Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sweet Brioche! Dinner Rolls and Cinnamon Rolls

Combined Cinnamon Roll Shape (Monkey Bread)

Semi Sweet Savory Muffin Style Brioche With A Soft Crust

Classic Crusty Sweet Brioche

Example Of Too Much Dough In A Mold

     Brioche Dough Making Information
     Brioche is a yeast leavened baked product that is somewhere between bread and pastry.  Brioche is highly enriched with milk, eggs and butter.  The level of sugar can vary in a brioche recipe.  For applications like dinner rolls or hamburger buns, a brioche can be made with less sugar.  For a breakfast bread, cinnamon rolls or desserts, the brioche dough recipe is sweet.

     Classic brioche requires the yeast to be bloomed in warm milk, with no water.  Diluting the milk with water does not significantly change the texture of the bread.  Some brioche recipes call for diluted milk.  I add water to the milk when making soft brioche hamburger buns or brioche for savory applications.  Adding water to the milk may be necessary if old fashioned unprocessed milk is used, because the fat content will be higher than modern processed milk.

     When making brioche, the yeast should not be allowed to fully bloom in the warm milk, before the basic dough is made.  The dough should be made quickly after the yeast dissolves.
     The yeast gives the brioche dough an airy texture, but yeast actually is not the only leavening factor.  Creamed butter is combined into the dough.  The steam created from the butter, when the brioche is baked, also creates the classic airy brioche texture.
     The butter also acts to elongate the wheat gluten strands, so when the bread rises in the oven, the strands of dough stretch and create a pastry texture.

     Eggs also add to the leavening process.  Eggs are added to the brioche dough, till the are only just combined.  The eggs give brioche a pale yellow looking color.
     The eggs actually do not fully combine with the buttery milk dough, so from a microscopic view, the egg sits between masses of butter enriched dough, so the egg acts to buffer the expanding dough.
     When baked, the egg actually combines with the available starch and it strengthens the dough around the carbon dioxide bubbles that the yeast creates.  This causes the dough to rise, stretch and aerate beyond belief.  Eggs create the classic light elegant brioche pastry texture.

     Sugar acts as a liquifying agent in a brioche recipe.  The sugar helps the wheat flour to retain moisture, while sweetening the dough.
     When less sugar is added to the recipe, the yeast has less available carbohydrates to quickly feed on and the texture of the brioche will be more dense with less air pocket elongation.  Tighter smaller air pockets create a texture that is more like a standard dinner roll or hamburger bun.

     The difference between a sweet crusty classic brioche and semi sweet soft crust brioche can be seen in the two captioned photos above.
     The amount of sugar was reduced in the soft crust brioche recipe and the result was a brioche that easily retains its shape when baked.  This style of brioche is for savory applications.  Savory semi sweet brioche is good for mass production of consistent hamburger buns or grocery store bakery style dinner rolls.

     The "Classic Sweet Crusty Brioche" captioned photo shows a classic brioche example that has an elegant light texture with a thin hard crust.  Accomplishing the classic brioche crusty texture can make a home kitchen cook feel like a great pastry chef!

    • The single most important thing to keep in mind when making brioche dough is to not overwork the dough.
     • When flour is added to the yeasted milk, it should just be barely combined.
     • When creamed butter is added, the dough should barely be combined.
     • When egg is added to the dough, the dough making process is finished as soon as the dough combines and a consistent smooth texture is achieved.
     • There should be absolutely no extra mixing after the dough looks smooth or the texture will be affected.
     • As soon as the dough is completed it must be chilled, so the yeast action is minimized and the dough stabilizes.

     One might say that those who lazily or minimally work or knead a dough, will end up producing the finest brioche.  Working overtime does not pay anything extra, as far as making brioche is concerned!

     Sweet Brioche Dough Recipe:
     This recipe yields about 16 to 18 small dinner rolls or about 8 medium size cinnamon rolls. 
     This recipe is written for a steel gear drive mixer with a dough hook and paddle attachments.  
     Dry yeast is best for this recipe.   
     Step 1:
     Cut 8 ounces of chilled butter into small cube shapes.
     Place the butter the mixer bowl with the paddle attachment in place.
     Whip the butter at a medium speed, till the butter starts to cream.
     Turn off the mixer.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of Fine Ground Kosher Salt.
     Add 2 1/2 to 3 ounces of granulated cane sugar.  (Bakers fine grind granulated sugar is best.)
     Whip the butter till it is creamed to a pale white color.
     Turn off the mixer and scoop the creamed butter into a container.
     Place the creamed butter in a refrigerator for a few minutes, while the milk dough is made.
     Do not wash the mixer bowl, because it will be used in the next step!
     Step 2:
     Warm 3/4 cup of whole milk in a sauce pot to 112º.
     Take the pot off the heat.
     Pour the warm milk into the mixer bowl, with a dough hook attached.
     Add 1 tablespoon of dry yeast.
     Allow the yeast to dissolve, but do not wait for the yeast to bloom.
     Add 2 1/2 cups of bread flour.
     Add 1 cup of pastry flour.
     Mix at a low speed, till the ingredients combine.  Turn off the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl.
     Step 3:
     Keep the dough hook on the mixer.  Turn the mixer on to a medium low speed.
     Add the reserved sweetened creamed butter, 1/3 at a time, to the dough in the mixer bowl.
     Mix till the dough starts to combine and look smooth.  The dough will have a buttery pale shiny appearance.
     Step 4:
     *This is where things can get a little messy.  The 4 eggs have to be added 1 egg at a time.
     Set the mixer to a medium low speed.
     Add 1 large egg and allow it to mix into the dough before adding the next egg.  Add a total of 4 large eggs.
     As soon as the eggs combine with the dough and the sweet brioche dough looks smooth, turn the mixer off.
     Step 5:
     Allow the dough to briefly rise for about 5 minutes.  Beat the dough down before it doubles in size.
     Step 6:
     Place the dough into a sealed container.
     Chill the dough to 41ºF.  The sweet brioche dough should be chilled for 24 hours, before it is shaped.  
     Shaping Brioche
     Brioche dough has to be chilled.  The yeast should not be allowed to bloom to its fullest extent.  A cold environment retards yeast metabolism and growth.  It is a lot easier to shape chilled stiff brioche dough.
     Chilled brioche dough is sticky and pliable.  The work surface only needs to be flour dusted if sheets are rolled.  Classic sweet brioche roll shapes are made by hand.

