Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pancetta and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Creme Soup







     Pancetta is Italian seasoned dry cured rolled pork belly.  The flavor is much different than regular salt cured bacon or smoked bacon.  Pancetta has a rich dry cure bacon flavor.  Pancetta is sometimes featured in Italian recipes, but more often it is used like a seasoning, especially in fine ragu.
     I usually purchase a thick slice of pancetta at an Italian delicatessen.  Then I only cut off portions as needed, when I use the pancetta for a recipe.  Real imported Italian pancetta or hand crafted Italian American pancetta is the best.  National brand lunch meat company pancetta is second rate.
     Pancetta gives this soup a very interesting flavor!  A hint of a "lightly aged cheese" kind of flavor comes from the pancetta.  Roasted red bell peppers are a nice spring and summer flavor.
     This soup only has a splash of cream in the broth.  This pancetta and roasted red bell pepper soup is actually light on the tummy!
  
     Roasted Red Bell Peppers:
     Roasted red peppers are easy to make!  You can roast them over an open flame, till the skin turns black.  You can also brush the peppers with olive oil and roast them in a 350º oven, till they become tender and the skin is easily peeled off.
     After roasting, peel and seed the roasted peppers under cold running water.
     Trim the stem off.
     Pat the peppers dry with a towel.
     Place the peppers in a container.
     Pour a little bit of olive oil over the peppers.
     The roasted peppers can be stored in a refrigerator for a few days.
  
     Pancetta and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup Recipe:
     This recipe makes enough for 2 small portions or 1 large portion of soup! 
     Finely chop 1/4 cup of each of these vegetables:
     - carrot
     - celery
     - onion.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 ounces of small chopped pancetta.
     Saute till the pancetta turns a golden brown color.
     Add the finely chopped vegetables.
     Add 1/2 of a minced garlic clove.
     Stir and saute the ingredients, till the vegetables become tender, but not browned.
     Add just enough flour, while constantly stirring, to soak up the butter in the pan and to form a thin pan roux.
     Stir for 30 seconds, till the roux cooks to a white color.  (Do not let the roux turn brown!)
     Add 2 cups of light chicken broth while stirring.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the soup up to a gentle boil, while stirring occasionally, till the soup thickens.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of milk.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.  (Only add a small pinch of salt, or the pancetta will end up tasting like salt pork!)
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Stir the soup occasionally.
     Add 1/2 cup of finely chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of finely chopped parsley.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the soup, till it becomes a thin cream soup consistency.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Ladle the soup into a shallow soup bowl.
     Sprinkle a few thin green onion slices on the soup.
     Place a small parsley sprig on the center of the soup as a garnish.
  
     The combination of pancetta and roasted red bell pepper is a warm friendly flavor!  Yummy!  ...  Shawna  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

London Broil, Roasted Red Pepper and Muenster Cheese Grilled Sandwich with Chile Scallion Mayonnaise







     I do not know why hungry chefs like to make sandwiches with odd ingredients for themselves in restaurant kitchens while working.  Maybe, it is because a sandwich is a trial ground for flavor experiments.  Maybe, it is because a sandwich is easy to eat, while standing and on the phone placing food orders with purveyors.  Who knows?
     While apprenticing, I worked fourteen hours a day with no breaks in an Italian restaurant.  I was very busy and I never took the time to sit down and eat a meal.  Half of my life has been spent eating while standing on my feet!  In a busy restaurant, there is no time for breaks.  There is always something that needs to be done.
     By working with devotion like this, I became a sous chef after only a few years in the restaurant business.  It seemed like every restaurant that I was hired at, required me to be the "clutch" player.
   
