Thursday, February 25, 2016

Filet of Pollack Bienville







     Pollack Prepared French Bienville Style!
     Bienville is the name if a classic sauce and this word also refers to a traditional cooking application.  Bienville is a community that is nestled in forests just north of Paris.  The weather in Bienville is quite cold during winter and the local cuisine reflects upon the weather.  Bienville Sauce is about as rich as a sauce gets!
     Bienville Sauce is used to make baked fish recipes.  Trout Bienville is the classic original version.  A whole deboned trout is topped with the Bienville sauce and then baked.  In New Orleans, oysters are commonly prepared with Bienville sauce.
     Bienville sauce can be adapted to any whitefish.  Pollack is a nice light tasting ocean fish that has meat that easily flakes.  Pollack is usually listed as being sustainable, so this species of fish is a good choice for preparing it Bienville style.
     When Pollack Bienville is prepared in a casserole dish, croutons can be placed under the fish filets to elevate the fish slightly above the sauce.  Sourdough Croutons add a complimentary flavor.
     Bacon or salt pork lardons are a Bienville Sauce ingredient.  The better the bacon, the better the Bienville Sauce will taste.  Hickory Smoked Bacon adds a nice rustic flavor that supports the forested Bienville region theme.

     Sauce Bienville:
     This recipe yields a little more than 1 1/4 cups. 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 slices of hickory smoked bacon that are diced.
     Gently sauté, till the bacon bits are crisp and lightly browned.
     Drain the grease off of the bacon bits and set them aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Sauté till the shallots turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add just enough flour to soak up the excess butter, while stirring with a whisk.  (About 3 teaspoons.  The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Stir until the roux is thoroughly combined and it is a white color.
     Step 4:  Add 1/4 cup of Dry Sherry.
     Add 1/2 cup of fumet.  (Whitefish stock.)
     Whisk occasionally as the roux thickens the sauce.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add the reserved smoked bacon bits.
     Add 3/4 cup of milk.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can easily coat a spoon.
     Step 6:  Remove the sauce from the heat.
     Add 2 thin sliced green onions.
     Stir the sauce.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top or chill the sauce for later use.  

     Filet of Pollack Bienville:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Cut 2 pollack filets that weigh about 3 1/2 to 4 ounces apiece.  (The fish filets must be able to fit in a single portion casserole dish.)
     Lightly season the filets with sea salt and black pepper.
     Dredge the filets in flour.
     Dip the filets in milk.
     Dredge the filets in flour a second time.  Let the filets sit in the flour.
     Step 2:  Cut a 1/2" thick slice of sourdough boule bread loaf.
     Cut the slice of sourdough in half.
     Trim the 2 pieces of bread, so they are about the same size and shape as the 2 filets of pollack.  (The bread pieces must be able to fit in a single portion casserole dish.)
     Brush both sides of the croutons with melted unsalted butter.
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Grill the croutons in the hot sauté pan till they are toasted golden brown on both sides.
     Place the croutons in a casserole dish.
     Step 4:  If necessary, wipe the hot sauté pan clean.
     Place the sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add the prepared pollack filets.
     Sauté the pollack filets on both sides till they are golden brown.
     Step 5:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the pollack filets on top of the sourdough croutons in the casserole dish.
     Spoon a generous amount of the Bienville sauce over and around the pollack filets.  (About 1 1/4 cups.)
     Step 6:  Place the casserole dish in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake until the sauce is piping hot and golden brown highlights appear on the fish.
     Step 7:  Remove the casserole dish from the oven and let it cool for 1 minute.
     Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.
     Sprinkle 1 thin sliced green onion top over the Filet of Pollack Bienville.
     Garnish the casserole dish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with a vegetable and potato of your choice on the side.

