Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mariana's Supermarkets, Las Vegas!





Another good Las Vegas specialty market!

    There are several Mariana's Supermarket locations in Las Vegas.  I recently did some shopping at the Mariana's location at Sahara and Valley View.  It was a Saturday afternoon and the store was swarmed with busy Mexican food shoppers.  I have never seen so many people shopping at a food market at one time in any other food market in Las Vegas.  That says a lot about how good Mariana's Supermarket is!
     Nearly any food item from South America, Central America and Mexico can be found at Mariana's Supermarket.  Hard to find specialty items can be found on every aisle.  
     Cuban style expresso grind coffee was an item that I purchased that day.  Most regular grocery stores do not stock this style of very strong coffee.  Busy chefs in Florida and writers both like Cuban style expresso!
    Dried corn husks for tamales were on sale for a good price, so I snagged a bundle.  I purchased some mayocoba beans, because it has been a while since I have posted mayocoba bean recipes.  
     For those who miss Twinkies, Mexican style chocolate coated Twinkie style Gansito Snack Cakes were available.  Of course I purchased a few Gansito Snack Cake gifts for my local Las Vegas Twinkie eating friends.  They went nuts over the Gansito Snack Cakes!
     The Mariana's fresh produce department was well stocked with every Mexican vegetable and fruit that could be thought of.  Some of the vegetables that were on sale sold so fast, that the Mariana's produce stockers hauled out more of the low price vegetables by the pallet load!  That is a busy produce market!
     The Mariana's carniceria was stocked full of popular Mexican style cuts of beef, pork and sausages.  The waiting line was long, but the customers all looked patient and eager to get home style meat cuts at a good price.
     Mariana's Supermarkets have a panaderia where fresh Mexican and South American style breads, cakes and desserts can be found.  There is a also a delicatessen in Mariana's that offers just about any fresh pre-made south of the border style food, sauce or condiment.  Mexican style pre-made food is great for shoppers who are pressed for time and for those who want to just heat some good food up for an easy weekend meal.  Table dining at the Mariana's deli kitchen is available at many locations.  I have dined at Mariana's Supermarket kitchen a few times after a long day on the job and the food quality compares to any good Mexican restaurant food.  
     I highly recommend Mariana's Supermarkets for local Las Vegas shoppers who seek a big well stocked market that specializes in hispanic food!  Weekends are very busy at Mariana's, so be ready for a hustling bustling food market, if you shop on a Saturday afternoon.  That can be a fun experience!  
     For those who like a quiet easy going pace when food shopping, try Mariana's Supermarkets on a weekday.  Yum!  ...  Shawna   

Tabasco Chocolate









     I rarely write food product review articles.  Since many readers seek spicy recipes in this bog, mentioning a spicy new product was in order.  A few years ago, I posted a Mayan Chocolate Mousse recipe which became very popular around Valentines Day.  A nice review about Tabasco Chocolate may appeal to the chocolate and chile pepper fans.
     Valentines Day is near and this holiday is one of the biggest chocolate days of the year.  Lovers like chocolate.  Chocolate is the sensual food of the gods.  Many valentines lovers like it sweet and spicy!
     Chocolate was the ancient drink of noblemen in ancient Mayan and Aztec societies.  Chocolate was associated with the Aztec goddess of fertility, Xochiquetzal.   Xocolatl had a reputation of being a potent spicy chocolate drink that made men virile.  Chile peppers were part of the xocolatl recipe.
     Few modern chocolatiers create chocolate products that are modeled after the ancient Mayan and Aztec chocolate recipes.  Few modern chocolatiers add chile pepper flavors to chocolate creations, yet chocolate and chile pepper is a classic flavor combination.  Chocolate and chile peppers both trigger the release of endorphins in the human brain, which in turn creates feelings of calmness, love and sensuality.
     The reason that chocolate is so desirable on Valentines Day should be obvious now.  Chile pepper flavored chocolate should be a must try confection for lovers on Valentines Day!
     Recently, I did a little bit of shopping at the Paiute Tribal Smoke Shop on Main Street in Las Vegas.  To my surprise, one of the few candies that were on display by the cashier was little snack packages of Tabasco Chocolate.  I could not resist trying this product, because I like the flavor of chocolate and chile peppers.
     The flavor of the dark chocolate in this Tabasco product is nice.  No waxy fillers or vegetable oil could be tasted.  The flavors of chocolate and cocoa butter were very rich.  The tabasco pepper flavor was present, yet subtle.  There was just enough tabasco pepper added to the chocolate to create a nice flavor sensation.  Tabasco Chocolate is a high quality product that is worth recommending, especially near Valentines Day!
     The Tabasco Company markets several hot tabasco pepper products at their internet Tabasco Country Store.  Tabasco Chocolate can be found there and at other internet food marketing sites, like Amazon.  In Las Vegas, the only place that I have seen Tabasco Chocolate for sale is at the Paiute Smoke Shop.
     Spicy chocolate!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Southern Style Buttermilk Batter Crispy Fried Okra with Remoulade





