Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fish Baked in a Salt Crust

Fish Baked in a Salt Crust
By: Chef Cristian Feher

This is possibly the easiest and most delicious way to cook a whole fish. And it’s undoubtedly the most enjoyable way to prepare it! I had so much fun working on this recipe, that I ended up salt-crusting a ribeye steak and a piece of chicken too!

The salt is combined with a small amount of egg whites (or even a bit of water will work) - this helps to form a thick crust of salt which traps the moisture of the fish inside the crust and cooks it at a high temperature. The salt does not enter the fish, and the thickness of it prevents it from burning. When you’re through, you tap the crust to crack it, revealing a perfectly cooked item inside. The salt even dries out the skin to the point where it peels clean off the flesh - you don’t even have to de-scale the fish. This is a truly unique and wonderful method of cooking fish and meats.''

When I don't catch my own fish at the beach, I buy them fresh at Wards Seafood in Clearwater, FL. 

NOTE:  If you saw my cooking segment on the Good Day Show featuring this recipe, you may have noticed how much effort it took for me to hack through the salt crust to get to the fish. This was because the fish was accidentally left in the oven 45 minutes past its cooking time at 450 degrees, turning the salt into a concrete-like block! However, the fish inside was still juicy and delicious - a testament to this method of cooking. But, I recommend baking the fish at 450 degrees for about 30-40 minutes only, so that the salt cracks apart easily.

- 1 to 1.5 Lb fish (whole, gutted)
- 2 Lbs of canning or pickling salt per fish
- 1 egg white per pound of salt
- 2 tbsp of water per pound of salt


1. Mix the salt with the egg whites and water in a bowl. I mixed it with my hands.

2. Lay down an inch-thick layer of salt on a baking dish.

3. Put the fish on top of the salt.

4. Make a mount of salt on top of the fish’s body. You do not need to cover the head.

5. I cook my fish at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes until it develops what I like to call, the “zombie face” where the eyes become fully dehydrated and cooked. Another way to tell when whole fish is cooked is to pull out the dorsal fins along the back, they will come out without any effort when the flesh is fully cooked.

6. Crack the salt crust with a wooden mallet, or any other tool you can think of. Carefully remove the crispy skin away from the flesh, and scrape the meat off the spine and put on a serving plate. Remove the spine and remove the bottom layer of meat, put on serving plate and enjoy with fresh lemon slices!

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How to make quick seafood ceviche

Quick Seafood Ceviche Recipe
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Ceviche is a dish of patience. The idea is to chemically-cook the delicate protein of fish and shellfish with a mild acid such as that found in lemons and limes. The dish actually “cooks” while being refrigerated overnight. But who wants to wait 12 to 24 hours to enjoy some ceviche? Not me, that’s for sure.

This is a quick “cheater’s” ceviche recipe which will have you scarfing down a bowl of tangy seafood in less than an hour!

By quickly blanching the seafood in boiling, salted water, and adding a tangy marinade, you can enjoy a ceviche that will rival any “overnight” versions.

- 1 lb Seafood such as shrimp, scallops and fish
- 1/2 cup diced red pepper
- 1/4 cup of chopped scallions
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp of fresh chopped parsley or cilantro
- 1/8 tsp of salt
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 1/8 cup of lemon juice
- Hot sauce to taste (optional)


NOTE: Feel free to chance the amounts of vegetables and/or olive oil, and lemon juice to suit your individual tastes.

1. Clean and cut your seafood into small pieces. For this particular recipe, I used tile fish and shrimp.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Make sure that water is well-salted. Add the seafood and bring back to a boil. Boil for one minute. Remove the seafood into a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. You may also use an ice-bath to cool down the seafood if you’re feeling fancy, but I find that running it under cold water and straining it again works.

3. Put the seafood in a salad bowl.

4. Add the rest of the ingredients and enjoy!

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How to make a shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail with Curry Mayo Dip
By: Chef Cristian Feher

The shrimp cocktail has become the classic way to enjoy shrimp. It is still viewed by many as a sign of success - to be able to enjoy a shrimp cocktail signifies success and the ability to enjoy the fine things in life. Yes, shrimp have certainly come down in price over time, but good quality shrimp are still a treat for most.

