Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Swedish Pig In A Blanket

Swedish pig in a blanket?  Sure!

     A pig in a blanket is a sausage wrapped with dough and baked.  Hot dogs are the most common pig in a blanket sausage.  Biscuit dough is the most popular dough for making a pig in a blanket, but puff pastry dough can also be used.  Last year, I posted a Cajun pig in a blanket recipe that featured andouille sausage.  I also posted a French pig in a blanket recipe that was made with puff pastry a few years ago.  I guess that it is time for this year's pig in a blanket creation.
     Bread dough wrapped salmon is a traditional meal in Finland and other Scandinavian countries.  There are a few other traditional bread do wrapped meat recipes in this region.  It is possible that a pig in a blanket of some kind has been made in Sweden.  Who knows?  
     Swedish sausages often have potato or apple in the mixture.  Swedish sausages are like German sausages and the flavors tend to be mild.  In America, there are cities and regions that have large Scandinavian populations.  Authentic Swedish sausages can be found in those regions.  Making your own Swedish sausages is another option.  Kielbasa is popular in Sweden and nearly everywhere around the globe.  I chose a smoked kielbasa sausage for this recipe.  
     Biscuit dough was used to make this pig in a blanket.  The dough was flavored with white cheddar cheese and dill weed.  There are a few white cheeses in Sweden that are similar to white cheddar.  Swedish dill weed is much stronger tasting than common dill weed, but it only is available in Sweden.  The combination of dill and white cheddar does give the biscuit dough a Swedish kind of flavor.
     Hovmästarsås is what really adds the Swedish touch to this recipe.  Mustard tastes great with nearly any kind of sausage, so hovmästarsås was a natural choice.  Hovmästarsås traditionally is served with gravlax. 
     Place 3 tablespoons of Swedish sweet mustard, German mustard or dijon mustard in a bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar.
     Add 3 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 2 1/2 ounces of vegetable oil, a few drops at a time, while stirring till the mustard becomes glazy and translucent.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill weed while stirring.
     Set the sauce aside. 
     White Cheddar Biscuit Dough:
     This recipe makes several biscuits.  The amount of biscuits depends on the size of the biscuits!  Extra biscuits can be served with any meal or frozen for later meals.  Only a portion of the dough is needed for the pig in a blanket!  
     Place 2 cups of all purpose flour into a bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of baking powder.
     Add 1 small pinch of baking soda.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Sift the ingredients together into a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 ounces of cold butter that is cut into 1/2" cube pieces.
     Cut the butter into the flour with a fork or a baker's cutting tool, till the flour looks like it has been riced to a small pea size.
     Add 1 cup of buttermilk.
     Gently stir, till the ingredients just barely combine. 
     Add 3 ounces of white cheddar cheese, that is cut into pieces that are the size of split peas.
     Only briefly knead the dough, till a dough is barely formed.  Only knead the dough, till it holds its shape.  (Do not over mix biscuit dough!)
     For Biscuits:
     Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, till it is 1" thick.
     Use a 2 1/2" to 3 1/2" round biscuit cutter to cut biscuits or cut 2 1/2" squares.  Cut several biscuits.
     Combine the scraps and roll them out again to cut a few more biscuits.
     Place the biscuits on a parchment paper lined baking pan or a baking pan that is brushed with melted butter. 
     Brush the tops of the biscuits with milk. 
     Bake in a 425º oven, till the biscuits become fully cooked and lightly toasted on the tops.  (About 10 to 15 minutes)
     Remove the biscuits from the oven and let them cool to a serving temperature.
     Keep the biscuits warm on a stove top.

