Sunday, June 28, 2015

Blue Crab Galantine with Avocado and Confetti Pepper Vinaigrette

     A Nice Café Style Salad Entrée!
     Today's galantine was made with 2 medium size live blue crabs.  That is as fresh as it gets!  The additives to the crab meat in the galantine should be less than 5% of the total mixture.  In other words, a grab galantine should contain 95% crab meat, just like a Maryland Crab Cake.

     I learned how to make Crab Galantines while working with an old French Executive Chef from Provence.  One fourth of our business at that formal French restaurant was Crab Galantine sales!  We sold one 1 Crab Galantine as an appetizer and 2 galantines as an entrée.
     By describing the French Chef as being old, there is a good point to make.  This chef road a bicycle several miles to work everyday.  He ate a steady diet of seafood.  This chef was an experienced mountain climber and he scaled every famous mountain peak worldwide.  On his 65th birthday, the old French Chef actually climbed Mt Everest!  This just goes to show that the stereotypical view that many people have of chefs that are retirement age should just be tossed out the window!

     Technically a Crab Galantine is a true Galantine.  Many chefs define Galantine only as being chicken mousseline encased in chicken skin, that is molded into a cylinder shape before it is cooked.  These chefs claim that Galantine can only be made with poultry.  This not exactly true.
    In essence, Chicken Galantine is just a cylinder shaped pâté that is made with forcemeat.  Cylinder shape and forcemeat are the key words that add credence to extending the definition to cover items like a Crab Galantine.
     Just because crab has no skin, it does not mean that is cannot be prepared as a Galantine.  Shelled crab meat technically is forcemeat.  The crab meat is bound with egg and breadcrumb so it congeals like a pâté.  The crab meat is packed in a cylinder shaped steel ring mold, then it is cooked.  The result is a cylinder shaped congealed Crab Galantine.  Viola!  The word Galantine is redefined!

     All I can say is that the old French Chef must have cooked tens of thousands of Crab Galantines at his restaurant in France, before opening a restaurant in America.  In France, the idea was novel and new.  The Crab Galantine idea was never criticized by French gourmet societies.  In fact the idea drew applause.
     All I can say is that if a "so called expert chef" claims that there is no such thing as a Crab Galantine, then just ignore what is said.  As one can see in the photos, there is such a thing!

      The French chef presented his Crab Galantines conservatively with a Beurre Blanc, because the restaurant clientele was comprised of conservative elderly Florida millionaires.  I thought that a Blue Crab Galantine would also be nice if it was served as a lunch salad entrée.  The Confetti Vinaigrette and sliced avocado presentation turned out to be a good idea for a café style salad.  The flavors go well together.

     Blue Crab Boil:
     This recipe yield 2 medium size blue crabs.
     This crab boil is lightly seasoned and it is well suited for today's recipe.  Most commercial pre-made crab boil spice mixes have an overbearing flavor. 
     *Only live crabs are safe to eat!  Throw away any dead crabs.
     Step 1:  Boil 1 gallon water in a pot over high heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of black peppercorns.
     Add 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 large sprig of fresh dill.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 clove of chopped garlic.
     Add 2 pinches of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Step 2:  Boil for 5 minutes, so the flavor develops.  Add water if necessary.
     Step 3:  Add 2 medium size live blue crabs.
     Boil the crabs for about 8 to 10 minutes, till they are fully cooked.
     Remove the crabs from the crab boil and let the crabs cool to room temperature.
     Confetti Pepper Vinaigrette:
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup.
     This is a stirred loose vinaigrette.
     Sweet mini bell peppers are best for this recipe.  They come in a variety of bright colors.  
     Step 1:  Place 2 tablespoons of small diced red bell pepper in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small diced yellow bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced green onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Step 2:  Add 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of pomegranate vinegar.
     Add 2 tablespoons of pomace olive oil while stirring.
     Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil while stirring.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 3:  Chill the Confetti Vinaigrette for 1 hour.  
     Warm the vinaigrette to room temperature and stir before serving.
     Blue Crab Galantine: 
     This recipe yields 1 petite Blue Crab Galantine.
     The crab mixture should be 95% crab meat and 5% of the rest of the ingredients.
     Step 1:  Shell the 2 boiled blue crabs and remove all of the usable meat.  (Try to leave the crab meat in chunks and do not shred the meat.)
     Step 2:  Place the crab meat in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely chopped red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely chopped yellow bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced green onion.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Add just a very light little sprinkle of bread crumbs.  (About 2 teaspoons of bread crumbs is plenty!)
     Add 2 teaspoons of whisked egg.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of melted unsalted butter.
     Gently mix the ingredients together.
     Step 4:  Place a 1 1/2" to 2" wide stainless steel ring mold on a cutting board.  (The ring mold should be about 2" tall.)
     Lightly brush the inside of the ring mold with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the crab cake mixture in the ring mold.
     Firmly press the crab mixture into ring mold.  Be sure that the ring mold is completely filled.  (Any extra crab mixture can be cooked like a small patty for a snack!)
     Step 5:  Heat a sauté pan or cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Step 6:  Slide a spatula under the ring mold that is filled with the crab mixture.
     Use the spatula to set the ring mold with the crab mixture in the hot pan.
     Grill the bottom of the galantine for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, till the surface of the crab meat is a light golden brown color and a crust forms.
     Step 7:  Use a spatula cap the top of the ring mold, then grasp the ring mold with tongs to flip the galantine over.
     Grill the galantine for about 30 seconds.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Cover the top of the galantine with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
     Place the sauté pan with the crab galantine in a 350ºF oven.
     Roast for about 5 minutes, till the galantine is hot in the center.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Remove the foil or parchment paper from the top of the galantine.
     Use a spatula to set the ring mold on a cutting board.
     Let the galantine rest till it cools to just above room temperature, so it gels.
     Step 10:  Hold the ring mold with a dry towel wrapped around your fingers.
     Use a spoon to gently press the crab galantine down, while lifting the ring mold up 1/4 of an inch.  
     *Do not completely remove the ring mold yet!  This step will loosen the galantine in the ring mold, so plating the galantine will be easier.

