Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cardamom Kabocha Crème Soup

     Sweet Savory Kabocha Squash Soup!
     Serving a nice soothing soup can help to create a peaceful dining tempo.  Semi sweet luxurious soups are perfect for warming up holiday dinner guests!      

     Kabocha Preparation:
     Kabocha Squash are the size of a small pumpkin.  About a 6 to 8 ounce wedge of kabocha is needed for a large bowl of soup. 
     Scrape the loose pulp and seeds off of the kabocha.  (The seeds can be toasted for a snack!)
     Place the kabocha wedge on a baking pan.
     Brush the kabocha with melted unsalted butter.
     Bake in a 300º oven, till kabocha becomes tender and sweet.  Try not to brown the squash.
     Allow the squash to cool to room temperature.
     Use a pairing knife to peel the kabocha wedge.
     Small chop the kabocha squash and set it aside.
     Cardamom Kabocha Crème Soup: 
     This recipe yields 1 large bowl of soup!  (2 1/4 cups) 
     This holiday soup is soothing and semi sweet.  Cardamom tastes nice with kabocha squash and it creates an interesting exotic flavor. 
     Step1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Stir the roux, till it become a white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of light vegetable broth or light chicken broth.
     Add 2 cups of milk.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add the reserved chopped kabocha.
     Add 1 ounce of sweet white wine.  (Sweet White Bordeaux or Lillet Blanc is a good.)
     Add 1 teaspoon of agave nectar.
     Stir occasionally, till the soup comes to a gentle boil and it becomes a very thin consistency.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of ground cardamom.  (Cardamom can vary in strength!)
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Simmer till the ingredients become tender.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool to a safe temperature.
     Puree the soup with an electric puree wand, food processor or blender.
     Step 5:  Return the soup to a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the soup, till it becomes a medium thin consistency.  The volume should be about 2 to 2 1/3 cups.
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat.

     After ladling the soup into a soup bowl, painting a design on a holiday soup is a nice option.  Colorful infused oils are the easiest to use, because the oil floats.  A colorful puree sauce, gastrique or fruit syrup that is light enough to be suspended on the surface of the soup can also be used.  For the painted soup in the pictures above, I used some leftover pomegranate syrup.
     The easiest way to paint a simple design on a soup is to place small drops of the colorful sauce on the soup.  Then a toothpick can be dragged through the drops of sauce, to connect the dots!
     Random designs are the easiest to do.  Flowers, sailboats and trees are a little bit more difficult to do.  "Soup painting garnishes" are fun for a home cook to do.  Children also like to make there own designs.  
     Gourmet food really is a temporary art medium, that is meant to be eaten!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Tenderloin Steak with Pomegranate Gastrique

     Gastrique is easy to make!  
     A gastrique can be made slightly sweet by cooking sugar to a hard crack stage.  A neutral savory gastrique requires sugar to be cooked to the amber stage or beyond.  A gastrique should never be sweet like a syrup.
     When the sugar reaches the desired stage caramel stage, the fruit is added.  The sugar seizes the fruit and the sugar solidifies like candy.  Do not stir at this point, or the candied mass will stick to the spoon.  Allow the sugar to pull all the flavor and color out of the fruit, before adding the liquids.  This method produces the most intense flavored gastrique.

     The strong fruit flavor of a gastrique becomes boldly pronounced by the time the recipe is completed.  How a gastrique affects taste bud sensors on the palate is difficult to explain in laymen's terms.  It is much better to learn from the experience of tasting a gastrique.  After making a few different kinds of gastrique, a chef can develop the ability to tailor a gastrique recipe to create new refined taste sensations.
     Gastrique refinement and development is good practice for any chef.  A gastrique is a worthwhile creation for home cooks to perfect.  A good gastrique can be very complex tasting and have a very bold flavor at the same time.  A well tuned gastrique can impress even the most sophisticated guest!

     Tenderloin Steak, Tornados Steak Or Filet Mignon?
     A real butcher or chef knows the difference.  Many grocery store butchers sell any piece of tenderloin that is large enough to be a steak as filet mignon.  This is a deceptive marketing practice.
     French and classic trained butchers divide a whole tenderloin into the tips, medallions, chateaubriand and tornados sections.  Only the perfectly round thick middle section of the tenderloin can be sold as filet mignon steaks.  This means that filet mignon steaks can only be cut from the chateaubriand section and part of the round section of the tornados end.
     The tips section and medallion sections are too skinny for cutting filet mignon steaks.  The far end of the tornados section divides into two muscle groups that are not perfectly round.  So, the far end of the tornados cannot be cut into filet mignon steaks.

     The tenderloin sections that do not qualify for filet mignon steak (tips, medallions and tornados end piece), always sell for a lower price than the thick round middle section of the tenderloin.  Great recipes can be made with these sections of the tenderloin.

     The steak in the photos above was purchased as a Filet Mignon Steak at a grocery store in Chicago.  Obviously, it is not a perfectly round center cut.  The steak was cut from the far end of the tornados section.  Even though the butcher intentionally mislabeled the steak, the price was about $2 less per pound than a real filet mignon steak, so no money was swindled out of my pocket.
     Naming today's steak recipe as being "Filet Mignon" would mislead quality oriented viewers of this website.  Since there is no such thing as a "Tornados Steak" the only name that really can be applied is "Tenderloin Steak."  The tornados end steak is as tender as a filet migno. "Tenderloin Steak with Pomegranate Gastrique" still sounds like a mighty appealing café style entrée that will please guests!

     Pomegranate Gastrique:
     This gastrique recipe yields about 1/3 cup!
     Some of my gastriques are made by cooking the molten sugar only to the hard crack to yellow amber stage.  The sugar is cooked to a medium dark amber color for today's gastrique recipe.  
     It is important to observe the sugar as it changes color from clear, to very pale yellow, then to a light yellow brown amber color.  This happens quickly!  A few seconds later, the sugar changes from a light amber color to a darker color.  This is the time to add the fruit!
     Take caution!  Hot molten sugar will cause severe burns.  Wear protective clothing!
     Do not stir a gastrique, till shortly after the liquid flavorings are added or the sugar will stick to the utensil like rock candy.
     Step 1:   Separate 1 cup of fresh pomegranate fruit from the rind and pith.  Set the clean pomegranate fruit aside. 
     Step 2:  Boil 1/2 cup of water over medium high heat in a sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 cup of sugar.
     When the sugar begins to turn a light amber color, stay close to the pan and watch for the sugar to turn a dark amber color.  (Dark amber is a yellow brown color.)
     When the sugar turns a dark amber color, immediately add the pomegranate fruit.
     Allow the caramelized sugar to coat the fruit for about 1 minute.
     *The sugar will stop caramelizing when you add the fruit.  The hot molten sugar will seize the fruit and pull all of the flavor and color out of the fruit.  
     Step 3:   Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of pomegranate vinegar.
     Add 3/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns.
     Add 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves.
     Add 2 laurel leaves.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped shallot.
     Step 4:  Simmer and reduce the gastrique, till becomes a thin glacé syrup consistency.  The glaçé should be thick enough to barely coat the back of a spoon.  (Keep in mind that when a gastrique cools, it may become a little bit thicker consistency.)
     Step 5:  Pour the gastrique through a fine mesh strainer into a container and set aside.
     A gastrique can be refrigerated for up to six months.  
     Tenderloin Steak: 
     Season a 6 ounce petit tenderloin steak (or a petite filet mignon steak) with coarse ground black pepper and sea salt.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Add the tenderloin steak.
     Sear both sides of the steak.  Flip the lean tenderloin steak occasionally, so it cooks evenly.  Cook the steak to the preferred finish temperature.  (The steak in the photos was medium rare.)
     Place the steak on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan and let it rest for about 1 minute.

