Panko and Furikake-Crusted Baked Flounder with Kimchi Comeback Sauce

Looking to cook up something tasty and a little out of the ordinary to break up another long week of sheltering in place, I pulled out all the stops tonight to make baked flounder with a fresh take on comeback sauce, a pretty spectacular mac salad (see my next post) and shichimi togarashi broccoli. It definitely fit my bill for a good quarantine meal… it gave me something to do for more than an hour, it was tasty and indulgent while still having some vaguely healthy components, and it used mostly ingredients already stocked in my pantry, fridge, and freezer.

To make the fish, I dipped flounder filets into a mix of a few tablespoons of lemon juice and half a stick of melted butter, then dipped in a blend of panko crumbs and vegetable furikake (a Japanese seasoning blend with sesame seeds, strips of dried seaweed, salt, and other things). I drizzled the filets with a little olive oil and baked for about 15 minutes at 350F.

To serve with the fish, I thought about making a regular tartar sauce, but ended up putting together something much more exciting on the fly… I’ll call it kimchi comeback sauce! While traveling for work in Mississippi, I had a chance to eat some of the best food of my life, and I developed a taste for comeback sauce, a spicy remoulade-type condiment perfect for slathering in fried catfish, shrimp, etc. Today I put an Asian twist on it and ended up with a spicy, funky sauce that I’ll definitely be making again:

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1/2 c. kimchi, diced
  • 1 dill pickle spear, diced
  • Splash kimchi brine
  • 1 tsp Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 1-2 tsp shichimi togarashi
  • Pinch salt 
  • Few drops of fish sauce

Mix all ingredients together; refrigerate until chilled through. 

Finally, I steamed up some broccoli seasoned with shichimi togarashi to serve on the side… had to have something green to go with all the rich components!

Hawaiian-Inspired Mac Salad

Traditional plate lunch mac salad in Hawaii is fairly simple – grated carrot and onion, buckets of Best Foods (Hellman’s) mayo and maybe a few other add-ins. I elevated it today with tricks from my grandma (G. Mom) and my uncle… thinning the mayo out with milk, and adding ranch dressing, respectively. I also added a few other elements to make the mac salad really tangy and bright, while still keeping it simple and super creamy. I think this version is as about as good as it gets! Here are the ingredients and the steps:

  • 1/2 box elbow macaroni
  • 1 c. Grated carrot
  • 2 1/2 Tbls. finely grated sweet onion
  • 1-2 Tbls. seasoned rice vinegar (you could also use apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 c. Sour cream
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 2 Tbls. ranch dressing
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1-2 Tbls. lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

Cook the pasta (I like to season the water with chicken base, but you could also just salt the water) and drain. Pour the hot pasta over the grated carrots and onion (this helps to cook them just enough to take the crispiness out of the carrots and the edge off the raw onion), drizzle on the vinegar, and mix together.


In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayo, sour cream, milk, ranch, and lemon juice. When the pasta has cooled for a few minutes, fold in the creamy mixture and some salt. Refrigerate for a few hours, until fully chilled. You may need to add a little more salt at this point. If the pasta has soaked up enough of the creamy mix that it’s getting a little dry you may need to add a bit more mayo.

Green Chili (Colorado style)

The last time I was in Breckenridge, Colorado I ate a delicious version of huevos rancheros topped with Colorado green chili at Columbine Cafe. I’ve been meaning to try one out ever since, and seeing it pop up on the recent holiday season of The Great Food Truck Race prompted me to finally give it a go. I looked at a few different recipes to get an idea of what to do, then put together my own version.

