Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Antipasti! Insalata di Bonito Carciofi con Caponata e Mozzarella Crostini






A nice platter of Italian antipasti!
   
     Caponata Recipe:
     Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of olive oil.
     Add 6 cloves of thin sliced garlic.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped celery.
     Gently saute till the vegetables become aldente.
     Cut the ends off of a medium size eggplant.  (Leave the skin on the eggplant.)
     Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise.
     Cut the two eggplant halves into 1/4" thick slices.
     Add the eggplant slices to the pan.
     Saute till the eggplant starts to become tender.
     Add olive oil if necessary.  Eggplant absorbs oil!
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 cup of plum tomato filets that are cut into strips.
     Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
     Add 1/4 cup of  balsamic vinegar.
     Add 1/4 cup of water. 
     Note:  The mixture should look like a vegetable stew that has very little liquid.  At this point, stirring occasionally is key.  Don't let this caponata get too mushy by simmering for too much time.  Only add a minimum amount of the balsamic vinegar and a tiny splash of water, so that the time spent simmering will not be long.
     Gently stir the caponata.
     Gently simmer and reduce till there is no excess of liquid and the vegetables are well coated. 
     The caponata should be rich and dark colored with the thick sauce clinging to the vegetables.
     Remove the caponata from the heat. 
     Place the caponata into a container and chill it in a refrigerator.
     Chill the caponata for at least two hours before serving, so that all the flavors meld.
   
     Insalata di Bonito Carciofi Recipe:
     Bonito is in the tuna family.  The flavor of bonito is a little bit stronger than bluefin tuna.
     Place a 4 to 6 ounce bonito filet on a baking pan.
     Season the filet with sea salt and black pepper.
     Add a generous splash of water to the pan.
     Bake the bonito in a 350 degree oven, till it is fully cooked.
     Cool the bonito to room temperature.
     Use a fork to flake the bonito meat into thin small pieces.
     Place the flaked bonito into a mixing bowl.
     Add 6 to 8 pitted black olives that are cut in half.
     Add 1 handful of quartered artichoke hearts.  (Canned artichoke hearts are fine for this recipe.)
     Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add a small squeeze of lemon juice.
     Add just enough virgin olive oil to coat the ingredients.
     Toss the ingredients together and chill in a refrigerator.
   
     Mozzarella Crostini Recipe:
     Cut 4 thin slices of Italian bread.
     Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil.
     Place the bread slices on a baking pan.
     Bake in a 350 degree oven, till the bread slices become lightly toasted and crisp.
     Place a thin slice of fresh mozzarella on each crostini.
     Return the pan to the oven.
     Bake untill the fresh mozzarella becomes soft.  (Do not brown the cheese or it will have a bitter flavor!)
     Sprinkle a pinch of oregano over the cheese.
   
     Insalata di Bonito Carciofi con Caponata e Mozzarella Crostini:
     Place a small mound of mixed lettuce onto a platter.
     Garnish the lettuce with a few sliced carrots and onion slices.
     Place a few slices of tomato on the platter around the lettuce.
     Place the bonito carciofi mixture on top of the lettuce.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of coarse ground black pepper over the salad.
     Place a small portion of caponata on the platter.
     Place the mozzarella crostini on the platter.
   
     This is a satisfying, healthy and great tasting antipasti platter!  Placing the caponata or the  bonito carciofi on a slice of the cheese crostini while dining creates such a nice combination of flavor.  I made the bread a couple days ago and it is perfect for making crostini.  Slightly staled bread is best for crostini.
     This coponata recipe is one of many regional styles of Italian caponata.  Italian cooking is simplicity at its best.  Quality ingredients and good techniques are the key to making good Italian food.  Italian cuisine creates great flavors from a just a few ingredients.  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna

Antipasti di Caprese e Insalata a Caponata





A caprese platter that is a nice light meal!
  
     Depending on the owner of each Italian restaurant that I worked in, the presentation of caprese varied from kitchen to kitchen.  Some presentations are plain simple perfection.  Others go too far from traditional.  Caprese is sliced ripe tomato and sliced fresh mozzarella with virgin olive oil and oregano.  Caprese should not be drowned with balsamic vinaegrette or other strong dressings!
     This antipasti platter features caprese, a simple salad and caponata.  An antipasti platter like this is commonly served as a business lunch item in fine restaurants.  Business lunch customers usually do not have time for a multi course meal.  Placing a few nice items on one antipasti platter will satify a lunch customer who is "on the go"!   
     We used to make our own fresh mozzarella from curd in a few Italian kitchens.  Stretching fresh curds to form fresh mozzarella cheese was relaxing work in the afternoon.  Quality store bought fresh mozzarella is fine for this recipe.  Fresh oregano is good, but most chefs prefer dried oregano for caprese.  Some herbs are better when dried.  Salt and pepper is never used on good fresh mozzarella, because it will mask the delicate milk flavors of the cheese.    
  
     Caponata Recipe:
     Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 generous splash of olive oil.
     Add 6 cloves of thin sliced garlic.
     Add 1 small handful of chopped onion.
     Add 1 small handful of chopped celery.
     Gently saute, till the vegetables become al dente.
     Cut the ends off of 1 medium size eggplant.  (Leave the skin on the eggplant.)
     Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise.
     Cut the two eggplant halves into 1/4" thick slices.
     Add the eggplant slices to the pan.
     Saute till the eggplant starts to become tender.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 handful of peeled seeded plum tomato filets that are cut into strips.
     Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
     Add 1/4 cup of  balsamic vinegar.
     Add a tiny splash of water. 
     Note:  Do not let this caponata get too mushy by simmering for too much time.  Only add a minimum amount of the balsamic vinegar and a tiny splash of water, so that the time spent simmering will not be long.
     Gently stir the caponata.
     Gently simmer and reduce the liquid. 
     The caponata should be rich and dark colored with the thick sauce clinging to the vegetables.
     Remove the caponata from the heat. 
     Place the caponata into a container and chill it in a refrigerator.
     Chill the caponata for at least two hours before serving, so the flavors meld.
  