     Frozen battered okra for frying can be okay, but that is cheap buffet fodder.  Corn meal breaded okra is not bad and I have posted recipes for that style of fried okra.  Buttermilk batter fried okra is the best!  
     Southerners usually refer to buttermilk batter fried food as being "chicken fried."  Southern fried chicken always has buttermilk in the recipe.  Buttermilk adds flavor and the enzymes in buttermilk do tenderize tough meats.  Buttermilk enzymes also help to bring the natural flavors of fried food to a tastier level.  
     There are many remoulade recipes in France and several remoulade recipes in Louisiana.  Most people refer to each remoulade style by the color of the remoulade.  The remoulade in this recipe is a basic French white remoulade.  French yellow remoulade has curry powder in the recipe and a few food writers say that is the standard remoulade recipe in France, but that is a matter of opinion.  
     Many chefs and food writers make fictitious rules in order to restrict creativity.  Many American French culinary arts teachers make fictitious restrictive rules in order to discount how good other cuisines of the world really are.  Many of those teachers try to make it sound like the French invented every cuisine in the world.  The French are actually late comers to the game of fine gourmet cuisine!
     Southern cooking is a gourmet cuisine of its own.  While working at the Le Cordon Bleu campus restaurant, I whipped up many old southern style recipes and snacks to share with employees or as personal employee meals.  One afternoon, I noticed that okra was delivered, so I asked if it was for an upcoming planned dining event.  The executive chef said that he did not know that okra was even there, so I got the green light to make some fried okra to snack on.  
     I cooked the chicken fried okra in the pictures above at the French restaurant.  I made remoulade for a dinner party the day before, so I had some on hand.  I stood there snacking away and several chefs grabbed a piece of fried okra as they walked by.  When the chefs walked past again, they all said "I do not even like okra, but that fried okra is really good!"  Then they grabbed a second piece on the way to wherever they were going.
     You know that fried okra is good, when people that do not even like fried okra stop dead in their tracks, then turn around and say "thats some good fried okra!"

     Remoulade Recipe:
     This recipe makes 2 to 3 servings! 
     Place 1/2 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of dijon mustard.
     Add 4 tablespoons of minced bermuda onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped capers.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely chopped cornichon pickles.
     Add 3 cloves of finely minced garlic.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 2 pinches each of:
     - marjoram
     - tarragon
     - basil
     - oregano
     - chervil
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian parsley.
     Add 1 to 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of paprika.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Refrigerate the remoulade till it is needed. 

     Okra Preparation:
     Wash and trim 6 to 8 ounces of okra.
     Cut the small okra in half lengthwise.
     Bias slice the larger okra into 2 or 3 long pieces.

     Southern Style Buttermilk Batter:
     Place 2 cups of buttermilk in a mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of dry mustard powder.
     Add 1 pinch of sage.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced Italian parsley.
     Add a small amount of flour at a time, while stirring with a whisk, till a thick batter is created.  The batter should be just a little bit thicker than a thick flapjack pancake batter.

     Southern Style Buttermilk Batter Crispy Fried Okra with Remoulade:
     Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360º.
     Place the okra pieces in the bowl with the batter.
     Stir the use your fingers to coat a few pieces of the okra with batter at a time.  
     Let the thick batter coated okra pieces slide off the ends of your fingers into the hot oil a few at a time.  
     Only add a few battered okra pieces to the oil at a time, to prevent the okra pieces from sticking together.  
     Fry the okra in small batches, till they are all fried crispy golden brown.  
     Use a fryer net to place the okra pieces on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Mound the southern style buttermilk battered okra on a plate.
     Place a ramekin of the remoulade sauce on the plate.
     Garnish the remoulade with thin lemon slices. 

     Crispy golden brown southern chicken fried okra y'all!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gourmet Monte Cristo of Bourbon Ancho Beef and Emmentaler with Blackberry Preserves









Another nice tasting gourmet monte cristo sandwich!

