Friday, March 30, 2012

Chocolate Butter Cake






A very rich decadent Le Cordon Bleu chef school cake!

     This is a chocolate butter cake with a crisp hazelnut japonaise meringue base, covered and layered with dark chocolate mousse and coated with a chocolate glacage.  Hazelnuts are pressed onto the outside edge of the cake's glacage.  The cake is scored and each portion slice is garnished with hand made decorative tempered couverture chocolate.
     It takes an experienced baker to make this style of cake.  This style of cake is not easy for beginners.  I made this cake as a required baked item at Le Cordon Bleu chef school.  This is a copyrighted Le Cordon Bleu recipe, so I cannot write the details of the recipe.  I can refer you to the Le Cordon Bleu cookbook or the Larousse Gastronomique cookbook for each individual recipe.  A few tips and descriptions of the techniques is about all that I can describe.
     The chocolate butter cake recipe is not difficult to make.  A greased parchment paper circle that is slightly smaller than the cake pan will help to un-mold the cake.  A very shap cake knife makes it easy to cut the cake into 2 layers.
     The japonaise meringe is a Swiss or French meringue that is flavored with finely ground hazelnut.  The japonaise is piped on parchment paper 3/8" thick to the same dimensions as the cake.  The japonaise is baked at a low temperature, so the meringue dies to a crisp cookie texture and so the meringue does not brown.
     There is no meringue in this type of mousse, so the mousse is firm enough to be used to layer and coat the cake.  A stainless ring mold with a thin plastic applique liner is set around the 1st cake layer that is place on top of the japonaise.  The ring mold should be 3/4" wider than the cake.  The chocolate mousse is poured over and around the first layer of cake, so it covers the cake with a 3/8" thick layer.  The second layer of cake is place on the mousse.  Mousse is poured over the second layer, so the cake is completely covered.
     The cake is then frozen, till it becomes solid.  Then the cake is un-molded.
     A piping hot chocolate glacage is poured over the frozen cake, to coat the entire cake with a thin layer.  The glacage must be very hot to pour!  You only get one chance to apply the glacage correctly.  A glacage cannot be spread with a spatula!
     After the glacage cools, chopped hazelnuts are pressed on the sides of the cake.  The cake is scored for 12 slices.  A tempered chocolate garnish and apricot glazed strawberry slice is place on top of the cake on the outside edge of each slice.
     Complicated, time consuming and well worth the effort!  I have done plenty of baking and pastry work professionally in restaurants over the years, so this cake was easy for me to make.  This cake turned out good enough to sell.  Making a cake that looks good enough to sell is a good goal!
     As a note, I received an "A" grade in the Le Cordon Bleu Baking and Pastry Arts Class!  I am a straight "A" grade chef school student and I am on the Presidents Scholastic Achievement Award list!  So, I do know what I am doing and I do have the credentials.  I do suggest getting some fine dining cooking experience, before attending any chef school.  You will get far more from the chef school education, if you do!  
     I hope these pointers help, if you make one of these fine, rich, elegant, decadent cakes!  Yum!  ...  Shawna   

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Dessert Menu Example



 
 












     A Dessert Menu Example   
   A baking & pastry arts class assignment at chef school required creating a five item dessert menu.  The dessert menu had to feature individual dessert creations made with lemon curd tart, chocolate truffles, ice cream, pate a choux and creme patisserie.  The exercise was designed to start the menu planning thought process.
     This assignment was easy for students that had work experience.  I have written many restaurant menus in the past.  I used to rely on writing a dessert menu consisting of popular items that were proven sellers.  Now that I live in Las Vegas, a bolder approach can be taken.
     In Las Vegas, exciting desserts are served in every fine restaurant.  Fabulous presentations of fine desserts command a nice price.  As a pastry chef, Las Vegas is the place to let it all hang out!