     Insalata Recipe: 
     Place a small mound of mixed lettuce on one part of a plate.
     Place a few slices of onion on the lettuce.
     Place a few thin slices of celery on the lettuce.
     Place a few thin carrot matchsticks on the lettuce.
     Place a few pitted black olives on the lettuce.
     Sprinkle a little bit of virgin olive oil over the lettuce.
     Sprinkle a little bit of Modena balsamic vinegar over the lettuce.
     Season the salad with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
  
     Caprese: 
     The quality of the tomato and cheese is very important, when making caprese.  Choose the best!
     Alternate one sliced Roma tomato with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese on a serving plate.  The slices of mozzarella and tomato should be about 1/4" thick.  (3 or 4 slices of each is a nice portion)
     Drizzle a small amount of virgin olive oil over the cheese and tomatoes.
     Sprinkle 1 small pinch of oregano over the tomatoes and cheese.
     Do not season with salt or pepper!
  
     Antipasti di Caprese e Insalata a Caponata: 
     Place a mound of the insalata beside the caprese on the plate.
     Brush two thin slices of Italian bread with olive oil.
     Toast the crostini in an oven, till they become golden in color.
     Place the crostini on the plate.
     Place a small portion of the capanata on the plate.
  
     Yummy!  This is full plate of Italian antipasti platter that makes for a nice lunch!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grilled Ham with a Rustic Apple Prune Sauce, Escalloped Potato and Rutabaga Batonets





   
Delicious!

     This was originally a pork chop recipe that I learned from a Swiss chef at a tropical resort in the 1980's.  The rustic apple prune sauce is equally as nice with ham.
     This style of rutabaga presentation is one that I have served in a few restaurants.  When the rutabaga is cut this way, the rutabaga looks like French Fries.  I had to stop serving rutabaga this way at an English Pub that I worked in, because a few drunken customers would mistakenly complain about the french fries being soggy.  I had to laugh!  What they thought was french fries was really this style of rutabaga!
     This is a nice presentation of  ham dinner!  The apple and prune sauce is delicious with ham.  It is a rustic chunky sauce and not a puree.  The rustic apple sauce is very light and not too sweet.

     Escalloped Potato Recipe:
     This recipe makes 2 to 3 portions!
     Cut 2 peeled russet potatoes into very thin slices.
     Place the potato slices side by side on a large sheet pan.
     Lightly dust the potato slices with flour.
     Place the dusted potato slices into a mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Add 1 cup of milk.
     Place 2 egg whites into a seperate mixing bowl.
     Whisk the egg whites till medium stiff meringue peaks are formed.
     Add the meringue to the potatoe mixture.
     Gently fold the ingredients together.
     Place the potato mixure into a small high sided baking pan.
     Arrange the potatoes in the pan, so they are an even 1/2" thick layer.
     Par bake the escalloped potatoes in a 350 degree oven, till the potatoes become a very light golden color.
     Allow the potatoes to cool to room temperature.
     Refrigerate the par baked escalloped potatoes for at least 1 hour, so they gel and become solid.
     Cut the sheet of escalloped  potatoes into triangle shaped portions.
     Place 1 escalloped potato triangle on a buttered pie tin.
     Bake the escalloped potato triangle in a 350 degree oven, till golden brown highlights appear.
     Keep the escalloped potato triangle warm on a stove top.
     You can plate this kind of escalloped potato vertically if you wish.  The escalloped potato becomes firm when using this cooking technique.

     Rustic Apple Prune Sauce Recipe:
     Peel and core 1 apple.
     Cut the apple into wedges.
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add the apple wedges.
     Saute the apple wedges for 1 minute.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of water.
     Add 3 or 4 prunes that are cut in half.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt. 
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid, till the apples become cooked tender and a light thin glaze sauce is formed.
     Keep the rustic apple prune sauce warm over very low heat. 

     Rutabaga Batonets Recipe:
     Cut a piece of peeled rutabaga into 1/4"x1/4"x4" batonet french fry shapes.  (One handful is all that is needed for a portion.)
     Boil 3 cups of water in a sauce pot over high heat.
     Add the rutabaga sticks.
     Cook the rutabaga, till it becomes al dente.
     Drain the water off of the rutabaga.
     Place the sauce pot and rutabaga over very low heat.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Keep the rutabaga sticks warm.

     Grilled Sliced Ham Recipe: 
     Cut 6 to 8 ounces of thick escalloped slices of ham. 
     Trim off any excess fat.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add the ham slices. 
     Grill the ham slices on both sides, till they become hot and till they have golden brown highlights.

     Grilled Ham with a Rustic Apple Prune Sauce, Escalloped Potato and Rutabaga Batonets: 
     Arrange the ham slices on the plate.
     Spoon the apple plum sauce on top of the ham.
     Place some steamed broccoli or a vegetable of your choice on the plate.
     Set the rutabaga batonets on the plate in a stacked lattice pattern.
     Place the escalloped potato triangle on the plate, so it is standing vertically.

     This is a nice ham dinner for a chilly day!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Honey Curry Glazed Pork Chop with Escalloped Potatoes