     Preventative Medicine For Cooks:
 
     Having an athletic background was a big help to me when working long endless hours.  It takes stamina to work all day.  Many chefs do not realize how important good posture is while cooking, till later in life when they have severe spinal, hip, elbowor knee problems.  Just like the Native Americans say, stay on your toes and walk on the balls of your feet!  Walking or standing flat footed can cause severe pain by the end of a long day in a restaurant kitchen.
     Lifting heavy objects with your legs will keep your spine from being injured.  Developing shoulder and forearm strength will keep elbow problems from occurring.  The best forearm exercises are reverse curls.  Reverse curling of weights will not make the biceps bulky.  Reverse curling is one of the most important exercises for professional motocross racers.  Reverse wrist curls and squeezing stiff spring hand grips is the best way to prevent wrist problems.
     Taking the time to do knee bends and quadricep exercises will prevent knee injuries.  Toe ups are done by placing your toes on a 2x4 board with your ankles on the ground then rising to stand on your toes.  This exercise is the best way to prevent ankle injuries.  Kitchen floors can have some very slick slippery hazards.  A few judo or martial art classes will teach a cook how to fall, without injury occurring.
     As far as the best way to learn to move fluidly and to keep sure footing, while keeping your balance on a slick kitchen floor is concerned, there is one thing that will help.  Learn how to dance!  I am a great dancer!  I used to dance on the floor and on stage at a few Las Vegas clubs not too long ago.  Dancing is the best exercise of all for staying sure footed on a slick floor!
     I figured that I would write this little preventative medicine topic for those who are just starting their cooking career.  Always accept healthy advice!  Working long hours, injury free, with no pain is a much better chef experience, than looking like the walking wounded!  Not gaining excessive weight is very important for a long term career as a chef.
   
     London Broil:
     London broil is a cooking term and it is not a name for a cut of beef.  London Broil has nothing to do with London England.
     There are two different cuts of beef that can be used to make a London Broil.  One choice is an ordinary flank steak.  The second choice is a top round steak.  Top round steak has recently been incorrectly written by bad food writers as being the wrong choice for making London Broil.  Top round steak was the original London Broil.
     The very "old school" chefs who were cooking in the 1930's through the 1980's will tell you that a tender top round steak is the original cut for making London Broil.  The history of London Broil is obscure, unless you had the pleasure of working with some of the very old chefs in Yacht clubs while apprenticing like I did.  Yacht club cooking is tradition!
     A fat cap is attached to one side of a thick top round steak.  The grain of the meat runs lengthwise like a flank steak.  In the old days when beef had more natural fat marbling,  the top round section was much more tender.
     A great chef that I worked with in Philadelphia also explained this to me when I asked why he was using flank steaks for a London Broil special that we ran that night.  The chef said that the flank steak is the incorrect choice of meat for a London Broil, but it was cheaper and the customers did not know the difference!  The chef said that traditionally, the London Broil is made with a top quality thick top round steak with the fat cap attached.  Philadelphia is the city of tradition, so that great Philadelphia chef did know his stuff!
     If you refer to a commonly used internet encyclopedia site for all your cooking questions, then you will be laughed at by many chefs for learning the wrong information.  I browse the internet for food definitions and food topics occasionally.  I do notice when incorrect information is posted.  Today, I noticed an encyclopedia site was absolutely wrong about their information concerning the topic of London Broil.  Perhaps the managers of the encyclopedia site were customers of that Philadelphia chef who stated that his customers were too stupid to know the difference!
     I know the difference!  Flank steak has much less flavor with a cold lifeless after taste.   A thick top round steak that was cut with the fat cap attached from a side of prime marbled beef, will have ten times as much flavor when it is cooked as a London Broil!
     Marination time for a top round steak is minimal.  When sliced at a 45º angle across the grain of the meat, a top round steak will show thin streaks of fat marbling.  The meat grain of a flank steak is only surrounded by a thin sinew, instead of marbled fat!  Therefore, you get that cold dead meat aftertaste.
     There is a gelatinous streak of low quality fat that runs with the grain of the meat on the joined side of a poorly butchered flank steak.  You cannot cut the fat streak off of a flank steak, without wasting at least a one inch thick layer of meat!
     For a top round steak, the thick layer of fat is a cap along one of the long edges of the steak.  After roasting, you can simply trim the fat cap off of the edge of the steak before you carve each portion!
     When I was apprenticing, the old yacht club chefs were 65 and 70.  I just took their word for it, without question, when they stated that "In the old days, London Broil was made with a top round steak."  Those two old yacht club chefs were from the golden years of American Steak Fine Dining.  They knew!
  
     London Broil:
     The marinade for this London Broil is made specifically for this sandwich!
     Place a 6 to 8 ounce top round steak with the fat cap attached into a shallow pan.  The top round steak should be 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" thick
     Season the steak with sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry red wine.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Allow the meat to marinate at room temperature for twenty minutes.  (Top round steak takes very little marination time.)
     Heat a broiler to high heat.  (London Broil is never char grilled.  It is broiled from a flame above the meat!)
     Remove the steak from the marinade and place it on a broiler pan.
     Broil the steak, so it is close to the flame.  London Broil is best when the meat is caramelized brown and the juices are sealed in.
     Flip the steak often, so the meat cooks evenly.
     Every time that you flip the steak over, brush the steak with a little bit of melted unsalted butter.
     Cook the London Broil to your desired state of doneness.  I prefer London Broil to be cooked rare to medium rare, just like in the old days!
     Place the finished London Broil on a cutting board and let it rest for one minute.
     For this sandwich, wait to slice the London broil, till the cheese starts to melt on the grilled sandwich bread!  Use a very sharp long carving knife to cut thin whole slices of meat at a forty five degree angle across the grain of the meat.
     
     Chile Scallion Mayonnaise Recipe:
     Place 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise in a small bowl.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of ground ancho chile powder.
     Add 1 small squeeze of lime juice.
     Add 1 finely minced green onion or scallion.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dark chipotle pepper sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Set the chile scallion mayonnaise aside.
  
     London Broil, Roasted Red Pepper and Muenster Cheese Grilled Sandwich with Chile Scallion Mayonnaise:
     Heat a griddle or a large saute pan over medium heat.
     Brush the pan with melted unsalted butter.
     Place a few large pieces of roasted red bell peppers on a roasting pan.
     Heat the roasted red peppers in a 350 degree oven, till the become hot.
     Brush 2 slices of whole grain wheat bread with unsalted butter.
     Place the slices of bread on the hot griddle or saute pan.
     Place a few thin slices of muenster cheese on the bread slices.
     Start slicing the finished London Broil!  About 4 to 6 ounces of sliced London Broil is plenty.
     When the cheese melts a little bit, spread the chile scallion mayonnaise over the cheese on both slices of bread.
     Place a 4 to 6 ounce sandwich portion of the thinly sliced London Broil on one of the bread slices in the pan.
     Remove the warm roasted peppers from the oven.  Place the peppers on the cheese on the other slice of bread.
     Use a spatula to place the two sandwich halves together, after the grilled bread becomes lightly toasted.
     Set the grilled sandwich on a cutting board, slice it in half and set it on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with parsley sprigs and pickles.  The pickles on the pictured plate are Chicago Sport Peppers, a baby dill pickle and a Persian Pickled Turnip.  I placed a couple of ripe plum tomato wedges on the plate too.
  
     This is a very nice grilled sandwich for spring and summer!  Grill sandwiches with cheese are very comforting.  The chile scallion mayonnaise is perfect for the cumin red wine marinated flavor of the London Broil!  Muenster cheese is very smooth and mellow with beef.
     I like pickles with sandwiches!  Especially in spring, when you do not need excess amounts of starch while trying to burn off that layer of winter fat!  I do admit that I like the color pink and the pink colored Persian Pickled Turnips are my favorites!  Yum!  ...  Shawna                    