     When writing a dessert menu, the object is to describe the dessert items in a way that naturally creates customer interest.  
     Fruit flavors are the collective theme of the Caribbean resort style dessert menu in today's example.   
     The chocolate truffle dessert is actually intended to be coated in pure edible gold foil.  A shiny pure gold coated treasure chest!  
     Croquembouche for two is a classic French dessert item.  Fried ice cream lollipops were an idea that I have kicked around for months.  
    A Salvador Dali surrealistic presentation of a lemon tart in a bird cage is actually based on a classic French caged lemon tart recipe. 
     When writing a dessert menu, have fun and be creative.  Design the dessert menu so it coordinates with the theme of the dinner menu.  Many customers visit a fine dining restaurant with only the intention of ordering dessert, so the dessert menu lingo should be capable of romancing their interests.     

                 

Lemon Tart in an Amber Sugar Bird Cage - A surreal presentation of lemon curd tart garnished with white raspberries and dark chocolate mint molecular gelee displayed in an amber sugar bird cage.
Pina Colada White Chocolate Truffles - Caribbean pina colada truffles in a golden dark chocolate pirate treasure chest floating on a blue curacao sabayon sea with Midori gastrique.
Fried Finger Banana Ice Cream Lollipops Neapolitan - A candy shop rack of fried coconut crusted tropical finger banana ice cream lollipops with neapolitan strawberry, dark chocolate and vanilla creme anglaise dipping sauces.
Huckleberry Chantilly Croquembouche - A towering classic presentation of huckleberry chantilly filled pate a choux puffs and crunchy spun sugar for two.
Drunken Brazil Nut Japonaise Creme Patisserie Tort - A layered neoclassic tort of rum syrup soaked brazil nut japonaise, passion fruit French pastry cream and bitter sweet tamarillo puree on an Amazon jungle theme dessert sauce painted plate.                                                                                                                                                           

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chiffon Cake with Swiss Meringue Butter Cream Icing




A classic light angelic cake!