     Warm comfortable French food for a chilly day!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Filet of Flounder en Croute with Dill Crème







     Savory Whitefish Pastry!
     Fish that is baked in puff pastry is always a nice entrée choice for a chilly day.  The fish remains moist after baking when using this technique.
     Flounder is a delicate whitefish that can easily be overpowered if it is seasoned too heavily.  Only a light sprinkle of salt and pepper is needed.  The light flounder aroma is noticeable when the pastry is cut open.  The simple dill sauce is all the extra flavor that the flounder and pastry needs.
     Frozen Puff Pastry Sheets can be found in nearly any grocery store.  Frozen Puff Pastry Sheets are a nice convenience.  I published a strudel style puff pastry recipe some time ago, but that is a specialized pastry that has an extra high butter content.  Puff Pastry is not difficult to make from scratch, but the process is time consuming.  Winter is the best time of year to make puff pastry, because kitchen temperatures can be kept cool.
     I used some leftover store bought pre-made puff pastry for making the photo example.  I noticed that the pastry had become damp from refrigerator condensation.  I managed to form the pastry into shape before baking, but the pastry did not rise and become flaky like it should.  A fresh sheet of puff pastry dough would have created a more uniform look.  The flounder pattern that was decoratively etched into the pastry for the photo example ended up looking like Pacific Basking Sunfish after it came out of the oven.  Even so, the entrée turned out good enough to pass.  Ce est la vie!
  
     Filet of Flounder en Croute:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Select a 6 to 8 ounce flounder filet and mentally note its shape and dimensions.
     Step 2:  Lightly dust a counter top with flour.
     Place a sheet of puff pastry on the floured counter top.
     Cut two pieces of pastry that are 1" larger than the shape of the flounder filet.
     Step 3:  Place the flounder filet on the center of one of the pastry sheets.
     Lightly season the flounder with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Brush the edge of the pastry around the fish with egg wash.
     Lay the other sheet of pastry over the flounder.
     Gently press the edges together.
     Step 5:  Decoratively trim the pastry so it looks like the outline of a fish.
     Step 6:  Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking pan.
     Lightly brush the paper with melted unsalted butter.
     Carefully place the pastry covered flounder filet on the paper lined sheet pan.
     Step 7:  Score some gill, fin and eye marks on the pastry.  (optional)
     Brush the pastry with egg wash.
     Step 8:  Bake in a 375ºF oven till the pastry is a golden brown color.
  
     Dill Crème:  
     This recipe yields about 1/2 cup.  (2 to 3 portions)
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Gently sauté till the shallot turns clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add just enough flour to absorb the butter in the pan while stirring with a whisk.  (About 1 teaspoon)
     Stir till the roux is a white color.
     Step 3:  Add 3 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Stir till the wine starts to thicken with the roux.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of milk.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Stir occasionally as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin consistency.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 7:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill weed.
     Stir the sauce.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.  Add milk if the sauce is too thick.
  
     Filet of Flounder en Croute with Dill Crème:
     This recipe describes 1 entrée presentation.
     Spoon about 1/4 cup of the Dill Crème on a plate as a bed for the flounder.
     Use a spatula to place the Filet of Flounder en Croute on the Dill Crème.
     Garnish with dill sprigs and lemon slices.
     Serve with a vegetable of your choice.
     *Yellow squash and fresh plum tomato ragout was the vegetable in the pictures.

     The flounder inside the pastry tastes like flounder and nothing else because it is lightly seasoned.  Dipping each piece of the pastry and flounder in the dill sauce adds all the extra flavor that is needed.  Dill is a very nice herb for a cream sauce!

Veal Marengo with Fettuccine Pasta







     Spezzatino di Vitello alla Marengo
     This classic Italian veal stew that is cooked in the style of Marengo, Italy.  Stew (Spezzatino) is often overlooked by fine dining chefs when planning a menu, because stew is thought of as being too casual.  Honestly, stew not only provides casual comfort, stew can also be a gourmet item.  I have prepared Veal Marengo at fine dining restaurants many times and this stew is respected as a classic entrée.
     There are a few ways to present Veal Marengo.  Veal Marengo can be served with rice or bread.  Back in the 1980's, serving Veal Marengo over fettuccine pasta was a popular way to present this entrée.

     The history of Veal Marengo is not quite as famous as Napoleon Boneparte's Chicken Marengo, which was created with scavenged local ingredients during the French occupation of Marengo, Italy, while at war with the Ottoman Empire.  Veal Marengo is made with almost the same ingredients, but the cooking style is definitely Italian.  
     A fried egg on a piece of toast, was considered to be a high class garnish for an entrée in the late 1700's.  The fried egg on toast garnish was Napoleon's favorite, so of course it was part of the Chicken Marengo recipe.
     It is not necessary to garnish Veal Marengo with a fried egg on toast.  Veal Marengo is usually served plain in the modern age, but some chefs do garnish this stew with an egg.  The egg garnish was kind of a French idea in the first place.  Not all Italian chefs subscribe to this custom, but some do.  If the egg garnish option is applied, the egg can be poached or fried.  The egg does not have to be placed on toast, because the egg on toast garnish was abandoned sometime in the early 1800's.
     The flavor of Veal Marengo is not spicy.  The flavor is very bold, because the olives impart a strong flavor.  The selection of white wine also makes a difference.  Many chefs say that Dry Vermouth is the correct choice.