     I served a chicken that was prepared with this simple glaze to friends who worked for British Airways in the early 1980's.  One of the friends who was a British Airways mechanic had a brother who was the executive chef for same airline.
     They wanted the recipe!  My simple honey curry glazed chicken recipe was put on the flight menu occasionally, by the British Airways executive chef!  British Airways served some very nice food for inflight meals at that time.  My honey curry glaze recipe went world famous the easy way, by being served by an international airline!  The British love curry spices, so the glaze was well received by the airline's patrons.
     This style of escalloped potato was one that I learned while working for a Swiss chef at a busy fine seafood restaurant.  The escalloped potatoes are firm enough to be cut into shapes.  The technique is simple.  All that needs to be done is to refrigerate the firm escalloped potato, before slicing, so the ingredients gel.
      If you ever had a job doing airline food, then you know concessions have to be made as to how the food will be prepared, because of extended holding times.  I grew up in the restaurant business as a kid in a great Mexican restaurant.  Later during high school, I washed dishes and learned seafood prep work at a very busy Florida seafood restaurant.  The next tourist season, I took on a job bussing tables at a resort hotel.  While bussing tables one day, the cook quit the job and I was asked if I wanted to learn how to cook.  Of course I accepted the cook job and I learned high volume breakfast cooking from a chef that had worked at the Naval base in San Diego.  This chef was used to cooking for over 15,000 people per meal.  I learned every cooking shortcut technique for cooking food quickly and accurately.  I soon became able to cook for busloads of customers by myself with no help.
     One of the duties of my job, after breakfast and lunch hours had ended, was to cook food for the local airline each day.  It was not really a big modern airline that I prepared food for.  This was a tropical resort community and the local airline was comprised of three very old DC-3 propeller driven airplanes.  Every veteran pilot in the world has fond memories about how tough and rugged that DC-3's were.  A DC-3 could fly on one sputtering engine through the worst tropical storms with no problem!
     DC-3's were not the smoothest ride in the sky, but they were one of the safest.  DC-3's were perfect for Florida and the caribbean, because they could handle adverse tropical storm flying conditions and they did not require long runways.  DC-3's were also very popular with smugglers for the for the same reasons, but that is a branch of this story that I will write about at some other time.
     In flight meals were served on the DC-3's by the local little island hopper airline.  I prepared the meals for the little airline in the afternoons.  Everything had to be cooked, so after being held in hot boxes for 2 hours, it would not be overcooked.  Every butcher knows what an airline chicken breast is.  It is a boneless chicken breast with the bone attached.  Most of the meals for the island hopper airline were airline chicken breasts that were dressed up in a variety of ways.
     One of the concessions made to the food for a small airline with a fleet of DC-3 island hoppers was for the food had to be made in a way that would lessen the risk of spills or messes.  During tropical storms, "air pockets" in a stormy sky can drop a plane hundreds of feet with no warning and everything that is not nailed down will float in the air!  Meals and passengers bouncing in their seats or off of the cabin ceiling was a common sight.  Loose thin sauces are taboo on small island hopper airline food.  Every sauce has to be thickened, so it clings to the entree.  Serving temperatures of the food has to be in a low but safe range to prevent burns.  Just forget about complex modern presentations of the island hopper airline food, because after the roller coaster ride experience of a plane passing through a series of air pockets is over, the food is going to be rearranged as it lands back on the plate!    
     Cooking food for a small airline came in handy later in my career for preparing boxed lunches for large convention attendees at large tropical resorts.  Boxed lunches are a big item in Las Vegas casinos, because of the booming convention business.  Not everybody at a large convention of over 100,000 attendees has time to dine at a banquet facility during the show.  Boxed lunches are passed to those who are busy doing the convention hand shaking duties.  Las Vegas convention boxed lunches can be very interesting gourmet meals.
     Preparing airline food or boxed lunches for conventions is fun work.  Everything is done in an assembly line fashion, but it never seems like tedious work.  The whole process of this style of food moves very fast.  This is a good area for new cooks in the food industry who want to learn agility skills in a high volume environment.    
   
     Escalloped Potato Recipe:
     This recipe makes 2 to 3 portions!
     Cut 2 peeled russet potatoes into very thin slices.
     Place the potato slices side by side on a large sheet pan.
     Lightly dust the potato slices with flour.
     Place the dusted potato slices into a mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Add 1 cup of milk.
     Place 2 egg whites into a seperate mixing bowl.
     Whisk the egg whites, till medium stiff meringue peaks are formed.
     Add the meringue to the potatoe mixture.
     Gently fold the ingredients together.
     Place the potato mixure into a small high sided baking pan that is brushed with melted unsalted butter.
     Arrange the potato mixture in the pan, so it is an even 1/2" thick layer.
     Bake the escalloped potatoes in a 350 degree oven, till the potatoes become a very light white and gold color.
     Allow the potatoes to cool to room temperature.
     Refrigerate the par baked escalloped potatoes for 1 hour.
     Slice the potatoes into triangle shaped portions.
     Place 1 escalloped potato triangle on a buttered pie tin.
     Bake the escalloped potato triangle in a 350 degree oven, till golden brown highlights appear.
     Keep the escalloped potato triangle warm on a stove top.
     You can plate this kind of escalloped potato vertically if you wish.  The escalloped potato becomes firm when using this cooking technique, yet it remains moist.
  
     Honey Curry Glaze Recipe:
     Place 2 ounces of honey into a small bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 2 teaspoons of garam masala curry powder.
     Add 1 pinch of  cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Set the glaze aside.
 
     Honey Curry Glazed Pork Chop Recipe:
     Trim the excess fat off of a 6 to 8 ounce pork chop.
     Season the pork chop with 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Pan sear the pork chop on both sides, till the pork chop is almost fully cooked and brown highlights appear.
     Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
     Heat a small saute pan over medium low heat.
     Place the honey curry glaze into the pan.
     Place the seared pork chop in the honey glaze.
     Heat the glaze and pork chop together.
     Flip the pork chop a few times in the glaze, so it becomes well coated.
 
     Honey Curry Glazed Pork Chop with Escalloped Potatoes: 
     Place the glazed pork chop on a plate.
     Place the escalloped potato next to the pork chop.
     Place a vegetable of your choice next to the escalloped potato.
  
     This is a nice clean looking plate of food!  There are no runny saucy escalloped potatoes creating a mess on the plate.  The honey curry glaze has one of those great flavors that is hard to stop eating, once the first bite is tasted.  This is one great tasting pork chop!  The original chicken version is nice with this glaze too.  This is a meal that is perfect for a small airline or home!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Original Caesar Salad and the Origin of the Famous Caesar Salad Recipe!