     Blue Crab Galantine with Avocado and Confetti Pepper Vinaigrette:
     This recipe yields 1 petite salad.
     Step 1:  Arrange several avocado slices on a plate, so the slices point out from the center.
     Use a ring mold to place a small mound of alfalfa sprouts in the center of the of the plate.
     Place a few peeled thin sliced cucumber slices on top of the sprouts.  Try to form a round flat surface for the galantine to set on.
     Step 2:  Use a spatula to set the galantine on top of the cucumbers and gently remove the loosened ring mold.  (Grasp the ring mold and use a spoon to press the galantine out like a cork!)
     Step 3:  Spoon a generous amount of the Confetti Pepper Vinaigrette over the avocado slices.

     The aroma of a very lightly seasoned Crab Galantine is elegant!  The galantine cooking method causes congealing and gelling of the crab meat juices with the egg to form an angelic texture that is superior to an ordinary crab cake.  This is a nice French Provence regional style of cooking blue crab.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fettuccine with Crawfish and Okra en Tomato Ragoût

     Louisiana Style Pasta!
     On first glance, the sauce looks like a Creole Sauce.  People do tend to associate crawfish and the color red as being Crawfish Creole.  The cooking technique for making Creole Sauce and Tomato Ragoût are nearly the same.  The main difference is the flavor.  Herbs de Provence flavor today's Tomato Ragoût.
     Many restaurants in New Orleans feature French food, because the French heritage in this region.  New Orleans French recipes tend to be traditional and old fashioned.  Many of the French cuisine  recipes are classic recipes from the 1800's that have not changed to this day.
     Today's Louisiana style pasta that was made with fresh ripe red tomatoes.  The fresh plum tomatoes in my area have been ripe and dark red lately.  These kind of ripe tomatoes are great for al fresco sauces and ragouts.  Fresh red ripe tomato sauces are refreshing in the summer season when temperatures climb through the roof.
     The okra in this pasta recipe becomes tender in the same amount of time that it takes to stew ripe tomatoes.  It does not take much time to stew red ripe fresh tomatoes!  When okra is stewed for a short time, it does not become slimy.
     Fettuccine with Crawfish and Okra en Tomato Ragoût:
     This recipe yields 1 petite pasta entrée.
     This sauce does not take much time to prepare if soft red ripe fresh tomatoes are used.
     *Keep a pot of water boiling so the pasta can be cooked later in the recipe.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add !/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Sauté till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 5-7 small fresh okra that are cut in half lengthwise.
     Add 2 soft red ripe plum tomatoes that are cut into 3/8" thick wedges.
     Gently sauté the tomatoes for 2 minutes.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
     Simmer and reduce, till the liquid is almost evaporated.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of tomato puree.
     Add 1 cup of shrimp broth.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 2 pinches of Herbs du Provence.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 15 to 20 peeled poached crawfish tails and their orange fat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 pinches of finely chopped curly leaf parsley.
     Step 5:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to very low.
     Step 6:  Now is the time to start cooking the fettuccine!  Cook 1 small portion of fettuccine in boiling water over high heat, till the pasta is al dente.
     Step 7:  Simmer and reduce the ragoût, till it becomes a medium thick consistency, with no excess liquid.
     Keep the ragout warm over very low heat.
     Step 8:  About 1 minute before the fettuccine is cooked al dente, place 4 whole poached crawfish in the hot pasta water.
     When the pasta finishes cooking, drain the water off of the crawfish and fettucini.  Use tongs to remove the crawfish and set them aside.
     Step 9:  Add the fettuccine to the ragoût.
     Toss the ragout and pasta together.
     Step 1:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Step 2:  Use a long straight tine carving fork to gather the pasta in the pan, while spinning the fork.
     Turn the fork with the pasta vertically onto the center of a plate while continually spinning the fork.
     Pull the fork straight up.  You should end up with a small vertical twist of fettucini on the plate!
     Step 3:  Spoon the crawfish okra tomato ragout a la herbs de provence on the plate around the pasta.
     Place the 4 warm whole poached crawfish on the sauce around the pasta as a garnish.
     Garnish the plate with a parsley sprig and a thin lemon wedge.
     The whole crawfish are nice to snack on between bites of the pasta.  This is a nice petite pasta portion for a multi course dinner.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Strawberry Sherbet

