Thursday, November 10, 2011

Potato Crusted Medaillon of Sole Allemande

     Many dictionaries define a tournant as a spare hand, but a tournant is the person who is capable of assuming the chefs responsibilities when the chef is absent.  I am an experienced tournant.  A tournant can perform any duty in a kitchen and masters every cooking station including pastry chef duties.  The English word that compares to tournant is roundsman.  Kitchen brigade system hierarchy for the top personnel in charge is executive chef, executive sous chef, chef de cuisine, sous chef followed by tournant.
     Chef de partie translates to line cook and usually the top ranking line cook is either the broiler cook or the sauté cook.  The sauté cook is usually also a saucier.  A broiler cook is usually also a butcher.  In resorts and large restaurants, chef de cuisine is usually defined by specialty area.  Garde manger chef or banquet chef are examples.  The baking and pastry side of the kitchen employs a similar brigade system.  Executive pastry chef is followed by pastry chef, assistant pastry chef, baker, glacier and so on down the line.
     Potato crusted fish should look golden brown, not dark brown.  About 18 years ago we ran a few potato crusted fish entrees in a French cafe.  The cafe was located on the second floor above its sister restaurant, which was a Michelin star rated French Provence style restaurant.  The cafe sold trendy modern creative cuisine and a large selection of desserts.  Us chefs were not afraid to take chances and we offered many new creations that later became very popular around the globe.  Potato crusted fish was something that nobody else was doing at that time.
     The executive chef walked up to me and said "Potato crusted fish is the special du jour tonight."  The chef said nothing else.  When a chef says something simple like that to a tournant who is a saucier, the chef is leaving room for the tournant to make the decide on the selection of fish, the cooking techniques, the presentation design, the sauces and the garnish.  This is called giving a tournant a chance to create.  I cut thin slices of potato that were shaped like fish scales and crusted a black grouper filet.  The entree looked really nice.  The accompanying sauces were a couple flavors of beurre blanc painted on the plate.  Later I asked the executive chef if the entree was what he had in mind.  "The chef said "Potato crusted fish was a spur of the moment new idea that I have not had the time to work on.  Nobody else that I know of makes this entree and I figured you would know how to make the potato crusted fish idea happen."  Happen it did!  The entree sold well.      
     Later when the internet was created, it made is easier to trace where new cooking ideas originated.  It was discovered that chefs in Provence, France and Germany were crusting fish with potatoes at about the same time we developed our recipe.  Soon, many chefs in America were selling nice versions of potato crusted fish.
     Like so many nice entrees, cheap restaurants offered potato crusted fish and the poor quality of the finished product was part of the reason that the potato crusted fish trend became less popular.  If corporate franchise chain restaurants would have nabbed this entree idea, then I am sure that potato crusted fish would have gotten the kiss of death.  Chain restaurant are notorious for bastardizing recipes and ruining a good thing.
     Potato crusting was a good idea for oven baked fish, especially for a fish filet that had been cut thick.  Sea bass, cobia and black grouper all were nice with a potato crust.  Unfortunately, all three of those fish are no longer sustainable.  There are choices of sustainable fish these days that are guilt free.
     Sole, flounder and fluke are all flatfish that have thin filets, and many varieties of flatfish are sustainable.  The filets can be cut into pieces that are the size of steel ring mold and stacked within the mold.  The potato crust is placed in the ring mold on the fish.  The potato crust is started in a hot saute pan, then the fish and mold is flipped, so the potato crust is on top.  The entree is then finished in an oven.  The potatoes cook to a golden brown color and the stacked sole filet pieces remains moist and fragrant!  A roasted grated potato crouton can also be baked in the same pan.  The crunchy potato crouton under the fish medaillon adds a nice texture.
     For potato crusting, the potatoes can be cut as thin sliced shingles for a whole filet, or the potatoes can be grated.  Medaillon style stacks of fish are a great way to use the thin odd size pieces that remain after portioning filets of fish.  A potato crusted medaillon style stack commands a higher price than a bowl of fish soup or chowder!
     Veloute is always made with a pale stock or fumet.  Fish veloute should be very pale in color and rich in flavor.  Allemande is made by modifying a veloute mother sauce.  Allemande is usually cooked to order in fine French restaurants, because the egg yolk and cream that is added to a veloute will break at a temperature that is over 140º.  Allemande is also mounted with butter, so it cannot be overheated.
     Many French chefs use this technique for making allemande.  Cream, a tiny amount of mushroom liquor and lemon juice are added to a veloute, then the sauce is finished with a few spoonfuls of hollandaise.  That is a good technique and the butter in the hollandaise adds richness to the allemande sauce.  Escoffier and Careme would roll over in their graves if they knew about the sophisticated short cuts that French chefs take in a busy restaurant kitchen.
     White Fish Fumet:
     Fumet can be portions and frozen for later use.  This recipe makes about 1/2 gallon.  This is an old French fumet method that requires the fumet to be baked, instead of simmered. 
     Place 2 pounds of white fish carcasses and scraps in a deep roasting pan or wide pot.
     Add 1 cup of chopped peeled onion.
     Add 1 cup of chopped celery.
     Add a sachet bouquet garni of:
     - 3" section of leek
     - 6 parsley stalks
     - 1 sprig of thyme
     - 10 black peppercorns
     - 1 bay leaf
     - 1 crushed garlic clove
     Add sea salt.
     Fill the deep roasting pan with enough water to cover the fish.  (About 1 gallon of water.)
     Bake the fumet in a 325º oven till the flavor of the fish infuses with the liquid.  (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Add water occasionally to keep the fish covered with liquid.  Do not let the fish brown!
     Pour the fumet through a fine mesh strainer into a stockpot over medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the fumet, till about 1/2 gallon remains.
     Skim off any oil or impurities that float on top.
     Cool the fumet to room temperature 70º within 2 hours.
     Cool the fumet to 41º within 2 hours.