     Spezzatino di Vitello alla Marengo (Veal Marengo):
     This recipe yields 1 large hearty serving or 2 petite portions.
     Veal stews typically do not need to simmer all day, because the veal meat will be tender after a short cooking time. 
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of imported Italian canned whole San Marzano Tomatoes packed in their own juices into a mixing bow.  (Add a proportion of the juice.)
     Hand squeeze and crush the tomatoes.
     Set the tomatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of pomace olive oil.
     Add 8 ounces of veal stewing meat that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Sauté and stir occasionally till the veal pieces start to lightly brown.
     Step 3:  Add 3 sliced garlic cloves.
     Add 2 small shallots that are coarsely chopped. 
     Add 1/2 cup of mixed red and green bell pepper that are cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 5 small button cave mushrooms that are cut in half.
     Sauté till the vegetables are cooked al dente.
     Step 4:  Add 1 cup of dry white wine.
     Stir and deglaze the pan.
     Step 5:  Add the reserved tomatoes.
     Add 12 to 14 pitted ripe black olives.
     Add 1 tablespoon of capers.
     Add 10 to 12 pitted green olives.
     Add 2 pitted Kalamata Olives or 2 pitted Oil Cured Olives that are finely minced.
     *The small amount of minced Kalamata Olive or Oil Cured Olive is added just to increase flavor.  Both of these kinds of olives have very strong flavors.
     Step 6:  Add enough veal broth or light beef broth to cover the ingredients with 1" of extra liquid.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of sage.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 2 pinches of basil.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 8:  Gently simmer and reduce till the stewing sauce is a medium thick consistency that easily clings to the pieces of veal meat.
     Step 9:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley while stirring.
     Keep the stew warm over very low hear or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Veal Marengo with Fettuccine Pasta:
     This recipe describes 1 entrée presentation.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of fettuccine in boiling water over high heat till it is al dente.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Step 2:  Place the fettuccine on a plate, so the pasta forms a ring against the border of the plate.  The center of the plate should be bare.
     Mound a generous portion (about 1 1/2 cups) of the Veal Marengo on the the center of the plate inside the pasta ring.
     Step 3:  Sprinle 1 or 2 teaspoons of Pecorino Romano Cheese over the stew and pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Garnish with a fried egg or poached egg on top.  (optional)

     Spezzatino di Vitello alla Marengo is one of the tastiest classic veal stews!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Petite Marmite Soup





     Petite Marmite!
     The French words "Petite Marmite" describe an earthenware pot that was used in farm houses nearly 1,000 years ago.  Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu is a very old French recipe.  This specialty literally cooks for an entire day.  
     A Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu is started in the morning of a day when farm animals need to be butchered.  The first stage of making a Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu involves stewing chicken, water and farm vegetables an earthenware pot, till the broth tastes rich.  
     At about noon, the chicken pieces are  removed and eaten as a light meal.  A small portion of the vegetables and broth are also served as an afternoon soup.  This afternoon soup that is drawn from the Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu is called Petite Marmite Soup.  
     The Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu continues to cook and the next stage involves adding freshly butchered veal, pork, beef and lamb bones.  The Pot Au Feu then simmers till the meat literally falls off of the bones and the broth is extra rich.  The second half of a Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu is finally served as an evening meal.

     Today's Petite Marmite Soup recipe compares to the stage of the Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu after the chicken has been removed and some of the broth and vegetables are served as soup.  In modern times, many French chefs only make the Petite Marmite Soup and they do not complete the entire Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu.  This is because Petite Marmite Soup is a classic French recipe in itself.
      For those who want to spend all day making a complete Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu, I published the recipe in my comfort food website.  Here is the hyperlink:
     • Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu
 
     Petite Marmite Soup
     This recipe yields 1 large bowl of soup.  (2 1/2 cups)
     This soup traditionally has a high proportion of vegetables to broth.
     Step 1:  Place 3 cups of rich chicken stock in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 clove of chopped garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced onion.
     Add 3 tablespoons of diced celery.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of diced cabbage.
     Add 3 tablespoons of diced turnip.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped fresh dill weed.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 3:  Gently simmer the soup till the vegetables are very tender.  Allow the volume of the soup to reduce to about 2 1/2 cups.
     Step 4:  Pour the soup into a large soup bowl.
     Garnish with a fresh dill weed sprig.
 
