Posts Tagged ‘fish’

While I breeze through some episodes, this episode was one that took a little while for me to complete. Not only were there five recipes in this episode, but they also all contained nuts; this made for some pretty rich food, so I had to space the recipes out a little bit. First was Alton’s cashew sauce.

Cashew Sauce

This recipe is really two recipes in one:  one for cashew butter, and another for the cashew sauce that is made WITH the cashew butter. To make the cashew butter, combine 10 ounces of roasted/unsalted cashews with two heavy pinches of Kosher salt in a food processor.

Place 2 T honey in the microwave for ~15 seconds to loosen it up, and combine the honey with 1/3 C walnut oil.

With the food processor running, slowly add the oil/honey until the mixture is smooth.

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Honey/oil drizzling into cashews.

If you just want cashew butter, you can stop here.

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Cashew butter.

To continue on and make Alton’s cashew sauce, whisk 1/2 C of your cashew butter with 3/4 C coconut milk and 1/4 t cayenne pepper in a saucier over medium heat. Once smooth, use the sauce as desired.

Alton recommended serving the cashew sauce over chicken or rice. I chose to serve my cashew sauce over some sweet potato “noodles” and meatballs, along with a little bit of cilantro.

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Cashew sauce served over sweet potato noodles and meatballs.

IMG_7353First off, Alton’s cashew butter is super delicious; it’s sort of like a richer, sweeter, better peanut butter, and it is great on pretty much anything. We were also fans of the cashew sauce, which was rich, nutty, and had a perfect punch of heat from the cayenne pepper. And, if you are too lazy to make your own nut butter (it is worth it, though), you could always use purchased nut butter to make the sauce. This sauce is also super versatile, as you could use it over meat, pasta, or vegetables.

Pistachio Mixed Herb Pesto

I love pesto and it is something I make every summer. I typically make basil pesto, so I can use up the last of my fresh basil, freeze the pesto in batches, and continue to dream of summer as the weather gets colder. Sage pesto is nice to make in the fall too! Alton’s pesto recipe in this episode was a little different from the other pestos I have made in the past, as parsley was the primary herb and toasted pistachios were the nut of choice (I toasted my pistachios in a 400 degree oven for ~5 minutes).

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Ingredients for pesto: garlic, thyme, tarragon, sage, oregano, olive oil, Parmesan, parsley, and toasted pistachios.

To make Alton’s pesto, drop 1/2 to 1 clove of garlic into the lid of a running blender, chopping the garlic finely (I opted for a full clove since I like garlic). When the garlic is chopped, turn off the blender and add 2 T fresh lemon thyme (I could not find lemon thyme, so used regular thyme), 2 T fresh tarragon, 1 T fresh sage, 1 T fresh oregano, 2 C packed flat leaf parsley, 1/2 C grated Parmesan, and 3/4 C toasted pistachios.

With the blender running, drizzle in 2/3 C olive oil until emulsified.

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Pesto, after drizzling in olive oil.

Alton recommends serving his pesto on pesto or toast. I served the pesto over zucchini “noodles” with fresh Parmesan.

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Pesto over zucchini noodles.

This pesto is super flavorful, tastes like a variety of herbs, and has great color. Since everyone always thinks of basil and pine nuts/walnuts for pesto, this version really mixes things up. And, if you happen to have fresh herbs in your garden, this can also be a relatively inexpensive pesto recipe. Give this one a try for a tasty twist on pesto.

Pistachio Fruit Balls

For a sweet treat using nuts, Alton made these pistachio fruit balls.

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Ingredients for pistachio fruit balls: roasted pistachios, dates, dried apricots, orange juice, golden raisins, creme de cassis, and dried cherries.

Begin this recipe by grinding 1 C roasted pistachios in a food processor. Set the pistachios aside.

Next, in a large bowl combine 1/2 C pitted dates, 1/2 C dried apricots, 1/2 C golden raisins, and 1 C dried cherries.

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Combined dried fruit.

Run the dried fruit mixture through a meat grinder with a medium die, catching the ground fruit in a bowl.

Add half of the ground pistachios to the ground fruit, along with 1 T fresh orange juice and 2 T creme de cassis. Note:  creme de cassis is a black currant liqueur.

Using your hands, work the mixture together until thoroughly combined. Once combined, use a melon baller to form individual balls of the fruit mixture, and roll the balls in the remaining ground pistachios.

If you find that the mixture is too sticky, you can put some vegetable oil on your hands. Store the fruit balls in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Pistachio fruit balls.

The online reviews of this recipe are mixed, which I find surprising. We thought these were a really great, healthy, sweet snack. Some reviewers complained of this being a messy or difficult recipe, but I found neither to be the case at all. You could always substitute a different liqueur if you did not have creme de cassis, but I wanted to test the recipe as written. These fruit balls had just the perfect amount of sweetness, held together perfectly, and had great crunch from the pistachios. We ate these as a snack every day for a week. I liked this recipe!

Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi

When Alton made this recipe in the episode, he used mahi mahi, but I could not find mahi mahi where I live. Instead, Ted splurged and picked up a couple halibut fillets. This recipe makes enough for four servings, so I halved the recipe for us. To make the recipe for four servings, coarsely crush 5 ounces of roasted macadamia nuts; you can do this in the food processor or you can put them in a tea towel and whack it on the counter.

Put the macadamias in a bowl and add 2 T flour, 1/2 C Panko bread crumbs, and 1/2 a stick of butter, melted. Stir the mixture to combine and set it aside.

Preheat your oven to 425, placing a rack in the center of the oven. While the oven preheats, line a sheet pan with foil and brush it liberally with vegetable oil. Place fish fillets (6-8 ounces each) on the foil and season them with Kosher salt and pepper.

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Fish fillets placed on lubed foil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Stick the fish in the preheated oven for five minutes to par cook.

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Par cooking the fish.

Remove the fish from the oven and brush it with coconut milk; it should take about 2 T.

Pat the nut mixture lightly onto the fish, crumpling the foil up around the edges of the fish to keep the nut crust from sliding off.

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Nut crust patted onto fish, and foil propped up.

Stick the fish back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes, or until golden brown. My crust took the full 10 minutes to be golden.

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Fish after cooking.

Let the fish rest at room temperature for ~10 minutes before eating. Honestly, I was worried that the time needed to make my nut crust golden would render my fish overcooked, but the fish turned out to be perfectly cooked. We enjoyed this on a warm evening, with a glass of white wine and a squeeze of lemon.

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Alton’s macadamia nut crusted fish.

