Sea Bass . . . is that OK?

Yes, it's OK, as long as it is certified "legally caught." And Whole Foods promised me that this Chilean Sea Bass was 100% wholesome and consumer-conscious friendly. And I trust Whole Foods--so far. Nonetheless, it got me wondering: what is all this sea bass hubbub? Which in turn got me wondering: am I spelling "hubbub" correctly?

Setting aside the second question, I turned to the obvious source of information for all things food related: the U.S. State Department. They have a nice page of frequently asked questions related to the sea bass. For instance, did you know that Chilean Sea Bass is neither a bass, nor always Chilean? Talk amongst yourselves.

Secondly, did you know that the Chilean Sea Bass can sometimes live for 50 years? Now, even if it isn't endangered, which it isn't, that fact makes me feel a bit bad for eating it. I prefer the animals I eat to have shorter lifespans (although, the reason I feel guilty about eating veal is the shortness of its lifespan, so the logic doesn't really hold). It just seems sort of strange to munch on something with 50 years worth of memories. On the other hand, without having done any research, I feel safe in saying that fish don't have tremendously good memories. And living for 50 years without any memory of what happened beyond last week? Miserable existence, I say. I did this damn fish a favor, if you ask me.

Really though, it was a fairly delicious meal, and something I whipped up sort of spur-of-the-moment-like. SIMPLE. I minced some shallots, which I'm finding are as versatile as Gary Oldman. In fact, they are the Gary Oldman of the vegetable world. Anyhow, I minced them and sauteed them in butter and a bit of white wine (fairly standard, eh?) but then added a few spoonfuls of real maple syrup. Not too much...just enough to give it a slight sweetness. This was the glaze for the fish, which was simply sauteed in butter and a bit of olive oil. The fish itself had a nice texture--firm, but not rubbery, like Monkfish so often is.

In other news...

I moved to a new part of D.C., known as Mt. Pleasant, so the grand old kitchen (with its 6-burner Viking Range) is no longer mine for the using. Nonetheless, I am living with three very cool people who all cook and appreciate good food, so I'm excited about the coming year.

Also, Kitchen Monkey's sister-in-law has a new food blog, which is simply awesome. However, it is in French. This is possibly the result of her being French. Don't read the French so well? You can still check out the pictures, which are lovely.

Also, I am no longer apologizing for not posting more often. I've done it so many times, and in any case, I've gone so long since posting that I'm not sure if I have any readers left! If I do, then you have my apologies for not posting more often, whoever you are. Mom?



Green Parrot Bar - Key West

That's right kids, Kitchen Monkey is on a much-needed vacation in Key West, Florida. For three days now, nothing but killer food and drink, sun, and meeting interesting people. You see, Kitchen Monkey has friends in high places. One of my college buddies grew up in Key West, and his pa, John Vagnoni, is a co-owner of Key West's coolest bar, the Green Parrot Bar. We're not talking about your bubblegum tourist trap (cough * Sloppy Joe's * cough), but rather a comfortable corner bar with loads of history. Nearly every photo, painting, or tchotchke on the wall has an interesting story behind it. They book an astounding variety of acts, with tendencies toward blues. This is where the locals go, and if you're ever in Key West, you should DEFINITELY stop by for some live music and local flavor (never any cover charge!) But please, if you go, do not snivel. Check it out here.

On to the food:
Day 1
We ate raw oysters and steak at Pepe's Cafe, the "oldest restaurant in Key West." Delicious. Firecrackers were going off in the background. Also, as you may know, the town is crawling with wild roosters. The longer you stay, the less you notice their cockle-doodle-doodling. Also, you need to see this picture of John Vagnoni's great kitchen. Check out this vintage stove! It could date back to the 1930s.

Day 2
The next morning we woke up with a shot of buchi (basically a super sugary espresso) and toasted cuban bread. We then went to the beach, where Kitchen Monkey acquired a beet red sunburn on certain torso regions that somehow managed to escape sunblock. Lunch was a great pastrami sandwich from the Waterfront Market. That night we went over to to the house of a couple of very talented local artists, Tom and Carrie--both lovely people and serious foodies. They made us awesome bar jack fish sandwiches, along with tomatoes and fresh mozarella, and some dynamite kimchi. They'll have to forgive me for posting this picture without permission, but I had to give you a shot of their awesome open air kitchen:

That night was finished off with some live blues and Jack Daniels at the Green Parrot. Life is so good. So to wrap up, an ENORMOUS thanks to Nick and John Vagnoni for all their hospitality, and thanks to John as well for the very tasty bottle of Hendrick's Gin.