     Brioche shapes can be a simple or as complex as you wish.  The shapes can be free standing, like hamburger buns or baking molds can be used.  Silicone baking molds or seasoned non-stick molds are the best.  Dry bare baking molds must be brushed with a very thin film of melted butter.  Any excess butter will cause excessive bread browning.

     Dough Portion Size Control:  For a full size dinner roll, a golf ball size portion of dough is all that is required.  The dough will expand at least three times its original size.  This is important to remember when spacing shaped brioche portions on a sheet pan or when using a scalloped brioche flower cup mold.
     It is very easy to place too much brioche dough in a small mold, then after the dough expands while baking, the finished product will not have a consistent shape.  The extra large glazed spiral cinnamon roll in the photos above is a good example of how too much dough in a 5" wide scalloped tart mold will result in a cinnamon roll that leans to one side.
     Extra large classic sweet brioche can be over 2 feet wide and more than 1 foot tall.  When brioche is made this big, the dough starts to get a mind of its own.  The dough will expand with explosive power when baked and the end result will certainly be an interesting looking extra large sweet rich bread that is nearly a work of free-form art.

     Spiral Cinnamon Rolls:  To make classic spiral cinnamon rolls, the brioche is rolled into a rectangular sheet shape.  For tightly wound small cinnamon rolls, the dough sheet should be about 3/16" thick.  For large cinnamon rolls, the dough sheet should be 3/8" to 7/16" thick.
     The width of the dough sheet determines how wide the cinnamon rolls will be.  A dough sheet that is 1/4" thick and 8" wide will be about 2 1/2" in diameter when the sheet of dough is rolled into a cylinder shape.

     A mixture of sugar and cinnamon is sprinkled on the dough sheet, then the sheet is rolled into a cylinder shape.  Egg wash is used to seal the end of the dough sheet, so the cinnamon rolls do not unravel.
     The cylinder is then cut into segments.  The length of the segment determines how tall the cinnamon roll will be.  A segment that is cut 1/2" tall produces small rolls that can be eaten with a couple of bites.  A 1" tall segment produces a much taller roll.
     The shaped cinnamon spirals can be baked in scalloped molds, muffin molds or mini bread pan molds.  The cinnamon rolls can also be placed side by side on a sheet pan that is lined with parchment paper that is brushed with melted butter.

     Combined Cinnamon Roll Shapes (Monkey Bread):  Several small spiral cinnamon rolls can be placed in a single baking mold to create a complex shape.  Two examples of this can be seen in the photos above.
     The star shaped combined roll was made by filling a star shaped baking mold with 8 miniature cinnamon roll spirals.  The spirals join together, yet they can be easily separated by hand when eaten.
     Four large cinnamon roll spirals were placed side by side in a 4 1/2"diameter muffin cup mold to create the combined shape in the other captioned photo example.

     Brioches à Tête:  This classic shape looks like a scalloped muffin bottom half that is wearing a top hat.  To make classic brioche rolls, a small scalloped brioche cup mold is necessary.
     A plum size portion of dough is divided into 2 equal portions.  One portion has to be shaped like a miniature doughnut and the other is shaped like a large marble.  The marble is pushed part way through the center of the donut, then it is placed in a small scalloped baking mold that is about 2 1/2" wide.  This produces the classic brioche dinner roll shapes that have a scalloped bottom half in the picture above.  The dough shaping for this process is also pictured.

     Muffin Shape Rolls:  There are a couple of muffin shaped brioche in the pictures that were made with the soft crust savory brioche dough version (Brioche Dough With Less Sugar).  A portion of dough is rolled into a golf ball shape and placed in a 3 1/2" wide muffin cup to produce this kind of roll.

     Egg Washing:
     The egg wash can be plain or thinned with milk.  Some brioche shapes benefit from egg wash and some do not.  Classic crusty dinner roll shapes are rarely egg washed.
     An extra large sweet brioche is usually egg washed about 5 minutes before the bread finishes baking.
     Obviously, cinnamon roll brioche is never egg washed, but egg wash is used to seal the edge of the the dough sheet, when the sheet is rolled.

     Baking Brioche:
     Brioche dough requires only a very small amount of proofing time.  Basically, as soon as the brioche dough reaches room temperature, it is just about ready to go in the oven.  Because the yeast is not fully active when chilled, the dough will suddenly spring to life as soon as it is placed in an oven.  The dough will literally expand in size, well beyond belief, during the first few minutes it is baked.

