bread crumbs

I like the taste of the French/Italian/Spanish dish brandade. Usually made with salt cod, potatoes, dairy and spices, everything gets whipped together then baked in the oven till golden and delicious. Here’s a traditional brandade recipe from the New York Times.

Steven’s been after me about making this for a while. I won’t say how long. I keep promising I am going to but every time I gather the ingredients together I get distracted with other ideas. It isn’t quite “an issue” but… well, let’s just say that it’s high time that I pull this dish together.

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

My inspiration comes from the aforementioned traditional recipe and from my Dungeness crab casquinha de siri.

This is a crowd-pleaser that is perfect either as an elegant appetizer with crackers or slices of French baguette, or, like we had it, as a main course with a side of Israeli couscous and a mango and black bean salad to make a substantial meal.

Salt cod needs to be soaked in cold water for 24 to 48 hours with a few water changes to remove excess salt. I have some instructions on how to de-salt and pre-cook it here.

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

2/3 lb prepared cod fish pieces (skinless and boneless)
2 Yukon gold potatoes, about 1lb, boiled and pureed (no lumps)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp onion, minced
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
½ tsp sweet paprika
4 peeled tomatoes (from a can this time of year) chopped
1-2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 red Jalapeño pepper, minced, seeds and ribs discarded
4 tbsp light coconut milk
2 to 3 tbsp fine bread crumbs
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Ramekins (I used four medium sized ones)

Place cod pieces in the food processor and whiz for few seconds to break it down to small uniform bits but not into a paste.

Heat olive oil in a non stick pan, add onion and Jalapeño. Sauté until soft, add garlic and continue cooking for few more seconds until aromatic. Add tomatoes and let them break apart in the heat. Add cod, paprika, parsley, salt, pepper, coconut milk and mix everything together to warm through. Add potato and about one tablespoon bread crumbs. Mix to incorporate everything. Texture should look like that of a potato puree.

Fill your ramekins with the salt cod mix, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, top with a sprinkle of bread crumbs, and then grated parmesan cheese. Broil to give the crust a golden color (remember you’ve already cooked everything on the stove). Remove from oven a serve.

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Casquinha de siri is super popular in Brazil, mainly in coastal towns where you get fresh crab aplenty. Brazilian crabs are tiny compared to the gigantic Dungeness from the North American Pacific Rim. Really, they look more like blue crabs from the Northeastern U.S. Big or small, these sometimes scary but always amazing and tasty prehistoric creatures are the ticket for living the highlife. Check out this post to learn more about preparing live Dungeness crab. What an experience!

Dungeness crab casquinha de siri

Dungeness crab casquinha de siri

To make traditional Brazilian casquinha de siri, the crab is boiled, then the meat is extracted, seasoned and cooked, then stuffed back into the creatures’ shells and baked. We had some really good ones at Part.Alto restaurant in Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brazil on our last visit. It was hot, damn hot. The casquina de siri appetizer went perfectly with cold beer in this tropical summertime weather. (Wow! It has been a year already since we were there. How nice it would be to hang out by the beach, soaking up the Sun right about now, instead of enduring yet more cold rain!)

I have to thank Joumana from taste of Beirut for this trip down memory lane that this dish is evoking. Sometime ago, she commented on our blog that she had seen the dish somewhere and was excited about tasting it. Her description made my mouth water. So here it is!

I served it at our last dinner party before kitchen remodeling really starts. The crowd was extremely pleased. Since I used fresh frozen pre-cooked and cleaned Dungeness crabmeat, I didn’t have the shells to fill. That makes it look more stunning. Instead I used a glass baking dish. Perhaps not as cute, but the taste remains the same: incomparable. It was super fun having Jocelyn, Devin, JT and Chris for dinner. Thanks for the new, equally great memories.

Dungeness crab casquinha de siri

2lb fresh crabmeat (ours came from Sun Fat)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp colorau (anato powder)
½ green bell pepper
4 tbsp coconut milk
3 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Crushed red pepper
Black pepper
~4 tbsp bread crumbs
4 ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped small
2 whole scallions, chopped
½ white onion, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400F.

