Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Chicken Fricassee with Lobster Mushrooms, Aromatic Vegetables and Formaggio Fontal Bulgar Wheat Polenta

     A Gourmet Café Style Fricassee!
     I have posted a few interesting fricassee recipes in the past, but today's fricassee recipe takes the cake!  
     There are only a few rules that define what a fricassee is.  Food historians state that Friquassee was described in early editions of the Le Viandier book of French cooking as early as the 14th or 15th century.  The book Le Viandier describes Friquassee as being meat that is not browned and simmered in a sauce.  Very old Friquassee recipes from the the age of the Le Viandier culinary reference book state that any meat can be used.  
     Later in food history, many culinarians described fricassee as being small pieces of light colored meat that is somewhere between a sauté recipe and a white stew.  Modern fricassee recipes nearly always features light colored wild game meats, fowl or seafood.  Rabbit, pheasant, chicken, frog legs or even alligator are good meat choices or making fricassee.  

     Some modern chefs make vegetable fricassee, but the definition of fricassee throughout history clearly states that meat is the featured ingredient.  Calling a lightly braised squash recipe a fricassee would be like calling a chicken stew a ratatouille.  There is no use reinventing the wheel when naming a recipe, because descriptive culinary words already exist that accurately define whatever the food is.     
     A fricassee stewing sauce can be thin and brothy or the sauce can have a medium thin velouté sauce consistency.  The sauce can be thickened with roux, beurre manie or just finished with plain butter.  Tomato or cream can be added to the sauce.  
     At a yacht where I used do sauté cooking, the chef occasionally ran a simple Chicken Fricassee that was stewed with only a lemon sauce.  Lemon flavored Chicken Fricassee over rice is a popular European and American entrée that is easy to recognize.  
     Any vegetables, herbs or mushrooms that are added to a fricassee must accent or compliment the flavors of the light meat, light broth sauce and lemon flavors.  Nothing should be added that would overpower the delicate flavor balance.  Fricassee is usually served with rice, but nearly any starch can be substituted.  A grain polenta is a nice choice.

     So, these are the basic rules of fricassee!  Today's modern café style fricassee recipe is made along the lines of the early Le Viandier culinary reference book Friquassee description.  The chicken was cooked poêle style (roasted in a sealed container with moisture).  The sauce is a reduced broth that is finished with beurre manie.  The broth is flavored with delicate aromatic vegetables and mushrooms.  
     The Lobster Mushrooms in this recipe are not really mushrooms at all.  Lobster Mushrooms are an attacking parasitic ascomycete that takes over two specific varieties of common Pacific Northwest wild mushrooms.  The flavor of Lobster Mushrooms depends on the host mushroom.  The flavor can can be peppery spicy or the flavor can taste like shellfish.  Either Lobster Mushroom flavor is nice for this fricassee recipe.

     Volaille Poêle:
     This recipe is written for 1 whole large Roaster Chicken, which is enough chicken for 4 or 5 fricassee entrées.  For a smaller portion, cook half of a chicken or a few chicken parts.
     The French Poêle Cuisson involves slow roasting in a moist environment in a sealed container.  The Poêle technique tenderizes tough birds and a minimum of browning occurs if the chicken is lightly sautéed first.  
     Step 1:  Trim 1 whole chicken.  Remove the wings, but leave the drummettes intact.  Trim off any excess fat, but do not damage the skin.  Trimming the leg ends is optional.
     Use butcher's string to tie and truss the chicken, so it looks nice after it is cooked.  
     Season the chicken with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Sauté the whole chicken till it is a golden color on all sides.  (Try not to damage the skin.)  
     Step 3:  Set the chicken aside.
     Discard the grease from the pan.
     Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of dry white wine.
     Pour the deglazed jus into a cup and set it aside.
     Step 4:  Select a pot large enough to contain the whole chicken.
     Heat the pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 whole cloves of garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 5:  Add 1 minced shallot.
     Add these mirepoix vegetables:
     - 1/3 cup of large diced carrot.
     - 1/3 cup of large diced onion. 
     - 1/3 cup of large diced celery.  
     - 1/4 cup of diced leek.
     Briefly sauté till the vegetables become aromatic.
     Step 6:  Add the reserved white wine pan jus.
     Add 1 cup of chicken stock. 
     Add sea salt to taste.
     Step 7:  Add a tied sachet bouquet garni of:
     Add 1 pinch of rosemary.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 2 pinches of chervil.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Step 8:  When the liquid become hot, remove the pot from the heat. 
     Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and liquid in the pot.
     Seal the pot with a tight fitting lid.
     Place the pot in a 300ºF oven.
     Slowly roast till the chicken is fully cooked and tender. 
     Step 9:  Remove the pot from the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes.
     Place the poêle chicken on a cutting board.
     Remove the trussing string.
     Cut the chicken into sections.  
     Debone the breast and thigh meat.  Cut the meat into thick slices.  
     Divide the poêle chicken into 8 ounce portions for the fricassee recipe.
     *The poêle chicken can be served as is with the mirepoix vegetables as a meal too.  The leftover unused chicken pieces can be used to make fricassee.  
     If the whole bird is planned to be used for fricassee, the vegetables from the pot can be saved for soup making.  
     Classic French cooking requires wasting nothing and often one item, like a poêle chicken, is turn into several recipes!    