     Swedish Pig In A Blanket:   
     Try to select a thin kielbasa that has no casing.  These kielbasa are usually in the hot dog section of a grocery store.  They are not high quality kielbasa, but they are perfect for making a pig in a blanket.  The kielbasa can be any length, but an 8" kielbasa will fit on a plate.
     Roll a portion of the cheddar biscuit dough into a 1/4" to 3/8" thick sheet.
     Cut a rectangular shaped piece of biscuit dough from the sheet of biscuit dough, that is big enough to cover the kielbasa from end to end and is wide enough to wrap around the kielbasa.
     Place the piece of biscuit dough on a lightly floured counter top.
     Place the kielbasa on the biscuit dough.
     Brush one edge of the biscuit dough with milk.
     Roll the kielbasa and biscuit dough together, so the dough is snug against the kielbasa.
     Be sure that the milk washed edge seam is sealed tight.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of dill weed on the biscuit dough.
     Gently press the dill weed onto the dough.
     Place the pig in a blanket on a piece of parchment paper on a baking pan.  Be sure that the seam of the dough is facing down.
     Brush the pig in a blanket with milk.
     Place the pan in a 425º oven.
     Bake until the cheddar biscuit dough turns a golden brown color.
     Remove the pan from the oven and allow the pig in the blanket to cool to a safe serving temperature.
     Place the Swedish Pig In A Blanket on a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the hovmästarsås on the plate.
     Garnish with pickles, capers and an Italian parsley sprig.

     This Swedish Pig In A Blanket really tastes nice.  The Swedish hovmästarsås really tastes nice with the cheddar biscuit flavor and kielbasa. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Salmon Filet Cutlet with Sauce Mornay, Indienne Tomato Herb Creme Potato


     This Salmon Filet Cutlet with Sauce Mornay, Duplex Indienne Tomato Herb Creme Potato and Rapini entree was one of many fish specials du jour that I cooked at the Le Cordon Bleu campus Technique Restaurant last autumn.  This classic old fashioned entree was sold to a customer, and a fellow employee snapped a few pictures of it.  The executive chef preferred simple classic presentations, so my fish specials were designed within those guidelines.  This is a good example of a 1980's style, clean looking, clutter free fine dining entree presentation.
    It is not often that a chef school restaurant gets a cook with plenty of experience on the cooking line.  Honestly I had no intention of doing my final six week externship at the school restaurant.  I was working at a historic luxury resort in Death Valley and car reliability problems forced me to work closer to home in Las Vegas.  The deadline was closing in for completing my externship, so I volunteered at the Technique restaurant.  I had fun working there, because I had some freedom to create.  I also was able to bring a few forgotten old recipes back into the limelight. 
     The creme potato in the pictures is a bit difficult to see in detail.  There are two shades of flavored potato.  The yellow color is indienne creme potato (curry creme) and the pastel orange color was a tomato herb flavored creme potato.  The two potatoes were placed in separate pastry bags, and the piped out of one shared star tip.  
     Since mushroom peelings help to flavor a supreme sauce, a peeled fluted portobello mushroom cap is a nice choice of garnish.  A classic mornay sauce is made with a supreme sauce and not a bechamel sauce.  Sauce supreme is a secondary sauce made from a veloute sauce that is thickened with white roux, instead of blonde roux.  For mornay, chicken veloute or white veal veloute is used to make the the supreme sauce.  Whitefish veloute is almost never used to make supreme sauce for mornay.  
     Generally, a sauce is not supposed to be poured over pan fried food, but partially pouring sauce over breaded fish and schnitzel was stylish in the 1980's and 1990's.  Breaded salmon is never thought of as being traditional.  If the salmon is very fresh and it has a mild flavor, then it can be breaded.  Stronger tasting salmon has to be poached, roasted, char grilled or broiled.  High quality northeast coast farm raised salmon is a good choice for this recipe.  Very fresh Alaskan salmon is another good choice, because the Alaskan fishery is well managed.