     Petite Marmite Soup is uncomplicated traditional French farm cooking at its best!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pork Cutlets à la Russe







     Côtelettes de Porc à la Russe! 
     Many French chefs use the words "a la" in a recipe title, which loosely translates as "in the style of."   Côtelettes de Porc à la Russe is the French name for today's recipe.  The French title is important to remember, because this recipe is a French interpretation of a Russian cuisine item.
     From the late 1800's through the present age, French chefs sometimes created recipes that represented another culture's cuisine.  Often a bit of French culinary bias is applied when creating an interpretive recipe that represents the food of another culture, in order to downplay food that is not truly French.  In other words, to a steadfast French chef, only French food is number one and when making a foreign culture food item, the logical thing to do is make the item not look as good as French food.
     When making a foreign food item, some French chefs only the bare essential ingredients to make the recipe with no additional ingredients that add pizzaz, even if the additional ingredients are traditionally part of the foreign recipe.  Many times the traditional cooking methods are simplified too, so the full essence of the foreign culture's food item cannot be experienced.  Either way, downplaying foreign food is part of defending the stature of French food.
     Nobody ever said that a French chef cannot take advantage of their own home field advantage, in order to make their own cultural cuisine look best!  The restaurant business is highly competitive, so if a chef is running a French restaurant, it makes sense to place French cuisine high on a pedestal!  A French chef that makes Spanish food, German food or Italian food look sensational, would only be shooting himself in the foot in the long run if the chef operates a French restaurant.

      Fortunately, there are many French chefs that make every interpretive recipe the way it should be, with no home turf bias.  Today's French interpretation of a Russian style pork cutlet recipe is a good example.
     I cannot remember where I learned this recipe, but it might have been from an old classic French cookbook that was originally published in the late 1800's or early 1900's.  Back in those days, many traditional Russian food items were en vogue.  For example, during that period in time, the original Befstroganov recipe was developed to its fullest potential in fine dining restaurants as an interpretive recipe.  
     Russia is a very large country and Russia certainly is culturally diverse.  Pork Chop recipes from southwestern Russia often make use of traditional Hungarian ingredients.  Northwestern Russia has some Scandinavian, Polish and Prussian cooking influences.  Eastern Russian cuisine can be very much like northern Chinese food.
     Radishes, horseradish, beets, potatoes and turnips are winter root cellar vegetables.  The winter is long and very cold in Russia, so one can easily imagine why traditional Russian cuisine features so many good root vegetable recipes.  When springtime rolls around, the last of the winter root vegetables are combined with fresh green vegetables.
     Green Beans often are a featured ingredient in Russian recipes, instead of being served on their own as a vegetable side dish.  Green Beans in a sauce?  Sure!  This is Russian style cuisine!  Green Beans add a very rich garden vegetable flavor to a crème fraîche sauce and horseradish compliments this flavor.  For some odd reason, this flavor combination causes the tummy to growl for more food.  Pork Cutlets à la Russe will actually increase a guest's appetite, especially on a chilly day, so be sure to serve a hearty portion of this French café style entrée!

     Pork Cutlets à la Russe:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Select 3 boneless pork loin chops that weigh about 3 ounces apiece.
     Trim off the excess fat, but leave a very thin edge of fat cap on each cutlet.
     Place the pork chop cutlets on a cutting board and pound them thin with a meat mallet.
     Lightly dredge the thin pork cutlets in flour that is seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add the floured pork cutlets.
     Sauté the pork cutlets on both side till they are lightly browned.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the pork cutlets on a platter and set them aside.
     Drain the grease out of the pan.
     Step 4:  Place the pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 thin sliced green onion.
     Briefly sauté till the green onion wilts.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 cup of beef stock.
     Add 3/4 cup of rich chicken stock.
     Add 2/3 cup of fresh green beans that are cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour with 3 tablespoons of water to make a slurry.
     Add just enough of the slurry to the sauce while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a medium thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.  (Save any extra slurry for another recipe.  The use of slurry is common in Russian cooking.)
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of ground horseradish.
     Add 3 tablespoons of sour cream.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Stir the sauce with a whisk till it is blended.
     Step 8:  Return the sautéed pork cutlets to the sauce.
     Gently simmer till the green beans are tender and the pork cutlets are reheated.
     *The finished sauce should be medium consistency that can easily coat a spoon.  Add a splash of chicken stock if the sauce is too thick.  
 
