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Archive for August, 2012

It is August, that means CRAWFISH PARTY!

(Or crayfish as they also are called).

In Sweden, we love our crawfish.

Come August, we are all ready to fight the mosquitoes and sit outside eating crawfish. We would set a rustic table with platters of crawfish, shrimp, sharp cheese pies, hard bread and cheese, beer and lot’s of Vodka. We eat, drink and sing “snaps songs” (drinking songs).

You could just as well have your crawfish party inside. You just need to be  little more careful of not dropping shells on the floor…

Lanterns are hung all over. We also have garlands looking like little crawfish holding hands. It is great. There used to be restrictions of when to start eating them but now you can eat crawfish anytime.

I remember when my father used to catch crawfish.

It was crazy, scary and fun. I used to go with him. He had two different techniques. The easiest would be the common way. One would lay down crawfish cages in the evening. They would have a piece of herring stuck as bait in them. We would go and pick the cages up very early in the morning, around  6 – 7 am. If we were lucky, they would be full of crawfish.

The second and more doubtful version of collecting crawfish would be the crazy way (and I think my dad would be the only one doing it this way).

This version would involve us putting on our bathing suits and going into the lake. My dad and I would lay down in the water and float, using our arms to “walk” on the bottom. We would feel under the stones for crawfish. I would always be scared so I used to poke with a stick. My dad would get mad and say “Stop it, you will hurt them!” “But what about me?” I would answer. The thing is, when the crawfish would pinch your fingers you should just pull them out gently from underneath the stone. It would really hurt… I never liked it. But it was an adventure.

To fish for crawfish this way, there would be a little bit of a logistical obstacle. Where would one but the crawfish??  My brave father solved this in a very clever but  risky way. He would put the crawfish in a plastic bag. SInce his hands were busy “feeling” for more crawfish and “walking” on the bottom of the lake, he would put the plastic bag of crawfish in his trunks. Now that is one brave man!!! And I always said, thank god all 4 of me and my siblings already were “here”…

Anyway, after catching all the crawfish, he would let them loose all over the kitchen floor. All of us kids would escape up on chairs and tables. Scary times and brave parents. What else can I say?

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Västerbottenpaj. ( A sharp cheese pie.)

1 1/2 c. of flour.
1 stick of butter (about 130 gr.)
3 tsp. of cold water.
3 egg.
1 c. heavy cream.
1 c. shredded “Västerbotten” or other sharp cheese, Gruyère for example.
salt

Directions;

Mix butter, flour and water into a dough.

Add the dough to a shallow pie dish, medium size. Start working the dough into the dish.

When dough is well-distributed into the dish, take a fork and make little holes all around the pie shell. Bake it in a 450F (225C) degree oven. for about 10 minutes or until it is just starting to dry up.

Mix the eggs, cream & cheese in a bowl. If needed, add a little salt. Note that the cheeses usually are very salt. Pour into the pre-baked pie-shell. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is starting to turn golden brown on top.

You can eat it like this or decorate it with sour cream and caviar on top. Usually we just eat it plain in thin slices.

Enjoy.

kräftskiva (kraftskiva), or crawfish party is an traditional Swedish festivity. It usually occurs during the late summer in August, during the crawfishing season. The original reason to hold the celebrations in August, is because of the large fishing of crawfish in the late 1900th century. This resulted in a stop for consuming crawfish for the whole year until the crawfish-premiere at the 8th of August. This restriction was lifted in 1994, but the tradition remained and many Swedes still celebrate their kraftskiva around August 8th.In addition to the crawfish many different dishes are served at the ‘crawfish-table’. Much like midsummer, homemade bread, butter and cheese is served. Common is also different pies like cheese-pie, preferably with vasterbotten-cheese. Other dishes served is for instance various pasta-salads, potato-salad, green salad and cold sauces like aioli or Thousand Island Dressing. For dessert, strawberries with whipped cream and / or vanilla ice-cream is common.To drink at the kraftskiva, beer is most common. You will also find the ‘nubbe’, which is schnapps. Preferred kinds are nubbe flavoured with elder, Aquavit and for instance Absolut Vodka. Before each nubbe, everyone attending is supposed to sing a ‘nubbevisa’ which means schnapps-song.If you’d like to try a Swedish kräftskiva or crayfish-party at home, here are some recipes to try. Like midsummer the kräftskiva is held outdoors at a long table or ‘langbord’ to fit in everyone attending at the same table.

Ikea has a huge Crawfish party once a year. It is not really a traditional party but it works. As long as they have the crawfish I am fine. The Swedes sing songs, drink some smuggled wine and snaps and eat lot’s of crawfish.

