Sunday, January 31, 2016

Linguine Carbonara

     Modern food historians say that this pasta was given the name "Carbonara" during WWII, when an abundant supply of eggs and bacon was doled out to the Italians via American supply lines.  Many people say that the word "Carbonara" refers to large amounts of black pepper that were sprinkled on the pasta.  This rendition of the origin of Pasta Carbonara is periodically true, but in all likelihood, there is much more to the story.
     Many historians say that the origin of Pasta Carbonara is connected with either the Italian charcoal making industry or an area where charcoal was used extensively for industrial purposes, like glass blowing.  Some food historians say that the name "Carbonara" simply refers to the black carbon soot dust that collects on old wood fired cast iron stoves, which inevitably ends up in the food.  The means that the Italian origin of Pasta Carbonara quite possibly dates back much earlier than WWII.
     Because of the calorie rich nature of Pasta Carbonara, the charcoal kiln region in Central Italy is the most likely place that the sauce originated.  Local dry cured ham and dry cured bacon (Pancetta) have always been easy to come by in this region.  The word "Carbonara" is associated with the black carbon soot dust that comes from stoking charcoal kilns and this adds credence to the matter.
     Operating a charcoal kiln during cold weather is strenuous work that burns up plenty of calories.  The Central Italy charcoal kiln region does get chilly during the winter and a heavy rich pasta sauce would certainly please a cold tired worker that spent all day stoking wood outdoors.  Put it all together and there is good reason to credit the Italian charcoal producing region as the place where the Pasta Carbonara recipe originated.          

     Pancetta and Prosciutto are traditionally used to make Pasta Carbonara.  American style bacon can be added to the mix as an option.   Hickory Smoked Bacon adds a nice rustic flavor.
     Egg Yolks are used to tighten the cream sauce, just before the pasta is served.  The egg yolks enrich the sauce and cause it to easily cling to the pasta.
     The choice of pasta for Carbonara traditionally is Fettuccine, Capellini, Spaghetti or Linguine.  The Italian chefs that I apprenticed with early in my career preferred Linguine.  Linguine Pasta picks up the sauce nicely.

     Linguini Carbonara:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.  
     • The best way to make Carbonara Sauce is to mince the basic ingredients together, till they are like a thick paste.  This is easy to do with a food processor or meat grinder.  Mincing the ingredients with a chef knife takes much more time and effort. 
     • Using high quality imported Italian Pancetta and Prosciutto really makes a difference in flavor. 
     • Only enough sauce should be made to coat the pasta with flavor.  The pasta should not be swimming in the sauce!
     Step 1:  Cook 1 large portion of linguine pasta in a pot of boiling water over high heat till it is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Toss the pasta with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, so it does not stick together.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Place these ingredients in a food processor:
     - 3 ounces of coarse chopped Italian Pancetta
     - 2 ounces of coarse chopped Italian Prosciutto
     - 2/3 cup of coarse chopped onion
     - 3 garlic cloves
     Pulse the food processor till the ingredients are finely chopped and the mixture looks like thick paste.
     Place the minced ingredients in a container and set it aside.
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add the minced Pancetta, Prosciutto, garlic and onion mixture.
     Sauté and stir occasionally till the ingredients are lightly browned.
     Step 4:  Drain the excess grease out of the pan.  (Leave a little bit of grease in the pan for flavor.)
     Return the pan to medium/medium low heat.
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/4 cups of chicken broth.
     Use a whisk to scrape and deglaze the brown bits that are stuck to the pan.
     Step 6:  Simmer and reduce the chicken broth, till only about 2/3 cup remains.
     Step 7:  Add 1 1/4 cups of cream.
     Bring the cream to a gentle boil.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of coarse ground black pepper.  (Taste and only add sea salt if necessary.)
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 9:  Place 2 tablespoons of cream in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 yolk from a large egg.
     Mix the cream and egg yolk together.
     Step 10:  Add the egg yolk and cream mixture to the sauce, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Step 11:  Immediately add the reserved portion of al dente cooked linguine pasta.
     Quickly toss the pasta and sauce together, till the pasta is reheated and the egg yolk tightens the sauce.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     Step 1:  Use a long tine carving fork to coil the pasta and place on a plate.
     Spoon any extra sauce over the pasta.
     Step 2:  Sprinkle 2 to 3 teaspoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1/2 of a hard boiled egg that is finely grated over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of finely chopped Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     *Be sure to offer a coarse grind pepper mill at the table!
     Linguine Carbonara is a delicious cold weather pasta!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Foie de Veau Bourguignonne à l'oignon meule de foin

     Veal Liver en Burgundy Sauce with Haystack Onions!
     Beef Tips Bourguignonne is a traditional recipe that requires specific garnishes.  The word "Bourguignonne" can also be used to describe a sauce.  Sauce Bourguignonne is a dark brown sauce that is made with Espagnole, Glace Viande or Demi Glace and French Burgundy AOC Wine.
     I used a French Burgundy Region AOC Pinot Noir to flavor the Sauce Bourguignonne in today's recipe.  Back when I cooked the recipe as a photo example, I was working in Chicago.  In my neighborhood there was an import wine liquidation shop, so I was purchasing great French wine for $2 to $3 per bottle.  Not only did I get a chance to sample a wide variety of French wine for a very low price, I was adding French wine to every recipe in sight!

