I was first introduced to the slang term “dag” when I was at the movies with a few friends (including regular blog character Mooman, known him a long time) at the age of 14. We bumped into a former classmate that left for a new school a few years earlier and upon seeing us he exclaimed, “DAAAAAG! You guys got BIG!” The comment was so absurd that it endured as a story we discussed and giggled about occasionally over the years. 15 years later, at a quiet bar in a nice restaurant where a few diners were enjoying their lunch, Marshall looked at the beer list and exclaimed “DAAAAG!!!” upon seeing the price of the beers. Since there were 3 or 4 friends present to witness this, a catch phrase was born.
According to Urban Dictionary, dag means damn or is a general exclamation of amazement. That’s about how we/I use it and use it often. Anyway, this new segment on the blog is to capture the growing pile of meals that I only partially documented in photos, missed the key final shots that make a post work, or were just a complete failure. You know, major dags. Enjoy!
One thing this blog has taught me is that all cheeks are delicious. Beef, grouper, and pork have been documented here, along with collars from salmon and tuna. So, when I noticed a fish shop on route 1 that advertised cod cheeks, I knew I would have to cook them at some point. Only problem was that the only times I was 30 minutes north of Boston on Route 1 was when I was on my way out of town. After a year of seeing the sign, I finally bought some and brought them to New Jersey with me.
The cod cheeks were medallions of meat about the size of a medium scallop and looked about how you would expect them to. The color was a bit darker than regular cod fillets and had noticeably more fat than the usually lean cod meat. Each piece seemed like a completely unique combination of shape and size.
I’d never tasted cod cheeks before, but based on my experience with grouper it seemed like I should just treat them the way I would a scallop.
I heated up a couple tablespoons of butter in a pan then sauteed some garlic and a few capers over medium heat for a few minutes. While that cooked, I dusted the cod cheeks with a little of flour, salt, and pepper and then added them to the pan.
After a flip, I added a solid pour of white wine and lowered the heat to a simmer. Since cod has a chewy, mushy, unpleasant texture when rare, I let the cheeks simmer for 8-10 minutes while the cooking liquid reduced and thickened around them.
And that’s all you get. I served the cod over some pasta with the cooking liquid as a sauce and paired it with asparagus. The combination of butter, garlic, capers, and white wine rarely goes wrong and works with pretty much any seafood. The cheeks were delicious, with a totally different texture than cod fillets. Where cod is usually flaky and light, there was more density to the cheek and a more uniform, scallop-like texture. Clever, 6 effing references to how they were like scallops, but I really got nothing else for you. It’s accurate and annoying.
I go through an obsessive pizza phase about once every 10 months. No real reason for it, I just make pizza one day, it tastes really good, and then I proceed to make different varieties of it twice a week for the following 6 weeks. The most recent incarnation of this obsession was pizza cooked on the grill, but prior to that wave it was all oven-baked and most of the creativity was in the toppings. The pizza I made with shredded short rib and the reduced braising liquid acting as the pizza sauce was a personal favorite, but the oddest ones were based on leftovers. Basically, roll out the dough and dump some leftovers on.
First, the dough. For years I bought dough from local pizza shops because I assumed they use the same dough starter for years and the dough would have a nice funky bread flavor. Plus, I never remembered to make it a day in advance. Then I bought dough from a local place, discovered it was partially frozen and likely from a massive food service operation, and threw a temper tantrum. The type of temper tantrum a normal babysitter would quit over, thankfully Kristi is my babysitter.
Nowadays I mostly make my dough 24 hours in advance, let it rise a couple times, then punch it down and throw it in the fridge. Which leads to lots of situations likes this.
This has happened maybe five times, every time I’ve made pizza dough in the past year I would guess. In each case, I punched the dough down and pressed out all air then wrapped them tight in a plastic bag. Apparently that’s not gonna do it. One night before hosting a party the following day, I put four doughs into a drawer in the fridge. When we returned home, the drawer was off its track and looked like a hot air balloon inflated inside a VW Beetle. The picture above captures the awesome inflating power of the dough. The remarkable thing is that the dough found tiny holes and made tiny dough bubbles on the outside.
Anyway, during one of these pizza streaks I came back from a weekend in Maine with a lot of lobsters and a little bit of leftovers from a linguine with clam sauce. The following day I was left to fend for myself for dinner and didn’t have enough pasta to make a whole dinner, sooooooooo….
Stretch the dough out, coat well with olive oil, dump the leftovers into the center, evenly spread, then season the edges of the dough with lots of salt and pepper. Oh, and “dust” (read: blizzard) pecorino romano plus a drizzle of additional olive oil over the top.
After 12 minutes in a 500 degree oven, I had this:
I’ve made pasta pizza a few times since making this one. Carb-wise, it’s the type of meal that makes construction workers whistle at me while I walk and ask if they can get some fries with that shake. Flavor and texture-wise, it’s totally my fave thing. All the flavor of the pasta dish you use, plus the crispy seasoned dough, tons of cheese, and the texture of the crunchy pieces of pasta on top. The biggest plus is eating a bunch of pasta with only your hands and no need for a fork. Pasta pizza is an open faced Italian taco, and the spaghetti calzone from Luigi’s in Lewiston, ME is the Italian gordita. Need to document that one at some point.
This meal continues with the pattern of stuff I cooked when Kristi wasn’t home to make sure I ate right.
As discussed previously on this blog, the diverse inhabitants of JP leads to a lot of odd foods at the grocery store. And pharmacy. I found this can of shellfish at my local CVS.
I’ve only had a few small bites of fresh cooked cuttlefish during my travels and hope to someday purchase it fresh and cook it for myself. I love squid and octopus, and cuttlefish seems like a close cousin of those two. If I can’t get the fresh kind locally, though, I’ll happily give this questionable can of meat a shot. Especially since they were packed in their own ink (supposedly), which is my fave thing.
Once I opened the can I was a little less excited.
I didn’t have the courage to eat this on its own, nor did I really want to, so I decided to make a pasta with the cuttlefish. Started out by heating a little olive oil in a pan and adding onions, garlic, and, because Kristi was out of town and I like funky salty fish, a can of chopped anchovies.
While that cooked, I brought a pot of water to a boil and dumped in some dried shell pasta to cook about 3/4 of the way through.
Once the pasta was strained and the onions were translucent, I added in the cuttlefish, some salt & pepper, and a little bit of the “sauce” from the can. After a couple minutes of cooking together I poured in about a half cup of white wine and let it simmer/reduce for 10-15 minutes.
Once the sauce had reduced a bit, I stirred in the partially cooked pasta to cook the rest of the way in the sauce, which left me with this.
Overall, this meal was edible and I ate it, but it wasn’t exactly something that I looked forward to replicating for my friends at some point. The flavor was fishy and muddy and had a faint taste that reminded me of the smell of a handful of change, likely from the canned fish. The sauce looked creamy but it had a bit of graininess to it. The cuttlefish was like squid that had boiled for a long time; some texture but disintegrated once you started chewing and not in a good way. Because I was hungry and it had some enjoyable flavors for me, I ate most of it. But it really wasn’t good.
I have lots of posts ready to go, just been swamped at work and haven’t had enough time to write. I’ll try to do better.