     Formaggi Fontal Bulgar Wheat Polenta:
     This recipe yields 2 accompanying portions! 
     Step 1:  Place 1 cup of water in a sauce pot.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of light chicken broth.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over medium high heat.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of #3 size bulgar wheat.
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the bulgar wheat is very soft and till the liquid is slightly less than the amount of bulgar wheat in the pot.  (Add a splash of water if the liquid reduces too quickly, before the bulgar wheat is tender.)
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped imported Italian Fontal Cheese.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Whisk the polenta, till it becomes a smooth and creamy thick texture.
     Step 5:  Place the polenta in a star tipped pastry bag and keep it warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Chicken Fricassee with Lobster Mushrooms and Aromatic Vegetables:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauteuse pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced shallot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped leek.
     Sauté till the shallots turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of sliced florence fennel bulb and stalks.  (Anise Bulb is another name for florence fennel.)     
     Add 1 peeled parsley root that has its green top attached.
     Add 1/2 of a trimmed peeled yellow carrot. 
     Gently sauté, till the aromatic vegetables start to cook.  Be sure to toss the ingredients occasionally, so no browning occurs!
     Step 3:  Add 8 ounces of the prepared poêle chicken pieces.
     Add 1/2 of a thick sliced large fresh lobster mushroom.
     Add enough light chicken stock to barely cover the ingredients.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.  
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Knead 1 ounce of chilled unsalted butter together with an equal amount of flour to make a beurre manie.
     Add a little bit of the beure manie to the fricassee at a time, while stirring, till the sauce is a very thin consistency. 
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer the fricassee, till the vegetables are tender and the sauce reduces to a thin consistency that barely glazes a spoon.
     Add a few sprigs of the green florence fennel leaves.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Simmer the fricassee for one minute.

     Chicken Fricassee with Lobster Mushrooms, Aromatic Vegetables and Formaggio Fontal Bulgar Wheat Polenta:
     Use the pastry bag to pipe a portion of the bulgar wheat fontal polenta on a plate.
     Place the whole parsley root and yellow carrot half on the plate next to the polenta.
     Spoon the fricassee chicken pieces, lobster mushroom slices and florence fennel on the plate, so they look nice.
     Spoon a generous amount of the thin fricassee sauce over the chicken and onto the plate.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Needless to say, this is a nice tasting modern fricassee!  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chicken Cordon Bleu

     The Classic American Blue Ribbon Chicken!
     Chicken Cordon Bleu is an American creation and it has been a customer favorite for many decades.  
     Chicken Cordon Bleu has some of its origins in France and Switzerland.  In Switzerland there is an entrée called Veal Cordon Bleu.  Veal Cordon Bleu is cheese stuffed veal schnitzel that is served with velouté sauce, a mushroom espagnole or no sauce at all.  Ham was sometimes added to the stuffing and later ham became part of some some Cordon Bleu recipes.  An authentic Swiss Veal Cordon Bleu looks quite different than an American Chicken Cordon Bleu.