     There are so many poor quality bad caesar salads that are served in second rate restaurants.  Thick pre-made goop in a bucket that many low end restaurants call caesar dressing is not what a true caesar looks like.  Overly seasoned croutons are another trait of a bad caesar salad.
     The original caesar dressing had a very light texture and it was golden in color.  Caesar dressing should be made to order, just like how the original recipe was made.  In fine restaurants, caesar salad dressing is made table side by a captain or Maitre D'.  
     One famous tale about the origin of a caesar salad states that this salad was made quickly on a busy night, when the food supply was running low in a restaurant kitchen, during the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.  That story is entertaining, but caesar salad was invented many years before.
     Other stories say that an Italian American restaurant owner named Caesar Cardini invented this recipe in the early 1900's while operating a restaurant in Tijuana during the American prohibition.  A caesar salad's flavors are Italian in origin, so the early 1900's story seems to be plausible.  The style of whipping up a dressing by the table side to impress customers goes far back into Italian culinary history and Persian Arabic history.  Because worcestershire sauce is a fermented product, Arabic Persian origins of caesar salad can be discounted.
     Nobody knows if the caesar salad was invented by Caesar Cardini for sure, because there was so much table side salad preparation being done in the early 1900's.  Like the start of many recipes, the caesar dressing may have been made by many Italian Americans for years, before being given a name.  
     While apprenticing in Italian restaurants, I learned to make a thick basil garlic aioli for salads.  The dressing was simply referred to as the house salad dressing by the Sicilian and Venetian chefs.  That dressing had no name, but it was a standard Italian dressing.  Later in my career, that same thick basil garlic dressing was also simply referred to as the house dressing at another fine Italian dressing.  I asked an Italian chef at the restaurant why the thick salad dressing had no name.  I got the good old Italian wise guy response of "What do you want me to do?  Name this dressing after myself like Caesar did?  If I give it a name, then we can't use this dressing as our house dressing anymore!"
     It took nearly 20 years for me to fathom what that Italian chef meant in that wise guy style response!  The chef was wise, but he sure was no smart aleck.  That chef state the truth.  The style of an unnamed mysterious secret house dressing was very popular with Italian restaurateurs in the early 1900's and it is still popular today.  Great unnamed house dressing recipes are shared by many Italian restaurateurs in a syndicated fashion from coast to coast.  If a house dressing had a name, then it would not be a scret or a true Italian house dressing!
     Whether the guests at Caesar Cardini's restaurant caused the house dressing to be named caesar dressing or whether Caesar Cardini named the standard Italian house dressing after himself is unknown.  The unnamed golden colored house dressing that was made table side at many Italian restaurants was finally named caesar dressing after Caesar Cardini.
     The caesar salad and dressing became popular with the elite who travelled across the border into Tijuana Mexico to enjoy some legal booze during the prohibition years.  The elite and Hollywood crowd love to make food items famous, and they made the caesar salad famous.  So, the common golden Italian house dressing became famous and it was named caesar dressing, to the dismay of other Italian restaurateurs that were serving this dressing simply as an unnamed secret house dressing at the time!
     That is why the Italian chef that I asked about naming the house dressing had spoken with dread about naming the house dressing after himself like Caesar Cardini supposedly did.  That chef did not want to be cursed by other Italian restaurant owners that were using that same unnamed thick basil garlic dressing for their house salads!                
     Caesar salad originally was served as thin wedge of romaine with the stem attached.  The customer was expected to pick the lettuce up by the stalk, dip into the dressing on the plate and dine with the fingers.  That was the style of fine dining salads in the 1920's and 1930's.  Croutons, pimiento and anchovies accompanied this salad.  A sprinkle of fresh grated parmesan cheese accompanied the dressing, but it was not one of the ingredients in the dressing.  A few oil cured black olives were served on the plate.  (Not kalamata olives!)
     Anchovy in the dressing or not?  That is the only modern age option.  The original caesar salad had anchovy filets on the plate and no anchovies in the dressing.  Later, anchovy paste or chopped anchovy became part of the caesar dressing.
     It took a lot of research and luckily asking the right question to a wise guy Italian chef that gave an insightful response many years ago to confirm the origin of caesar dressing.  My step Syrian Lebanese grandfather was a speakeasy piano player in the prohibition years and he was a restauranteur.  He told me that caesar salad was popular long before that salad was given a name.  He too mentioned somebody had been cursed for giving that house salad a name!  The true origin of the caesar salad falls into the realm of secret Italian house dressings that were later given a name!  Once a name is given to a common Italian house salad dressing, the party comes to an end!

     Caesar Salad Croutons: 
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 genterous splash of olive oil.
     Add 1 small handful of small diced cube shaped Italian bread pieces.  (Remove the crust from the bread first.)
     Stir and saute the small bread cubes gently, till they become crisp and golden in color.
     Remove the croutons from the hot pan and set them on a dish.
     Set the croutons aside.
     Add absolutely no seasoning to the croutons!  This is the way ceasar croutons were made for the original recipe.  Overly seasoned croutons will detract from the great flavors of the dressing. 

     Caesar Salad Dressing Recipe:
     Make the Ceasar dressing first, so the flavors meld!  Caesar dressing was not originally made like a thick emulsion.  
     Place 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil into a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 egg yoke.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce.
     Add coarse ground black pepper and sea salt.
     Add 2 finely minced anchovy filets or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste.  (The anchovies are optional.  Anchovies became part of caesar dressing long after the dressing was named.)
     Add 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard.
     Start whisking the ingredients.
     Whisk until the oil and ingredients are slighly emusified.
     Add 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, while whisking.
     Add the freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 of a lemon, while whisking. 
     Drizzle 2 tablespoon more of virgin olive oil, while gently and slowly stirring, so the dressing remains a golden color and so it does not emulsify like an aioli or mayonnaise!
     Note:  The dressing should have a thin smooth body and it should far from creamy.  It should be a semi translucent golden color.  The dressing should only be partially emuslified.  If all the oil was added last while whisking, then this caesar dressing would have an incorrect white mayonnaise color and texture.
     Set the caesar dressing aside and let the dressing flavors meld, while the salad is arrange on the plate.

     Caesar Salad Assembly:
     Chopped romaine was not how the original caesar salad was made!  Thin wedges of romaine were picked up by the stalk end by the fingers and then eaten.
     Place two trimmed romaine lettuce quarter wedges on a plate.
     Spoon the caesar dressing over the lettuce wedges and onto the plate.
     Sprinkle the croutons over the lettuce wedges.
     Sprinkle a little bit of finely grated parmesan cheese over the lettuce.
     Garnish the lettuce wedges with 2 anchovy filets and 4 long thin roasted pimiento strips.
     Garnish the plate with a few oil cured black olives and 2 lemon wedges.

     What a classic caesar salad this is!  The olive oil flavor permeates the unseasoned croutons.  The plain flavor of the croutons do not compete with the caesar dressing's flavor at all.  Picking the lettuce up by the stalk and dipping it in the caesar dressing on the plate is a fun old fashioned way to eat this salad and it is the original way this salad was eaten!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tacchino alla Tetrazzini









Turkey Tetrazzini is so very comfortable and tasty!
   
     Turkey Tetrazzini was created in the early 1900's by a great American chef for an Italian opera star named Luisa Tetrazzini.  The aroma of almonds, parmesan cheese, mushrooms, mirepoix vegetables, peas and roasted turkey is heavenly!
     Turkey Tetrazzini has become a forgotten relic of the past in recent years.  "Greasy Spoon" restaurants sometimes serve a very bastardized version of this recipe that is worth avoiding!  Cheap diners make Turkey Tetrazzini with canned cream of mushroom soup that is awful.
     The reputation of  Turkey Tetrazzini took a turn for the worse, because only second rate cooks in cheap restaurants seemed to be the only cooks that made this entree.  School cafeterias and cheap buffets also offered really poor quality versions of Turkey Tetrazzini.  Badly prepared versions of Turkey Tetrazzini are comparable to a poorly prepared turkey a la king recipe.
     Way back when great chefs created these fine recipes, both Turkey Tetrazzini and turkey or chicken a la king were trendy delightful popular entrees.  On my prom night in high school, we went to a very fine traditional English restaurant.  The restaurant was famous for several menu items, including the original version of Turkey Tetrazzini.  Since Turkey Tetrazzini was a ladies entree, I ordered it for my prom night dinner.  I still remember how great that the well prepared Turkey Tetrazzini tasted.  It was like the flavor was created specifically for an Italian opera star!  
     When customers try any famous classic entree for the first time and the preparation of that entree is very poorly executed, then the customer usually associates the classic entree as an item to be avoided in the future.  My first experience with Turkey Tetrazzini was a good one, so I did some research to find out how the original recipe was made.
      This pasta entree was named after a famous opera diva, so this entree should look and taste like it was made for a famous Italian opera diva.  Tacchino alla Tetrazzini is made with Italian cooking techniques and it should be presented with simple classic Italian style.  Tacchino Tetrazzini was one of the first pasta entrees that I learned to make and it is still one of my favorites.
   
     Tacchino alla Tetrazzini Recipe:
     Angel hair capellini pasta only takes a few minutes to cook, so be careful not to overcook the pasta! Roasted turkey is needed for this recipe.  Roast some turkey ahead of time or buy a piece of roasted turkey at a delicatessen.
     Boil 1 large portion of angel hair capellini pasta in boiling water over high heat.
     When the pasta becomes al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Cool the angel hair capellini pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Place the angel hair capellini pasta into a bowl.
     Add a tiny splash of olive oil.  (The olive oil will keep the pasta from sticking together and breaking!)
     Toss the pasta with the small amount of olive oil.
     Set the pasta aside, till later in the recipe.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely diced carrot.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely diced onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely diced celery.
     Add 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic.
     Saute the mirepoix vegetables, till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Add 1/3 cup of mushrooms that are cut into mini wedges.  (Small portabella mushrooms are great for this recipe!)
     Saute till the mushrooms begin to become tender.
     Add 4 tablespoons of toasted chopped almonds.
     Saute and stir the ingredients for 1 minute.
     Add about 5 or 6 ounces of diced oven roasted turkey.
     Add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.
     Add 1 cup of dry white wine.
     Simmer and reduce the wine by half.
     Add 1 cup of cream.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Add 3 tablespoons of grated imported Italian parmigiana cheese, while constantly stirring.
     Stir until the parmesan cheese melts into the sauce.
     Add 1/3 cup of thawed frozen peas.
     When the sauce reduces to a medium thin consistency, add the reserved al dente cooked angel hair capellini pasta.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Place the sauced pasta into an oven proof baking bowl or casserole dish.
     Sprinkle a small amount of fine plain bread crumbs over the pasta.
     Sprinkle a small amount of finely grated imported Italian parmesan cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of finely chopped Italian parsley over the pasta.
     Bake the pasta in a 350 degree oven, till the cheese and bread crumbs become very lightly toasted.
     Place the bowl of Tacchino alla Tetrazzini on a serving platter.
     Garnish with a slice of lemon slice that has chopped parsley sprinkled on it.
     Be sure to warn the guest that the pasta bowl is hot!
  
     Delicious!  The flavors of Tacchino alla Tetrazzini are light, warmly comfortable and elegant.  This pasta triggers the "feel good" sensation center of the appetite!  The almond and hint of lemon flavor is classic combination.
     As with any pasta, don't make this recipe too saucy.  Turkey Tetrazzini should not be served swimming in the sauce.  This recipe is great for extra Thanksgiving turkey bits and pieces.
     Larochette Manciat Macon-Morizottes 2005 is a very affordable French White Burgundy Chardonnay French table wine that is perfect with this pasta.
     Tacchino alla Tetrazzini is an awesome tasting classic pasta entree!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna

Chicken Cacciatore







This is a famous New York Italian recipe!
     Cacciatore is a stewed chicken or veal recipe.  The sauce should cling tight against the chicken or veal and the sauce should not be thin and loose on the plate.
     The flavor of this entree is very rich!  Wine is rarely used in Italian tomato sauces.  Many Italian chefs add a small amount of red wine to salsa di pomodoro, because the necessary tenderizing enzymes and acids from the red wine help to cook the tomatoes.  There is not enough red wine added to a salsa di pomodoro to be detected by the taste buds!
     The tomato sauce for a cacciatore recipe does require enough white wine to be tasted.  In this case, the wine helps to tenderize the chicken and it adds a classic flavor.
     Many of the older high Italian cuisine chefs, that I apprenticed with, scorned chicken on a menu.  Many traditional Italian chefs do not like chicken and they do not like the flavor of chicken.  It is not because chicken has a reputation of being poor people food.  It is because Italy, like Mexico, did not start to have refrigeration available nationwide, till the 1960's.  Before that it was ice coolers or mountain cellars that kept food chilled.
     Whole dead chickens used to hang at Italian markets, till they were sold, just like chicken in the markets of the Roman empire.  After hanging in warm air for several hours, a chicken carcass will develop a sulphur aroma and flavor in the meat.  That stink of sulphur oxides in chicken is an unforgettably bad smell!
     The same old traditional Italian chefs that I apprenticed with, preferred eggs over chicken!  Omelettes, frittatas and tomato sauce pastas with poached eggs on top is what they like to cook and eat.  The chicken or the egg?  In Italian fine dining, the egg wins!
     Italian American family style restaurants have no problem offering chicken on a menu.  Chicken sells okay in America and the family style clientele does order chicken on a menu.  High class Italian restaurants do offer the original veal cacciatore, but never chicken cacciatore.  The only chicken offered in fine dining is the occasional game hen or free range chicken entree on a French menu.
     I prefer the original veal cacciatore recipe to the chicken recipe, but chicken does taste great with the cacciatore preparation.  Many modern chefs are not aware that veal is even offered as cacciatore.  So many restaurants serve chicken cacciatore, that veal has been cast aside and many people associate the word cacciatore with only chicken.  Ce la vie!  
   