     Basically, brioche can be shaped as small or as large as you wish.  The baking time does vary with size.  The larger the bread, the longer the baking time will be.  The center temperature of the bread must be at least 190ºF.  A few minutes of extra time in the oven will produce the desirable thin crisp pastry-like crust.
     French bakers prefer to bake brioche to a medium brown color.  I usually bake brioche to a dark golden brown color, because the brioche will be reheated at a later time.  Golden brown is about as light as brioche can be cooked, or the eggs and butter will not have a chance to steam and create texture.
     Brioche has to be baked at 400ºF.
     If the oven is filled to max capacity, then 420ºF will help to reduce the oven temperature recovery time, but the temperature should be turned back down to 400ºF after a few minutes.  Too high of a temperature will cause this buttery enriched dough to get black highlights.
     Brioche does take some time to bake, so be patient a do not open the oven door to check the bread too often.  Small brioche take about 15 to 18 minutes.  An extra large brioche may require an hour in the oven.

     Brioche can be served plain or any of these items can be sprinkled, poured or brushed on finished sweet brioche:
     - Melted Plugra Butter
     - Caramel Sugar Syrup
     - Caramelized Fruit Glacé
     - Walnut, Hazelnut or Pecan Caramel Syrup
     - Maple Syrup
     - Fruit Syrup
     - Sugar Glaze
     - Cinnamon and Granulated Sugar
     - Coarse Raw Sugar Crystals
     - Powdered Sugar or Confectioner Sugar
     Any number of dessert fillings, like warm caramel, fruit preserves, chocolate custard, lemon curd, chantilly cream or pastry cream can be piped into the center of a sweet brioche roll.
      Once brioche making is understood, brioche can be made blindfolded!  I rarely use a recipe to make brioche anymore.  Making customized brioche for specific applications is an art in itself.  
     Today's recipe will end up being referred to in future brioche recipes.  I will expand upon the basic brioche shapes to create brioche dessert recipes in the near future.  Yum! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Southwestern Meatball Noodle Soup

     Those Places That Offer A Menu Of Food For Every Season
     A chef that is on the ball, always creates food that is perfect for the season.  A customer that sits at a restaurant table then stares in disbelief at a menu full of salads, lighter far and cold sandwiches, when the outdoor temperature is below freezing, has every reason to just stand up and walk right out of the restaurant.  
     Some restaurants always seem to be out of touch with the needs of their clientele.  Lagging behind the times and ignoring the surroundings is not the way to make money.  Offering chilled cucumber dill soup on a menu, when there is a blizzard going on outside, is not exactly the path that leads to customer satisfaction.  That is unless the restaurant is some kind of a comedy club. 

     Creating satisfaction is one of the keys to success.  Offering a diverse menu of a wide variety of items that are suited for any situation or any season is a menu planning strategy that some restaurants employ.  
     Many corporate chain restaurants design a one size fits all menu that features items that are appropriate for any season.  The problem with this all encompassing year round menu design is the restaurant food waste percentage becomes a constant problem.  
     During the hot summer season, the prepared heavy rich food that sells during winter months just sits there and rots.  The same goes for light chilled food items during the winter season.  The food that is not appropriate for the season spoils and ends up in the garbage. 

     Sometimes the spoiled food somehow makes its way out to the dining room if the cook is a dunce or the manager is dubious.  I have seen penny pinching 24 hour greasy spoon diner managers that would rather serve bad food, than to take a loss.  When I am sitting at the counter in a big city diner style chain restaurant and I overhear the manager in the kitchen say, "Serve it Anyway" to a cook, I put the menu down, finish my coffee and go somewhere else to eat.  

     The phrase "serve it anyway" equates to manager really saying, "I know the the food is spoiled, but serve it anyway, because I have already embezzled every extra penny over and above this restaurant's average earnings and an increase in the food waste percentage at this point would cause a budgetary shortfall that will surely cause suspicion and the district manager will perform a full audit and then I will be caught red handed!"  
     Yes, managerial level embezzlement has always been a problem in the restaurant industry, especially in lower tier diner style restaurants.  A manager that tells cooks to serve spoiled food is a sure sign that there is "something fishy in Denmark." 
     Offering a one size fits all year round menu that includes food items for every season is the lazy way to go.  This kind of menu design drives waste percentages up and the customers end up paying higher menu prices.  
     Another problem with one size fits all year round menus, is that the menu prices are adjusted on an annual basis.  The annual menu pricing increases are based upon statistical forecasting of the cost of projected food purchases over a period of one year.  The one year projected purchase price increase average and the inflation percentage are combined, then a median point is established.  The median price index is applied as a minimum price increase to menu items across the board.  
     Initially during the first fiscal quarter, the menu prices are disproportionately high.  By the end of the year, the menu prices barely cover the food cost percentage.  So, for the first half of the year, a menu that is priced annually leaves customers feeling like the dining value was not worth the money spent.  By the end of the year, the customers feel like the prices are competitive enough to offer value. 

     Annual price projecting often is associated with a year round menu design that offers food for every season.  Obviously, an annual pricing strategy can dramatically decrease customer flow during the first two fiscal quarters, because the menu price hikes are based upon long term projections that only start to become realistic after 6 months pass by.  
     A seasonal menu requires almost no projected price increase forecasting, because the menu lifespan is only a 3 month season or 1 fiscal quarter.  So, a seasonal menu offers realistic pricing and customers are not scalped by long term price adjustments that are grossly inflated during the first half of a year long application. 
     Customers naturally seek restaurants that offer dining value.  Restaurants that offer realistically priced seasonal menus offer the best dining value, because there is no out of season menu offerings that go to waste and drive up costs.     