      Many food historians say that the original American Cordon Bleu Recipe is chicken stuffed with prosciutto and emmentaler (swiss cheese), but that is incorrect.  Many say that the original sauce was mornay, but that is also incorrect.  Those were modifications of the original Cordon Bleu recipe that became popular in the 1960's through the 1980's.  
     A Chicken Cordon Bleu that was made with prosciutto and mornay sauce was called Chicken Cordon Rouge, when I first became a yacht club sauté cook and saucier.  The Cordon Rouge Chicken version was an item that few chefs knew about outside of the east coast region.  
     Any chef knows that putting a cheese sauce on an item that is stuffed with cheese is a poorly thought out entrée, so claiming that mornay was the original sauce makes no sense because it would be cheese overkill.  When a strong tasting ham like prosciutto was used in combination with mornay, it was total flavor overkill.  
     The use of prosciutto was not very popular in the 1940's, when Swiss Cordon Bleu recipes became famous.  Prosciutto was added to the Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe during the rebirth of this entrée at a later date.  When prosciutto replace mild tasting roasted ham in the Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe, east coast chefs changed the name to Chicken Cordon Rouge, because the flavor was so much stronger.

    The original American Chicken Cordon Bleu was designed to have a very mild flavor that appealed to ladies.  Prosciutto and mornay do not fit in with the original flavor theme, but cured roasted ham and supreme sauce does.  
     I was a saucier and sauté cook for two years at an old established yacht club early in my career.  At that time, two old chefs that were working in that yacht club did their apprenticeship way back in the 1920's and the 1930's.  Those two chefs were still working at the yacht club, even though they were beyond retirement age.  Those guys were like 70 and 80 years old and they had a vast amount of fine dining cooking knowledge to teach and share. 
     One of the old yacht club chefs prepared Chicken Cordon Bleu for a dinner party event and I noticed that his recipe was different than what I had seen many younger chefs prepare.  So out of curiosity, I asked the chef what the original Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe actually was.  The old chef responded by saying the 1940's version of Chicken Cordon Bleu was made with Swiss Gruyere Cheese and American style cured smoked ham.  The breaded stuffed chicken breast was shaped like a roulade.  He also said that sauce suprême was the original sauce.  
     In my opinion, the old yacht club chef's definition of the original Chicken Cordon Bleu is correct, because the recipe is so well balanced.  It is no wonder that the original recipe was given the Blue Ribbon name!  

     Chicken Velouté:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup of velouté sauce.
     • A white roux is used in place of a blonde roux, when making a velouté sauce that will be used to make sauce suprême!   
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while stirring with a whisk.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir, till the roux cooks to a pale white color.
     Step 2:  Add 2 cups of chicken stock.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Whisk the sauce occasionally as it comes to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  When the sauce comes to a gentle boil, reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add a tied bouquet garni of:
     - Leek
     - Celery
     - 1/2 of a small bay leaf
     - 1 small prig of thyme
     - 1 parsley stalk
     Step 4:  Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a thin sauce consistency that barely glazes a spoon.  (There should only be about 1 cup of velouté sauce after the reduction is completed.)
     Step 5:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter, while whisking.  (Monte au beurre.  This will keep a "skin" from forming on the velouté.)
     Set the velouté aside.

     Suprême Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/3 cups of sauce.
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of velouté sauce in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of mushroom peelings.
     Add 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of crème fraîche.  
     *Modern crème fraîche is a mixture of 50% sour cream and 50% cream.  Only add enough crème fraîche to turn the velouté into a white color. 
     Step 2:  Place the pot over low heat.
     After the sauce heats, simmer the sauce for 10 minutes.
     Whisk the sauce, till it becomes smooth.
     Step 3:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container or second sauce pot.  
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat for immediate use or reheat it to order.