     I really do not do much dessert cooking in my food blog, because I am borderline diabetic and I control diabetes by not eating sugar or corn syrup.  When I do eat a sweet dessert, I get sluggish and sleepy for a day.  I have been attending a baking and pastry arts class at chef school this term.  Most of the desserts that I have made at school have been given away to friends much to their delight! 
     I have done some dessert cooking and pastry chef work professionally as a chef during my career.  I was well trained during apprenticeship by some great chefs and pastry chefs.  It takes skill and talent to be a pastry chef.  I could have been a good pastry chef, if I could only stand to be working with sugar all day!
    Two things that a pastry chef must do, when making classic dessert recipes is to not take shortcuts and present the finished product in a fashionable way.  A professionally made dessert should look like it has an upscale shop price tag attached!
     I have never made a chiffon cake, till I made this one at chef school.  The executive pastry chef instructor at school is very talented and it was easy to learn the proper steps to make a great cake.  I always liked learning with a "monkey see, monkey do" style of teaching.  The teacher demonstrated how this cake was made and I nearly duplicated her finished cake on a first attempt!
     I do have to say, some students at school will take years to develop a high skill level of pastry chef work.  A few students do show some promising natural talent.  I am older than most of the students and more mature.  Distractive behavior seems to be the setback for many students.  It seems like many young student chefs place more importance on trying to be funny and making smart aleck comments during a cooking demonstration, rather than to focus on the task at hand.  Learn what you are supposed to learn and learn to do it well, before trying to be a class comedian is some good advice for students with attention deficit disorders!  
     Resentment and disrespectful looks from students who don't know any better are what I deal with every day at school.  Instead of trying to learn from someone with experience, many students seem to resent a student chef that knows what they are doing.  Head strong students that cook classic recipes with shortcuts and by personal taste seem to get in over their head quickly, when preparing a recipe for the first time.  When their own product does not turn out the way it should, students resent another student that has working experience and who continually turns out nicely crafted products.  
     Hey!  The teacher at a chef school does not grade on a curve, so why would students continually ignore the details that makes a student chef's food stand out from the rest?  I suppose petty jealousy is part of that negative behavioral pattern.  Mistaken perceived ideas of how things should be, does have something to do with that negative psyche.  As a culinary arts instructor, psychology also has to be applied to green students as well as teaching cooking methods.  This resentment experience at school will be an important lesson for me to remember, if I ever decide to go into the culinary arts instructor field of employment.  This is an area of student cooking psychology that may need to be tweaked through motivation guidance instruction techniques.  
     I didn't apprentice and work as chef for 20 plus years for no reason at all.  I was a good chef that made good sales numbers at restaurants by selling products that looked like they were professionally made!  I simply know how plates of food should look when served at every restaurant level from a diner, to a pub, to a casual restaurant, yacht clubs and fine ding restaurants that serve Michelin 1 star through 4 star cuisine.  
     Everything that a chef needs to know, cannot possibly be taught at a chef school.  Working experience in a professional atmosphere is where true cooking knowledge and leadership skills are developed.  That is why most chef schools have an externship program at the end of the school year.  Green chef school students learn to behave, cook and create in a professional restaurant kitchen under the guidance of a professional chef that has to make a profit from presentable food.  
     I did at least 2 years of culinary arts school student externship instructor duty as a chef in fine dining restaurants for the major chef schools back east.  Teaching timing and coordination at each cooking station to externship students was what I did best.  
     For a student, it is hard to fathom how to cook 30 different orders at one time and have the items for each separate table timed to finish at the same time.  That is a skill that takes time and working experience to learn.  A chef must have the ability to cook items in a precise order of what takes the longest to cook to be started first and to prepare the mise en place for the a la minute items that are prepared shortly before serving.  Learning how to prepare only enough food for the estimated projection of sales per shift is another skill that must be developed through working experience.
     Anyway, I hope this example of chef psychology and skill development regiment is of help to those readers who wish to become a great chef.  The negative items that I mentioned are only meant to be learned from.  I try to teach good cooking experience to those who want to learn how to become a chef, when I do teach!    
     Believe it or not, no students at school read my food blog.  Ah, the green student resentment problem and lack of motivation strikes again!  There is plenty for a cook to learn from what I write in this blog.  When I was apprenticing, I spent many hours each day in public libraries reading international cuisine cook books for self motivated research.  That was how I learned in the days before the computer age.  Nowadays, browsing good cooking information is easy on the internet, yet it takes an experienced chef to have the ability to filter the good authentic information from the bad.  
     I still do research on my own free will, to verify that I am correct, when writing recipes.  Research is a never ending way for a chef to learn in a culinary occupation that has endless amounts of cooking information.  Being a chef also means that you never stop learning!

     Chiffon cake is considered to be one of the classic styles of cake.  Chiffon cake was created by a California insurance salesman named Harry Baker.  He kept his recipe secret for many years and marketed his famous chiffon cakes to the Hollywood stars and through the famous Brown Derby Restaurant.  Chiffon cake has a combination of batter and foam cake techniques.  Perfect those techniques and you will have a perfect chiffon cake!
     I baked the chiffon cake in the pictures at Le Cordon Bleu chef school as required.  Like all Cordon Bleu recipes, copyrights must be respected, so I cannot post the recipe.  I can however give a few tips.  A Swiss meringue and softened chilled butter are combined to make the Swiss buttercream icing.  A Swiss meringue is started over a double boiler, so the meringue is fairly tight when finished, yet not as tight as an Italian meringue.
     First off, wipe and clean up as you go!  A clean work area inspires professionalism.  If you look at the pictures, the work area is spotless!  A messy work area is unsanitary and it usually results in a messy looking cake.
     A stiff peak French meringue is used as the foam for the batter and it cannot be over whisked or the air in the foam will escape too soon.  The egg yolks are used to make the batter and they must be creamed with sugar, till ribbons appear, so the batter has a light texture.  
     Oil is the key to a chiffon cake's light angelic texture.  Be sure that the measurement of oil in a chiffon cake recipe is exact!  Oil helps to create the baked batter's thin air pocket cells.  The amount of baking powder is also a key to making a great chiffon cake.
     The chiffon cake must be baked undisturbed, just like a souffle, or the cake will fall.  After baking, the tall chiffon cake must be cut with a thin bladed very sharp carving knife into 3 decks.  
     The rest is a simple assembly of layers of cake and Swiss butter cream icing.  The cake is also coated with a thin smooth layer of Swiss butter cream icing and simple decorative borders of the icing are piped with a pastry bag and a star tip.  The goal of icing this cake is smooth flat even sides and a smooth flat top.  A minimum of decorative icing should be applied.  Fondant icing white roses are a nice optional decoration.
     I am way out of practice as far as my cake decorating experience goes.  It has been over 15 years since I decorated a cake.  Even so, this chiffon cake turned out good enough to sell.  If you set your goal as making a chiffon cake that looks good enough to sell, then you have set a good goal to achieve!  Always think of tasteful simple ways to present a good dessert, instead of trying to over achieve on a first attempt.  Simple perfection is far better than a complicated mess!
     
