Friday, March 24, 2017

Poached Filet of Sole with Beurre Noir Mushrooms and Almond Couscous

     Light Delicate Poached Sole with Savory Black Butter Mushrooms!
     Beurre Noir is black butter.  Beurre Noir is made by cooking whole unsalted butter over a moderate heat till the butter turns a dark brownish black color.  The Beurre Noir can be clarified bt pouring it through a paper filter or it can be served with the tiny bits browned milk fat intact for more flavor.  Beurre Noir is a classic choice for Poached Skate and it tasted nice with Baked Scallops.  Beurre Noir also tastes nice with a poached delicate flavor whitefish, like Sole.
     When I first published this recipe, nearly every kind of Sole was sustainable.  Now only a few Sole species in select fisheries around the globe are available in sustainable numbers.  It is best to check the sustainability status before purchasing Sole of any kind, so the dining experience will be guilt free.  To check the sustainability status, follow this link:  Monterey Bay Seafood Watch    

     Almond Couscous:
     This recipe yields 2 petite portions.
     Almond Couscous adds a nice contrast to the deep hazelnut flavor of Beurre Noire.
     Small Couscous Pasta mimics Millet Grain.  The texture of Small Couscous can vary, depending on how much water is added.  For a slightly sticky Small Couscous, the proportion of water should be a little bit more than the measurement of Couscous.   
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of almond slivers.
     Gently sauté till the almonds turn a light golden brown color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1/3 cup of Small Couscous.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a simmer while stirring occasionally.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Place a tight fitting lid on the pot.
     Simmer and steam till the Couscous absorbs the water and the texture is fluffy.
     *This only takes 3 to 5 minutes.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the lid.
     Stir the Couscous.
     Place the lid back on the pot and keep the Almond Couscous warm on a stove top.

     Wine Poached Mushroom Wedges:
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.
     Precooking the mushrooms in white wine will give them a lighter color and a nice flavor that goes well with Beurre Noir!
     Step 1:  Place a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1/3 cup of petite Button Cave Mushroom wedges.
     Poach the mushroom wedges till they are tender and most of the wine evaporates.
     Step 2:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Keep the Wine Poached Mushroom Wedges warm on a stove top.
     Poached Filet of Sole:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Select 1 Sole Filet that weights 6 to 8 ounces.
     Step 2:  Select a sauce pot that is a little bit wider than the sole filet.
     Add 1 1/2 cups Fumet (light white fish stock).
     Add enough water to the pot, so the liquid is 3" deep.
     Step 3:  Add 1/6 cup of sliced onion.
     Add 1 partially crushed whole garlic clove.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 6 black peppercorns.
     Add 2 slices of lemon.  (3/16" thick)
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Step 4:  Place the pot over medium heat.
     Bring the Court Bouillon to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till the onions are tender and the flavors meld.  (About 5 to 10 minutes.)
     *Add water if the level of liquid drops below 3".
     Step 6:  Place the sole filet in the Court Bouillon.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the Court Bouillon to a gentle boil.
     Poach the filet of sole till it is almost fully cooked.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Keep the filet of sole warm in the Court Bouillon till the Beurre Noir Mushrooms are made.

     Poached Filet of Sole with Beurre Noir Mushrooms and Almond Couscous:
     This recipe yields 1 petite portion.
     The Beurre Noire can be served with the dark brown milk fat bits for extra flavor.  The Beurre Noir in the photo examples above was not strained.
     The Beurre Noir should be piping hot when it is poured over the fish, so the entrée must be plated quickly before the Black Butter cools down.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Unsalted Plugra Butter.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt.
     Cook the butter till it turns a dark brownish black color.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Step 2:  Carefully use a slotted spatula to remove the sole filet from the Court Bouillon.
     Place the sole on the front half of a plate.
     Place the Wine Poached Mushrooms on the sole filet and cascade a few of the mushroom wedges onto the plate.
     Step 3:  Use a custard cup mold to place 1 portion of the Almond Couscous on the back half of the plate.
     Place 1 petite portion of a vegetable of your choice next to the Couscous.  (Buttered Dill Weed Carrot Dimes are nice!)
     Step 4:  Pour the hot Beurre Noir over the sole filet and mushrooms.  (About 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons is plenty.)

     This simple French café style entrée is fairly easy to make and the flavor will please guests! 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Anelletti with Sun Dried Tomato, Italian Anchovy and Olio d'Oliva Parmigiana

     A Healthy Pasta With A Bold Flavor!
     Italian style olive oil sauce pastas are popular during warm summer weather.  Pasta with a bold tasting olive oil sauce also appeals to health oriented guests during the spring season.  A light pasta that has a bold umami flavor satisfies cravings that have built up after dining on heavy comfort food for most of the winter.  Strong umami flavors seem to trigger memories of dining on fresh seafood during the warm summer season.  
     Anchovies have been used as a seasoning in Mediterranean cuisine since the days of ancient Rome, when Garum was served with nearly every meal.  Anchovies were used as a seasoning in European cuisine till the early 1900's, then the popularity steadily decined.  In this modern age, people either like anchovies or they avoid them altogether.  Even with the resurgence of umami flavor food trends, anchovies are still a difficult item to get people interested in.
     There is a big difference between cheap salty anchovies and high quality anchovy filets that cost a few dollars more.  Cheap canned anchovies have a salty strong fishy flavor and the tiny bones are still usually attached.  Premium quality Italian anchovies are usually carefully packed in glass jars and they have a refined rich umami flavor that is quite mellow when compared to cheap anchovies.  Even people that do not normally like anchovies will tend to compliment the flavor of premium quality Italian anchovies.  Of course, the best place to find the best Mediterranean anchovies is at an Italian delicatessen or Italian food market!

