Wednesday, April 30, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Blackened Rock Fish with Fennel Dirty Rice

© Constantine William Spyrou

One food area I haven't touched on as much is the Cajun area. I love food from the New Orleans and Southern U.S., especially Cajun food. One of my favorite dishes has to be blackened fish. Seasoned liberally with bold spices and charred brilliantly, it brings out the best in fish in my opinion and brings it to another level. 

In this recipe, I go with some Cajun roots with blackened rockfish. Also known as red snapper, rockfish is common in the Pacific area, so it is more associated with that area. This gives the fish a Californian spin on a Cajun classic, and to keep up with that, I did something a little bizarre and added a lot of fresh and vibrant vegetables to another Cajun classic: dirty rice. This is a vegetarian version, and it includes the classic spicy tomato sauce but trades in sausage and black-eyed peas for ingredients like pan-sauteed fennel and spinach, which pair with fish brilliantly. This makes for an overall interesting fusion-style fish! 

Recipe will serve up to 3 people.

For the Fish:

1 pound rockfish fillets
1/2 tablespoon paprika
Salt and pepper to season
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons toasted fennel seed
1 teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon chili powder

For the Dirty Rice:

2 cups brown rice
1/2 jar or can of crushed/diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups spinach
1 cup fennel, sliced roughly
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to season


1. Sautee the spinach and fennel in a hot pan with some olive oil and the garlic. Season, then add in the tomatoes. Add in your cayenne pepper, and reduce. Mix into steamed brown rice, then set aside.

2. Cover the rockfish fillets liberally with the blackening spice mix on both sides. Sear on high heat for about 2 minutes each side with a touch of olive oil. Serve over the rice.

This dish is extremely simple to make at home, but packs a lot of flavor because of the boldness of spice in both the dirty rice and the blackened fish. Fish also pairs extremely well with fennel, which ties the dish together extremely well. Having a hearty tomato sauce completes the meal and deepens the flavor!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Monday, April 7, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Deconstructed Gyro

© Constantine William Spyrou

A very popular theme in modern, fine dining cuisine is to take a classic dish that everybody knows and loves, and giving it an update. I've seen it done with fish tacos, Steak Diane, tuna casserole, etc. I've even attempted a couple of my own with dishes like Greek Lamb Wellington, Orange, Coffee and Chipotle Pulled Pork, and a variety of others. It's a lot of fun and a definite challenge to do, but can make extremely innovative and delicious dishes if you can pull it off! 

What I want to transform in this recipe is the classic Greek gyro. A popular street food, this dish consists of lamb (and sometimes also beef) cooked on a rotating spit with herbs and spices. This delicious meat is then served in a toasted pita with some traditional tzatziki sauce, which is a zesty cucumber-Greek yogurt dip, and feta cheese. This dish is going to include all of those elements, but in different ways. 

Instead of spit-roasted lamb, I will be marinating and pan-frying lamb breast, which is a cheap and delicious cut of meat. For tzatziki and feta, I will be making a salad using cucumber ribbons, Greek yogurt, and feta. Finally, instead of serving it all inside of a pita, the pita will instead be a garnish to add some crunch and texture to the dish in the form of a crumble served over the top. Taking all of these elements and transforming them will be exciting for sure! 

Recipe makes one serving.

For the Salad: 

1/2 cucumber, cut longwise
1/4 cup Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup crumbled Feta Cheese
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp fresh chopped mint
Salt and pepper to season

For the Lamb:

1 6-oz portion of lamb breast, bone-in
1 cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp dill
Salt and pepper to season

For the Pita Garnish:

1/2 piece of pita bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp toasted cumin seed
1 tsp toasted fennel seed
Salt to taste


1. Combine the ingredients for the lamb marinade together well. Place the lamb breast into the marinade for at least 30 minutes.

2. Brush your pita bread with the olive oil and toasted cumin and fennel seeds. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes or until extremely crispy. Pulverize the pita into tiny bits, then set aside.

3. Using your vegetable peeler, shave off long ribbons from the cucumber to make the base for your salad. Mix in the yogurt, lemon, feta, seasoning, and herbs, then set aside in the fridge to chill for about 10 minutes.

4. Take the lamb out of the marinade and directly into a pan on medium-high heat. The lamb has enough oil on it to be able to cook without adding any extra into the pan. Cook for 3 1/2 minutes on each side, then let the lamb rest.

5. When plating, place the lamb breast on the bottom. Add a generous amount of the salad on top of the lamb, and sprinkle the crumbled pita over the top.

The star of this dish without question is the lamb. Rather than being hidden within a ton of pita bread, it can shine out while retaining the warm toastiness of the pita and the zestiness of the cucumber salad to back it up. The lamb really comes to the forefront in this reinvented Mediterranean classic.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Pan-Roasted Duck Breast with a Apple-Onion Latke and White Wine-Apple Reduction

© Constantine William Spyrou

When I really want to get exciting new ideas for a recipe, one thing I like to do is go to the fridge. I'll pick one ingredient in the fridge and try to make a dish that gives that flavor a primary role. Tonight, that ingredient was apple juice. 

Apple juice has a clean, crisp, and refreshing flavor that balances out between tartness and sweetness. To make its flavor shine in a dish, I decided to pair it with a protein that goes extremely well with fruit - duck. To help it accentuate the flavors of apple juice, the duck is going to be seasoned with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and fennel seed. These are all spices that are commonly mulled with apple juice to make a warm and tasty cider. 

Backing up the flavor of the apple and giving the dish more body is a white wine reduction that utilizes the apple juice. A lot of white whines have apple-like notes in their flavor profile, which means that they will complement the apple juice perfectly in the reduction. 

Finishing off the dish is a potato latke made with onion and apple to add the extra level of apple flavor while providing some texture contrast to the rich, meaty duck. Together, these three components - the duck, latke, and reduction - should bring out the natural flavors of apple and accentuate duck to bring it to the next level!

Recipe is for one portion.

For the Duck and Reduction:

1 6-8 oz duck breast
Salt and pepper to season
1/4 ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground toasted fennel seed
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup Gruner Veltliner Wine (this is the best white wine for this dish. Other wines that work include Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, or Chenin Blanc.)

For the latke: 

1/4 pound peeled Russett potatoes, grated
1/4 cup minced white onion
1/4 cup diced skinned apple (Granny Smith and Gala apples work best for this because they take cooking well and go well with onion)
1/2 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to season


1. Add the apple juice and white wine to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and let reduce by about half.

2. While the reduction is working, score the duck breast skin through to the fat layer and rub the fennel, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt and pepper throughout the duck. Be sure to rub it on the meat side of the duck as well.

3. Place the duck, skin side down, into a dry pan on low heat. Let the fat render down as the duck slowly heats up.

4. As the duck fat is melting, combine your latke ingredients and form into a single pancake. Set aside to be ready for frying.

5. Once a lot of the fat has rendered out, turn up the heat in the pan and let both sides color. Once both the skin and meat are colored well, place the duck and pan into a 375 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes.

6. Once the duck comes out of the oven, take it out of the pan and let it rest. Keep the duck fat in the pan, and place it on a medium-high heat. Add the latke to the pan, and cook for a minute on each side until golden brown.

7. Plate the dish by placing the latke on the bottom, then cut the rested duck into thick slices and drizzle the apple juice-white wine reduction over the duck.

This dish really goes for the apple flavor through the latke and reduction as the main supporting flavor to the duck. Backed up by a great white wine to flavor and the cider-like spices of the duck, the flavors will mingle in an exciting new way.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =)