Saturday, February 26, 2011

Linguettini and Chicken with Tomato Herb Sauce









     Pasta sauces like tomato herb sauce were very popular in the 1980's.  For customers, an appealing and "easy to identify" name of a pasta entree that is easy to pronounce was nice.  Pasta creations of all kinds were a trend during that era.  Previously to the 1980's, it seemed that an Italian restaurant was the only place that a good plate of pasta could be found.  French chefs and California chefs went absolutely nuts creating non traditional pasta entrees during the 1980's.  Haute cuisine gourmet ravioli creations became a favorite item for French chefs.
     During the mid 1980's I was working in a French cafe with a French chef who had taught culinary arts in two chef schools in France.  The cafe was located in a wealthy retirement area in Florida.  The cafe hosted fashion shows a few days during week.  Most of our clientele was senior citizen ladies and shoppers who wanted lunch.  A crowd like that does not want difficult to pronounce foreign language items on a menu or overly complicated cuisine.  When the chef wrote the menu for the cafe, all the items on the menu were written in plain English.  The French chef put no pastas on the menu.  I was the sous chef at the cafe and I was responsible for the lunch specials du jour.  I ran a pasta as one of my du jour offerings nearly every day.  I had a lot of Italian pasta experience, but serving Italian pasta in a French cafe is frowned upon, so I cooked pasta creations that had a french flair.
     That little French cafe's food was highly rated until the billionaire owner's assets were frozen in one of the biggest stock market scandals of all time!  One of our regular customers was a retired French chef who was the personal chef of the president of France.  He loved our food and I later worked for that chef!
     We only used fresh herbs in that cafe, so I had access to plenty of great flavor.  One of the most popular non traditional pasta sauces in the 1980's was a tomato herb sauce that was made with white wine.  That sauce appealed to many people.  Chicken is considered to be non traditional in Italian pastas, but American Italian restaurants usually offer one token chicken entree.  In the 1980's, chicken was looked upon as the healthy choice of food on a menu.
     As a chef, I liked tomato herb sauce because it gave me an opportunity to sell all the fresh herbs that may have been over stocked.  I am a great judge of knowing when it is necessary to create an entree to sell slow moving or overstocked food items.  The day before the fresh herbs started to wilt, I would sell this pasta to clear our inventory of perishable fresh herbs, so we could order new fresh herbs.  As you know, fresh herbs only stay fresh for a few days.  In restaurants and at home, it is a terrible waste to throw spoiled uncooked food in the trash.  Fresh herbs are usually sold in bunches, and it does take a few recipes to use up a fresh bunch of herbs.
      Last week, I bought three necessary bunches of herbs for some fusion and Thai recipes that I posted in my blog.  The same week, a fellow food writer wrote about always throwing fresh herbs that had turned black into the trash.  She wrote about drying those herbs as an alternative.  Well, I definitely had an overstock of fresh herbs in my refrigerator this week.  I thought to myself, "These are fresh herbs, why in the world would I want to dry them out?"  My response to that food writers ill teaching was to post a few recipes in my blog that require a tremendous amount of fresh herbs.  The Persian Kookoo Sabzi was a nice recipe that required a lot of fresh green herbs just like this pasta recipe.
     I did not have all the fresh herbs that I used to make this sauce in the past, so I added a few dried herbs that I had on hand, so the flavor would be correct.  The object was to cook the overstocked fresh herbs that were on hand and not to buy more fresh herbs to complete the recipe.  If you only have access to dried herbs, then this sauce will turn out fine too.  Fresh herbs always have a "crisper" flavor, but some herbs, like oregano, are better when dried.
     When making this entree, the pasta can be boiled while the sauce is simmering.  The pasta and sauce take about the same amount of time to cook, if good imported Italian canned San Marzano tomatoes are used.  San Marzano tomatoes require very little cooking time.  Tomato herb sauce is not Italian, but the cooking techniques should follow Italian tomato sauce making rules.  Tomato herb sauce is an American and French style tomato sauce.
  
