Sunday, March 30, 2014

Greco Roman Cheeseburger - Grecian Spice 8 oz Grass Fed Organic Beef Patty topped with Formaggi Sini Fulvi Telaggio and Yellow Heirloom Tomato Greek Olive Livornese








     The month of March is the start of the backyard chargrill cook off season, or at least it is in temperate places that are not still catching the tail end of winter.  Burgers are like an astrological sign that foretells warm summer weather is near.  Drive-In burger joints dust off the winter muck and slap on a coat of fresh paint.  Drive-In burger joint waitresses put new wheels on their rollers skates for the summer season.  Backyard chefs scrape down the char grill and freshen the BBQ rig up with thermal paint.  Weekend warriors spruce up the RV Camper and fill the propane tanks.  Historians in the distant future just might draw the conclusion that the lifestyle of mankind in the present age revolves around burgers.  This is not far from true.  
     Warm weather brings the burger flipper out in all of us.  Flipping burgers on a char grill at a backyard pool party is a prime opportunity for a host to impress guests.  Flipping plain burgers at a backyard party, like a fast food burger joint cook, does not impress much of anybody these days.  
     Plain burgers are great, but during the last 20 years the gourmet fancy burger trend has increased in popularity.  Part of this is due to home cooks becoming more creative and part of this is due to celebrity chefs creating gourmet burgers on TV cooking shows.   
     
     In reality, many signature restaurants that are endorsed by a celebrity chef's name are kind of a farce, because the celebrity chef is almost never present in the restaurant.  The cooking at signature restaurants is usually done by average cooks who work for mediocre corporate wages.  Often the food is lacking in quality at these places.  
     The quality of gourmet burger creations that are offered at signature restaurants often are hit or miss, because of the lack of oversight from the celebrity chef.  If the food at a signature restaurant is fantastic and the celebrity chef is never present, then who is the real celebrity chef?  The hard working chef de cuisine that runs the kitchen in the famous chef's absence!       
     If the celebrity chef is never present, then all that chef probably does when planning menus, is to look at sales statistics and menu changes are only made when necessary.  A chef who manages from a remote location and takes a statistical approach to menu planning can only go so far, because intuition, hands on experience and direct customer reaction feedback are all menu planning factors that can only be assessed by a chef that is present at the restaurant site.  
     
     Many times a talented chef de cuisine is restricted to only cooking the menu food that an unseen celebrity chef designed and there is no room for the chef de cuisine to express creative ability.  In a way, many celebrity chef signature restaurants actively take part in fascism, by artificially boasting the famous chef's name and by restricting the opportunities of fame for the chef de cuisine, who actually is in charge of the food production.  Given the opportunity, a good chef de cuisine can usually outperform the celebrity chef that is represented.  
     
     What does this have to do with gourmet burgers?  A chef de cuisine at a celebrity chef signature restaurant can whip up great gourmet burger creations, when given the freedom to create.  A chef de cuisine at a signature restaurant that has the freedom to create specials du jour, can certainly increase customer interest, while increasing profits.  The food quality would be a higher caliber, because a hands on chef aggressively creates special board items with seasonal ingredients that are well suited for the tempo of the moment, instead of simply cooking tired creations that have been on the menu ever since the celebrity chef originally wrote the menu as part of a signature restaurant contract agreement.  
     
     Gourmet burgers should be new and exciting and they should not be featured on worn out old a la carte menus that are past their prime.  "One Timer" special du jour gourmet burger creations that are marketed for a limited amount of time on a special du jour board always seem to sell the best.  When the tide turns after a few days, then it is time to create a new gourmet burger special du jour that will once again captivate customer interest.    
     Hard working restaurant chefs that offer gourmet burger creations on special du jour menus actually are the biggest influence in the gourmet burger trend.  This is because working chefs who are not glorified by the media do tend to take a hands on approach with one goal in mind.  The goal is to increase profits by increasing customer satisfaction.  
     Hands on chefs aggressively create appealing food each day as specials du jour as a form of liquid advertising with the goal of increasing customer interest.  The featured gourmet burger on a special board is an item that allows a chef to "really let it all hang out" as far as creativity is concerned.  Gourmet burgers are crowd pleasing items that have actually gained a foothold in fine dining cafés and semi formal fine dining restaurants.  The thought of a gourmet burger in a fine dining restaurant actually is no longer subject to ridicule and many gourmand fine dining customers take interest in eccentric gourmet burger creations 
     