Add olive oil to a pan on high. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic, colorau and bell pepper. Continue cooking for a minute or so. Add tomatoes and cook for about 3 minutes until they start to dissolve. Add crabmeat, salt, red and black peppers and coconut milk. Bring everything to a vigorous boil. Turn off heat. Adjust flavors if necessary. Stir in scallions and bread crumbs just enough to soak up the juices in the pan. Transfer mix to glass dish. Sprinkle top with parmesan cheese and a bit more bread crumbs. Bake about 10 minutes or until top is golden. Serve!

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high-protein tofu parmesan

by Stevie on June 11, 2010

I don’t like tofu substitute foods at all. Usually they repulse me, in fact. All of that fake tofu sausage, “tofu chicken,” tofurkey, whatever: yuk! But I actually do like tofu, so long as it’s not pretending to be something else. Generally, the soft tofu is best, I think, because it has an interesting texture and is very versatile. The firmer ones get more and more like bricks and don’t meld well with the other ingredients in a dish. I sort of overcame that last week with the Mediterranean lemon tofu with artichokes, olives and herbs dish. The tofu was super firm, but since it was the center of attention, it worked okay with the dish.

high-protein tofu parmesan

Maybe that’s a meat-eating issue? Traditionally, isn’t the meat served at the center of the dish with all of the vegetable and starch “sides” just that: on the side? But it doesn’t have to be that way. Lots of Chinese dishes, for instance, use meat and/or tofu sort of blended in with the rest of the ingredients. Everything has equal pride of place. Perhaps those tofu substitute foods are for folks who haven’t figured out how to make the mental switch from meaty dishes and servings to a different cooking and presentation strategy?

Well, today you folks are in luck, because this dish has you written all over it!

In my family, whatever-parmesan has gone through an evolution. When I was a young child, my mother would make this with veal: veal parmesan. I used to love it! But eventually, as people became more knowledgeable about food and the poor conditions in which “veal” are raised, she refused to make it any longer. Instead, she switched to chicken parmesan. Of course, most chickens are raised in dreadful conditions, too. But at home, that wasn’t a concern for some reason. Instead, the issue was that Mom’s allergic to fowl: hence, the transition to eggplant parmesan. I like that just fine and have been making it periodically for ages. But back to tofu!

We had this block of the stuff sitting around in the fridge. What to do? I thought that it might be a good substitute for… eggplant! That’s right, a tofu substitute for a vegetable. Got you, didn’t I?

It’s made more or less the same way as all of the whatever-parmesan dishes are: batter fried then baked in cheese with tomato sauce. I made a double batch of the Roman style tomato sauce and used mozzarella and grated parmesan for baking.

It worked well but the texture wasn’t much like eggplant. Perhaps if I had used soft tofu? But then it would probably have fallen apart while frying, so wouldn’t work. The flavor was different, but what it most reminded me of was… veal. Oh dear!

high-protein tofu parmesan

1 lb. block of high protein, extra firm tofu
Kosher salt
3 eggs
3 tbsp. plus more grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
3 tbsp. flour
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. dried basil
Fresh black pepper
6 anchovy fillets (optional)
Vegetable oil for frying
Splash of extra virgin olive oil
6 slices mozzarella cheese
Tomato sauce of your choosing

Rinse tofu then slice into ½ inch rectangular pieces along the longest part of the block. Place in a bowl with a couple teaspoons of salt. Fill with water to cover tofu. Allow to soak in this brine for at least thirty minutes.

Beat eggs with 3 tbsp. Parmigiano Reggiano and a pinch of salt in a shallow bowl. In a second bowl, add breadcrumbs, flour, cayenne, basil, several turns from a mill of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Mix dry ingredients with a fork.

tofu slices soaking in egg mixture

Heat oil in a large skillet. Use enough to immerse tofu pieces. Add the splash of olive oil and anchovies to frying oil to increase flavor. Fried anchovies can be added to the dish for baking, too.

While oil heats, rinse tofu and dip first in egg mixture then in dry mixture to completely cover with crumbs. Fry in oil for about three to five minutes on a side. Turn to finish frying. Tofu doesn’t need to be cooked so just fry the cutlets until they turn a golden brown. Remove from oil to large platter covered with paper towels to drain.

Pre heat to 350F.

Pour some tomato sauce in the bottom of a large glass baking dish. Layer with fried tofu. Spread mozzarella slices over tofu. Cover with more tomato sauce then sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Cover with foil and bake about 20 to 30 minutes until cheese melts.

I served this with a simple pasta sautéed in olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and more grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

high-protein tofu parmesan served family style, what else?

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