  • 4 poblano peppers
  • About a pound and a quarter of fresh tomatillos, husks removed
  • About two pounds of boneless pork shoulder (no skin) cut into small chunks
  • A teaspoon or so each of garlic powder, onion powder, chipotle powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Two or three tablespoons of hatch green chile-infused olive oil
  • 2 sweet onions, diced
  • Four cloves of garlic, minced
  • Two tablespoons mirin
  • Two or three cups of water
  • Two tablespoons of chicken base
  • A bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • A tablespoon or two of jalapeño hot sauce

I drizzled some olive oil on the poblanos and tomatillos and roasted them at 415F for about 20 minutes, flipping the peppers once. After letting them cool, I took off the stems and scraped out the seeds of the poblanos, then chopped them roughly. I roughly chopped the parts of the tomatillos that were still whole, and set aside with the liquid from the roasting pan.

While the peppers and tomatillos were roasting I seasoned the pork with the garlic powder, onion powder, chipotle powder, salt, and white pepper. I browned the meat in a little oil in a dutch oven, then removed and set aside.

There was a lot of liquid in the pan, so I poured into into a separator, put the thin separated liquid in with the reserved meat and put some of the fat back into the pan. I added the hatch green chile-infused olive oil and cooked down the diced onions. When they were soft I added the garlic, cooked for two or three minutes, then added the mirin to let the mix brown up a little. I tossed in the cooked and chopped poblanos and tomatillos and the water, chicken base, cilantro, and jalapeño hot sauce. I let this mix cook down for about 20 minutes, then added the pork and simmered for about 40 more minutes.

While it was cooking I whipped up some refried beans. I melted some shredded cheddar on a flour tortilla in the microwave, then added some refried beans, rolled it up, and topped with the green chili. Before eating I also added some Mexican crema. I was really happy with this first attempt at green chili – in the future I might add more types of peppers, and bring a little more heat to it, but as is it was pretty delicious.

Bean and cheese roll up topped with green chili

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup

On chilly fall and winter days I love making soup for lunch. Thick, puréed soups are my favorite, and broccoli and cheddar is one that I can never seem to get enough of. This version is pretty easy to make, and although eats as very creamy and indulgent, it is far lighter than more traditional broccoli and cheddar soups that float broccoli and other veggies in a thick cream, stock, and cheese base.

For about four servings (or three servings for hungry people) I use:

    2 shallots, thinly sliced
    1 or 2 Tbls. salted butter
    1 Tbls. mirin (if you don’t have this you can swap in sweet white wine or just leave it out)
    3 crowns of broccoli, roughly chopped into florets
    1 1/2 C. Half and half
    1/2 C. Milk (whatever percent you have is fine)
    1 tsp. chicken bullion (you can easily leave this out or swap for a vegetable-based bullion to make the soup vegetarian)
    1 handful of shredded cheddar for the soup, and more for serving

I start by sautéing the shallots in the butter with a pinch or two of salt over medium heat. When the shallots are translucent I add the mirin and cook until lightly caramelized and jammy.

At the same time, I steam the broccoli over salted water for about 10 or 15 minutes, until tender.


I add the broccoli, onions, half and half, milk, cheddar, and bullion to a blender, then mix on high until really smooth and creamy. When it’s fully blended I put the soup in a pot on the stove to warm it up a bit, and finish with a generous sprinkle of shredded cheddar.


Chopped Chicken Liver

My favorite holiday appetizer of all time is my uncle Miles’ chopped chicken liver spread. Great with any kind of cracker, it has a rich, meaty taste and a decadent feel. In the past that Miles has mentioned that the chopped liver is a bit of a pain to make, and I know that liver can be temperamental to cook with, so I always figured that it was a very difficult dish to make. It turns out that there’s nothing particularly hard or tricky about its preparation… it just has more steps and takes more time than many other party dips and spreads.

1 or 2 tablespoons chicken fat

1lb chicken livers, cleaned up (you just want the lobes, not all the sinew)

1 small onion, diced

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

4 hardboiled eggs, diced (not too finely)

Melt the chicken fat and heat until very warm, then add the diced onion and cook until lightly caramelized. Do not add salt while cooking, as this will draw too much liquid out. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onion when cooked, then season with salt and pepper.


Add the chicken liver lobes to the hot onion pan with the chicken fat. Cook for about four minutes on one side, then about three minutes on the other, until done (165F or above).

