Friday, April 3, 2015

Pompano, Surf Clams and Heirloom Tomato en Papillote with Scotch Cilantro Butter ~ Hopi Blue Corn Jack Polenta














     A Café Style Papillote Entrée!
     Pompano en Papillote used to be an item that was reserved only for fine dining restaurants.  For the most part, modern fine dining has abandoned classic food items like papillote.  Fans of classic cuisine have been alienated during the last two decades, because so many old time favorite entrées are no longer offered and modern portion sizes no longer present value.  
     Those seek simple presentations of classic cuisine and dining value can find what they look for in a little bit more casual restaurant venue.  French café chefs often place more importance on tradition, rather than riding a modern culinary trends that may fade away overnight.  Classic cuisine favorites and better dining value can still be found in many traditional French café style restaurants.  

     At fine cafés, the dining room service is more relaxed and the food presentations depend less on flashy garnishing.  Classic portion sizes and less complicated food presentation styles of the past prevail.  
     At fine cafés that offer classic cuisine, customers tend to have one thing in mind.  The customers prefer to enjoy a value filled dining experience where the focus is on well prepared classic food that is easy on the eye.  These customers prefer classic food presentation styles that have minimal trendy distractions and a portion size that presents value for the dollar spent.    

     Today's Pompano en Papillote is an example of a classic casual café style food presentation.  Items are arranged on the plate along the traditional guidelines of "6, 10 & 2 o'clock positioning or the 6 &12 o'clock plating style."  The entrée and accompaniments are not stacked up in a tiny pile that challenges a customer's senses.  
    The fish portion size is a classic full 8 ounces, which satisfies customers that seek dining value.  The plate is not 90% empty and this creates perceived value.  Café customers that dine on today's Pompano entrée surely will be confident that they will not have to stop to get a pizza on the way home because they are still hungry!

     There literally is no limit to accompanying flavors that can be applied to a recipe that uses the papillote cooking technique.  The garnishes and compound butter added to the pompano in today's papillote recipe is a good example of this statement.  
     The papillote technique offers room for creative flair, which creates customer interest.  The creative flair involved with papillote primarily focuses on flavor and aroma.  Scotch Whisky Butter tastes nice with clams, sweet tomato and pompano.  The aroma of today's papillote creation is simply irresistible when sealed paper is cut open at the table!   

     Highland Breeze Blended Scotch Whisky For Culinary Applications
     Blended Scotch Whisky that sells for a bargain price and has a bold flavor is the best choice for recipes.  The problem is that so many brands of cheap Blended Scotch are so gentle tasting, that it would take a pint to flavor a single portion recipe.  Finding a thrifty priced Blended Scotch that has a bold enough flavor to cook with is not as easy as it seems.      
    Since I currently am on a college student low budget, I inevitably have been relegated to exploring the realm of bargain price liquors.  Some low price liquors are bargains that serve their purpose, especially when used in food recipes.  
     Basically when it comes to cooking with Scotch, a budget price full flavored Blended Scotch Whisky is the best choice.  One simply does not use a top shelf bottle of the finest Scotch Whisky for cooking, because that would be a mortal sin!  A true Scotsman would get shivers up the spine and cringe in disgust at such a thought!
     Highland Breeze Blended Scotch Whisky is one of the few thrifty priced brands of Blended Scotch that I have found that has a strong enough flavor to be used in recipes.  I gave a Scottish friend in Las Vegas a taste of this whisky just to get an expert opinion.  Her comment about the quality can be summed up with these words.  "Not bad, but I prefer Straight Scotch!"
    Highland Breeze is a "sweet" blend with caramel tones and a fair amount of peat roasted oak depth.  This Blended Scotch Whisky is bold enough tasting to be used in savory and sweet recipes.  Highland Breeze Blended Scotch runs for about $10 or less per bottle, so it is perfect for culinary use.     

     Scotch Cilantro Compound Butter:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 to 3 papillote applications.  (About 3 ounces)
     Step 1:  Place 4 ounces of Scotch Whisky in a sauce pot over medium low heat.  
     Add 1 teaspoon of glace viande.  (Glace Viande Recipe)
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced shallot.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid, till the volume is equals less than 1 tablespoon.  
     Set the Scotch reduction aside.
     Step 2:  Place 2 1/2 ounces of softened unsalted butter in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced cilantro.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add the reserved Scotch reduction.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Whisk the ingredients, till the butter is combined.
     Step 3:  Chill the compound butter till it is solid.
     Cut the solid compound butter into 2 or 3 portions.  
     Keep the portions chilled till they are needed.    