     Hand Written Daily Menus?
     Oddly enough, I have worked in French fine dining restaurants that offer hand written menus that change daily.  Daily menus are perfect for gourmet restaurants that offer a menu full of exotic food that is in limited supply and food that is subject to market prices that change daily.  

     When I see a menu that offers lobster and the price of lobster on the menu says "subject to market price," I do not even bother to ask what the price is, because a customer should never have to ask.  If a menu offers market price food items, then the menu should be written daily.  
     The choice is as simple as following the lazy path of vague menu pricing or choosing to be the leader of the pack.  I happen to be a chef that writes daily menus for gourmet restaurant applications and seasonal menus for restaurants that do not offer food items that are extremely limited in supply. 

     One thing that I have noticed over the years is that a daily menu writing strategy definitely gives a gourmet fine dining restaurant a competitive edge.  Gourmand customers do like to experience something new each visit and customers can always request a favorite item from past experience that may not be currently offered.  Menus that are written daily create a very high level of customer satisfaction.  

     Today's Recipe
     What does all this menu pricing mumbo jumbo and menu duration style information have to do with a southwestern cuisine soup?  The answer is "Soup du jour!"  
     Special soups are prepared on a daily basis.  A good soup du jour is designed to be appealing, it is designed to be perfectly suited for current environmental conditions and it is designed to immediately satisfy customers.  
     On a chilly November day when the first round of cold & flu season looms, customers want a broth soup that is loaded with available nutrients that the digestive tract can readily absorb.  Customers want some hearty protein in the soup to build strength.  Customers want a small proportion of grain carbohydrates for energy.  Customers want a soup that offers preventative medicine qualities, that will ward off the threat of a cold or flu.  
     A mild southwestern chile pepper broth soup with noodles and a few meatballs is the perfect choice for an early winter season soup du jour!  

     Southwestern Meatball Noodle Soup Broth:
     This recipe yields 4 cups of soup.  (2 large bowls)
     The chile peppers should be very mildly spicy.  
     Place 4 cups of light chicken broth in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of tomato puree.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cider vinegar. 
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Mild New Mexico Chile powder.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ancho chile powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of achiote paste.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic paste.  
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till the vegetables are tender.  Allow the volume of the soup to reduce to about 4 1/4 cups.  
     Mix about 2 teaspoons of fine ground masa harina (Nixtamal Corn Flour) with 3 tablespoons of cold water to create a slurry.  
     Add the slurry while stirring.
     Simmer till the slurry thickens the broth just enough to keep the noodles in suspension when they are added later in the recipe.
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat.     
     Southwestern Meatballs For Soup:
     This recipe yields enough meatballs for 2 to 3 large bowls of soup!
     The meatballs can be roasted while the soup broth simmers, then kept warm.  
     The meatballs should be added to the soup just before serving, like a garnish, so they look great.  Meatballs that have been sitting in a soup broth for a long period of time never look impressive.  One can easily see the fresh roasted appearance of the meatballs in the photos above.
     Any kind of ground meat can be used to make the meatballs.  I used ground veal because I had some on hand.  Veal gets a bad rap these days, but modern veal is not produced like the old days.  All modern veal is pink, not white.  This means that modern veal is actually young calf meat that was not subjected to cruel veal production methods that were commonly used in the past.   
     Place 6 ounces of lean ground veal in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 clove of finely minced garlic.
     Add 1 finely minced green onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Mexican Oregano.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of achiote paste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Mild New Mexico Chile Powder.
     Add 2 pinches of coriander.
     Add 2 pinches of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish paprika.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely minced cilantro.
     Add 1/4 cup of fine plain French bread crumbs.
     Mix the ingredients together, just like kneading bread dough.  If the mixture looks too wet, the add  1 to 2 more tablespoons of bread crumbs.
     Scoop the meat mixture into small meatball portions.  (About 1 1/2 to 2 ounces.)
     Hand roll the meatballs, so they are all the same size and so they have a smooth round shape.
     Place the meatballs in a roasting pan that is lightly brushed with oil.
     Roast the meatballs in a 325º oven.
     Bake the small meatballs, till they are fully cooked and lightly browned.  Do not cook the meatballs for too long, or they will become dried out.  The meatballs should be juicy inside.
     Keep the meatballs warm on a stove top.

     Bags of Short Length Vermicelli for Persian Noodle Rice or soup garnishing can be found in Middle Eastern Markets.  Some grocery stores stock Short Vermicelli too.  As an option, full length vermicelli can be broken into 1/2" long pieces.
     Only about 1/3 cup of dried short length vermicelli is needed for a 4 cups of soup.  Use this proportion when figuring how much is needed.  
     It is best to boil the noodles ahead of time till they are al dente, then cool the noodles under cold running water.  After draining off the excess water, set the noodles aside till they are needed.  
     Southwestern Meatball Noodle Soup Presentation:
     Just before serving add the prepared short vermicelli to the Southwestern Soup Broth.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Ladle the soup into a shallow wide large soup bowl.
     Place 2 to 3 warm Southwestern Spice Meatballs in the soup.
     Garnish the soup with:
     - thin bias sliced green onion 
     - thin sliced jalapeño
     - cilantro leaves
     Use a squirt bottle of Mexican Crema to paint a design on the surface of the soup.   