     Plenty of information about monte cristo sandwiches have been posted in previous monte cristo recipe articles that I wrote.  I mentioned that the original meat for a monte cristo was ham.  Turkey and ham became a popular monte cristo version a couple decades later.  Relatively few alternative meat choices have been suggested since then, for making monte cristo sandwiches.  
     Since many modern chefs are just too egotistical to bother with making a lowly monte cristo or they are just too anal to deal with the mess involved with the making of a monte cristo, I gladly took the opportunity to hog the gourmet monte cristo market!  Older classic chefs still like a good monte cristo sandwich.  Younger chefs have no clue as to why a monte cristo is highly regarded.
     Monte cristo sandwiches were originally classy gourmet sandwiches.  Monte cristo sandwiches can be gourmet items once again.  Every chef seems to have created gourmet slider recipes and gourmet street food recipes in recent years.  There has been no new gourmet monte cristo recipes introduced.  The monte cristo was one of my favorite sandwiches when I was a kid, so I naturally think of new ideas for making these sandwiches.
     I made a small batch of blackberry preserves just for a series of gourmet monte cristo sandwiches.  Being a chef chef means that the selection of the ingredients for this monte cristo sandwich recipe must be a good match for the flavor of the accompanying fruit preserves.  Mild ancho chile goes very nicely with beef and bourbon.  Beef and bourbon is a classic flavor combination.  Swiss emmentaler (swiss cheese) tastes nice with all three of these items.  This Gourmet Monte Cristo of Bourbon Ancho Beef and Emmentaler tastes great with blackberry preserves! 

      Blackberry Preserves:
     This is a small batch recipe that makes about 1 1/2 cups of preserves!  No canning is involved and this small amount can easily be consumed within the Servesafe prepared food time limit of 7 days.  The preserves do have to be refrigerated.  If this recipe is multiplied for large batch canning, then it will have to be slightly modified, so the preserves do not turn out to be too thick. 
     When selecting fresh blackberries for making preserves, fresh black berries that are on the verge of becoming overripe are the best!  The only problem is that fully ripened blackberries can have tough crunchy seeds.  It is best to taste a few of the blackberries and decide from the start whether the seeds will be too tough.  If the seed are unpalatable, then press the finished batch of preserved through a small mesh strainer to remove the seeds.  When the seeds are removed, it can no longer be called blackberry preserves and it must be called blackberry jam! 
     Place 2 1/3 cups of blackberries in a colander and thoroughly wash the berries under cold running water.
     Place the blackberries in a small stainless steel sauce pot.
     Add enough water to cover the blackberries with an extra inch of water.
     Add 1 small pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
     Add 1 pinch of ground ginger.
     Add 1/2 cup of sugar.
     Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer till the blackberries become soft.
     Add 3 ounces of liquid pectin.
     Simmer and reduce, till the blackberries melt into the sauce and the sauce is able to coat the back of a spoon like a glazing syrup.
     Cool the preserves to room temperature.
     Strain the preserves if the seeds are too tough.  (optional)
     Refrigerate the preserves in a container, till the pectin and sugar gels.
     Serve small portions in a ramekin at room temperature, so the flavors are at their peak! 

     Bourbon Ancho Beef:  
     This steak can be cooked on a char grill, but cook the steak a shade lighter than the desired finish temperature.  The steak is then placed in a pan with the marinade.  The marinade is then reduced with the steak, till it glazes the steak.  
     Place a 5 to 6 ounce piece of sirloin steak in a container.
     Add 2 ounces of Kentucky bourbon whiskey.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ancho chile powder.  
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of garlic powder.
     Add 2 pinches of onion powder.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sugar.
     Rub the steak in the marinade, to mix the ingredients.
     Cover the container.
     Marinate for 30 minutes.
     Flip the steak in the marinade.
     Marinate for another 30 minutes.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Place the steak in the pan and reserve the marinade.
     Sear the steak, till it is cook a shade lighter, that the desired finish temperature.
     Add the small amount of marinade to the pan. 
     Quickly reduce the marinade, till it glazes the steak.
     Set the steak aside and let it cool to room temperature.

     Monte Cristo of Bourbon Ancho Beef and Emmentaler: 
     Place 2 eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced Italian parsley.
     Cut 2 slices of French bread.
     Place a few thin slices of emmentaler on one slice of bread.
     Thin bias slice the bourbon ancho beef steak at a 45º angle across the grain.
     Place the sliced bourbon ancho beef on the emmentaler cheese.
     Place a few thin slices of emmentaler on the beef.
     Place the top slice of bread on the sandwich.
     Heat a seasoned or non-stick saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Dip both the top and bottom of the sandwich in the seasoned egg wash.
     Place the egg dipped sandwich in the hot pan.
     Saute till the bottom half becomes a golden color.
     Flip the sandwich over.
     Immediately place the pan in a 325º oven.
     Bake till the sandwich becomes hot and till the egg dipped bread becomes a golden brown color.
     