     The Best Tasting Strawberry Sherbet!
     I usually do not purchase frozen fruits or vegetables, but I could not resist a bargain while breezing down the grocery store aisle.  One pound bags of frozen whole strawberries were on sale for about 75¢.  So, I purchased a bag and the thinking process took off in the direction of making strawberry ice cream.
     Chain restaurants often serve canned frozen crushed strawberries as a dessert sauce and many bars use this product to make Strawberry Daiquiris.  Those are the only ways that I have seen frozen strawberries used in the past.
     Other than what low budget restaurant and bars use frozen strawberries for, I figured that making a frozen dessert or a dessert sauce was all that frozen strawberries were good for.  Since making sundries involves freezing, it really does not matter whether the fruit is fresh or frozen.
     The only question that comes to mind is quality.  Fresh strawberries taste semi sweet and a little bit tart.  Frozen strawberries taste more tart than sweet, because they are harvested just before the fruit is fully rip and the carbohydrates have not all converted to fructose.
     Since the flavor of frozen strawberries are tart, go with it!  Making sorbet or sherbet is a better choice than making ice cream, when the strawberries are tart.  Sugar acts as an antifreeze or liquefier that prevents sorbet and sherbet from turning into a block of ice after the product is stored in a freezer.  Sorbet and sherbet require about 22% to 30% sugar.  The high sugar content range leaves plenty of room to balance the tart frozen strawberry flavor.

     What is sherbet?  This is a question that many folks really do not know, even though they have eaten sherbet their entire life.  Sherbet is a sorbet that has a small amount milk or cream added to it.  When milk is added to sorbet, the measurement of sugar has to be increased to compensate for the extra liquid, so the sherbet does not turn into ice when it is frozen.
    Sorbet and sherbet require no stabilizers, like gelatin, pectin, corn starch, gum or egg yolks (crème anglaise).  However, sherbet does benefit from a clear stabilizer like gum, gelatin or pectin.  Pectin is the best choice, because it reacts with sugar and fruit in a unique way.  Pectin thickens a hot fruit puree and it helps to preserve the color of the fruit.  Pectin stabilizes a sherbet, so the texture of the sherbet turns out perfectly smooth and creamy.
     The reason why I used pectin to stabilize the hot strawberry and sugar puree was because when I looked at photos in sorbet recipes on the internet, few of them looked smooth.  Most looked rather coarse and unprofessional.  Professional pastry chefs often use Arabic Gum or Acacia Gum to stabilize an acidic fruit sherbet, so the finished product looks smooth and perfect.  Pectin accomplishes the same thing.
     Pectin is made from apples and onions.  Basically, if only enough pectin is added to the hot fruit puree to create a very thin French Gelée, the finished sherbet will be stable and smooth.  The French culinary word Gelée means "in suspension or to keep in suspension."  A small proportion of pectin serves this purpose.    

     Strawberry Sherbet:  
     • This recipe yields 2 1/2 cups of sherbet puree.  After churning in an ice cream machine, the volume increases, so expect a yield of about 3 1/4 cups of finished strawberry sherbet!
     • This sherbet has a very intense strawberry flavor, because the proportion of milk was kept small!
     • I use a Brevard Stainless Steel Ice Cream Machine that has a 3 1/2 cup liquid capacity.  This machine has digital controls and it is automated.  When making today's strawberry sherbet, set hardness control to the firmest sorbet setting on the machine.  This churning range is just a little less than the setting that is used to make gelato. 
     • Powdered Pectin Stabilizes the fruit puree.  Every brand of powdered pectin varies in strength.  Only a small amount of pectin is needed to turn the strawberry puree into a very thin gelée.  The thickened strawberry gelée should be the consistency of a thin pourable dessert sauce.   
     Step 1:  Place 16 ounces of frozen whole strawberries in a stainless steel sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 cup water.  (4 ounces)
     Add 6.75 ounces granulated sugar.
     Add 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of powdered pectin.
     *Depending on the brand of pectin, the amount may vary.  The goal is to thicken the finished pureed strawberry mixture to a very thin dessert sauce consistency.
     Step 2:  Place the pot over medium heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil while stirring with a whisk.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer for a few minutes, while stirring till the strawberries become soft.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Use an electric blending wand, food processor or blender to puree the strawberry mixture.
     Step 5:  *This step will cause the aerated puree to lose the air bubbles and the puree will return to a natural red color.
     Return the strawberry puree to the sauce pot.
     Bring the puree to a gentle simmer over medium low heat, while stirring with a whisk.
     Step 6:  Take the pot off the heat.
     Pour the puree into a container.
     Chill the puree in a refrigerator, till it reaches a temperature of about 45ºF to 50ºF.
    *The puree should thicken to a very thin dessert sauce consistency and the bits of strawberry should remain in suspension.  
     Step 7:  Add 4 ounces of milk while whisking.
     Pour the strawberry sherbet puree through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     *The yield should be about 2 1/2 cups after straining.  This amount is small enough to fit in a small batch ice cream machine drum. 
     Chill the strawberry sherbet puree to 41ºF in a refrigerator.
     Step 8:  Pre-cool a small batch ice cream machine.  (Brevard is the best!)
     Set the churn time setting to the firmest sorbet range.
     Pour the sherbet mixture in the ice cream drum and assemble the churn.
     Press the start button and let the ice cream machine do the rest of the work!
     Step 9:  When the strawberry sherbet finishes, pack it into a container.
     Freeze the strawberry sherbet for 6 hours, so the sherbet hardens and the flavors mellow.
     Step 10:  Serve up a few scoops to guests and watch the smiles grow from ear to ear!