     Anelletti with Sun Dried Tomato, Italian Anchovy and Olio d'Oliva Parmigiana:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  
     Aneletti Pasta and premium quality Italian anchovies can be found in an Italian delicatessen.  Sun Dried Tomato Halves can be found in grocery stores.
     Olive oil sauces require a small amount of liquid, especially if cheese is added.  The moisture will soften and melt the cheese.  Care must be taken when the cheese is added, because if the pan is left on the heat for a few seconds too long, the cheese will start to stick to the pan, even if the pan has a non-stick surface.
     Step 1:  Cut 6 sun dried tomato halves into 1/4" wide strips.
     Heat a sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Add the sun dried tomato strips.
     Gently simmer till the sun dried tomato strips soften.
     Step 2:  Drain the liquid off of the reconstituted sun dried tomato strips.
     Set the tender sun dried tomato strips aside.
     Step 3:  Start cooking 1 portion of Anelletti Pasta in a pot of boiling water over medium high heat.
     *The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks.  Anelletti takes about 10 to 11 minutes to become al dente.  
     Step 4:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 6 chopped imported Italian Anchovy Filets.
     Add the reconstituted sun dried tomato strips.
     Briefly sauté for about 10 seconds, so the anchovies and tomatoes become aromatic.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of crushed black peppercorn.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt.  (Do not add too much salt, because the anchovies contain salt!)
     Add 2 pinches of finely chopped Italian Parsley.
     Wait till the pasta is ready!
     Step 7:  When the Anelletti Pasta is al dente, use a fine mesh strainer to drain the hot water off the pasta.
     Add the pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan.
     Step 8:  Place the sauté pan of pasta and olive oil sauce over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Occasionally toss the ingredients together, till the pasta and olive oil sauce is piping hot.
     *If the water evaporates and the olive oil starts to fry the pasta, then add 2 tablespoons more water.  Only a small amount of water is needed to moisten the cheese in the next step.
     Step 9:  Add 3 tablespoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese while stirring the ingredients together.
     Stir till the cheese starts to cling to the pasta.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 10:  Use a serving spoon to mound the Anelletti with Sun Dried Tomato, Italian Anchovy and Olio d'Oliva Parmigiana in a shallow pasta bowl.
     Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     This bold tasting healthy pasta will awaken the senses!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tah-chin ba morgh

     Persian Baked Saffron Yogurt Basmati Rice Cake with Chicken!
     Tah-chin is a classic Iranian entrée and it is a unique method of cooking Basmati Rice.  The yogurt and spice flavored rice can be cooked plain and the Persian Farci name would be Tah-chin (or Tahchin).  Tah-chin is the basis for any else that is added to the recipe.  Vegetables, fish, beef, chicken or lamb are popular additions for Tah-chin.  When a featured ingredient is added, the extra item is mentioned in the recipe title after the word Tah-chin.  For example, today's Tah-chin recipe features chicken, so chicken must be mention in the entrée title.  The basic Iranian translation for Persian Style Baked Saffron Yogurt Rice Cake With Chicken is Tah-chin ba morgh.
     The food name Tah-chin ba morgh actually is a phonetic English translation of Farci language and as one can see, using a phonetic Farci language title sure does require fewer words than a straight English descriptive name for this recipe.  The name Tah-chin ba morgh is easy to pronounce and it does look good on a written menu.
     There are several languages in Iran that include variations of Farci and Arabic dialects, so the exact spelling of Tah-chin ba morgh does vary from one local dialect to the next, but this phonetic English spelling sounds similar in all local languages.  The reason why is because this recipe actually dates back to the days of ancient Persia.  The oldest Tah-chin recipes are well over 2,000 years old and the perfected recipe really has not changed much since then.  Tah-chin is ancient culinary perfection at its best!
     In order for the Tah-chin ba morgh to turn out as it should be, traditional Persian cooking techniques must be used with no shortcuts.  The Basmati Rice must be soaked in water for nearly 2 hours and the rice must be rinsed up to 7 times during this process.  This technique results in Basmati Rice grains that are long, light and fluffy after boiling.    
     The seasoning and spices for Tah-chin are simple.  Minced garlic, sliced onion, salt, black pepper, turmeric and saffron is all it takes to create a traditional flavor.  Saffron Water is preferred by many Iranian chefs for yogurt marinade, but regular Saffron Threads can be used too.  Saffron Water is usually made with Safflower Saffron, which has a milder flavor than Crocus sativa Saffron.  Crocus sativa Saffron is quite expensive, so low price Safflower Saffron is used more often in recipes, but more of the weaker Saffron will be needed.  A combination of Concentrated Safflower Saffron Water (or Safflower Saffron) and a small pinch of Crocus sativa Saffron yields a good flavor and yellow color.  The turmeric enhances the Saffron flavor and color too.
     The saffron yogurt marinade is divided into 2 separate portions.  One portion of the yogurt marinade is used for the cooked chicken and onions.  Egg yolks are added to the second portion of yogurt marinade to make a custard base, which will be mixed with the Basmati Rice.  The yogurt custard rice mixture lines the cast iron baking pan and the marinated chicken an onions are placed in the center, then the chicken is sealed in with the remaining yogurt rice custard mixture.
    The two hour baking time may seem very long, but the lengthy time in the oven is what gives the Tah-chin its golden brown crust.  The outside of the baked rice cake should be crusty and caramelized after baking.  The yogurt marinade mixture keeps the rice moist inside.
     In French culinary language, the words "Maillard Reaction" describe how an item that is cooked undisturbed till browned will easily release itself from a pan.  A certain amount of undisturbed browning is required for Tah-chin, so it does not stick to the pan.  If on a first attempt at making Tah-chin part of the rice mixture sticks to the pan when the Tah-chin is popped out of the baking pan, then all is not lost.  The broken Tah-chin can be salvaged by packing it back together on a serving plate.  