      Chicken Veloute:
     A white roux is used in place of a blonde roux, when making veloute for a sauce suprême.  The roux should not be a light tan blonde color.  
     This recipe makes 3/4 cup to 1 cup of veloute.
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/3 ounces of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while stirring with a whisk.
     Constantly stir, till the roux cooks to a pale whitish golden color.
     Add 2 cups of French chicken stock.
     Raise the temperature to medium/medium high heat.
     Whisk the sauce occasionally as it comes to a gentle boil.
     When the sauce comes to a gentle boil, reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add a tied bouquet garni of:
     - Leek
     - Celery
     - 1/2 of a small bay leaf
     - 1 small prig of thyme
     - 2 parsley stalks
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce for 35 to 40 minutes, so the roux flavor is no longer pasty tasting.  Reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency.  There should only be about 1 cup of veloute sauce after the reduction is completed.
     Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter, while whisking.  (Monte au beurre.  This will keep a "skin" from forming on the veloute.)
     Set the veloute aside.

     Supreme Sauce:
     Place 1/2 cup of veloute sauce in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1 peeled trimmed sliced mushroom.
     Add 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of creme fraiche.  
     Note:  Modern creme fraiche is a mixture of 50% sour cream and 50% cream.  Only add enough creme fraiche to turn the veloute into a white color. 
     Place the pot over low heat.
     After the sauce heats, simmer the sauce for 10 minutes.
     Whisk the sauce, till it becomes smooth.
     Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container or second sauce pot.  Keep the sauce warm over very low heat for immediate use. 

     Mornay Sauce:
     Place 1/2 cup of dry white wine in a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Bring the wine to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.  
     Add 3/4 cup of the sauce supreme.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a very thin sauce consistency.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of grated gruyere or emmentaler (swiss cheese), while stirring.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
     Add milk if the sauce becomes too thick.

     Duplex Indienne Tomato Herb Creme Potato:
     This recipe makes about 3 to 4 portions.  Piping through a duplex pastry bag requires some extra potato.
     Place 10 ounces of peeled russet potato in a sauce pot.  (2 medium size potatoes)
     Cover the potatoes with cold water.
     Boil the potatoes over medium high heat till they become soft.
     Drain the water off of the potatoes.
     Mash and rice the potatoes.
     Divide the potatoes into two separate small mixing bowls.  
     Keep the potato bowls warm on a stove top.
     • Indienne Creme Potato:
     Add 2 pats of butter to the mashed potato in one of the bowls.
     Add 1 pinches of garam masala.
     Add 2 pinches of turmeric.
     Add sea salt.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cream.
     Whisk the potato till it becomes smooth.
     Place the indienne potato in a star tipped pastry bag.
     Keep the pastry bag warm on a stove top.
     • Tomato Herb Crem Potato:
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter to the potato in the second mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of tomato puree.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of tomato paste.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cream.
     Whisk the mixture, till it is blended.
     Place the tomato herb potato in a pastry bag that has no metal tip attached.
     Flatten both pastry bags.
     Pick the cloth up on one side of the star tipped pastry bag to create a hollow tent in the bag.
     Slide the pastry bag with no tip inside the star tipped pastry bag.
     Twist the pastry bag ends together as one to seal the duplex pastry bag.   
     Keep the pastry bag warm on a stove to or in a pan that is set in a warm bain marie.

     Fluted Mushroom Garnish:
     A mushroom has to be firm an fresh, or it cannot be fluted!  Save the peelings for making stocks.
     Peel 1 medium size portabella mushroom.
     Remove the stem.
     Scrape the gills off with a spoon.
     Either use a paring knife or a sharp channeling tool to flute the mushroom cap.
     Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add the fluted mushroom cap.
     Gently saute, till the mushroom becomes tender, and till a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Keep the sauteed fluted mushroom garnish warm on a stove top.

     Salmon Filet Cutlet:
     Select a 6 ounce flat tail piece of skinned salmon filet or butterfly cut a thick filet, so it is an even thickness. 
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Place 1 egg in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 pinch of minced chive.
     Add 1 pinch of minced oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of mince Italian parsley.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Dredge the salmon in flour.
     Dip the salmon in the egg wash.
     Dredge the salmon in medium fine French bread crumbs.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 pata of unsalted butter.
     Add enough vegetable oil, so there is 1/4" of oil in the pan.
     Heat the oil to 360º.
     Pan fry the salmon on both sides, till it become a light golden brown color.  Only flip the salmon once.
     Place the salmon on a roasting pan.
     Roast the salmon in a 325º oven, till the center of the salmon becomes fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read 145º.)