     Viola!  An intense tasting smooth strawberry sherbet that will please any sherbet fan!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Confit de Faisan

     Pheasant Confit!   
     Those who are familiar with Duck Confit will certainly like the flavor of Pheasant Confit.  Confit is a very old method of cooking and preserving duck, goose or game birds.  A properly made confit can be sealed in a glass canning jar and then safely stored in a refrigerator for 6 months.  
     Confit is a method of salting bird meat to help preserve the meat.  Whole legs are the preferred meat for making confit.  After salting, the bird meat is placed in a casserole dish and it is covered with its own rendered fat or a mixture of pork lard and rendered game bird fat.  The confit is then slowly baked at a low temperature for a few hours.  Part of the fat in the baking vessel is poured off and then the exposed skin is roasted till it becomes a little bit crisp.  Confit is best when it is stored in the refrigerator for a few days, before reheating the confit for a meal.

     Pheasant Confit meat is very tender and full of rich wild pheasant flavor.  The confit cooking method is just about the best way to prepare pheasant legs.  Pheasant leg meat is very tough, because pheasant spend most of their day on their feet.  Rendering the meat in its own fat turns tough leg meat into a very pleasant tender texture.  
     Whole pheasant is very expensive to purchase.  Those who are hunters have the edge on cutting cost!  Most modern gourmet chefs only purchase pheasant breast sections for their entrée creations.  The pheasant legs are sold as a byproduct.
     Because pheasant leg meat is less desirable than breast meat, it sells for a very low price.  I purchased 6 pheasant legs at a wild game store for $5.00!  Old school classic gourmet chefs would be pleased to see a modern chef make use of the pheasant legs, instead of just going for the glory by only featuring the costly breast meat.  Classic French cuisine wastes nothing and makes use of every item, especially when it comes to preparing wild game birds.

     One classic whole pheasant recipe is Pheasant Under Glass.  Pheasant under glass is rarely served in restaurants that have less than 3 Michelin Stars.  Pheasant under glass is a classic entrée that is still cooked by chefs that work at wealthy private estates and mansions.  Pheasant Poêle is another classic recipe that guarantees that the leg meat will be tender.
     Pheasant legs are popular with both the wealthy clientele and casual down home cooks who have a hunter in the family.  Private chefs at estates often feature pheasant leg entree creations for casual afternoon meals.  Marinated roasted pheasant legs or stewed pheasant legs are nice comfort food items.  Confit de Faisan is well liked in England and Europe and it is usually served as a light afternoon meal.  Confit de Faisan is classic country estate comfort food at its best!

     Rendered Pheasant Fat:
     This recipe yield enough rendered fat for 2 pheasant legs.
     • Usually a cook or chef will continually make small amounts of rendered duck fat or pheasant fat over a period of time, till enough rendered fat is stored to make confit.  
     • Home cooks that do not build up a collection of pheasant fat can add or substitute rendered duck fat.  A small proportion of roasted pork lard can also be added.  Store bought rendered duck fat never has as good of a flavor as home made rendered duck fat.  
     • Small batch roasted pork lard that is sold at Mexican markets is like a home made product, but only a small proportion should be used or the confit will taste like pork!  The same goes for smoked bacon or lardons.  These items are only added for aromatic flavor.  Truffle oil can be added for flavor too.
     Step 1:  Trim all the fat off of 6 to 8 pheasant legs.  (About 2 1/2 to 3 cups is needed.)
     Place the pheasant fat in a sauce pot over low heat.  
     Add 2 strips of smoked bacon. 
     Add 2 tablespoons of white truffle oil.  (Only add 1 tablespoon if the white truffle oil has a strong flavor.)
     Step 2:  Gently and slowly simmer the pheasant fat and smoked bacon, till the pieces of fat become crispy and all of the grease has been rendered free.    
     Step 3:  Pour the liquified pheasant fat through a fine mesh strainer into a container.  
     Keep the flavored pheasant fat warm on a stove top or chill it for later use.
     *Any excess pheasant fat can be used for cooking Austrian style Schnitzel or to flavor vegetables.