     Tenderloin Steak with Pomegranate Gastrique:
     Place the tenderloin steak on a plate.
     Spoon a little bit of the gastrique on the plate around the steak.
     Cascade a few pieces of pomegranate fruit over the steak and onto the plate.
     Serve with a vegetable and starch of your choice.
     * The tenderloin steak in the photos was served with rice that was flavored with caramelized onion and thyme.  Fanned steamed, feathered snow peas were also placed on the plate.  This is a nice uncomplicated café style presentation.  
     Pomegranate gastrique tastes nice with steak! 

Lobster Thermidor

     Lobster Thermidor  
     I did not post a bunch of Christmas holiday season recipes this year, but I am posting a few New Years Eve favorites this week.  Two popular New Years Eve dinner entree choices are lobster and filet mignon.  Chateaubriand for two is a great choice for couples.  Crab stuffed lobster is probably the most popular lobster recipe for New Years Eve.  Many years ago in fine dining restaurants, lobster thermidor was the top choice for a New Years Eve lobster dinner.

     I purchased a large 3 1/2 pound Maine lobster at the 99 Ranch Market in Chinatown, Las Vegas for $10 a pound.  $10 a pound is about half of what standard grocery stores charge for Maine lobster during New Years week, so this big bug was a good bargain!  The reason why the price was realistic is because Chinese New Year is celebrated a few weeks later.  Closer to Chinese New Year, the price of lobster at Asian markets may peak due to demand.
     Lobster Thermidor was the top choice for season's classic New Years Eve lobster recipe.  During my entire culinary arts career, I have only worked with two chefs that offered an authentic Lobster Thermidor and it was only offered as a New Years Eve special du jour.

     Lobster Thermidor was created in 1894 at Maire's of Paris in honor of the premier night of the play Thermidor.  Thermidor was written by the great dramatist Victorien Sardou.  An opening night for a play was a major event back in those days.  When a chef dedicated an entree creation in respect for a great play, the entree creation had to be great enough to receive top billing.
     Lobster Thermidor is a recipe that accents the great flavor of lobster.  The lobster is split and roasted, then the meat is removed and diced into large pieces.  Sauce Bercy is modified with mustard, white wine and cream and this sauce compliments the flavor of lobster in a delicate way.
     Mushrooms can be part of Lobster Thermidor and they are usually infused with sauce before straining.  Tarragon and chervil also flavor the sauce.  After simmering, the the sauce and lobster ingredients are returned to the lobster shell.  Gruyere cheese is sprinkled over the Lobster Thermidor and then it is baked, till the cheese and sauce become melted and bubbly.  The aroma, flavor and eye appeal of Lobster Thermidor makes this entree fit for a special night like New Years Eve!

     Glacé Viande:
     Follow this link to the Glacé Viande recipe.  
     • Glacé Viande 
     *The yield of this entire Thermidor Recipe is 1 hearty entrée!
     Lobster Preparation:
     A 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pound lobster is enough for one serving.  A 3 to 4 pound lobster may be enough for two people, but not always.  Tail meat tends to not fill the shell of Maine lobsters that are over 2 pounds.  Maine lobster has the best lobster flavor and it actually is the only true lobster species.  
     Spiny Lobster is what was used to make the original French Thermidor recipe.  Spiny Lobster nearly always has more tail meat than a Maine Lobster.  Live Spiny Lobster are not easy to find in American food markets outside of the Southeast Coastal Fishery area.  
     Here in Las Vegas, a big Maine Lobster Farm business operates in this city, because the demand for fresh lobster is so high.  A few years ago, the State Of Maine had a bad lobster season.  Tens of thousands of Las Vegas Maine Lobster were air freighted to Maine, in order to save the tourism industry in that state.  Las Vegas Farm Raised Lobster Farming is a high tech industry and the quality of the local lobsters is superb, as one can see in the photo above.  Las Vegas Maine Lobsters are lively and healthy.  
     Step 1:  Insert a chef knife vertically through the head and split the head in half lengthwise.  This will instantly and mercifully kill the lobster, by cutting its brain in half.
     Use the chef knife the split the entire lobster in half lengthwise.  Try not to damage the shell.
     Remove the claws.
     *The claws can be cracked and the meat can be used for this Thermidor or the claws can be saved for another recipe.  I saved the lobster claws for making a gourmet Lobster Mousseline Hot Dog, which was used to make a really nice Lobster Corn Dog!  The Gourmet Street Style Food trend is popular in Las Vegas.   
     Step 2:  Place the split lobster halves on a roasting pan with the meat facing upward.
     Sprinkle 1 1/2 ounces of dry white wine over the lobster.
     Drizzle a little bit of melted unsalted butter over the lobster.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Roast the lobster in a 350º oven, till the meat is almost fully cooked.  The meat should still be moist.
     Remove the lobster from the oven and let it cool.
     Step 3:  Remove the meat from the lobster.
     Cut the lobster meat into large bite size diced chunks and set them aside.
     Remove the legs, gills, liver and coral from the lobster shell, so the shell is bare and clean.  The head shell and tail shell must remain attached together and unbroken for this recipe, or the sauce will leak out of the shell!  Use both halves of the shell for a full portion or one shell half for a smaller portion.
     *It is best to make the roux first for the Thermidor recipe!
     White Roux:
     Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 ounces of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly whisking to make a roux.
     Whisk until the flour and butter are combined and the color of the roux becomes white.
     Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the roux into a ceramic or stainless steal container.
     Thermidor Sauce:
     Thermidor Sauce is a variation of Sauce Bercy for seafood.  A small amount of Meat Glaze, Mushroom and Dijon Mustard enrich the Sauce Bercy.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped mushroom peelings.
     Gently sauté and sweat the mixture, till the shallots turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of light whitefish stock.  (Fumet)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Glacé Viande.
     Add 1 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of dijon mustard.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Add just enough of the white roux to the sauce, while whisking, to thicken the sauce to a medium thick consistency.  (Save any excess roux for another recipe.)
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Slowly add 1 cup of cream while stirring.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of chervil.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin consistency.
     Step 5:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.
     Set the sauce aside and keep it warm on a stove top.

     Lobster Thermidor:
     Step 1:  Place the large diced lobster meat chunks into a mixing bowl.
     Add enough of the Thermidor sauce to generously coat the lobster with plenty of sauce.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Place 1 lobster shell half (or both lobster shell halves) on a roasting pan.  (If the lobster shells do not sit evenly, than place a bed of rock salt on the pan.)
     Spoon the Lobster Thermidor into the lobster shell.
     Spoon a few extra tablespoons of the Thermidor Sauce over lobster meat chunks.  (Any extra Thermidor Sauce can be saved for another recipe.)
     Sprinkle a small amount of finely grated Gruyere Gheese over the Thermidor.  (About 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon.)
     Step 3:  Roast the Thermidor in a 425ºF oven, till light golden brown highlights appear on the cheese and sauce.  The sauce should be bubbling by this time.
     Lobster Thermidor Presentation:
     Remove the lobster from the oven.
     Use a long spatula and tongs to carefully place the Lobster Thermidor on a plate.
     Serve with vegetables of your choice.
     *Buttered French Cut Green Beans, Petite Portobello Mushroom Half Slices and Buttered Tournée Potatoes are pictured in the presentation above. 
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.

