Friday, December 19, 2014

Buyer Beware! The Ethel M Chocolate Factory ~ Recent Changes

     Buyer Beware!  
     The Ethel M Chocolate Factory & Cactus Garden in Henderson fouled up my holiday gift order 2 years in a row.  The error was the same in both incidents.

     I only placed one order with Ethel M this year.  The Ethel M Chocolate Factory actually charged my credit card twice for the only order I placed.  Now I cannot access funds until Ethel M reverses the charge.  Ethel M states that it takes 5 days to reverse the charge.  Christmas is 5 days from now, so the charge will not be reversed for at least 6 days.  My, oh my, this does sound like a familiar unethical business scam.

     The Ethel M Chocolate Factory in Henderson, Nevada, sure seems to be benefitting from their own unethical business practice this year, just like last year.

     I can no longer recommend Ethel M Chocolates.  I have pulled the Ethel M Chocolate Article out of circulation.  For those who viewed my recommendation for Ethel M Chocolates in the past, I do sincerely apologize.

     Oddly enough, I just got an A+ Grade in 4th year graduate level Business Ethics Class at Le Cordon Bleu College Of Culinary Arts.  I can sure recognize a business scam when I see one now!

     The end of the college semester was today and xmas holiday vacation begins today.  The problem is this.  Because the Ethel M Chocolate Factory Charged me twice for one large gift order, I now have to cancel my travel plans.  This peeves me off to no end.


     A Long Overdue Announcement
     I have 2 weeks off from college, so I will be doing extensive work on this website and the 3 other websites that I created recently.  The new website links can be found on the top right section of this page.

    • The Breakfast Recipes, Southwestern & Mexican Cuisine Recipes, Travel Destination and Event Articles are being moved to the new websites.

     • All of the fancy High Cuisine recipe articles will be moved to a new website that I will create in a few days.

     • This website, JD's Food and Recipe Blog will be  retained and the website theme will be International Comfort Food.  Comfort Food Recipes have always been the "bread & butter" of this website, so sticking with this theme is a good plan to pursue.

     • On a semi-sad note, the Restaurant Articles will be transposed into Travel Destination Articles.  The reason is to avoid any possible conflict of interest, because I will be returning to work in the hospitality industry next summer, after completing the Culinary Management BA Degree Program.
     The Individual Restaurant Articles, Regional Restaurant Theme Category Articles and A Restaurant Cuisine Category Articles will be the result of the transposed literary material.  The converted article will be posted at the JD's Scenic Southwestern Travel Destination Website.  The reason being?  When folks travel, they want to know where to find some good grub!
     I sure will not refer readers to hospitality establishments that exert unethical business practices, like the one discussed earlier in this article.  My personal integrity is solid gold and I prefer to keep it that way.  So, rest assured, all changes made at the JD websites are for the better.  Viewers will find many unannounced improvements too.

     Thank y'all and have a great Holiday Season!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Star Fruit Chablis Sorbet

     When dining out at fancy restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip, I almost always used to intentionally skip dessert.  After the nice dinner, going for a stroll, doing some sight seeing and window shopping was the regular routine.  Eventually when the craving for dessert finally set in, sorbet was always the top choice.  A unique sorbet at a gourmet ice cream shop or pastry shop after dinner and a walk, always provides refreshing satisfaction.  Sorbet is light, not excessively sweet and the flavor is intense.  This is why sorbet is my favorite frozen dessert.  
      A little more than a decade ago, I was cooking at a 3 Star Michelin French restaurant in a 5 Diamond beachfront resort.  Every food item was made from scratch in that resort and absolutely no pre-prepared food was purchased.  A great pastry chef and his crew prepared bread, pastries, desserts and sundries for the five restaurants and banquets everyday.  
     In keeping with the refined French table service tradition, a melon ball size portion of sorbet was offered as a complimentary palate refreshing muse between certain courses.  The flavor of the muse sorbet du jour changed each day and the flavor determined when the sorbet would be offered to patrons during the dining event.  
     Sometimes umami flavors were incorporated into the sorbet, like patis calamansi.  Sometimes the sorbet flavor featured one specific spice, like cardamom.  Other times a seasonal exotic fruit was featured, like lychee or cashew fruit.  As one can see, the applications of a palate freshening muse sorbet during a multi course fine dining event are limitless.  Each sorbet flavor requires a bit of thought, for determining which break between courses is best suited for offering the sorbet as a palate refreshing muse.     
     Since the sorbet muse portion was the size of about 1/2 tablespoon, only about 1 1/2 quarts of sorbet was needed on a night when the French restaurant had 150 guests in the reservation book.  A little extra was always made just in case a guest preferred sorbet for dessert.  A 2 quart capacity, table top mounted ice cream machine was perfect for making small batches of sorbet at the restaurant.  That little ice cream machine was used only for sorbet and for experimenting with small batches of new gourmet ice cream flavor ideas. 