Let the liver cool for a few minutes, then add it to a food processor with the onions and a tablespoon of mayo and pulse three or four times. Add eggs and pulse a few more times, until coarsely mixed. Chill for at least a few hours, or overnight, and serve with crackers.

I am so excited… I can’t wait to eat it tomorrow, and I plan to keep the tradition going for holidays throughout my life!

Berbere-Spiced Ombre Apple Tart

I’ve had my eye on ombre apple pies since I saw the New York Times recipe for Apple Ombré Pie last fall. James and I went apple picking with our friends Carol and Jon this weekend, at Terhune Orchards, in Princeton, NJ, and with a haul of hand-picked apples of a different colors, I figured it was finally time to give it a go. We picked Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples right off the tree in the orchard, and  I picked up a few Red Delicious ones from the farm stand to round out the color palette. We also picked some delicious Cameo apples right from the trees in the orchard, but James used those to make a traditional apple pie.


For the crust, I used a recipe that James got from his mom. Note… this recipe is for a two-crust pie; I used a little more than half of it for this tart. It included:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 sticks of cubed butter, one at room temperature butter, one cold butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • 5 Tbls cold water

I used a pastry cutter to first mix in the room temperature butter into the flower, then cut in the cold dough with the salt and water. I formed a little more than half of the dough into a ball, then rolled it out into a circle. I should have let it rest for a bit in the fridge, but I was on a roll and just wanted to keep going!

I put the crust in a greased pie pan, trimmed the edges, pierced the bottom a few times with a fork, pressed some foil loosely over the top, then par baked it at 425F for about 10 or 12 minutes. I let it cool while prepping the filling.


For the filling, I used:

  • 2 each of Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and Red Delicious apples
  • Some lemon juice
  • About 1/2 C. white sugar,
  • About 1/4 C. brown sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • Enough cinnamon and Berbere spice blend to really season the sugar
  • A tablespoon or two of butter, cubed

I started by mixing together the two kinds of sugar, salt, and generous sprinklings of cinnamon and Berbere (an Ethiopian spice blend – the one I have has cayenne pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and paprika) until you could really taste the seasonings coming through the sugar. Berebere spice may not be a traditional apple pie flavor, but it is very cinnamon-forward, and I think the warm, savory flavors mixed with the heat of the peppers is actually quite lovely in a sweet dessert like this, to mix it up.

I moved on by cutting up thin slices of each of the apples. I use the technique of cutting two sides of the apple, leaving a thin strip with the core in the middle, and using a spoon to scoop out the core section left in the middle of each of the large round pieces, then cutting the two remaining sides, leaving just a square of core left, and using a spoon to scoop out the core part left in the middle of those smaller pieces. I then slice up what is remaining. I put each type of slices in its own bowl, and tossed them with a sprinkle of lemon juice to keep them from browning.

I sprinkled a little bit of the sugar mix on the bottom of the crust, then tossed the rest with the separate bowls of apple slices. I layered the seasoned slices into the pie crust by color. It took a little creative jigsawing, but I was able to squish a lot of slices in – I still had leftovers in each of the colors, though, for snacking.


Before putting it in the oven, I dotted the top with a few cubes of butter, and brushed the crust edge with an egg wash.


I cooked it at 375F for about half an hour, until the apples were really tender and jammy. The ombre definitely faded, but I was still delighted with how it looked, and loved the taste as well. Overall it was a little more work than a regular pie, but it was so beautiful that it was worth it!

Venison with Blackberry Red Wine Sauce and Spiced Collard Greens

Dinner tonight was venison tenderloin with a blackberry and red wine pan sauce and spiced collard greens. I’ve been in the hospital taking care of G. Mom all week, and for my first night back I thought that cooking a good meal would be a nice way to calm and center myself. I really enjoy venison, and I saw tit being cooked on Masterchef this week, so I made a special trip to pick some up at the Wegmans in Princeton, NJ before heading up north. I don’t make a ton of sauces, because I usually enjoy eating my meat just salted and well-cooked (not well-done!) but today I wanted to push myself a bit, so I also grabbed some blackberries and pinot noir, which I thought would make for a tasty sauce.