This is a rich fish dish that would be worthy of serving for a special occasion. The fish was moist and the nut crust was rich, crunchy, buttery, and nutty. Great recipe. Oh, and if you don’t know, keep the macadamia nuts away from your dogs, as they are toxic.

Macadamia Nut Crust

It turns out that the macadamia nut crust above can also be used as a pie crust. So, again, to make the crust, chop 5 ounces of roasted macadamia nuts (you can roast them in the oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees).

Combine the chopped macadamia nuts with 2 T flour, 1/2 C Panko bread crumbs, and 1/2 a stick of butter, melted.

Pat the crust mixture into a pie plate and use with any pie filling recipe. If you need to blind bake the crust for your pie recipe, bake it at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Well, I ended up making this pie crust twice. I needed to blind bake my crust because I was making a no-bake key lime pie, but it turns out that 20 minutes is way too long to blind bake this crust. Yep, my first crust was scorched.

When I made the crust the second time, I began checking it at 10 minutes and it was done in about 15.

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A slice of key lime pie with macadamia crust.

This crust added a great crunch and nutty flavor to my pie, and it was very easy to prep with no rolling/chilling of dough. The downside of this crust was that it was super crumbly, so it didn’t make for pretty slices of pie. Other than that, though, this was a buttery, nutty, crispy pie crust.

From herbs in the last episode, the Good Eats trail takes us to spices in episode 98. So, what is the difference between a spice and an herb? An herb is a leaf, while a spice is a different part of a plant. If you want to keep your spices fresh longer, it is ideal to purchase spices in their whole forms, grinding them in a spice-only coffee grinder just prior to use. I remember that my dad began grinding his spices after watching this episode when it aired in 2004. Read on for Alton’s spice-friendly recipes.

Dried Pear and Fig Compote

A fruit compote is the first thing Alton made in this episode.

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Ingredients for fruit compote: white wine, dried figs, dried pears, vanilla bean, lemon zest, star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves, Kosher salt, lemon juice, and honey.

To make his compote, place 4 ounces dried figs, 4 ounces dried pears, 2 T honey (Alton used orange blossom), 1/2 a vanilla bean, 1 C apple cider, 1 C white wine, a 1-inch strip of lemon zest, 1 T lemon juice, 6 whole cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise pod, and 1/2 t Kosher salt in a medium saucepan.

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All of the compote ingredients placed in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, decrease the heat to low, and continue to simmer the compote for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I found that it took the full 1 1/2 hours of simmering for my compote to thicken as Alton’s had.

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The compote, brought to a simmer and left for 1 1/2 hours.

After simmering, remove the cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and lemon zest; good luck finding the cloves – we didn’t find some of them until we ate the compote!

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The compote after simmering.

Serve the compote warm over ice cream or you can refrigerate it for later use. We ate the compote over vanilla ice cream and it was very flavorful and spicy.IMG_6930

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Compote over ice cream.

All of the spices seemed to be well-balanced, though clove was perhaps the most dominant spice. The compote was pretty sticky in texture and had little pops of crunch from the dried fig seeds, which were quite prevalent. Due to the rich color of the compote, and its spices, the compote seems to me like a good dish to make in the fall. This would also be great over a pork tenderloin. This is a recipe that truly shows how spices can contribute to a sweet dish.

Vegetable Curry

For a weeknight vegetarian dinner, consider giving Alton’s vegetable curry a try.

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Spices for Alton’s vegetable curry: coriander, onion powder, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin seed, mustard seed, and fennel seed.

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Spices, divided for their addition in the recipe. Yellow bowl has cumin seed, fennel seed, and mustard seed. Red bowl has coriander, onion powder, cinnamon, and turmeric. Green bowl has Kosher salt, sugar, and pepper.

The recipe begins with poking holes in a frozen bag of mixed vegetables. Microwave the veggies on high for 2-3 minutes, or until thawed.

Next, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, adding 2 T vegetable oil to coat the pan. To the oil, add 1 t cumin seed, 1/2 t mustard seed, and 1/2 t fennel seed. If you have a splatter guard, Alton recommends that you use it now.

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Cumin seed, mustard seed, and fennel seed added to hot oil in skillet.

Meanwhile, whisk together in a bowl 2/3 C plain yogurt and 1 t cornstarch, setting the bowl aside.

When the mustard seeds begin to pop in your skillet, add 1/2 t freshly ground coriander, 1/2 t onion powder, 1/8 t ground cinnamon, and 1 t ground turmeric.

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Coriander, onion powder, cinnamon, and turmeric added to skillet once mustard seeds began to pop.

It is also time now to add two crushed cloves of garlic and three dried red chilies with their stems and seeds removed.

Cook this mixture until the garlic begins to turn golden, but watch it very carefully as the spices could easily burn. When the garlic begins to brown, add the thawed bag of vegetables to the pan, along with 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t sugar, and black pepper to taste.

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Thawed frozen veggies, stirred in, along with Kosher salt, sugar, and pepper.

Stir the vegetables until they are heated through and coated with the spice mixture. Finally, quickly stir the vegetables into the bowl of yogurt.

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Spiced vegetables added to yogurt.

In the episode, Alton appeared to serve his vegetable curry as a side dish, but I opted to serve his curry over rice for a main course.

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Vegetable curry served over rice.

We thought this curry was pretty impressive, though the chilies really didn’t make it very hot. I would prefer to have more heat in my curry, but that is just personal preference. Otherwise, this curry had a nice combination of spices and came together in a matter of minutes. To get some protein, you could always add some tofu or meat. I would not say this recipe wowed me, but it is good for what it is – an easy weeknight vegetable dinner. And, it does have lots of spice flavor.

Broiled Salmon with AB’s Spice Pomade

Alton’s third spice recipe features salmon. It begins by placing an oven rack in the top third of the oven and preheating the broiler. Brush a sheet pan with canola oil, placing a skinless three-pound side of salmon on the pan; I opted for a smaller piece, or really two pieces, of salmon since there were only two of us eating.

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My salmon.

Sprinkle the fish all over with 1 to 1 1/2 t Kosher salt and with 1 t black pepper.

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My salmon, sprinkled with Kosher salt and pepper.

In a blender combine 2 t onion powder, 1 t garlic powder, 1/2 t cayenne pepper, 1 t whole cumin seed, 1 T whole fennel seed, 1 T whole coriander seed, and 1 star anise pod.

Blend all of the spices and pour in 1/3 C canola oil while the blender is running.

Brush this spice “pomade” all over the fish and let the fish sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

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Salmon, brushed with pomade and left to sit for 30 minutes.