     Small Batch Ice Cream Machines
     A little more than ten years ago, fully automated small batch ice cream machines were not standard issue.  A pastry chef basically had to keep an eye on the sorbet or ice cream as it was churned to determine when the process was completed.  The monitoring process involved a bit of timing that comes with experience.  Basically, when the frozen dessert became thick and ready, the motor on the small ice cream machine started to sound like it was starting to strain and that sound served as the alarm bell.
     In recent years, fully automated small batch ice cream machines with a digital display have become standard issue.  All that a chef has to do is select the digital frozen dessert hardness option, press the button and the ice cream machine stops churning automatically when the frozen dessert is ready.  
     I actually have a professional restaurant quality, stainless steel, fully automated, small batch ice cream machine in my home kitchen.  This item was a gift, but it sure is quite a nice investment, because as a chef, I can cart this little ice cream maker into a fine dining restaurant and whip up some nice gourmet sorbet that can be offered as a petite muse.  

     A good heavy duty stainless steel automated small batch ice cream machine costs $300 to $400 these days.  Not everybody can afford something like this, especially during a sluggish economy.  Even so, over a period of time the investment will pay off, especially if smoothies, sorbet, sherbet, gelato or ice cream is consumed on a regular basis.  
     The cost of making gourmet frozen desserts at home is about half the cost of high quality manufactured ice cream at a food market.  The flavor selection is limitless.  The look on the face of guests at the dinner table is priceless when a hand crafted gourmet frozen dessert is served.  As one can see, having a good ice cream machine in a home kitchen can really present many creative options and it saves a lot of money in the long run.  

     The Key To Making Sorbet
     When making sorbet, there is only one principle that needs to be kept in mind.  Sugar is a liquifying agent.  Sugar works like antifreeze.  A sorbet requires a certain percentage of sugar, so the sorbet will have a soft texture.  Too little sugar will result in a grainy sorbet or a sorbet that freezes like ice.  Too much sugar will result in a sorbet that quickly melts or a sorbet that will never freeze at all.  
     Generally, the sugar percentage for sorbet has to be between 20% to 30%.  A spice sorbet is made with only water, sugar and spice, so the sugar content must be close to 30%, because there is no other stabilizing agent in the mixture. 
     Some fruits, like banana, apples or dates contain plenty of pectin, sugar or starch, which all act to stabilize the sorbet, so the sugar percentage range can be somewhere between 20% to 25%.  
     Fruits like finger citron, pomegranate or tamarillo have less stabilizing power, so the sugar percentage may have to be between 25% to 30%.  
     There are very few standardized sorbet recipes for exotic fruits or out of the ordinary sorbet flavors.  Basically, a chef or a home cook has to do a little thinking when experimenting with new sorbet flavors, but as long as the sugar percentage is between 20% to 30%, then more than likely whatever sorbet is made will turn out good.  This is really all that one has to keep in mind when making sorbet.
     The best way to accurately measure all ingredients for a sorbet is to use a scale.  Weigh the liquid or puree ingredients first, then calculate 20% to 30% of that weight, to determine how much sugar needs to be added.  
     Some fruit purees cannot be cooked, so the sugar should be combined with water and heated to create a simple syrup.  The weight of the water for making a simple syrup has to be added to the weight of the fruit puree, before calculating the sugar percentage.   