     Presentation:
     Overlap the pork cutlets on the front half of a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the sauce and green beans over the cutlets.
     Serve with buttered rustic root cellar vegetables.  (Roasted sweet potato and roasted red beet are a nice choice!)
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig and lemon slices.

     The flavor of this Russian style pork cutlet entrée is exceptionally nice!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Seared Salmon with Crawfish Beurre Blanc








     New Orleans Style French Cooking!
     Searing is a sauté cuisson technique.  Searing at a high temperature is how Cajun Blackened Fish is made.  For most seafood applications, searing at a moderately high temperature is good, because the object is to increase flavor by caramelizing the meat and the object is not to blacken a spice mix on the fish.  Searing at too high of a temperature will result in a charred surface on the meat.
     Searing only requires a small amount of oil, lard or butter.  Searing with a dry pan can be done in certain applications too.  The object is to allow the meat to make contact with the metallic surface of the pan till a Maillard Reaction occurs.  Too much oil, lard or butter will result in pan frying or sautéing the meat.
     The classic French searing technique involves searing one side of a fish filet at a moderate temperature for about 6 minutes, till the flesh or skin becomes crisp.  Then the filet is flipped and the other side is seared for about 1 minute.  Searing a fish filet that has the skin attached is best, but the skin must be cooked till the skin is crisp and some browning occurs and or the Maiilard Reaction will not be complete and the skin will stick to the pan when the fish is flipped.

     French chefs have a word to describe nearly any culinary process.  The French term "Maillard Reaction" refers to the point in time when enough caramelization occurs to allow a piece of meat to break free from the surface of a pan.
     For example, when a plain raw boneless chicken breast is placed on a small amount of oil on a hot pan, the raw chicken will stick to the pan.  If a spatuala is used to flip the chicken before a little bit of brown color appears on the surface, the surface of the chicken will still be stuck to the pan and the meat will shred when the spatula pries it loose.  If the chicken breast is not disturbed till some caramelization occurs, then the chicken will break free from the surface of the pan with ease.
     The Maillard Reaction happens because heat evaporates excess moisture and molecular contraction occurs.  Then the composition of the surface of the meat loses its ability to adhere to a surface.  The Maillard Reaction is important to remember, especially when searing delicate meats, like fish.  The less oil, lard or butter that is used when searing, the more important that the Maillard Reaction is.    
     Voila!  Now you know that having the patience to wait for the Maillard Reaction to occur before flipping a piece of meat in a hot pan, will result in an undamaged piece of meat!

     I used to recommend Northeastern Atlantic farm raised salmon, because it was better quality than salmon that was farm raised in tropical waters, like Southeast Asia.  Now I hesitate to recommend farm raised salmon of any kind.  The reason is because farm raised salmon poses many health issues and environmental issues, especially now that GMO "Supersize Salmon" have been introduced to the aquaculture farming process.    
     The best choice is to select natural wild salmon that is harvested in a heavily regulated fishery.  The Alaskan fishery is heavily regulated and they do not allow over-harvesting, which can cause the extinction of a species.  There are several different Alaskan wild salmon species and each has its own flavor and texture characteristics.
     Wild salmon is subject to availability, so a fish market may not have wild Alaskan Salmon in stock every time that a customer seeks this product.  Limited availability is related to sustainable catch limitations.
      If no wild salmon from Alaska or any other heavily regulated sustainable fishery is available, then select another sustainable fish species and avoid purchasing fish that has sustainability issues.  Being a responsible shopper is the best way to preserve wild seafood stock and avoid the depletion or extinction of fish species.
     I always recommend the Seafood Watch website for readers that want to enjoy a guilt free seafood dining experience.  Here is the link:  Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch

     Beurre blanc is very easy to make, if you follow this single key to success.  The wine reduction must be hot and the butter pats must be slightly chilled.  A classic Beurre Blanc has no cream fortification.  A classic Beurre Blanc is almost always made to order, because the emulsion tends to separate at a proper holding temperature.
     If you are making Beurre Blanc for a large group of people, then adding a splash of cream to the wine reduction is a good choice.  Reducing the cream with the wine reduction will provide a stable base for the Beurre Blanc.  A cream fortified beurre blanc is less susceptible to temperature variations.  Technically, reduced cream is butterfat, so this modification is somewhat okay to do, but classic French cuisine chefs frown upon this practice.      