     Classic Chicken Cordon Bleu: 
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Never add parmesan cheese to an egg wash, like many modern chefs suggest.  Adding parmesan is a crutch!  If good breading techniques are used, then parmesan is not necessary.  Parmesan acts like a glue, but it leaves a bitter aftertaste when it is fried.  
     Step 1:  Select a 6 to 8 ounce boneless chicken breast filet.
     Butterfly cut the chicken breast, so it is an even thickness.  
     *Refer to the photo above.  The butterflied chicken breast can be pounded thiner with a meat mallet if it is too thick or not wide enough to be rolled into a roulade shape.
     Step 2:  Place a few thin slices of gruyere cheese on the chicken breast.
     Place a few thin slices of smoked ham on the chicken breast.
     Roll the chicken breast into a long cylinder roulade shape.
     Step 3:  Place the roulade on a small pan.
     Place the roulade in a freezer.
     Partially freeze the roulade, so the chicken breast becomes stiff and so it will hold its shape while it is breaded.  (Do not freeze the chicken breast till it becomes frozen solid or it will take forever to cook!)
     Step 4:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil to 360ºF in a high sided pot.
     Step 5:  Dredge the partially frozen chicken breast roulade in flour that is seasoned with sea salt and white pepper.
     Dip the roulade in plain egg wash.  
     Dredge the roulade in plain fine French bread crumbs.
     *Be sure that the breading covers the seam and ends of the roulade!
     Step 6:  Place the breaded roulade in the hot frying oil.
     Fry till the roulade becomes a light golden brown color.  The chicken will only be about halway cooked at this point.  
     Step 7:  Use a fryer net to place the roulade on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Roast the roulade in a 300ºF oven, till it is fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read 165ºF for 15 seconds in the center of the roulade.)
     Allow the roulade to rest for 1 to 2 minutes, before slicing.
     Pour a generous amount of the suprême sauce on a plate as a bed for the Chicken Cordon Bleu.
     Use a razor sharp carving knife to slice the Chicken Cordon Bleu roulade into thick medaillon shapes.
     Overlap a row of Chicken Cordon Bleu slices on the sauce suprême.
     Serve with a vegetable and potato of your choice.  
     No garnish is necessary!
     *The Chicken Cordon Bleu in the pictures was served with a seasoned baked crown cut tomato.  The potato is French precision cut into a potato soufflé shape and it was fried twice. 

     The original Chicken Cordon Bleu is perfect as it is!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Almond Breaded Pork Schnitzel

     A Tasty Café Style Pork Schnitzel Entrée!
     There are a few variations of how schnitzel can be prepared with almonds, but there is only one traditional recipe that is called Almond Schnitzel (Mandel-Schnitzel).  Traditional Almond Schnitzel is cooked in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.  Almond Schnitzel is veal cutlets dipped in sour cream and dredged in almonds.  Breadcrumbs are optional in that old recipes, but purists allow no bread crumbs.
     It is somewhat difficult for an amateur cook to make traditional Almond Schnitzel correctly on a first attempt.  This is because it is difficult to imagine sautéing sour cream and almond coated veal cutlets till they are browned, without ending up with a big mess that sticks to the pan.  The cooking technique is not easy to master.  I used to make traditional Almond Schnitzel at a yacht club and it took a few practice attempts to get the timing right, so the entrée looked perfect.
     There is an almond flavored schnitzel that is much easier to make than traditional Mandel-Schnitzel.  This is what today's café style Almond Breaded Pork Schnitzel recipe is all about.  This recipe involves making a breading mixture that contains sliced almonds, then breading the cutlets just like making ordinary schnitzel.
     I have cooked Almond Breaded Pork Schnitzel at English pubs and French cafés as a lunch or dinner special du jour a few times during my career.  This entrée can be served plain on a plate or it can be served with an accompanying sauce.  Fruit sauces are the best choice.  Apricot Sauce is particularly nice with Almond Breaded Pork Schnitzel.
     Any time that a meat other than veal is used to make schnitzel, the meat has to be identified in the name of the entrée or recipe.  When just the word Schnitzel appears on a menu, by law the meat has to be veal.  When the meat is pork, the entrée name has to be written as Pork Schnitzel or Schweineschnitzel.

     Cooking almond breaded meat cutlets of any kind can be tricky.  Deep frying is the method that lower quality restaurants use.  Pan frying is the better method.  The tricky part is adjusting the temperature, so the almonds become golden brown and so they do not scorch.  
     Almond breaded meats cannot be pan fried at too low of a temperature or the breading will become saturated with fat.  At a medium temperature, the almond breaded cutlets will have to be flipped a few times to prevent scorching the almonds.  If the almonds are cooked darker than golden brown, then they will be bitter tasting.
     The almond breaded pork cutlets in the pictures were cooked just right.  Both the breadcrumb coating and the almonds are golden brown with no dark spots.  The cutlets were cooked over moderate heat and they were flipped a few times to control the rate of browning.  