Although it’s been done time and time again, I still like to serve shrimp cocktails to my guests. To me, it’s one of those dishes that will never go out of style. Maybe it’s because I have so much fun posing the shrimp on everything from martini glasses to ice sculptures! 

There is a big difference between cheap, grocery store freezer shrimp, and good quality, fresh shrimp. If you’re lucky enough to be in a part of the world where shrimp are farmed or fished locally, even better! Here in the Gulf of Mexico we are lucky to have good quality shrimp. I always buy my shrimp at Ward’s Seafood in Clearwater, FL.

When you buy shrimp, you want to ensure that you read the ingredients. If you find “tripolyphosphate” anywhere on that list, put them back. Tripolyphosphate is a preservative that is often added to shrimp. I find that it makes them waterlogged and mushy. Good quality, fresh shrimp should be firm and somewhat dry. If it lists “salt” as one of the ingredients, that’s fine - much better than tripolyphosphate. 

Here is a quick and easy recipe that is sure to impress.

Serves 2

- 1 Lb of Tiger Shrimp (peeled and deveined)
- Organic salad greens
- 1 cup of mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp of yellow curry powder
- 2 lemon wedges


1. Boil the shrimp in salted boiling water for no more than 5 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool off. Set aside.

2. To make the sauce, combine the mayo, Dijon mustard and curry powder.  Whisk together well.

3. Place a bunch of greens in the center of a martini glass. Pose the shrimp along the edge of the glass. Cut a slit into the middle of a lemon wedge and stick it to the edge of the glass (see picture). Pour a dollop of curry mayo on top of the greens. Serve and enjoy!

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Monday, June 18, 2012

How to grill with charcoal

How to bbq with charcoal
By: Chef Cristian Feher

To view this video please visit
Although many of you are BBQ wizards, there are those who find charcoal a little intimidating.  If you remember the last time you had really good BBQ it's likely that it was cooked over coals. And it's also likely that you followed the trail of smoke to find the place!

Using charcoal to grill your meats can take longer than using propane or electric grills, but the results are far superior. In this article I will be providing you with some helpful tips on using charcoal in hopes of converting you from a Propane Peter to a Charcoal Charlie.  

How to choose a charcoal grill - People have been grilling with charcoal for hundreds of years, and it's only until recently that Man has begun to manufacture metal grills with lids and shiny handles - which means that even the most rudimentary charcoal should do the job. However, since you live in an age of modern technology and nice things, you might as well look for the following attributes when choosing your grill: 1) It should have a lid. 2) It should have an intake air vent, and an exhaust vent to allow you to control the flow of air. 3) You should be able to move the cooking grill, or charcoal pan, up and down to control the heat.

Once you have found a grill that has these three attributes, your only other deciding factor will be how much you want to spend. If you spent all your money on a ring for your sweetheart, you may consider buying a $30 grill at your local bargain shop. Or, you can cancel Christmas, and spend several hundred dollars on a Big Green Egg grill. Keep in mind that, although the more expensive ones will have some advantages, they will both do pretty much the same thing - cook food over hot coals.

I currently use the Char-Griller 5050, which offers me a gas grill and a charcoal grill in one convenient package. It''s not the longest lasting grill, but the replacement parts are reasonably priced, and it was really fun to put together.

Briquettes or Lump Coal? Call me a purist, but I prefer to use lump coal when it's available. Briquettes are often - but not always - combined with other materials, and some are even soaked in flammable chemicals (or fire retardants for a slower burn). The bottom line is that I don't want chemicals in my meat - just natural smoke. So I prefer lump coal.

How do I light it?  Because a charcoal BBQ can take longer to prepare than a gas or electric one, many people have adopted what I consider the bad habit of throwing down some charcoal briquettes, dousing them in lighter fluid and throwing in a match. You might as well cook your steak in your car's muffler or on top of the engine block. I can always taste lighter fluid when someone started their charcoal this way and I don't like it.