     The chile peppers are mild, yet the flavor is bold enough to add a little boost to the immune system.  A good southwestern cuisine soup is like anti cold & flu medicine this time of year.  Yum!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cuisine Méditerranéenne Melange Omelette

Omelette Of Mixed Mediterranean Cuisines - French Herb Omelette, Asparagus, Sausage, Chèvre, Middle Eastern Spice Tomato and Grecian Olives!  

     Today's Omelette
     I have notice that the amount of ink needed for writing a recipe name does vary greatly from one language to the next.  Some of the shortest recipe titles in this website were written in Vietnamese, Turkish, Persian or Arabic.  Writing a descriptive recipe title in German, French, English or Spanish language can result in a recipe name that has more words than a novel.  

     Naming a food creation does require some forethought.  Sometimes when a specific cultural theme is the basic recipe concept, it is better use the language of that culture.  Often this thinking process becomes complicated, when there is no translation for a special key ingredient.
     When several regional ethnic cultural cuisines are combined to create a new recipe, it is best to keep the name of the recipe simple.  Applying a common name to an omelette that combines the flavors of four cultural cuisines that are located in one easy to recognize region is best.  Every item in today's omelette represents cuisines in the Mediterranean region.  Since the flavors of separate cuisines are represented, it is best to mention that a mixture of Mediterranean cuisines is the theme.  This is reflected in the name of today's recipe.  
     Frittata or Omelette?  A frittata is flat and an omelette can be flat too.  Since a variety of herbs that are not commonly used in Italian cuisine were added to the eggs, it is best to call today's egg entree an omelette.

     Italian cuisine is represented by one item in the omelette recipe and this item is something that has increased in popularity during recent years.  Turkey has been taking the place of pork in many Italian recipes, because it is a healthier meat choice.  Plain Turkey Breakfast Sausage Links are usually flavored with sage and fennel.  These are common Italian herb flavors, so these sausages fit in with the Mediterranean omelette theme.   
     Turkey breakfast sausage links are becoming more popular in America too.  Consumers that have cholesterol concerns choose turkey breakfast sausage, in order to reduce cholesterol intake.  When 2 eggs are part of the breakfast omelette entree, substituting turkey sausage for pork links does reduce the hard cholesterol count by more than half.  This keeps the cholesterol content of the 2 eggs within a healthy daily intake range.  To reduce cholesterol intake even more, egg whites can be used to make the omelette.  Saffron Water or turmeric will give the eggs a yellow color.

     A composed omelette presentation always creates eye appeal.  An omelette presentation that is composed so it creates eye appeal, really does impress guests.  Only a little bit of extra effort is needed to make an omelette look stylish and classy!  
     In a typical breakfast restaurant that sells omelettes for inflated prices, a composed omelette should be the least that a customer should expect.  At home, a composed presentation of an omelette shows that a lot of heart went into the cooking and guests at the table will certainly smile!  

     Why Settle For A Breakfast That Is The Lesser Of Two Evils?
     Unfortunately, very few American restaurants offer high quality breakfast cuisine these days, if they even offer breakfast at all.  I happen to take great pride in creating great breakfast food.  There certainly is a strong consumer demand for gourmet breakfast cuisine, yet overall, the restaurant industry ignores the demand.  
     Boring standard American diner style sloppy breakfast food appeals to people that do not think outside of the box.  There are plenty of breakfast restaurants that serve low quality standard breakfast food for an inflated price.  There are plenty of consumers that settle for lousy restaurant breakfast food that is on a par with canned corned beef hash dog food.  If more consumers refused to dine at lousy breakfast restaurants, restaurant breakfast cuisine would have to improve.  

     Societal behavioral conditioning is the reason why consumers settle for low quality restaurant breakfast food.  People in North America are conditioned to accept lousy breakfast food as being the norm.  This mental attitude can be summed up as choosing the lesser of two evils.  This psyche amounts to preferring the breakfast at one restaurant, just because it is not as lousy as the breakfast that is served at the restaurant next door.  Consumers rarely rave about how great breakfast is at a restaurant in this modern age.  This says it all!    

     Why settle for the same old worn out breakfast menu items?  Consumers should not feel like this is normal to do!  Since there are few good breakfast restaurant dining options, the best choice is to not support the breakfast restaurant industry status quo and cook a great breakfast at home.  
     This is why I write so many good breakfast recipes.  I know that a breakfast that is cooked in my home kitchen is better than any breakfast that is offered at any local restaurant.  Not settling for a second class breakfast is the best consumer attitude to have.  Breakfast should be inspirational and it should not be like choosing the lesser of two evils.   

     This entire recipe yields 1 omelette!
     Middle Eastern Spice Stewed Tomato:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/2 to 3 ounces!
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Saute till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped canned whole peeled seeded plum tomato and a proportion of juices from the can.
     Add 1 cup of light chicken broth or vegetable broth.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 1 small pinch of mace.
     Add 1 small pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of ginger powder.
     Add 1 pinch of ground fenugreek.
     Add sea salt and white pepper. 
     Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer.
     Simmer and reduce, till nearly all of the liquid evaporates and only the moist stewed tomato remains.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chopped mint.
     Keep the stewed tomatoes warm on a stove top.

     Turkey Sausage Links:
     Heat a griddle or small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of blended olive oil.
     Add 4 breakfast turkey sausage links.
     Grill the sausages till they are fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Keep the sausages warm on a stove top.  

