Foodie Tuesday: Salt-Baked Fish

I first heard of cooking things in a crust of salt from none other than clementine's posterous.  She featured chicken roasted in salt over a fire, and it was at the same time one of the craziest, and yet totally intriguing things I'd heard about.  And I kept thinking about it for a year and a half before I finally worked up the nerve to try it.

So the thing about roasting in salt is that it's not nearly as scary as it sounds - burying your meat in a mound of salt.  But the salt forms a cohesive sort of cave, an oven-within-an-oven, if you will, within which the meat sort of dry steams (oxymoron, I know) in its own juicy flavors.  The meat stays moist and tender, and the salt draws away moisture so it doesn't get soggy at all.  Afterwards, you crack the salt crust open and eat the meat inside - as long as you are careful not to crumble the salt crust, your meat won't be too salty.
The result is delicate, warm and fragrant.  And very delicious.  Not to mention this was one of the easiest dishes I've made all year.
1) Buy the freshest fish you can get your paws on.  I went to the fishmonger at the local Chinese supermarket and pointed to fish swimming in tanks and had them catch, kill (he used swift strokes of a mallet to their heads!), and clean them.  I wasn't sure which kind to commit to, so I got both a striped bass and a rainbow trout (the trout ended up being way tastier).  I'd never bought live fish before and felt very accomplished, even though I didn't do anything other than point and pay.
2) When you get home with the fish, rinse and pat dry.
3) On your baking dish, lay out a generous layer of kosher salt.  I didn't really understand why it had to be kosher salt until I tried it out for myself.  Trust me - take the trouble to buy kosher salt, because I don't think regular table salt will crust the way you need it to.
4) Lay out some bay leaves, then lay out your fish on top of them.  Stuff its belly with some freshly sliced lemon and sprigs of parsley.  You can get fancier herbs if you want to, but I found this to be simple and delicious.
5) Now, cover the fish in salt.  Anywhere from 2 cups to 2 lbs, whatever it will take to form a nice crust (mine was between 1/3 to 1/2 an inch thick).
6) Roast in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for about 25-30 min.  I left mine in for too long and the bass got a little tough, but the trout was still moist and flavorful.
7) Crack open the salt crust and enjoy!  We had our fish with steamed wild rice and stir-fried bok choy.  Nom nom nom.
Some more pictures from Saturday - that Kung Fu riesling sure packs a punch!  I drank one small little glass and got drunker than I have in a long time.  And there are videos to prove it.

Foodie ships passing in the night...

This is just one reason I love my coworkers.

Micah: Hey Stephanie--what do you think about a trip to the curry truck tomorrow?
Stephanie: oh dear, I have a lunch tomorrow!
Micah: Ray & I are doing the curry truck tomorrow b/c he wants to go before his paternity leave starts. So I can do recon. :)
Stephanie: okay 
Stephanie: I'd be up for, say, a regular taco truck trip on Friday =D
Micah: I'd love tacos on Friday, but I'm out for a half day. You'll have to have one for me 
Stephanie: oh bummer 
Micah: foodie ships passing in the night...
Stephanie: LOL.
Stephanie: I just had an image of big Spanish galleons
Stephanie: laden with foods
Micah: haha!
Stephanie: passing each other in the darkness
Stephanie: moonlight and everything
Micah: I'm picturing a lot of meat & pastries

It was a modest Lim family Thanksgiving...

Having gorged on Wendy's pre-Thanksgiving feast the week before, and already eaten turkey leftovers all of that week, I was glad my parents kept it simple on Thanksgiving Day.  We just had some family over for Burmese curry chicken rice.  Yum.

I dropped by Taco Nazo with Karin, but somehow the tacos tasted kind of different.  Good, but not quite as spectacular as I remembered.

Saw New Moon at the Grove with Lils, followed by burgers, beer and baskets of fries at Father's Office.

Had some down-home Hawaiian at King's Hawaiian in Torrance with high school friends.  And closed out the long weekend with Mexican eats at Los Sanchez in Santa Ana.

At the Sugar Shack

Went last night to watch Annie's play at the Exit Theater.  "Aaron Trotter and the Incident at Bikini Beach" was a barrel o' laughs.  And it was totally worth hearing Annie speak in an Scottish brogue.

The play closes tomorrow night but they still have some spots avail for tonight's show!

Grab-Scrab Victory

This is my friend Grant's favoritest game.  He will play it with anyone at any time.  Because he's very very good at it.

Basically, people (at least two, but no real limit) take turns dealing Scrabble tiles out onto the table.  As you see words come up, you call them out and grab the tiles.  You can combine new letters with existing words to 'steal' words from other players.  You can play with a 3-letter or 4-letter minimum.  Whoever ends up with the most words after you run out of letters, wins.  Sometimes we add up the points attached to each letter to determine the winner.

I am not usually very good at this game because it requires too much of a certain kind of thinking, even though I was a Hist & Lit major in college.  But the other day I played with another friend, and won (for once).  I was so proud of my words that I took a picture.  Yes, I know, I had accidentally put away the F in 'adrift' before I remembered to take the picture.

Craziest thing I did all weekend (and in the last ten years maybe) - plus videos!

On Sunday, for a dear friend's bachelorette party, we went to Trapeze Arts in Oakland for some crazy good fun.

We started off harmlessly enough - a long round of stretches on the ground.  The instructors were very patient and moved us slowly but surely from one thing to another.  They had us first practice hanging from our knees on a stationary trapeze, very close to the ground.  Then, they had us practice our takeoffs, but on the ground.  Takeoff posture is very important to ensuring a good launch.

Then, the platform.  40 feet in the air!  This is where I got really nervous.  I don't know if you remember having to jump from the high dive during swimming lessons as a kid, but that terror--it was exactly the same. Even with the net, and the safety ropes, and the assurance that Jake would let us down easy if we landed incorrectly (which I did--multiple times) instead of letting us "eat it" facedown on the net.  We practiced swinging, bringing our legs up, hanging by our knees, arching our backs, and finally landing on our backs.

I sat out the second trick (simple backflip) - the first two runs really shook me up.  But I did the last trick, the "catch," where Hans, this beefy guy who has probably been trapezing for decades, swung on another trapeze and caught us as we arched our backs and held our hands outstretched.

If you're looking for a thrill but haven't quite worked up the nerve to go bungee jumping, sky-diving, or base-jumping...trapezing may be a fun and ALMOST TOTALLY SAFE alternative for you.

Below, there's 1) a video of the bachelorette backflipping like a pro, 2) Jake showing us how flying trapeze is really done, and 3), me doing the catch, though you have to fast-forward to 0:51 because there is a lot of downtime at the beginning of the vid.

We're all "sheeple" apparently

Be honest... how often have you thought this exact same thought?

me: I'm a yupster. it's different. yuppies shop at pottery barn and crate and barrel.  i, on the other hand, am a unique and wonderful snowflake.
Stephen (my brother): contrary to popular belief, you are the same as everyone
me: am not. i am a snowflake.
Stephen: i am not a snowflake
me: what are you then
Stephen: a space monkey
me:'re a monkey?