     Gourmet Monte Cristo of Bourbon Ancho Beef and Emmentaler with Blackberry Preserves:
     Place the sandwich on a cutting board and cut it in half.
     Place the monte cristo halves on a plate.
     Dust the sandwich with a small amount of powdered sugar.
     Place a ramekin of blackberry preserves on the plate.
     Serve with gaufrette potato chips or chips of your choice.  
     Note:  A French mandolin is required for making gaufrettes.  The gaufrette chips are fried in 360º oil and seasoned with sea salt.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian parsley sprig.
   
     Viola!  A nice modern gourmet monte cristo with classic beef flavors!  Yum!  ...  Shawna 
     

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Panini Mexicana









     Panini Mexicana:
     I recently went on a streak of creating nice gourmet panini and monte cristo sandwich recipes, after buying a large loaf of good French bread.  Its funny how just a simple loaf of bread can inspire a chef to create!  I chose gourmet ingredients for some of the sandwiches and I created interesting themes for others.  The ingredients for this gourmet panini are not exotic and they are really just common everyday Mexican food items.  What made this panini special is that it is one of a kind.  I seriously doubt if any chef has made a tasty Mexican style panini like this!
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil or lard.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced jalapeno.
     Saute till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Add 4 ounces of lean ground beef.
     Saute till the beef becomes browned.  Break up any clumps of ground beef as it cooks.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 2 pinches of ground chile ancho.
     Add 2 pinches of New Mexico chile powder.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 2 pinches of coriander.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid, till the liquid has nearly evaporated.  The ground beef should have just a thin coating of the taco sauce.  Keep the taco meat warm on a stove top.
     Place 4 ounces of refried beans in a small sauce pot.  (Canned refried beans or fresh can be used.)
     Add about 1 1/2 ounces of water.
     Gently warm the refried beans over very low heat.
     Cut 2 slices of French bread.
     Brush one side of each bread slice with olive oil.
     Spread a thin layer of the refried beans on one slice of bread.
     Place an even layer of the taco meat on the refried beans.
     Place a few thin slices of tomato on the taco meat.
     Place a few thin slices of Queso Oaxaca or Monterey Jack cheese on the tomato slices.
     Place the top slice of bread on the sandwich.
     Place the sandwich on a panini grill that is set to medium heat.
     Close the panini grill lid and just let the weight of the grill lid press the sandwich.
     Grill the sandwich, till it becomes toasted golden brown.
     Place the sandwich on a cutting board and cut it into 3 triangle shapes.
     Place the panini triangles on a plate.
     Place a ramekin of Mexican style hot sauce on the plate.
     Garnis with a sweet gherkin pickle and an Italian parsley sprig.

     This is a nice panini sandwich for lunch or for a football game party!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Gourmet Monte Cristo of Smoked Turkey, Danish Vincent Gouda and Herbs du Provence with Blackberry Preserves










A monte cristo with classic gourmet flavors, presented with classic style!  

