Showing posts with label capers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label capers. Show all posts

Friday, June 10, 2016

Smoked Salmon Tartlets

I am in Ireland now, furnishing my very own cottage (once I get the electric and water turned on). I first visited Ireland in 1998 and fell in love, but it took until 2016 to stake a claim to a small piece of it (one-half acre, to be precise), in the heart of West Cork, where my father’s family came from. In fact, if you look up the hill, you can see where my great-grandmother Bridget Regan was born in 1841. The house is still standing.

When we first started traveling to Ireland, the food was as bad as everyone said: watery stews, with chunks of ham, cabbage and potatoes. The bread and butter were always good, as was the Guinness, but the sit-down meals? Not so much.

Now the food is terrific, even in smaller towns. I’ve watched the restaurants moving in, and I’ve sampled the menus (all for research, of course), and I’m blown away. Even the pubs have stepped up their game.

This recipe is adapted from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook, which has gorgeous pictures. If I can find a pub where they make this dish, I may stake out a permanent seat. I do know where to find locally-made smoked salmon, made in a small building in Union Hall in West Cork (near the wonderful fish store I keep returning to)—and you can buy it at the Skibbereen Saturday Market. I’ve been known to plan trips so I can visit the market.

Smoked Salmon Tartlets

The original recipe called for six 3-1/2 inch fluted tart pans with removable bottoms. Most of us probably don’t have those, so you can improvise. I had one shallow six-space pan (a flea-market find), so that’s what I used. Line the bottoms with foil if you need to, to make it easy to get the tarts out. (You could also use standard muffin tins or even mini-muffin tins, if you want to make appetizers—just adjust the cooking time.)


1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
5-1/2 Tblsp cold salted butter, cut into pieces

It doesn't get much simpler than this,
does it?
Grease (or line) your tart pans. Put the flour and salt into a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and process until the mixture looks line fine bread crumbs.

Place in a large bowl (or just leave it in your food processor bowl) and add just enough cold water to let the dough stick together. Place the dough on a floured surface and cut into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a circle, then press into the tart pans. Clean up the edges. Put a piece of parchment paper in each, then fill with pie weights or dried beans and chill for 30 minutes.

I feel the need to point out that in general I am pie-crust challenged. This absolutely simple recipe produced one of the best I have ever made. It was easy to roll and didn’t fall apart, it didn’t get tough with handling, and it tasted great.

(Yanno, you can just buy your crust ready-made and then cut it to fit. I won’t tell.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the tart shells from the refrigerator and bake (yes, still with the paper and beans) for 10 minutes. Then carefully remove the beans and paper.


1/2 cup crème fraiche OR 1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp creamed horseradish
1/2 tsp (oh, all right, a squeeze) of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp capers, chopped
3 egg yolks
8 oz. smoked salmon trimmings (the scrappy bits, which is cheaper), coarsely chopped
Bunch of fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the crème fraiche, horseradish, lemon juice and capers and add salt and pepper and blend well. Add the egg yolks, smoked salmon and chopped dill and mix carefully (you don’t want it to turn into mush). 

Divide the mixture amongst the pastry shells and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the top and the crust edges have just begun to brown.

Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with sprigs of dill.

They'd look a bit tidier with a different baking tin, but they sure tasted good! (My husband approved.)

Is there a book? Well, the last Irish book was A Turn for the Bad, and in that one I send Maura and her friend Gillian to a nice small cafe in Union Hall, and then to the fish store. It's a lovely tiny town where the fishing fleet is based.

I can't tell you about the next Irish book because I haven't written it yet, and it doesn't have a title. But it will be coming next spring! I'm busy doing research in Ireland now, including exploring one very nice upscale hotel. The life of a writer is hard!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cobia with Caper Sauce

by Sheila Connolly

Oops, they did it again: the fish department in my local grocery store slipped in a new fish. Cobia—what the heck is that?

Of course, I am a good guinea pig, so I had to try it. I also promised the person behind the fish counter I would report back to her, since she hasn’t tried it yet.

Disclosure:  this is a farm-raised fish, imported from Panama, and previously frozen. I dutifully looked it up on Wikipedia, which informed me that it is a species of perciform marine fish of the genus Rachycentron and the family Rachycentridae, and has also been known as black salmon, ling, crabeater and prodigal son (huh?). It can be as long as six feet. I will spare you the rest of the details, save that the Wikipedia article says “it is a very curious fish, showing little fear of boats.” It is popular in aquaculture, and it appeared on Iron Chef in 2008 in “Battle Cobia.” I must have missed that episode.

