When tied to a dock or when swinging on the hook, the spiritual heart of Zennora is the galley. Yes, the hatch above sometimes leaks and the sump below the sinks sometimes gums up with grease, but when she is still, this is her hara.
I don’t mind the occasional drip on my bald patch or the semi-monthly cleaning of the sump as almost every meaningful conversation flows from the food (and wine) which percolates from the hearth.
Generally, I try to keep everything manual, from using a hand whisk to a hand coffee grinder and a wet stone for sharpening knives. I have no electrical appliances.
In the winter, I use the oven to bake and roast. In the warmer months, I tend to avoid the oven. Roasting in the summer moves to the grill; baking is significantly reduced.
I also try to create/render and recycle fats as much as possible.
My Force 10 propane stove has gone through a nearly-complete rebuild, and I am happy, now, with how it works. I had to replace the broiler burner and thermocoupler for the bottom oven burner. In doing so, however, I rebuilt and cleaned the entire stove. It could probably use a little more insulation but it serves me well.
I make my own duck, beef, and chicken stocks and store it in the freezer.
I also keep a sourdough starter bubbling, which I use for bread, pastry, and pancakes.
I buy my spices from ethnic markets, where they are often fresher and always much cheaper. Essentials almost always at hand: Cumin, coriander powder and seeds, ginger powder and fresh root, star anise, cinnamon bark, whole nutmeg, turmeric, fresh garlic, whole cloves, pepper flakes, dried rosemary, rubbed sage, dried and fresh basil, bay leaves, white and black peppercorns, pepper/chilli flakes, chilli powder, and dried oregano.
Most of my pots and pans are standard stainless-clad though I have a shallow wok-like pot. For big fish-fries, I also will use an oblong vegetable steamer that fits perfectly over the two front burners on the stove-top.
I also have a very difficult time keeping enough wine on board. It does seem, however, that I have enough as most of my food pictures show a cup of wine handy.
Many of my meals are inspired by recipes in the New York Times food section, though I rarely ever follow them. Here are a few of the recipes pictured in the gallery above:
Curried coconut battered fish or shrimp
This would be plenty for a pound or two of shrimp or fish.
- Two cups of flour.
- Two fists full of dried coconut flakes.
- Two full palms of curry powder or cumin
- One-quarter palm each of salt, pepper and pepper flakes. (All of this to taste.)
Mix all together in a bowl with a fork.
The egg bath
- Four eggs
- A half cup of milk, cream, coconut water or coconut milk. Coconut milk is best, milk is not. Use what you got.
- Long squirt of Sriracha
Whisk until the eggs are thoroughly mixed. If using cream or coconut milk, add a splash or two of water.
Heat the fat to the point a little flour fizzes when tossed in the oil. I typically use canola, but often add some animal fat for flavor. I usually deep fry but this will work fine with as little as a half an inch of oil, or at least half the thickness of whatever is being cooked.
Pat the fish or shrimp dry with paper towel.
Coat it with the dry flour mix.
Dip in the egg bath and coat with flour again.
Immediately drop in the fat.
Remove when golden brown and place on a paper towel. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
Serve with lemon or malt vinegar.
Five-spice duck with garlic, and ginger with orange glaze.
- One five- or six-pound duck.
- Lotsa kosher or sea salt.
- Two medium sized navel oranges. (Florida oranges are sweeter and tastier, even if not uniformly orange on the outside. In fact, distrust all food that is uniform in color or shape.)
- A good sized section of ginger root.
- Ten healthy cloves of garlic.
- A fist-full of Chinese five-spice. You can make your own mix if you want. I use cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, red pepper, fennel seeds, cloves. (I know, that’s six. I don’t think nutmeg is traditionally used but I like it that way.) Grind it all into a powder.
- Two long squirts of agave syrup or honey.
- Three star anise stars.
- A healthy dose of soy.
- Optional oregano and rosemary sprigs.
- Dark rum, rye or bourbon.
- Quarter stick of butter
Trim as much possible excess fat and skin. Put it aside for rendering.
Liberally rub salt all over the exterior and interior of the bird, tucking it into any openings between the flesh and skin.
Wrap loosely and put in the fridge for at least a day.