     A few years ago I wrote a recipe for a standard American diner restaurant style monte cristo sandwich and mentioned that I would post some gourmet monte cristo recipes sometime in the future.  The future is now!  A few weeks ago I posted a nice monte cristo sandwich recipe that was very much like the original monte cristo from the 1930's with one exception.  I did not post an accompanying fruit preserve recipe.  
     The monte cristo is an American sandwich and it is not America's answer to the French croque monsieur sandwich.  Similar ingredients are used, but the monte cristo is not cooked crunchy crisp like a croque monsieur.  Many old pre 1960 cookbooks described the monte cristo as being fried.  Fried referred to pan frying back then and not deep frying.  Pan frying can be done on a flat top grill or cast iron griddle.  Pan frying can be done in a saute pan or skillet.  Diner cooks almost always cooked monte cristos on a flat top grill.  Classier restaurants started a monte cristo in a saute pan and finished cooking the sandwich in an oven.  The combination of pan frying and baking produces the best monte cristo sandwich!   
     Many pictures of monte cristo sandwiches on the internet look like the sandwich was fried at too high of a temperature for way too much time.  The color of those sandwiches are very dark brown and nearly black in color.  That is what you call an overcooked monte cristo that was made by a cook that literally followed modern food writer interpretations of old monte cristo recipe descriptions.  Like I said before, a monte cristo is not cooked till it is dark brown and crisp like a croque monsieur!   The egg batter crust should be a golden brown or light brown color.  
     Danish Vincent Gouda was named after Vincent Van Gogh.  Vincent Gouda is a cows milk cheese that is aged for at least 5 months.  This gourmet cheese is a good melting cheese and it has complex caramel, honey and nut flavors with a little bit of a sharp cheese bite.  Vincent Gouda is a perfect match for smoked turkey breast!
     The original monte cristo was made with ham.  Not every reader of this food blog eats ham.  I chose to use smoked turkey for this sandwich, because it does have classic savory flavor that is just as appealing as a good ham.  
     Herbs du Provence flavors the egg batter sandwich coating.  The nice Provence countryside mixture of herbs really adds a classic european flavor to this sandwich.
     Diner style monte cristo sandwiches are usually plain.  Classic monte cristos are dusted with powdered sugar and served with jam or fruit preserves.  Blackberries were on sale at a very nice price, so I made a small batch of blackberry preserves for a series of gourmet monte cristo recipes.  
     Many people picture jelly and jam making as being a major project of canning many jars of preserves that will be used for the rest of the year.  Unless you have a large family to feed, a large batch of jam means eating the same old jam over and over again.  A small batch of jam can be just enough for a few servings and canning then becomes unnecessary.  As long as the freshly made preserves are refrigerated and consumed in about 7 days time, then there is no risk of ptomaine contamination.  Botulism risks are usually only associated with vacuum packed food and canned food that was improperly packed or left in the temperature danger zone for too much time.  
     As you can see in the photographs above, I had a problem with the pictures of the blackberry preserves.  The preserves glistened like no other fruit preserves that I have ever made and the glistening sparkle made my digital camera throw fits.  The blackberry preserves turned out to be very rich tasting! 

     Blackberry Preserves:
     This is a small batch recipe that makes about 1 1/2 cups of preserves!  No canning is involved and this small amount can easily be consumed within the Servesafe prepared food time limit of 7 days.  The preserves do have to be refrigerated.  If this recipe is multiplied for large batch canning, then it will have to be slightly modified, so the preserves do not turn out to be too thick. 
     When selecting fresh blackberries for making preserves, fresh black berries that are on the verge of becoming overripe are the best!  The only problem is that fully ripened blackberries can have tough crunchy seeds.  It is best to taste a few of the blackberries and decide from the start whether the seeds will be too tough.  If the seed are unpalatable, then press the finished batch of preserved through a small mesh strainer to remove the seeds.  When the seeds are removed, it can no longer be called blackberry preserves and it must be called blackberry jam! 
     Place 2 1/3 cups of blackberries in a colander and thoroughly wash the berries under cold running water.
     Place the blackberries in a small stainless steel sauce pot.
     Add enough water to cover the blackberries with an extra inch of water.
     Add 1 small pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
     Add 1 pinch of ground ginger.
     Add 1/2 cup of sugar.
     Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer till the blackberries become soft.
     Add 3 ounces of liquid pectin.
     Simmer and reduce, till the blackberries melt into the sauce and the sauce is able to coat the back of a spoon like a glazing syrup.
     Cool the preserves to room temperature.
     Strain the preserves if the seeds are too tough.  (optional)
     Refrigerate the preserves in a container, till the pectin and sugar gels.  (about 24 hours)
     Serve small portions in a ramekin at room temperature, so the flavors are at their peak! 

     Monte Cristo of Smoked Turkey, Danish Vincent Gouda and Herbs du Provence with Blackberry Preserves:
     Place 2 eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 pinches of herbs du provence.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Whisk till the mixture is blended.
     Set the egg wash aside, so the flavors meld.
     Cut 2 slices of French bread.
     Place a few thin slices of Danish Vincent Gouda on one slice of bread.
     Place 4 to 5 ounces of thin sliced smoked turkey breast on the cheese.
     Place a few thin slices of Danish Vincent Gouda on the turkey.
     Place the top slice of bread on the sandwich.
     Heat a non-stick or seasoned saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 5 pats of unsalted butter.
     Dip both the top and bottom of the the sandwich in the egg batter.
     Place the sandwich in the hot butter.
     Pan fry, till the egg coating turns a golden color.
     Use a spatula to flip the sandwich.
     Pan fry till the eggs on the bottom half become golden in color.
     Place the pan in a 350º oven.
     Bake until the egg coating becomes a golden brown or light brown color.
     Place the sandwich on a cutting board and cut it in half.
     Place the sandwich halves on a plate.
     Lightly dust the sandwich with powdered sugar.
     Place a ramekin of the blackberry preserves on the plate.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.