After resting, broil the fish for 15 minutes and check it for doneness. To check fish for doneness, look for three things:  1- the fish should be firm and bounce back when touched, 2 – the fish should flake easily when scraped with a fork, and 3 – the fish should be at 131 degrees in its thickest part.

IMG_6921Keep in mind that Alton’s cooking time is for three pounds of fish, so you will need to modify cooking time for a smaller piece of fish. My salmon was honestly overdone on the edges. To me, a good salmon recipe is one that does not overpower the fish, yet enhances it. I think this recipe does that. The fish is flavorful and moist, but has the added flavor pop from the combination of spices.

Curry Powder Blend

The last recipe in this episode is for Alton’s curry powder. I have a lidded tin in my basement that contains nothing but curry powders. For as long as I can remember, my parents used this tin to house their curry powders, and I inherited it a couple years ago. We have sweet curry powder, Thai curry powder, hot curry powder, and maharaja curry powder. Never, though, had I made my own curry powder… until now.

For Alton’s curry powder, in a lidded container combine 2 T cumin seed, 2 T cardamom seed (I had to use ground), 2 T coriander seed, 1/4 C ground turmeric, 1 T dry mustard, and 1 t cayenne pepper.

Shake the mixture to combine. Since Alton’s curry powder contains lots of whole spices, you can grind the curry powder just prior to use.

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Alton’s curry powder.

I never knew my paternal grandmother, but my dad began serving me her curry recipe when I was very young, and it has always been one of my favorite things. It is fun to alter the curry by mixing different curry powders each time. To really test Alton’s curry powder, I used it exclusively in Grandma’s curry and it passed the test very well.

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A bowl of my grandma’s curry made with Alton’s curry powder.

Alton’s curry powder is a mixture of sweetness, nuttiness, citrus, bitterness, and moderate heat. I would call this a very good all-around curry powder, and it has been added to the tin for future batches of curry goodness.

Red Snapper en Papillote

When watching all of these Good Eats episodes, certain recipes really jump out at me. In this episode, the recipe for snapper en papillote was the one that made me super enthusiastic. I really loved the red snapper in a salt dome that I made way back in episode 10, so another snapper recipe made me excited. Unfortunately, the seafood store where I previously found whole red snapper has closed, so I had to turn to the grocery store; the fish monger was unable to get a whole red snapper, so I wound up with some other type of snapper (honestly, I don’t know exactly what it was). My fish was also not cleaned, so I had to do that myself, with a little help from my husband. If you do happen to be shopping for a whole red snapper, be sure to check the eyes of the fish, as true red snappers will have red eyes. If, like me, you cannot find red snapper in your area, Alton says you can substitute whole trout, tilapia, arctic char, or tilefish in this recipe. Regardless of the type of fish you use, for this recipe, a 1-2 pound fish will work best. Start by rinsing 1 C of couscous in cold water; sprinkle it with Kosher salt and set it aside while you prep the fish.

Prep the fish by rinsing your whole fish under cold water, scraping it with a knife to remove any remaining scales. Trim off all fins, but leave the tail intact. Pat the fish dry, including inside the fish, and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper, leaving a long overhang (the parchment needs to be large enough to fold over the whole fish). Place the fish diagonally across the parchment, sprinkling it all over (including inside the cavity) with Kosher salt and black pepper.

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My whole fish, sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Place a handful of fresh oregano and parsley inside the fish, along with a few slices of lemon and red onion. You can stick anything extra under the fish.

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My fish, stuffed with fresh oregano, parsley, red onion, and lemon.

Sprinkle the rinsed couscous all around the fish, along with 1 C of drained/quartered artichoke hearts, 1 C halved cherry tomatoes, and 2 t garlic. Place lemon slices and sliced red onion along the top of the fish, and drizzle everything with 1/2 C white wine. Finally, dab 1 T of butter along the top of the fish.

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Couscous, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, garlic, lemon, red onion, wine, and butter added to fish.

Fold the parchment paper over the fish, creasing the three open sides of the packet. Staple the whole package shut, placing staples about every inch.

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Parchment folded and stapled over fish.

Place the fish in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

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Fish packet in 425-degree oven.

Once out of the oven, cut the parchment packet open and serve the fish.

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Fish after cooking for 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, this recipe didn’t wow me as much as I hoped it would, but some of that may have been due to my fish, which was kind of “blah.” I am open to trying this again with a different whole fish. I did like that this recipe is a one-pan dinner with built-in sides of couscous and vegetables, and the fish was nicely cooked. My couscous did end up being slightly gummy, but the combination of flavors in the dish was great, and I did like the presentation. If you can get whole red snapper where you live, I think this might be a great recipe to try.

Salmon Fillet en Papillote with Julienned Vegetables

The second recipe in this episode is super easy and is made in individual servings, making it easily adaptable for any number of guests. As with the snapper recipe above, parchment paper is used here to create a pouch, but this time there is one pouch per person. Start with a fairly large rectangle of parchment, folding it in half. Use scissors or a knife to cut a large half-heart shape from the creased side of the parchment. Unfold the parchment to reveal your full parchment heart. Ahhh… takes me right back to 3rd grade.

On the right side of the parchment heart place 1/3 C carrot strips, 1/3 C fennel strips, 1/3 C snow pea strips, and 1/3 C leek strips.

Place an 8-ounce salmon fillet (skin side down) on top of the vegetables and season everything with Kosher salt, pepper, and 1/8 t ground coriander.

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Salmon fillet placed on top of vegetables. Seasoned with salt, pepper, and coriander.

Place the wedges of a small peeled orange on top of the fish and sprinkle the whole mound with a “wee shot” of vermouth.

Fold the parchment over the fish, creasing the edge at the top of the heart, and folding the edge up. Go halfway down the length of the fold, make a crease, and fold again, sort of like sealing a calzone. Continue creasing and folding all the way around the heart, twisting the parchment tip and folding it under.

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Parchment folded over fish and sealed by creasing/folding all the way around.

Place the whole packet in the microwave and cook on high for 4 minutes, or cook for 12 minutes in a 425-degree oven. Since there were two of eating Alton’s salmon packets, I opted, for comparison’s sake, to cook one packet in the microwave and the other in the oven. My microwaved fish was moist and flaking easily after 4 minutes, but my oven fish needed several more minutes to be cooked.

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Fish after cooking in the microwave.

I found this to be a successful recipe, resulting (in the microwave case) in nicely cooked fish. The orange wedges paired nicely with the fish and contributed a lot of moisture, and the whole dish had just a hint of vermouth.

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Salmon en papillote with oranges and vegetables.

Once again, this was a nice one-packet meal, as each packet included the fish and accompanying veggies. Plus, you can have this on the table in less than 30 minutes and it is healthy.