     Salmon Filet Cutlet with Sauce Mornay, Indienne Tomato Herb Creme Potato:
     Place the salmon filet cutlet on a plate.
     Squeeze and pipe the duplex indienne tomato herb creme potato on the plate so it looks nice.
     Spoon a streak of the mornay sauce partially over the salmon and onto the plate.
     Place the fluted mushroom on the sauce on top of the salmon.
     Serve with a vegetable of your choice.
     The entree in the photos was served with sauteed braised rapini that was flavored with garlic, sea salt and white pepper. 

     This is a nice classic simple way to serve salmon.  Salmon Filet Cutlet with Sauce Mornay was popular 25 years ago and as I found out recently, it still impresses customers in today's age.  Yum!  ...  Shawna 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Club Sandwich of Pan Fried Swai, Spinach and Smoked Bacon

     Fish on a club sandwich?  Why not!

     While working at a trendy modern French cafe in Florida, I used to adapt many classic recipes to the local seafood venue.  Every Florida chef did the same thing.  Tourists that visit Florida want seafood nearly every day of the week.  Fish on pizza, fish in pastas, fish with a sauce, broiled fish, fried fish, fish in a stew, fish on reuben sandwiches, fish, fish, fish!  
     In the old days of Florida, fried or broiled fish were the only options.  Starting in the 1980's, Florida seafood entrees started to become trendy.  By the time the 1990's rolled around, there were some pretty weird fish concoctions on menus.  Especially at bars and trendsetting cafes.  
     When we first started selling fried fish club sandwiches at the trendy French cafe, I knew that the sandwich was going to sell like hotcakes.  A club sandwich is easy to recognize.  Tourists who were weary of exotic strange preparations of fish jumped all over the fried fish club sandwiches, because the flavor was easy to imagine.   
     It was not hard for a tourist to imagine that a fried fish club sandwich was a good choice for a comfortable meal.  Especially when the sandwich was described as having applewood smoked bacon on it.  Back in the 1990's, applewood smoked bacon peaked in popularity, so the choice of bacon helped to sell the sandwich.  
     The first night that we sold the fish club sandwich special du jour, we sold over 160 of them!  That is a lot of club sandwiches!  Considering that the ingredients were cheap and the tourist season menu prices were high, the fried fish club really made the restaurant a big wad of cash.
     There are no tricky cooking techniques involved in today's recipe.  Smoked bacon is the best choice.  I chose hickory smoked bacon for this recipe, but go ahead and use whatever kind of smoked bacon that you may prefer.  
     Swai is also called iridescent shark.  Swai is from the Mekong region of Vietnam and it is a prized fish for fish farming.  Swai are predators and they are not bottom dwelling catfish that eat old garbage.  The meat is translucent white and the flavor is very clean.  Swai is a farm raised sustainable fish.

     Smoked Bacon:
     Heat a griddle or saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Grill 3 or 4 slices of hickory smoked bacon, till the become golden brown and crisp.
     Place the bacon on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess grease.
     Keep the bacon warm on a stove top.
     Pan Fried Swai:
     Plain milk and flour dredging produces a thin crisp crust on fish that easily flakes.  This style is great for saute entrees, but it is not the best for sandwiches that need to be cut.  Buttermilk produces a much more durable crust! 
     Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
     Add enough vegetable frying oil, so the oil is about 1/2" deep.
     Use a thermometer and adjust the temperature, so the oil is 360º.
     Season 2 cups of flour with sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper,
     Add 1 pinch of onion powder.
     Add 1 pinch of garlic powder.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Cut a piece of swai filet that is the same size as the bread that will be used for the sandwich.  The filet should weigh 4 to 5 ounces.
     Dredge the swai in the seasoned flour.
     Dip the floured fish in buttermilk.
     Dredge the fish in the flour a second time.  Be sure the fish is completely coated.
     Gently place the coated swai in the hot oil.
     Pan fry till the bottom half becomes a golden brown color.
     Carefully use tongs to flip the swai over.  Be careful not to splash the hot oil! 
     Pan fry the swai till it becomes golden brown on both sides and fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read 145º in the center of the filet.)
     Use a slotted spatula to place the swai on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the sawai warm on a stove top.