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Minestra di zucca a Veneto









     Venice Italy has a very long history of fine cuisine.  Venice Italy was once a major port of trade and commerce a few hundred years ago.  Most food historians agree that modern european fine cuisine has its origins in Venetian cuisine.  Many food historians say that modern fine French cooking also has roots in Venetian fine cuisine.
     Banquets and formal dinners were a big events in Venice about 300 to 400 years ago.  Formal banquets for royal guests of nobility often went on for more than a week's time.  Imagine the finest chefs of Venice, cooking one entree after another for days on end and never serving the same recipe twice!  That was how elaborate banquets were during the grand classic age of Venetian cuisine.
     Occasionally, an archaeologist on a dig unearths a historic book or document of culinary value.  This happened once in the 1980's.  The document turned out to be one of the first minestra recipes ever written.  The minestra recipe dated back to nearly the year 900 A.D.  Later, a few historians said the minestra recipe could have been handed down for many years before it was hand written.  The recipe was written by a Catholic monk in the Venice Italy region.
     About 30 years ago, a very trendy top California chef named Jeremiah Tower was doing historic recipe research.  Jeremiah Tower is a great chef and food historian.  He published the literal translation of the 1000 year old Italian minestra di zucca recipe.  I saw this recipe in a cooking magazine that published about 30 years ago.  I immediately noticed that this recipe was distinctly Venetian in style and the ingredients were correct for that period of time.  This minestra is like a very early minestrone soup.  The main difference was that the recipe specified that the vegetables were to be sliced in a thin wide julienne style.
     The word zucca was a stumbling block though.  Zucca meant squash of any kind about 1000 years ago and the word zucca most often referred to squash that is normally baked, like acorn squash.  Now in modern times, zucca usually refers to almost most any squash other than zucchini.  Marrow squash from Persia was another possibility.  There was a description of the squash as being green.  Most gourd type squashes like pumpkin, acorn or butternut squash can not be julienne sliced.  There is a Spanish green round squash that is often baked, but many believe that squash was brought by the Moors.  The squash choice was narrowed down to zucchini or marrow squash.
     The broth is part chicken broth and part vegetable broth.  The seed core center of the zucchini is chopped and browned in the soup pot with butter and olive oil before the broth is added.  This technique is also used for some French Nicoise sauces.  The browned core of the zucchini adds a nice flavor to the broth and the broth becomes a darker color.  Lemon is one of the key flavors of old Venetian cuisine.  Lemon flavors the broth in this minestra.
     For this minestra recipe to be historically correct, no vegetables from the nightshade family of plants can be used to make this soup.  Eggplant, tomatoes and peppers are in the nightshade family of vegetables.  Belladonna is the most famous plant member of the nightshade family.  A thousand years ago, those who took part in eating any "fruits" of the nightshade family of plants were subject to being accused of witchcraft.  After a speedy trial, anyone accused of witchcraft was tortured, beheaded or burned at the stake.  It was not until the years of the age of Columbus that the witchcraft designation was removed from the nightshade family of vegetables.
     Needless to say, do not add any nightshade family vegetables if you want this recipe to be correct!  Someday, this information may come in handy, when time travel technology becomes a standard!
  
     Minestra di zucca Recipe:
     This recipe makes 1 large serving!
     Only half of a medium size zucchini is needed per serving.  Recipe measurements were descriptive during the age that this recipe was written.  The fortified broth is not strained.  This is the modern translation of the original 1000 year old recipe!
     Split 1 medium size zucchini in half lengthwise and save i/2 of the zucchini for another recipe.
     Cut the zucchini half lengthwise into quarters.
     Cut the seed center core off of the two long quarter slices.
     Finely chop the zucchini core.
     Cut the seedless zucchini flesh into long thin slices and set them aside.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Add the chopped zucchini core.
     Saute the squash core, till it caramelizes to a light brown color.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Saute till the garlic becomes aromatic.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of light chicken broth.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth.
     Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the broth to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Note:  For the next step, the vegetables should be about 3" to 3 1/2" in length and they should be cut into thin strips.
     Add a little bit each of sliced thin strips of
     - onion
     - carrot
     - celery.
     Add sea salt and coarse ground black pepper.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Simmer the soup till the hard vegetables become cooked tender.  Do not stir the soup or the vegetables may break apart!
     After the vegetables become tender, add the reserved half of a zucchini that is cored and thin julienne sliced.
     Add 1 thin sliced small portabella field mushroom.
     Add 6 whole Italian parsley leaves.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Simmer the soup till the zucchini becomes cooked tender.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Ladle the soup into a shallow soup bowl.
     Float 1 thin slice of lemon on top of the soup.
     Place a large sprig of Italian flat parsley next to the lemon slice.
  