Tomorrow its off to Tallahassee, where I will revisit my favorite sushi restaurant and hang with some dear old friends. Expect plenty of posts this summer!


Grilled Chicken Salad with Sage, Almonds & Cranberries

Chicken Salad, Derrida Style

What is the perfect chicken salad? Philosophers and kings alike have dealt with this question since the accidental invention of mayonnaise in 400 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt. Since that time, many variations have striven to attain the platonic form of chicken salad, each in their turn failing. Finally, in the year 2007, in Washington D.C., a chicken salad was ushered into the world. Some believe that it will change the entire concept of chicken salad as we know it, much like Stephen Hawking's research forced scientists to revisit Einstein's theory of relativity. Others believe, more modestly, that it will provide Kitchen Monkey at least two or three days' worth of delicious lunches.

I enjoyed it between slices of French bread, but it's also delicious in a croissant. You can find the recipe below the photo . . .

Chicken Salad

3 breasts chicken (preferably grilled or smoked, then cubed)
1/2 large onion (chopped)
2/3 cup slivered almonds (dry toasted in a pan on the stovetop until light brown)
6 leaves fresh sage (minced or chopped)
1 cup dried cranberries (you may call them craisins if you wish)
2/3 cup mayo

Simply mix everything together, using salt, pepper, and more or less mayo according to taste.



I know, I know, it has been forever since the last post. Kitchen Monkey has been supremely busy with this law school business. Happily, the second year is almost over, and I am happy to say that Kitchen Monkey has found a job for the summer which should last into the final year of school--at a great firm in northern Virginia that does immigration, family, probate, and other types of law. I have had a growing interest in immigration law for the past year, so this should be very exciting.

On to the food . . .

I learned to make ceviche while working at a sushi restaurant. With all that beautiful raw fish around, it would be absurd not to offer the customers this amazing dish, no matter that it finds its origin in Peru rather than Japan. Many of you know the deal: the seafood is "cooked" by lime and/or lemon juice. I have tried many many versions, and if you look across the web's foodysphere you'll find dozens of different and sometimes conflicting recommendations. My version combines the traditional Mexican variation with a bit of my old sushi boss's own innovations as well as my own. For this meal I had some pita bread on hand and decided to make pita chips (simply brush with olive oil and toast in the oven) and they went fantastically with the ceviche. This is a ceviche to write home about.


(serves 4-6)
1/2 lb. of shrimp
1/2 lb. bay scallops
1/2 lb. grouper (monkfish and tuna also work nicely)
1/2 lb. conch or octopus (you can leave this out if you can't find it at your seafood market)
5 limes
2 lemons
1 orange
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro (chopped)
1/2 large red onion (chopped)
1 large tomato (chopped)
1 avocado (cubed)
1 jalapeno (sliced)

(1) If you use shrimp, be sure to steam them first, otherwise they will turn into an unappealing mush. Octopus and conch also need to be steamed before marinating. They may already be cooked when you buy them. The grouper, monkfish, and scallops however will "cook" in the marinade. If you use large shrimp, cut them into pieces about the size of the bay scallops. The grouper or monkfish should also be cut into that size as well.
(2) Squeeze all the citrus into a large bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
(3) Let it all soak for about an hour to an hour and a half. At this point I usually pour off the citrus mixture. Some prefer to marinade the fish for 24 hours, but I find that much of the great flavor of the fish is overpowered by the tanginess. Test the jalapeno for hotness. While I typically like hot foods, I like my ceviche with just a slight kick.

Serve in a large-mouthed wine class or small bowl, with pita chips! Amazing.


Chicken Ballotine (Ballotines de Volailles et Pommes Savonnettes)

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Ah yes, another elaborate French dinner with butter, creme, wine, and cognac. I'm glad this was too much work, if I could eat it more often I'd need a coronary bypass by the age of 40.
As with the last French meal, mes amis Tyler and Lily were the guinea pigs, and they both agreed it was better than the boeuf bourguignon.