     This is a delicious gourmet monte cristo!  Spreading some blackberry preserved on the sandwich between bites is a sheer pleasure.  
     The monte cristo is a sandwich that many modern chefs overlooked during the recent creative gourmet sandwich food trend.  Here I am to save the monte cristo day!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Chicken Breast Filets in Shiitake Sun Dried Tomato Veloute




     This was the first entree that I specifically cooked for this food blog while in Chicago.  I pulled this recipe out of this blog, because I intended to do a total rewrite edit on the recipe.  Then I kind of forgot about it while I was busy with other projects.  I have a few more old recipes in this file that need to be heavily edited and those recipes will eventually be posted.
     I am about 75% done with the editing of the old recipes in this blog.  The editing has been a big project that has taken more than one year's work so far.  Old food photos that turned out dark looking are being brightened and measurements are being added to basic descriptive style recipes.  
     My old blog site only attracted people who wanted to look at pictures of food and not people who wanted to cook food or learn how to cook food.  The recipe writing style that I used was descriptive note format, just like how recipes were written over 500 years ago in France and europe.  
     Many modern Persian and Arabic recipes in the middle east are still written with a descriptive format with no exact measurements. Sometimes an Arabic recipe is written as one long descriptive sentence.  I personally enjoy interpreting descriptive recipes when I am learning how to cook a new food item.  I do have a lot of professional cooking experience and a formal culinary education, so descriptive recipes are easy for me to figure out.  
     Many readers of this blog do not have the time to spend hours trying to figure out a descriptive recipe by doing culinary research and many readers of this blog are learning the basics of fine cooking.  Because of that factor, I decided to add measurements to all the old descriptive recipes that I wrote.  Standardizing recipes makes it easier for readers to understand the recipes and that promotes interest in old fashioned international cuisines.  
     African, Arabic, Persian, eastern european, the cuisines of countries that surround India and many asian cuisines are all styles of cooking that offer great tasting healthy good food recipes and those styles of food do not get much exposure in the mainstream western world.  I do try to develop interest in those cuisine styles and more.  People from those areas of the world are proud of their food heritage and their traditional cooking styles.  Like anybody that cooks, they want to share their recipes and promote interest in their cuisine.  I certainly help to promote western world interest in lesser known cuisines by researching a recipe and written information, then cooking the recipe like it is traditionally made and then writing the recipe, so those in the western world can easily understand the recipe.  It sounds like a lot of work, but it is all done out of self motivated interest.  
     Historically, there is nothing worse than a good tasting lesser known cuisine that disappears with very little written about it.  Trying to do research on cuisines that were lost in history is more than just difficult to do.  
     The modern western media is controlled by a few solitary corporate entities that have discriminatory vested interests.  If you watch television in American, then you may think that the only cuisine in America is lousy fast food burgers and bastardized corporate chain restaurant food.  The food networks on television only focus on what they deem to be popular trendy cuisines and cuisines that special interest groups or advertisers want to be promoted.  Food shows on television bore me and that is one of the many reasons that I do not watch television.  
     The worst part about TV cooking shows, is that when they do feature lesser known cuisines from smaller countries and communities, the food and people on the show are often pictured as being some kind of a freak side show.  That is a very disrespectful format to use and it is disgusting to view.  Those disrespectful traveling cooking shows rely on slander and ignorance.  The disrespectful traveling food shows are just another form of western world media propaganda that promotes fear of other culture's cuisine with an undercurrent of enforcing the sales of safe easy fast food and boxed instant macaroni & cheese!  Oy vey! 
    Anyway, I do try to promote western world interest in lesser known international cuisines with authenticity and respect for those culture's traditions.  Bastardizing a recipe to make it easy to cook or so it appeals to the brainwashed middle of the road population is not my style.  Food is the language of peace and understanding.  Just like variety, authenticity is also a spice of life!

     Chicken Breast Filets in Shiitake Sun Dried Tomato Veloute:
     A veloute sauce is basically a gravy that is made with light colored chicken, vegetable, mushroom, seafood or fish stock.  A veloute sauce does not necessarily need to be made ahead of time.  If several portions of this entree are needed, then it is better to make the veloute sauce in a separate pot ahead of time.  A blonde roux should be used to thicken a veloute that is made separately ahead of time.  
     Saute chefs often make a veloute to order by dredging the meat in flour, before sauteing.  When the stock or broth is added to the pan, the flour coating on the meat will thicken the sauce. 
     Soak 4 sun dried tomato halves in water till they become softened.
     Cut the sun dried tomato halves into quarters and set them aside.
     Cook 1 portion of brown rice or a rice of your choice ahead of time.
     Keep the ride warm on a stove top.
     Cut 2 thin chicken breast filets that weigh 3 to 4 ounces apiece.
     Lightly season the chicken with sea salt and black pepper.
     Dredge the chicken filets in flour.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.  
     Add the floured chicken filets.
     Saute till chicken filets become a golden color on both sides.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic. 
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot. 
     Add 3 or 4 small shiitake mushrooms that are thick sliced.
     Add the reserved sun dried tomato pieces.
     Saute and toss the ingredients, till the mushrooms start to cook.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 2 cups of light chicken stock.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till the flour on the chicken helps to thicken the sauce to a medium thin sauce consistency.
     