     Tomato Herb Sauce Recipe:
     Fresh peeled and seeded overripe fresh tomatoes are a good choice for this recipe, but today's gassed GMO tomatoes do not ripen like old fashioned natural tomatoes.  I personally do not like GMO products at all, because they pose a health risk.  Italy and most european countries have banned GMO vegetables.  Imported Italian canned San Marzano tomatoes are the best tomatoes that money can buy.  Whole or crushed San Marzano tomatoes are fine for this recipe.
     Place 1 1/2 cups of imported Italian whole peeled and seeded San Marzano tomatoes that are packed in their own juices in a mixing bowl.  Be sure to add a portion of the thick juice from the can.
     Crush the tomatoes by hand.
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 6 ounces of small bite size pieces of boneless chicken breast filet.
     Gently saute the chicken pieces, till they become fully cooked and lightly caramelized.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color.
     Add the reserved crushed San Marzano tomatoes and their juices.
     Add these finely chopped fresh or dried herbs:
     - 1 teaspoon of minced basil
     - 1 teaspoon of minced cilantro
     - 1 pinch of ground sage
     - 2 pinches of marjoram
     - 1 pinch of oregano
     - 1 pinch of dill weed
     - 1 pinch of tarragon
     - 1 teaspoon of chives
     - 1 pinch of thyme
     - 2 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup dry white wine.  (I used a French white burgundy chablis.  I only cook with a wine that I would drink!)
     Add 1/3 cup of chicken stock.
     Note:  Now is the time to start cooking the pasta.  Cook 1 portion of linguettini pasta in boiling water over high heat, till the pasta becomes al dente.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
     Drain the water off of the pasta when it becomes al dente.
     Add the portion of al dente cooked linguettini pasta to the sauce.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Use a long straight tine carving fork to twist and coil the pasta as you pick the pasta up from the pan.
     Place the coiled pasta across a plate.
     Most of the chicken and excess sauce will remain in the pan when using this coiling pasta presentation method, so spoon the excess sauce and chicken over the pasta.
     Note:  The Italian cardinal pasta rule still applies!  Make only enough sauce to flavor the pasta and not flood the pasta with sauce!
     Sprinkle a little bit of grated romano cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish the pasta with a small basil sprig.
  
     Delicious and healthy!  This simple pasta recipe has such a great flavor.  The white wine combines with the tomatoes and herbs to create a very nice aroma and flavor.  The flavor of the sauce is perfect with chicken.  Linguettini, linguini or fettucini are the best pastas to use for this recipe.  Coiling long pasta adds a professional looking touch to the pasta presentation and it builds height.
     The mixture of herbs for the sauce is a personal choice.  Use a wide variety of herbs.  Chervil is nice in the herb mixture too.  The herb mixture in the recipe was the same as what I used to make this pasta at the French cafe.
     Yum!  Bon Appetite!  ...  Shawna                    

Friday, February 25, 2011

Portuguese Garbanzo and Chorizo Soup







     This Portuguese style soup is one of the best tasting bean soups that there is!  The flavor of the chorizo sausage is thoroughly infused in the broth and beans.  Dried or canned garbanzo beans can be used to make this soup.  Canned garbanzo beans still need quite a bit of simmering time to make them soft enough to become part of the broth.  The longer this soup simmers, the thicker the broth gets.
     This same soup is made in Spain.  There are many sausage and garbanzo soup versions in Spain and  Portugal.   I learned this soup a long time ago while working at a Florida bayside Swiss restaurant.  The chef was from Switzerland and the owner was from Portugal.  The owner of the restaurant was quite good at cooking traditional food from his home country.  When we ran this soup as a soup du jour, the owner cooked this soup.  The Swiss chef would laugh and say that he could not cook this soup any better than the owner could.  I watched this soup being cooked a few times and remembered how simply the soup was made.  Some soups do not require any special techniques.
      I later served this fine soup in cafes and pubs.  Customers love this soup!  One taste of this mildly spiced garbanzo bean soup and you will see why!
    