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Nothing says summer like seafood. It is a little bit of a luxury if you could go to the fisherman and get the fish just a few hours after it was caught. We are lucky here in New York. It is so easy to get hold of fresh seafood here. Either you fish it yourself or you go to any fish market. We have some great grocery stores with fantastic fish departments. There is one in particular that I like. They will steam your lobsters right there. No need to take it home and have a mess in the kitchen. I used to boil my lobsters, then I figured out that steaming them was better. But, now I am smarter. I just have the professionals do it in the store.

I don’t know about you, but I can get these “cravings” for a real luxurious fish platter. My friend Mika and I used to make fish stews and fish soups all the time. The base would always be heavy cream. I don’t do that anymore. I try to just stick to a fantastic broth that has a splash of wine and saffron in it.

Here is a great seafood indulgent;

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Seafood feast in Saffron wine broth.

For this recipe you could use any seafood and shellfish that you prefer.

It feels very luxurious if you use a couple of different kinds. You just need very little of each kind per person.

For 2 people I used;

I Lobster, steamed and into big chunks. Save the claws as decoration on the plates.

A handful of Clams.

A handful of raw Shrimps.

A few Scallops. I used the big ones.

I filet of Arctic Char.

A couple of fresh figs

1 baguette.

2 shallots.

1 tbsp. of butter.

1/2 c. (1 dl) good tasting white wine.

A splash of white Port (optional).

1 pinch (one small package) of Saffron.

A couple of cherry tomatoes. Any color.

1/2 a fresh pepper. Any kind. Thinly sliced.

Dill.

Salt & pepper.

Directions;

Cut the fish filet into 1″ strips (about 3 cm). Fry them in a hot skillet with skin side down first. Just a minute or so on each side (I rather under cook than  over cook fish). Set aside on a plate when done. Fry the scallops at the same time, also just for a few minutes on each side just so that they get a golden brown color.

Chop the shallots finely. Add to the skillet. Fry until translucent. Add the Saffron, salt and pepper. Fry for a couple of minutes. Add the wine (and port wine). If you would like to, you can add more vegetables. Just make sure it is very finely cut into slices (julienne the vegetables).

Add the shrimps & the clams. Let boil for a couple of minutes. If the clams do not open, throw them out. They must be opening up to be ok to eat. When the shrimp is turning pink they are done. Add the lobster meat, the scallops & thinly sliced pepper. When you plate this, add the fish on top. Divide the broth over the seafood. Cut a few slices of the baguette and place on the side of the plates. It is great to dip the bread in the broth.

Add the tomatoes and the figs (cut in halves or quarters). Put a little sprig of dill on top as a decoration.

You can serve a little Aioli to this (garlic mayo).

I really hope you will like this as much as we do.

Enjoy!!!

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Julia Child should just have turned 100 years old.

I love the way she added humor and good sence into the all so serious food business.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the master herself;

“I think every woman should have a blowtorch.”
― Julia Child

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”
― Julia Child

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
― Julia Child

“…small helpings, no seconds, no snacking, and a little bit of everything. – Julia Child”
― Julia Child

“Just speak very loudly and quickly, and state your position with utter conviction, as the French do, and you’ll have a marvelous time!”
― Julia ChildMy Life in France

“Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need.”
― Julia Child

Everything in moderation… including moderation.”
― Julia Child

You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”
― Julia Child

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit. ”
― Julia Child

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”
― Julia Child

Happy birthday Julia!!!!

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Pasta sheets used for lasagna has not been thought of as anything so pretty that it should be “naked” on top of a dish. They are just the layers between the sauce and filling.

Until now, that is. I saw one of the old French chefs do this, and he called it a “handkerchief “.   It was put in a deep bowl over the filling. It is such a great idea, but I choose to make an open face or rather de-constructed lasagna to show the pasta sheets off. They are so nice and fragrant and give the dish that little extra.

I just stacked the fish and shrimp on top of each other with the sauce drizzled around the dish.

You could just as well pour the sauce on top but then you could not see the beauty of the herbs nestled inside the pasta sheets. But, it is just as good to use them as regular lasagna sheets.

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De-constructed Fish & Shrimp Lasagna with Herbal Pasta sheets.

1 package of either wonton wrappers or egg roll sheets/skins. (I used the “skins” for egg rolls.)

As much shrimp or fish you need for the amount of people you are serving. Ask in the fish store for the portions.

Pretty herbs and/or edible flowers.

Sprinkle of flour.

1 egg.

1/2 c. of cream or creme fraiche.

1/4 c. grated parmesan or other sharp cheese.

A little chopped parsley.

Pinch of ground nutmeg.

Hot sauce (optional)

Salt & pepper.

Zest from 1/2 a lemon.

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Brush the sheet with a beaten egg or egg wash (beaten egg with a splash of water.)

