Yes, I am talking about catfish tacos. They are very popular in the US, found on many southwestern and tex-mex menus. I can’t recall having seen them anywhere in Amsterdam, so I decided to make my own.
Luckily there are plenty of recipes available online. I liked the catfish tacos with thai cabbage slaw by Whole Foods Market. The Thai slaw dressing with coconut milk and peanut butter is a nice twist. The catfish is grilled. And there is a nice video that explains very nicely how to make the catfish tacos.
There is no Whole Foods Market in Amsterdam, so I set out to procure the ingredients elsewhere. The good news is that everything is available in decent quality and easy enough to find!
The biggest obstacle? Finding out the Dutch word for catfish – zeewolf. I always struggle with translating and remembering fish names. When I have to, I turn to a handy brochure published by visbureau.nl – a Dutch fishermen’s marketing organization – that not only lists all fishing companies but also has an extensive appendix with fish names in English, Dutch, German, French and Italian. Well prepared linguistically, I got some nice zeewolf at Marqt, expensive but very good in fish and herbs. I also got fresh cilantro there.
I wasn’t sure about availability of flour tortillas. But it turned out to be easy, too. Sandwich wraps are very popular in Amsterdam and all supermarkets carry soft tortillas nowadays. While at the supermarket I also picked up peanut butter and honey.
My Turkish corner shop usually has the best fruit and veggies and I went there for avocado, limes, red cabbage, carrots, radish and red onion. And the Toko across the street stocks fish sauce, sesame oil, red chili paste, coconut milk and red pepper flakes if you don’t have them in the house.
Here is a picture of my stash of zeewolf, tarwebloem schijven and more, ready to be turned into yummy catfish tacos.
The recipe is quick and easy and can be done in less than 30 minutes if you are well organized. Make sure you have plenty of catfish so that the the flavor of the slaw will not be overpowering. And simply broil the fish at the highest temperature in the oven if you – like most Amsterdammers – do not have a grill.
With the tacos, we had a lovely bottle of the Pacherenc du Vic Bilh that we bought at Gall & Gall the other day. The pungent and mineral-flavored Pacherenc worked very well with the catfish and the Thai dressing.
Thanksgiving is not the most popular holiday in Amsterdam. Actually everybody is talking about Sinterklaas’ arrival instead. Still you can find everything your heart desires for a great Thanksgiving dinner with friends.
There are more Thanksgiving turkey recipes online than bitterballen served in Amsterdam on Friday evening. So instead of adding yet another recipe, I will provide you with a list of ingredients, some hints on where to find them and a schedule for mastering the Thanksgiving cooking.
Let’s start with the turkey, which will make or break your dinner. A good bird should be tender, full of flavor and sweat little fat while roasting.
I don’t know very much about turkeys. To find a good turkey I rely on the expertise of a good butcher. Slagerij Zikking on Marathonweg 51 in Amsterdam is a great choice. It’s a small shop, off the beaten path and they don’t have a web site. But believe me. Owners Rob and Linda Zikking run a great butcher shop. They love their produce and can talk about it for hours. And they provide great advice on which meat is best for what dish and how to prepare it. When you go there, you will be amazed by how flavorful the meat is. It also looks distinctly different from supermarket meat – the colors are much darker and the texture much more noticeable. On numerous occasions, I have met people from Haarlem or Alkmaar in the store that had driven all the way to Marathonweg to stock up on high quality meats.
Make sure you stop by or call in a few days in advance to order your turkey. Let Rob know for how many people you are cooking and he will have the perfect turkey ready for you to pick up on Thanksgiving day.
Next to finding the perfect turkey, the timing of a Thanksgiving meal can be challenging. We had invited friends for 19:00 and wanted to have dinner for six on the table at 19:30. So we made the following little schedule to help us stay on time:
15:00 Make stuffing.
15:45 Turn on the oven and prepare the turkey.
16:00 Place the bird in the oven, prepare the potatoes and make salad and dressing.
18:30 Take the bird out of the oven and put the potatoes in oven.
18:45 Make cranberry sauce.
19:00 Make gravy.
19:15 Carve the turkey.
19:30 Dinner’s ready!
The rest is actually quite easy.