Venison is a delightful protein, unless you overcook it, in which case you end up with a chewy lump of disappointment and sadness that looks, feels, and tastes like a softened hockey puck. My secret weapon for venison is the immersion circulator – sous vide venison is absolutely foolproof. I started by sous viding two gorgeous venison tenderloins from Dartagnan for two hours at 117.5F with my Anova Precision Cooker. Once they were cooled I seared them for just seconds on each side in a hot pan. I let them rest, and waited to slice them up until I was ready to plate.

Once the meat was done, I gathered the following ingredients for the sauce:

  • A tablespoon of salted butter
  • The drippings from the bag in which I cooked the venison
  • One shallot, finely diced
  • Two cloves of garlic, minced
  • A sprinkle of rubbed sage
  • A generous pour of Pinot noir
  • A small handful of fresh blackberries
  • Pomegranate balsamic vinegar (I have one from Carter and Cavero that is delicious)
  • A tablespoon or so of beef bullion
  • About two teaspoons of apricot and passion fruit jam

I added the butter and drippings from the sous vide bag to the skillet I seared the tenderloins in, and then sweated the shallot and garlic with some salt and the powdered sage. When they were tender I poured in a good amount of wine, and crushed a few blackberries by hand and dropped them, like I do with canned tomatoes when I’m making a red sauce. I added some rich, sweet and tangy pomegranate balsamic vinegar, a splash of water, and the beef bullion. It needed a little more sweetness, so I spooned in the jam. When the sauce tasted right, I strained it and put it into a small sauce pan over low heat to thicken up a bit.

For the collard greens side dish, I used the pressure cook setting on my Instant Pot to give it that stewed all day texture. I used: 

  • About two tablespoons of butter
  • About a teaspoon of crushed methi seeds (fenugreek)
  • A few shakes of a Berbere spice blend (an Ethiopian spice mix with cinnamon, pepper, ginger, cardamom, paprika, and other seasonings)
  • One yellow onion, diced
  • Two cloves of garlic, minced
  • A splash of cooking sake
  • The juice from one lemon
  • A big bag of fresh chopped collard greens
  • Salt
  • A splash of water

I started by warming the methi seeds and Berbere mix in butter on the sauté setting, then added a diced onion and some garlic. I deglazed with some sake, then added a big bag of chopped collard greens, the juice from one lemon and a little water and mushroom bullion, and cooked under pressure for five minutes.


I plated the collards, then the sliced venison. I added a sprinkling of goat cheese to the plate, as I always do with this protein – I just love having a taste of the creamy, tangy goat cheese with venison. I finished with the sauce, and rushed through taking pictures so I could stuff my face! The venison was perfectly rare, and doing it sous vide gives you a delightfully soft texture. The sauce was sweet but rich and meaty too, and it had some some acidity from the vinegar, and adding a bit of creamy goat cheese really rounded out the meat. The collards were a lovely stewed texture, and just mildly spiced with some earthy flavors that made them a lovely side dish that still let the star (the venison and sauce) really shine.


Spiced Lamb Quinoa

Tonight’s dinner, a spiced lamb quinoa, was an improvised mix of odds and ends I had in the fridge, freezer, and pantry that ended up coming out so delicious I think I’ll have to make it just like this again!

I pulled some ground lamb out of the freezer to defrost this morning, and when I was done working I threw it in a pan to brown with some salt, garlic powder, and a berbere seasoning blend, which has mix of cayenne pepper, paprika, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and garlic. The blend is lovely with lamb – the cinnamon just has this nice warmth that seems to go very well with lamb.