     Crawfish Beurre Blanc:
     This recipe yields 1 generous portion.
     Be sure to save the orange colored crawfish fat from between the head and the tail.  The crawfish fat adds a very rich tasting flavor to the beurre blanc! 
     Step 1:  Select 20 to 25 poached whole crawfish.
     Save 1 crawfish to use as a garnish later in the recipe.
     Shell the crawfish tails and save the orange colored crawfish fat.
     Set the shelled crawfish tails and orange fat aside.
     Step 2:  Cut 3 ounces of chilled unsalted butter into square butter pats that are about 3/16" thick.
     Keep the butter pats chilled.
     Step 3:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced shallot.
     Gently sauté till the shallot turns clear in color.
     Step 4:  Add 1 cup of dry white wine.  (White Burgundy Chardonnay is a good choice.)
     Add 6 whole black peppercorns.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Simmer and reduce the wine, till it is a very thin syrup consistency.
     Step 5:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Immediately add 2 or 3 of the reserved chilled butter pats at a time while constantly whisking, till a butter sauce emulsion is formed.  Wait till each addition of butter liquifies and emulsifies before adding more.  Keep whisking till the beurre blanch looks creamy
     Step 6:  Pour the beurre blanc through a fine mesh strainer into a ceramic cup.
     Keep the beurre blanc warm on a stove top or in a 90ºF bain marie.
     Step 7:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of water or shrimp stock.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add the shelled crawfish tails and the crawfish fat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till almost all of the liquid evaporates.  (A small amount of emulsified crawfish fat will remain in the pan.)
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Allow the ingredients to cool to the same temperature as the beurre blanc.
     Add the warm crawfish fat and the crawfish tails to the beurre blanc while stirring with a spoon.
     Step 9:  Keep the ceramic cup of Crawfish Beurre Blanc warm on a stove top or in a 90ºF bain marie.   (Do not allow the temperature to go over 135ºF or the butter emulsion will separate!)
     Serve within 45 minutes.
     *45 minutes is how long items like Hollandaise or Beurre Blanc can be held for immediate service without worrying about pathogen contamination.

     Seared Filet Of Salmon:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     A tail piece of salmon is good for this recipe, because it provides a larger area of contact with the hot pan, so it will finish cooking quicker.
     Step 1:  Select a 6 to 8 ounce salmon filet that has the skin attached.
     Season the salmon with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter.
     Allow the butter to get hot, so the moisture evaporates and the butter clarifies.
     Step 3:  Place the salmon in the pan with the skin side down.
     Allow the salmon to sear undisturbed for 5 to 6 minutes, till the skin is browned and crisp.
     *Do not shake the pan or peek at the skin with a spatula!  When the Maillard Reaction occurs, the salmon skin will easily break free from the surface of the pan when it is flipped with a spatula.
     Step 4:  Use a spatula to flip the salmon.
     Sear the other side of the salmon for about 1 minute.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
   
     Seared Salmon with Crawfish Beurre Blanc:
     This recipe describes 1 entrée presentation.  
     Always save applying a beurre blanc during for the last step of a recipe, just before serving!  This way, the beurre blanc will not separate or become cold.
     Step 1:  Heat the reserved whole crawfish in a small pot of boiling water, till it is hot.
     Remove the whole crawfish from the pot and keep it warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Use a spatula to place the seared salmon on the front half of the plate, with the crispy skin side facing up.
     Step 3:  Use a ring mold to place a portion of rice on the back half of the plate.  (Herb flavored long grain white rice is a good choice.)
     Place a vegetable of your choice on the plate.  (Sautéed sweet snap peas and mushrooms are the vegetables in the photos.)
     Garnish the rice with a small Italian Parsley sprig.
     Step 4:  Just before serving, spoon a generous portion of the Crawfish Beurre Blanc over the seared salmon and onto the plate.
     Garnish the Crawfish Beurre Blanc with the warm whole crawfish.