     Seasoning a Cast Iron Baking Mold or Cast Iron Skillet:
     Using a baking pan or deep skillet that has a modern non-stick surface is an option, but most of these kinds of pans are made with thin gauge metal.  Thin gauge metal does not distribute heat evenly, especially when an item is baked for a long time.  If the non-stick pan is made with thick metal, then it can be used to make tah-chin.    
     Tah-chin is usually baked in a seasoned cast iron baking pan or a seasoned deep cast iron skillet.  Deep cast iron skillets are farely easy to find in a variety of sizes.  An 8" wide cast iron skillet will yield a Tah-chin that is big enough for two portion.
     The cast iron skillet must be thoroughly seasoned, so the surface is like a modern non-stick surface pan.  Seasoning a cast iron skillet is as easy as placing about 1 cup of salt in the pan with about 1/2 cup of vegetable oil.  The pan is placed over medium heat and the oil salt mixture is heated to the smoking point.  The hot oil and salt must be gently shaken in the cast iron pan, so the extra hot oil hardens on the entire cooking surface inside the pan.
     After the inside of the cast iron pan looks like it is a shiny smooth black surface, then the pan is thoroughly seasoned.  The cast iron pan can now be cooled, then the oil and salt can be discarded.  From this point on, the cast iron pan should only be wiped clean and sterilized with direct heat.  Soaking the pan with plain water is okay, if burnt food is stuck to the pan.  Water will not harm the seasoned surface.  Soap should not be used to clean a seasoned cast iron pan.  Using soap and water will remove the seasoned non-stick surface.        
     Tah-chin ba morgh:
     This recipe yields 1 large Tah-Chin that is enough for 3 or 4 portions!
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of Basmati Rice in a container.
     Cover the rice with cold water.  
     Drain the water off of the rice once every 15 to 20 minutes and cover the rice with more fresh cold water.  (The rinsing step should be done 7 times during the soaking period.)
     Soak the rice for a total of 2 hours.
     Step 2:  *While the Basmati Rice Soaks, the yogurt marinade and chicken can be prepared.
     Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of clarified unsalted butter (ghee).
     Add 1 1/3 cups of thin julienne sliced onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the onions are clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add 8 ounces of thin sliced chicken breast.  (About 3/16" thick)
     Sauté and stir till the chicken is fully cooked.  Try not to brown the ingredients.
     Step 4:  Add 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Set the pan aside and let chicken and onions cool to room temperature.  Do not drain off the excess butter!
     Step 5:  Place 1 1/4 cups of plain Greek style goat milk yogurt in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 egg yolks.  (large eggs)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 2 teaspoons of Safflower Saffron Water (or 1 1/2 tablespoons of Safflower Saffron).
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 6:  Place 1/4 of the yogurt sauce in a container.
     *Leave the rest of the yogurt sauce in the large mixing bowl and keep it chilled in a refrigerator.  The remaining yogurt sauce in the mixing bowl will be used for the rice later in the recipe.
     Add the chicken, garlic, onion and butter mixture to the small portion of yogurt sauce in the container.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Marinate the chicken in a refrigerator for at least one hour.
     Step 7:  *The Basmati Rice should be finished soaking by this time.
     Use a fine mesh strainer to drain the water off of the soaked Basmati Rice.
     Rinse the rice one last time under cold running water.
     Step 8:  Place 4 cups of water in a wide sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the water to a gentle boil.
     Add the soaked Basmati Rice.
     Boil the rice till it just starts to become tender.  (Try not to cook the rice till it is soft!)
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Use a fine mesh strainer train the excess water off of the rice with a strainer.
     Allow the partially cooked Basmati Rice to cool to room temperature.
     Step 9:  Add 2/3 of the cooked Basmati Rice to the large portion of yogurt sauce in the mixing bowl.
     Stir till the rice is thoroughly coated.
     Set the rice mixture aside.
     Step 10:  Add 1/3 of the cooked Basmati Rice to the container of yogurt marinated onions and chicken.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Set the yogurt marinated chicken and rice mixture aside.
     Step 11:  Select a deep 8" to 9" wide seasoned cast iron skillet or cast iron baking mold.  (A heavy non-stick surface baking mold or shallow non-stick sauce pot can be used too.)
     Brush the pan with blended olive oil.
     Place 2/3 of the Basmati Rice and Yogurt Sauce Mixture in the baking mold.
     Press the rice mixture onto the bottom and sides of the baking mold, so that it lines the baking mold with an even layer of the yogurt rice.  There should be a shallow empty space in the center of the rice lined baking mold, where the chicken and rice mixture will fit.  
     Step 12:  Place the chicken yogurt rice mixture in the shallow center of the rice lined baking mold.
     Gently flatten the surface of the chicken mixture.
     Place the remaining yogurt rice mixture on top of the chicken mixture.
     Gently flatten the yogurt rice to seal the chicken mixture inside.
     Step 13:  Gently press the ingredients in the mold, so the ingredients are firmly packed with no air pockets.
     Cover the rice with a piece of parchment paper that is cut to the same size as the round baking mold.
     Cover the baking mold with a tight fitting lid or aluminum foil.
     Step 14:  Place the baking mold on a sheet pan.
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven
     Bake for 2 hours to 2 1/2 hours, till the surface of the rice is a golden brown to brown color.
     Step 15:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Remove the lid or aluminum foil and parchment paper.
     Allow the baking mold to cool to about 100ºF.
     Step 16:  Run a paring knife around the edge of the baking mold to loosen the sides.
     Gently invert the baking mold onto a metal serving platter, so the open top of the baking mold faces down.
     Gently tap the baking mold and metal serving pan together as one against a countertop against to release the Tah-Chin onto the platter.
     Remove the baking mold.
     *The  surface of baked Tah-chin rice should be caramelized and firm enough to hold the Tah-Chin shape together.  If the rice happens to stick to the mold, then do the best that you can to shape it back together and make it look nice. 
     Step 17:  Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of pomegranate fruit on the platter around the Tah-chin ba morgh to create a jeweled effect.
     Serve with a ramekin of goat milk yogurt, mint sprigs and some virgin olive oil on the side.