     Carambola Preparation:
     Star Fruit is really called Carambola.  Carambola is a tropical fruit that has a light refreshing flavor.  Slightly underripe light green carambola tastes kind of like limeade.  Ripe yellow orange carambola tastes slightly sweeter.  The refreshing tropical fruit flavor of ripe carambola is unique.  Either state of carambola ripeness is good for today's sorbet recipe. 
     Carambola varies in size.  About 10 ounces of whole carambola is needed for todays recipe.  10 ounces of whole carambola will yield about 8.5 ounces of trimmed, seeded and peeled carambola.      
     Trim the ends off of the carambola.
     Trim off any brown spots.
     Peeling carambola is not exactly the easiest thing to do.  Start by peeling the pointed edge of each long ridge on the carambola.  Then use a sharp paring knife to remove the skin, while wasting as little fruit flesh as possible.  There are a variety of ways to get this done and after a few minutes it becomes easy to figure out.  
     After the skin is removed, cut the carambola into thin slices, so the seeds are exposed.  There are only a few seeds in each carambola and they can be popped out with the tip of a knife.
     Star Fruit Chablis Sorbet:
     This recipe yields 1 1/4 pints of sorbet.  
     This recipe is written for an automated small batch ice cream machine, but a conventional ice cream maker will work too. 
     Some fruits benefit from being simmered with a little bit of liquid, so they soften, before being turned into sorbet.  Carambola that is simmered in water and wine for a few minutes will become soft enough to turn into a smooth puree.  The combined weight of the carambola, water and wine is tallied, then the correct percentage of sugar is added, so the simple syrup is made at the same time that the fruit is briefly simmered.  The sugar percentage is about 25% in this sorbet recipe.
     Place 8.5 ounces of trimmed, peeled, seeded, sliced carambola in a stainless steel sauce pot.
     Add 5 ounces of water.
     Add 3 ounces of chablis wine.
     Add 4.1 ounces of granulated sugar.
     Place the pot over medium heat.
     As soon as the liquid starts to simmer, turn the heat off.
     Use a blending wand, blender or food processor to thoroughly puree the carambola mixture to a very smooth consistency.
     Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Chill the star fruit chablis puree in a refrigerator, till it cools to less than 41ºF.
     Set the ice cream to the sorbet mode.
     Pre-cool the ice cream machine.
     Place the sorbet mixture into the ice cream drum and set it in place.
     Set the churn in place and secure the lid.
     Press the start button and patiently wait for the bell to go off!
     Transfer the sorbet from the drum to a sealed container.
     Keep the sorbet in the freezer.
     *Stir the sorbet after it freezes for a while, if the sorbet melts around the edges.

     A 3 to 4 ounce scoop of Star Fruit Chablis Sorbet is a fair size portion.  Sorbet looks best when it is served in a glass.
     Sorbet is usually served plain.  Sorbet can be garnished with a mint sprig or with a tempered chocolate appliqué like the presentation in the photos.  That modern art looking milk chocolate appliqué was made by randomly streaming tempered chocolate on a non-stick silicon baking mat. 

     Milk Chocolate Appliqué:
     Each type of chocolate has a different set of tempering temperatures.
     To temper milk chocolate, melt a few ounces of milk chocolate in a double boiler over low heat.  
     The temperature of the melted milk chocolate has to be between 115ºF and 120ºF.  
     After the milk chocolate reaches this temperature, remove the bowl from the double boiler.
     Constantly stir the milk chocolate till it cools to 81ºF.  
     Load the milk chocolate into a parchment paper piping cone.
     Now the appliqué can be made by squeezing the parchment cone and streaming the milk chocolate in a criss-cross random pattern onto a polished marble candy maker slab or a silicon baking mat.    
     If the milk chocolate needs to be reheated, it cannot be heated more than 86ºF or the milk chocolate will have to be tempered again.  
     Once tempered milk chocolate cools to room temperature it hardens and it will have a crisp snap.  A thin cake spatula work best for freeing the chocolate appliqué.  

     Viola!  Elegant tasting tropical star fruit chablis sorbet with a fancy chocolate appliqué.  Yum!   

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cockaleeky Soup

     A Traditional Scottish Soup That Warms Up A Chilly Day!
     Cockaleeky Soup is recognized one of Scotland's national recipe's.  I used to sell Cockaleeky as a soup du jour on occasion when I managed food production in an English Pub kitchen for two years.  I first learned the recipe while reading a very old British Isle cuisine history book that was published in the early 1900's.  
     In the book was reprint of an old original Cockaleeky Soup recipe that was written descriptive style, with no measurements.  The language used phrases that seemed to be from much earlier than the year 1800.  The soup recipe was simple yet specific and it sounded like it would suit the fancy of customers at the pub.     
     According to the descriptive recipe, the origins of this soup lie in good old fashioned Scottish country farm cooking.  The age old recipe stated something to the effect of, "there is not much more to do with a scrawny rooster or a scrawny hen, than to boil it, till it becomes tender and make soup out of the tough bird.  When the meat starts falling off of the bones, the broth is guaranteed to be rich and satisfying.  Adding a generous amount of leeks is all that needs to be done to make a great Cockaleeky Soup."  This is basically all that that there was to the oldest Cockaleeky recipe that I have ever seen. 
     The recipe was simple and the patrons at the pub appreciated rustic old fashioned food.  I selected the scrawniest chicken in the crate and whipped up a 3 gallon batch of Cockaleeky Soup.  The owner of the pub asked what the name of the soup was, so I mentioned that he he would get a kick out of the name.  The pub owner's response was, "Cockaleeky?"  Then he started laughing, because the bloke from Liverpool had never heard of this soup before.  As one can see, the name of this soup could easily be misconstrued, if a vulgar context was applied.  Apparently that thought crossed the pub owner's mind.  His verbal response to Cockaleeky Soup was, "Brilliant!"   
     The pub customers got a kick out of the name of this soup too.  Before long and after a few pints, nobody was shy about saying Cockaleeky aloud.  In fact the name of this simple soup certainly was a selling point.  The old fashioned antique version of Cockaleeky Soup became a customer favorite.
     From what I can gather, word does not always travel far in the British Isles.  The English Pub had plenty of English, Australian and Irish customers, but none of them had ever heard of Cockaleeky Soup.  The pub had few Scottish customers for some odd reason, so it was difficult to get any feedback concerning the authenticity or information about later variations of Cockaleeky Soup.  
     When pub patrons asked for the recipe, I basically just described the soup like the original recipe was written.  Customers liked the recipe because it was so simple, yet the end result was delicious beyond belief.  