Randomly place the herbs and if you have, edible flowers.

Put another sheet on top and sprinkle a little flour on the table and use the rolling-pin to make the sheets a little bit bigger. Make sure all sides are well sealed.

Boil in very lightly salted water for a couple of minutes. Note that the pasta sheets will “grow” a little bit in size. When ready take them out carefully and place on a plate. You can “cut to size” for what you need or just use the sheets as they are in a regular lasagna. Note that they will stick together if you put them on top of each other and let sit for a little bit.

Stack the fish and shrimp on top of each other with the pasta sheets in between. Make a quick sauce of the cream or creme fraiche with a little parmesan or other strong/ sharp cheese, salt pepper & ground nutmeg. I also add a splash of hot sauce (of course!)

Pour out a little of the sauce around the pasta and seafood. Decorate with some extra shrimp, a little lemon zest and parsley.

Enjoy!!!!

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In my opinion, to cook meat in the oven for a long time on a low heat, gives the absolute best flavor.

To eat meat that is so tender it falls off the fork is just the best.

I either do a dry rub or marinate the meat in liquids over night in the fridge. Either way is great.

I remember the pot roasts my mother used to make for sunday dinner. The meat had cooked for many hours. My mom would use a little cheaper cut of meat but cook it to perfection so that it ended up tasting like a million bucks. After all, we were a family of six. One had to make the best with what one had or could afford.

And if there really was a festive dinner she would make Hasselback potatoes. I remember us kids trying to get more potatoes than what was offered to us. I can still smell them coming out of the oven…. The crust that built up on the bottom of the potatoes….mmmmm…

These potatoes are named after the old restaurant Hasselbacken, at Djurgården, Stockholm (Sweden), where they were first made in 1955.

This old restaurant is a landmark in Stockholm. It opened around 1760 as a little small place where they served beer and waffles. Later on it became this fancy restaurant and eventually a hotel was added on to it.

It is still a great place to go to for dinner.

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Hasselbacken at Djurgården, Stockholm. The picture is from 1945.

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Hasselbacken as it looks today.
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Brisket with a dry rub.

2 tbsp. dried herbs. (Any kind. I use dried herbs from my garden. Usually a mix of basil, oregano, thyme.)

2 tbsp. finely ground coffee.

1 tbsp. finely ground black pepper.

1 tbsp. crushed coriander seeds.

1 tbsp. Garam Masala.

1 tbsp. onion powder.

1 tbsp. garlic powder.

1-2 tbsp. ground cinnamon.

1 tbsp. paprika powder.

1 tsp. ground cumin (optional).

1-2 tsp. dried chili flakes or dried hot peppers. 

1-2 tbsp. good salt. (I use very little salt. Not the full amount but just enough so that the rub starts to work.)

1 tbsp. ground cardamom (optional).

If you have, add some finely ground dried lemon or lime zest into the rub.

If there is a favorite dry herb or spice that yo would like to add, do so. This is after all just a guide for you. It is very flexible in the combination of spices.

2-3 potatoes per person (Note that people will scream for more, so you might want to make some extra).

Salt & Pepper.

Butter.

Bread crumbs.

Directions;

The Brisket.

Make sure all ingredients are well ground. Mix them all together. Make sure the brisket is dry. Rub it with the spice mix. Make sure it is well coated all around. Let it “marinate” for a good couple of hours if possible. Or, even over night in the fridge. If you don’t have time for that, it is ok to add the dry rub when you are about to put it into the oven.

Place the meat in an oven safe dish. I usually put it with the fat part up so that it can “drip down”/melt over the meat. Cover “tightly” with foil. Cook in the oven on a very slow heat, 150-200 degrees fahrenheit for about 4-5 hours (It all depends on the size of meat but the longer the better). If you have access to a smoker, you could smoke it for part of this time. That would be fantastic.

When done, let it rest for a few minutes so that it is easier to cut slices and so that the juices “go back” into the meat. 

I usually save the drippings and boil it down on top of the stove with either a little cream, creme fresh or sour creme. It is delicious.

For the Hasslebacks potatoes. 

Rinse the potatoes. Put a potato onto a wooden spoon. Cut thin slices but not all the way down. The potato needs to stay together. Put it onto a cooking sheet. Add salt and pepper. Dab a little butter on top of each potato. if you would like that extra crunch, sprinkle a little bread crumbs over them. I don’t do that, but it is part of the original recipe.

Bake in the oven until soft inside.

Serve it with a fresh salad or crispy vegetables. You need something light to balance the heavier meat and potatoes.

Enjoy your Brisket and Hasselbacks potatoes. It is really a fantastic dinner choice for those of us who loves slowly cooked meat.

Enjoy!!!

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