     Portuguese Garbanzo and Chorizo Soup Recipe:
     This recipe makes 1 large serving or 2 small servings!
     Simmer 10 ounces of cooked dried garbanzo beans or canned garbanzo beans in water over low heat, till they just start to become very tender.
     Drain off half of the water.
     Add enough pork broth to cover the beans with 2" of extra liquid.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped smoked bacon.  (The smoked bacon acts as a fat and it does not need to be cooked first.)
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Cover the pot.
     Continue to simmer the soup till the beans become very tender.
     Mash at least half of the garbanzo beans in the pot with a potato masher.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced celery.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced bell pepper.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Cover the pot and continue to simmer the soup, till the vegetables become tender.
     Add 1 peeled and seeded diced plum tomato.
     Add 4 to 6 ounces of thick sliced cooked chorizo sausage.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of paprika.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Gently simmer the soup, till the flavors meld and till the crushed garbanzo beans become smooth and till they thicken the broth.
     Stir the soup occasionally.
     Add 1/2 of a minced green onion.
     Simmer for 5 more minutes.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Ladle the soup into a bowl.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.
    
     The aroma of this soup is warm and comforting!  The herbs, spices and vegetables add a very nice flavor to the garbanzo beans.  The spicy chorizo sausage is perfectly suited for the flavor of the garbanzo beans.  This is a great chilly weather soup!  Yum!  ...  Shawna  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Algerian Kefta with Harissa Chickpeas







No shortage of great flavor here!
  
     Algerian and North African cuisine shares many Arabic cuisine influences.  Algerian Kefta is nearly the same as Arabic Kafta or Armenian Kufta.  India and several nearby places call these meatballs kofta or kofte.  There are many different spellings and variations of kefta in Persian, Farci and Hebrew languages.
     Many kafta recipes are made with the meatball mixture pressed onto a wooden skewer.  Some kafta recipes are formed into some very exotic looking shapes.  Lamb or beef is usually the choice for making kefta.  The meat mixture can be very plain or very spicy.  Rice or bulgar wheat is sometimes added to the meat mixture.
     The kaftah spice mixture can be bought pre-made at a Persian or Arabic market.  I like the pre-made kaftah spice mix because it has the correct proportions of spices.  By purchasing the individual spices to make kefta spice mix, a person can end up paying ten times as much for an equal volume of kefta spice mix.  The same can be said about za'atar spice mix.  Spices that are bought at an Arabic market are always very fresh and that include pre-mixed blends.
     Harissa is a very popular North African mild paprika pepper paste that is not difficult to make.  The mixture can be dark brick red in color or bright orangish red.  Harissa can be made from fresh paprika peppers, roasted peppers and or dried ground peppers.  Harissa can be made with a combination of these peppers.  Many older Bedouin recipes do not use caned or pre-made harissa.  Cans of harissa are added weight for the back of a camel.  To avoid the straw that broke the camel's back, dried ground paprika peppers were carried instead.  Many North African chefs still prefer harissa that is made with dried ground peppers, like the one in this recipe.
     Hummus is the word for chickpeas or garbanzo beans as well as a casual reference to many different kinds of beans and lentils.  I originally used the word hummus instead of chickpeas in this recipe title, but everybody in the western world thinks of hummus being a smooth bean dip.  I ended up changing the name of this recipe to avoid confusion.
  
     Dried Pepper Harissa Recipe:
     This recipe makes enough harissa for 3 or 4 servings!
     Place these spices in a mixing bowl:
     - 2 tablespoons of Spanish paprika
     - 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
     - 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
     - 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
     - 1/2 teaspoon of coriander
     - 1/2 teaspoon of ground caraway seed.
     Mix the spices together.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add just a little bit of olive at a time, while stirring, till a medium thick paste is formed.  About 2 to 3 tablespoons is plenty.
     This olive oil harissa paste can be kept in a refrigerator for several months.
  
     Kaftah Spice Mixture Recipe: 
      It is much cheaper to buy kaftah spice mix pre-made and it is a very accurate spice mixture.  My kaftah spice mix recipe is very basic.  Kafta spice mix can have many more spices in the recipe.
     Here is the basic proportions for a kaftah spice mix:
     - 2 parts cinnamon
     - 1 part allspice
     - 1 part cumin
     - 1 part coriander
     - 1 part mild red chile powder
     - 1/2 part black pepper.
     A small portion of finely ground toasted sesame seed is optional.
     Sea salt is sometimes added, but the salt is traditionally used as a separate seasoning and it is not part of a kaftah spice mix.
     Simply mix the dry kaftah spice mix ingredients together.
  