     I gave thought to becoming a pastry chef during this baking and pastry term at chef school, till I became sugar sick from eating a large piece of peanut brittle that I made in the candy making classes.  I missed a day of school, because I was too sleepy to attend the class after eating a fair amount of sugar.  I refuse to become dependent on diabetic medicine, so again, my pastry chef career will sit on a back burner!  Back to cooking savory food in my blog!  Yum!  ...  Shawna    

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New York Strip Steak with Kentucky Sour Mash Bourbon Pepper Glace Viande










A nice Kentucky Derby Day steak!  Delicious!

     I posted a Kentucky Bourbon Steak recipe a few months ago in this blog.  That steak looked really nice on a plate and the clear glace viande brown sauce with sweet vidalia onion had a nice appealing sheen.  The higher you go in the Michelin Star rating system, the more reduction sauces you will find on menus.  Glace viande is a translucent brown meat glaze that really looks nice on a plate and it has a very rich flavor.
     Kentucky sour mash bourbon whiskey cocktails are a classic with a dinner at a steakhouse restaurant.  Good bourbon goes nicely with beef!  Many people do prefer good Kentucky or Tennessee bourbon whisky over Irish or Scottish whiskey.  There is a major difference in flavor.  Bourbon has a richer whiskey flavor and no Irish moss is used to clarify the brew.
     Some people rave about the flavor of certain brands of imported Scotch and Irish whiskey.  Many times, after tasting Irish and Scotch whisky, I noticed that the flavor that those people rave about is actually Irish moss.  Irish moss tastes like peat moss!  Irish moss has a natural harsh whiskey like flavor, that I really do not care for.  I've never really sat down and tasted peat moss, but planting trees on a windy day is a sure way to get an unwanted mouthful of wind blown peat.  I have tasted Irish moss.  Irish moss is used to clarify the brew.  Bourbon is usually filtered, so there is no need for Irish moss.
     Peppers and bourbon go well together.  A mixture of red bell pepper and jalapeno was used to make the Kentucky sour mash bourbon glace viande.  This created a nice balance of mildly spicy chile pepper and sweet pepper.  This sauce is genuinely great with steak!

     Glace Viande Recipe:
     Place 4 pounds of veal bones, lamb bones, beef bones, pork bones and meat scraps into a roasting pan.
     Add 5 ounces of tomato paste.
     Add 8 to 10 ounces of rustic un-peeled mirepoix of carrot, celery and onion.
     Stir the mixture together.
     Roast the mixture in a 350 degree oven, till the bones and vegetables caramelize to a deep brown color.  (Stir the ingredients occasionally.)
     Place the roasted bones and mirepoix into a stock pot.
     Deglaze the roast pan with water and add the jus to the stock pot.
     Cover the bones with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
     Turn the temperature to medium low heat and simmer for 4 hours.
     Add water occasionally to cover the bones.
     Strain the stock through a fine sieve.
     Discard the bones and vegetables.
     Skim off the grease.
     Reduce the meat stock by a little more than half.
     This is a very rich unseasoned stock that can be frozen in portions for later use.
     The glace should be able to thinly coat and glaze the back of a spoon.
     When the glace viande is used in recipes, it will be reduced to a slightly thicker glaze to order.