     Asparagus Spears:
     Blanch 4 asparagus spears in boiling salted water, till they are al dente.  (Peel the asparagus if they are thick.  The spears should be about 4" long.)
     Place the asparagus in a dish. 
     Brush them with melted unsalted butter.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Keep the spears warm on a stove top.   

     Greek Olives and Chèvre Cheese:
     Place 1 or 2 pitted assorted Greek Olives of your choice on a small roasting pan.
     Cut 4 to 5 small cube shape pieces of soft fresh chèvre cheese and place them on the roasting pan.
     Gently warm the cheese and olives in a 300ºF oven for a few minutes.  (Chévre contains no fat, so it will not melt!)
     Keep the olives and fresh goat cheese warm on a stove top.
     Keep the oven warm!

     French Herb Omelette:
     Place 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of milk.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of Herbs de Provence.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced Italian parsley.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Whisk the ingredients till the eggs are foamy.
     Heat a 6" non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add the egg mixture.
     Use a rubber spatula to even the edges of the omelette.
     When the bottom half of the omelette is cooked firm, place the pan in the 300ºF oven.
     Bake for a few minutes, till the eggs are fully cooked.
     Slide the omelette onto a serving plate.
     Keep the oven warm!

     Cuisine Méditerranéenne Melange Omelette:
     Evenly space the 4 asparagus spears on the omelette, so they point out from center.  
     Do the same with the turkey link sausages.
     Mound the stewed tomatoes on the center of the omelette.
     Garnish the tomatoes with the olives and petite chèvre cheese pieces.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of plain fine French bread crumbs over the eggs and sausages.
     Place the entire omelette plate in the 300º oven.
     Bake for about 45 seconds to 1 minute, so the toppings warm up.
     Remove the plate from the oven.
     Garnish the stewed tomatoes with an Italian parsley sprig.  
     Be sure to tell guests that the plate is warm!

     Flavor, flavor and more flavor!  This omelette has no shortage of great Mediterranean cuisine flavors.  Yum! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pompano and Surf Clams en Papillote with Scotch Cilantro Butter Heirloom Orange Amana Tomato ~ Hopi Blue Corn Jack Polenta

     Today's Recipe
     It has been a while since I have followed the Friday night seafood format.  Many cultural and religious traditions around the globe call for no red meats to be served on a Friday night.  A a chef in a restaurant, offering a few special seafood entrees on a Friday night pleases this crowd.
     Pompano en Papillote used to be an item that was reserved only for fine dining restaurants.  Modern fine dining for the most part has gone in a direction that abandons classic style and taste.  Fans of classic high cuisine have been alienated by this fine dining trend.  Consumers that are disappointed with modern fine dining petite portion cuisine trends, now seek simple presentations of classic cuisine at casual French Café style restaurants that market classic cuisine favorites and better dining value.     

     Today's Pompano en Papillote is an example of a classic casual café style presentation, that is designed to satisfy new customers that were possibly disappointed with a recent experience at a fine dining restaurant somewhere else.  A good French café offers entrees that serve this purpose! 

     Fine dining customers, that are disappointed with the lack of fine dining value during a recent restaurant experience, usually seek a casual restaurant that offers better value the next time that they dine out.  When this kind of customer finds skillfully crafted food combined with dining value at a casual restaurant like a French café, customer loyalty is instantly achieved.  
     The customer that was disappointed by a recent fine dining experience does not care to see excess garnishing of an entree, which only serves to drive the menu prices sky high.  The customer does not want to see a large white plate that is 90% empty.  This kind of customer wants dining value, satisfaction and indulgence combined with comfortable simplicity.  This is why disappointed fine dining customers flock to casual French Café restaurants. 

      I worked as a sous chef, saucier and sauté chef de partie in French Café restaurants for many years.  I aggressively managed a list of special du jour menu entrees each day, that were designed to create customer loyalty and to capture new customers.  
     For some reason, I designed some of the special entrees each day, with the sole intention of satisfying fine dining customers that may have been disappointed at fine dining restaurants in the area.  The strategy actually worked.  
     Customers appreciate realistic quality oriented dining value.  A French Café menu combines dining value with high food quality to achieve this ideal. 

     Since most of my French Café cooking experience was in coastal cities near the Gulf of Mexico, I naturally excelled at creating nice café style seafood entrees.  Pompano en Papillote was a classic café style gulf coast customer favorite.  
     There literally is no limit to accompanying flavors that can be applied to a recipe that uses the papillote technique.  The garnishes and compound butter added to the pompano in today's papillote recipe is a good example of this statement.  
      The papillote technique offers room for creative flair, which inspires customer satisfaction.  The creative flair involved with papillote focuses on flavor and aroma.  Scotch whisky butter tastes nice with clams and the aroma is irresistible when applied to papillote.   
     When the paper bag is cut open at the table and the aroma fills the air, the customer's senses are satisfied well beyond expectation.  It is funny how something as simple as cooking a few choice items in a paper bag can create long term customer loyalty.  A nice Pompano en Papillote creation can really impress guests at home too.     