     Viola!  A classy French New Orleans salmon entrée!  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Fiori Pasta and Wild Mushroom Crème Gratin








     Wild Chanterelle, Portobello, Porcini, White Truffle Oil Flavored Pasta Gratin!
     Italian Fiori Pasta translates to "Flower Pasta."  Fiori Pasta looks nice in a baked casserole, especially when prepared as a French Gratin.
     The selection of mushrooms in today's recipe is a classic wild mushroom combination that many fine dining chefs have preferred during the last 30 years.  Chanterelles are prized for their woodsy aromatic flower flavor.  Portobello are Italian Brown Field Mushrooms and they add a rich mellow classic mushroom flavor.
     Porcini are Cep mushrooms that are harvested in a region of Italy that has terrain climate that causes an ordinary Cep to develop a unique flavor profile.  Porcini have a consistent deep rich flavor that is mellower than a strong tasting dark color Cep.
     A drizzle of White Truffle Oil adds a classic finishing touch.  White Truffle oil has a little bit lighter flavor than Black Truffle Oil.  Cheap brands of White Truffle Oil usually are not worth bothering with, because they lack flavor.  It is better to pay the higher price for strong tasting White Truffle Oil, because in the long run, money can be saved.  Just a few drops of high quality White Truffle Oil goes a very long way.
    Like with all infused flavored oils, Botulism is a concern.  This is especially true with mushroom flavored oils.  Open bottles of Truffle Oil must be kept in a refrigerator, to reduce the threat of pathogen contamination.  Small amounts can be warmed to room temperature as needed.

     It is difficult to categorize today's Pasta and Wild Mushroom Gratin.  This Gratin Casserole can be a classy fine dining café style entrée or it can classified as gourmet comfort food.  This Gratin Casserole can be served as a pasta course in a multi course meal or it can be served as a light entrée.  It can also be served as an accompanying side dish.
     No matter what, one thing is for sure.  The rich flavor of Fiori Pasta and Wild Mushroom Crème Gratin will satisfy guests to no end!
  
     Dried Wild Mushroom Preparation: 
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of water in a container.
     Add 1/4 cup of dried chanterelle mushrooms.
     Add 4 or 5 slices of dried porcini mushroom.
     Soak the mushrooms overnight in a refrigerator.
     Step 2:  Place the reconstituted mushrooms and the soaking liquid in a sauce pot over low heat.
     Gently simmer the mushrooms, till they become tender.
     Set the pot of mushrooms and poaching broth aside.

     Fiore Pasta: 
     Cook 1 portion of Fiori Pasta in boiling water over high heat till the pasta is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Set the pasta aside.
   
     Wild Mushroom Crème:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot or sauteuse pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 thin sliced garlic clove.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 2 small portobello mushrooms that are thin sliced.
     Sauté till the sliced garlic turns a light golden color. and the mushrooms are tender.
     Step 2:  Add just enough flour to soak up the butter while stirring, to make a roux.  (About 1 tablespoon.)
     Cook and stir the roux for about 30 seconds.
     Step 3:  Pour the wild mushroom poaching liquid through a strainer into the sauce pot.
     Coarsely chop the chanterelle and porcini mushrooms.
     Add the chopped wild mushrooms to the sauce in the pan.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.  (French White Burgundy Chardonnay is best for this recipe.)
     Step 4:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil while stirring occasionally.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till the sauce is thin consistency that can barely glaze a spoon.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 6:  Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can easily coat a spoon.  (The finished volume should be about 1 1/4 cups.)
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Fiori Pasta and Wild Mushroom Crème Gratin:  
     This recipe yields 1 entrée. 
     Step 1:  Place the al dente cooked Fiori Pasta in a mixing bowl.
     Add enough of the Wild Mushroom Crème to coat the pasta.  (The pasta should not be swimming in sauce!)
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Step 2:  Place the sauced pasta in a shallow single portion casserole dish.
     Try to expose a few of the mushroom bits on the surface.  
     Step 3:  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of fine French bread crumbs over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1 or 2 pinches of chopped Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     Step 4:  Place the casserole in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the toppings are toasted light golden brown.  The sauce should be bubbling in the casserole dish.
     Step 5:  Remove the casserole from the oven.
     Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of White Truffle Oil over the casserole.  (If the White Truffle Oil tastes weak, use 1 teaspoon.)
     Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.
     Garnish the casserole with an Italian Parsley sprig.
  