     Kentucky Sour Mash Bourbon Pepper Glace Viande:
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Saute till the garlic starts to turn a golden color.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 finely diced seeded jalapeno pepper.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely diced red bell pepper.
     Saute till the vegetables become tender, but not browned.
     Add 1/2 cup of Kentucky sour mash bourbon whiskey.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of paprika.
     Reduce the bourbon, till it is nearly a glaze.
     Add 1/2 cup of glace viande.
     Simmer and reduce, till a thin meat glaze sauce is formed.  The sauce should be able to glaze the back of a spoon.
     Set the sauce aside and keep it warm over very low heat.  Add more glace viande, if the sauce gets too thick.  Do not add water to thin this glace or it will look runny!

     New York Strip Steak with Kentucky Sour Mash Bourbon Pepper Glace Viande:
     Heat a char grill or cast iron grill to medium/medium high heat.
     Brush a 10 to 14 ounce New York Strip Steak with a small amount of vegetable oil.
     Season the steak with sea salt and black pepper.
     Grill and mark the steak with a cross check pattern, so the steak looks nice.
     Grill the steak to your desired temperature.
     Set the steak on a cutting board to rest for about 1 minute.

     Presentation:
     Place the char grilled NY strip steak on a plate.
     Place vegetables and a potato of your choice on the plate.  I chose simple vegetables that would not compete with the flavor of the entree.  Boiled buttered purple potato and carrots seasoned with white pepper and sea salt.  A baked tomato that was seasoned with olive oil, bread crumbs oregano, black pepper and sea salt was also placed on the plate.
     Always sauce a plate last!  Traditional French cooking rules state that a sauce should not be poured over an item that was cooked with a dry cooking method like sauteed, char grilled or broiled food.  It is okay to cascade the sauce along the edge of the item being sauced.  Some recipes are designed for the sauce to smother the item being sauce.
     Spoon and cascade the Kentucky Sour Mash Bourbon Pepper Glace Viande over the front edge of the steak and onto the plate.
     Place an Italian parsley sprig by the red baked tomato for a contrast in color.

     Beyond the normal taste bud zone!  This sauce tastes like the best pepper steak entree sauce that you never had!  Very mildly spicy and full of pepper flavor with the good Kentucky bourbon adding depth and accents of flavor is a good description of this sauce.  This sauce is great with a good steak!  Yum!  ...  Shawna   

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Old Fashioned English Fish n Chips









Delicious!