Bottom line: it is a firm-fleshed fish, with a mild flavor, and adaptable to most cooking methods. But when I went hunting, I found few recipes, so I combined a couple. Use it in any recipe that calls for a sturdy white fish. It will stand up to grilling.

Cobia with Caper Sauce

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-1/4 lb cobia fillets, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained

In shallow dish (or use a plastic bag—less mess!), stir flour, salt and pepper (note: I decided to spice it up a wee bit and added a half-teaspoon each of cumin and dry mustard). Coat the fish pieces in the flour mixture (reserve the remaining flour mixture). 

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the coated fish in oil. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until fish flakes easily with fork, then remove from heat (another note: if your pieces are skin-on, make sure they are cooked through or the skin will be hard to remove, but don’t use a high heat. Patience!). Remove fish from the skillet to a serving platter and keep warm while you prepare the sauce.

Heat the skillet (leaving the drippings in the pan) over medium heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the reserved flour mixture, then cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. 

Stir in the wine and cook about 30 seconds more, or until thickened and slightly reduced. Stir in the chicken broth and lemon juice, then cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened. Stir in capers.
When you serve, spoon the sauce over the fish.

My verdict? Cobia doesn’t have a distinctive flavor of its own, but would go well with a variety of sauces, or with none at all. It’s study and holds up well in cooking. We’ll probably be seeing more of it in stores. Will I make it again? Probably. One warning: try to get pieces that are all the same size, or else they will cook unevenly.

And you thought planning a wedding was hard? Try solving a 25-year-old crime at the same time! And keeping an eye out for wandering alpacas. Life is never dull in Granford, Massachusetts.

A Gala Event, coming October 6th. You can pre-order now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Grilled Fish with Caper Vinaigrette

by Sheila Connolly

For some mysterious reason, lately I’ve been possessed by a need to sort and toss stuff. Kind of like the reverse of nesting. Unnesting? My daughter moved out over two years ago, so it’s not that. Maybe I’ve finally reached a breaking point because I’m surrounded by a WHOLE LOT OF STUFF (yes, I’m shouting).

As a small part of this I’ve been going through my recipe collection, both the inherited ones and the ones I started collecting as soon as I had my first kitchen (which was about ten feet square with two cupboards). The oldest recipes come on stained file cards and yellowed newspaper clippings, then progress through Xerox copies of others, and finally neatly typed and formatted copies (such as those from the last five years of Mystery Lovers Kitchen!).

I’ve been sorting them, thinking tabs might be nice if I ever want to find anything (I confess that the Sweet recipes acquired their very own binder years ago--and they do have tabs!). I made a number of happy discoveries: “Oh, look! I saved that!” Having completely forgotten about the recipe, of course. But it’s nice to find recipes that are both tasty and quick, especially for summer, that I tucked away years ago.  Here is one of my finds (or refinds?), an easy grilled fish recipe.


1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 Tblsp olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tblsp capers, drained
1 tsp fresh herbs, chopped (use whatever you like or have fresh)
1 15-oz can white beans (garbanzo, Northern, etc.), rinsed and drained
1 tsp lemon peel, finely grated
1 1/2 lbs firm-fleshed white fish filets (cod, haddock)

Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat until brown, stirring often–about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. (If you want, you can strain off the milk solids, which look kind of like brown sand, but they won’t affect the flavor.)

The browned butter (sounds better in French:
beurre noir)

Mix in the oil, then the shallots, vinegar, capers and herbs (I used fresh thyme).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Brush both sides of the fish filets with the warm vinaigrette, then season with salt and pepper. I used cod filets because (a) they were fresh and locally caught, and (b) they are sturdy enough to stand up to grilling.

Mix the beans, lemon peel and the rest of the vinaigrette in a bowl and keep warm. (You can add other vegetables of your choice.)

When your coals are ready, grill the fish quickly (cover the grill briefly to make sure the fish is cooked through, but it shouldn't take long).  Place the fish on plates and spoon the warm bean mixture alongside.

I confess that over the years I’ve had little luck with grilling fish directly on my (yes, vintage) Weber grill. However, several years ago I purchased a perforated tray with handles, that fits very neatly on the grill. I don’t get the nice grill marks on the fish, but the smoky flavor comes through and the poor fish pieces don’t self-destruct when you try to scrape them off the grill.

I served the fish with a salad of fresh New Jersey romaine and sliced locally-grown French radishes.

Razing the Dead, Museum Mystery #5, released June 3rd. 