     Highland Breeze Blended Scotch Whisky
     Blended Scotch that sells for a bargain price is the best whisky choice for making recipes.  A cheap Blended Scotch that tastes okay on its own is also a good choice for folks that live on a tight budget.  
     Since I currently am a college student that can barely make ends meet, I figured it would be a good opportunity to explore the realm of bargain price Blended Scotch.  Most cheap Blended Scotch is only worthy of being used as cocktail mixer, as everybody knows, so it is better to focus on where a good bargain price Blended Scotch can fit into the overall scheme of things.
     Since the holiday season is near, hosts can expect guests to raid the liquor cabinet.  There is no use leaving a fine bottle of pricy Scotch out in the open, where guests can pour the expensive contents into a mixed cocktail.  That would be a waste of fine Scotch and money.  Break out the cheap stuff and hide the pricy old bottle of fine Scotch!  

     Highland Breeze is one of the few thrifty priced brands of Blended Scotch that can actually be served on its own.  This blend has gentle characteristics, a mild peat roasted barrel flavor and it has a sweet barley malt finish that novice Scotch fans appreciate.  
     I actually poured a dram of Highland Breeze for a couple of married friends in Vegas, who both happened to be half Scottish.  These folks were very familiar with Scotch Whiskey.  They both complimented the flavor of Highland Breeze.  When I told them the price, they were pleasantly surprised.  
     This is about as good as a thrifty priced Blended Scotch recommendation gets!  Highland Breeze Blended Scotch definitely can be stocked in the holiday season liquor cabinet as a cost reducing measure and guests will not be disappointed with the quality.  Highland Breeze also has flavor that tastes great in gourmet food recipes.  Offering this Blended Scotch to an experienced fine Scotch Whisky enthusiast is not really a wise thing to do, because such a guest would be taken aback.  

     Scotch Cilantro Compound Butter:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 to 3 papillote applications.  (About 3 ounces)
     Place 4 ounces of low priced Blended Scotch Whisky in a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of glace viande.  (Dark Meat Glaze)
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced shallot.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid, till the volume of the entire reduction equals less than 1 tablespoon.  
     Set the Scotch reduction aside.
     Place 2 1/2 ounces of softened unsalted butter in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced cilantro.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add the reserved Scotch reduction.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Whisk the ingredients, till the butter is combined.
     Chill the compound butter mixture, till it becomes solid.
     Cut the solid compound butter into 2 or 3 portions.  Keep the portions chilled till they are needed.    

     Sushi Quality Surf Clams Preparation:
     Fresh surf clams are rarely sold at fish markets.  Surf Clams are usually only gathered fresh by local clam diggers in western Canada.  
     Surf Clams for sushi making is the next best option.  Sushi quality surf clams are sold as a packaged frozen product in Asian Food Markets.  The frozen surf clams are already poached, cleaned and trimmed.  This product is very easy to work with and these red tipped clams look nice when used as a fish topping.
     All that needs to be done is to thaw and rinse the frozen surf Clams, shortly before they are needed for a recipe.  About 8 surf clams is enough to garnish 1 portion of Pompano.  

     Pompano Preparation:
     I always purchase whole Pompano and filet it myself.  This reduces food cost dramatically, because Pompano sells for a high price.  Clerks at a fish market will filet Pompano by request, but the price will increase.
     One large whole Pompano will yield 2 boneless filets that weigh about 3 to 4 ounces apiece.  So, 1 whole Pompano equals 1 entree portion. 
     Keep the Pompano Filets chilled till they are needed.    

     Hopi Blue Corn Jack Polenta:
     This recipe yields 2 portions!
     Blue corn meal is popular these days, because it is a healthy food item.  Corn meal polenta that has a mild cheese flavor is a nice accompaniment for seafood.  Blue Corn Meal creates an interesting polenta color.
     Place a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of light chicken broth.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Add 3/4 cup of corn meal, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     As soon as the cornmeal starts to thicken the liquid, reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Slowly simmer and stir, till the cornmeal becomes very soft and thick enough to gather on a spoon. 
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of grated Monterey Jack Cheese.
     Stir till the polenta combines with the cheese. 
     Adjust the consistency if necessary, by reducing or adding a splash of broth.
     Place the polenta in a star tip pastry bag.  
     Keep the polenta warm in a bain marie or on a stove top.

     Pompano and Surf Clams en Papillote with Scotch Cilantro Butter Heirloom Orange Amana Tomato: 
     This recipe yields 1 entree! 
     If the assembly is done carefully, the clams and tomatoes will be undisturbed an in their original place when the paper bag is cut open after baking.  
     Cut 8 petite Orange Amana Heirloom Tomato wedges that are about the same size as a prepared surf clam.  Set the wedges aside.
     Cut 2 equal size pieces of parchment paper, that are about twice as big as the width and length of the pompano filets.
     Place the pompano filets on the center of one sheet of the parchment paper.
     Arrange 8 surf clams and 8 Orange Amana Tomato wedges on top of the filets, so these items stand tall and look nice.
     Chop 1 portion of the chilled solid Scotch Cilantro Compound Butter into small pieces.
     Sprinkle the butter pieces over the fish and clam topping.
     Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice over the pompano. 
     Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of Scotch Whiskey over the pompano. 
     Place the second sheet of parchment paper sheet over the fish and toppings.
     Fold the edges of the parchment paper to seal the fish inside the parchment paper bag.
     Place the pompano en papillote on a baking pan.
     Bake the pompano en papillote for about 10 to 12 minutes in a 350º oven. 
     Note:  The baking time depends on the size of the pompano.  After the parchment bag puffs up like a balloon in the oven, then it should be done baking and the fish will be steamed from its own juices and the compound butter sauce.  
     Remove the pan from the oven and be prepared to serve this entree quickly, before the aromatic steam cools!   
     Carefully use a spatula to transfer the papillote package to a plate, so the toppings inside are not disturbed.
     Use the pastry bag to pipe a portion of the Hopi Blue Corn Jack Polenta on the plate.
     Place a vegetable of your choice on the plate.  Buttered steamed peeled white asparagus is nice!
     Serve the platter immediately.
     Use a razor sharp knife to cut the papillote open.
     Watch as the guest takes a whiff of the fantastic aroma!    