     Confit de Faisan: 
     • Every chef that makes confit has their own preference in how the meat is seasoned and flavored.  Today's pheasant confit recipe has a classic European flavor!  
     • Every chef and customer has their own preference as to how crispy they prefer the pheasant confit skin to be.  Many traditionalists prefer minimal browning and no crispiness, because the succulent tender meat is the main attraction.  It it just a matter of personal choice.
     Step 1:  Place 2 whole pheasant leg sections in a container.
     Heavily salt the legs with coarse Kosher Salt.  About 2 tablespoons.  
     Season with black pepper.
     Refrigerate the salted pheasant legs for 1 or 2 days.  (2 days is enough time to completely cure the meat.)
     Step 2:  Remove the pheasant legs from the bowl.
     Rinse off the excess salt and brine.
     Step 3:  Select a ceramic soufflé ramekin that is barely wide enough to fit the pheasant legs in.  (Use the smallest casserole dish possible, so the least amount of rendered fat will be needed.)
     Place the 2 pheasant legs flat on the bottom of the ramekin, with the outer skin side of the legs facing up.
     Place 3 garlic cloves in the casserole dish.
     Add 4 bay leaves.  
     Add 6 black peppercorns.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme leaves.
     Step 4:  Pour the reserved rendered pheasant fat over the pheasant legs.  The legs must be completely covered with the fat.  
     Place the casserole dish on a roasting pan.  
     Loosely cover the casserole dish with a lid or foil.
     Slowly roast the confit in a 275ºF oven till the meat becomes very tender.  (About 2 hours.  When the meat is gently pressed with a spoon, the grain of the meat should easily split.)  
     Step 5:  Remove the lid from the casserole dish.
     Pour off just enough of the rendered fat to barely expose the skin on the pheasant legs.
     *Save the rendered fat that was poured off for later in the recipe!
     Step 6:  Return the ramekin to the 275ºF oven.
     Roast the uncovered confit for 20 to 30 minutes, so the pheasant skin lightly browned and a little bit crisp.
     Step 7:  Remove the confit ramekin from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
     Pour the reserved rendered fat from step 5 over the confit.
     Cover the ramekin with a lid or plastic wrap.
     Place the Confit de Faisan in a refrigerator for at least 2 days.      

     Confit de Faisan Lunch Presentation: 
     Step 1:  Remove the lid from the chilled confit ramekin dish.
     Place the casserole dish on a roasting pan.
     Reheat the pheasant confit slowly in a 275ºF oven.
     Step 2:  Remove the pheasant confit legs from the hot fat.
     *The flavored rendered pheasant fat can be saved for flavoring vegetables.
     Gently pat the excess fat off of the pheasant legs with a dry pastry towel.
     Step 3:  Place the 2 Pheasant Confit Legs on a plate. 
     Garnish the plate with condiments of your choice.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with warm bread, toast points or crackers.
     *The plate in the photos was garnished with warm pita bread (khubz arabi), Chicago Neon Pickle Relish, dijon mustard and capers.
     Pheasant Confit is the best!  Classically delicious!

Raspberries en Zabaglione

     Italian Zabaglione is a very simple recipe, but it can be difficult to make on a first attempt.  I have made a lot of Zabaglione during my chef career.  Zabaglione with strawberries is a classic dessert.  Zabaglione is nice with many other zesty fruits and raspberries are a popular choice.
     There are only 3 ingredients in a basic Italian Zabaglione.  Egg yolks, wine and sugar.  The choice of wine is usually Italian Marsala.  Zabaglione is whisked over a double boiler, till the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
     Many chefs describe Zabaglione as being a pudding.  Zabaglione is much lighter and more angelic than that title suggests!
     Zabaglione can also be used as a dessert sauce.  French Sabayon is the same thing as Italian Zabaglione, except whipped cream is usually added.  If you use a French wine or champagne to make Zabaglione, then Sabayon is the proper word to use.  I used a nice imported Italian Marsala Wine to make today's recipe, so traditional Zabaglione it is!
     This recipe yields enough zabaglione for 2 to 3 petite portions!  
     It is much easier to work with 3 egg yolks, rather than 1, when making zabaglione.
     Step 1:  Select a sauce pot that is slightly smaller than a medium size mixing bowl for the double boiler, so the mixing bowl never touches the water.
     Add about 4 cups of water to the sauce pot.
     Set the sauce pot over high heat.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Step 2:  Place 3 egg yolks in a medium size mixing bowl.  (yolks from large eggs)
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 3 tablespoons of imported Italian Marsala Wine.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Place the mixing bowl on top of the sauce pot of hot water.  (double boiler)
     Start briskly whisking the egg yolk mixture without stopping.
     Constantly and briskly whisk the egg mixture with the goal of aerating the egg yolks to increase the volume.
     Whisk till the egg mixture become very light and fluffy.
     *The zabaglione will turn pale in color and stiff ribbons will appear.  The zabaglione should be able to stand on the back of a spoon and it should not be saucy or runny.
     Step 4:  Remove the zabaglione from the double boiler.
     Continue to whisk for 30 seconds as the bowl cools down.
     Serve the fresh zabaglione while it is still warm.
     Raspberries en Zabaglione:
     Use a stemmed cocktail glass or martini glass to serve this dessert! 
     Place a dollop of the zabaglione in a martini glass.
     Place a few raspberries on the zabaglione.
     Continue to layer the martini glass with raspberries and zabaglione, till the glass is almost full.
     The top layer should be zabaglione.
     Decoratively place a few raspberries on top of the zabaglione.
     Serve immediately while the zabaglione is still warm and aromatic.
     The zabaglione should not be sweet as candy.  A medium level of sweet flavor is best.   The Marsala Wine flavor and aroma should be present.  The texture of a zabaglione is one of the finest dessert textures that there is!  Tart raspberries are perfect with zabaglione.  