     Viola!  A minestra recipe that is nearly 1000 years old!  The lemon in the broth gives this soup an unforgettable Venetian flavor.  Only the zucchini is the featured ingredient.  Yet this soup looks quite well rounded because all of the vegetables are julienne sliced.  I have served this minestra di zucca recipe in some very fine French restaurants and it was always well received by customers.  Chefs that I worked with liked this recipe too.
     I actually did cook lunch one time for Jeremiah Tower at a very nice Florida French Provencal restaurant.  I did not make this minestra soup that day, but I did make a very nice raspberry thyme glazed quail with raspberry beurre blanc recipe, be request of the sous chef.  That raspberry quail recipe was also a Jeremiah Tower published recipe.  The sous chef insisted that I cook Jeremiah's raspberry quail recipe for Jeremiah Tower.
     I really thought that the sous chef's request was rather tacky.  The sous chef said that she saw Jeremiah's name on the reservation list and she wanted to play a joke on him.  I was familiar with the recipe and I cooked the raspberry thyme quail by memory for Jeremiah Tower's lunch.
     Later I saw the humor, after the chef went out to the dining room to chat with the customer.  As it turned out, Jeremiah Tower completely forgot that he wrote the raspberry thyme quail recipe!  He did pay compliments for how the quail entree was cooked that day.  That was kind of a funny moment for us chefs at that fine French restaurant.  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna                    

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Catfish and Frog Leg Cajun File' Black Gumbo








Mardi Gras!
  
     A bowl of gumbo is a great Louisiana entree to eat on Fat Tuesday.  There are many variations of gumbo.  Cajun gumbo rarely has tomato in it.  Creole gumbo does require tomato.  The classic Cajun rule of thumb for making a roux is to make a light colored roux for dark meat and to make a dark colored roux for light colored meat.  I have posted a few Cajun recipes that required a red or brown roux.  A black roux takes much more time to make.  Black roux is only reserved for a few different gumbos that are made with fish or seafood.  The flavor of a black roux gumbo is very rich.
     Once you start making a dark roux, you can not stop stirring till the roux is completely finished cooking, or it will scorch and burn.  A scorched roux will have an unpleasant flavor.  For a black roux, the aroma will change as the roux cooks.  When the roux is blonde colored, it smells like hazelnuts.  When brown, it smells like dark toasted bread.  When black, it smells like burnt popcorn and dark toasted bread.
     Any roux that is darker than a very dark chocolate brown color is considered to be a black roux.  Some recipes do require a black roux to be cooked jet black.  The darker the roux is cooked, the darker the gumbo will be.  A very dark roux will be far less starchy and it will have less thickening ability.  A sauce or gumbo that is made with black roux, will have a thinner consistency because there is less starch to bind with the broth.
     When making any roux, wear a long sleeve chef jacket and gloves.  The roux will become so hot, that a small splatter can cause a third degree burn.  Use caution when making a roux!  Have all the vegetables chopped and ready before starting the roux.  The vegetables will instantly stop the roux from cooking any further, once they are added.
      The trinity is a Louisiana cooking term for the proportion of the basic vegetables.  The trinity is always, 2 parts onion, 1 part celery and 1 part green bell pepper.
     This recipe takes a while to make.  Many chefs say 3 hours is the cooking time for gumbo.  A good gumbo takes a minimum of 2 hours to make.
  
