Friday, October 17, 2014

Asian-Style Salmon in a Foil Packet

I get asked the question all the time: How do I cook salmon without over cooking it? If I'm looking at someone who is truly nervous and/or a cooking novice I say two words: FOIL PACKET. Sure there are lots of ways to achieve the perfectly cooked salmon. I've nailed the pan sear and there's roasting but all of this takes practice and some...finesse. So when I'm trying to lead others in the right direction, I like to take them down the road that I know for certain will get them where they're trying to go, not the road less traveled. It's the foil packet that's, in my opinion, the easiest, sure-fire way to cook salmon WELL.

Usually when I make these packs, I do a version in a rosemary, lemon and wine sauce. You can check that recipe out HERE. Even though this is one of my favorite dishes, I do enjoy Asian-Style Salmon as well where I marinate the filets in teriyaki sauce and bake or grill it. I wanted to do this version in a foil pack but I also wanted to include my veggies, making this a super speedy meal. So I came up with some veggies that are quick cooking and that would compliment the Asian flavors: carrots, mushrooms, scallions and snow peas. Though the night that I made this, I lucked up and found an amazing "Wasabiyaki" sauce at Harris Teeter (I discuss this below), but no dang snow peas! I was so disappointed in H.T. but I decided to double up on the carrots instead. Just wanted to explain why the snow peas weren't pictured.

Anyway, this is a great weeknight meal. Prep takes about 20 minutes, it all cooks in 25 and clean up is a breeze because you just toss the foil. Plus this meal is incredibly nutritious. Salmon is packed with protein and following my measurements, you get one and a half servings of vegetables and you can always add more. Plus all of the veggies I listed above are so good for you, not to mention the added health benefits of ginger and garlic. So give this a try. The recipe serves two but can easily be doubled. Enjoy!

Ingredients: (Makes 2 servings)
1 cup Carrot Slices or Matchsticks, divided
1 cup Snow Peas, divided
1 cup Baby Portobello Mushrooms, sliced, divided
3 Scallions, sliced, white and green parts divided
4 Cloves Garlic, grated or minced, divided
4 tablespoons Ginger, grated or minced, divided
6 tablespoons store-bought Teriyaki Sauce*, divided
8oz Salmon Filet, cut into 2-4oz portions
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Additional Tool: Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil

*I used a “Wasabiyaki” Sauce I found at Harris Teeter.  I highly recommend it because the wasabi added an extra kick of heat in this dish.  If you like your food mild, simply use regular teriyaki.  If you like extra heat and cannot find this sauce, simply mix a few drops of Sriracha Hot Sauce with the teriyaki sauce.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Tear off 2 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, approximately 12-by-24-inches each, and lay them on your countertop (If you’re just using regular foil, you may want to double up).

Dividing evenly, place the carrots, snow peas, baby bellos, and the white parts of the scallions in the center of the two pieces of foil.  Lightly season the vegetables with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  Sprinkle a few pinches of ginger and garlic over the vegetables.

Next, top the veggies with the two pieces of Salmon.  Lightly season the filets with salt and pepper and sprinkle remaining garlic and ginger on top.  Carefully transfer both pieces of foil with the fish and veggies to a large baking pan or cookie sheet.  

Gently fold up the sides of the foil to partially cover the veggies and fish (you don’t want the liquid to run) and pour 3 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce over each piece of fish.  Fold the foil completely over the fish and seal the edges to form your two packets.  

Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Carefully open the packets and transfer fish and vegetables to a plate, being sure to pour any remaining sauce over the fish.  Garnish with the green parts of the scallions.  Serve with brown rice or skip it for a carb free meal.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baked Egg Over Spinach & Grits

This baked bowl of deliciousness all started with me trying to recreate a dish I had at a restaurant.  I don't remember what it was called but it involved polenta, sauteed veggies and a poached egg.  It was so deliciously simple that I thought "I can make this!" (as I tend to do).  Though as many of you already know, I'm a grits girl and no matter how skilled of a cook I claim to be, there are just some techniques I am NOT here for and poaching eggs is one of them.  So when I decided to recreate this dish I replaced polenta with grits and got the idea to bake everything in the oven, including the egg.  This way, I keep the runny yolk but loose all the hassle. Voila!