Duck prep, part II
Remove from fridge and liberally dust the interior and exterior of the bird with five-spice powder. Don’t be shy.
Zest the oranges.
Grate at least two knuckles of ginger
Grate or chop at least five cloves of garlic.
Mix that all together and coat the inside of the bird with the resulting paste.
Cut up one orange into six wedges and put inside the cavity along with a sprig of oregano and rosemary.
Put aside for a few hours, in the fridge for most of that time but return it to the counter for the last hour.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F, 175 degrees C.
Follow the 20 minutes per pound plus twenty rule.
While the duck is cooking
Squeeze the juice from the second orange.
Add as much liquor as there is juice.
Add the star anise
Put over low heat and add butter.
When butter is melted add two long squirts of syrup, two or three splashes of soy, and a knuckle of sliced ginger.
When it has reduced by half, take off, put aside and wait for the duck to finish cooking.
Glazing the duck
Remove duck from the oven and paint the outside with the glaze.
Put it back in the oven for another 20-30 minutes. The skin should be crispy when done and the meat should fall from the bone. If not, keep cooking. In my experience, duck thighs, in particular, are tough unless cooked this much.
Take it out and let it rest for 20 minutes or so and then feast.
Chicken, pork belly, okra stew
Frankly, you could use shrimp, fried oysters, fish, pork, sausage, whatever in this dish. It comes out almost like a gumbo.
- Two to four chicken thighs
- One pound of pork belly. (Cut into one-inch squares.)
- One pound of okra. (Chop into half-inch slices.)
- Two large potatoes. (Peel and chop into one-inch pieces.)
- One large parsnip. (Peel and chop into one-inch pieces.)
- One large rutabaga (swede). (Peel and chop into one-inch pieces.)
- Two medium carrots. (Don’t bother peeling. Chopped into bite-sized pieces.)
- One large onion. (Chop loosely.)
- Two handsful of sliced shitake mushrooms
- One can of stewed tomatoes
- Two stalks of celery. (Chop into half-inch slices.)
- Half a bottle of white wine (or more)
- Two bay leaves
- Five large cloves of chopped garlic
- Much kosher/sea salt
- Half a fist-full of pepper flakes
- Half a fist-full of cumin
- Two sprigs of fresh oregano
Prepping the flesh
Cut the pork belly into one-inch squares.
Coat the thighs with salt and cumin.
In the bottom of a large pot, start frying the pork belly on a medium-high flame. Sprinkle half the pepper flakes in with the pork. When starting to brown, add the thighs and brown both sides. Remove from the pot and put aside.
Making the stew
Fry the onions in the drippings until starting to brown, then add garlic. When the garlic starts to brown, add mushrooms, toss in a few slugs of wine and de-glaze the bottom of the pan.
Let it reduce a few minutes.
Add in this order, stirring it all up after each item is added: Carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, okra, celery, potatoes. You want each to get a little sauteed before stewing.
Add the pork belly and chicken back into the pot and be sure all the juices go back in too.
Mix it all together.
Add the rest of the wine, cumin, peppers, and garlic. Add the bay leaves and the sprigs of oregano. Add the tomato juice from the can. By hand, break up the tomatoes into large chunks.
If the wine doesn’t cover all the ingredients, add more. And, if need be, some water.
Bring to a boil and then turn the burner to low. Let it simmer for three to four hours.
Remove bones, skin, bay leaves and oregano sprigs before serving.
I serve this over sesame rice with sweet, fried plantains.
Lemon Turmeric Sesame Rice
- Basmati or Jasmine rice
- Sesame oil
- Kosher salt
Put a 12-inch pan over a medium heat. Once warm, cover the bottom of the pan with a generous coating of sesame oil.
Put one grain of rice in the oil and wait for it to kinda pop. It will turn white from off-white and grow slightly in size.
Cover the bottom of the pan with a quarter to half an inch of rice. Stir constantly until most of the rice has popped. Try to avoid any pieces burning.
Pour in the juice of one lemon. Stir. Sprinkle a quarter to half a palm of turmeric over the rice. Stir.
Add water to twice the depth of the rice. Stir. Bring to boil and then turn to low. Cover.
Turn off heat when the rice has just a hint of crunch. If not ready, and the water is gone, add a splash or two more.
Let it rest, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. It will finish cooking.