     Catfish and Frog Leg Cajun File' Black Gumbo Recipe:
     This recipe makes enough for 1 portion!
     Sometime while the gumbo is simmering, cook 1 portion of plain brown rice.  Keep the rice warm.  (White long grain rice is good too, but brown rice seems to accent the flavor of a black gumbo!)
     Place 2/3 cup of small diced onion in a bowl.
     Add 1/3 cup of small diced green bell pepper.
     Add 1/3 cup of small diced celery.
     Set the trinity vegetable mixture aside.
     Heat 2 1/2 ounces of unsalted butter in a sauce pot over medium/medium high heat.
     Add an equal amount of flour while stirring with a whisk.
     Constantly stir the roux as it cooks.  Do not stop stirring or the roux will burn!
     As the roux becomes darker, it will become hotter and thinner.
     Stir and cook the roux, till is goes beyond a dark chocolate brown color and starts to become a black color.
     Add the reserved trinity vegetable mixture.
     Allow the steam to escape, before stirring.
     Stir the roux and vegetables.  The roux will stop cooking and the vegetables will instantly be cooked.
     Add 2 minced cloves of garlic.
     Add 2 finely chopped green onions.
     Stir the vegetables and roux.
     Add 3 cups of shrimp stock.
     Stir the gumbo as it comes to a boil.
     When the broth heats and thickens, it should be a very thin sauce consistency.
     Lower the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced ham.
     Simmer the gumbo base for 45 minutes.
     Stir occasionally.
     Add 1/2 cup of thick sliced okra.
     Add 2 to 3 generous pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 3 pinches of paprika.
     Add 3 pinches of chopped Italian parsley.
     Simmer the gumbo for another thirty minutes.
     Stir the gumbo occasionally.
     Add shrimp broth, if the gumbo becomes too thick.  The gumbo should be a medium thin sauce consistency later, before adding the frog legs and catfish.  The frog legs and catfish are added late in the recipe, so they do not crumble into the gumbo.
     After 30 minutes of simmering, add 2 frog legs.
     Note:  Leave the bones in the frog legs for a small batch of this gumbo.  For a large batch of gumbo, poach the frog legs in the broth, then remove them from the broth after they are fully cooked.  Let them cool.  Remove the meat from the bones and return the frog leg meat to the gumbo.  This way, no bones will break loose into the gumbo.
     Add 5 ounces of bite size catfish filet pieces.
     Do not stir the gumbo after the fish is added or the fish will break up into tiny pieces.  Just gently shake the sauce pot occasionally, till the catfish and frog legs become fully cooked.
     Add 2 teaspoons of file' powder.
     Gently shake the pot, so the file' powder blends into the gumbo.
     The gumbo is ready when the catfish and frog legs become fully cooked.

     Presentation:
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Use a ring mold to place a tall mound of rice in a shallow soup bowl.
     Be careful not to break the frog legs and catfish apart, when plating the gumbo.
     Spoon the gumbo around the rice in the bowl.
     Set the frog legs against the rice in the bowl.
     Sprinkle a little bit of thin sliced green onion on the rice.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.
  
     Delicious?  You bet your prize fresh caught catfish that this gumbo is delicious!  The flavor of this gumbo is very complex and very satisfying.  Cajun gumbo should be comfortably spicy hot.
     The dark black roux flavor is noticeable on the first sip.  After the first sip, the taste bud reaction will leave a person in doubt.  The second sip, is when the black roux starts to taste good with the ingredients.  After the third sip, it will become very difficult to pause for a break while eating!  The flavor is that good!
     Break out the Mardi Gras beads and enjoy a bowl full of this classic black gumbo!  Yum!  ...  Shawna            

Monday, March 7, 2011

Welsh Rarebit





     There are many stories of how Welsh Rarebit came to be.  Most of the rarebit stories are false and only a few hold water.  Cheddar cheese has always been very popular in Wales.  Welsh Rarebit is a special Welsh cheddar cheese sauce that is simply baked on toast.
     Ale is part of a Welsh Rarebit.  The ale adds a nice flavor and it also adds a lighter feel to the rarebit.  Good quality sharp cheddar cheese is best for this recipe.  The original Welsh recipe for rarebit was made with whole grain bread.  Coarse whole grain bread will allow the rarebit to be soaked up by the toasted bread while baking.
     Welsh Rarebit can be served as an appetizer or as a main coarse.  For dinner or breakfast, a fried egg is placed on the Welsh Rarebit.  For lunch, a slice of tomato is a popular garnish.  Some people enjoy plain Welsh Rarebit as an afternoon snack.
     Welsh Rarebit is a simple recipe that is perfect for a clammy chilly day.
   