Ramen Shrimp Pouch

The third recipe in Alton’s series of pouch recipes is for shrimp lovers and is definitely a quickie that could be prepped any day of the week. As with the salmon pouches above, you can make as few or as many of these packets as you need to suit your number of diners. To make this one, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lay out a large square of foil for each diner. On the center of each foil square, layer in this order:  1/2 of a block of noodles from a ramen package, 2 T chopped dried mushrooms, 5 large shrimp that have been peeled and deveined, 2 T chopped onions, 2 T chopped scallions, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a pinch of Kosher salt.

Ball the foil up around the top of the shrimp, leaving a small opening at the top. Use the opening in each foil packet to pour in 1 T vegetable broth, 1 T mirin, 2 t soy sauce, and 1 t sesame oil.

Crimp the foil closed tightly, leaving a tiny steam porthole in the top of each packet. Place the packets in the preheated oven for 15 minutes; you may want to place them on a baking sheet, just in case they leak.

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Shrimp packets in the oven.

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Shrimp packet after 15 minutes in the oven.

Though I am not a shrimp lover, I thought this was a very clever and tasty dish. The shrimp were perfectly cooked after 15 minutes and you could taste all of the flavors in the pouch. I will say that some of my noodles were a bit chewy, so I would suggest breaking the noodles up slightly before putting them on the foil, and maybe adding a bit more liquid directly over the noodles. With a little tweaking, I think this could be an outstanding weeknight shrimp recipe.

Stone Fruit Pouches

Alton finished up his pouch cookery with a dessert. For each person eating, lay out a large double layer square of foil. In the center of each square, place 1/2 C crumbled gingersnaps, 1 quartered plum, 1 sliced apricot (8 pieces), 2 t sugar, 1 t lime zest, a pinch of Kosher salt, and 1 T cubed butter. I had no choice but to adapt this recipe a little bit, as it was certainly not stone fruit season when I made them. I opted to use mango and quince in my pouches.

Fold up the foil, leaving an opening at the top, and pour in the juice of half a lime and a shot of brandy.

Seal up the packets, leaving a tiny porthole. These packets can be cooked in a 500-degree oven or on a grill. If using a grill, they should be done in 10 minutes, or after 15-20 minutes in the oven. Serve the warm fruit with vanilla ice cream.

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Warm fruit served with vanilla ice cream.

The gingersnaps almost caramelize, the fruit softens, and you taste hints of lime and brandy. I bet these pouches would be good with peaches or pineapple too, and they would make for a super easy prep-ahead dessert during grilling season. Yes, this is one to keep in your back pocket.

Braciole

When I married into Ted’s family I became privy to his family’s spaghetti recipe, a meal that epitomizes “comfort food.” Their family recipe is for a rich red sauce, flavored with meat and spices, that is served over spaghetti. Included in the red sauce are bracioles, which are miniature rolls of seasoned meat that become incredibly tender as they simmer in the red sauce. When I saw that the final Good Eats episode of the sixth season would involve making a braciole, I was incredibly curious to see how Alton’s version would compare with Ted’s family’s recipe.

For his braciole, Alton recommends using flank steak, purchasing the thinnest one you can find.

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Flank steak.

Laying the steak on a counter, spritz its surface with water and cover it with plastic wrap. Spritz the surface of the plastic wrap with water also; the water will allow the meat tenderizer to slide as it hits the meat. Using a meat tenderizer (Alton recommends one with a large, flat surface), pound the steak until it is thin.

Next, it is time to make the braciole filling by combining in a food processor 1 clove of garlic, 1 T chopped parsley, 1 T chopped fresh oregano, 1 t chopped rosemary, 1 t chopped thyme, 1/3 C grated Parmesan, 1 1/4 C flavored croutons, and 2 eggs.

Using a spatula (I found that my hands worked better), spread the filling over the surface of the flank steak, with the wide edge of the steak facing you. Do not go all the way to the edge of the meat, or the roll will not seal well.

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Flank steak topped with braciole filling.

Roll the meat toward you until you have a nice log, and turn the meat 90 degrees, so it is perpendicular to you.

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Flank steak rolled into a log.

Running cotton butcher’s twine under the far end of the meat, tie a surgeon’s knot near the top of the log by passing the string twice under itself, followed by two more passes the other direction. Be sure to leave at least eight inches of excess twine on the loose end.

Working toward you, twist the twine to form a large loop and wiggle it up the meat.

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A loop formed by twisting the twine and wiggling the loop up the meat.

Continue forming loops, sliding them up the meat until you have a ladder of twine running up the length of the meat.

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Continuous loops formed and wiggled up the meat to form a network of loops.

Flip the log over and bring the twine to the top of the log, crossing it once under the center loop of twine.

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The meat, flipped to its back side. Bringing the string up to the top, crossing it once under the center loop.

Bringing the two ends of twine together, cross them on the back side of the log and flip the meat back to its front, tying another surgeon’s knot and a slip knot to secure. Let the meat sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. When ready to cook, coat the surface of the meat with canola or peanut oil and a sprinkle of Kosher salt.

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A surgeon’s knot tied on the front of the meat, bringing both ends of the twine together to secure. The meat is oiled and sprinkled with Kosher salt.

Heat a cast iron skillet (I used a large non-stick skillet because we have a glass cook top) on the stove until it is hot enough to sear the meat, and sear the meat on all sides until browned. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, placing a 9×13″ pan inside with 3 C of tomato sauce (I used the Good Eats tomato sauce here).

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Three cups of tomato sauce to be heated in the oven.

Once the braciole is seared on all sides, place it in the hot tomato sauce, spooning the sauce over the meat.

Tenting the pan with foil, return it to the oven for at least 45 minutes. Alton says you really can cook this all day, if you choose, but my braciole seemed to be perfect after about two hours.

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Pan tented with foil and placed in the oven.

Slice the braciole and serve it over the tomato sauce.

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Alton’s finished braciole with tomato sauce.

I was happy with how this braciole turned out, though it was a bit different from the ones I am used to. Ted and I both really liked the flavor of the filling and how it paired with the meat, but I think it would have been even better if my steak had been thinner. This was really very easy to prepare and it makes for a nice presentation on the plate.