     This is as good as a Lobster Thermidor gets!  Lobster Thermidor is well worth the effort for a special occasion like New Years Eve!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Star Fruit Chablis Sorbet

     When dining out at fancy restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip, I almost always used to intentionally skip dessert.  After the nice dinner, going for a stroll, doing some sight seeing and window shopping was the regular routine.  Eventually when the craving for dessert finally set in, sorbet was always the top choice.  A unique sorbet at a gourmet ice cream shop or pastry shop after dinner and a walk, always provides refreshing satisfaction.  Sorbet is light, not excessively sweet and the flavor is intense.  This is why sorbet is my favorite frozen dessert.  
      A little more than a decade ago, I was cooking at a 3 Star Michelin French restaurant in a 5 Diamond beachfront resort.  Every food item was made from scratch in that resort and absolutely no pre-prepared food was purchased.  A great pastry chef and his crew prepared bread, pastries, desserts and sundries for the five restaurants and banquets everyday.  
     In keeping with the refined French table service tradition, a melon ball size portion of sorbet was offered as a complimentary palate refreshing muse between certain courses.  The flavor of the muse sorbet du jour changed each day and the flavor determined when the sorbet would be offered to patrons during the dining event.  
     Sometimes umami flavors were incorporated into the sorbet, like patis calamansi.  Sometimes the sorbet flavor featured one specific spice, like cardamom.  Other times a seasonal exotic fruit was featured, like lychee or cashew fruit.  As one can see, the applications of a palate freshening muse sorbet during a multi course fine dining event are limitless.  Each sorbet flavor requires a bit of thought, for determining which break between courses is best suited for offering the sorbet as a palate refreshing muse.     
     Since the sorbet muse portion was the size of about 1/2 tablespoon, only about 1 1/2 quarts of sorbet was needed on a night when the French restaurant had 150 guests in the reservation book.  A little extra was always made just in case a guest preferred sorbet for dessert.  A 2 quart capacity, table top mounted ice cream machine was perfect for making small batches of sorbet at the restaurant.  That little ice cream machine was used only for sorbet and for experimenting with small batches of new gourmet ice cream flavor ideas. 

     Small Batch Ice Cream Machines
     A little more than ten years ago, fully automated small batch ice cream machines were not standard issue.  A pastry chef basically had to keep an eye on the sorbet or ice cream as it was churned to determine when the process was completed.  The monitoring process involved a bit of timing that comes with experience.  Basically, when the frozen dessert became thick and ready, the motor on the small ice cream machine started to sound like it was starting to strain and that sound served as the alarm bell.
     In recent years, fully automated small batch ice cream machines with a digital display have become standard issue.  All that a chef has to do is select the digital frozen dessert hardness option, press the button and the ice cream machine stops churning automatically when the frozen dessert is ready.  
     I actually have a professional restaurant quality, stainless steel, fully automated, small batch ice cream machine in my home kitchen.  This item was a gift, but it sure is quite a nice investment, because as a chef, I can cart this little ice cream maker into a fine dining restaurant and whip up some nice gourmet sorbet that can be offered as a petite muse.  

     A good heavy duty stainless steel automated small batch ice cream machine costs $300 to $400 these days.  Not everybody can afford something like this, especially during a sluggish economy.  Even so, over a period of time the investment will pay off, especially if smoothies, sorbet, sherbet, gelato or ice cream is consumed on a regular basis.  
     The cost of making gourmet frozen desserts at home is about half the cost of high quality manufactured ice cream at a food market.  The flavor selection is limitless.  The look on the face of guests at the dinner table is priceless when a hand crafted gourmet frozen dessert is served.  As one can see, having a good ice cream machine in a home kitchen can really present many creative options and it saves a lot of money in the long run.  

     The Key To Making Sorbet
     When making sorbet, there is only one principle that needs to be kept in mind.  Sugar is a liquifying agent.  Sugar works like antifreeze.  A sorbet requires a certain percentage of sugar, so the sorbet will have a soft texture.  Too little sugar will result in a grainy sorbet or a sorbet that freezes like ice.  Too much sugar will result in a sorbet that quickly melts or a sorbet that will never freeze at all.  
     Generally, the sugar percentage for sorbet has to be between 20% to 30%.  A spice sorbet is made with only water, sugar and spice, so the sugar content must be close to 30%, because there is no other stabilizing agent in the mixture. 
     Some fruits, like banana, apples or dates contain plenty of pectin, sugar or starch, which all act to stabilize the sorbet, so the sugar percentage range can be somewhere between 20% to 25%.  
     Fruits like finger citron, pomegranate or tamarillo have less stabilizing power, so the sugar percentage may have to be between 25% to 30%.  
     There are very few standardized sorbet recipes for exotic fruits or out of the ordinary sorbet flavors.  Basically, a chef or a home cook has to do a little thinking when experimenting with new sorbet flavors, but as long as the sugar percentage is between 20% to 30%, then more than likely whatever sorbet is made will turn out good.  This is really all that one has to keep in mind when making sorbet.
     The best way to accurately measure all ingredients for a sorbet is to use a scale.  Weigh the liquid or puree ingredients first, then calculate 20% to 30% of that weight, to determine how much sugar needs to be added.  
     Some fruit purees cannot be cooked, so the sugar should be combined with water and heated to create a simple syrup.  The weight of the water for making a simple syrup has to be added to the weight of the fruit puree, before calculating the sugar percentage.   

     Carambola Preparation:
     Star Fruit is really called Carambola.  Carambola is a tropical fruit that has a light refreshing flavor.  Slightly underripe light green carambola tastes kind of like limeade.  Ripe yellow orange carambola tastes slightly sweeter.  The refreshing tropical fruit flavor of ripe carambola is unique.  Either state of carambola ripeness is good for today's sorbet recipe. 
     Carambola varies in size.  About 10 ounces of whole carambola is needed for todays recipe.  10 ounces of whole carambola will yield about 8.5 ounces of trimmed, seeded and peeled carambola.      
     Trim the ends off of the carambola.
     Trim off any brown spots.
     Peeling carambola is not exactly the easiest thing to do.  Start by peeling the pointed edge of each long ridge on the carambola.  Then use a sharp paring knife to remove the skin, while wasting as little fruit flesh as possible.  There are a variety of ways to get this done and after a few minutes it becomes easy to figure out.  
     After the skin is removed, cut the carambola into thin slices, so the seeds are exposed.  There are only a few seeds in each carambola and they can be popped out with the tip of a knife.
     Star Fruit Chablis Sorbet:
     This recipe yields 1 1/4 pints of sorbet.  
     This recipe is written for an automated small batch ice cream machine, but a conventional ice cream maker will work too. 
     Some fruits benefit from being simmered with a little bit of liquid, so they soften, before being turned into sorbet.  Carambola that is simmered in water and wine for a few minutes will become soft enough to turn into a smooth puree.  The combined weight of the carambola, water and wine is tallied, then the correct percentage of sugar is added, so the simple syrup is made at the same time that the fruit is briefly simmered.  The sugar percentage is about 25% in this sorbet recipe.
     Place 8.5 ounces of trimmed, peeled, seeded, sliced carambola in a stainless steel sauce pot.
     Add 5 ounces of water.
     Add 3 ounces of chablis wine.
     Add 4.1 ounces of granulated sugar.
     Place the pot over medium heat.
     As soon as the liquid starts to simmer, turn the heat off.
     Use a blending wand, blender or food processor to thoroughly puree the carambola mixture to a very smooth consistency.
     Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Chill the star fruit chablis puree in a refrigerator, till it cools to less than 41ºF.
     Set the ice cream to the sorbet mode.
     Pre-cool the ice cream machine.
     Place the sorbet mixture into the ice cream drum and set it in place.
     Set the churn in place and secure the lid.
     Press the start button and patiently wait for the bell to go off!
     Transfer the sorbet from the drum to a sealed container.
     Keep the sorbet in the freezer.
     *Stir the sorbet after it freezes for a while, if the sorbet melts around the edges.