     Welsh Rarebit:  
     This recipe makes enough rarebit for 2 to 3 portions!
     Heat a 5 pats of unsalted butter in a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add an equal amount of flour while stirring.
     Cook and stir the roux, till it just begins to emit a hazelnut aroma and it becomes a very light golden blonde color.
     Add 1 cup of English ale, while stirring with a whisk.
     When the ale becomes thick and blended with the roux, add 3/4 cup of milk while stirring.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Stir the sauce, till it just starts to simmer and thicken to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of grated sharp cheddar cheese, while stirring.
     Whisk the sauce, till the cheese melts and becomes part of the sauce.
     Add 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard.
     Add 1 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce.
     Add 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Simmer and reduce the rarebit, till the flavors meld and till the sauce becomes a medium sauce consistency.  Be sure to stir occasionally.
     Keep the rarebit warm over very low heat or reheat the rarebit to order.
     
     Presentation:
     Toast 1 or 2 slices of whole grain bread in an oven, till it becomes a light golden brown color.
     Place the toast on a baking pan.
     Spread a generous amount of the Welsh Rarebit on the toast.
     Bake the Welsh Rarebit in a 350º oven, till a few brown highlights appear.
     Use a spatula to set the Welsh Rarebit on a plate.
     Place a slice of ripe tomato on the rarebit.  (For breakfast or dinner, place a fried egg on the Welsh Rarebit.)
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.
  
     The ale and mustard flavors of the rarebit are noticeable.  The mustard and worcestershire add a nice zesty flavor.  Cayenne pepper adds a mild spicy flavor.  This is a simple plate of food to make.  Welsh Rarebit is still one of the most popular Welsh recipes for a chilly day.  Delicious!  ...  Shawna  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Red Snapper with Banana Rum Creme and Lyonnaise Potato








Tropically delicious!
  
     Red Snapper with Banana Rum Creme is a caribbean Floribbean style entree.  I worked in Florida restaurants when the Floribbean cuisine trend became popular in the 1980's.  Floribbean cuisine basically makes use of locally caught Florida seafood.  Floribbean cuisine is a combination of Florida southern cracker cuisine and tropical caribbean cuisine.  The use of fruits and salsas are extensive in Floribbean cooking.  Rum or brandy is used more often than wine in Floribbean cuisine sauces.  Floribbean cuisine was most popular in coastal resort restaurants for a while.  Many local fine dining seafood restaurants still offer Floribbean entrees.  Local residents referred to Floribbean cuisine as being fine dining tourist trap food for the rich and famous snow birds.
     Red Snapper has always been a very popular tropical fish.  The meat is clean, light, white and flaky.  I have cooked nearly every member of the snapper family of fish.  Some chefs like to cook yellowtail snapper.  Yellowtail snapper is much better fresh than frozen.  The same goes for mutton snapper or mangrove snapper.  Red snapper does freeze well for some reason.  Lane Snapper and vermillion snapper are rarely marketed nationally, but they can be found in Florida fish markets.  Lane snapper and vermillion snapper both have exceptionally clean light flavored white meat.  If you are in an area that is far away from the tropics or the ocean, then frozen red snapper is probably the only choice.
     Both the snapper family of fish and the grouper family of fish have been heavily overfished in recent years.  Snapper does have sustainability issues, so check the status.  When I cooked this recipe, it was before the gulf oil spill and it was while snapper were in sustainable numbers.  Currently as of 2/21/13, Gulf of Mexico red snapper is not sustainable and it should not be purchased.  Pacific rockfish or tilapia is a better choice.  During the 1980's, tilapia was marketed as golden snapper in  restaurants.
     To check fish sustainability for guilt free dining, there are several sites on the internet to choose from.  This site is one of the best:  Seafood Watch.
     If you are concerned about the gulf oil spill disaster contaminating seafood, then Pacific fish are a wise choice.  It will be many years before gulf seafood is truly safe to eat.  Both the American media and government are the best that money can buy, so be wary of so called officials saying that the oil spill contamination is not a problem.  Keep in mind that government officials also say that GMO food is safe to eat, yet nobody in the white house eats GMO food!
     This banana rum creme sauce is simple to make.  The fish and sauce are cooked in the same pan.  Only a light amount of seasoning is added to accent the flavors of the snapper, rum and banana.  This recipe was very popular in Florida tropical resorts and restaurants that I cooked in.  This is a saute chef recipe.  Saute chef and saucier were my job titles for most of my career.
     I have sold this entree as both a lunch and dinner special du jour.  Every time I sold this recipe at a new job site, the manager and wait staff were hesitant about putting this entree on the special du jour board.  I had to literally "sell" the idea to management by making one of these entrees, so they could sample it.  The flavor of this recipe drew raves and approval from management every time.  This is a flavor combination that Americans had a hard time imagining, but it was a regular everyday flavor in the French caribbean.  To caribbean islanders, Red Snapper with Banana Rum Creme is just another average French caribbean style meal and their is nothing exotic about it.