     Salsa di Pomodoro Recipe:
     This recipe makes several portions of salsa di pomodoro.  This tomato sauce is an Italian mother sauce for several Italian recipes.  The recipe for this tomato sauce was taught to me by a Sicilian chef who won the title of the best saute chef in New York City a very long time ago.
     Heat a large sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of olive oil.
     Add 8 cloves of finely chopped garlic.
     Add 1 handful of finely minced onion.
     When the onions turn clear in color, add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add a 28 ounce can of imported canned Italian crushed plum tomatoes.
     Place a 28 ounce can of canned imported whole Italian plum tomatoes that are packed in their own juices into a mixing bowl.
     Hand squeeze and crush the tomatoes, till no big chunks remain.
     Add the hand crushed tomatoes and their own juices to the sauce pot.
     Add 5 pinches of oregano.
     Add sea salt and ground black pepper.
     Add 1 small bunch of chopped fresh basil.
     Add 1 cup of Italian dry red wine.
     Stir the olive oil into the sauce.
     Heat the sauce, till it barely starts to come to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.  (Never cover a pot of an Italian tomato sauce!  The sauce will turn out watery and "flat" instead of a glistening red color.)
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced Italian parsley.
     Slowly simmer the sauce for 4 hours. 
     Stir the sauce once every 5-7 minutes, during the entire cooking time.  Stir from the bottom up!  The object is to stir the olive oil into the tomatoes, till the tomatoes grab and hold the olive oil on their own.
     The sauce should be simmering very gently, so that there is very little bubbling on the surface.
     Scrape the sauce that clings to the inside rim of the pot back into the sauce occasionally.
     After 4 hours, the flavors will be melded together and the tomato sauce will have a true rich body.  The excess tomato juices will be reduced by this time.  The olive oil will be well combined with the tomatoes, because of the regular stirring.
     Set the sauce aside.
     Run the salsa di pomodoro through a hand cranked food mill, if you happen to have one.
     The excess amount of sauce that is leftover from this recipe can be refrigerated and used for another recipe.
   
     Chicken Cacciatore Recipe:
     Either a half of a whole chicken cut into quarters or one large chicken breast is considered to be one serving of chicken cacciatore.  I chose to use 1 large chicken breast.
     Trim the skin and fat off of a 10 to 12 ounce bone-on chicken breast that and leave the bones attached.
     Cut the chicken breast through the rib cage bones into 3 equal size pieces.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 splash of olive oil.
     Add the 3 chicken breast pieces.
     Saute the chicken pieces, till they become lightly browned.
     Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic to the oil in the pan.
     Add 1 small handful of large bite size pieces of onion.
     Add 1 small handful of large bite size pieces of green bell pepper.
     Add 5 or 6 button mushrooms that are cut in half.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 3 pinches of oregano.
     Add sea salt and black pepper. 
     Saute and stir, till vegetables become cooked al dente.
     Add 1 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid by half.
     Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the salsa pomodoro.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.    
     Simmer the cacciatore uncovered, till the chicken becomes fully cooked and tender and the sauce reduces to a rich medium bodied tomato sauce consistency.  (Do not simmer the chicken cacciatore all day, or the meat will be dried out like a cheap buffet style chicken cacciatore!)
     Be sure to turn the chicken pieces in the sauce occasionally.
   
     Assembly:
     Cook one portion of fettucini pasta in boiling water ahead of time and drain the water off of the pasta, before plating.  Fettucini takes 10 to 12 minutes to become al dente.  Time the cooking of the pasta to finish at the same time that the cacciatore finishes cooking for the best results!
     Place the chicken pieces on the middle of a plate and leave room for the pasta.
     Spoon the sauce and vegetables over and around the chicken.
     Place the portion of al dente cooked fettucini noodles in the center of the plate between chicken pieces.
     Serve with some grated fresh parmesan cheese on the side.
     Of course, serve with Italian garlic bread on the side too!
   
     The tomato sauce will turn a little darker color from stewing with the chicken and wine, instead of bright glistening red color, but that is the nature of cacciatiore.  The flavor and aroma of this entree is 100% New York Italian!
     This is another simple perfection Italian entree that has so much history.  It is funny, you never feel full after eating chicken cacciatore!  Some people make this dish with no mushrooms, but this is the way it was taught to me when I apprenticed in fine Italian restaurant kitchens.  Mama Mia!  Yummy!  Ciao baby!  ...  Shawna

Halibut and Braised Beef Short Rib Stack a la Potatoes Anna, Dill Creme Potato and Sauce Magdelaine






     This fish and short rib stack entree is similar to a menu item that we served at a Michelin Star rated French restaurant that I worked in.  We served modern French comfort food like no other restaurant ever has!  We switched to French comfort cuisine because of the economic recession of 2001
     We broke all sales records that season, while many other fine dining restaurants were losing business.  Much of our competition at that time was serving overpriced uncomfortable fusion food.  After the events of September 2001, most people were not attracted to challenging eccentric fusion cuisine.
     This comfort food lesson was not learned by many restauranteurs in the current economic depression.  The lesson is, edgy eclectic overpriced cuisine does not sell as good, when people tighten their budgets.  For example, many of the "cutting edge" high end restaurants have closed their doors permanently in recent years.
     The smarter French chefs switched to fixe multi course pre fixe menus and modern comfort food to capture the customers who don't want to pay $80 for a 2 ounce piece of rare tuna with a "hit or miss" fusion preparation.  The chef of the decade, Joel Robuchon has had great success with the pre fixe and comfortable tapas cuisine menu concept in Las Vegas.  Many other chefs who did not adapt to the economic times abandoned their restaurants during this recession.
     Some of the haute comfort food that I have posted in my blog shows that I am a little bit ahead of the recent fine comfort food trend.  Experience is in my favor.  Making changes to get more business during adverse trends is part of restaurant and chef survival.  I have helped many restaurants survive bad economic times, by being aggressive with special du jour offerings that were geared to appeal to the demographic clientele that was spending money at the time.  People seem to seek comfort food during bad times!
     The only problem that we had with this recipe at the French restaurant was with the short ribs.  The chef assigned the short rib preparation duty to an inexperienced cook.  The short ribs were always improperly braised and they were always dried out instead of being moist and tender.  As you can see in the pictures, my braising technique yields some nice looking moist juicy short ribs.  Like all high end fine French cooking, the bones are removed from the short ribs before serving.
     We used micro sprouts as a garnish for this recipe instead of the simple green onion strips that are shown in the photos.  I was in Chicago when I cooked this recipe and gourmet items like micro green sprouts are not stocked in any middle of the road Chicago grocery stores!  John Dory was originally the featured fish.  The plate was painted with three flavors of beurre blanc, tomato concasse and the magdelaine sauce.  Parsnip chive creme potato was used instead of dill creme potato.  If you wish to go all the way, then use the restaurant's guidelines for this recipe.
     I designed this recipe blog version of the recipe to be a little bit simpler for the readers.  The main focus should be on the magdelaine sauce of reduced fish broth and espagnole style short rib sauce.  This is one of the rare plates of food that a magdelaine sauce can be used for!
  