     Club Sandwich of Pan Fried Swai, Spinach and Smoked Bacon:
     The original club sandwiches were a BLT sandwich on top of a turkey sandwich.  No cheese was on the original club!  Cheese is optional but it is not required.  There is no cheese in this recipe.
     Toast 3 slices of French sourdough bread or a bread of your choice.
     Spread mayonnaise on one side of each slice of bread.
     Place a layer of baby spinach leave on two of the slices of bread.
     Place a layer of thin sliced tomato on the spinach.
     Place the pan fried swai on on of the sandwiches.
     Place the smoked bacon on the other sandwich.
     Place the top slice of bread on the BLT sandwich.
     Place the BLT on top of the pan fried swai.
     Spear the sandwich with 4 long frill toothpicks or thin fancy bamboo skewers.  The frill picks must be slightly longer than the height of the sandwich.  The frill picks should be centered to the sides of the bread and not the corners!  Space the frill picks, so a knife can cut through the sandwich from corner to corner. 
     Cut the sandwich in half from corner to corner, while holding the sandwich together with your finger over the back of the knife.
     Hold the top of the sandwich with fingers arched and cut corner to corner with the knife to cut the sandwich into quarters.
     Use both hands to lay the quart sandwiches on their sides.
     Place two of the sandwich quarters end to end and press the frill picks into the sandwich to create one long sandwich half.
     Hold the frill picks steady, gently press the sandwich from end to end, so the pressure holds everything in place.  Place the long doubled up sandwich on a plate.
     Repeat the last few steps with the other two sandwich quarters.  
     Garnish the plate with Italian parsley sprigs and pickled green tabasco peppers.

     Writing the instruction for a club sandwich is really no fun.  I have shown cooks how to make a club sandwich in person and they still foul it up.  Putting the frill picks in the corners is a mindless mistake that many stoner cooks repeatedly make.  Ce est la vie!  
     This is one great tasting pan fried swai club sandwich!  The smoked bacon and spinach adds to the appeal.  Yum!  ...  Shawna    

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Spätzle with grated emmentaler cheese and caramelized sauteed onion!

     The origins of spätzle are foggy.  Many believe that spätzle originated in eastern europe or possibly ancient Greece.  Eggs, grain flours and milk were part of all old eastern european cuisine, Balkan cuisine and Grecian cuisine.  Nobody really knows where spätzle originated, but one thing is certain.  Spätzle is a simple egg dumpling or egg dumpling style fresh noodle that anybody with a flair for cooking, could have created intentionally or not.  Who knows!
     Käsespätzle is a traditional recipe.  The recipe is simple.  Käsespätzle is popular in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and eastern europe.  Any kind of grated cheese can be tossed or melted on the spätzle.  Emmentaler (swiss cheese) is the most popular cheese for making Käsespätzle.  Käsespätzle can be baked like a casserole or is can be sauteed in butter and topped with grated cheese.  The Käsespätzle in the pictures was made with the saute method.  It is best if the butter is cooked to a light beurre noisette color, before adding the spätzle.  This way a hazelnut aroma will develop.  Spätzle puffs up a little bit when it is sauteed in hot butter.