     Harissa Chickpeas:  
     Place 1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas or rinsed canned chickpeas in a sauce pot.
     Add just enough water to cover the chickpeas.
     Add 1 tablespoon of dried pepper harissa paste.
     Simmer the chickpea mixture over medium heat till the liquid is reduced to a thin red sauce.
     Keep the harissa chickpeas warm over very low heat.
  
     Algerian Kefta Recipe:
     Place 6 ounces of ground lamb or ground beef in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 finely minced garlic clove.
     Add some very finely minced onion.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely minced onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of very finely chopped mint leaves.
     Add 1 tablespoon of the keftah spice mixture.
     Add sea salt.
     Mix the ingredients thoroughly together.
     Divide the meat mixture into 3 equal sized meatball portions.
     Wet your hands with water before rolling the meatballs.
     Roll each meat portion, by hand, into a smooth round meatball shape.
     Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Place the meatballs in the hot pan.
     Pan fry the meatballs, till they become fully cooked and till they become browned.
  
     Algerian Kefta with Harissa Chickpeas:
     Spoon the harissa chickpeas into a shallow serving bowl or casserole dish.
     Set the meatballs on the harissa hummus.
     Garnish with a parsley sprig.
     Serve with some Arabic breads of your choice on the side.
  
     Delicious, aromatic and so very nicely seasoned!  The contrasting flavors in this entree are very exotic and very complex.  The flavor of the chickpeas and harissa is so nice with the interesting flavor of the kefta.  Algerian kefta are some of the best tasting meatballs that there is!  Yummy!  ...  Shawna  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sesame Miso Glazed Salmon with Honey Yogurt Napa Slaw on a Poppyseed Bun









Modern fusion sandwiches that are served on nice hot dog buns have become a recent trend.  These little snack sandwiches are small portion sandwiches that are gone after a few bites.  The bright strong flavor combinations on a hot dog bun snack sandwich are meant to put a smile on a face!
     I took a look at a few of the miso glaze recipes that are on the internet.  It seemed like most of those recipes struggled with salt content from soy sauce.  Soy sauce?  Miso paste glaze does not need soy sauce at all!  Both miso and soy sauce are made from the same thing.  Soy beans.  Miso paste already does have a nice mellow soy sauce flavor.  I wanted to accent the soy flavor of miso paste and not make it stronger, so I flavored the miso paste with lime juice, sesame oil, rice vinegar and rice wine.  The lighter flavors that were added to the miso paste, were what this miso glaze needed, so it would not be salty or too strong of a flavor.
     Napa Cabbage is a very tender cabbage.  Napa cabbage cole slaw is best when it is made to order, so it remains crisp.  I would suggest making the cole slaw shortly before cooking the salmon.
  
     Napa Cabbage Honey Yogurt Slaw:
     Place 2 cups of very thin sliced napa cabbage in a mixing bowl.
     Add a few very thin sliced strips of green bell pepper.
     Add a few very thin sliced strips of carrot.
     Place 1 1/2 ounces of goat milk yogurt in a small bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of honey.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of black sesame seeds.
     Add 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar.
     Stir the cole slaw dressing ingredients together.
     Add the cole slaw dressing to the napa cabbage mixture.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Set the cole slaw aside.
  
     Toasted Sesame Seeds:
     Heat a dry saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds.
     Toss the sesame seeds gently in the hot pan, till they become lightly toasted.
     Place the toasted sesame seed on a small dish and set them aside.
  
     Miso Salmon Glaze:
     Place 2 tablespoons of red miso paste in a small bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of dry rice wine.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Stir the ingredients till they are combined.
  