     Almond Pork Schnitzel:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     There is almost always some breading mixture leftover when breading meats.  The mixture can be refrigerated in a container for 7 days. 
     Step 1:  Place 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 ounce of milk.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Whisk the ingredients, till they are blended.
     Set the egg wash aside.
     Step 2:  Place 2 cups of plain fine French breadcrumbs in a shallow wide pan.
     Add 1 cup of sliced almonds.
     Mix the breading mixture together.  
     Step 3:  Cut 2 slices of pork loin that weigh 3 to 4 ounces apiece.
     Pound the cutlets thin and even with a meat mallet.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 4:  Dredge the cutlets in flour.
     Dip the cutlets in the egg wash.
     Dredge one cutlet at a time in the almond breading mixture.
     Gently press the breading mixture onto the cutlets.
     Step 5:  Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add enough vegetable oil, so there is about a 1/4" deep layer in the pan.  
     Add 2 tablespoons of clarified butter.
     Adjust the temperature of the oil to 350ºF.
     Step 6:  Pan fry the almond breaded cutlets.  (Fry 1 at a time if 2 do not fit in the pan.) 
     Allow the cutlets to turn a golden color on the bottom side before flipping.
     Flip the cutlets occasionally to prevent excessive browning.  Keep in mind that almonds only take a few minutes to scorch!
     Pan fry till the cutlets turn a golden brown color.
     Step 7:  Place the Almond Breaded Pork Schnitzel on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Place the Almond Pork Schnitzel on a plate. 
     Serve with vegetables and a potato of your choice.
     *The vegetables in the pictures were boiled buttered tourné potatoes, blanched broccoli and a fluted peeled portobello mushroom cap.  

     Simple and elegant tasting!  No sauce is needed, if the almond breading is cooked to a golden color. The almond flavor is plenty nice enough.  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

USDA Prime Grade Top Sirloin Steak with Tamarind Bourbon Steak Sauce

     A Classic Fine Dining Steakhouse Entrée!
     Today's recipe features a classic steakhouse restaurant cut of beef.  Great steakhouses market USDA Prime Grade Beef as a minimum quality standard.  A USDA Choice Grade Top Sirloin Steak does not have enough fat marbling to guarantee that the steak will be tender.  A USDA Prime Grade Top Sirloin Steak has plenty of fat marbling and it is guaranteed to be tender, even if it is cooked to a medium well temperature!
     Many beef steak connoisseurs agree that a USDA Prime Grade Top Sirloin Steak has the richest beef steak flavor of all steaks.  This why classic steakhouse restaurants offer this steak on the menu.  
     Regular grocery store do not carry USDA Prime Grade Beef.  Butcher shops are the only place where USDA Prime Grade Beef can be found.  For a special occasion or a holiday weekend, Prime Grade Steaks are well worth the price.   The USDA Prime Grade Top Sirloin Steak in the pictures above was purchased at The Butcher Block in Las Vegas.

      Setting a bottle of pre-manufsctured commercial steak sauce on a table is like advertising another company's brand name.  Many chefs resign to offering bottled brand name steak sauces and can be likened to selling out.  A steak sauce company sure does not pay a restaurant a commission to feature its product, so from a profit driven standpoint purchasing bottles of steak sauce does nothing but raise a restaurant's food cost percentage.  Another reason not to offer brand name steak sauces amounts to restaurant rating systems.  In the highest fine dining restaurant rating category, a restaurant loses points for offering manufactured products directly to customers.
     Great steakhouse restaurant chefs always make their own signature steak sauce!  Today's steak sauce recipe has a classic flavor that is familiar to many steak lovers.  Tamarind paste is the base of the sauce.  Tamarind has an extremely tart flavor.  It take patience and plenty of sweetening to balance the flavor.  Adding savory spices and sweet onion also helps.  Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Bourbon naturally tames the flavor of tamarind.  Today's steak sauce recipe does taste better than any bottled steak sauce on the market.  A fresh hand crafted steak sauce is always best.  
     Selecting A Bourbon For Cooking:
     A good old fashioned Kentucky Bourbon that has a full flavor profile is best for cooking.  A Bourbon that is aged in dark roasted oak barrels has the strongest flavor and the darkest color.  A classic Straight Bourbon that has a sour mash consisting of about 85% corn, 10% wheat grain and 5% rye grain is a smooth tasting classic.
     Bourbon for recipes does not have to be aged for and extended time and it does not have to be a single barrel batch.  These types of Bourbon command a high price and they should not be used for cooking.  In fact it would be a sin to use a top shelf Bourbon in a recipe!    
     The selection should be Straight Bourbon, because Straight Bourbon is the only Bourbon that has a minimum aging requirement of 2 years.  This means that even the cheapest Straight Bourbon on the market will have a remarkably good rich mellow flavor.

