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis. The Grill chef, Damien Faure (who, incidentally, is married to Simone Faure of La Patisserie Chouquette) has designed a menu highlighted by "traditional as well as communal and shared plates [...] along with classic house-made desserts, signature beverage creations, and an innovative Infused Oil offering." Guests can personalize their menu selections with a variety of house-infused oils. Flavors include lemon verbena & avocado, black garlic & herb, bacon & porcini mushroom, purple basil & brandywine tomato, black truffle, and spring onion & chipotle.

Everything that I sampled was delicious. I tried the New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp & grits with grilled chorizo; Prince Edwards Island Mussels with lemongrass & Kaffir lime; grilled Medjool dates with bacon, Cambozola, & roasted hazelnuts; blackened steak & mushroom flatbread; Tuscan kale & hearts of palm salad with strawberries & goat cheese (one of my favorite dishes that night); hot smoked salmon with tomato coulis; center-cut filet; beer-can chicken (that's right...Chef Faure wanted to represent a "local" dish); grilled asparagus, roasted cauliflower, & twice-baked potato. Dessert was strawberry & white chocolate baked Alaska and profiteroles with hazelnut ice cream.

Yep. It was A LOT of food. I was a happy, happy girl.

Before dinner, we sampled a few of The Ritz signature cocktails.  Why am I not having cocktails at The Ritz Lobby Lounge on a regular basis? They have like a gillion kind of martinis. My favorite was the Blackberry Thyme Margarita: "Sauza Blue, Cointreau, Fresh Lime Juice, Muddled Thyme, House Made Blackberry Simple Syrup, Blackberries."

Here's my recreation:

Blackberry Thyme Margarita