     Tah-chin ba morgh takes some extra time and effort to make, but the great flavor of the finished entrée will surely please guests!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Spaghetti Rigati alla Roma

     Rome Style Peas, Prosciutto and Pancetta Tomato Sauce Pasta! 
     There are many great pastas that have origins in Rome, Italy.  Today's Rome style peas, prosciutto, pancetta and Tomato Sauce pasta is traditionally cooked "a la minute" which means a minimum of preparation is done ahead of time.  When cooking a pasta entrée to order the Italian way, the sauce should be finished cooking at the same time that it takes to cook the pasta al dente.  
     Bucatini Pasta is the traditional choice for today's Rome style pasta recipe.  Unfortunately, Bucatini was not available at any food markets when I made the recipe example for the photos.  Spaghetti or Capellini are acceptable substitutes for Bucatini.  I found some Spaghetti Rigati and this modern pasta is interesting in one respect.  The Italian word Rigati refers to grooves that run along the length of the pasta surface.  Pasta Rigati of any kind is designed to pick up more sauce than a pasta that has a smooth surface.  Spaghetti Rigati also looks nice on a plate.
     One Italian chef that I once worked with, cooked in Rome, Italy, for over 10 years.  The chef from Rome prepared no Tomato Sauce or Marinara ahead of time.  However, he did briefly prepare the tomatoes ahead of time, so making tomato sauces to order would be a little bit easier.  He cooked a big batch of peeled hand crushed San Marzano Plum Tomato filets with olive oil and garlic for about five minutes, then turned the heat off.  After the prepared tomatoes cooled down, they were placed in a container and chilled till they were needed.  This preparation style is perfect for San Marzano Plum Tomatoes, because this tomato breed is the best for making sauces.  The Roma chef used to say, "Tomatoes this great need very little cooking!"
     The same Italian chef from Rome used to cook every pasta to order.  This method takes some skill to master when the restaurant is busy, but it actually is the best way to cook dried pasta, because the pasta will be al dente when cooked to perfection.  Fresh cooked al dente pasta with a freshly made sauce is the standard of perfection cooking is done in Rome.  The extra effort is rewarding and the customers do notice the difference.
     The combination of Parma Ham, Peas and Prosciutto creates a surprisingly bold flavor when combined with a simple tomato garlic and olive oil sauce.  This quick a la minute Roma pasta is a real treat for traditional Italian pasta fans!