     A 3 to 4 ounce scoop of Star Fruit Chablis Sorbet is a fair size portion.  Sorbet looks best when it is served in a glass or a petite silver cup.
     Sorbet is usually served plain.  Sorbet can be garnished with a mint sprig or with a tempered chocolate appliqué like the presentation in the photos.  That modern art looking milk chocolate appliqué was made by randomly streaming tempered chocolate on a non-stick silicon baking mat. 

     Milk Chocolate Appliqué:
     Each type of chocolate has a different set of tempering temperatures.
     To temper milk chocolate, melt a few ounces of milk chocolate in a double boiler over low heat.  
     The temperature of the melted milk chocolate has to be between 115ºF and 120ºF.  
     After the milk chocolate reaches this temperature, remove the bowl from the double boiler.
     Constantly stir the milk chocolate till it cools to 81ºF.  
     Load the milk chocolate into a parchment paper piping cone.
     Now the appliqué can be made by squeezing the parchment cone and streaming the milk chocolate in a criss-cross random pattern onto a polished marble candy maker slab or a silicon baking mat.    
     If the milk chocolate needs to be reheated, it cannot be heated more than 86ºF or the milk chocolate will have to be tempered again.  
     Once tempered milk chocolate cools to room temperature it hardens and it will have a crisp snap.  A thin cake spatula work best for freeing the chocolate appliqué.  

     Viola!  Elegant tasting tropical star fruit chablis sorbet with a fancy chocolate appliqué.   

Herb and Sourdough Crusted Salmon a la Fromage St Agur with Blackberry Gastrique

     An Elegant Flavor Combination!   
     The flavors of today's Herb and Sourdough Crusted Salmon a la Fromage St Agur with Blackberry Gastrique entrée may seem challenging from a conservative perspective.  These flavors have been combined in entrees throughout the long history of haute cuisine.  
     Wine with a deep fruity berry flavor is often paired with a variety of regional French Bleu Cheese.  A berry flavored gastrique accents and balances the flavor of a rich bleu cheese in a similar way.  Blackberry gastrique tastes nice with French herbs that are used in savory cooking.  Fruit gastriques also go well with the rich flavor of salmon.  Every item in this entree goes well together, even though the flavor combination seems impossible.  
     Herb and Sourdough Crusted Salmon a la Fromage St Agur with Blackberry Gastrique is one of the recipes that I created in 2112, while working as a sauté cook and saucier in the Technique Restaurant at the Le Cordon Bleu College Campus in Las Vegas.  The chef at the restaurant gave me the freedom to create a special du jour each day.  Room to create was what I personally needed at that time, after spending six weeks cooking standard food service cuisine at a resort in Death Valley.  Food service cuisine is consistent, but it is not creative.
     On the night that I ran today's recipe as a special du jour at the Technique Restaurant, I offered to cook dinner for the the number one ranking executive chef in charge at the Las Vegas campus.  The top administrative executive chef happened to be one of the highest rated pastry chefs in the world, so offering her a nice savory special du jour creation was the appropriate thing to do.  
     It is always best to offer a chef the same food that is cooked for the paying customers.  This gives a chef the chance to see why customers like or dislike the recent special du jour offerings and it gives the chef the opportunity to judge whether a special du jour is popular enough to be placed on the regular menu.  Some of my special du jours outsold the regular menu offerings by a wide margin and the restaurant sales receipts drew some attention in the front offices.    
     I have cooked for great chefs most of my life, so there was no pressure involved, when cooking dinner for one of the world's top pastry chefs.  The executive pastry chef was preparing candy and pastries for a Culinary Federation Fundraiser that had several of the world's greatest chefs on the guest list.  She gladly accepted the dinner offer, because she liked salmon!  This was a lucky guess on my part.  So, viola!  This proves that intuition is part of the chef game! 
     The Herb and Sourdough Crusted Salmon St Agur with Blackberry Gastrique ~ Oven Roasted Potato and Alsace Braised Cabbage special du jour was plated just like it would have been served to a paying customer.  The entrée in the pictures above is the actual plate that I cooked that evening at the Technique Restaurant.  The executive chef in charge of the restaurant operations preferred simple classic presentations, so I followed his guidelines.  I happen prefer classic food presentation style too.  
     This entree was sold for less than $20, because the campus restaurant was intended to promote Le Cordon Bleu, so the price was a real bargain.  Even though this entrée looks fancy, the food cost percentage was actually very low, so it was a profitable item.  This entrée certainly had some gourmet flair mixed with a comfortable theme.  Many chefs tend to like these two contrasting food themes on the same plate.    
     After munching on the dinner entrée, the top executive pastry chef complimented the special du jour creation and there was no criticism.  She liked the contrasting French cuisine themes and flavor combination.  My overall work at Le Cordon Bleu was complimented and the executive pasty chef asked me if I had ever given thought to becoming a private estate chef.  She offered recommendations for avenues of pursuing employment as a private estate chef in Las Vegas, via the school's job placement service.  I smiled and I could not help but to think about the proverbial "dollar signs spinning on an imaginary cash register!"    
     I personally never have really liked the thought of being a private chef before that moment, but when a world class top pastry chef suggests pursuing the private chef work, then it is easy to change one's own point of view.  The chef went on to explain that good private chefs are in demand in Las Vegas, so her suggestion definitely was apropos.  After chatting with the exec chef, my personal interest was spurred.    

     Many star entertainers, famous athletes and top brass executives in Las Vegas have personal chefs who cook their favorite food every meal.  Many casino owners also employ a private chef.  A chef needs extensive culinary knowledge to please this kind of clientele, even if the client prefers good old fashioned southern style home cooking.     

     Fromage St Agur:
     French St Agur cheese comes from the village of Beauzac in the Monts du Velay.  This cheeese was created by the Bongrain Cheese Company in 1988, so it is relatively new, but the French bleu cheese making heritage involved in making this premium cheese dates back many centuries.  
     St Agur is made with pasteurized cows milk and it is enriched with cream.  St Agur is aged for 60 days, so a mellow aromatic sharp flavor develops.  This soft bleu contains 60% butterfat and it literally melts like butter.  Those who like modern pasteurized soft rich French bleu cheese that has a mellow sharp flavor will like St Agur.     