     Substitutes for Bourbon?  There is none!  Standard Whiskey, Frontier Whiskey and Blended Whiskey rarely have the Federal minimum standard of 51% corn in the sour mash, like Bourbon does.  The flavor of Blended Whiskey is weak, because it is diluted with neutral grain spirits.
     Rye Whiskey has too much spicy bite for making a classic steak sauce.  Rye Whiskey is not a substitute for Bourbon.
     Scotch Whiskey tastes nothing like bourbon, because peat is used to roast the barrels.  Peat is basically mossy top soil that contains traces of farm animal excrement amongst other things.
     Canadian Whiskey is not a good substitute either, because it is fortified with grain alcohol and there is not enough corn liquor flavor.  Canadian Whiskey is blended to be extra strong and mellow tasting for folks that live in icy cold weather.
     Oddly enough, Corn Liquor Moonshine is basically White Clear Bourbon that has not been aged in an oak barrel.  Moonshine actually is better than Bourbon for certain recipes, like fruit sauces.

     There is good cheap Bourbon and there is better cheap Bourbon in America, because the level of competition is high.  Many bargain price Bourbons actually are very underrated.  A good cheap Straight Bourbon Whiskey that has a dark charred oak barrel aged color is best for using in recipes.  
     My personal bargain price choice for recipes is Evan William's Kentucky Sour Mash Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  Evan William's Black Label Bourbon Whiskey runs for about $10 a bottle.  Evan Williams Straight Kentucky Bourbon not only has a rich flavor that is perfect for using in recipes, it is the top choice of those who have to live on a tight budget.  This Straight Bourbon really makes a good rich tasting Mint Julep on Kentucky Derby Day too!

     Tamarind Bourbon Steak Sauce:
     This recipe yields 2 generous portions of steak sauce!  (About 6 ounces.)
     Blocks of pressed tamarind paste are available at Asian food markets.  Select a block that is labeled as seedless.  Even though the label says seedless, the fruit must be checked for seeds after it reconstitutes in warm water.
     The spice mixture is complex, but it yields a great tasting steak sauce.  Most of the exotic spices can be found in an Indian food market.  
     The Straight Bourbon should be added after a sweet sour flavor balance is achieved.
     Step 1:  Place 1/3 cup of seedless tamarind fruit paste in a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 3 cups of water.
     Simmer till the fruit becomes tender.
     Step 2:  Stir and check for any tamarind seeds.  Remove the seeds if any are found.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground galangal powder.  (Thai Blue Ginger Powder)
     Add 4 whole cloves.  (spice cloves)
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Step 4:  Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ancho chile powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of achiote paste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whole Brazilian Pink Peppercorns.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of whole mustard seed.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of whole black caraway seeds.
     Add 6 dried whole juniper berries.
     Step 5:  Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 teaspoons of malt vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Chinese Black Vinegar.  (Chinkiang Vinegar)
     Add 1 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of dijon mustard.
     Step 6:  Add 2 tablespoons of palm sugar.
     Add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.
     Add sea salt to taste.
     Step 7:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat
     Gently simmer the sauce.
     *Not all tamarind is created equal.  Some tamarind paste is more sour than others.  After ten minutes of simmering, taste the very thin sauce to see if the sweet sour balance is okay.  Add a little bit more granulated sugar if the sauce is too tangy.
     Step 9:  Add 1 cup of Kentucky Sour Mash Straight Bourbon.  Do not flambé!
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, so the alcohol evaporates.
     Step 10:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.  Use a small rubber spatula to press the tamarind and onion pulp through the strainer, but try not to press the whole spice seeds through.
     Step 11:  Simmer and reduce the sauce over very low heat, till it is a medium thin puree steak sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Remove the sauce from the heat.
     Allow the sauce to cool.
     Refrigerate the sauce for 2 hours, so the flavors mellow.
     *Warm the sauce to room temperature before serving.

      USDA Prime Grade Top Sirloin Steak:
     Select a USDA Prime Grade Top Sirloin Steak that weighs 14 to 16 ounces.  The steak should be about 1" thick.  
     Season with sea salt and crushed black pepper.
     Heat a char grill or cast iron ribbed griddle to a medium/medium high temperature.
     Cook the steak to the desired finish temperature.  (Medium/rare to medium is best for a good Top Sirloin Steak.)  Be sure to occasionally brush the steakwith melted unsalted butter.  
     Place the steak on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan and let the steak rest for 2 minutes. 