     It has been a couple of decades since I have made Cockaleeky Soup, but the original recipe was easy to remember.  I decided to do a little research on the Cockaleeky recipe and I found that later variations of the recipe were a little bit more complex.  Apparently at sometime in the late 1800's, Cockaleeky Soup became known for its restorative qualities.  Prunes were added to the soup to boost the nutritional value and to sweeten the broth.  Barley was added to the soup to make it more hearty for chilly days.  Potato was sometimes added for the same reason.  
     So, the original farm style soup made with a scrawny cock and leeks evolved into a restorative soup that had seasonal variations.  In essence, Cockaleeky was still simple enough to not bother the soul with complexities.  
     The simplicity of rustic utilitarian Medieval potage cookery is the aspect of the original Cockaleeky that is so appealing.  There are no fancy cooking techniques involved.  Anybody that can boil water can make a batch of Cockaleeky.  Not matter whether the original recipe is prepared or whether a later version suits the fancy, Cockaleeky surely will please guests!  

    Since winter has arrived, today's Cockaleeky recipe includes all the fixings that are included later variations of this soup.  Prunes, barley and potato are items that are added to Cockaleeky when the weather is cold.  If the original version is preferred, then just skip those ingredients when preparing the recipe.

     It is nearly impossible to find a scrawny hen or scrawny rooster for sale at a modern common grocery store.  Selecting the smallest chicken, a game hen or a few chicken legs is the best option.  
     Asian food markets in Las Vegas and just about anywhere do stock frozen roosters and scrawny old hens for broth making.  If experiencing the true Medieval origins of Cockaleeky Soup is a high priority, then hunting for a scrawny old bird at an Asian food market is the way to go.  All I can say is, if a customer or store clerk asks what you are going to make with the the scrawny bird at the Asian food market, try to remember not to say the name of this soup or they might die laughing! 

     Chicken Meat and Broth Preparation:
     Chicken legs, game hen or a small chicken can be used to make this recipe.  Any excess broth or chicken meat can be used to make more Cockaleeky Soup or other recipes, like pot pie.  
     Place 6 to 8 chicken legs, or 1 small chicken in a pot.
     Cover the chicken with 3" to 4" of extra water.  (About 1/2 gallon total.)  
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till the broth become rich and the meat becomes tender enough to fall off of the bones.   Skim the grease off of the broth as it simmers. 
     Pour the broth through a large strainer into a second pot.  
     Set the broth aside.
     Set the chicken aside to cool.
     Remove and discard the skin, cartilage and bones.
     Hand pull the chicken meat into bite size pieces.  

     Cockaleeky Soup:  
     This recipe yields 2 large bowls of soup.  (About 4 1/2 cups)
     This soup definitely has medicinal value and it will help to ward off the common cold!
     This soup actually is a potage recipe, so the proportion of meats and vegetables should be relatively high in each bowl when served.  
     Place 5 cups of the reserved chicken broth in a large sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of leek that is cut into short strips that are about 1/4" wide.  (The green part of the leek can be used in this recipe too.)  
     Add 1 1/2 cups of the prepared chicken meat.
     Add 1/4 cup of dried pearled barley.  
     Add 1/3 cup of diced potato.  (optional)
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Bring the ingredients to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer the soup till the pearled barley becomes tender.  Allow the broth to reduce till it covers the ingredients in the soup with only about 3/4" of extra broth.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat. 
     Add 4 to 5 pitted prunes that are cut in half.
     Gently simmer till the prunes become tender.  (About 4 minutes.)
     Remove the bay leaf.  
     Ladle the soup into a soup terrine or divide the soup into two large soup bowls.  
     No garnish is necessary!

     A steaming hot hearty bowl of Cockaleeky sure does hit the spot when the weather is cold.  It does not matter whhether the original version or the later version of Cockaleeky is prepared.  Either way, this traditional Scottish soup will inspire smiles!