     Board Cut Spätzle Dough:
     This recipe makes enough spätzle for 3 or 4 portions!
     Place 2 1/2 cups of regular bread flour or all purpose flour in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Stir the dry mixture.
     Form a well in the center of the flour.
     Place 5 ounces of whisked egg in the well.
     Stir the egg till it starts to combine with the flour.
     Start kneading till a very stiff dough is formed.
     Add 1 tablespoon of milk or water at a time, while kneading, till a medium stiff semi sticky noodle dough is formed.  Only a few tablespoons are needed!  
     Note:  Do not add too much liquid or you will end up with spoon spätzle batter!  The dough should not be as stiff as an Italian pasta dough, but it should be firm.  After pressing a finger on the dough to leave a dent, the dough should barely spring back and the dent should remain. 
     Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. 
     Board Cut Spätzle:
     Allow the dough to reach room temperature.
     Stretch and roll a portion of the dough out, so it forms a rectangular 3 1/2" to 4" wide x 10" long strip that is about 1/2" thick. 
     Gently press the dough strip onto a spätzle board or a small cutting board, so it sticks in place.  Be sure to leave 3" to 4" of bare board as a leading edge. 
     Heat a pot of water over medium/medium high heat.  The water should only be gently boiling.
     Follow the directions in the next step!
     Board Cut Spätzle Technique:
     Board cut spätzle is made with a firm noodle dough.  The noodle dough is not quite as thick as Italian semolina pasta dough, but it should be a medium firm texture.  Only one portion of spätzle is needed for this recipe.   
     The dough is rolled into a rectangular slab, then pressed onto a board.  The board can be about 8"x10" with a handle.  Some German chefs prefer a 14"x 20" board with no handle, that can be held with one arm and pressed against the ribs.  
     The board is held with one arm and the other hand uses a long thin spatula spätzle knife to cut the thin strips of spätzle.  A long straight thin cake spatula can be used as a spätzle knife.
     The board should be held close to a pot of boiling water.  
     The spätzle knife blade is placed flush on the board in front of the dough at about a 15º to 25º angle and it is dragged back over the leading edge of the dough.  After making contact with the dough, the leading edge of the dough becomes flattened.  
     The knife then cuts a thin slice of dough, while being dragged forward against the board.  The knifed should always be in contact with the board, when cutting spätzle!  
     This is done quickly and with just enough force to send the spätzle flying through the air into the pot of boiling water.  Of course, the board must be held close to the pot of water. 
     A good German chef can stand twenty feet away, with his back turned and he can tell whether the spätzle is being made correctly just by listening to the sound of the knife and board!  If the knife is at too steep or too thin of an angle, it makes certain noises when it drags across the board.  If too much force or pressure is applied, certain sounds can be heard.  If the knife is not worked fast enough, then the first group of spätzle will overcook!  
     Once the board cutting spätzle technique is mastered, the sound and feel of making spätzle will become second nature.  A good German cook can cut spätzle as fast as lightening!  
     Start learning by making medium size spätzle.  Medium size is a forgiving size.  Small 1/8" thick spätzle are not difficult to make, after getting the feel of working the board with a spätzle knife.

     Boiled Spätzle:  
     After following the board cut spätzle technique above, the noodles should all be gently boiling in the water.  
     The spätzle are finished cooking when they float on top of the hot water for a couple of minutes.
     Use a fryer net to scoop the spätzle out of the water.
     Drain off the excess water.
     Set the boiled spätzle aside, till the entree is ready to be finished.

     Caramelized Sauteed Onions:
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/4 tablespoons of bacon grease or 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 3/4 cup of thin sliced rings of onion.  (French rondelle cut.)
     Saute till the onions start to gain light golden brown highlights.
     Add sea salt and black pepper. 
     Saute till the onions become caramelized with a brown color.
     Keep the caramelized onions warm on a stove top.  

     Spätzle is usually finished by frying it in noisette butter!
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 6 pats of unsalted butter.
     Allow the butter to become a golden brown color and emit a hazelnut aroma.
     Add 1 portion of boiled spätzle, while shaking the pan.
     Saute and toss the spätzle, till the spätzle slightly puff up.  (this only takes about 1 minute)
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of ground sage.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped Italian parsley.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Place the spätzle on a plate.
     Immediately sprinkle 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of grated emmentaler (swiss cheese) over the spätzle.
     Place the plate in a 300º oven for 30 seconds, so the cheese softens and partially melts.  (Do not brown the cheese or the spätzle!)
     Place the warm plate on a counter top.
     Mound the caramelized onions on the center of the spätzle.
     Use 2 large table setting spoons to shape a large quenelle of sour cream or whisked stiff creme fraiche.  
     Place the quenelle on top of the onions.
     Sprinkle a few very thin bias sliced green onion top slivers over the quenelle.