     Fish n chips is a popular entree around the world.  Fish n chips originated in small restaurants that were located in English fishing villages.
     Atlantic cod used to be the choice fish for fish and chips, but now Atlantic cod are nearly extinct from over fishing.  Pacific cod is a good alternative and so is pollack.  When Atlantic cod fishing was banned, I was the chef at an English pub.  Well before the ban on Atlantic cod went into place, the price of Atlantic cod started to go through the ceiling.
     We switched to serving pollack as fish n chips at that English pub long before the Atlantic cod ban went into effect.  The menu made no mention of what type of fish that was used for fish n chips, so we did not need to announce the change to pollack.  The customers could not tell the difference!  In fact, many customers complimented the nice flavor of the "cod" in our fish n chips, even though the fish was really pollack.
     Pollack rose in numbers as cod was depleted.  The overpopulation of pollack caused a decline in herring.  Less herring meant that whales, seals, sea lions and walrus had less to eat and the numbers of those sea mammals also began to decline.  Pollack are prolific herring predators and many fishery authorities begged for a market to open on pollack.  Pollack was not an easy fish to market, because it is not easy to saute or broil pollack without the flaky white meat crumbling into pieces.  Pollack happened to be perfect for batter fry cooking!
    Part of the reason that the owner of the English pub and I decided to use pollack was because of the price.  Pollack filets were selling at about $1.40 per pound.  Cod at that time was pushing upwards of $8.00 per pound.  By choosing pollack, the fish n chips on our English pub menu became a profitable item once again.  Using pollack was also the environmentally correct thing to do!
     Any white fish can be used to make fish n chips.  Large predator white fish with flakey meat makes the best fish n chips.  Ling cod, flounder, tilapia, basa and pollack are good sustainable seafood choices for today's age of declining wild seafood stock.
     English chips did not always look like French fries.  Thirty to forty years ago, English chips looked like chipped potatoes.  The potatoes were not always peeled when making chips.  The pieces of potato were unevenly cut into thin potato wedge shapes, as if they were "chipped" off of a potato.  Every English chip order was cooked to order.  Fresh fried English chips cannot be held under heat lamps, without the chips getting soggy.
     When frying fresh English chips, it is best to partially fry the potatoes, till they just start to brown.  The potatoes are then removed from the hot oil and allowed to cool.  Then the potatoes are fried a second time, till they turn a light golden brown color.  The result is a crisp fried English chip that is moist and steaming hot inside.  By using this frying method, the chips will not become a dark brown color.
     English fish n chips were always served in an old newspaper that was rolled into a cone shape.  Customers used to purchase fish n chips at a fishing village restaurant and walk out with a newspaper cone full of fish n chips.  Fish n chips is finger food at its best!
     English malt vinegar is the standard fish n chip sauce.  A sprinkle of malt vinegar over fish n chips is one of life's great simple pleasures.  Some people like tartar sauce with fish n chips, so I posted a nice tartar sauce recipe.  Fresh made tartar sauce is much better than any bottle tartar sauce product!  Tartare sauce was once an accompaniment for steak tartare.  We once researched the original tartare sauce recipes at a fine French cafe and chose this recipe as being closest to the original.

     Tartar Sauce Recipe:
     Tartar sauce that is pre made and bottled usually does not have all the original tartare sauce ingredients in the sauce.  Most second rate restaurants mix sweet pickle relish and mayonnaise together to make tartar sauce and that is totally wrong.  Gherkin dill pickles are used to make the original tartar sauce.  Creme of tartar is a concentrated acidic sediment that is a bi product of the wine making process.  Creme of tartar is part of the original French tartare sauce recipe.
     Place 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise into a small mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped gherkin dill pickle.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot or onion.
     Add 3 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Add 2 pinches of tarragon.
     Add 1 small squeeze of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely chopped rinsed capers.
     Add 1 small pinch of creme of tartar.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Place the tartar sauce into a small ramekin and set it aside.

     Beer Batter Recipe:
     Old fashioned beer batter does not have to have an extensive list of ingredients.  The simpler the better is the motto of a good beer batter.  Turmeric is added for color in this recipe and the small amount of ginger compliments the beer flavor in a delicate way.  This beer batter recipe was well liked at the English pub where I was the chef.
     Place 2 cups of lager beer in a mixing bowl.  (Leftover flat beer is good for this recipe.)
     Add 1 teaspoon of finely minced ginger.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add just enough flour, while whisking, to form a medium thin batter.  The batter should be just slightly thinner than pancake batter.

     English Chips:
     You can peel the russet potato or wash the russet potato and leave the skin on.  I peeled the potato for the chips in the pictures.
     Cut a peeled russet potato in half lengthwise.
     Cut the potato into uneven shaped wedges, that look like chips off of a potato.  The wedges should be thin on one side and they should be about 3/8" thick on the wide side.  If you cut the English chips too wide, then they will take too long to cook.
     Heat 4" to 5" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360 degrees.
     Place the English chip potatoes in the hot oil.
     Fry till a few brown highlights appear on the English chips.
     Use a fryer net to remove the potatoes from the hot oil.
     Place the blanched potatoes on a dish and let them cool to room temperature.
     Return the blanched potatoes to the hot oil.
     Fry until the potatoes are fully cooked and crispy golden brown on the outside.
     Use a fry net to place the English chips on a dry towel and drain off any excess oil.
     Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over the hot English chips.
     Keep the chips warm on a stove top while the fish is being fried.