     Gourmet burger specials du jour are rarely advertised or promoted outside of a restaurant, unless the restaurant theme revolves around gourmet burgers.  There is only one way to for a customer to find a great one of a kind gourmet burger creation and that is to dine at a variety of trendy restaurants, till a place is found that has a chef who takes pride in creating great burgers.  Simply going to a celebrity chef signature gourmet burger restaurant to find a great burger is easy to do, but there is drawback to this approach.  There is an ever present probability that disappointment may enter into the dining experience, because the celebrity chef in absentia is usually not the cook who is actually flipping the burgers in the kitchen! 

     Today's gourmet burger creation features a meld of Grecian and Italian cuisine flavors.  Organic non-GMO yellow heirloom tomatoes have a nice sweet fruity tomato essence that goes well with premium grade Greek olives.  Sauce Livornese is a traditional Italian tomato and olive sauce for veal that has many applications.  Local forest mushrooms sometimes are part of an authentic Livornese Sauce recipe that is made in Italy.  In Italian American restaurants, olive and capers are usually the featured ingredients in this sauce.  I published a Salmon Filet Livornese recipe a few years ago, so this sauce can even be adapted to seafood entrees.  Livornese sauce can be made thin or thick, depending on what the sauce is used for.  For a gourmet burger, the sauce should be made like a thick compote, so the topping stays in place.  
     
     Long before kale recently became a trendy health food item, kale was a common leafy green vegetable that was cooked as a side dish in Italy.  In America, kale was limited to being used as a non-functional garnish for a long time.  Because kale is now en vogue, it is acceptable to use it as an integral garnish on sandwiches.  Organic purple kale adds an interesting visual effect to today's burger creation and it is integral, because kale is use in cucina di Italia.  
     
     Okay!  So the Livornese topping combines Italian cooking ideas with Greek olives.  This is not enough to warrant giving today's burger the Greco Roman name.  Organic grass fed non-GMO ground beef is a great choice for a burger patty in this age of mad scientists that create food which has a detrimental effect on the environment.  To jazz up this nice burger patty, a complex spice mix was added to the ground beef.  Spice mixes for items like moussaka or stews can be fairly complex in southern Greece, because of the influence of the ancient Persian Arabic spice trade.  
     Basically, the spices that are used to flavor many meat entrees in southern Greece are similar to the spices that are used to make kofta.  There are many ways to spell Kofta and the spelling depends on the dialect.  Kefta, Kufta, Kafta, Kyuft'a, Cufta, Kayufte, Kufteh etc.  Kofta is a highly spiced minced meat mixture.  Cinnamon, cumin, mint, fenugreek, cardamom, coriander, black pepper, mace and marjoram are pretty much the basic spices for a kofta spice mix, bet the seasoning mixture varies from culture to culture.  Greece has its own regional kofta spice mix recipes, even though the word kofta is not used to describe the spice mix.  Part of this is due to Greece trying to promote its own unique culture, when the Persian empire was an overwhelming influence in ancient times.

     A gourmet cheeseburger should always be topped with a nice gourmet cheese.  Sini Fulvi is an Italian cheese company that consistently produces great traditional Italian cheese.  Sini Fulvi's Telaggio is a soft cow's milk cheese.  Val Telaggio has been made in Bergamo, Italy for over 1,000 years.  This cheese has a delicate sweet flavor that is slightly acidic.  The light mold rind gives this cheese a very pleasant aroma.  The rind of this cheese should be scrapped off, before serving.  Tellagio has a fairly high fat content, so it easily melts.  
     
     Grecian Spice Burger Patty:
     This recipe yields one large 8 ounce organic grass fed beef burger patty!  
     Place 8 ounces of ground organic grass fed beef in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of dried mint.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground fenugreek.
     Add 2 pinches of cannella or mild cinnamon.     
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 2 pinches of cardamom.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg or mace.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest.
     Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the mixture for 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Shape the ground beef mixture into a large thick burger patty shape.
     Keep the burger patty chilled till it is needed.   