Fish Roll with Compound Butter

In addition to rolling meat, Alton used this episode to show that you can also make a seafood roll. For this seafood roll, you will need three types of seafood:  salmon fillets, flounder fillets, and sea scallops. Depending on where you live, you may need to do some substituting. I could not find flounder where I live, so I had to substitute sole. You will also want to get the thinnest fish fillets you can find. Note that Alton’s recipe makes quite a large roll, so you also may want to modify this if you are only serving a few people because leftover fish=yuck! I was only making this roll for two of us, so I downsized by cutting my fillets. To begin, place a sheet of parchment on your counter, topped with plastic wrap. For the full-sized roll, lay two salmon fillets on the plastic wrap, nearest you, with their tails away from you, and so they are slightly overlapping each other. Next, place three flounder fillets on top of the salmon with their tails facing toward you. The flounder fillets should overlap the salmon about midway.

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Salmon fillet with tail facing away. Sole fillet placed on top with tail facing toward me.

Place a metal skewer through eight sea scallops, being sure to go through their flat sides. Place this skewer at the far end of the flounder fillets. Season all of the fish with Kosher salt, pepper, fresh dill, and fresh parsley.

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Skewered scallops placed on far end of flounder. Fish seasoned with Kosher salt, pepper, fresh dill, and fresh parsley.

Grab the far end of the plastic and roll toward you keeping the skewer in the center of the roll, and avoiding rolling the plastic wrap into the fish roll.

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Pulling the plastic toward me to roll the fish around the scallops.

Once your fish is starting to roll, place the edge of a sheet pan against the fish (on top of the plastic), pressing with the pan as you pull the plastic toward you.

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Using the edge of a sheet pan to press on on the fish roll as I pull the plastic toward me.

Once your roll is complete, you should be able to just slip the plastic off, leaving the roll on the parchment.

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Fish after rolling.

Next, rolling away from you, roll the fish in the parchment, twisting the ends. Refrigerate the fish roll for two hours.

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Plastic removed and fish rolled in parchment. Into the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Once your fish roll has chilled, preheat your broiler and remove the skewer from the fish roll, keeping the fish rolled in parchment. Use a serrated knife to slice the roll into 3/4-1″ rounds. Place the rounds on a sprayed broiler pan and remove their parchment. Brush the fish rounds with canola oil and sprinkle them with Kosher salt.

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Sliced fish roll brushed with canola oil and sprinkled with Kosher salt.

Broil the fish six inches from the heat, checking after three minutes. Alton served his fish with herb butter, which he did not make in the show. I threw an herb butter together by mixing softened butter with the leftover dill and parsley from the fish roll, along with lemon zest and pepper.

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Broiled fish roll served with herb butter.

We thought this fish roll was great. The salmon, white fish, and scallops went very well together and the roll was really pretty. Herb butter is a great accompaniment to the seafood here too. Unfortunately, my fish roll got cold when I realized there was a fire behind our house, so I will have to make this again on a less stressful evening! This is a great recipe to make for an impressive presentation that takes very little effort.

Chimney Tuna Loin

After I watched episode 68, I realized I was going to have to do some serious hunting to find high-quality tuna loin to sear. We live inland, so it can be challenging (and sometimes expensive) to find certain ingredients. I decided to ask the resident ceviche expert of my town where I could purchase sushi grade tuna; his expression told me all I needed to know, and I realized I would have to give in and order some fish online. A few days later, a cooler arrived at my door with a pound of fresh tuna from California.

I was struck by one thing when I first looked at this recipe online – this recipe gets great reviews. Ideally, when preparing tuna, you want to eat it the day it is purchased, but you can store it for a day or so by wrapping it in plastic and placing it on crushed ice in a perforated tub; place the perforated tub inside a second tub to catch any draining liquid, and change the ice 1-2x per day.

To sear your tuna, you will need natural chunk hardwood charcoal and a chimney starter. Fill your chimney starter to the brim with charcoal and spritz some newspaper with canola oil, placing the newspaper under the chimney starter; the oil will slow the burning of the paper. Light the newspaper with a lighter and let the fire build until it is very hot and the coals have gone down about 50%.

While your fire is heating up, trim your tuna into blocks that are about 4x4x2 inches, removing any bloodline.

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My tuna, cut into two blocks for searing.

For a marinade, combine 1/2 C soy sauce, 1/2 C honey, and 1/4 C wasabi powder, reserving 4 ounces of the marinade for a dipping sauce later.

Place the fish into the marinade for 1-4 hours. Alton marinated his fish for an hour in the show, so that is what I did. When ready to cook, drain the marinade from the fish and roll the fish in sesame seeds, coating four sides.

Place an oiled grill grate over the top of your chimney starter and add your fish. You will want to sear your fish for approximately 30 seconds per side, scraping any burnt sesame seeds off the grate each time you turn the fish.

Place the fish on a clean plate and tightly cover it with plastic wrap for 3 minutes. You can serve the fish immediately, or you can wrap it in fresh plastic and refrigerate for up to three days.

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Seared tuna, covered in plastic for 3 minutes.

Slice the fish thinly just prior to serving, and eat with the reserved marinade as a dipping sauce.

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Seared tuna, thinly sliced.

This was kind of a special dinner for us since we paid more than we normally would for fish. My fish appeared to be cut as more of a steak, rather than as a center cut of loin, so it was tricky to cut the fish into a uniform block for even cooking. If anything, my fire was possibly a little too hot, as my sesame seeds were really burning, so I would maybe let my fire go a little longer next time before commencing cooking. The marinade/dipping sauce was really zippy, packing quite a punch of heat from the wasabi.

I was happy with the quality of the fish I purchased, as it had zero fishy flavor and a nice red interior. This is one I would really like to try again, but it would probably be reserved for special occasions since the main ingredient is expensive and difficult to find where I live. However, if you happen to live where you can easily find fresh tuna, I would definitely suggest trying Alton’s seared tuna. No matter what, it was fun to try!

Now seemed like a good time for me to do another Good Eats special episode. The second special episode, “Down and Out in Paradise,” has a tropical theme, so I wanted to prep all of its recipes while it is still summer. This is an episode that I clearly remember watching when it originally aired, watching it along with my dad. With a whopping eight recipes, this episode took a little time to complete, but it was a fun one.

Coconut Shrimp with Peanut Sauce

First up, a shipwrecked Alton prepared coconut shrimp in his island abode. While you could use shredded coconut from the grocery store for this recipe, if you really want to make it Alton’s way, you will roast and shred your own fresh coconut. To do this, place a whole coconut in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, which should cause the shell to crack. Wrap the cooked coconut in a towel and whack it on a hard surface to fully crack the shell.

Using a sharp knife, score the coconut flesh in quarters and remove it from the shell; it is okay if the brown membrane remains. I found that it was difficult to remove the coconut from the shell, while Alton made it look super easy. Once you have all of your fresh coconut meat, you can grate it by hand or in a food processor, or you can store the meat for a week in the refrigerator, covered with cold water.

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Shredded fresh coconut.