While the meat was browning, I cooked some white quinoa on the stove with beef broth and a little butter. When the lamb was brown I spooned it out but left the fat in the pan, and then added a diced onion and a little minced garlic in to brown. I seasoned with salt and the berbere blend, then deglazed the pan with some marsala as soon as the onions started to brown on the outside. I added in some water so the onions could simmer and get soft without caramelizing and getting too sweet. I also added some sundried tomato paste for depth. I zapped a bag of frozen chopped kale for a few minutes, so it was defrosted but not cooked through, and added it to the pan. I tossed in some halved mini San Marzano tomatoes and splashed in a little more marsala, and let it stew for a few minutes. I added the meat back to the pan, put in the quinoa, and removed from the heat.

I stirred everything together, then added some leftover creme fraiche that needed to be finished up. It melted in nicely and just added a hint of creaminess. I finished the dish off by stirring in some dried parsley and chunks of creamy Egyptian feta. It was warm from the spices, had a nice mix of textures, juicy from the tomatoes, and had a lovely tang from the feta. Sometimes pantry meals feel like a bunch of leftovers that don’t really go together, but today’s came together nicely!

Scallops with Baby Kale, Spinach, and Pistachio Pesto

I really love cooking and eating scallops, and it is always easy to find great local ones in the Long Beach Island area (look no further than Ahearn’s!) when I am down the shore visiting my parents. This weekend, I had lots of ideas in my mind about what to cook with scallops, but most of all I wanted something bright and somewhat healthy, to cap off a long holiday weekend of rich, heavy food. I settled on making a non-traditional pesto with leafy greens and pistachios. To complement the scallops, I made sure to pack it full of lemon juice and zest.

Drying out the scallops

I got two pounds of scallops for four people. This was a little bit overkill, but I figure it’s better to have extra than to leave people wishing there were more. I seared them off in clarified butter. For tips and more details on how I usually prep and cook scallops, see this post.

For the pesto, I used:

  • A 5 oz. tub of baby kale
  • An 8 oz. bag of spinach
  • A 6 oz. bag of shelled pistachios (most are for the pesto, but set aside a handful to chop up for plating)
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Some fresh grated parmigiana reggiano

I filled up the blender with a few handfuls of the greens and pistachios and some of the cheese, then added a little lemon juice and started processing. I used the tamper to press the greens down, and continued to add a little bit of everything but the olive oil until I had used all of the kale, most of the spinach, all of the lemon juice, about a full handful or two of cheese, and most of the pistachios. I tasted it to make sure the flavors were all blending well and that it had the balance I wanted. When the puree tasted right to me, I turned the blender on low and slow drizzled in the olive oil, letting it mix with the sauce. I continued adding oil until the mixture was emulsified and had a creamy, but still fairly thick, texture. I put the pesto in the fridge for about two hours to let the flavors soften and meld.

When I was ready to make dinner, I cooked a pound of spaghettini until almost done, then drained it, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. I tossed the pasta in the strainer with a little butter, so it wouldn’t stick together. I added two or three tablespoons of butter and a few scoops of the pesto into the hot pasta pot, and put it back on the stove on low. I added some of the pasta water to thin the sauce out, then put the pasta back in the pot and tossed it all together, cooking for two or three minutes. You can add more of whatever you need – the cooking water, butter, or pesto, to get it to taste right. I used a ton of the pesto, so the finished pasta was aggressively bright (from all the lemon juice), flavorful, and packed with healthy greens. I served the scallops over the pasta, and sprinkled some chopped pistachio nuts on top to finish the dish.



Duck Breast with Cranberry Blood Orange Red Wine Sauce

Magret duck breast is one of my absolute favorite proteins. This special kind of duck cooks and eats like beef (so it’s delicious served rare) and has a succulent layer of fat that, with the right preparation, is crispy, salty, meaty heaven. This is a protein that is fast and easy enough to cook for a weeknight meal (so I love to keep one in the freezer) but also feels fancy enough to serve to company. The meat is so juicy and delicious when you salt and cook it rare that I usually just serve it as is, like I do with steak, but this weekend, I made a cranberry blood orange red wine sauce to go with it. I made some Brussels sprouts with pancetta as a side dish.