     Sesame Miso Glazed Salmon with Honey Yogurt Napa Slaw on a Poppyseed Bun:
     Remove the skin from 3 ounce salmon filet.
     Cut the salmon filet in half lengthwise.
     Heat a non stick saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 small splash of of vegetable oil.
     Add the two salmon pieces.
     Lightly sear the salmon on both sides.
     Remove the pan from the heat.  (The salmon should be cooked rare at this point.)
     Use a spoon to pour and spread the miso glaze over the seared salmon filet halves in the saute pan.
     Place the pan in a 400º oven.
     Warm a poppyseed hot dog bun in the oven.
     Place the bun on a plate.
     When the salmon becomes fully cooked, but not caramelized at all, remove the pan from the oven.
     Spread a small amount of the napa cabbage yogurt slaw on the hot dog bun.
     Use a spatula to carefully set the 2 salmon pieces on the bun so the miso glazed side is facing upward.
     Sprinkle a little bit of the toasted sesame seeds over the miso glazed salmon.
     Garnish the plate with parsley sprigs, a dill pickle and some sliced pickled ginger.
  
     The flavor of the sandwich is a real pleasure to eat!  This turned out to be a very likable modern fusion snack sandwich.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Huitres Gratinee au Champignon Creme








     My best days of restaurant cooking were spent in small formal French cafes and small French restaurants.  I liked cooking classic French food!  It seems that today, most of the American top chef French food is far removed from the old classic French cuisine.  There is such a thing as being too uncomfortable and too eccentric when cooking cutting edge French cuisine.  "Hit or miss" overpriced French fusion recipes can leave customers in dismay.  Especially during an economic depression.
     The recent movement in cutting edge fusion French cuisine has been over priced tapas style portions and pre fixe menus of trendy, but uncomfortable menu items that do not satisfy customers needs.  The reaction most of the French tapas food gets is comments like "It was a nice plate of food, but I would not return to order that item again."  Hit or miss!
     Why not fall back on the affordable, well crafted, French food that made French cuisine so famous?  That tactic worked for a few other chefs and myself at a great AAA 5 Diamond rated resort's 3 Star Michelin rated French Restaurant during the economic recession after the events of 9/11/2001.  The executive sous chef fired the fusion cuisine chef, because the restaurant was losing money everyday.  The sous chef was a Greenbriar chef and he took over as the chef de cuisine of the French restaurant.  The menu was changed to classic and modern French comfort food with a few American wild game entrees.  The portion size of each entree was also changed from petite artistic size portions to standard old time classic portion size.
     After the menu changes were made, the French restaurant broke all sales records by serving traditional French comfort food with a modern presentation style.  The menu prices were not cheap either.  The average entree price was $120.  Our success came from giving people what they wanted to eat and by offering food that was easily recognized.  The French restaurant grossed between $45,000 and $98,000 per night during that recession!  A portion of the income was from our extensive wine list.  We served great comfortable classic French food and customers returned to our restaurant to have the comfort food again and again!  The restaurant ended up being rated as the 7th best out of 35,000 restaurants in that state.  That was far better than being rated in the bottom of the top 100, like the previous chef's food was.
     Oysters gratinee is a classic French comfort recipe.  It can be baked plain or with a mornay sauce.  I have seen oysters gratinee baked with a mushroom cream in the past.  I liked the mushroom sauce version of oysters gratinee.  Huitres Gratinee is a very comfortable classic French appetizer.
  
     Huitres Gratinee au Champignon Recipe:
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 ounce of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 teaspoons of finely chopped shallot.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Saute till the shallots turn clear in color.
     Add 1 thin sliced shiitake mushroom.
     Add 4 thin sliced button cave mushrooms.
     Saute till the mushrooms become tender.
     Add 4 large shucked oysters.  (Reserve the oyster liquor.)
     Saute till the oysters become half way cooked.
     Remove the oysters from the sauce and set them in a small casserole dish.
     Add a very light sprinkle of flour, while gently stirring, to absorb the excess butter in the pan and to form a simple pan roux.
     Add the reserved oyster liquor.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1/2 cup of fumet.  (White fish stock)
     Add 1 ounce of Pernod.  (optional)
     Stir the sauce.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 2 pinches of tarragon.
     Add 1 cup of cream.
     Stir the sauce.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin consistency.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Spoon the mushroom slices between the oysters in the casserole dish.
     Pour the sauce over the oysters.
     Sprinkle a little bit of finely grated parmesan cheese over the oysters and sauce.
     Sprinkle a little bit of plain fine French bread crumbs over the oysters and sauce.
     Sprinkle a little bit of finely chopped parsley over the casserole.
     Place the casserole dish on a baking pan.
     Bake the casserole in a 375º oven.
     When the sauce starts bubbling and some light brown highlights appear on the oysters, then the casserole is finished baking.  (About 7-10 minutes.)
     Set the casserole dish on a serving plate.
  