I like to use balled-up newspaper and kindling wood (sticks and twigs) to make my fire. I then put the lump charcoal into the fire and start it up - this way the addition of natural wood will give your food an amazing smoky taste that is lacking when using charcoal only. If you're in a big hurry you want to use an electric charcoal starter. You will miss out on the wood smoke, but at least you won't have to soak your steak in gasoline to light it up!

Smoke is good for you! Did you know that smoke not only tastes good, but it can make your leftover grilled foods last a lot longer than gas-grilled foods? Smoke is an antimicrobial (kills germs), and an antioxidant (a word used to market cheap fruit juice to health-fanatics).  It coats your foods in compounds which make it hard for bacteria to thrive, and it slows down the rate at which fats become rancid.  Smoke also has a tendency to dry out foods, which makes it hard for bacteria - basically, bacteria hate smoke. It's like the plague to them.

I wish you happy grilling! Do you have any grilling tips of your own? You can always email me at 

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Avocado Soup Recipe and Cream Cheese Ice Cream Recipe

Rainy Day Recipes That Will Brighten Your Day
By: Chef Cristian Feher

This summer is off to quite a start here in Florida! I’m not sure whether to buy a new beach umbrella or a kayak - what, with all the rain we’ve been getting! One thing is for sure; I may have to quit my job as a chef to keep my grass under control. The last time I looked out the window I could no longer see my car.

Although the rain can put a kibosh on most of your outdoor plans, it can also be an excuse to stay in and make some really good recipes. I use rainy days to experiment in the kitchen - I’ll come up with an intricate dish and my wife will usually bake something - or in this case - freeze something.

Here are a couple of our favorite rainy day winners.

Cream of Avocado Soup - All the years of preparing multiple-course meals for my customers have conditioned me into the habit of having my meals be multiple course too. It seems I’m not satisfied with a meal unless it’s preceded by an appetizer or combined with a variety of different items- even if I didn’t prepare the main course myself. I’ve also realized that I’m drawn to restaurants that not only have good food, but provide me with a variety of different items in or around the plate (restaurant owners take heed).

This soup is something that I like to pair with Tex-Mex food. Even if I go out and get a beef tongue dinner from Taco Bus in St. Pete, I like to make this and have it before I dig into my white-styrofoam-boxed-entree.

The Recipe - Dice a half onion, mince two cloves of garlic, chop a little cilantro, and begin to cook these ingredients in a small soup pot with some olive oil until the onion starts to get soft. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp of ground cumin, ground black pepper,  1/2 a minced jalapeƱo pepper, the flesh from 4 avocados and 3 to 4 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes. Take a hand-blender and puree the soup. Adjust salt and serve with a dalop of plain Greek yogurt in the middle. I sometimes sprinkle crispy fried onions over top of the yogurt. For a more authentic experience wear a grow a handlebar mustache, wear a sombrero and fire a gun at the ceiling.

That Stuff with the Condensed Milk and Strawberries
- Whenever I want this amazing frozen dessert, I always ask my wife for “That stuff with the condensed milk and strawberries.”

My customers always ask me, “Does your wife cook?”. My response is always, “Well, I do most of the cooking.” But I leave out the part where she earned her early retirement after making me this dessert! If you could capture unicorn breath, strawberries and the winning sound of a slot machine, freeze them - you would have an idea how good this dessert is.

The Recipe - Get a bowl and a mixer. Put 8oz of softened cream cheese, one 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/3 cup of whipping cream, and 2 tsp of lemon zest in the bowl. Mix well. Freeze for 4 hours. Bring it back out and mix again with a mixer until smooth. Put 1 1/2 cups of strawberries in a food processor and process until smooth (or chunky) it’s up to you. Add the berries to the cream cheese mixture along with 3 graham crackers. Mix well. Freeze for 8 hours. Take out of the freezer 15 minutes before serving to soften it up a bit. Get a gym membership, you’ll need it.

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