Additionally, for this recipe you will need 15-20 count shrimp (cleaned and de-veined), cornstarch, Kosher salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper, egg whites, and peanut oil. Begin by combining 1/2 C cornstarch, 1/4t Kosher salt, 1/4 t white pepper, and 1/4 t cayenne pepper in a bowl.

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Cornstarch, Kosher salt, white pepper, and cayenne.

In a separate container, lightly beat 4 egg whites. While you heat peanut oil to 350 degrees on the stove, you can prep your shrimp for frying by coating them in the cornstarch mix, dipping them in egg whites, and subsequently dipping them in your shredded coconut.

Fry the shrimp in the peanut oil for about three minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve the shrimp with Alton’s peanut sauce and lime wedges.

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Coconut shrimp with peanut dipping sauce.

Alton did not prepare the peanut sauce in the episode, but the recipe can be found with the shrimp recipe. To make the peanut sauce, combine in a food processor 1/4 c chicken stock, 3 ounces coconut milk, 1 ounce lime juice, 1 ounce soy sauce, 1 T fish sauce, 1 T hot sauce, 2 T chopped garlic, 1 T chopped ginger, 1 1/2 C peanut butter, and 1/4 C chopped cilantro.

I am not the biggest shrimp fan, but I thought this recipe was pretty fantastic. The coconut coating was super crispy and light, while the shrimp were tender, and the peanut sauce was spicy, tangy, and a great accompaniment. I plan to make this one again for sure.

Chocolate Coconut Balls

Keeping with the coconut theme, the second recipe in this special episode was for chocolate coconut balls. Coconut-wise, Alton did not specify that you use fresh coconut in this recipe. I happened to have some leftover fresh coconut from the coconut shrimp recipe, so I used the rest of that, along with some store bought shredded coconut. You will also need toasted macadamia nuts, which you can toast in a 325-degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. In case you do not already know, macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, so be sure to keep these away from your pups.

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Macadamia nuts, after toasting in the oven.

Dump 1/2 pound shredded coconut in a bowl, along with 1 C toasted macadamia nuts, chopped. Add 1 C sweetened condensed milk and 1 1/2 t almond extract. Using your hands, mix everything really well and form the coconut mixture into 3/4″ balls, setting them on a foil-lined baking sheet. This mixture is quite sticky and you really need to compress it to form it into balls.

Let the formed coconut balls sit at room temperature for four hours to dry out.

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Coconut formed into balls.

Once dry, dip the balls in 12 ounces of semisweet morsels melted with 1 T shortening.

Let the balls sit until the chocolate has set up.

These are quite a tasty treat, tasting a lot like a Mounds candy bar. The macadamia nuts add a nice crunch, though I don’t know that I could discern what type of nut is in these. The coconut stays fairly moist and the chocolate sets up fairly well. My mom has a huge sweet tooth and recently had back surgery, so I took a couple of these balls to her yesterday to cheer her up. She dove right in and seemed to like them quite a lot. This is an easy recipe for a fun treat.

Island Ceviche with Pickled Onions

Of all the recipes in this episode, the ceviche recipe was definitely the one I was most excited to try. I absolutely love ceviche, first having it years ago with my dad at a restaurant called Aqua in San Francisco; I was amazed at the light, bright flavors in ceviche, instantly becoming a fan. We are very lucky now because we have an excellent ceviche restaurant in our town, which was opened just a few months ago by Chad White, a chef who competed on the last season of Top Chef. I was seriously excited to try my own hand at ceviche in my own kitchen, and Alton’s recipe seemed like a good place to start. To start, cut 1/2 pound of firm white fish into bite-sized pieces. Place the fish, along with 1/2 pound of bay scallops into a bowl with 6 ounces of fresh lime juice. Toss the fish to coat and refrigerate overnight. The online recipe tells you to sear the fish in a pan, but Alton did not do that in the episode.

When I went to finish prepping my ceviche, some of my scallops still looked raw in the middle, so I left my fish in the lime juice longer. Once your fish is ready, drain the lime juice from the fish and add 1 medium papaya, peeled, seeded, and diced. Also add 2 seeded and diced plum tomatoes, 4 seeded and diced serrano peppers, 1 C diced sweet onion, 1/2 C chopped cilantro, and 1 seeded and diced jalapeno. Toss to combine.

Add 1 T white wine Worcestershire (this is now sold as a marinade for chicken), 1 T Mexican hot sauce, and 2 oz tomato juice.

Serve the ceviche in empty papaya skins, along with pickled red onions. Though Alton did not make the pickled onions in the episode, his recipe is included with the fish recipe. For his onions, bring 8 oz champagne vinegar to a boil, along with 1/2 C sugar and 2 seeded serrano peppers.

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Serranos, sugar, and champagne vinegar.

Pour the hot vinegar over 2 sliced red onions.

When I served our ceviche, I skipped using the papaya skins as bowls, and served tortilla chips on the side.

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A bowl of Alton’s ceviche with pickled onions and tortilla chips.

We really liked the overall flavors in this ceviche, though we should have purchased higher quality fish. While the scallops were nice and mild, our fish was slightly “fishy.” I would like to try this again with high quality fish. Definitely do not skimp on the quality of fish if you choose to make this. I liked the inclusion of the papaya in this recipe and the pickled onions are a great garnish. With all of the peppers in this, it does have a decent amount of heat, but it is not overpowering. I think this recipe is probably amazing, but I just couldn’t get past my fishy fish.

Papaya Soup

You can’t really have an island-themed episode without including some recipes that center around tropical fruit. Enter:  papaya soup. When watching Alton prepare this recipe, I was not quite sure what I would think of it. I opted to prep it as a side dish for us. When purchasing papayas, look for fruit that is about 80% yellow and without large discolorations or bruises. If you plan to let your papayas ripen on the counter at home, set them stem side down for even ripening. For this soup, you will need 4 papayas (I opted for two since I was only prepping two servings), fresh mint, 3 limes, 2 lemons, fresh berries, fresh ginger, sugar, and water.

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Ingredients for papaya soup: papayas, lemons, limes, fresh mint, berries, and ginger. Not pictured: sugar and water.

Begin by peeling, seeding, and dicing your papayas, dividing the fruit evenly in your serving dishes. Add 2 T chopped mint.

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Fresh papaya.

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Fresh papaya and mint.

Meanwhile, dissolve 1 C sugar in 1 C boiling water. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the juice of 3 limes and 2 lemons.

Pour the hot sugar/citrus liquid over the fruit and mint; I opted not to use all of the liquid, as it just seemed like too much for the amount of fruit I had. Add some fresh berries and chopped ginger for garnish, and serve.