Flan de Laurel

     Laurel Flavored Crème Caramel!
     Crème caramel is one of the easiest desserts to make.  Crème Caramel is also called Flan.  Flan is a German word, but it does not mean that Flan was originally created in Germany.  The origins of Flan are probably lie in either Persia, Turkey, Greece, India, China or Spain.  All these countries have a long history of making egg custards of one kind or another.  Nobody knows for sure where Flan originated and some things are best left as a mystery.   
     Flan is the original.  Crème Brûlée came around at a later date.  Flan is a custard baked on top of caramelized sugar.  The caramelized sugar liquifies and becomes a sauce.  
     Crème Brûlée is a cup of chilled custard that is topped with sugar, then the sugar is lightly caramelized under a salamander broiler.  The sugar cools and becomes a crisp candy crust.   
     When making a fancy Flan, either the caramelized sugar or the custard can be flavored with spices, fruit or just about any item that is dessert worthy.  Bay Leaves and Laurel Leaves are a nice choice for flavoring the caramelized sugar, because these herbs are digestifs that sooth the tummy after a meal.   

     Flan de Laurel:
     This recipe yields 2 portions!  
     Wear protective clothing and make sure that no children are present, when working with molten sugar!  One spatter can cause 3rd degree burns!  
     I used a small muffin pan instead of custard cups to make the recipe example.  This is tricky to do.  I decided to write the recipe for ceramic custard cups instead.
     This recipe has a lot of steps, but each step is easy to do.  
     Step 1:  Select 2 custard cups or ceramic soufflé ramekins that are 3 1/2" to 4" wide.
     Step 2:  Select a deep roasting pan that can be used as a bain marie.
     Fill the pan with 3/4" of water.
     Step 3:  Place 2 to 3 small laurel leaves in 2 of the custard cups.
     Step 4:  Place 1/2 cup of sugar in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Boil till the water evaporates and the sugar starts to enter the molten candy stages.
     *When the sugar reaches the hard crack stage, it will only be a short time before the sugar turns amber, so keep an eye on the sugar!
     Allow the sugar to become a golden brown amber color.  (A candy thermometer should read 335ºF to 345ºF)  
     Step 5:  Immediately pour equal amounts of the molten amber sugar over the laurel leaves in the 2 custard cups.  (About 1/4" deep layer of amber sugar is plenty.  Any extra caramel can be used to make sugar garnishes or sauces.)
     Step 6:  Immediately place the custard cups in the water in the roasting pan bain marie to cool the molten sugar and stop the molten sugar from cooking any further.
     Set the custard cups aside on a counter top.
     The laurel leaves will now be sealed in amber sugar glass.  
     Step 7:  Place the yolk from 1 large egg in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 large egg.
     Add 3 ounces of cream.
     Gently whisk the ingredients till they are blended.
     Step 8:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low/low heat.
     Add 6 ounces of cream.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
     Add 2 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Simmer the cream, till the sugar dissolves and the cream reaches 145ºF.
     Step 9:  Slowly pour the hot cream into the mixing bowl that contains the cold eggs and cream, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Step 10:  Pour equal amounts of the warm custard into into the two prepared custard cups.
     Place the custard cups in the roasting pan.
     Add enough water to the roasting pan, so the water level goes halfway up the outside of the custard cups.  (Baking in a water bath is called bain marie.)
     Step 11:  Place the entire bain marie setup in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the top of the custard turns a golden color, like the one in the pictures above.  A toothpick inserted in the custard should pull out clean with no liquid showing.
     Step 12:  Remove the custard cups from the bain marie and allow them to cool to room temperature.
     Cover the custards with plastic wrap.
     Refrigerate for 24 hours.
     Step 13:  Place 1" of water in a sauté pan.
     Place the pan over medium low heat.
     Simmer the water.
     Remove the plastic wrap from the custard cups.
     Run a thin paring knife against the inside of each custard cup, to free the sides of the custard.
     Place the custard cups in the simmering hot water to heat and loosen the hardened caramel.  (This may take 1 to 3 minutes.)
     Step 14:  Remove the custard cups from the hot water.
     Place a plate on a countertop.
     Invert each custard cup and tap it against the plate to pop the custards out.
     Use a spatula to transfer the 2 custards to 2 small dessert plates.
     Step 15:  Return any loose caramel sauce to the 2 custard cups that have hardened caramel stuck in them.  
     Place the custard cups in the hot water bath to melt the caramel.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of hot water to each portion of caramel in the muffin pan.
     Step 16:  When the caramel liquifies, remove the laurel leaves.
     Place the laurel leaves on top of the 2 custards.
     Pour the caramel sauce through a fine mesh strainer over the custards.