     Old Fashioned English Fish n Chips:
     Heat 4" to 5" of vegetable frying oil to 360 degrees.
     Cut 6 to 10 ounces of pollack filets into wide long strips.
     Dredge the pollack strips in flour.
     Dip the floured pollack strips in the beer batter.
     Place one pollack strip in the 360 degree frying oil at a time, so the pieces of beer batter fish do not stick to each other.
     Fry the beer batter fish, till they turn a crisp golden color and the fish is fully cooked.
     Use a fry net to place the beer batter pollack on a dry towel and drain off any excess grease.

     Presentation:
     Newspaper cannot be used for fish n chips, because of toxins in the ink.  Newspaper print food grade parchment paper is available.  Standard parchment paper or brown butcher's parchment paper are easier to find.
     Fold a 16"x16" piece of parchment paper so it resembles half of a cone.
     Place the parchment paper half cone on a large plate or in a small basket.
     Place the English chips on the paper.
     Place the beer batter fish on the chips and paper.
     Place the ramekin of tartar sauce next to the fish n chips.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian parsley sprig.
     Serve with malt vinegar on the side.

     Old fashioned English fish n chips just like how they used to be sold many years ago!  The fish is steaming hot underneath the crisp beer batter coating.  The odd shaped English chips are crisp on the outside and moist inside, just like how they should be.  Malt vinegar is my favorite for fish n chips.  A good fresh tartar sauce tastes nothing like pre-made bottled tartar sauce and it goes great with fish n chips.  Yum!  ...  Shawna
   
     

   

     

Monday, March 12, 2012

Conch Fritters with Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise





Key West style conch fritters!

     Conch fritters are a popular appetizer in Florida seafood restaurants and bars.  Conch fritters have a spicy flavor and a nice mellow conch flavor.
     Conch meat can be found fresh, frozen or canned.  Fresh conch must be poached in the shell.  The meat is not easy to pull out of the spiral conch shell and most cooks simply break the shell with a hammer.  Frozen conch is usually poached before freezing.  Both fresh and frozen conch meat needs to be tenderized with a meat mallet, before the meat is chopped.  Scungilli is an Italian mediterranean conch that is usually sold as a canned product.  Canned scungilli is tender from the canning process and it does not need to be tenderized.
     There are two types of conch fritters.  One type of conch fritter is made with wheat flour.  The problem with flour fritters is that the center of the fritter sometimes remains gummy after frying.  The older Florida style conch fritter combines corn flour, corn meal and wheat flour.  This type of conch fritter has the texture and taste of a hush puppy.
     The conch fritter batter has a high proportion of conch, vegetables and seasoning.  The small amount of batter simply holds the ingredients together.  The idea is not to use conch to flavor a batter, but for the batter to barely cover the conch!
     Key limes are a special breed of small limes that have a rich tart flavor.  Key limes are about 1/3 the size of a regular lime.  Either fresh key lime or bottled key lime juice can be used to make the key lime chile mayonnaise.
     These recipes make enough for one serving.  It is easier for most cooks to double or multiply a recipe rather than to divide fractions!

     Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise Recipe:
     Place 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise in a small bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Korean red serrano chile pepper sauce.
     Add 2 teaspoons of key lime juice.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Place the key lime chile mayonnaise into a small ramekin and set it aside.