     Blackberry Gastrique:
     This recipe yields enough gastrique for 6 to 8 small portion applications.  (About 1/2 cup.)
     Gastriques have concentrated rich flavors, so a little bit goes a long way.  Gastrique has a very long shelf life if it is refrigerated.  Chilled gastrique does need to be warmed before serving.  
     The sugar can be cooked to the hard crack stage for a semi sweet gastrique, or it can be caramelized for a savory flavor.  Gastriques are not only a sauce, they are a digestif.
     Always wear protective clothing when working with molten sugar!
     Step 1:  Chop 1 1/3 cups of ripe blackberries into small pieces and set them aside.
     Boil 1 cup of water in a small sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of sugar.
     Reduce the liquid, till the sugar starts to bubble and foam.
     Watch the sugar to be sure that it does not overcook, when it just starts to turn an amber color.
     When the sugar turns a very light brown color, add the reserved chopped blackberries.
     Reduce the temperature to medium heat.
     Do not stir!  Carefully and gently shake the sauce pot, till the molten sugar coats the blackberries.
     The hot lightly caramelized sugar will instantly seize the blackberries.  The flavor and color of the fruit will be pulled into the sugar.
     Step 2:  Cook the sugar and blackberries, till the sugar starts to melt back into a liquid state.
     Add 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 3 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped shallot.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon zest.
     Add sea salt.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it can lightly glaze the back of a spoon.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 4:  Pour the gastrique through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.
     Do not press the fruit pulp through the strainer!  Discard the spent fruit pulp.
     The gastrique should be translucent.  It should have the color and flavor of blackberries, with a hint of digestive aid savory undertones.
     Set the gastrique aside.
     A gastrique can be kept in a container in a refrigerator for up to 6 months.

     Alsace Braised Cabbage:
     This recipe yields 2 to 3 petite portions!
     This braised cabbage recipe is made with simple rustic French Alsace style.  Back when I worked as a sous chef in the mid 1980's, a French chef at a café made this as an accompanying vegetable for lunch entrées one day.  Basically, the cabbage is very lightly caramelized and it is sweetened with carrots as it slowly braises.  Selecting naturally sweet tasting carrots is essential for this recipe.    
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan or a small sauteuse pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped cured bacon.
     Gently sauté, till the bacon starts to become a golden brown color.
     Remove the bacon lardons from the pan and set them aside.
     Step 2:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 cups of thin sliced cabbage.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Add 1 small clove of garlic that is coarsely chopped.
     Sauté till the cabbage wilts and some light caramelized highlights appear.
     Step 3:  Add 1/3 cup of rustic style thin bias sliced sweet carrot.
     Add 1 pinch of caraway seed.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of dill weed.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 cup of light chicken stock.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till half of the liquid evaporates.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Cover the pan with a lid.
     Slowly braise the cabbage, till the flavors meld and the carrots sweeten the cabbage.  There should only be a small amount of braising liquid in the pan.  Only add enough water to keep the cabbage moist if necessary.
     Keep the cabbage warm over very low heat.

     Roasted Tournée Potatoes:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  The yield of this recipe is easy to expand.  Credit must be given where credit is due.  Fellow students turned the potatoes in their first classroom session!
     Cut 3 tournée shape potatoes.
     Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add the tournée potatoes.
     Gently sauté, till the potatoes start to cook.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast the potatoes, till golden brown highlights appear and the potatoes become fully cooked.  (Turn the potatoes in the pan occasionally.)
     Keep the potatoes warm on a stove top.
     Coarse Fresh Sourdough Breadcrumbs:
     Select a stale soft sourdough bread.
     Trim the crust off of the bread.
     Cut 2 cups of large cube shaped pieces.
     Place the sourdough cubes in a food processor.
     Pulse the food processor, till coarse fresh soft breadcrumbs are formed.  The course fresh breadcrumbs should be no larger than 3/16" and the should not be finely ground.
     Set the fresh sourdough breadcrumbs aside in a shallow pan.

     Fresh Herb Egg Wash:
     Place 1 large egg in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon each of finely minced leafy herbs:
     - Italian parsley
     - Basil
     - Oregano
     - Tarragon
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Set the egg wash aside in a shallow pan.
     Herb and Sourdough Crusted Salmon a la Fromage St Agur:
     This recipe yields 1 standard entree portion!
     Way back in the 1990's, I was working at trendy French restaurant that won the golden spoon award for thirty years in a row.  We created nice trendsetting entrees and we were quick to adapt new cooking ideas.  Sourdough crusted seafood was one of the new cooking ideas that we perfected at this restaurant.  
     Sourdough crusting is not the same thing as breading fish with sourdough bread crumbs.  Only the top surface of the fish filet is crusted.  Only a thin coating of egg wash is needed, so the fresh soft sourdough bread crumbs adhere to the fish filet.  The fish is sautéed sourdough side down, till crisp, then the fish is flipped and finished in an oven.  The idea is to allow the fresh sourdough bread crumbs to become aromatic and to do so, the sourdough coating has to gently roast.  When done correctly, the aroma and flavor is irresistible! 
     Step 1:  Preheat an oven to 325ºF.
     Select a thick Atlantic Salmon filet that weighs 6 to 8 ounces.  (remove the skin)
     Lightly season the filet with sea salt and white pepper.
     Place the salmon filet in the shallow pan of herb egg wash, with the skin side of facing up.  Only coat the bone side of the filet with a thin layer of egg wash and leave the skin side bare.
     Transfer the salmon filet to the shallow pan of fresh sourdough bread crumbs, so the egg wash side is facing down.
     Gently press the salmon filet on the bread crumbs, so they adhere to the thin layer of egg wash.  Only one side of the filet should be crusted and the skin side of the filet should be bare.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.  (This same temperature is used for cooking eggs or grilling bread.)
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of clarified butter.
     Place the salmon filet in the pan, so the sourdough crusted side faces down.
     Gently pan fry the salmon, till the sourdough crust begins to become a light golden brown color.  (The crust will finish browning later in the oven!)
     Carefully use a spatula to flip the fish in the pan.  Add a little bit of clarified butter, if necessary.
     Sauté till the bare side of the salmon is a little bit more than halfway cooked.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine to the pan.  (Do not allow the liquid to make contact with the sourdough crust!)
     Add 2 ounces of fumet or light chicken stock to the pan.
     Step 3:  Place the pan in the 325º oven.
     Roast the salmon, till it becomes fully cooked and the sourdough crust becomes crispy golden brown.  (This only takes a few minutes!)
     Remove the pan from the oven.
     Step 4:  Evenly space 4 dollops (1/2 teaspoon size) of St Agur cheese across the top of the crusted salmon.
     Return the pan to the oven for about 30 seconds, so the St Agur cheese softens and begins to melt.  (The carryover heat will finish melting the cheese.)
     Step 5:  Remove the salmon pan from the oven.
     Use a spatula to place the salmon on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan for about 1 minute, so any excess liquid or oil drains off of the salmon.  (This is a preventative measure.  Excess jus can cause the gastrique to "bleed" when the salmon is plated!)
     Keep the pan warm on a stove top.

     Herb and Sourdough Crusted Salmon a la Fromage St Agur with Blackberry Gastrique ~ Oven Roasted Tournée Potatoes and Alsace Braised Cabbage:
     Place 1 petite portion of the Alsace Braised Cabbage on the plate.
     Arrange the tourne potatoes on the plate, so they look nice.
     Use a spoon to decoratively stream a small portion of the blackberry gastrique on the plate.
     Use a spatula to place the Herb and Sourdough Crusted Salmon a la Fromage St Agur on the plate, so it partially covers the gastrique on the plate.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Voila!  A very nice tasting elegant French salmon entree that is worthy of being served to the queen of the house on New Year Eve or Saint Valentines Day! 