     White Stock:
     Modern chefs rarely add white stock to allemande these days.  White stock is part of allemande and it adds a classic French touch.
     Place 2 pounds of veal bones in a large sauce pot.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped carrot.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped leek.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped parsnip.
     Add enough water to cover the ingredients with 2" of extra liquid.  (About 1 gallon.)
     Add a sachet bouquet garni of:
     - 1 sprig of thyme
     - 6 parsley stalks
     - 8 black peppercorns
     - 1 bay leaf
     - 2 cloves (the spice, not garlic)
     Add sea salt.
     Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer for 2 1/2 hours.
     Skim any grease or impurities off the top.  Add water as necessary.
     Pour the white stock through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Return the broth to a gentle simmer.
     Simmer and reduce till 1/2 gallon of stock remains.  Skim off any grease or impurities.
     Stream 3 whisked egg whites into the stock.  The egg whites will cling to any impurities and this will clarify the white stock.
     Pour the white stock through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Cool the white stock to room temperate.
     Chill the white stock in a refrigerator.
     The white stock can be refrigerated for 7 days and it can be frozen for later use.

     Mushroom Liquor:
     Place 1 cup of mushroom trimmings and scraps in a sauce pot.
     Add 4 cups of water.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the liquid is thoroughly infused with a mushroom flavor and till 1 cup of liquid remains.
     Pour the mushroom liquor through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Set the mushroom liquor aside.

     Whitefish Veloute Sauce:
     Wine is optional for a veloute.  The oldest recipes require no wine.  This recipe makes 2 cups of veloute.  Any extra veloute can be refrigerated for 7 days and used for other recipes.  
     Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Constantly stir, till the roux becomes a golden blonde color.
     Add 3 1/2 cups of the whitefish fumet.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Occasionally whisk the veloute as it heats and thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Bring the veloute to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped mushroom peelings or trimmings.
     Add 1 chopped small shallot.
     Add 1 small whole garlic clove.
     Adjust the seasoning with sea salt and white pepper.
     Simmer and reduce the veloute, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Pour the veloute through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter while stirring.  (Mounting with butter prevents a skin from forming on the sauce.)
     Stir the veloute occasionally as it cools.
     Potato Crusted Medaillon of Sole:
     Cut 5 to 6 ounces of sole filet into pieces that will fit in a 3" ring mold.
     Lightly season the sole pieces with sea salt and white pepper.
     Heat a non-stick saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Place a 3" steel ring mold in the pan.
     Place a 3/8" thick layer of grated peeled potato in the ring mold.
     Place the sole filet pieces in the ring mold.
     Potato Crouton:  Place second 3" ring mold in the pan. Place a 3/8" thick layer of grated potato in the ring mold.  Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Saute the potato crusted sole medaillon, till the potatoes stick together and begin to turn a light golden color.  (About 3 or 4 minutes.)
     Slide a thin spatula under the ring mold and flip the ring mold, so the partially cooked potato crust is facing upward.
     Place the saute pan with the potato crusted medaillon of sole and the potato crouton in a 350º oven.
     Bake till the fish becomes fully cooked and the potato crust becomes a light golden brown color.
     Note:  For the potato crouton.  Remove the ring mold and flip the crouton, so it cooks evenly.  Cook the crouton till it becomes crispy golden brown.  (CGB!)  The potato crouton will finish baking first, so use a spatula to remove the grated potato crouton from the pan and keep it warm on a stove top.
     Allemande Sauce:
     Allemand can be made with any kind of veloute sauce.  This sauce can be made while the sole bakes.  This recipe make 2 to 3 small portions of allemande.
     Place 1/2 cup of the veloute sauce in sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of the white stock.
     Add 1/2 ounce of the mushroom liquor.
     Add 2 ounces of cream.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin consistency.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Mix 1 egg yolk with 1 ounce of cream in a small mixing bowl.
     Add the egg yolk cream liaison, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Remove the sauce from the heat as soon as the egg yolk starts to tighten the sauce.
     Add 2 pat of unsalted butter, while stirring.
     Add 2 pinches of finely chopped Italian parsley.
     Pour the allemande sauce into a ceramic cup.
     Keep the cup warm on a stop top.
     Potato Crusted Medaillon of Sole Allemande:
     After the medaillon stack finishes baking, remove the pan from the oven.
     Place the grated potato crouton on the center of a plate.
     Slide a spatula under the sole medaillon ring mold.
     Set the medaillon and ring mold together as one on the grated potato crouton on the plate.
     Remove the steel ring mold.
     Spoon the allemande sauce over half of the potato crusted sole medaillon and spoon some allemande sauce on the plate around the medaillon.
     Garnish with petite watercress sprigs around the base of the medaillon on the plate.