     San Marzano Tomato Preparation:
     This recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups.  (Enough for 3 to 5 pasta portions, depending on the application.)
     Step 1:  Select a 28 ounce can of Peeled San Marzano Tomato Filets Packed In Their Own Juices.
     Place the tomatoes and juices in a mixing bowl.
     Squeeze and crush the tomato filets by hand, till the pieces are no bigger than a small pea.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of olive oil.
     Add 2 tablespoon of minced garlic.
     Gently sauté till the garlic is a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add the crushed San Marzano Tomatoes and their juices.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and stir occasionally for 5 minutes.
     *Stir with the goal of trying to combine the oil with the tomatoes.
     Step 5:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature.  Stir occasionally.
     Place the Prepared San Marzano Tomatoes in a container and chill till they are needed.

     Spaghetti Rigati alla Roma:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     The Italian rule of thumb is to only make enough sauce to coat the pasta with flavor.  The pasta should not be swimming in sauce!
     Step 1:  Start cooking 1 portion of Spaghetti Rigati Pasta in a pot of boiling water over medium high heat till the pasta is al dente.
     *This takes about 10 minutes.  The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks!
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 3 tablespoons of diced Pancetta.
     Sauté till the pancetta turns a light golden brown color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped garlic.
     Add 3 tablespoons of chopped thin sliced Prosciutto.
     Briefly sauté till the prosciutto and garlic becomes aromatic.  (Do not brown the Prosciutto!)
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/3 cups of the Prepared San Marzano Tomatoes.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh basil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Bring the sauce to a simmer.
     Step 5:  Add 1/3 cup of thawed frozen peas.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Keep the sauce warm till the pasta finishes cooking.
     *The sauce will gently simmer and thicken till the pasta is ready.
     Step 6:  When the Spaghetti Rigati is cooked al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the Spaghetti Rigati to the sauce in the sauté pan.
     Toss the pasta and sauce together.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use a long tine carving fork to mound the Spaghetti Rigati alla Roma on a plate.
     Spoon any excess sauce over the pasta.
     Sprinkle about 1 1/2 tablespoon of thin shaved Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish with a basil sprig.

     Pasta alla Roma is a favorite of many people, because it is so aromatic and the flavor is bold!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Chevre and Spinach Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

     Gourmet Stuffed Mushrooms!
     Today's Chevre and Spinach Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms recipe is a Mediterranean cuisine style item.  Modern Mediterranean cuisine is renowned for its healthy appeal.  The use of olive oil, fresh vegetables and seafood also makes modern Mediterranean cuisine a low calorie option.  The flavors of modern Mediterranean cuisine reflect upon the long culinary history of this region and this adds to the appeal.  
     The French word Chevre refers to any kind of goat milk cheese.  In America, Chevre usually refers to soft fresh goat milk cheese.  Chevre does not melt like a cows milk cheese, because goat milk contains no fat.  Chevre will become soft and aromatic when heated and the nature of this sharp tasting cheese is perfect for topping off Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms.
     Chevre and Spinach Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer portion.
     When measuring leafy vegetables like spinach with a cup, just gently pack the spinach into the cup.  The spinach should not be pressed too tight in a measuring cup.  Basically, 1 cup of spinach leaves equals 1 grasped handful. 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Briefly sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 3 1/4 cups of fresh baby spinach leaves.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Toss and stir till the spinach wilts.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of plain fine French bread crumbs while stirring.
     Set the spinach mixture aside.
     Step 4:  Select 6 small portobello mushrooms that are about 1 1/2" to 1 3/4" wide.
     Remove the stems.
     Use a spoon to gently scrape the gills off of the mushroom caps.
     Step 5:  Lightly brush a small roasting pan with blended olive oil.  (A pie tin is good.)
     Lightly brush the top of the mushroom caps with virgin olive oil.
     Place the mushroom caps on the baking pan with the gill side facing up.
     Step 6:  Divide the wilted spinach mixture into 6 equal size portions.
     Place 1 portion of the spinach mixture on each mushroom.
     Press the spinach mixture into place, so each stuffed mushroom looks good.
     Step 7:  Sprinkle 1 pinch of plain fine French bread crumbs on each stuffed mushroom.
     Sprinkle 1 small pinch of oregano over each mushroom.
     Step 8:  Place about 2 teaspoons of Fresh Soft Chevre Cheese on each stuffed mushroom and press the cheese in place.
     Place 1/2 pitted Kalamata Olive on the cheese on each mushroom and press the olive in place.
     Drizzle 2 to 3 drops of virgin olive on each stuffed mushroom.
     Step 9:  Place the roasting pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the portobello mushroom caps are tender and the Fresh Chevre Cheese softens.
     *Fresh Chevre contains no fat, so it will not melt or brown.  Chevre only will soften when heated.
     Step 10:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Use a spoon or spatula to place the Chevre and Spinach Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms on a plate in a circle pattern.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.
     Place 2 lemon slice curls on the center of the plate.
     The aroma of these Mediterranean style stuffed mushrooms is incredibly nice!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Pork Loin Cutlets with Asparagus Mushroom Crème