Though there was one problem: I got a serious craving for this dish on a day that I was low on everything.  All I could find in the way of veggies was spinach and half a red onion.  So unlike the restaurant version, which had all kinds of vegetables, mine was going to be a bit simpler. But like the restaurant version it was going to be meat free.  Even though I knew bacon would be amazing in this dish, I just didn't have any. So I carried on with my meatless meal, being sure to season everything WELL.  You'll find salt, pepper and paprika in the ingredients along with butter and parmesan cheese.  The latter can be omitted if you want to make this healthier but those seasonings and flavors combined with the runny yolk are almost sinful.  And while we're on the topic, the runny effing yolk!  Oh em gee.  It is everything in this dish and even though I thought poaching an egg would tough, I found this method to still be tricky.

See I have made this about 6 times now and I admit that I over cooked the egg twice.  The dish was not ruined, it just wasn't the same.  Overall, I learned that the trick is to have aluminum foil and patience.  The 20-25 minutes that this dish required may feel brutal but don't rush the egg and don't be afraid of the yolk and some giggle.  I'm telling you if you were never a fan of runny yolk, you will be the president of the fan club after this dish.  It's that good.

And before I stop typing I just want to be clear that I typically don't overhype dishes like this. But like I said, here I am 6 baked eggs later and I still may make this again this weekend.  It's becoming my go-to weekend breakfast.  So when YOU make this (cause I know you will), feel free to use the veggies you have on hand or those that you like; this is very versatile.  Also, this recipe is written for one portion (Because it's definitely going in my cookbook for singles) but it's super easy to double or quadruple.  If you do, bake it in individual dishes or use a large casserole dish and serve family style.  Another helpful hint is that you can prep the grits and the veggies in advance, cover with saran and store in the fridge for 48 hours.  When you're ready, pre heat your oven, throw the egg on there and boom! Breakfast!  Though I must admit that when I prepped an extra dish for the next day it ended up being that night's dinner.  Again, it's that good! Enjoy!

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
¼ teaspoon Fresh Black Pepper
¼ teaspoon Smoked Paprika (or sweet)
1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups baby spinach, loosely packed
¼ cup Quick Cook Grits
1 cup water
2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese (plus more for garnish)
1 egg

Special tools: 
Small “Au Gratin” Dish (click HERE to view online, medium to large ramekins also work)
Aluminum Foil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small saucer, combine the seasonings: salt, pepper and paprika.  Then in a small sauté pan, heat half of the butter and the oil.  Add in the red onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes, then add in the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more.  Next, add in the spinach, add a couple generous pinches of the seasoning mixture, and sauté everything together until spinach has just wilted.  Remove pan from the heat.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine grits and water and microwave on high for about 3 minutes.  The grits should be slightly runny, not too hard as they will continue to cook in the oven.  Carefully, remove grits from the microwave and season them with the remaining butter, parmesan cheese, and a couple more generous pinches of the seasoning mix.  Stir to combine.  Pour the seasoned grits into a baking dish (Feel free to add an extra sprinkling of seasoning as pictured).

Next, top grits with sautéed spinach, leaving a hole in the center.  

Gently crack the egg and add it to the center of the dish.  The egg whites may spread out, but the yolk should be in the center.  Season the egg with the a bit more seasoning mix and then cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil and carefully place the dish in the preheated oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  You are looking for the whites to be just set and the yolk to be runny.  I suggest checking after 20 minutes. If the egg whites are still undercooked, cover and bake 5 minutes more.  When egg is cooked, carefully remove dish from the oven.  Allow to stand for 5 minutes before placing the dish on a plate.  Sprinkle with extra parmesan cheese and enjoy.