     Viola!  A nice tasting sauce for a potato crusted sole entree!  This is one of the oldest traditional allemande recipes and it is one of the best.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Varză roşie cu cârnaţi - Romanian Red Cabbage and Sausage

     Today's Romanian red cabbage and sausage recipe is nice for the autumn and winter seasons.  The comfortable warmth of paprika makes this entree appealing in chilly weather.
     Pork is the traditional number one meat staple in Romania.  Some of the greatest pork recipes in the world are Romanian in origin.  Plain fresh pork sausage is used in this recipe.  Mild fresh bratwurst style sausage or a fresh unsmoked kielbasa style sausage are good choices.  These sausages are not just German and Polish in origin.  These types of sausage are made nearly everywhere in easter europe and Russia.  Salt and pepper are the main flavors of these simple sausages and the quality of the pork flavor does all the talking.
     Good paprika is essential for making this recipe.  Hungarian paprika has the correct flavor profile for making the entree.  Spanish paprika does not have quite as rich of a flavor.  Smoked paprika is required for this recipe too.  Many Hungarian paprika packages do contain a percentage of smoked paprika in the mixture and some are 100% smoked paprika.  Reading the Hungarian label can be difficult if there is no translation on the label, so asking a clerk at an eastern european market to translate the label may be necessary.  Even with no smoked Hungarian paprika, this recipe will still taste good.
     This entree is traditionally made with white cabbage, but red cabbage is also popular in Romania.  The reddish blue color of the cabbage gives this entree a rich look, yet varză roşie cu cârnaţi is actually light on the tummy.
     Varză roşie cu cârnaţi:
     Heat a large sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 1/2 cup of thin sliced onion.
     Saute till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 of a medium size head of red cabbage that is very thinly sliced.  (about 5 to 6 cups)
     Saute and stir, till the cabbage begins to wilt.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of mild Hungarian paprika.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ground smoked Hungarian paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Add 1 pinch of whole caraway seed.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped fresh rosemary leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add just enough light pork broth to almost cover the cabbage.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Place 2 or 3 plain pork sausages or plain bratwurst on top of the cabbage.  (The sausages should weigh about 3 to 5 ounces apiece.)
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a loose fitting lid.
     Gently simmer the ingredients, till the sausages become fully cooked.
     Remove the sausages from the pot and place them on a cutting board.
     Cut the sausages into large bite size pieces.
     Return the sausage slices to the pot.
     Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon.
     Continue to simmer the ingredients, till the cabbage becomes very tender.  Allow the sauce to reduce to a thin sauce consistency that coats the ingredients.  (Add a splash of water or light pork broth if the cabbage becomes dry.)
     Place the simmered red cabbage, the remaining broth and sausage pieces into a large bowl.
     Try to expose some of the sausage slices on the surface.
     Garnish the bowl with a rosemary sprig.
     Serve with sliced bread on the side.
     For a simple entree, this plate of old fashioned Romanian sausage and cabbage has a rich satisfying flavor.  Paprika is not only used by Hungarians.  It is a common ingredient in many cuisines of eastern europe.  Paprika reconstitutes in simmering liquid to create a sauce.  Lemon brightens the flavor of the entree.  Varză roşie cu cârnaţi is simple and delicious!