     A Quick Easy Café Style Pork Entrée For A Modest Price!
     Today's pork loin cutlet entrée is an item that I sold as a lunch special du jour at a French café back in the 1980's.  The idea was to create a rich tasting pork entrée that was made with a veal sauce, which could sell for a lower than average menu price in an effort to please value oriented customers that were shopping in stores nearby.  Casual diners during a lunch shift tend to shy away from gourmet food items like veal because of the price, but when chicken or pork is prepared with a veal sauce, the item is nearly irresistible.  Even though casual day time shoppers may not be familiar with fine dining veal sauces or fancy food in general, the goal was to give this kind of customer something to talk about.  For example, when an inexperienced customer is satisfied with a tasty modest price lunch at a French café, the customer tells friends something like "I had the pork cutlets lunch special at that French restaurant at the plaza for less than $10 while shopping the other day and the sauce was fantastic!  We all need to do lunch there sometime, because I know you will be pleasantly surprised!"      
     Offering a low price lunch entrée that has a fancy sauce is an age old marketing strategy that inspires word of mouth liquid advertising.  A strategy like this cannot be done only once or it will be viewed by customers as being a misrepresentation.  As a lunch shift sous chef, I usually offered two to five special du jour items on a special board each day.  I always offered one bargain price item that was made with low cost meat or seafood.  The idea was to attract value oriented customers that would not normally do lunch in a French restaurant.
     By offering a low price protein like pork, chicken, farm raised seafood or a low demand ocean fish for a low special menu price, the food cost could be kept in the 20% range, even though the item was topped with a fancy sauce.  Extra effort went into making a nice sauce for cheap protein items, so the guest's perception of dining value remained high and the customers thought that they got a good bargain.
     Honestly, by using lunch special du jour marketing strategies like this, I was able to increase the average customer flow numbers at that French café from the day I started work till the day that I moved on.  When I first started, the café was doing an average of 20 customers for lunch.  When I left the job, the café was doing well over 180 customers each lunch shift.  It just goes to show that carefully marketing nicely prepared profitable low cost items that can be sold for a bargain price is an effective strategy for increasing business flow.  Word of mouth got around and value oriented shoppers looked upon the French café as a viable place to do lunch and enjoy a glass of good wine.  These same customers also returned to try the traditional French food items that sold for regular menu prices.  This all happened back in the days when everybody thought that French food was only high price gourmet food.  Breaking that stereotype was the key to success at that French café!
     Today's pork loin cutlet entrée is made with Italian sauté techniques.  This means that the featured protein, garnishes and sauce are all prepared in the same pan.  The french cooking method would involve making the sauce and garnishes ahead of time, but this is not always a wise thing to do in a restaurant that has fluctuating customer flow numbers, because a quantity of leftover sauce will end up going to waste and this drives up food costs.  Even so, cooking 10 to 40 Pork Loin Cutlets with Asparagus Mushroom Crème to order, along with the rest of the menu items during a lunch shift is something that a good sauté can do and this is how I eliminated waste costs in the French café.
     In a home kitchen, cooking an item like Pork Loin Cutlets with Asparagus Mushroom Crème is great for those who live an active lifestyle, because the preparation time is minimal.  The cost is relatively cheap too.  Today's bargain priced fine dining pork loin cutlet recipe can be made in less than 15 minutes and the rich flavor will certainly will please guests!      

     Pork Loin Cutlets with Asparagus Mushroom Crème:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Dried wild mushrooms like Chanterelles, Porcine, Ceps and Morels can actuall be used like a spice when they are ground into a powder form.  One pinch of ground dried Porcine adds a rich wild mushroom flavor to a sauce.  
     Step 1:  Select 2 boneless pork loin cutlets that weigh about 3 1/2 ounces apiece.
     Use a meat mallet to slightly flatten the pork cutlets.  Try not to pond the cutlets too thin!
     Lightly season the pork cutlets with sea salt and black pepper.
     Lightly dredge the pork cutlets in plain flour.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add the prepared pork cutlets.
     Sauté the cutlets on both sides, till golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 3:  Add 1 clove of chopped garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of Button Cave Mushrooms that are cut into thin wedges.
     Sauté till the mushrooms are partially cooked.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 2 pinches of Ground Dried Porcine Mushroom.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till the volume of wine is about 1/4 cup.
     Step 5:  Add 1/4 cup of light pork broth or chicken broth.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Add about 1/3 cup of fresh Pencil Asparagus Tips.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can easily coat a spoon.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     This recipe yields 1 plated entrée.
     Step 1:  Place the 2 pork loin cutlets on the front half of a plate.
     Spoon the Asparagus Mushroom Crème Sauce over pork cutlets and onto the plate.
     Step 2:  Serve with vegetables of your choice.
     *The entree in the photographs above was served with Jalapeño and Monterey Jack Cheese Polenta that was piped onto the plate with a star tipped pastry bag.  A seasoned grilled whole plum tomato and steamed snow peas are nice vegetable choices too.
     No extra garnish is necessary.  