Scallopini di Vitello al Marsala

     Veal Marsala!
     I learned this recipe at the first Italian restaurant that I apprenticed in.  The sauté chef at that restaurant was phenomenally good!  I have never seen a better Italian sauté chef since.  His accuracy and classic Italian style presentations of each plate were excellent.
     The restaurant was sold and the new owner lost the business many years ago.  Its a nice surprise when I am talking to someone and I mention that long gone restaurant, just to see if they knew of the place.  Those who remember, get a smile on their face and give a reply of "Oh yes, I remember that place.  The food was very good there!"

    Apprenticing at that little Italian restaurant was worth it.  I worked 14 hours a day and I was paid less than $50.00 dollars per day.  Most cooking school chefs attend classes or instruction for only 7 hours per day.  Believe me, a novice cook learns much more about cooking techniques when apprenticing.
     A better foundation for becoming a chef can be accomplished by apprenticing and working as a cook for five years, before stepping through the door of a culinary arts college.  I apprenticed in several restaurants for 5 solid years.  Most of the restaurant chefs were fine French, Swiss, German and Italian.  I learned a lot about classic European cuisine!

     After ten years in the business I was expected to instruct externs from culinary arts schools.  Most chef school interns were resentful over having to work with a chef who had never attended school.
     During the first major business rush on a busy night, I usually found the "head strong" intern cooks freaking out under the pressure of cooking for several hundred people in a fine dining atmosphere.  I ended up doing a lot of double duty work, till the the panic stricken extern regained some composure.  Believe me, that first major business rush is not easy to handle for an inexperienced extern to handle.

     I was good at teaching efficiency, speed, timing, safe food handling and solid cooking techniques to extern cooks who were new to the business.  I was a "slave driver" when it came to keeping a kitchen healthy and clean through the nights business.  Once externs were familiar with the basics, they were on their way learning finer points.  
     One of the most difficult kitchen duties to teach is sauté and saucier station work.  I was a fine dining restaurant sauté cook and saucier for a couple of decades.  Veal Marsala is one of the best recipes to teach cooks who are new to the game.  

     Glacé Viande:
     Glacé Viande is like a rich Italian Dark Roasted Veal & Beef Broth.  Follow this link to the recipe:
     • Glacé Viande
     Scallopini di Vitello al Marsala:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     A rich dark roasted Veal & Beef Broth or a thin Glacé Viande is required for this recipe.  A French Veal & Beef Stock is okay, but Italian chefs do not use a French style stock.  
     The choice of Italian Marsala is important.  It takes less aged Marsala to flavor the sauce, than it does when using a Marsala that was not aged for at least 1 year in oak barrels.        
     Step 1:  Cut a 6 to 7 ounce portion of 3 to 4 small escallops from a tender section of veal leg.  (Never use the tough sections like the flank or mock tenderloin for scallopini.)
     Gently pound the veal escallops, till they become thin and even with the flat side of a meat mallet or a wine bottle.
     Lightly dredge the veal escallops in flour and set them aside.  (Do not stack the veal escallops on top of each other or they will sweat and stick to each other like glue.)
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of pomace olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Place the floured veal scallopini in the pan.
     Shake the pan gently, so the veal does not stick.
     Sauté the veal on both sides, till it just starts to get a few golden highlights.
     Step 3:  Push the scallopini to one side of the pan.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove to the oil in the pan.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced shallot to the oil in the pan.
     Add 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Sauté and toss, till the mushrooms become tender and light golden brown highlights appear on the veal.
     Step 4:  Add 1 cup of imported Italian marsala wine.  
     Add 1 1/2 cups of thin Glacé Viande.
     Scrape and deglaze the bits of suc (fonde) from the bottom of the pan.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin glacé sauce consistency.
     Take the pan off the heat!

     Overlap the scallopini across the front half of a plate in a row.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it can glaze the back of a spoon.  (If the sauce becomes too thick, add a splash of Marsala and bring the sauce to a quick boil.)
     Spoon the mushrooms over the half of the scallopini row that is closest to the center of the plate.  (It is nice to expose a portion of the veal instead of completely covering it with mushrooms.)
     Pour the marsala sauce over the veal and mushrooms.
     Serve with a vegetable and starch of your choice.
     *the entrée in the photos was accompanied by al dente Campanelle Pasta that flavored with melted plugra butter and Italian Parsley.  Steamed buttered Sweet Snap Peas were also served.
     No garnish is necessary!
     The translucent deep brown Marsala Sauce is very appealing to the eyes.  The aroma and flavor of this simple recipe is simply delicious!  Ciao Baby!    

Friday, December 26, 2014

Peruvian Purple Potato Vichyssoise

     Today's Recipe
     The first time that I made Vichyssoise in was while working in a Northern Italian restaurant in the early 1980's.  I was the garde manger chef.  Two chilled soups were offered on the menu and the second chilled soup was a Cucumber Dill Crème.  Of course, the Vichyssoise was made with Russet Potatoes at that restaurant, because Purple Potatoes from Peru were not commercially available at that time.

     The manager of the Northern Italian restaurant was an Italian Monk who had impeccable taste in fine food.  When I asked about why a French Vichyssoise was on the menu, I received a good education about Italian-French Border Cuisine.  Basically, classic French and Italian recipes intermingle on restaurant menus in the border region.
     Three great chefs worked in the Northern Italian restaurant while I was there.  One chef was from Corsica and he was a culinary arts instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.  One chef was a talented Italian American.
     The third chef owned a busy restaurant that was located on the Italian-French border.  This chef masterfully created some of the finest Italian cuisine that I had ever seen.  When I asked if the finely presented classic Italian cuisine that he prepared at the restaurant was like the food at his restaurant back home in Italy, the chef responded by saying "It has to be.  Most of the customers at my restaurant back home are French!  Just like here!"

     Later in my career, I served Vichyssoise as a special du jour during warm weather at many fine French cafés.  Relatively few chefs in America offer Vichyssoise in this modern age.  Many of the new wave of chefs in America only cook food to their own personal taste and very little classic cuisine is prepared.  Great items like Vichyssoise are disappearing into the past.
     I thought that the color of Peruvian Purple Potatoes would yield a nice looking Vichyssoise.  The light lavender color of today's Purple Potato Vichyssoise is certainly elegant looking.  Today's pretty looking lavender color Vichyssoise will certainly appeal to lady dinner guests!