For the stuffing, start by partially sautéing 125ml of finely chopped onions and 800g of mushrooms. Then add 700ml of breadcrumbs, 1 beaten egg, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, parsley, sage and thyme. Finally, mix it all together, adding white wine to moisten and pepper and salt to taste.
Next, stuff the turkey and wrap it with bacon. Place it on two carrots on the pan and cover with a tin foil tent. Place in the oven and roast at 220 degrees Celsius for 1 hour. Then remove the bacon and foil (but keep it for later) and continue roasting for 1 to 1,5 hours at 190 degrees. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven, cover it with the foil and let it sit for 30 minutes.
For the cranberry sauce, heat 250 ml with 250 ml sugar, add one package of cranberries and cover the pot until all berries have popped (roughly five minutes). Take off heat and stir. For the gravy, melt two tablespoons butter in a pan and add three tablespoons flour while stirring vigorously. Add wine, stock, and turkey juices to liking. In between, you will need to prepare potatoes and a salad.
Was that a recipe after all? Oh, well. Hope you’ll have a great Thanksgiving meal!
Tartiflette is a great potato and melted cheese dish. It’s one of those you love to eat when out skiing or hiking in the mountains, getting cold, burning a lot of energy all day and then sitting around the table with a group of friends.
The ingredients are firm potatoes, Reblochon cheese, bacon, shallots, garlic and crème fraîche. I would describe how to make tartiflette, but I couldn’t do it any better than “le meilleur du chef” who have done a step-by-step photo series on how to prepare tartiflette. It’s very easy and can be done in about an hour.
Some hints and comments:
I highly recommend using an Emile Henry dish – they are beautiful ceramic dishes and the tartiflette will not stick. Believe me, you will be surprised how easy you can take the potato and cheese mix out of the dish and how little time it will take to clean.
Most of the ingredients are easy to find. Make sure you get firm potatoes. And go to a good cheese store for the Reblochon. Both the Tromp Winkel on Beethovenstraat and the Kaashut on Postjesweg carry Reblochon and will be able to sell you a ripe one – make sure you mention it. They also sell special crème fraîche that is much heavier and creamier than the regular stuff and will make your Tartiflette even yummier.
Risotto is great – it’s not an easy dish but after having tried for a few times you will get the hang of it. It’s one of those fundamental dishes that you can do over and over again, combining the basic risotto with many ingredients. We started with the classic – mushroom risotto – and once we had that down, began experimenting successfully. So when fresh corn started showing up in the veggie and organic stores, we decided to make corn risotto – with asparagus, tomatoes, Parmesan and mozzarella.
Preparing the dish will probably take you about an hour. Not exactly a quick dish, but trust me, you will love it! The ingredients complement each other really well: bitter asparagus and sweet corn; acidic tomato sauce and creamy Parmesan and mozzarella. And the al dente risotto rice ties it together perfectly and gives the dish great texture! Read on how to make it!
You will need the following ingredients:
• 2 cups of risotto rice
• Shallots and garlic
• 2 fresh cobs of corn
• Vegetable stock
• Tomato puree (“passata”)
• Tomato triple concentrate
• Buffalo mozzarella
• Small, green asparagus
Feduzzi – the “Mercato Italiano” on Scheldestraat that I go to and write about a lot – is a great place to get most of the ingredients such as the risotto rice, cheese and tomato sauce. You can find the rest at your local veggie store or the Turkish store on the corner.
I prepare the risotto in three steps. First start the risotto rice. Then prepare the vegetables while the risotto is boiling. And finally mix it all up.
1. First bring the chicken stock to boil. You will need between one and one and a half liters. The stock needs to be hot when you add it to the fried risotto rice.
Now start the risotto by frying the risotto rice in a pan. I use half butter and half olive oil. Add the risotto rice when the oil is moderately hot and leave the flame on high until rice and oil start bubbling.
Stir in the garlic and shallots – finely chopped – and when the whole thing starts bubbling again, reduce the heat and cover with a lid. Keep simmering for about five minutes or until the rice grains turn translucent – stir occasionally.
Make sure you fry the rice long enough – when I started making risotto I would fry the rice quite briefly and often have problems. Frying for as long as five minutes seemed counter-intuitive until I tried it. It works!