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Alton’s papaya soup, garnished with berries and fresh ginger.

We both were pleasantly surprised by this dish. Though this was sweet, the sweetness was nicely balanced with the tang from the lemons and limes. The fresh ginger also really helped to cut the sweetness. Having not cooked much with papaya, I really liked the fruit in this dish. Honestly, you could serve this as a light dessert in the summer also. This is definitely an unusual dish that is pretty, interesting, and comes together in a matter of minutes.

Mango Salad

There is no online link for this next recipe, but I’ll write it up as Alton made it in the episode. I am an absolute mango freak, so I knew I’d really like this one. Toss together 2 diced mangoes, 1 sliced red onion, the juice of 1-2 Key limes (I used bottled juice), 1 T fresh mint or basil (basil for me), black pepper (a fair amount), and some feta cheese.

Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. This was a great salad, which we ate alongside the coconut shrimp.

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Completed salad with feta.

This salad has the sweetness of mango, the bite of red onion, the tang of lime, the saltiness of feta, and the spice from pepper. In a nutshell, it has a little bit of everything. Super tasty.

Mango Chutney

I grew up eating chutney, as a condiment on my grandma’s curry. Though I never knew my grandmother, my parents served her curry recipe to me from an early age, and it has been a favorite meal of mine for years. A blend of spices, onions, raisins, and apples, this wonderful curry is served over rice with bacon, hard-boiled egg, banana, peanuts, bean sprouts, and chutney as condiments. I do not recall ever eating homemade chutney when having curry, so I was really stoked to see how homemade chutney would pair with Grandma’s classic. So, last week I whipped up a batch of Alton’s chutney. The ingredients needed for Alton’s chutney are vegetable oil, chile flakes, red bell pepper, red onion, mangoes, fresh ginger, brown sugar, curry powder, mango juice, cider vinegar, macadamia nuts, golden raisins, white pepper, and Kosher salt.

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Ingredients for chutney: Kosher salt, golden raisins, ginger, brown sugar, red bell pepper, cider vinegar, red onion, macadamia nuts, chile flakes, mango juice, curry powder, pepper, and mangoes.

First, heat 3 T vegetable oil in a pan and add 1/2 t chile flakes, cooking until fragrant.

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Chile flakes heating in oil.

Add 1 C diced red bell pepper and 2 C diced red onion, and sweat over low heat for about 5 minutes.

Next, add 4 pounds mangoes, diced, along with 1/4 C minced ginger. Cover the chutney and allow it to cook for three minutes, or until the mangoes soften.

Stir in 1/2 C brown sugar, 1 T curry powder, 8 ounces mango juice (I used a mango lemonade), and 4 ounces cider vinegar. Simmer the chutney for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Finally, add 1/2 C golden raisins and 1/2 C toasted/chopped macadamia nuts (you can toast them at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes). Season the chutney to taste with white pepper and Kosher salt.

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Raisins and macadamia nuts stirred into chutney.

This recipe makes a fairly large batch of chutney, so I opted to divide mine among small jars to freeze. Of course, I had to try the chutney over Grandma’s curry.

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Alton’s chutney over my grandma’s curry.

Let me tell you, this chutney is fantastic. It is sweet, tangy, tart, and bright, with a faint hint of heat. Honestly, I think it makes my grandma’s curry better than ever. I am anxious to share it with my parents to see what they think. You really could use this curry in a variety of ways – using it anywhere you would use other condiments. I will absolutely make this again.

Spicy Pineapple Slices

Recipes don’t come much easier than this one. Simply peel, core, and slice pineapple, sprinkling it evenly with Kosher salt, pepper, and chili powder.

Grill the slices until tender and warm.

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Pineapple slices on the grill.

We ate this as a side dish, alongside sandwiches, and we both thought it was great.

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Delicious grilled pineapple.

The heat of the chili powder is fantastic with the sweetness of the fruit. What are Alton’s tips for selecting pineapples?  First, pick fruit that sounds solid when you thump it. Also, look for large fruit that is about 50% yellow and 50% green, as pineapples do not ripen further post-harvest. Small crowns are desirable because large crowns indicate that a pineapple has used up its sugars.

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Large pineapple, small crown. About 50/50 yellow/green.

Sweet and Sour Pork

Last, but not least, Alton’s sweet and sour pork finished out this episode. Note that there is another recipe online for coconut macaroons, but Alton did not make those in the episode, so I did not make them either. You will have to start Alton’s sweet and sour pork the night before you plan to serve it. Start by making a marinade of 2 t minced garlic, 1 T minced ginger, 2/3 C soy sauce, 1/4 C flour, and 1/4 C cornstarch.

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Garlic, ginger, soy sauce, flour, and cornstarch combined for marinade.

To the marinade, add 1 pound of cubed pork that has been seasoned with Kosher salt, and allow the meat to marinade overnight.

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Pork in marinade overnight.

The following day, drain the marinade from the pork and dredge the pork cubes in flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fry the pork in 375-degree peanut oil until golden brown, and set aside.

In a skillet, heat 1 T peanut oil with 2 t sesame oil. Add 1/3 C each of diagonally sliced carrot, diced onion, and diced celery.

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Celery, onion, carrot, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper.

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Onion, celery, and carrot, sauteeing in oil.

Cook the vegetables until they are translucent. Add 1/3 C diced red bell pepper, 1/3 C diced green bell pepper, and 1 C chopped pineapple.

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Bell peppers and pineapple added to pan.

Next, add the fried pork to the pan, along with a mixture of 1 C ketchup, 1/4 C red wine vinegar, 1/4 C sugar, and 1 1/2 ounces honey.

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Sauce and pork added to pan.

Cook over low heat until the pork is tender and heated through.

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Cooked until pork was heated through.

I served Alton’s sweet and sour pork over rice and we thought it was really good.

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Alton’s sweet and sour pork over rice.

The pork was tender inside and slightly crispy on the outside, but far from greasy. The sauce was a perfect blend of sweet and sour flavors. Alton’s version of this classic is a good one.

My Good Eats project has taken a bit of a back seat lately, but I plan to keep plugging away at it when I can. Ted was diagnosed with cancer at the end of May, which has turned our world a bit upside down. Still, we have found that keeping a bit of normalcy in life helps with everything. So, as we were awaiting test results last weekend, I decided to distract myself by cooking through the next episode of Good Eats, which happens to be the first episode in the fourth season.