     Sushi Quality Surf Clams Preparation:
     Fresh Surf Clams from British Columbia are rarely sold at fish markets.  Surf Clams for sushi making is the next best option.  Sushi quality shucked Surf Clams are sold as a cryovac packaged frozen product in Asian Food Markets.  The frozen shucked Surf Clams are already poached, cleaned and trimmed.  
    This product is very easy to work with and these red tipped clams look nice when used as a fish topping.  All that needs to be done is to thaw and rinse the frozen Shucked Surf Clams, shortly before using them in a recipe.  About 8 Surf Clams is enough to garnish 1 portion of Pompano.  

     Pompano Preparation:
     I always purchase whole Pompano and filet it myself.  This reduces food cost dramatically, because Pompano sells for a premium price.  Clerks at a fish market will filet Pompano by request, but the price will increase.  
     The whole Pompano in the photo above was purchased at an Asian food market in Chinatown, Las Vegas.  The seafood clerk prepared the whole fish Asian style, by gutting the fish and trimming all fins.   
     One large whole Pompano will yield 2 boneless filets that weigh about 4 ounces apiece.  One whole large Pompano equals 1 classic size portion of 8 ounces. 
     Keep the Pompano Filets chilled till they are needed.    

     Hopi Blue Corn Jack Polenta:
     This recipe yields 2 portions!
     Organic Blue Corn Meal is popular these days, because it is a healthy Non-GMO option.  Corn meal polenta that has a mild cheese flavor is a nice accompaniment for seafood.  Hopi Blue Corn Meal creates an interesting polenta color.
     Step 1:  Place a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of light chicken broth.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Add 3/4 cup of corn meal, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     As soon as the cornmeal starts to thicken the liquid, reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Continue to constantly stir.
     Step 3:  Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Step 4:  Slowly simmer and stir, till the cornmeal becomes very soft and thick enough to gather on a spoon. 
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of grated Monterey Jack Cheese.
     Stir till the polenta combines with the cheese. 
     *If necessary, adjust the consistency if necessary, by reducing or adding a splash of chicken broth.
     Step 6:  Place the polenta in a star tip pastry bag.  
     Keep the polenta warm in a 135ºF bain marie or on a stove top.

     Pompano, Surf Clams and Heirloom Tomato en Papillote with Scotch Cilantro Butter: 
     This recipe yields 1 entree! 
     If the assembly is done carefully, the clams and tomatoes will be undisturbed and they will remain in place when the paper bag is cut open after baking.  
     An Heirloom Orange Amana Tomato was used in this recipe.  If none are available, any variety of heirloom sweet yellow tomato or sweet orange tomato can be used.   
     Step 1:  Cut 8 petite Orange Amana Heirloom Tomato wedges that are about the same size as a prepared surf clam.  
     Set the petite tomato wedges aside.
     Step 2:  Cut 2 equal size oval shape pieces of parchment paper, that are about twice as big as the width and length of the pompano filets.
     Step 3:  Place the pompano filets on the center of one sheet of the parchment paper, so the filets overlap.
     Step 4:  Arrange 8 surf clams and 8 Orange Amana Tomato wedges on top of the filets, so these items stand tall and look nice.
     Step 5:  Chop 1 portion of the chilled solid Scotch Cilantro Compound Butter into small pieces.
     Sprinkle the butter pieces over the fish and clam topping.
     Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice over the pompano. 
     Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of Scotch Whiskey over the pompano. 
     Step 6:  Place the second sheet of parchment paper sheet over the fish and toppings.
     Fold the edges of the parchment paper to seal the fish inside the parchment paper bag.  (Overlapping short angled folds work best.)
     Step 7:  Use a large spatula to place the pompano en papillote on a baking pan.
     Bake the pompano en papillote for about 10 to 12 minutes in a 350ºF oven. 
     *The baking time depends on the size of the pompano filets.  After the parchment bag puffs up like a balloon and the paper is a lightly browned, this is a sign that the fish is fully cooked.  
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the oven and be prepared to serve this entrée quickly, before the aromatic steam cools!   
    
     Presentation:
     Café style papillote is served directly on the plate.  Fine dining papillote is served from a platter by a captain at the table side.   
     Step 1:  Carefully use a spatula to transfer the pompano en papillote to a plate, so the toppings inside are not disturbed.
     Use the pastry bag to pipe a portion of the Hopi Blue Corn Jack Polenta on the plate.
     Place a vegetable of your choice on the plate.  (Buttered steamed peeled white asparagus spears are nice with pompano!)
     Step 2:  Serve the platter immediately.
     Use a razor sharp knife to cut the papillote open.
     Allow the aroma to develop!    

     Viola!  A gourmet aromatic Pompano en Papillote entrée! 

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