     This is a very nice baked pasta for a chilly day!    

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Pork Loin Cutlets and Artichokes en Dijon Tarragon Sauce








     A Tasty Café Style Pork Entrée!
     Many veal recipes can be adapted to pork.  When I was a sous chef at a fine dining café several years ago, I used to make a Dijon Tarragon Crème Velouté Sauce for Veal Scallopini.  This sauce also tastes nice with pork, poultry and even seafood.  
     Dijon Tarragon Sauce can be made ahead of time or it can be made Italian style, by making the sauce in the same pan that the protein item is cooked.  When the sauce is made to order, the flavor is a little bit sharper, because Dijon Mustard tends to mellow after simmering for a long period of time.   
     Many chefs make the mistake of adding far too much Dijon Mustard when making a sauce.  The flavor of prepared mustard is strong, so it is best to keep in mind that a little bit of Dijon Mustard goes a long way.  

     Artichoke stems are edible.  Artichoke stems can be trimmed so they are still attached to the artichoke heart.  A trimmed artichoke heart with the stem attached does create an interesting visual effect and it signifies that the artichoke hearts are fresh.  
     Small artichoke stems usually have a tender skin that does not need to be peeled.  For large artichokes, it is necessary to use a vegetable peeler to trim the tough skin off of the long stem before the artichoke is poached.  Care must be taken when handling the artichoke after poaching, because it is tender and it is easy to damage the finished product. 

     *This entire recipe yields 1 entrée!

     Artichoke Heart Spear Preparation:
     Step 1:  Select 1 whole medium size artichoke.
     If the stem is thick, peel the skin off of the stem.
     Step 2:  Place the artichoke in a large sauce pot.
     Cover the artichoke with 2" of extra water.
     Add 1 lemon wedge.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt. 
     Place a tight fitting lid on the pot.  
     *Using a weight to submerge the artichoke is not necessary if the pot lid fits tight.  The steam will cook any part of the artichoke that is not submerged.
     Gently boil over medium/medium high heat till the artichoke is tender.    
     Step 3:  Cool the artichoke in a container of ice water.  
     Step 4:  Peel the tough outer leaves off of the artichoke, to expose the artichoke heart.
     *Save the leaf meat for another recipe or snack on it with melted butter! 
     Step 5:  Trim the end of the heart, so it is an even shape.  
     Use a Parisienne Scoop Tool to remove the inedible sharp inner "choke."  
     Step 6:  Use a paring knife to trim the artichoke base.   
     Trim the tip of the stem end.  
     Step 7:  Slice the artichoke heart and stem lengthwise into quarters.
     Set the long artichoke heart spear quarters aside.   

     Pork Loin Cutlets and Artichokes en Dijon Tarragon Sauce:     
     Step 1:  Select 3 or 4 boneless pork loin cutlets that weigh about 2 ounces apiece.    
     Trim off any fat.
     Use a meat mallet to gently pound the cutlets till they are thin. 
     Step 2:  Lightly season the cutlets with sea salt and white pepper.
     Dredge the cutlets in flour.  
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of pomace olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.  
     Add the floured pork cutlets. 
     Sauté both sides of the cutlets till light golden brown highlights appear. 
     Step 4:  Add 1 teaspoon of chopped shallot.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic. 
     Briefly sauté till the garlic becomes aromatic.         
     Step 5:  Add 1/3 cup of dry white wine.  
     Add 3/4 cup of chicken stock.
     Add 1/3 cup of cream. 
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon leaves. 
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 6:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard.
     Swirl the pan while stirring till the mustard blends with the sauce.   
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.  
     Place the reserved artichoke heart spears in the sauce.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of softened unsalted butter to the sauce, while gently swirling the pan. 
     
     Presentation:
     Overlap the pork cutlets across the front half of a plate.  
     Place the artichokes heart spears on top of the pork cutlets.  
     Spoon a generous portion of the sauce over the pork cutlets and artichokes.  
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.  
     Serve with a vegetable of your choice.
     Serve with rice or a potato of your choice on the side.  
     
     This is a nice tasting pork cutlet sauté entrée!