     Simple and delicious!  The oysters and mushrooms are well matched with the thyme and tarragon flavors of the light cream sauce.  Only a little bit of cheese and bread crumbs are required for oysters gratinee.  The oysters do not have to be smothered in cheese!  The cheese is only used like a seasoning.  This is a very nice French oyster appetizer that is elegant and easy to prepare.  Yum!  ...  Shawna      

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail














Crab stuffed lobster is one of the all time best selling Valentines Day and New Years Eve restaurant offerings!
   
     The best fresh seafood restaurants in Florida have their own docks for fishing boats to unload freshly caught fish.  The second best were fresh seafood restaurants that sent drivers to the docks to meet the fishing boats and bring the iced down fresh seafood back to the restaurant.  The rest of the seafood restaurants that have fresh or frozen seafood delivered are almost as good.
     Good fresh seafood needs no sauces or extensive preparation.  Plain raw, broiled or fried seafood are usually the only options at a good fresh seafood restaurant.  Owners good seafood restaurants take pride in serving the very best quality seafood with minimal preparation.
     Most east coast seafood restaurants offer a very nice crab stuffing to go with lobster, shrimp, pompano or flounder.  Just like in Baltimore Maryland, the best crab stuffings have about 95% crab meat content.  The other 5% of the stuffing's ingredients were aromatic vegetables, eggs and bread crumbs.  Second rate seafood restaurants offer a crab stuffing with less than 50% crab meat content or they sell crab flavored surimi as real crab.
     Since the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico occurred last year, many customers have stopped eating Gulf seafood.  The same thing has happened along the eastern seaboard too.  Spiny lobster from Florida?  I would think twice about purchasing them for a while.  The same goes for Gulf of Mexico blue crab.
     Spiny lobster tails are the best for stuffing.  The size of a spiny lobster seems to have no effect on the quality of the tail meat.  Spiny lobster from Australia or South America are good choices for a stuffed lobster tail.  Gulf of Mexico and lower east coast spiny lobster will return to being safe to eat sometime in the future.  I used an Australian spiny lobster tail to make this recipe.
     Only Maine lobster is a true lobster.  Maine lobster has very large claws and the meat has a very rich flavor.  Maine lobster tails are good for stuffing, but one Maine lobster grows to over 2 1/2 pounds, the tail meat can become tough and it does not always fill the tail shell.
     Rock lobster and African lobster are poor choices for stuffing.  African lobster are usually marketed by foreign fishing companies that show no respect for local African fishermen and lobster men.  Rock lobster is usually a frozen product and there is a high percentage of rock lobster tails that shows signs of molting or decomposition.
     Since Gulf of Mexico crab was out of the question at this time, and local Chicago seafood merchants did not have fresh live Chesapeake blue crab in stock, Alaskan King Crab was used to make the crab meat stuffing for this recipe.  The Alaskan fishery is superbly managed and king crab is very nice for making a stuffing.
     There is something about crab stuffed lobster that is very appealing for a special night or holiday.  This recipe is expensive to make at home and it is even more expensive to purchase at a good restaurant.  For a special treat or a special event, crab stuffed lobster is a nice choice!
  
     Crab Stuffing Recipe:
     Keep this proportion in mind when making a good crab stuffing.  95% Crab Meat!  The amount of stuffing needed depends on the size of the lobster tail.  Blue crab or king crab are best for a crab stuffing.  
     Shell about 3/4 cup to 1cup (4 to 5 ounces) of Alaskan king crab meat.  Be sure that there is absolutely no shell or cartilage in the crab meat.  Try to leave the large pieces of crab meat intact instead of breaking them up.
     Place the crab meat in a mixing bowl.
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced mixed green bell pepper and red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely minced smoked bacon.
     Saute the vegetables, till they become tender, but do not caramelize the vegetables.  The smoked bacon should not be cooked crisp.
     Add the vegetables and bacon to the crab meat in the mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped parsley.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Add a very small amount of bread crumbs.  (About 1 to 2 tablespoons.  The proportion of 4% breadcrumbs to the total volume of crab meat should be enough.)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 of a whisked raw egg.  (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 ounces of whisked egg is plenty.  It does not take much egg to hold a crab stuffing together.)
     Add 1 very small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of paprika.
     Gently fold the ingredients together and try not to break up the crab meat chunks.
     Set the crab stuffing aside.
  