     Conch Fritters Recipe:
     Place 3 ounces of minced tenderized poached conch meat in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Add 1 tablespoon of milk.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced green onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of paprika.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of flour.
     Add 1 tablespoon of prepared corn flour.  (Masa Harina)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of corn meal.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     The wet fritter mixture should be thick enough to hold a ball shape when scooped.  If the mixture is too loose, then add more prepared corn flour.  The mixture should not be dry looking!
     Heat 4" to 5" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360 degrees.
     Use a small sorbet scoop to scoop one ball shape of the conch fritter batter at a time and carefully drop the conch fritter batter ball into the hot frying oil.
     Each conch fritter will sink to the bottom of the fry oil.  Wait for the conch fritters to release themselves from the bottom of the pot, before trying to free them with a long spoon.  Usually the maillard reaction of the cooked proteins will free the stuck conch fritters on its own!
     When the conch fritters float in the oil, then they are not done cooking!  Allow the conch fritters to fry, till they turn a light brown color.
     Scoop the fried conch fritters out of the hot oil with a fryer net.
     Place the conch fritters on a dry towel to drain off any excess grease.
 
     Assembly:
     Place a bed of Italian parsley sprigs on an appetizer plate.
     Place the ramekin of key lime chile mayonnaise on the plate.
     Place the conch fritters on the plate around the ramekin.

     A tasty old Key West treat!  Conch fritters have a nice clam like flavor.  The minced aromatic vegetables and seasoning accents the flavor of the conch.  This is a nice appetizer before a seafood dinner!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fruit and Creme Patisserie Tart






A nice fresh fruit and pastry cream tart!

     I made this tart at chef school.  Tarts are fairly easy to make.  Two tips to arranging the fruit on top of a tart are to make the top look full of fruit and to arrange the fruit in a symmetric pattern that has tasteful eye appeal.  The colors of the fruit should be bright and appealing.  A sparse amount of fruit on a tart can make the tart look cheap.
     Pate Sucree is short dough.  Pate sucree has a cookie texture and taste.  Pate sucree is used to make sweet tart shells.  Some tarts are made with pate brisee.  
     Creme Patisserie is pastry cream.  Pastry cream is most often used as a base for the fruit topping on a tart.  Creme anglaise can be used for individual size tarts that will not be sliced.
     Apricot jelly glaze is heated to a syrup consistency and then brushed over the fruit on the tart.  The glaze adds a nice flavor and it keeps the fruit looking good.
     Since this tart was made with Le Cordon Bleu copyrighted recipes, I cannot write the original recipe's measurement for this tart.  Apricot glaze is a canned product.  The glaze must be heated to a syrup consistency, before brushing on the tart.  Pate sucree and creme patisserie recipes are old standardized French recipes that do not change, just like French mother sauces are always made the same exact way every time.  When an executive pastry chef asks for pastry cream, a pastry chef must make a standard recipe and not a creation of personal tastes.  Refer to Larousse Gastronomique or Escoffier cook books for good standardized recipes. 
     I have made thousands of tarts like this one in my lifetime.  The trick to designing the fruit topping is to keep in mind that the tart must look good enough to be sold.  Fruit that is cut in gimmicky ways will result in a gimmicky looking tart!  Use tasteful ways of slicing fruit and the tart will look tastefully elegant!  It is best to start placing the fruit around the border of a tart and work your way to the center of the tart.  With odd shaped fruits like strawberries, the tips of the fruit should point outward from the center.  Small spaces between the odd shaped fruit, where small amounts of the pastry cream can be seen, are best filled in with berries.  The berries then become part of the pattern.
     Fruit tarts have a refrigerated shelf life of only 2 to 3 days.  Even though the fruit is brushed with glaze, the fruit will decompose by nature under the glaze.  Large tarts like the one in the pictures are best for a large party of guests.  Smaller individual size tarts are best if only are few servings are needed.
     The fruits that topped this tart were fresh pineapple, strawberry, mandarin orange, blackberry, blueberry and kiwi.  Fresh fruits make the best fruit tarts!
     I'll post a tart recipe in this blog sometime soon.  Desserts are something that I am good at making, but desserts are not good for me.  I control my borderline diabetes with my diet.  I practically eat no sweets!  In fact, I have given away all the dessert items that I have made at chef school.  That doesn't make me happy, but my friends are overjoyed!  Yum!  ...  Shawna