     Viola!  Bargain priced sautéed pork cutlets with a tasty veal sauce that can be made with very little preparation time!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shrimp and Scallop Imperial

     An Old Fashioned East Coast Seafood Specialty!  
     Crab Imperial is the classic choice.  Crab Imperial is popular in Delaware, Maryland and Philadelphia.  The Crab Imperial recipe varies from restaurant to restaurant and some recipe variations are much better than others.  Some recipes call for only mayonnaise.  Some recipes call for egg yolk and mayonnaise.  Some recipes require milk, cream or Béchamel Sauce.  When a roux thickened milk sauce is used, the Imperial custard will taste more like Tuna Casserole, which is the wrong flavor profile altogether.
     Basically, the best Crab Imperial is made with fresh mayonnaise that is combined with a simple egg custard.  This style of Crab Imperial yields a light elegant custard texture that accents the naturally rich flavor of Blue Crab.
     I first learned how to make Crab Imperial while cooking in a Philadelphia fine dining restaurant back in the early 1980's.  Crab Imperial was an elegant entrée that was also offered as an appetizer portion.  Another popular variation was Crab Imperial topped filet of salmon.  The Imperial Custard was also adapted to other seafood items.  Shrimp and scallops replaced Blue Crab and this combination worked well when baked in an Imperial Custard.  
     Today's Shrimp and Scallop Imperial recipe is a little bit different than the Blue Crab Imperial recipe that I published a few years ago.  As mentioned before, there are many Imperial Custard recipe variations, so if one does not suit the fancy, another one probably will.  In recent years, Imperial preparations have such a high proportion of crab or seafood, that they look like ordinary crab cakes or crab dip.  Once again, a good Imperal Custard made with any kind of seafood should have an elegant light custard texture.  This definition best suits the meaning of "Imperial!"
     Mayonnaise is the key ingredient in an Imperial recipe.  An Imperial Custard is best when it is made with fresh mayonnaise.  Classic French Mayonnaise only requires a few ingredients.  A neutral flavor oil is best for making mayonnaise.  Olive oil will result in an Italian Aioli flavor, which tastes nothing like real mayonnaise.
     Pre-made store bought mayonnaise is not always made with a standard mayonnaise recipe, but some actually are the real thing.  Read the label on a jar of mayonnaise.  If it says vegetable oil, egg yolk, salt, pepper, vinegar or lemon juice and water, then it is a classic mayonnaise.  A light mayonnaise product that has extra water emulsified in the mixture will end up breaking when baked.
     This recipe yields about 1 1/3 cups.
     Making mayonnaise is simple.  The most important part of a mayonnaise recipe is the start.  Only a few drops of oil can be added at a time, till the egg yolk and oil starts to emulsify.  Only use a neutral flavor vegetable oil.  Canola Oil is a good choice.  Olive oil has the wrong flavor profile.  
     The mayonnaise proportion is 1 cup of vegetable oil to 1 egg yolk.  The actual volume will be about 1 1/4 cups to 1 1/2 cups, because of aeration.
     Many chefs brag about producing 5 gallons or more of mayonnaise from 1 egg yolk, but the physical properties of the mayonnaise will be questionable.  A mayonnaise that is made with too much oil will break and separate when baked.
     Whisking by hand or using a small cake mixer with a wire whisk attachment is best when making small batches of mayonnaise.  A food processor or emersion blender turns at such a high speed that friction heat is produced.  When heat is produced when making mayonnaise with a food processor, the mayonnaise will become way too thick too fast and water will have to be added to loosen the texture, so the remaining oil can be added.  The result will be a mayonnaise that contains too much water and the durability of the mayonnaise may suffer when baked in a recipe.
     The addition of Dijon Mustard at the start of a mayonnaise recipe is a technique that I learned at Le Cordon Bleu.  The Dijon Mustard is an emulsifying agent, so it helps when making mayonnaise quickly.  The flavor of the Dijon Mustard is not noticeable in the finished product. 
     Step 1:  Place these ingredients in a mixing bowl: 
     - 1/2 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
     - 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
     - 2 pinches of sea salt
     - 1 pinch of white pepper
     - 1 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
     - 1 egg yolk (large egg)
     Whisk the ingredients till they are combined.
     Step 2:  Measure 1/4 cup of vegetable oil.  (canola oil is best)
     Measure 3/4 cup of vegetable oil.
     Step 3:  *Use the 1/4 cup of oil for this step.
     Slowly add 2 or 3 drops of oil at a time while constantly whisking to start the emulsion.
     Only add about 1/2 teaspoon of oil at a time while constantly whisking, till all of the remaining oil in the quarter cup is combined.  Wait to add the small increments of oil till each addition emulsifies.
     *The emulsion will thicken and ribbons appear on the surface at this point.
     Step 4:  *Now that the start of the emulsion is stable and thick, combining the remaining oil will be easier to do.  The rate of steaming the oil should be like adding 1 tablespoon at a time.  Keep in mind that if the oil is added too fast, it will not emulsify and the mixture will break.  
     Start adding a very thin stream of the oil from the 3/4 cup container while constantly whisking.
     Step 5:  Continue whisking while slowly steaming the oil, till all of the oil is combined.
     Step 6:  Check the consistency of the mayonnaise.  The finished mayonnaise should be just thick enough for a thin tablespoon to stand straight up when inserted.
     *If the mayonnaise way too thick, then add 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of warm water while whisking, so the mayonnaise texture is less heavy.
     Step 7:  Place the mayonnaise in a container.
     Chill to 41ºF in a refrigerator.  The mayonnaise can be kept chilled for 7 days.  
     Shrimp and Scallop Imperial:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Place 1 egg yolk (large egg) in a second mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1/3 cup of mayonnaise.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of thin sliced green onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of diced pimiento.
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Gently whisk till blended.
     Step 4:  Add 10 to 12 medium size shrimp that are peeled and deveined.  (Remove the tails.)
     Add 3 ounces of small bay scallops.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Brush a single portion size casserole dish with melted unsalted butter.  (A 1 3/4 cup to 2 cup capacity oval casserole dish is good.)
     Place the Shrimp and Scallop Imperial mixture in the casserole dish.
     Step 6:  Place the baking dish on a baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the surface of the Imperial Custard becomes a light golden brown color.
     *The custard should gel and the seafood will be fully cooked when the internal temperature is about 165ºF.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Place the Shrimp and Scallop Imperial casserole dish on a doily lined serving platter.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.
     Serve with crostini, toast or sliced French bread on the side.
     The texture of Shrimp and Scallop Imperial is light, puffy and elegant.  The aroma is enticing!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Flounder and Tarragon Oysters en Papillote