     Viola!  It really does take a lot of steps to make a good creme caramel, but the techniques are easy to understand and do.  

Truite Amandine

     A Classic!
     The classic method of preparing Trout Amandine is the best.  A bit of skill is involved with making Trout Amandine the right way. 
     Sprinkling dry toasted almonds over broiled trout is too easy and this style is not the original Trout Amandine.  The almonds should be sautéed in butter till they are golden brown.  This method creates the most intense almond flavor possible.  The almonds should be cooked shortly before the trout is prepared, so the almond aroma is at a peak.
     The trout should be sautéed and not broiled for Truite Amandine.  The skin should be fairly crisp.  Good sauté cooking skills produce the best tasting trout.  

     Drawn butter is low temperature melted butter that is separated from the liquid milk fats.  Many chefs mistakenly call drawn butter clarified butter.  Clarified butter is cooked till more flavor is achieved.  Clarified butter is butter that is cooked to a golden yellow color and the water evaporates while the milk fats stick to the bottom of the pot.  The butter is skimmed and poured through a fine mesh strainer, then clear pure golden color butter that has a very light noisette flavor is the finished product.  
     Beurre Noisette is a light brown butter that has a hazelnut aroma.  Beurre Noisette is cooked for a little more time than clarified butter.  
     Beurre Meunière is brown butter.  The butter is cooked till it becomes a caramelized medium brown color.  
     Beurre Noir is black butter.  The butter is cooked till the milk fats and butter turn very dark brown and a rich caramelized flavor is created.  Beurre Noir should be at a very high temperature when it is poured over fish to achieve the best flavor.  

     The classic sauce for Truite Amandine is Beurre Meunière that is flavored with herbs and lemon.  The brown butter can be made in the same sauté pan that the trout is cooked in.  This requires perfection sauté cooking techniques.  Cooking butter till it becomes brown in a small sauce pot is also a good method.  Either way, the brown butter needs to be poured through a fine mesh strainer, and reheated before adding the herbs and lemon.  The lemon juice will cause foaming, but the lemon flavor will infuse with the caramelized butter flavor.  

     *This entire recipe yields 1 entrée!

     Sautéed Almonds:
     After the almonds are sautéed to a golden brown color, they must be transferred to a shallow dish and spread on the plate, so the carryover heat does not continue to cook the almonds.  A thick pile of hot sautéed almonds will scorch in the center of the pile!
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of clarified unsalted butter.
     Add 3/4 cup of thin sliced almonds.
     Step 2:  Constantly shake the pan.  Constantly flip and toss the almonds, so they all toast evenly.  Sauté till the almonds are a golden brown color and they become aromatic.
     Step 3:  Immediately spread the hot almonds on a plate to cool.
     Lightly season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Keep the almonds warm on a stove top.

     Trout Preparation:
     Remove the head from 1 gutted Rainbow Trout that is about 1 foot in length.
     Trim off the fins and gill flash.
     Remove all the bones, without damaging the skin or the flesh.  
     *Use a knife or kitchen shears to clip the rib bones on either side of the back bone.  
     *Use a filet knife to cut parallel strokes under the rib bones till they can be pulled free.
     *Use the tip of a filet knife to cut between the back bone and the skin, so the back bone can be pulled free.  

     Truite Sauté:
     Step 1:  Season the trout with sea salt and black pepper.
     Dredge the trout in flour.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons of clarified butter.
     Place the trout in the pan with the skin side facing up.
     Sauté till the flour turns a golden color.
     Step 3:  Flip the trout.
     Sauté till the skin is fairly crisp and lightly browned.  (Trout skin does not take much time to become crisp.) 
     Step 4:  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of lemon juice over the trout.
     Use a large spatula to slide the trout onto a serving platter.
     Keep the sautéed trout warm on a stove top. 
     Truite Amandine:
     Step 1:  Drain the grease out of the hot sauté pan.  Brush the pan clean with a dry kitchen towel.
     Add 3 ounces of unsalted butter.
     Place the pan over medium/medium high heat.
     Step 2:  Cook the butter, till the milk fats stick in the pan and till the butter turns a medium brown color.
     Step 3:  Pour the beurre meunière through a very fine mesh strainer into a sauce pot.  Place the sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of a mixture of these minced fresh herbs:
     - Italian parsley
     - tarragon
     - thyme leaves
     Step 4:  Immediately add 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Lightly season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Remove the sauce pot from the heat.
     Allow the butter to foam.
     Step 5:  Place the trout and serving platter on a counter top.
     Spoon the beurre meunière over the trout and on the platter around the trout.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of the sautéed toasted almonds over the trout.
     No garnish is necessary!