     Peruvian Purple Potato Vichyssoise:
     This recipe yields  4 cups!
     Step 1:  Boil about 6 to 8 small whole purple potatoes in water.  (1 1/4 cups of mashed peeled potato is needed for this recipe.  Leave the skins on the potatoes, so the deep purple color is retained!)
     When the potatoes become cooked tender, cool them under running cold water.
     Remove the potato skin from each potato by scraping with the back of a paring knife.  (Peeling after cooking is easier with this kind of potato.)
     Place the peeled purple potatoes in a mixing bowl.
     Thoroughly mash the potatoes.
     About 1 1/2 cups is needed for this recipe.
     Set the mashed purple potatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Finely mince the white part of a leek.  (1 1/4 cup of minced leek cup is needed.)
     Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a sauce pot over low heat.
     Add the minced leek.
     Gently sauté and sweat the minced leek, till it becomes very soft.  Do not brown the leeks!
     Step 3:  Add 1 cup of milk.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of light chicken stock.
     Add a bouquet garni.  (I used rosemary, bay leaf and thyme bouquet garni sachet.)
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Gently simmer for about 5 minutes, till the herbs have infused with the leek broth.
     Remove the bouquet garni.
     Step 4:  Add the mashed purple potatoes.
     Add 1 cup of crème fraîche.  (Crème fraîche is half soured fresh cream.  Just mix 50% cream and 50% sour cream together to make a quick crème fraîche.)
     Whisk the soup, till it becomes a smooth puree of potato and leek.
     Gently simmer, till the soup reduces to about 4 1/4 cups and it is a medium thin cream soup consistency.  Whisk occasionally.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Step 5:  Pour a little of the soup at a time into a fine mesh strainer (Mousseline Chinoise).
     Use a spoon or small rubber spatula to press the soup through the fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Chill the Vichyssoise to a basement temperature.  (No cooler than 56ºF.)
     Step 6:  Pour the chilled Vichyssoise into a shallow soup bowl.
     Garnish with watercress leaves.

     The light lavender color of this vichyssoise is very pretty to look at!  The flavor is the same as a classic old fashioned French Vichyssoise.
     Some people just puree Vichyssoise in a blender.  The silky smooth texture of a Vichyssoise that is passed though a Mousseline Chinoise Strainer is far superior.
     Chives are the classic garnish for vichyssoise, but the peppery flavor of the watercress is nice too.  Vichyssoise is a classic soup that is even more appealing when it is made with purple potatoes!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Filet de Sole Collée sur aspic avec légumes du jardin rôti et herbe d'aneth vinaigrette

     An elegant French collée platter!  Chilled collée coated filet of sole on aspic served with roasted radicchio, yellow tomato, purple potato, onion and dill weed vinaegrette

     Gelatin And Aspic
     Gelatin can be made from animal, seaweed or vegetables and each type of gelatin has its own name.  Some gelatins have more gelling power than others.  For aChaud Froid recipe, the gelatin is most often used as a clear coat the creates a glistening effect.  Gelatin is always colorless and flavorless.   
     Aspic is a gelatin that has flavor, color or both.  The flavor can be savory or sweet. 
     Aspic and gelatin shreds are often used as a garnish or as a bed for collee preparations of fish.  Thin gelatin and aspic shreds add a nice jeweled look to a plate.   

     Collée is a French gelatin preparation that is one of the Chaud Froid technique styles.  Chaud Froid translates to "hot - cold."  The effect of rich warm food that cools and gels is basically what Chaud Froid is about.  
     Collée is made with mayonnaise, sour cream, crème fraîche, plain yogurt or a mixture of any of these white color materials.  Gelatin or agar is used to give the white collée a firm texture when it is chilled.  Collée is always a pure white color.  Collée is usually finish coated with clear gelatin.
     Collée is usually used to coat chilled poached or chilled lightly smoked fish.  Whole flatfish are often coated with collée for banquet style offerings.

     Chaud Froid
     A Chaud Froid decorated platter is usually made with a simple base sauce of Gelled Béchamel or Collée.  The sauce only has to be a white color and the flavor does not matter in most Chaud Froid applications.  The for decorative inedible Chaud Froid, the Béchamel can be thickened with roux or corn starch.  
     Chaud Froid Béchamel can be pure white or any color that is preferred and the texture can range from soft to a very firm.  Hard firm inedible Chaud Froid Béchamel, Collée or Aspic of any color is used to decorate a platter with a very firm base coating of color.  
     Firm gelatin or aspic of any color is also part of Chaud Froid.  These substances can be used to decorate the firm gelled Béchamel on a platter.  Vegetables and herbs can also be used to decorate a Chaud Froid Platter.  
     The chilled food items are placed on the decorative firm Chaud Froid Platter after the Chaud Froid is coated with clear gelatin to create a glassy visual effect.  The Chaud Froid design subject will be described in a recipe that will be published soon.  
     Here is an example of a Chaud Froid Platter before clear coating and the completed platter:

     Roasted Garden Vegetables En Vinaigrette 
     To avoid confusion, I often spell the word Vinaigrette as "Vinaegrette."  The reason why is because the first French cookbook that I studied was a tattered old copy of a French cookbook that was originally published over one hundred years ago.  "Vinaegrette" was the spelling used in that book and the spelling stuck.      
     Roasted vegetables served at room temperature with vinaegrette were popular in the 1980's.  Elegant colorful roasted vegetables are very nice for garnishing garde manger station platters.  Purple potato, yellow tomato, radicchio and onion with diced roasted red bell pepper adds royal contrasting colors to this platter.  The mild accompanying vinaegrette features the fresh garden flavor of dill weed.  The dill vinaegrette also is nice with the sole collée in today's recipe. 

     Platter Design 
     • Anytime that more than one item is featured on a platter, the flavors have to contrast and compliment each other.  The items also have to be arranged with a clear focal point.  For today's platter the focal point is the bright white filet of sole collée.  
     • Flow is also important and the curve of the overlapping roasted vegetables demonstrates flow.  
     • Balance is part of banquet platter design and unity is another requirement.  This platter has a balanced appearance as far as the size and shapes are concerned.  Portion Balance is important too.  Basically the high proportion of vegetables on today's platter show that this entrée is meant to be shared by two guests.  In effect, this collée entrée is basically a roasted vegetable salad with fancy fish.  Unity describes how the flavors work with each other.  
     • Unity also describes how the colors of the items contrast with each other, physically and symbolically.  For a classy looking item like sole en collée, the royal golden colors of the gelatin, aspic and purple roasted vegetables demonstrate symbolic unity.

     As chefs move up the ladder in fine cuisine, the design of banquet platters becomes more demanding.  Although most banquet food is not rated by Michelin standards, the quality of banquet food is part of the resort rating system.  
     For a classy banquet, a collée platter is perfect.  Sharing a collée platter with stylish roasted vegetables at a table is a nice way to inspire relaxed casual afternoon conversation. 
     For a collée platter like today's presentation, the maitre d' serves the first round of the items on the platter to the guests at the table.  As one can imagine, this makes the guests feel special and elegance is achieved.  Shared platter dining room service also facilitates better tipping rates for the maitre d' or wait staff captain. 

     Poached Filet of Sole:
     Step 1:  Place a 6 to 8 ounce trimmed filet of sole in a wide braising pot or sauteuse pan.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped celery.
     Add 1 chopped garlic clove.
     Add 4 Italian parsley sprigs.
     Add 1 laurel leaf.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 ounce of dry white wine.
     Add 5 black peppercorns.
     Add sea salt.
     Add just enough water to cover the sole file.
     Step 2:  Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Bring the liquid to a simmer.
     Poach till the sole is almost fully cooked.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Allow the sole filet and the poaching liquid to room temperature.
     Step 3:  Carefully use a spatula to place the poached sole file on a plate.
     Brush any of the court bouillon poaching ingredients off of the sole filet.  
     Place the poached sole filet on a wire screen roasting rack.
     Place the roasting rack on a clean drip pan. 
     Chill the poached sole in a refrigerator, till it reaches minus 41º. 