     Crab Stuffed Lobster Recipe:
     Select an 8 ounce spiny lobster tail.  (Maine lobster tail can be substituted.
     Use a chef knife or kitchen shears to split the lobster tail open by cutting through the top half of the shell lengthwise.  You should partially cut through the raw lobster meat at the same time, so it becomes butterflied.  Do not cut through the bottom of the lobster shell.
     Remove the mud vein.
     Spread the lobster shell open and gently pull the lobster meat upward without detaching the meat from the fan of the tail.
     Close the shell under the meat.
     Lay the meat against the top of the shell, so it drapes evenly over the empty shell.
     Place the lobster tail on a baking pan.
     Fan the lobster tail, so it is fully opened.
     Mound a very generous amount of the crab stuffing on the lobster meat.  Gently press and shape the stuffing against the lobster meat.  (Do not firmly pack the crab stuffing.  You do not want the stuffing to become too dense.)
     Add a splash of water to the baking pan.
     Sprinkle a little bit of dry white wine over the stuffing and lobster.
     Squeeze a small amount of lemon juice over the stuffing and lobster.
     Drizzle a generous amount of melted unsalted butter over the stuffing and lobster.
     Sprinkle a very small amount of fine bread crumbs over the lobster stuffing.
     Sprinkle a very small amount of paprika over the stuffing.
     Bake the stuffed lobster in a 350º to 400º oven.
     Half way through the baking time, remove the stuffed lobster from the oven.
     Use a spoon to baste the lobster with the pan juices.
     Place the lobster back in the oven.
     Bake until the stuffing becomes piping hot and the lobster meat is fully cooked.  (The lobster and stuffing do not have to be cooked to a brown color!)
     Carefully use a spatula to set the stuffed lobster on a plate.
     Spoon some of the butter and pan juices from the lobster baking pan over the stuffed lobster.
     Serve with vegetables of your choice.  (The stuffed lobster in the pictures was served with buttered thyme carrots and boiled bliss potatoes.
     Garnish the plate with a parsley sprig and a decorative "winged" lemon half.

     The aroma and flavor of this stuffed lobster is so very nice!  The crab stuffing is very light because a minimal amount of bread crumbs were added.  The small amount of smoked bacon adds a subtle old fashioned east coast fish house flavor to the stuffing.  The lobster is tender and far from being dried out from over cooking.  The crab stuffing is a perfect match for the flavor of the lobster.  Delicious!  ...  Shawna