     USDA Prime Grade Top Sirloin Steak with Tamarind Bourbon Steak Sauce:
     Place the USDA Prime GradeTop Sirloin Steak in the front center of a plate.
     Place a glass ramekin of the Tamarind Bourbon Steak Sauce on the plate.
     Place a vegetable medley garnish of your choice on the plate.  
     *Buttered, seasoned okra, mushroom, finger potato and red bell pepper is a nice medley!

     The hearty rich flavor of a tender Prime Grade Top Sirloin Steak with a good steak sauce is hard to beat!  

Friday, May 1, 2015

Kentucky Derby Pecan Crusted Pork Cutlet with Mint Julep Vidalia Onions

     Kentucky Derby Day! 
     The Kentucky Derby is tradition at its best.  Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, is like no other place on earth.  The first time that I walked through the old grandstand section was truly inspirational.  You can literally feel the history and the ghosts of the past in that old building.
     I never used to miss a handicapping contest in Las Vegas, especially during the Triple Crown qualifying race season.  I played the horses everyday for many years and pretty much made a living at this game.  Horse race wagering is the most difficult gambling game that there is and the money management involved can really put the nerves to the test.
     In the 1980's I worked in a French café that had a chef who really liked horse racing.  Most of the cafés clientele were millionaires from an exclusive island community.  These kind of people tend to show off on Kentucky Derby Day and place big wagers on the race.  On Kentucky Derby Day we offered Kentucky Derby Pecan Crusted Veal Cutlet as a special du jour.  The sauce that day was the chef's creation and it really did not do the entrée justice.  It was a mint flavored bourbon sauce made with instant beef bouillon and corn starch.  Corn starch thickened sauces are kind of taboo in fine dining cuisine for many reasons.  One reason is that when a cheap corn starch sauce cools, it has the texture of pudding.
     Years went by and I decided to improve the recipe.  Mint and bourbon flavored sweet vidalia onions is better suited for a pecan crusted cutlet.  Every bite tastes like savory pecans with a light Mint Julep chaser.  Since this recipe has a Kentucky theme, a pork loin cutlet is also a better choice than veal.  This all adds up to a fantastic tasting entrée for Kentucky Derby Day!
     Pecan Crusted Pork Cutlet with Mint Julep Vidalia Onions:
     This recipe yields 1 entree.
     Step 1:  Pound a 6 ounce pork loin cutlet flat and thin with a mallet or wine bottle.
     Dredge the pork cutlet in flour that is seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.
     Dip the floured cutlet in buttermilk.
     Dredge the cutlet in a mixture of 50% plain fine French bread crumbs and 50% finely chopped pecans.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Wait for the butter to turn a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Sauté the pecan breaded pork cutlet on both sides, till it is a golden brown color.  (Flip the cutlet twice to prevent the pecans from scorching!)
     Remove the cutlet from pan and set it on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess butter.
     Keep the cutlet warm on a stove top.
     Step 4:  Place a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/3 cup of small chopped sweet vidalia onion.
     Sauté the onions till they turn clear in color.
     Step 5:  Add 1/3 cup of Kentucky Bourbon.
     Add 1/4 cup of beef stock.
     Add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid by half.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint leaves.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid, till it is nearly evaporated.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, while stirring, to finish the mint julep vidalia onions.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 7:  Place the cutlet on a plate.
     Spoon the mint julep vidalia onions over the pecan crusted pork cutlet.
     Accompanying Southern Style Vegetables:
     • Apple wedges that are stewed with cinnamon, sugar and butter are nice with this entrée.
     • Sliced yellow squash and sliced leek sautéed in butter seasoned with black pepper and sea salt is a nice modern southern style vegetable.
     • Fried slices of ripe plantain are southern Florida favorite.  Fried plantains are a nice alternative to sweet potato.
     This Kentucky style entree is delicious!  The flavors are comfortably warm and friendly.  This is my favorite entrée to offer as a special du jour on Kentucky Derby Day! 

Hickory Smoked Bacon and Baby Corn Salad with White Truffle Oil Vinaigrette

     A Great Tasting Cafée Style Summer Salad!
     Today's simple vinaigrette salad is as good tasting as it looks!  Making a casual tossed salad is okay for most folks, but it only takes a little more effort to make a composed café style salad presentation that has eye appeal.