     Viola!  A gourmet aromatic Pompano en Papillote entree for a Friday night.  Yum!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Strozzapreti e Salsa di Pomodoro

     Strozzapreti ... The Priest Choker Pasta!
     There are a few stories as to how Strozzapreti Pasta got its name.  The moral of each of the stories amounts to a similar meaning.  
     The word Strozzapreti, in its reference to pasta, translates as "Priest Choker or Priest Strangler."  In this modern world of excessive violence in the mass media, it is all too easy to misconstrue the context of the phrase "Priest Strangler."  The meaning of Strozzapreti really has nothing to do with violence.  

     Throughout the history of Italy and Europe, clergy members from nearly any religious order have had times when they ruled over communities in a way that can be compared to a monarch with absolute authority.  In many instances, the clergy members that were civic authority figures actually formed a pact with rulers of kingdoms.  In order to rule a kingdom, religion had to be part of the plan.  
    When religion played a part in ruling citizens in a kingdom, members of the church demanded their piece of the action.  Monks and priests often collected what can be described as taxes from folks living in the kingdom. 

     More often than not, the peasants living in the countryside were not expected to cough up money, gems or precious metals, when paying their societal debt.  If the peasants had any valuables, they were usually well hidden, before tax collectors arrived.  Maintaining a poverty level image was important for subjects of a kingdom to do in the old days.  Most country folk had no false image to keep, because they were dirt poor to begin with, so other means of payment were sought on collection day.
     Since peasants and dirt poor farmers had no valuables that could be used for payment to priests on collection day, food was used as a monetary currency.  Women in poor farm country households prepared food items that could be used as a tax payment.  On collection day, the priests gorged on the peasant food that was taken away.     
     Everybody has heard the anger filled expression, "I hope that he chokes on it!"  This old expression is actually a curse that applies to Strozzapreti Pasta.  Nobody likes to be excessively taxed, especially when they are poor to begin with.  So, way back in the days of feudal existence, peasant housewives designed a pasta shape that was capable of causing a gluttonous tax collecting priest to choke to death.  
     The shape of Strozzapreti Pasta says it all.  This pasta resembles a curtain or a sash that is twisted like a rope, which could be used to choke a priest!  This twisted ribbon pasta can hold plenty of sauce, so it inspires a gluttonous person to consume it in a ravenous manner.  As far as vengeance filled deadly food designs go, Italian Strozzapreti Pasta is ingeniously clever! 
     As one can plainly see, not all Italian food is romantic or compassionate.  Emotion plays a major part in Cucina di Italia.  When angry emotions fill the air, preparing food items that are filled with angst is apropos.  
     Strozzapreti definitely is an angry pasta.  Adding a few pinches of crushed red chile pepper to the sauce adds fuel to the fire.  Strozzapreti Pasta is like vengeful poetry in motion.  This pasta curses those who practice gluttony, with the fate of choking while gorging on food that was confiscated from poor country folk! 

     Salsa di Pomodoro and Sheet Pasta Recipes
     The tomato sauce recipe yields enough sauce for 4 to 5 pasta entree applications!  The pasta dough recipe yields 3 to 4 portions.  
     Follow this link to the Salsa di Pomodoro Recipe and Sheet Pasta Recipe in this website:

     Strozzapreti Pasta Shape:
     About 15 to 20 Strozzapreti is a good single portion.
     Roll a thin gauge sheet of pasta.
     Cut the sheet of pasta into 5" to 6" long ribbons that are about as wide as a finger or thumb.
     Place a pasta ribbon between two clasped hands and gently rub the hands together back and forth, so the ribbon becomes twisted like a chord.  
     Place each Strozzapreti on a sheet pan that is lined with parchment paper.
     Let the Strozzapreti Pasta partially dry in open air for a little while, so it will hold its shape when boiled.

     Strozzapreti e Salsa di Pomodoro:
     This recipe yields 1 serving!
     Boil a pot of salted water over medium high heat.
     Place about 6 ounces of the Salsa di Pomodoro in a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of crushed dried red pepper.  (optional)
     Gently heat the sauce, till it starts to gently boil.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Place the Strozzapreti in the boiling water.
     Use a wooden pasta stick to gently stir the pasta for a few seconds, so the pasta does not stick together.
     Boil the Strozzapreti Pasta, till they all float.
     Continue boiling for about 30 seconds more, so the thick pasta shapes are thoroughly cooked.
     Use a long handle pasta net to gather the pasta out of the hot water.  Be sure to allow the excess water to drain off of the pasta.
     Add the pasta to the sauce.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.

     Mound the Strozzapreti e Salsa di Pomodoro on the center of a plate.
     Drizzle 1 or 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil over the pasta and onto the plate.
     Sprinkle a pinch od crushed dried red pepper over the pasta.  (optional)
     Sprinkle a few pinches of fienely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of finely chopped curly leaf parsley over the pasta.
     Garnish with a curly leaf pasta sprig.

     Strozzapreti Pasta e Salsa di Pomodoro with a vengeance!  Ciao Baby!