     Yellow Heirloom Tomato and Grecian Olive Livornese Burger Topping:
     This recipe yields enough topping for 1 large burger!  This topping should be made to order shortly before the burger is served.  This is a modified Italian Livornese Sauce.
     High quality Greek olives are sold whole and they must be pitted.  A jar of assorted Greek olives usually contains 3 or 4 varieties of olive.  Greek delicatessens also sell assorted olive mixtures.  There are specific Greek names for these olives, but generic descriptions are used in this recipe.  
     Heat a small saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 cloves of thin sliced garlic.
     Saute till the garlic starts to become a golden color.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped onion.
     Briefly saute for about 1 minute, till the onions become aromatic.
     Add 1/2 cup of small bite size pieces of yellow heirloom tomato.  
     Add 2 pitted Greek green olives that are split in half.
     Add 2 pitted Greek white olives that are split in half.
     Add 2 pitted Greek red olives that are split in half.
     Add 2 to 3 pitted Kalamata olives that are split in half.
     Add 1 teaspoon of capers.  (optional)
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of chopped basil.
     Saute till the tomatoes start to become tender.
     Add 3 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 2 ounces of water.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce, till most of the liquid evaporates.  The sauce should be thick and chunky when used as a burger topping.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of chopped Italian parsley.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Keep the burger topping warm on a stove top.

     Burger Plate Set Up:
     Split a burger roll in half.
     Brush the roll with melted unsalted butter or olive oil.
     Grill the roll on a griddle over medium/medium low heat, till it is toasted.
     Set the bottom half of the roll on a plate. 
     Place a bed of purple kale leaves on the bun.
     Garnish the plate with Italian parsley sprigs and pickles of your choice.
     
     Greco Roman Burger:   
     Heat a char grill, a ribbed cast iron griddle or a flat grilled to a medium/medium hot temperature.
     Season the grill with a vegetable oil cloth.
     Grill the Grecian Spice Burger Patty, till it is cooked close to the preferred state of doneness.       
     Note:  Medium to Well Done is good for this burger, because heat releases the flavor of the spices.  Any burger that is cooked for children or for those who have compromised immune systems, should be fully cooked with an internal temperature of 155º to 160º. 
     Place a few thin slices of Sini Fulvi Telaggio cheese on top of the burger.
     Place an inverted small stainless steel mixing bowl over the burger, so the heat is captured by the bowl dome and the cheese melts.  It only takes about 10 to 15 seconds for Telaggio to melt! 
     Remove the mixing bowl dome and place the cheeseburger on the burger set up on the plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the Yellow Heirloom Tomato Grecian Olive Livornese Topping on the burger.
     Lean the top half of the burger roll against the burger.

     Viola!  Another great gourmet burger!  This burger is full of lively flavors that are perfect for shaking off the winter blues.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Leaky Basket full of Chicken Allemande and Chestnuts aux Tomate Sauté








Just another tasty fun food presentation!

     Artistic food presentations are en vogue these days.  Some modern food presentations are very high tech and they require a high degree of skill to accomplish.  Successful chefs have one great characteristic in common.  An open mind!  Being open to new ideas does promote one'e own creative ability.  Once the creative thought process begins, there is no limit to what a chef can accomplish.  
     
     The food in this website focuses on accurate flavors and cooking techniques.  The food presentations in this website tend to be conservative with no major distractions.  When a recipe focuses on cooking techniques and flavor, interested readers want to focus upon the featured item.  If a recipe features a steak with an accompanying sauce, then the focus of attention should be on the steak and the sauce, with no distractions from excess garnishes that really are not an integral part of the entree.  
     
     Conservative presentations of food in published recipes allow viewers to imagine their own way of presenting the featured food item.  There are basic food presentation styles that are standards in the restaurant industry.  It is good to know the basics, so food can be plated quickly with ease.  Many basic presentation styles serve as a foundation for complex food presentations.
     
     As a food writer or viewer, it is important to realize that not every person who looks at recipes in this website site has advanced cooking skills.  If every food item in this website was presented like it was being served at a 3 Star Michelin rated restaurant, then the recipes would look intimidating, rather than inviting.  Many fine dining restaurant recipes actually are very easy to cook, but if a the food is presented in a complex intimidating way, then a chefs communication skills actually come into question.  Food presentations actually are a form of communication.  A good presentation of recipe food in a picture should communicate with the audience and it should not leave some members of the audience drawing a blank. 
     