     Presentation:
     Use a mold to place the rice on a plate.
     Lean the two chicken filets against the rice.
     Spoon the shiitake sun dried tomato veloute sauce over the chicken and onto the plate.
     No garnish is necessary!

     It is a good thing that I have a photographic memory, or I might have forgotten how I cooked this recipe.  Pictures of two pizzas that I made in Chicago were posted on a social network site and they drew many nice comments.  That was the inspiration to start this food blog.  
     This chicken recipe was the first food item that I cooked for this blog and it took hours for me to figure out how to write a recipe that readers could understand and I pretty much ended up writing garbled descriptive notes instead of a recipe.  Viola!  The recipe is finally properly written and the photographs were brightened, so they look better!  Yum!  ...  Shawna   

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Petite Filets of Salmon with Sauce Nicoise and Duchesse Potato









A classic French chicken Nicoise sauce adapted to salmon!  Nouveau cuisine!

     Back in the days when the nouveau cuisine trend was going strong, many French chefs used classic veal sauces to to create new fish entrees.  That was a good idea, because many veal sauces go well with fish and seafood.  I apprenticed with a Swiss chef who was working in France during the peak of the nouveau cuisine trend.  The Swiss chef was in charge of a bayside fine dining restaurant in Florida.  In Florida, seafood takes top billing on most fine dining menus.  A few token steak, pasta, veal and chicken recipes usually round out the rest of the menu.  On my first day working with the Swiss chef, I saw the saute cook place a traditional veal sauce on a seared redfish filet.  I said to the chef “Is that order a customer request?  That kind of bordelaise sauce is usually a sauce for veal.”  The Swiss chef responded by saying “It is now a nouveau cuisine sauce for fish!”  I must say, Swiss chefs do get straight to the point!
     A couple years later I was the saute chef and saucier at a yacht club.  The manager of the club started an international food theme night.  Once a week a menu of international cuisine was written and the menu items were never repeated from week to week.  Many times the manager would just get on his computer and write down names of foreign entrees that he browsed.  The manager would hand the chef the entree names and then the chef would hold a meeting with us cooks to try to figure out what the list of entrees were.
     Many times I was sent to the public library to try to find recipes for the oddball items that the manager selected.  Back in those days, information on the internet was not as extensive as it is today, so the public library was still the place to go for information.  One such time I needed to find a recipe for poulet nicoise.  I knew what a nicoise salad was, but I had no clue as to what poulet nicoise was.  I found the recipe in some kind of a classic French cookbook and I really liked the look of the poulet nicoise recipe from the get go.  The stock for the sauce was fortified with the caramelized marrow of zucchini.  The garnish for the poulet nicoise presentation included turned zucchini, so nothing was wasted.
     The nicoise sauce for the chicken had a rich deep flavor from the caramelize squash marrow and lemon was another key flavor in the sauce.  I cooked one order of the poulet nicoise for the chef, the maitre d‘ and I to taste.  The yacht club chef and I looked at each other and at the same time we both said “This sauce would be great on fish!”
     Recently I worked at the Le Cordon Bleu campus Technique Restaurant in Las Vegas.  After a few days on the job, the executive chef gained confidence that I knew what I was doing in a kitchen and he gave me free reign to manage the fish special du jour each day.  I remembered that poulet nicoise entree from my yacht club days.  Nearly twenty years later after making the comment that the poulet nicoise sauce would be nice for fish, I finally adapted the sauce to salmon as a special du jour.  The salmon nicoise sold like hot cakes!  Customers in the dining room who were eating my salmon nicoise special, advised new customers who were just being seated to try the salmon special.  Word of mouth advertising is never a bad thing!
     The executive chef liked the reaction that the fish special got and he liked how the duchesse potatoes looked on the plate.  Later while talking to the chef, I mentioned that the nicoise sauce on the fish was really a sauce for chicken.  The chef said “I know!”  I was kind of dumbstruck, because the chef said that he knew what poulet nicoise was and years before, no chef knew what the sauce was and I had to dig through several French cookbooks at a library to find the recipe.  Then again, the chef could have been bluffing.  This is Las Vegas and we all wear poker faces.  Ce est la vie!