Smoked Salmon

We live in Washington, which means smoked salmon is abundant. While I pretty much like all smoked salmon, my dad’s version reigns supreme. His has a somewhat dry, flaky texture, is slightly salty, and has loads of flavor. To make it even better, he serves it with an amazing aioli that our family calls “Dog Shit Sauce.” You see, this sauce is so good that a family friend once told my dad he’d eat dog shit if it was covered in the aioli.

My brother made Alton’s version of smoked salmon around Christmas last year. He made it straight from the online recipe, but did not watch the episode. I, of course, watched the episode and made the salmon exactly as Alton did in the show. If you do it Alton’s way, you also make your own smoker. More on that later.

To make Alton’s salmon, you will want to use two large salmon fillets. I purchased my fillets at Costco, and they were just the right size. Depending on where you get your fish, you may need to pull pin bones out of the fillets with pliers; my fish already had no pin bones. Alton uses a cure for his fish, which serves a few purposes. The cure seasons the fish, draws liquid out, and denatures proteins, which helps to keep the fish moist during smoking. The cure also creates a protein layer on the outside of the fish, called a pellicle, which aids in keeping the fish moist.

Ingredients for salmon cure:  sugar, Kosher salt, dark brown sugar, and black peppercorns.

Ingredients for salmon cure: sugar, Kosher salt, dark brown sugar, and black peppercorns.

To make the cure, in a lidded container combine 1 C Kosher salt, 1/2 C dark brown sugar, 1/2 C sugar, and 1-2 T crushed black peppercorns.

Kosher salt, sugar, dark brown sugar, and crushed black peppercorns combined.

Kosher salt, sugar, dark brown sugar, and crushed black peppercorns combined.

Shake this mixture until everything is evenly dispersed.

Cure after shaking ingredients together to combine.

Cure after shaking ingredients together to combine.

Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on top of a large piece of heavy foil. Sprinkle some cure on the foil, roughly in the shape/size of one of your fillets, and place the fillet on top, skin side down.

Small amount of cure sprinkled in fillet shape on plastic wrap.

Small amount of cure sprinkled in fillet shape on plastic wrap.

First salmon fillet placed on top of sprinkled cure.

First salmon fillet placed on top of sprinkled cure.

Generously sprinkle the cure over the flesh side of the fish, patting it gently with your hand. You will want to have a bit less cure at the tail end of the fillet since it is thinner.

Fillet #1 topped with cure.

Fillet #1 topped with cure.

Top the flesh side of the second fillet with cure and roll it on top of the first fillet, as if creating a whole fish.

Second fillet placed next to first fillet.

Second fillet placed next to first fillet.

Cure sprinkled on second fillet.

Cure sprinkled on second fillet.

Second fillet rolled onto first fillet, and skin side sprinkled with cure.

Second fillet rolled onto first fillet, and skin side sprinkled with cure.

Sprinkle the last of the cure on the skin side of this fillet. I used all of my cure, with the majority of it on the meat sides of the fish. Tightly roll the fillets in the plastic wrap, and then again in the foil, leaving the tail end of the fish open for liquid to drain.

Fillets wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.

Fillets wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.

Fillets wrapped in foil.

Fillets wrapped in foil.

Place the fish on a large sheet pan with a lip, and top with another sheet pan. Place cans or bricks on the top sheet pan to weigh it down, and place in a refrigerator for 12 hours.

Fish sandwiched between two sheet pans. Cans were later placed on top.

Fish sandwiched between two sheet pans. Cans were later placed on top.

After 12 hours, flip the fish, and let it continue to sit for 12 more hours. After curing, some liquid will have accumulated in the bottom sheet pan. Rinse the fish thoroughly with water, pat dry with paper towels, and place the fish in a cool place to air dry; a fan can speed up this process. I let my fish dry for about two hours.

Fish after being rinsed, which was after 24 hours of refrigeration.

Fish after being rinsed, which was after 24 hours of refrigeration.

Salmon drying by a fan for ~2 hours.

Salmon drying by a fan for ~2 hours.

If you plan to make an Alton Brown smoker, a good time to do it is while your fish dries. To make a smoker, you will need a large cardboard box, two 1/4″ dowel rods, an electric hot plate, a mini personal fan, and an extension cord. You will also need hardwood sawdust or soaked wood chips for smoking, along with something to put them in. Alton used a small cast iron skillet, topped with a perforated disposable pie plate. I used a small smoking box.

Soaked mesquite chips placed in smoking box.

Soaked mesquite chips placed in smoking box.

Filled smoking box.

Filled smoking box.

To make your smoker, first stick your two dowel rods through the sides of the box, so they are parallel to each other. Place a rack on top of the dowels to hold your fish. Next, cut a trap door in the bottom of one side of the box; it needs to be large enough to reach in and check your wood chip status. Place your electric hot plate in the center of the bottom of the box, and place your skillet or smoking box on top.

Smoke box placed on electric hot plate.

Smoke box placed on electric hot plate.

Plug your hot plate into your extension cord. Once your fish is dry, place it on the rack in the smoker, and insert a probe thermometer at an angle into the thickest portion of fish. Set the thermometer alarm to beep at 150 degrees. If you have a second probe thermometer, stick it through the side of the box to monitor the air temperature in the box, which you want to keep between 140 and 150 degrees. I did not have a second probe thermometer, so I did not worry about the air temperature much, only checking it occasionally with a Thermapen. Close the top of the box, turn the hot plate on to high, and set the mini fan in the box to circulate the air.

Salmon placed in DIY cardboard smoker, ready to be smoked.

Salmon placed in DIY cardboard smoker, ready to be smoked.

Mini fan added to box.

Mini fan added to box.

Close the trap door and let your fish smoke.

Smoker activated. Probe thermometer set for 150 degrees in thickest piece of fish.

Smoker activated. Probe thermometer set for 150 degrees in thickest piece of fish.

If you are using sawdust like Alton did, you will need to change your sawdust several times. Oh, and make sure your sawdust is not from pressure-treated wood, as pressure-treated wood contains toxins. I opted for mesquite wood chips, and I never needed to change them. My fish reached 150 degrees in under three hours, and it looked perfect. I let it cool to room temperature and we ate some for dinner.

Salmon after reaching 150 degrees.

Salmon after reaching 150 degrees.

Close-up of finished salmon.

Close-up of finished salmon.

I vacuum sealed the remaining salmon to eat at later dates.  The salmon was fantastic! It had a dry, flaky texture, which we really liked, and it had just the right amount of smokey flavor. I should have put a little less cure on the tail ends of my fillets, as the thinnest pieces are a tad too salty, but the salmon is perfect otherwise! I was very happy with how the cardboard smoker worked, and I cannot see ever buying a smoker when this method works so well. This is a fun, easy project that produces great smoked salmon. This is one I’m saving for future use.