125 Comtemporary American Recipes Fro Spontaneous, Creative Cooking at Home
NPR stories about Nightly Specials
Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.
Excerpt: Nightly Specials
- Coat the monkfish with flour and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a 2-inch-high, heavy-bottomed sauté pan with a cover over medium-high heat. Set the monkfish tails in the pan without crowding and sear on one side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn them over, add the pancetta to the pan, and sear the tails on the other side for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to remove the fish and pancetta to a plate and cover with foil to keep them warm.
- Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic to the pan and sauté over high heat, stirring, to begin caramelizing the vegetables, 5 to 8 minutes. Spread the vegetables over the surface of the pan and set the fish and pancetta over them. Pour the wine and tomatoes into the pan, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the liquid is simmering, cover the pan, and simmer for 12 minutes.
- Meanwhile, put the parsley and orange zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.
- Transfer 1 monkfish tail to the center of each of 4 dinner plates. Top with some of the vegetables and sauce and finish with the orange-parsley mixture and some fennel fronds.
Roasted Oysters with Country Bacon
Serves 4 as an appetizer
This recipe is a take on the famous pan roast that's been served at the Oyster Bar on the lower level of New York City's Grand Central Station for decades. Many oyster lovers prefer them on the half shell, but lightly poaching them coaxes out their briny, refreshing character for a sublime, full-flavored taste.
1/4 pound sliced bacon
2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon hot Spanish paprika (preferably smoked paprika)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon, plus more for serving
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Put the cleaned oyster shells on a cookie sheet in a single layer and set aside.
- Heat a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over low heat. Put in the bacon and sauté until crispy and the fat is rendered, about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, then roughly chop it and set aside.
- Pour off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and put the pan over medium-high heat. Add the spinach, season with salt, and sauté it quickly, just until the leaves are wilted, about 30 seconds. Transfer some spinach to each oyster shell and pack it down gently.
- Put the cookie sheet with the filled oyster shells in the oven.
- Add the butter to the same sauté pan and melt it over medium-high heat just until it begins to foam. Add the shallots and paprika and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the oysters and their juice and the white wine and sauté for 2 minutes, then pour in the cream. Bring to a quick boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for just a minute, or until the oysters' edges begin to curl. Add the tomatoes, parsley, tarragon, and bacon and season with pepper. Heat for another 30 seconds, then immediately remove the pan from the heat.
- Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and use tongs to arrange 6 filled shells on each of 4 plates. Spoon an oyster onto the spinach in each shell and spoon a little of the sauce over it. Sprinkle additional tarragon over each serving.
To shuck an oyster
Oysters often can be purchased shucked from a fish store, which is fine, so long as they are stored in their liquid. This dish, however, calls for oyster shells, so you'll need to shuck them yourself. (If you purchase your oysters shucked, build the dish in a wide, shallow soup plate.)
Using a towel, grasp an oyster in the palm of your hand. Press the oyster, rounded side down, on a firm surface, still holding it with the towel. Shuck the oyster by wedging the tip of an oyster knife (regular knives are too thin bladed) between the halves of the shell, at the narrow end. When the knife tip is securely wedged, rotate your wrist and the blade to pry open the shell. Slide the knife blade along the length of the shell to open it completely. Remove the oyster from the shell and reserve it, along with its juice.
If the recipe you're preparing calls for shells, from each pair of oyster shells save the one that is more concave on the inside, and discard the flatter one. Put the concave shells in a pan of cold water, scrub them inside and out, rinse, and let dry.
To peel tomatoes
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water. Score the ends of the tomatoes, cut out the stem ends, and put them in the boiling water. After 20 seconds, use tongs to remove the tomatoes from the water and transfer them to the ice water. As they cool, the skin will begin to pull away from the flesh. Remove the tomatoes and peel them with a paring knife.Continues...