     After making dough for board cut spätzle a few times is becomes easy to recognize when the dough texture is correct.  After making board cut spätzle a fe times, the cutting technique becomes second nature.  I prefer a medium to large size board cut spätzle most times, like the ones in thee pictures.  Sometimes tiny thin spätzle is preferred for certain recipes.  You can make these little sparrow dumpling noodles any size that you wish, but do not make them larger than a little sparrow.  Ach der lieber!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Candied Turnip and Pancetta

     This flavor combination may seem strange to some people, but it tastes very nice!  There are many modern candied root vegetable recipes and most feature bacon as the savory ingredient.  I chose imported Italian pancetta, because it has a rich dry cure flavor that is perfect with turnips.  
     Candied root vegetables do need some kind of balance to offset the sweet flavor.  A combination of wine vinegar and lemon juice keeps the sweet flavor in check.  Finely chopped aromatic vegetables add a little bit of depth to the flavor.

     Candied Turnip and Pancetta:
     This recipe makes 1 serving!
     Boil a pot of lightly salted water over medium high heat.
     Add 1 medium size peeled turnip that is cut into large bite size pieces.
     Boil the turnip, till they almost become tender.
     Cool the turnip under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the turnip pieces and set them aside.
     Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 to 2 1/2 ounces of thick bite size pieces of pancetta.
     Gently saute, till the pancetta starts to turn a golden color.
     Add the blanched turnip pieces.
     Add 1/2 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced onion.  
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced carrot.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced seeded jalapeno pepper.
     Saute briefly, till the vegetables start to become aromatic.
     Add 1 cup of light vegetable broth.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of brown sugar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of minced Italian parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of dill weed.
     Add 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid, till a thin sugar glace is formed.  Stir occasionally so the turnips finish cooking evenly.  
     Note:  The turnips should be tender by the time that the glace is created.  If they are still firm, add a splash of water and reduce a second time.
     Mound the candied turnips on a vegetable serving dish.
     Garnish the plate with Italian parsley leaves.  

     The flavors of this candied turnip and pancetta is light, sweet, savory, rich and aromatic all at the same time.  This is an elegant tasting turnip side dish!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Friday, March 8, 2013

Reshteh Polo ba Swai

Persian noodle rice with iridescent shark!