     Tastefully done minimalistic composed food presentations are much more appreciated in a relaxed fine dining atmosphere, like at a café, bistro or steakhouse.  A salad with an excess of unnecessary ingredients that are not integral with the theme of the salad always looks like the garde manger cook was struggling to prove their own worth.
     Everything on any plate of food has to be integral and edible.  This is the basic rule of all classic food presentations.  Items like rosemary sprigs and thyme sprigs can only be used as garnishes if an aromatic effect is required, but a better choice is to garnish with a leafy herb that is edible as it is.

     One of the most effective salad plating designs themes is a symmetric design.  Symmetric salad presentations involve a little bit of geometry.  Each item on the plate is arranged on the plate with a central focal point.  All food components area geometrically placed on the plate in a way that guides or lures a guest's eyes to the central focal point.  A symmetric composed salad design looks the same from whatever angle the salad is viewed, no matter which seat at a table that a guest views the salad from.
     The grandfather chef of all modern fine dining French food presentations, Marie Antoine Carême, nearly always used geometric and symmetric design when creating food presentations for banquet style table settings and individual plates of food.  Carême food presentations nearly always had a central focal point that looked the same from all angles.

     The ingredients in today's café style summer salad go nice with the flavor of the white truffle oil vinaigrette.  Lightly pickled baby corn (cornlettes) and crisp smoked bacon actually is a classic American flavor combination.  The White Truffle Oil Vinaigrette accents this flavor combination in a way that must be experienced to be believes.  The rich tasting mushroom vinaigrette brings today's salad up to casual fine dining café standards.

     Baby ears of corn are always better fresh, but high quality pre-made jars of pickled baby corn is a good choice too.  Pickled baby corn that is packaged in a small glass jar is a much higher quality manufactured product than baby corn from a tin can.
     The flavor of white truffle is a little lighter tasting than black truffle oil.  Some white truffle oil brands are better than others.  Always seek the white truffle oil brand that has the richest flavor.  Cheap brands have very little flavor at all.    

     *This entire recipe yields 1 serving.
     Hard Boiled Egg:  
     Every so often, I do describe how to boil an egg.  Many who read recipes in this website are learning how to cook.
     *Fresh eggs that are less than a few days old make lousy hard boiled eggs.  Eggs that are 2 weeks old are the best for making hard boiled eggs.  
     Start by placing the egg in a sauce pot full of cold salted water.
     Place the pot over high heat.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Set the timer for 12 minutes for a fully cooked hard boiled egg.  (Or set the timer for 8.5 to 9 minutes if a hard boiled egg with a soft yolk is preferred.)
     Cool and peel the egg under cold running water.
     Store the egg in a container of water in a refrigerator.
     Hickory Smoked Bacon Pieces:
     Heat a griddle or sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Cut 1 1/2 slice of hickory smoked bacon into small lardon shape pieces.
     Sauté the smoked bacon till it is crispy and lightly browned.
     Place the bacon pieces in a strainer to drain off any excess grease.
     Keep the smoked bacon pieces warm on a stove top.
     White Truffle Oil Vinaigrette: 
     This is a simple stirred loose vinaigrette.  Many times a loose vinaigrette that is not emulsified is a good choice.  
     Step 1:  Place 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar in a small bowl.
     Add 1/2 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of minced Italian Parsley.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of rich tasting white truffle oil.  (Add 2 tablespoons if the truffle oil is a weak tasting blended white truffle oil, then skip adding the olive oil.)
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of mild tasting pomace olive oil.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Allow the vinaigrette to stand for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Stir the vinaigrette before serving.
     Hickory Smoked Bacon and Baby Corn Salad with White Truffle Oil Vinaigrette:
     Step 1:  Mound 2 1/3 cups of mixed baby lettuce on the center of a plate.
     Step 2:  Alternate cucumber slices and tomato half slices on the plate around the mound of lettuce.
     Step 3:  Place a few small thin strips of green bell pepper on the lettuce.
     Place a few very thin strips of carrot on the lettuce.
     Sprinkle the pieces of smoked bacon on the lettuce.
     Step 4:  Cut 3 or 4 ears of pickled baby corn in half lengthwise.
     Arrange the baby corn halves on top of the cucumbers and tomatoes around the lettuce, so they look nice.
      Step 5:  Spoon just enough of the white truffle oil vinaigrette over the salad to add flavor.  (Try not to use too much salad dressing!  The salad ingredients should just be coated with flavor and not swimming in the salad dressing!)
     Step 6:  Place a half of a hard boiled egg half on top of the salad.
     Garnish the egg with bias sliced green onion.

     Viola!  A light summer salad with classic French and American flavors!