Zac Bissonnette of Writer's Digest had this to say:  "... best book in the series. Really vivid/amazing pacing/and great incorporation of historical stuff/a view into that world ... it's so rare that series get better, but this one most definitely has."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


by Sheila Connolly

You suffered through my fresh-fruit-and-veg rant last week; this week you get my fish rant. Don’t worry—I’ll get it out of my system soon. Maybe. (Don’t even get me started on high-fructose corn syrup.)

I live in southeastern Massachusetts, no more than fifteen miles from open water, as the crow flies. You remember—Massachusetts is on a coast? So why can’t I get fresh fish around here?

At my local supermarket, I peruse the fish section weekly. I like fish, both to eat and to cook. But not if it’s been flown from Norway or Indonesia (see last week’s rant). Of the ten or so varieties the market offers week to week, only occasionally is one fresh. Yes, I know that many of our oceans have been overfished, so I accept that many of the fish have been flash-frozen on a far-distant ship and then delivered to our markets, where they are thawed (note: I recently bought some perfectly lovely flounder that had endured that process, and while it tasted fine, it disintegrated into mush when I tried to cook it).

A couple of years ago I found a French fish poacher at a yard sale, where it was classified as a tool box. I paid five dollars for it, then went hunting for a whole fish to cook. No dice. Yes, we have a “real” fish market in town, but the fishmonger had no whole fish. His suggestion? Go to Sandwich, on Cape Cod, and stand on the dock waiting for the fishing boats to come in.

In June we spent a night in Galilee, Rhode Island, courtesy of my daughter, who had a couple of nights left on a shared rental (and was actually willing to invite her parents!). Galilee is tiny, and it’s an honest fishing town. It has lots of serious fishing boats that go in and out daily. And (sound of trumpets) it has a fish market, mere feet from the water. And I fell in love with a piece of monkfish.

I first encountered monkfish on an old Julia Child French Chef episode, where she started by hauling one of the critters onto a chopping block. Those things can be big! The strange thing is, you don’t eat most of it, just the tail (although I’m told that some chefs enjoy the liver). The rest you throw away.

If you’ve never eaten monkfish, you’re in for a treat. It’s firm and white, with a texture much like lobster, and a bit of the same sweet flavor. The first time I ate it was in a small pub in Ireland, believe it or not (although they are surrounded by water, the Irish have never been much into eating fish, even during the Great Famine), with one harried woman cook, kids running around, and a drunk sleeping on the bar. I ordered the monkfish (with a tarragon cream sauce) and was astonished: it was wonderful.

Of course, if you want to try to cook monkfish at home, you have to find monkfish, which is not easy. Therefore I was thrilled to come upon a nice chunk of it in Galilee. It had my name written all over it.

Then I had to find a recipe. The nice thing about monkfish is that it will stand up to stronger flavors, and I was in the mood for something savory. Since I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted (despite at least five fish cookbooks plus the help of Epicurious), I decided to improvise, and this is what I came up with:

To serve four:

1½-2 pounds monkfish, cut into serving-size portions
12 black, salt cured olives, rinsed, pitted, and roughly chopped
1 Tblsp. bottled capers, rinsed
One small yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped (or you can use a garlic press—sorry, Julia Child)
1 large. can diced tomatoes (okay, sure, you can grow your own, peel them and dice them—but opening the can is easier), with their juice
¼ cup white wine
Olive oil for sautéing
Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly season the monkfish pieces on both sides with salt and pepper.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil, then sauté the onion and garlic on medium heat until soft but not browned. Add the white wine and raise the heat and cook until the alcohol evaporates. Add the chopped tomatoes with their juice, lower the heat, and let simmer until the liquid is reduced by about a third. Add the chopped olives and capers. Taste the sauce before adding any additional salt—both the olives and the capers can be salty. (Feel free to add herbs if you like—oregano would be good with this, and fresh basil brings out the sweetness in the fish.)

Nestle the fish pieces into the sauce and baste them well. Cover the pan and simmer gently until the fish is cooked. How long this takes will depend on the thickness of your fish pieces, so keep an eye on them, and don’t let them overcook.

You could also finish this in the oven. Prepare your sauce as above, then place the fish filets in a baking dish and pour the sauce over them, and cook in a 400 degree oven until the fish is cooked (but it’s harder to tell when that happens if the dish is in the oven—and it seems like a waste to heat up the oven for something that will be in there for only a short while).

Serve over rice.

And if you aren’t lucky enough to find monkfish, this recipe will work as well with a sturdy white fish such as cod or halibut, wherever it’s from.

Sorry I didn't think to take a picture of my monkfish before I ate it, so you'll have to settle for another pretty picture of Galilee. Where from a restaurant we watched a man standing on the dock catch a two-foot-long fish.