     Filet Of Sole Collée:
     Collée takes time and patience to apply correctly.  The white collée coating is applied in several coats, so the coating looks uniform.  After each coat of collée, the sole much be chilled, so the collée gels.  
     The first coat of clear gelatin is applied after the colleee looks uniform.  The herb applique is also applied during the first coating of gelatin.  Then a few more coats of gelatin are necessary to give the finished product a glass like appearance.  
      Do not over heat gelatin, collée or aspic, or the gelling power will be affected.  Use a digital probe thermometer.  
     Be sure all work surfaces are clean, so no contamination occurs.  Have all the ingredients and utensils organized for each stage of the recipe.  
     A wire screen roasting rack over a pan is necessary for catching the collee or gelatin overflow.  The chilled overflow can be scraped off of the catch pan and melted, so it can be reused.  Any excess clear gelatin will be used to make both the aspic and gelatin shred garnish. 
     Because mayonnaise contains oil, the gelling power of the collee will be effected.  By adding milk, sour cream or cream, the gelling power will almost return to normal.  Collée for coating requires just a little extra gelatin and that amount is figured into this recipe.
     Step 1:  Place 1/3 cup of mayonnaise in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/3 cup of milk.
     Add 1/3 cup of sour cream.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Gently stir the ingredients together with a whisk.
     Rain 8 1/2 grams to 9 grams of powdered gelatin on the surface of the liquid.
     Allow the gelatin to bloom and do not stir.  
     Step 2:  Place the pot over low/very low heat.
     Gently warm the mixture, till the gelatin melts into the liquid.  Stir occasionally with a spoon.  The gelatin should dissolve somewhere near 130ºF to 140ºF.  Try to let the mixture reach 140ºF so most pathogen threats are eliminated.  Do not allow the liquid to boil!
     Reduce the temperature to 110ºF to 120ºF to hold the collee, till it is needed. 
     Step 3:  After any air bubbles disappear, use a 1 ounce ladle to pour one coat of the collée over the chilled poached filet of sole.
     Pop any air bubbles.
     Immediately place the sole and catch pan in the refrigerator and chill to minus 41º.
     Repeat these steps, till the filet of sole is coated with an opaque, even, glassy smooth layer of collée.
     After the sole chills and the colée gels each time it is chilled, the excess collée in the drip pan can be scraped off and returned to the pot.  (Add a splash of water to the collee in the pot as necessary, to make up for any evaporation.)
     Keep the finished collee coated filet of sole chilled.
     Any excess collee can be chilled and reheated for another recipe.

     Coating Gelatin:
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of water in a sauce pot.
     Rain 8 grams of powdered gelatin on the surface of the liquid.
     Allow the gelatin to bloom.
     Step 2:  Place the sauce pot over low/very low heat.
     Heat till the gelatin dissolves into the liquid.  Do not allow the liquid to boil.
     Hold the clear coating gelatin at 110ºF to 120ºF.  
     Step 3:  Get a few washed and trimmed decorative small dill sprigs and Italian Parsley leaves ready.
     Step 4:  Transfer the wire screen roasting rack to a new clean catch pan.  
     Use a 1 ounce ladle to pour the first coat of clear coating gelatin over the chilled collée coated filet of sole.
     Place some decorative dill sprigs and parsley leaves on the wet clear gelatin on the fish, so it looks nice.
     Pop any air bubbles.
     Gently use a tiny spatula the press the herbs flat against the surface of the collee.
     Immediately chill the filet of sole to minus 41º.
     Step 5:  For the next coat, just drizzle enough clear gelatin over the herbs to seal them in place.
     Pop any bubbles.
     Chill the sole to minus 41º.
     Use a 1 ounce ladle to pour a full coat of clear gelatin over the sole.
     Pop any bubbles.
     Chill the sole to minus 41º.
     Repeat this step, till the sole en collee takes on a smooth glassy appearance.
     Keep the finished decorated and clear coated sole en collee chilled, till it is plated.
     Clear Gelatin Shreds Garnish:
     Place the excess clear coat from the drip pan back in the clear gelatin in the pot.
     Melt the clear coat.
     Pour 2 ounces of the clear coat gelatin on a clean plate.
     Chill the clear gelatin till it sets. 
     Score 1/4" wide lines across the firm gelatin.
     Use a spatula to scrape the gelatin free from the pan to created clear shreds.  
     Keep the clear shreds chilled. 
     Gold Aspic Shreds:
     Step 1:  There should be a couple ounces of clear gelatin leftover in the pot.
     Add 2 ounces of clear chicken bouillon or fish bouillon.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric or a few drops of saffron water.
     Simmer over low heat till the additional 2 ounces of liquid evaporates.
     Step 2:  Pour 2 ounces of the gold colored aspic on a clean plate.
     Chill the aspic till it sets. 
     Score 1/4" wide lines across the firm aspic.
     Use a spatula to scrape the aspic free from the pan to create gold shreds.  
     Keep the gold aspic shreds chilled.

     Dill Vinaegrette:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 portions.
     Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar in a small mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of shallot puree.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped dill weed.
     Let the ingredients stand for 5 minutes. 
     Slowly stream 4 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the mixture, while gently whisking to create a partially emulsified vinaegrette.
     Set the dill vinaegrette aside.
     Stir before serving.
     Roasted Vegetables:
     About 3 to 4 slices of each vegetable is enough for 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Boil 1 large purple potato in water over medium high heat, till it becomes fully cooked, yet still firm and not mushy.
     Cool the potato under cold running water.
     Use the back of a paring knife to peel the potato.
     Cut the potato into 1/4" to 3/8" long bias slices.  
     Place the potato slices on a large roasting pan that is brushed with blended olive oil.
     Step 2:  Cut  3 or 4 slices of vidalia onion that are 1/4" to 3/8" thick and place them on the roasting pan with the potatoes.
     Step 3:  Place 3 or 4 slices of trimmed radicchio slices that are the same thickness on the pan.
     Brush the vegetables with blended olive oil.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Roast the vegetables in a 350ºF oven, till they just begin to cook.
     Remove the pan from the oven.
     Step 4:  Place 3 or 4 vine ripe yellow tomato slices on the pan.  
     Brush the yellow tomato slices with blended olive oil.
     Season the yellow tomato slices.
     Return the pan to the oven.
     Roast the vegetables, till the become al dente and till they just begin to caramelize.
     Remove the pan from the oven.  
     Keep the roasted vegetables warm on a stove top.
     Filet de Sole Collée sur aspic avec légumes du jardin rôti et herbe d'aneth vinaigrette:
     Plate the collee last, so it is not damaged by any spatters!
     Step 1:  Carefully use a spatula to overlap and the warm roasted vegetable slices across the back half of a large serving platter.  Alternate the vegetables when placing them.
     Step 2:  Place a bed of the clear gelatin shreds and the golden aspic shreds on the front center of the platter as a bed for the sole en collée.
     Step 4:  Sprinkle some diced roasted red bell pepper over the roasted vegetables and onto the platter near the vegetables.
     Step 5:  Spoon a generous amount of the dill vinaegrette over the roasted vegetables and onto the platter near the vegetables.
     Step 6:  Carefully use a thin blade carving knife to cut the poached sole filet en collée free from the wire screen rack, by gliding the blade against the surface of the rack under the sole filet.
     Use a spatula to place the sole en collée on a cutting board.
     Use a paring knife to trim off any excess collée or gelatin flash.
     Use a spatula to place the sole en collée on top of the bed of shredded gelatin and shredded golden aspic.
     No garnish is necessary!
     Serve with sliced French bread and crostini on the side.

     This is not only a nice looking collée and roasted vegetable platter, it tastes nice too!