     Braised Beef Short Ribs:
     Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 4 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 3 meaty beef short ribs.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sear the short ribs on all sides, till they become brown in color.
     Add 1 crushed clove of garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped onion.
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped tomato.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add enough beef stock to cover the ribs.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Place the pot into a 350 degree oven.
     Let the ribs braise, till they start to become tender.  (About 45 minutes to 1 hour.)
     Remove the ribs from the pan and set them aside.
     Place the sauce pot with the bouillon over medium heat.
     Gently boil and reduce the liquid by half.
     Add just enough blonde roux while whisking to thicken the sauce to a medium thin sauce consistency.
     Add 1/4 cup of cabernet sauvignon wine.
     Reduce the sauce, till the sauce is able to coat a spoon.
     Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Return the short ribs to the sauce.
     Gently simmer the short ribs in the sauce over low heat, for at least 20 minutes.
  
     Creme Dill Potato:
     Boil 1 peeled russet potato in water, till it becomes soft and tender.
     Drain the water off of the potato.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cream.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 3 pinches of chopped fresh dill.
     Whisk the potatoes, till they become mashed and creamy.
     Place the mashed dill potatoes into a star tipped pastry bag.
     Place the pastry bag on the stove top to keep it warm.
  
     Potatoes Anna:
     Cut 1/2 of a peeled russet potato into very thin slices.
     Brush a baking pan with melted unsalted butter.
     Place a 4 to 5 inch wide ring mold on the pan.
     Layer the thin slices of potato in the ring mold, till the potato slices are about 1/2 inch thick.
     Drizzle a generous amount of melted unsalted butter over the potato slices.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Bake in a 350 degree oven, till the potato slices turn golden brown.
     Keep the Potatoes Anna warm on a stove top.
   
     Broiled Halibut:
     Cut a 5 ounce halibut filet, so the piece of halibut is 4 to 5 inches around.
     Place the halibut on a buttered baking pan.
     Brush the halibut with melted unsalted butter.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Squeeze a little bit of lemon juice over the fish.
     Broil the halibut filet in an oven, till it becomes fully cooked.
     Keep the halibut warm on a stove top.
  
     Magdelaine Sauce:
     Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 clove of crushed garlic.
     Add 1 small handful of chopped onion.
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color.
     Add 3 to 4 ounces of white fish scraps.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Saute the fish scraps, till they become lightly browned.
     Add twice as much water as needed to cover the fish scraps in the pot.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Gently boil and reduce the liquid by half.
     Pour the fresh fish broth through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add just enough blonde roux, while whisking, to thicken the sauce to a thin sauce consistency.
     Remove the beef ribs from the simmering brown sauce in the other sauce pot and set them aside.
     Mix the two sauces together with a 50/50 proportion.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce over medium heat, till it can glaze a spoon.
     Keep the sauce warm over low heat.
  
     Halibut and Braised Beef Short Rib Stack a la Potatoes Anna, Dill Creme Potato and Sauce Magdelaine:
     Remove the bones from the short ribs.
     Trim the fat and sinew off of the short rib meat.
     Cut the beef short rib meat into thin slices.
     Pipe the dill cream potato onto the center of a plate, so they form a circle that is as wide as the Potatoes Anna.
     Place the braised short rib slices on top of the cream potatoes.
     Use a spatula to place the Potatoes Anna on top of the short ribs.
     Use a spatula to place the broiled halibut filet on top of the Potatoes Anna.
     Pour the Magdelaine Sauce around the plate.
     Garnish the sauce with a few dollops of diced tomato cancasse.  (Concasse means peeled, cored and seeded firm tomato flesh.)
     Garnish the halibut with thin scallion strips or a garnish of your choice.
  
     Think of this recipe as being a refined "Surf and Turf" entree!  This is one of a few dishes that use Magdelaine Sauce.  A true magdelaine sauce is based on espagnole and white fish veloute sauces combined.  Magdelaine refers to a seaside resort area in eastern europe where cutting edge creative modern food is the norm.
     The "Napoleon" style stacked presentation glorifies this entree.  Two preparations of the same type of potato on the same plate is not taboo.  Broiled halibut goes nicely with the beef short ribs and sauce.  The short ribs are juicy and tender!
     The flavors of this entree will make you want to open a bottle of fine wine.  Red or white wine?  Either choice of wine is good with this modern French comfort food entree!  Bon Apetit!  ...  Shawna

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pork Loin Chop with Pear and Porcini Brandy Creme with a Ratatouille Coin Purse





This is a very nice tasting pork loin chop entree!

     Pears and porcini mushrooms naturally go well together in a cream sauce.  The ratatouille phyllo purse adds to the appeal of the plate.
   