Here's a general overview:

A few weeks ago I made another batch of stock, this time with beef and chicken. I froze half of it, then reduced the other half, by half. This made what is known as a demi-glace. The condensation of the collagen gives it the consistency of a jelly when it is cool, and it was used as the base of the creme sauce. I took half of the demi-glace and reduced that to 1/4, until it had the consistency of thick caramel. This is what is known as glace de viande. When it cools it is hard as a rock and keeps in the fridge longer than Walt Disney. Break a little chunk off and add it to liquid and you've got a supercondensed bit of meat flavor that forms the basis of many a sauce, including the one you see above in caramel-colored streaks.

The chicken is made by de-boning a whole bird while keeping the skin intact. The dark meat is combined with heavy creme and white pepper and pureed into a mousse. The mousse is layered on top of the breast, and the whole shebang is wrapped and tied in the skin of the chicken. It is then panfried in wine, cognac, and herbs, and served with the two sauces above.

The potatoes are delicious. The french name, pommes savonnettes, literally means "soap potatoes," because of their shape. This is much less appetizing when you know what it means, but the taste makes up for it. They are a bit time consuming, since you have to carve the potatoes into cylinder shapes, cut 1-inch coins, and bevel the edges. But after that, it's all very easy. It goes in an ovensafe sauce pan with some water, butter, and salt. Once the water boils, they go in the oven until the water has baked off and the potatoes are left to get crispy brown in the butter. They also tasted delicious with the two sauces. You want the recipe? Buy Jacques P├ępin's book (see several posts below).

Five classes, the duties of being on law journal, and looking for a summer job aren't going to keep me from making the occasional elaborate meal.


Panang Curry Meatballs - Recipe

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Kitchen Monkey is back from a long winter hiatus (although, I have a hard time calling what we've had in D.C. "winter"). Before the recipe, here's an update on what's new, foodwise and otherwise.
  • For the first time, the Monkey is an uncle. That's right: my brother and sister-in-law had a beautiful baby daughter on Christmas morning! When she is old enough, she will no doubt feel enormous gratitude toward her uncle for featuring the news of her birth in a food post about meatballs.
  • The New Year's Eve feast was both delicious and dangerous. I won't mention names, but one friend cut himself two or three times. Another had the skin of her hands aflame from some allergy to the butternut squash she was preparing. And Kitchen Monkey? After slaving in a kitchen for five hours, perhaps with too little sleep and too many glasses of wine, fell asleep at around 11 pm, only to be woken up just minutes before the countdown. The food was great though: a ginger green bean salad, which I will post the recipe for eventually; butternut squash soup; mashed potatoes; no-knead bread; and my piece de resistance, a giant leg of lamb marinated in yoghurt, spices, and onion, and grilled to perfection.
  • Law school has resumed. In previous semesters, I lost much of my enthusiasm midway through the semester. This time is different. I've lost enthusiasm after the first week. I exaggerate, a little. The Immigration course and Legal Ethics both appear fairly interesting.
Now that you've been patient, you will be rewarded with a truly delicious meatball recipe. You may recall I had them at a potluck a little while back and found them highly addictive. Jennie, who brought the meatballs, was kind enough to get the recipe from her mother, who graciously approved of my posting it here. I thank both of them, and hope that many readers will try them. You'll notice it takes less preparation than many of the recipes I've been posting lately, so you have no excuse not to try them! But next on Kitchen Monkey, we're back to the absurdly complicated French stuff, this time a Chicken Ballotine with glace de viande. Happy New Year!

Panang Meatballs

3-4 lbs. ground beef, formed into balls, about the size of a golf ball
1 can coconut milk
4oz panang curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons kafir lime leaves (cut into shreds) (Whole Foods often has kafir lime leaves, but you'll more likely find them at a good Asian market. If you can't find them, the zest of two limes will give a different, but still nice flavor).
1/2 cup basil leaves
2 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Using medium heat, let four tablespoons of the coconut milk come to a boil.
2. Add in panang curry paste, stir.
3. Put the meatballs in, and stir until they are thoroughly cooked.
4. Add half of the remaining coconut milk. Keep stirring.
5. Add the fish sauce and the sugar.
6. Add the rest of the coconut milk.
7. When the coconut milk thickens, add the basil leaves and kafir lime leaves.
8. Give it a taste. You may need to add in more fish sauce or sugar depending on your preference