     Sauce Nicoise For Fish:
     This recipe makes 2 portions of sauce!  
     As it was, there was no reason to modify this nicoise chicken sauce for fish.  Even though chicken stock is part of the recipe, the sauce takes well to fish, just like many of the nouveau cuisine veal sauces.  For a more refined presentation, sauce nicoise should be pureed and strained, before adding the nicoise olives.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped zucchini squash pulp and seed core.  (Save the firm zucchini green skin flesh for a vegetable recipe.)
     Add 1 chopped overripe plum tomato.
     Add 1 teaspoon of tomato paste.
     Saute and stir occasionally, till the zucchini pulp and tomato becomes caramelized to a medium brown color.  (Pincer is the name for this technique.  Pincer means to pinch flavor by caramelizing.)
     Add 2 cups of chicken stock.
     Add 1/2 of a fresh bay leaf.
     Add 1 sprig of fresh thyme.
     Add 1 small sprig of fresh tarragon.
     Add 1 small sprig of fresh oregano.
     Add 2 fresh basil leaves.
     Add 6 parsley stems.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Slowly simmer and reduce the fortified stock by half.
     Pour the fortified stock through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Set the fortified stock aside.
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small diced onion.
     Add 2 tablespoon of small diced leek.
     Gently saute and sweat the vegetables, till they become tender.  (Stir often.  Try not to brown the vegetables!)
     Add 4 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add the reserved fortified chicken stock.  (The stock is already flavored with herbs, so the sauce only needs to be seasoned!)
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     In a separate pan over medium/medium low heat, combine 3 to 4 pats of unsalted butter with an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring.
     Stir till a light blonde colored roux is created.
     Add just enough of the roux to the sauce, while stirring with a whisk, to thicken the sauce to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Add 1/3 cup of tomato concasse.  (Tomato concasse is peeled, seeded, diced fresh tomato.)
     Add 8 to 10 pitted nicoise olives.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin consistency.
     Add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Reheat the sauce to order!

     Duchesse Potato Recipe:
     This recipe makes a little bit extra duchesse potato! 
     There is no milk or cream in duchesse potatoes.
     Boil 1 peeled large (6-8 oz) russet potato, till it becomes soft.
     Drain off the water.
     Thoroughly mash the potato.
     Add 4 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Mix 1 egg yoke with 1 small pinch of turmeric.  (Reduced saffron water can be used in place of turmeric.)
     Add the egg yoke mixture to the potato mixture.
     Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Place the dutchess potato mixture into a star tipped pastry bag.
     Refrigerate the potato for 10 minutes to stiffen the mixture.
     Place a pice of parchment paper on a sheet pan.
     Pipe tall swirls of duchesse potato on the parchment paper.  Each tall pomme duchesse should be the size of a serving portion or 3 to 4 ounces.
     Bake the duchesse potato in a 400 degree oven, till the duchesse potatoes become firm and the highlights on the potatoes start to caramelize.
     Keep the duchesse potatoes warm on a stove top.

     Petite Filets of Salmon with Sauce Nicoise and Duchesse Potato:
     Select a thick 8 ounce salmon filet that is skinned and deboned.
     Cut the salmon filet into 3 equal size petite filets.
     Lightly season the salmon filets with sea salt and white pepper.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Place the petite salmon filets in the hot grease, so the side of the salmon filet that was cut from the bone faces down.
     Pan sear the salmon, till golden brown highlights appear.
     Flip the salmon filets.
     Place the pan in a 350 degree oven.
     Bake till the salmon filets are cooked to at least medium well.  (A probe thermometer should read 145 degrees.)
     Note:  Only sushi quality salmon is safe to eat rare or medium rare.  Fish that are prepared for raw sushi are treated by deep freezing to kill any pathogens or parasites.
     Place the salmon filets on a plate, so the filets fan outward from the center of the plate.
     Use a spatula to place the duchesse potato on the plate.
     Place a vegetable of your choice on the plate.
     Spoon the nicoise sauce partially over the petite salmon filets and onto the plate.
     Sprinkle a pinch of thin sliced chives and minced Italian parsley over the sauce.

     The nicoise sauce has a tomato sauce kind of look, but it has a deep rich savory flavor.  The lemon adds a light zesty flavor to the sauce.  Nicoise olives are not always easy to find.  Nicoise olives have a mellower flavor than Greek kalamata olives.  Yum!  ...  Shawna