     Rustique Ratatouille Recipe:
     This recipe makes 2 portions!  
     The secret to making a good ratatouille is knowing when the vegetables are cooked tender, without being over cooked!  The herbs will be at their aromatic peak at that time.  
     A few pinches of  Traditional Classic French Herbs de Provence can be substituted for the long list of herbs in this recipe, if you wish.  Keep in mind that the traditional French Herbs de Provence contains no lavender flowers!  Both the American version and the modern French version of Herbs de Provence do contain lavender flowers.  
     Heat a large sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 splash of olive oil.  (about 1 ounce to 1 1/2 ounces)
     Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Saute the garlic, till it becomes a golden color.
     Add 1 small handful of coarsely chopped celery.
     Add 1 small handful of coarsely chopped onion.
     Add 1 small handful of coarsely chopped leek.
     Add 2 chopped green onions.
     Saute and stir, till the onions turn clear and translucent.
     Add 1 zucchini that is sliced in half lengthwise and cut into large bite size pieces.
     Add 1 yellow squash that is sliced in half lengthwise and cut into large bite size pieces.
     Add 1 long Chinese purple eggplant that is sliced in half lengthwise and cut into large bite size pieces.
     Add 2 coarsley chopped plum tomatoes.
     Add 1/2 of a red bell pepper that is cut into large bite size pieces.
     Add 1/2 of a yellow bell pepper that is cut into large bite size pieces.
     Saute and stir the vegetables, till they just start to become tender.
     Add 3 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of marjoram.
     Add 2 pinches of tarragon leaf.
     Add 6 chopped fresh basil leaves.
     Add 2 pinches of minced chervil.
     Add 1 pinch of rubbed sage.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of paprika.
     Add 3 pinches of chopped Italian parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the stew.
     Add enough vegetable broth to almost cover the vegetables.  The stock should be about 1/2" less the level of vegetables.
     Add 2 tablespoons of tomato puree.
     Bring the stew to a gentle boil.
     Immediately reduce the temperature to a medium low/low heat.
     Gentle stir the stew occasionally.  (Never cover a ratatouille pot with a lid, or the vegetables will become colorless and mushy!)
     The ratatouille should be ready after simmering for a short period of time.
     Note:  I hesitate to state an exact simmering time range, because the cooking time of vegetables can vary with the season and the amount of rainfall.  About 20 to 30 minutes of simmering is about the par.  It is important to keep an eye on the stew and stir it occasionally, so the vegetables do not overcook!  The vegetables should be cooked tender, but not mushy.  The slight loss of color should not be of first importance in a rustic style ratatouille.  It is the flavor and texture of a rustic ratatouille that counts!
     A 3 to 4 ounce portion of ratatouille will have to be chilled for making the phyllo purse. 

     Ratatouille Coin Purse Recipe:
     Cut a total of 8 - 6"x 6" square sheets of phyllo.
     Brush each phyllo sheet with melted unsalted butter, one at a time and stack the phyllo sheets on top of each other.
     Note:  Do not line the corners and sides of the phyllo sheets up with each other!  You want as many corners exposed as possible, so the phyllo looks like fabric on a purse.
     Place about 3 to 4 ounces of chilled ratatouille on the center of the stack of phyllo sheets.     
     Pick the sides of the phyllo sheets up around the ratatouille to form a purse.
     Butter a 3"x6" sheet of phyllo dough and roll it up to form a cord shape.
     Wrap the phyllo cord around the neck of the purse and tie a simple knot.
     Loosen the exposed "fabric" shaped phyllo on the top of the purse.
     Set the purse on a buttered baking pan.
     Bake the purse in a 300 degree oven, till it becomes golden brown.
     Keep the phyllo ratatouille purse warm on a stove top.
   
     Pork Loin Chop with Pear and Porcini Brandy Creme Recipe:
     If you use dried porcini, soak the dried porcini till they become tender and save the porcini soaking water for later in the recipe.
     Season 6 ounce boneless pork loin chop with sea salt and white pepper.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add the seasoned pork loin chop.
     Saute the pork chop, till it becomes lightly browned and till the pork chop is about halfway cooked.
     Drain off the excess grease from the pan.
     Add 5 or 6 small porcini mushroom slices.
     Saute the porcini for 20 seconds.
     Add 1/2 cup of brandy.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid by half.
     Add 1/2 cup of the porcini soaking water.
     Simmer reduce the sauce by half.
     Add 1/2 of a seeded, peeled, diced fresh pear.
     Add 2/3 cup of cream.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of sour cream.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium cream sauce consistency.
   
     Presentation:
     Set the ratatouille coin purse on the plate.
     Place the boneless pork loin chop on the plate.
     Cascade the sauce over and around the pork chop.
   
     The flavor of this sauce was made to be rich.  A heavy sauce consistency seems to work well with the ingredients of the sauce.
      Remind your guests that there is "hot merchandise" in the purse!  The ratatouille will come out of the purse steaming hot once the purse is cut open.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp Stuffed Mirliton with Okra Tomato Ragout






Yummy!
   
     Stuffed vegetables are very popular in Louisiana.  When the vegetable is carved to look like a canoe, then it is called a pirogue.  The mirliton stuffing is a bread stuffing with shrimp crawfish, the trinity vegetables, Cajun herbs and spices.  Mirliton is another name for chayote squash.  Chayote has a very mild zucchini squash kind of flavor.
   
     Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp Stuffed Mirliton Recipe:
     Cut a mirliton (chayote squash) in half lengthwise.
     Cut a flat spot on the bottom of one of the mirliton halves, so it can sit on a plate without rolling over.
     Use a spoon to scoop out the insides of the mirliton, leaving a thin shell and save the pulp and squash meat.  (Discard any hard seeds.)
     Finely chop the mirliton pulp.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 small splash of olive oil.
     Add 1 chopped garlic clove.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of a mixture of chopped red bell pepper and chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color.
     Add 1/2 of a chopped green onion.
     Add the reserved fine chopped mirliton pulp.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of sage.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of marjoram.
     Add 2 pinches of paprika.
     Add 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup of shrimp broth.
     Add 8 to 10 shelled crawfish tails
     Add 6 to 8 peeled small shrimp that are split in half lengthwise.     
     Simmer and reduce, till the liquid is nearly evaporated.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Stir in a light sprinkle of bread crumbs.  (About 1 tablespoon or less.)
     Add 1/2 of a whisked egg.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Stuff the uncooked mirliton shell with the crawdad and shrimp stuffing.
     Sprinkle a little bit of bread crumb over the stuffed mirliton.
     Place the stuffed mirliton on a roasting pan.
     Add a splash of water to the pan.
     Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, till the stuffing is fully cooked and mirliton shell becomes tender.
     Set the stuffed mirliton on a plate.
     You can serve the stuffed mirliton plain or serve it with stewed tomato.
     I served the stuffed mirlton in the pictures with an okra and tomato ragout.  
   
     Okra and Tomato Ragout Recipe:
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add a tiny splash of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 of a minced clove of garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     When the shallot turns clear in color, add 1 coarsely chopped peeled and seeded ripe tomato.
     Add 1 okra that is cut in half lengthwise.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3/4 cup of vegetable broth.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the ragout, till the tomato and okra become tender.  The broth should nearly be evaporated, when the ragout is done cooking.
   
     This stuffed mirliton is light, spicy and delicious!  Cajun food is like 400 year old French cuisine with Native American influences.  Cajun cuisine is Louisiana cooking at its finest!  There is no shortage of flavor in this stuffed mirliton.  Crawfish and shrimp is a popular combination in Louisiana.  Stewed tomato of any kind is complimentary to the flavor of chayote squash.  This is a very tasty stuffed mirliton entree!  Delicious!  ...  Shawna