      The miniature rustic basket in the picture above is actually much easier to make than a classic allemande sauce.  Allemande sauce requires many steps and it must be finished with the egg yolk liaison cooking technique.  The pastry dough for the basket is really just a simple French pie dough.  The dough is cut into long thin strips.  The dough strips are then draped over an upside down steel muffin pan and arranged so they resemble a basket.  After baking, the basket is popped off of the inverted muffin cup and voila!  A leaky old basket is created!  
     
     One of the first lessons that children learn is that a basket will not hold water.  It is funny how adults sometimes forget simple little lessons like this.  I have seen professional cooks do some moronic things in restaurant kitchens that can cause a chef to look at the ceiling and say "Why me? ... Why me?  Oy vey!"  
     One of the dumbest things that I have seen a professional cook do when they are in a hurry, is pouring a finished sauce into a strainer, with no container underneath to catch the sauce.  The sauce ends up everywhere but where it should be.  Things like this usually only happen when a chef really needs the sauce in a hurry.  One might just say that today's "leaky basket" food presentation has a chef's eye rolling "Why me?" reaction theme.  

     Chicken Stock:
     This recipe yields about 1/2 gallon of chicken stock.
     Place 2 pounds of chicken bones, scraps, backs and trimmings 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 chicken 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.
     Cool the stock to room temperate.
     Chill the stock in a refrigerator.
     The chicken stock can be refrigerated for 7 days and it can be frozen for later use.

     Mushroom Liquor:
     This recipe yields enough mushroom liquor to flavor several portions of sauce.  Only a small amount is needed for today's allemande recipe.
     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.
     Chill the mushroom liquor till it is needed. 

     Pâte Brisée:
     This recipe yields enough dough for 1 meat pie or 1 petite pie.  
     This recipe makes use of pie dough scraps!  
     Normally, pie crust dough should be only be lightly worked till streaks of butter appear, so a flakey texture can be achieved.  Leftover scraps of pie crust dough that are worked a second time will have less of a flaky texture.  This texture is perfect for today's recipe application, because the thin strips of dough will not break as easily.  
      Use the recipe below for making a pie crust or for an English meat pie, then turn the scraps into a sheet of dough that long strips can be cut from.  Place 1 1/2 cups of flour into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 3/4 tablespoon of sugar.
     Rice the flour by adding a few drops of ice water at a time while stirring with a whisk.  (The flour should look like grains of rice.)
     Cut 2 ounces of unsalted butter into pea size pieces and drop them in a bowl of ice water.
     Gently add a few pieces of the chilled hard butter at a time to the riced flour.
     Work the dough lightly with your fingers and for a minimal period of time leaving exposed small pieces of butter.
     Chill the dough, till it becomes very firm.
     Roll the pate brisee into a 3/16" thick sheet on a floured counter top.  (The sheet of pâte brisée should show streaks of butter!  This is what will give the pate brisee a flakey crusty texture.)
     Refrigerate the sheet of pâte brisée, till it becomes firm again.
     
     Leaky Basket:
     This recipe yields 1 petite pastry basket!
     After making a pie, refrigerate the extra pâte brisée scraps.
     Roll the scraps into a 3/16" thick rectangular sheet that is about 12" long and a few inches wide.
     Cut about 15 long thin strips that measure 3/16"x 3/16"x 12".
     Place the strips side by side on a parchment paper lined sheet pan and chill them in a refrigerator, till they become firm.
     Invert a 4" or 4 1/2" wide muffin cup pan, so the pan is upside down.
     Brush the outside of a muffin cup with melted unsalted butter.
     Lightly dust the cup with flour.
     Drape 1 strip of dough across the top of the cup, so the midpoint of the strip meets the center of the top of the cup.  
     Continue draping strips over the cup, till the cup looks like it is covered with evenly spaced vertical basket rails that all overlap at the center point of the cup.
     Press the overlapping dough strips together on the center point on the cup, to flatten the dough and to create a flat bottom basket.  Now the dough strips will not shift during the next step.
     Run your finger around the base of the muffin cup pan around the muffin cup in one direction, so the dough strips all start to form a basket rim.
     Gather a couple of the dough strip ends at a time and twist them, while gently tugging the strips against the base of the muffin cup.  This will create a woven basket rim effect!
     Continue shaping the basket rim and trim off any excess length from the dough strips.
     Now the muffin cup should look like it is covered with an uncooked pie dough basket.
     Lightly brush the dough with egg wash.
     Place the pan in a 350º oven.  
     Bake till the basket becomes a golden brown color.
     Allow the basket to cool.
     Use a pastry spatula to gently pry the rim of the basket loose from the base of the muffin pan.  This action will actually free the entire basket.
     Set the basket aside where it will not be damaged.