     Depending on the dialect, Reshteh Polo can be spelled a few different ways.  Polo can be spelled polou or polow.  Ba swai means with swai.  No matter how it is spelled, this traditional noodle and rice recipe is always made with Persian rice cooking techniques.  
     Basmati rice does vary in quality.  Cheaper bleached basmati brands at common grocery stores do not become long and fluffy when they are cooked.  Top quality basmati rice at a Persian Arabic middle eastern market can be purchased for nearly the same price as a grocery store bargain brand.  "My friend!  Why pay the price for an old worn out camel, when for the same price you can have a reliable racing camel that is in top condition!"  I simply cannot resist using my Syrian Lebanese step grandfather's cliche Arabic sales pitches!
     The basmati rice is soaked in water for 2 hours and then rinsed 5 to 7 times, before it is cooked.  The rice grains become elongated, light and fluffy after cooking, when this method is used.  That is, unless you ended up buying a cheap low quality basmati rice at a grocery store that had the quality of an old worn out camel, like I did.  I never tried a bargain brand of basmati rice before and I truly was not impressed with the quality.  The rice in the pictures should have become much fluffier and this rice does not have the same characteristics as basmati rice that was cooke in past recipes in this food site.  Ce est la vie!  Another lesson learned.
     Short lengths of thin vermicelli pasta are cooked and added to the rice.  If you ever wondered about where the idea for creating the American Rice-A-Roni came from, then this will answer the question.  Persian Reshteh Polo is the original Rice-A-Roni.  Persians have been making this noodle rice recipe since many years before Rice-A-Roni was marketed.  Very little is mentioned about the origins of Rice-A-Roni on the package, but many of the seasonings are Persian Arabic in origin.  Especially the almond pilaf seasoned one.  Pilaf is also an old Persian rice creation.  Persia has a long history of creating many of the world's greatest rice recipes.
     There are two ways to prepare the vermicelli.  The dried vermicelli can be sauteed or roasted till it becomes a light brown color, just like making pilaf or the vermicelli can be plain boiled.  Both methods are good, but Reshteh Polo purists do expect the noodles to be browned. 
     According to the rules of Hebrew and Islam, no bottom feeding fish are supposed to be eaten.  From a health standpoint, bottom feeding fish do tend to collect a higher percentage of mercury and contaminants than predator species of fish.  Iridescent shark is called swai in America.  Iridescent shark is a larger type of catfish that comes from rivers that feed the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.  
     Not all catfish are bottom feeders who eat rotten garbage.  There are many predator catfish, like swai and sail cats, that feed only on fish, shrimp and vegetables.  The meat of swai is noticeably cleaner tasting than channel catfish, blue catfish or bullhead catfish.  Swai meat is white, light and flaky.  Swai has a very nice savory flavor that is unlike any other catfish.  Swai do grow very large and they are a freshwater farmed fish, so sustainability is not an issue. 

     Reshteh Polo:
     This recipe makes enough Persian noodle rice for two servings!
     Soak 1/3 cup of black currant raisins in 1 cup of water, till they becomes softened.
     Soak 2 cups of basmati rice in water for 2 hours.
     Rinse the rice 5 to 7 times.
     Boil 3 3/4 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add the soaked rice.
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Place a lid on the pot. 
     Simmer and steam the rice, till it becomes tender.
     Drain off any excess water.
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top.
     Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of ghee (clarified butter).
     Add 1 cup of thin sliced small onion strips.
     Saute till the onions show light brown highlights.  
     Add the raisons and their soaking liquid.
     Add 1 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 3 pinches of saffron or 5 pinches of safflower saffron.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Add 3/4 cup of 1" to 1 1/2" long vermicelli pieces.  
     Option:  The vermicelli can be roasted to a tan color in a 350º first or it can be plain.
     Gently boil the vermicelli, till it becomes tender.  Add a splash of chicken broth, if the noodles soak up all the liquid in the pan.  After the vermicelli finishes cooking and becomes tender, there should be 3/4 cup of liquid in the pan.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add the cooked basmati rice.
     Stir the ingredients together and break up any rice clumps.
     Simmer the rice, till any excess liquid is absorbed and till the rice becomes a yellow color.
     Keep the Reshteh Polo warm on a stove top.

     Seared Swai:
     Cut 12 ounces of swai filet into 4 equal size pieces.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of each of these spices over the filets:
     - coriander
     - cumin
     - ground dried mild red chile pepper
     - sumac berry spice 
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil or ghee (clarified butter).
     Add the petite swai filets.
     Sear the swai filets, till they become lightly browned and halfway cooked, before flipping the filets.  Flip the filets only once!
     Sear the filets till they become fully cooked.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     Reshteh Polo ba Swai:
     The Reshteh Polo ba Swai is presented simply and modestly in the pictures above.  Modest presentations of classic food never go out of style!  The flavor does all the talking!  
     Mound the reshteh high on the center of a plate.
     Place the seared swai filets so they are evenly spaced around the noodle rice.
     Garnish with Italian parsley sprigs.

     The saffron aroma is captivating and the champagne grape raisons add a nice rich sweet cassis flavor.  Chicken or no meat at all is how Reshteh Polo is most often served.  With chicken, this entree is called Reshteh Polo ba Morg.  The seared swai filets add a nice light whitefish flavor.  Yum!  ...  Shawna