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Philadelphia's Texas Tommy







     If you are into health food, then just skip over this recipe!  The Texas Tommy is a Philadelphia hot dog specialty.  A Texas Tommy is a cheddar cheese stuffed all beef Vienna style thick hot dog that is bacon wrapped.  A Texas Tommy can be deep fried or baked.  The bacon must be lightly blanched before wrapping the hot dog.
     I was working as an expeditor and garde manger cook at a very popular Philadelphia restaurant and night club the first time that I was asked to prepare Texas Tommys for the evening sandwich special.  I asked the chef, "What is a Texas Tommy?"  He couldn't believe that I did not know what it was.  I was not a Philadelphia native, so I had never heard of a Texas Tommy before.
     I made about 50 Texas Tommys a night, till the Texas Tommy was no longer popular with our clientele.  The Texas Tommy was a good selling sandwich special for a few weeks.  Texas Tommys appealed to the late night crowd at the night club that was located on the first floor of the restaurant building.  The late night bar crowd liked eating snack food while drinking and dancing.
     We were located just outside the city of Philadelphia at the end of the Schuylkill Expressway.  Our clientele consisted of famous Philadelphia professional athletes, local customers and downtown businessmen who were fooling around with their secretaries.  It was a strange mix of people that dined and danced at that restaurant and club.
     The chef wrote a dinner menu that featured many heavily bastardized classic entrees.  The Philadelphia clientele that we had could care less about gourmet food.  They just wanted a lot of food on the plate to be happy.  Average quality food that was served in big portions seemed to be the theme of Philadelphia food back in those days.  Our customers could care less if food was healthy or not.  They just wanted a lot of food on the plate.  I was payed well to cook some very mediocre food at that restaurant.
     I earned a week of paid vacation and I went to Florida.  I came back to find out that I had been laid off from work!  I asked the manager "Why was I laid off when we were so busy?"  I still laugh when looking back on what the manager said.  He told me that the restaurant owner's 25 year old delinquent son, was just let out of prison and the owner wanted to put him to work.  That hit me like a lead brick!
     I talked to one of the cooks a few months after I was laid off about how things were going at the restaurant.  He said the restaurant was falling apart!  The owner's ex con son had no cooking experience and served a lot of bad food to customers.  Word got around that they were serving bad food.  The chef "blew a fuse" while yelling at the owner's delinquent son one night and got fired after the son complained to his dad.  Its funny how a few bad decisions can turn a successful restaurant into a catastrophe.  A year later, that restaurant went out of business.  The gossip of bad food at a restaurant travels fast.  Bad word of mouth travels thirty times faster than good word of mouth in the restaurant industry.  A bad food reputation is a "sure fire" way to go out of business.
     I soon left Philadelphia to start my chef's apprenticeship in Florida.  I did run Texas Tommy hot dogs as a successful lunch special at a few Florida French Cafes.  There is something about a bacon wrapped cheese stuffed hot dog that makes customers forget about maintaining a healthy diet.  Even the French chefs liked the Texas Tommy.  The Texas Tommy is a sinfully delicious temptation!
  
     Texas Tommy Recipe:
     Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
     Place 3 or 4 strips of smoked bacon in the pan.
     Slowly render some of the grease out of the bacon and only blanch the bacon.  Do not cook the bacon crispy!  The bacon should still be "white" with no brown color.
     Set the blanched bacon aside.
     Cut a slit from almost end to end on a thick all beef Vienna style hot dog.
     Cut some cheddar cheese to a size that can be stuffed into the slit on the hot dog.  (Refer to the picture above.)
     Place 1 strip of bacon lengthwise over the cheese stuffing.
     Wrap 1 strip of bacon around one end of the hot dog and fasten it with toothpicks to keep it in place.  It may take 2 to 3 strips of blanched bacon to completely wrap the hot dog.  Overlap the bacon as you wrap the hot dog.  Use as many toothpicks as necessary to hold the bacon strips in place.
     Note:  It is very important to be sure that the bacon completely covers the cheese stuffing and that the bacon is wrapped tightly around the hot dog or all the cheese will leak out, when the hot dog is cooked.
     Place the hot dog on a baking pan.  Try to set the Texas Tommy on the pan so the side with the cheese stuffing faces upward.
     Bake the Texas Tommy in a 350º oven till the bacon becomes crispy and it is fully cooked.
     Warm 1 hot dog bun in the oven.
     Remove the Texas Tommy from the oven.
     Hold the Texas Tommy with a dry towel and Carefully pull out all of the toothpicks.
     Mix equal parts of mustard and sweet pickle relish together in a bowl.  (Mustard relish is popular in Philadelphia.  Dijon mustard adds a nice touch!)
     Spread the mustard relish on the hot dog bun.
     Place the Texas Tommy on the bun.
     Set the Texas Tommy on a plate.
     Garnish with pickles and a parsley sprig.
  
     Delicious!  This is the original authentic way to make a Texas Tommy.  Most modern Philadelphia restaurants have bastardized the Texas Tommy recipe and they simply put bacon strips on a hot dog bun with the hot dog.  Then they pour warm cheese wiz over the hot dog.  That is not a good Texas Tommy!
     Bacon wrapped and cheese stuffed is the original recipe.  I am sure that you can imagine what this hot dog tastes like.  It is the warm melted cheese in the middle of the Texas Tommy that makes this hot dog so appealing.  Yum!  ...  Shawna