     Lyonnaise Potatoes:
     Peel 1 russet potato.
     Cut the potato in half lengthwise.
     Cut the potato halves into thin slices.
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 5 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add the sliced potatoes.
     Add 1/2 cup of thin julienne sliced onion.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Saute and toss the potatoes and onions, till they become a caramelized light brown color and till the potatoes become fully cooked.
     Keep the lyonnaise potatoes warm on a stove top.
  
     Red Snapper with Banana Rum Creme:
     When this recipe was written, red snapper was sustainable.  Red snapper is in very low numbers, so select a similar kind of fish, like rockfish or tilapia!  
     Trim the skin off of a 6 to 8 ounce snapper filet.  The snapper file can be cut in half like the one in the pictures or leave the filet whole.
     Lightly season the filet with sea salt and black pepper.
     Dredge the filet in flour.
     Dip the filet in egg wash.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 5 pats of unsalted butter.
     When the butter just starts to turn a golden color and it emits a hazelnut aroma,  add the egg dipped snapper filets while gently shaking the pan.
     Gently shake the pan, till the egg wash coating becomes firm.  (Shaking the pan will prevent sticking.  Shake the pan after the fish is flipped too.)
     Saute the snapper, till it becomes a light golden brown color on both sides.  (Only flip the snapper once!)
     Drain the excess grease out of the pan.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Saute till the shallots just start to turn clear in color.  (This only takes a few seconds.)
     Add 2 banana quarters.  (A peeled banana that is cut in half and then sliced in half lengthwise.)
     Add 3 ounces of amber rum.  (Try not to flambé the rum in this recipe, but if flambé occurs, it is okay!)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1 small pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the rum by half.
     Flip the banana gently so it cooks on both sides.
     Add 3/4 cup of cream.
     Simmer and reduce the cream, till it become a thin cream sauce consistency.  Shake the pan occasionally, so the egg wash does not stick.
   
     Red Snapper with Banana Rum Creme and Lyonnaise Potato:
     Use a long spatula to place the snapper filet on a plate.
     Carefully use the spatula to place the soft cooked banana slices on top of the snapper.
     Pour the rum creme sauce over the banana slices and snapper.
     Serve with a vegetable of your choice.
     Place a portion of the lyonnaise potatoes on the plate.
     Garnish the plate with a parsley sprig and a couple of thin lime slices.
  
     The flavor of Red Snapper with Banana Rum Creme is pure paradise!  The very small amount of ginger, shallot, coriander and allspice is the perfect combination to accent the flavors.  Rum imparts a wonderful flavor with banana and cream.  The small amount of lime juice brightens the flavor.  Lyonnaise Potato is very popular in Florida and the caribbean.  Tropical yum!  Ya Mon!  ...  Shawna