When the rice is translucent, turn the flame up to high again. You want the butter and oil to reach maximum temperature when you start adding the stock. Now start adding the stock – ladle by ladle, keeping the temperature as high as possible. After you have added about three ladles individually, you can start adding two or three at a time to give you time to prepare the other ingredients on the side.
2. It’s time to prepare the other ingredients while the risotto is boiling. Don’t forget to keep adding chicken stock whenever the liquid level in the pan is low.
Cut the asparagus into bite sized pieces and fry them in a pan for 5 to 10 minutes. You need to fry them long enough for them to be tender and lose their bitterness – but not too long to let them keep their bite. Take them off the fire and set them aside.
Then boil the cobs of corn by putting them into boiling water and letting them boil at high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water and cut the grains off with a sharp knife.
3. The risotto should be almost done. Taste frequently when adding stock to make sure you do not overcook the risotto rice – risotto should be served al dente. We will now add the remaining ingredients – first the tomato sauce, then the corn and asparagus and finally the Parmesan and mozzarella. We will stir them in at low heat.
The first ingredients you will add are the tomato puree and concentrate. They contain liquid, so you will want to add them just before the risotto rice is ready.
In this case, I am using tomato puree and concentrate instead of fresh tomatoes. It’s sad but true – the quality of tomatoes in Amsterdam is incredibly low. I have tried many stores – from the veggie specialist to the organic market and on to the Turkish store on the corner – but I never get anything that has enough flavor or even remotely reminds me of the aromatic tomatoes you can pick up everywhere in Italy or Spain. As a nice side effect, using tomato puree and concentrate saves the time usually needed for tomato sauce.
Next stir in the corn and the asparagus. We are almost done – the last ingredients to add are the Parmesan and the mozzarella that will give our risotto a lovely consistency and pungent, cheesy flavor.
Get good Parmesan – this is one of the ingredients that will make a break this (and many other) dish. Go out of your way to get the best quality. Again, I highly recommend Feduzzi. And get buffalo mozzarella – it has a distinctly different and much stronger flavor than regular mozzarella and will give this dish and extra pungent note.
Grate the Parmesan and cut the buffalo mozzarella into small chunks. Stir into the risotto.
Warm up deep dishes and serve the risotto with corn, tomato, asparagus, Parmesan and mozzarella as starter or main course.
Tuna melt has always been something that I liked to order in a restaurant or sandwich place but never made at home. I guess the reason is that I never really knew what goes in a tuna melt or how to make it. The yummy and messy tuna melts always seemed like a mysterious concoction of some very obvious ingredients – tuna, toast, melted cheese – and ‘something’ else that gives it flavor and ‘somehow’ makes it gel.
Turns out that preparing tuna melt at home is quick, difficult to mess up and requires only ingredients that are easy to stock.
The ingredients are:
one can of tuna (get good quality, canned in olive oil – not vegetable oil or water)
finely chopped shallots and garlic (raw – which will make for a nice bite)
juice of half a lime
salt, pepper and Japanese hot pepper (guess it does not have to be Japanese, but the spicy mix you get at Japanese stores is great)
bread that can be toasted
cheese that can be melted (cheddar, emmentaler or similar)
You first need to make tuna salad: Mix all ingredients in a bowl – the tuna (without the olive oil unless you like your tuna melt very oily), about two spoons of mayonnaise, shallots, garlic, lime juice and the spices. You are looking for enough mayonnaise to later be able to easily spread the tuna salad. You can add vegetables like red bell pepper or scallions.
Then you prepare the tuna melts: First pre-toast the bread for about half its regular toasting time (about 2-3 minutes, depending on the type of bread). Next, spread the tuna salad thickly (a thumb) on the bread. Slice the cheese (comte also works well) not too thinly and lay on top of the tuna salad. Put the melts in the toaster oven for the remaining time (about 3-4 minutes, depending on type of bread again and how bubbly you like your cheese).
And that’s it. Take the tuna melts out of the toaster oven when it beeps and serve hot and yummy. It’s great comfort and hangover food. And the different flavors and textures mix really well – the soft tuna with the pungent and crunchy shallots, the oily mayonnaise with the sour lime juice and the warm, melted cheese with the crunchy toast!