     Chicken Veloute:  
     This recipe makes about 1 cup of veloute.
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while stirring with a whisk.
     Constantly stir, till the roux becomes a golden tan color.
     Add 2 cups of chicken stock or white stock.
     Raise the temperature to medium/medium high heat.
     Whisk the sauce occasionally as it comes to a gentle boil.
     When the sauce comes to a gentle boil, reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add a bouquet garni of:
     - Leek
     - Celery
     - 1/2 of a small bay leaf
     - 1 small prig of thyme
     - 1 parsley stalk
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce for 35 to 40 minutes, so the roux flavor is no longer pasty tasting.  Reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency.  There should only be about 1 cup of veloute sauce after the reduction is completed.
     Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter, while whisking.  (Monte au beurre.  This will keep a "skin" from forming on the veloute.)
     Set the veloute aside.

     Tomate Sauté:
     Only a small amount is needed.  The thick tomato saute will stabilize the basket on the plate.
     Peel and seed 1 small plum tomato.
     Dice the tomato filet.  (concasse)
     Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Saute till the shallot turns clear in color.
     Add the tomato concasse.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Saute till the tomato becomes tender.
     Add 1 ounce of dry white wine.
     Simmer and reduce till the excess liquid evaporates. 
     Keep the thick tomato sauté warm on a stove top. 
    
     Allemande Sauce:
     Allemand can be made with any kind of veloute sauce.  This recipe make 1 pasta portion of chicken allemande.
     Allemande sauce should be made shortly before it is needed.  This sauce is difficult to reheat without breaking the sauce, because it is tightened with egg yolk.
     White wine actually is only an optional ingredient for allemande and it really is not necessary, because lemon is the key flavor.
     Place 1 cup of chicken veloute in sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock.
     Add 1 ounce of the mushroom liquor.
     Add 1/2 cup 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 sauce 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 teaspoons of unsalted butter pieces while stirring.
     Add 2 pinches of finely chopped Italian parsley.  (optional for this recipe)
     Pour the allemande sauce into a ceramic cup.
     Keep the cup warm on a stop top.
     
     Chicken Allemande and Chestnuts:
     This recipe yields 1 portion!
     Cryovac packages of shelled roasted chestnuts are available year round. 
     For today's presentation, the allemande should be thick enough to cling to the chicken and chest nuts.
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
     Add 4 to 5 ounces of chicken breast that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Saute till golden highlights appear.    
     Add 4 to 5 shelled roasted chestnuts that are cut into halves or quarters.
     Saute till the chestnuts become aromatic and golden highlights appear.
     Drain off any excess butter.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Briefly saute till the garlic becomes aromatic.   
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of chicken stock, while stirring.  (Just to deglaze the pan.)
     Add just enough of the sauce allemande to generously coat the ingredients.
     Keep the Chicken Allemande and Chestnuts warm on a stove top.

     Leaky Basket full of Chicken Allemande and Chestnuts aux Tomate Sauté:
     Place about 2 tablespoons of the thick tomato sauté on the center of a plate.
     Carefully set the pastry basket on the tomato, so it is stable.
     Spoon any excess tomato into the basket. 
     Carefully use a slotted spoon to fill the leaky basket with the chicken and chestnuts from the allemande.
     Spoon a generous amounts of the allemande sauce from the pot over the chicken and chestnuts in the basket, till the sauce leak out of the basket onto the plate.
     Garnish the top with thin bias sliced green onion slivers.  

     Viola!  The best tasting leaky basket you never had!  Yum!  ...  Shawna