     I used to cook today's recipe in a fine Swiss restaurant that was located the edge of a bay in Florida.  The Swiss executive chef liked cooking haute cuisine fresh Florida seafood recipes.  Depending on availability, we used pompano, flounder and sometimes sole to make this papillote recipe.  The oysters, garlic, shallot and tarragon was quite an aromatic topping.  When the papillote was cut open at the customer's table, the aroma literally was mouth watering!  Heads would turn in the dining room and comments like, "We should have ordered that entree!" were heard from other customers sitting near by!
     Cooking en papillote is a type of French Poele Cuisson.  The fish is baked in a moist sealed environment, just like when using the Poele technique with a sealed pot.  En papillote is a very nice cooking method because it seals all the flavors in with the fish.
     Flounder and Tarragon Oysters en Papillote:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     For a café style presentation, just serve the papillote on a plate.  For a refined presentation, the paper bag is cut open on a separate platter, then the fish is placed on a plate.  
     Step 1:  Two small flounder filets that weigh a total of 6 to 7 ounces.
     Set the flounder filets aside and note the length of the filets.
     Step 2:  Cut two sheets of parchment paper into large circle (or oval) shapes that are about 10" in diameter.
     *The size of the parchment paper pieces should be tailored to the size of the fish filets.  Be sure that the round parchment paper sheets are at least 2 inches wider than the length of the fish filets.
     Step 3:  Lightly brush both sides of 2 cut parchment papers with melted unsalted butter.
     Lightly brush a large sheet pan with melted unsalted butter.
     Step 4:  Place one piece of the cut parchment paper on the baking pan. 
     Overlap the 2 small flounder filets on the center of the paper.
     Set the pan aside.
     Step 5:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 thin sliced garlic clove.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sliced shallot.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a light golden color.
     Step 6:  Add 2 shucked large oysters.  (About 1 1/2 ounces to 2 ounces apiece.
     Sauté till the oysters are almost fully cooked.
     Step 7:  Add 2 pinches of tarragon leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Simmer till the liquid is reduced by more than half.  (There should be about 3 tablespoons of thin butter olive oil sauce in the pan.)
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Spoon the thin sauce, garlic, shallots and oysters over the flounder on the parchment paper that sets on the sheet pan.
     Step 9:  Place the second piece of buttered parchment on top of the flounder.
     Line up the edges of the two pieces of paper.
     Neatly fold the edges to seal the two pieces of parchment paper together.  The parchment paper bag should be air tight.
     Step 10:  Place the sheet pan with the papillote in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake for 10-12 minutes.
     *The sealed bag will puff up like a balloon and the butter that was brushed on the outside of the paper bag should turn brown, when the fish is fully cooked.
     Step 1:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Use a large spatula to place the finished Flounder and Tarragon Oysters en Papillote on a plate.
     Serve the entrée while it is still piping hot, so it will be aromatic when the paper bag is cut open.
     Use a razor sharp paring knife or thin blade kitchen shears to cut the bag open and fold the paper lid to the side.    
     Step 2:  Serve with a potato and vegetable of your choice.  Place the vegetables on the plate after the hot papillote is opened.
     *The entrée in the photos was served with a Noisette Butter Roasted Potato Medallion and Sautéed Green Beans.

     Oysters and tarragon with flounder creates a very aromatic papillote entrée.  Guests will be enticed by the flavor and aroma of this entrée!