To serve three people I bought two packages of Moulard Magret Duck Breast from Wegman’s – I can always find it there, although I’ve also found this product in many different grocery stores. One package is usually good for just James and I; we eat most of it and maybe have two or three slices left over for me to eat with salad the next day. This weekend I made two packages for me and my parents; that was way too much but it meant that both our households could have some leftovers.

Prepping the duck breast is simple. Leave it in the fridge until the moment you are ready to cut it (what comes next gets harder the warmer it is) then take it out, give it a quick rinse and pat dry, and lay it down with the fat side up. Use a thin, sharp knife to score the fat, first making straight cuts down the length of the breast, then making perpendicular cuts, basically turning the fat into a bunch of cubes. The key is to cut deep into the fat, but stop before you go all the way through – you shouldn’t see any of the red of the meat itself poking up. When it is neatly scored, rub a generous helping of kosher salt into the fat, massaging it around gently so it gets inside the cuts. Salt the other side, as well.

Cooking the duck perfectly is all about paying attention to it and not letting it overcook. Preheat the oven to 350F. As with bacon, I start the duck, fat side down, in a cold, oven-proof skillet. I don’t use cast iron for magret duck breast – I find that it holds too much heat and you risk overcooking the duck – so I go with a regular non-stick (but still oven safe) frying pan instead. Put the skillet on your stovetop and turn the heat to medium-high. Stick around – you want to slowly render out some of the fat, and then keep the heat at a place where it the outside gets nice and golden brown, but doesn’t get too hot and burn. After a few minutes, when there is a good amount of rendered fat in the pan and the fat coating still on the duck looks golden brown and delicious, flip the meat over and put it into the oven. At this point I usually put the timer on for five minutes. It might not cook in that time, but overcooking a protein this lovely is just not an option. I shoot for 120/125F in the thickest part, and let it rest thoroughly, like a steak, when it is done.

Be sure to save the fat for later – it’s absolute gold for sautéing, frying, roasting, etc. Just pour the hot fat into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve to strain out the brown bits and refrigerate.

Warm duck fat

To dress the duck up, I made a tart, fruity sauce out of cranberries, blood oranges, and red wine. I used:

  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries
  • Half a bottle of cabernet sauvignon
  • 2 T. Sweet Thai chili sauce
  • 5 T. white sugar
  • 2 T. mirin
  • A pinch each of nutmeg and cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 blood oranges, zested and sliced

I started by bringing the cranberries and red wine to a boil. I added in the sugar, chili sauce, and mirin, stirring until the sugar dissolved. I sprinkled in the spices and blood orange zest, then squeezed the lemon into the mix. I added the whole blood orange slices and brought it back to a boil. I turned it down to simmer until the cranberries were really tender and the orange slices were falling apart, probably 15 or 20 minutes. I removed from the heat and used a potato masher to crush the berries and orange slices. Finally, I strained the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, stirring the pulp around to get all of the liquid out. The sauce was both sweet and tart, and with the cranberries and blood oranges it felt like a mixture of fall and winter – much like this past weekend has felt in New Jersey!

For a side dish, I used a big bag of Brussels sprouts, ends removed and halved, and three thick slices of pancetta (from the deli counter), cut into the cubes. You can use a package of already cubed pancetta for convenience, but if you have the time it’s better to do it yourself so you can make larger cubes, which have a better texture in the finished dish.

I browned up the pancetta, starting in a cold pan, then cooked until crispy. I removed the cooked cubes with a slotted spoon and drizzled the fat onto the Brussels sprouts, which I laid out on a baking sheet. There wasn’t quite enough bacon fat to coat the sprouts, so I also drizzled on a little olive oil. I sprinkled with kosher salt and roasted until they were brown and tender, stirring once while they were cooking.

Brussels sprouts ready for the oven

I served everything with white rice, because even when you’re cooking something that’s not Japanese at all, it somehow tastes better with a few scoops fresh out of the rice cooker.