     This is the oldest classic style of cooking Truite Amandine that there is and it is the best!  I have cooked a few thousand orders of Truite Amandine like this at yacht clubs.  The old big money clientele prefers old fashioned cooking tradition!  

Cajun Blackened Swordfish Steak with Papaya Chutney

     There Is No Shortage Of Flavor In Louisiana Cuisine!
     Cajun Blackening is a very old cooking technique.  Blackened seafood became popular outside of Louisiana in the 1980's.
     Blackened Grouper or Blackened Redfish were the two most popular items at a Florida fine dining restaurant kitchen that I cooked in back in the '80's.  The chef was from Switzerland and he was trained in France.  We cooked some very nice Louisiana style seafood entrées at that bayside restaurant.  We made our own Blackening Spice Mix too.
     We bought and sold redfish, swordfish, pompano, sea bass, snapper and grouper by the pallet!  I cut so many fresh fish filet portions during prep hours before dinner service, that it was mind boggling.  I was and I still am an expert when it comes to preparing seafood.
     The key to handling seafood in the tropics is to work quickly and to keep the seafood ice cold.  It is essential to keep seafood chilled in the tropics or you risk airborne bacterial contamination.  One bad piece of fish can contaminate a bin full of fish.  Serving spoiled fish is a great way to lose every customer that you have.

     Papaya Chutney:
     This recipe yields about 2 cups of chutney!
     Step 1:  Boil 2 1/2 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 2/3 cup of cider vinegar.
     Add 2/3 cup of sugar.
     Add 1/2 cup of finely chopped peeled apple.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion.
     *Taste the liquid.  The mixture should taste like a balanced sweet and sour flavor.
     Step 2:  Rapidly reduce the liquid over medium high heat, till it becomes a very light syrup.  The apple and onion should turn into pectin by this time.  (The volume will be about 2 cups.)
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced dried fruit.  (Dried cherries, prunes, white raisons or dark raisons are best for making chutney.  The dried fruit adds extra depth and flavor.)    
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced fresh ginger.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin strips of fresh lemon zest.
     Add 2 finely chopped green onions.  (Only use the white sections of the green onions.)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped red bell pepper.
     Add 1 finely minced seeded Green Habanero Chile Pepper.
     Add 1 2/3 cups of small diced peeled and seeded papaya fruit.
     Step 4:  Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 1 pinch of garam masala.
     Step 5:  Bring the ingredients to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the excess liquid evaporates and the chutney is a thick fruit preserves consistency.
     Step 7:  Cool the chutney to room temperature.
     Place the chutney into a storage container.
     Cool the chutney in a refrigerator.
     Allow the chutney to sit undisturbed in the refrigerator for at least 1 week.  (It really takes two weeks for the flavors to fully meld in a chutney.)

     Cajun Blackening Spice Mix: 
     This recipe yields enough Cajun blackening spice for about 3 or 4 fish portion applications.
     The tiny amount of sugar helps to caramelize the highlights of the grains of the fish meat.  The small dash of flour helps the spice mix to stick to the fish.
     This is a basic Cajun blackening spice mix with no extra herbs.    
     Place 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder.
     Add 4 tablespoons of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 4 tablespoons of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of white pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of flour.
     Mix the ingredients together.

     Cajun Blackened Swordfish Steak:
     Blackening does produce some heavy smoke.  Be sure that the kitchen fan is on and that the kitchen is well ventilated.     
     Step 1:  Dredge a 6 to 8 ounce swordfish steak in the blackening spice mix.
     Step 2:  Heat 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a cast iron skillet over medium/medium high heat.
     When the butter begins to smoke, tilt the pan so there is a dry area in the pan to place the fish.  (Do this so the hot butter does not splash.  The butter is so hot, that it can cause severe burns.)
     Lay the pan flat again, so the fish is searing in the hot smoking butter.
     Sear the swordfish steak for about 4 minutes on each side, till black highlights appear.  Only flip the fish steak once!
     Step 3:  When the fish is done cooking, use a spatula to place the fish on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess butter.

     Cajun Blackened Swordfish Steak with Papaya Chutney:
     Transfer the Blackened Swordfish Steak to a serving plate.
     Mound about 3 tablespoons of Papaya Chutney on the fish.
     Garnish the fish with Italian Parsley sprigs.
     Serve with a vegetable of your choice.
     Candied yams are very nice with blackened fish!
     The spicy blackened swordfish is seared dark on the outside and the juices are sealed in.  Blackened fish and chutney go well together!