     Food that is made with French wine may exude class and prestige, but this is not the only thing that counts.  It is important for a chef to research each French wine sample, in order to gain information and insight about the wine vintage, the estate, regional cultural traditions and any culinary history associated with the wine.
     Just by doing a little bit of research on a bottle of French wine that will be used for cooking, a chef can gather enough information to create a recipe that has a theme that accurately represents the origin of the wine.  A chef might even stumble across an old forgotten traditional recipe that is no longer in the limelight.

     Traditionally, veal liver is more tender than calves liver and it has a milder flavor.  When no veal liver is available, calves liver will do.  In this modern age, "white veal" is no longer en vogue because of ethical reasons.  Most veal in America now is actually an ordinary young calf, so the color of the meat ranges from pink to pale red.  This means that in America, there virtually is no difference between modern veal liver and calves liver, other than the price.
     Veal liver (or calves liver) can be cooked to any finish temperature that is preferred.  Veal liver does not have to be cooked well done like shoe leather!  Veal liver is best when it is cooked to about a  medium finish temperature range or till it is still reddish pink in the middle.

     Onions straws, crispy onions and haystack onions are all the same thing.  They add flavor and crunch to whatever they are served with.  Liver is almost always served with sautéed onions or caramelized julienne onions.  Crispy Haystack Onions adds some excitement to the same old liver & onions entrée!
     Glace Viandé:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Glacé Viande

     Crispy Onions (Onion Straws): 
     This recipe yields enough crispy onions to garnish several entrées.  
     • Any extra onion straws can be served as a snack or used in other recipes.  Onion Straws can be kept at room temperature for 4 hours.  
     • Onion straws, haystack onions and crispy onions are all the same thing.  
     • Crispy onions are very easy to make, but it is easy to overcook and burn the thin crispy onions.  Only small amounts of crispy onions should be fried at a time to prevent dangerous hot oil foaming.    
     Step 1:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Step 2:  Cut 1 medium size vidalia onion into paper thin sliced rings.  (The onion rings must be less than 1/16" thick.)
     Step 3:  Place the thin onion slices in a mixing bowl and separate them into rings.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Let the onions sweat from the salt for about 5 minutes.
     Step 4:  Add enough flour to coat the onion rings.  (About 1 cup.)
     Toss the thin onion rings and flour together, so the onions are evenly coated.
     Step 5:  Place the coated onions in a medium mesh strainer over a mixing bowl.
     Gently shake the strainer to remove the excess flour.
     Step 6:  Deep fry small batches of the coated onions at a time to prevent excessive oil foaming.
     Poke the crispy onions with a fryer net as they fry, to prevent the crispy onions from sticking together.
     Fry till the onions are a crispy golden color.  (This only takes a minute or two.)
     Step 7:  Use a fryer net to remove the crispy onions from the hot oil.  Place them on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the crispy onions warm on a stove top.
     *The frying oil can be saved if the heat is turned off immediately after the frying is done.  The oil must be filtered.  The only problem is that anything else that is fried in the used oil will taste like onions!

     Foie de Veau Bourguignonne:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     The flour coating on the veal liver will help to bind and thicken the sauce.  
     Step 1:  Dredge two thin slices of veal liver in flour.  (An 8 ounce portion is good.)
     Season the liver with sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add the floured veal liver.
     Add 1 whole garlic clove.
     Sauté the liver cutlets on both sides, till they are almost cooked to the desired finish temperature.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the liver slices on a platter and keep the liver warm on a stove top.
     Step 4:  Pour the excess grease out of the sauté pan.
     Leave the whole garlic clove in the pan.
     Step 5:  Return the pan to medium heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of French Burgundy region dry red wine.  (A Burgundy AOC Pinot Noir is a good choice.)
     Add 1 1/2 ounces of Cassis Liquor.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Deglaze the pan.  Use a whisk to scrape the brown bits (suc) that is stuck to the bottom of pan.
     Step 6:  Simmer and reduce till the wine is a very thin syrup consistency.
     Step 7:  Add 1/2 cup of rich beef stock.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Glace Viande.
     Return the liver pieces to the pan.
     Step 8:  Rapidly simmer and reduce till the sauce is thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chilled unsalted butter to the sauce, while gently swirling the pan in a circular motion, till the butter combines with the sauce.  (monte au beurre)

     Foie de Veau Bourguignonne à l'oignon meule de foin:
     Step 1:  Place the finished liver slices on the front half of a plate.
     Step 2:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl.
     Spoon a generous amount of the Bourguignonne Sauce over the liver and onto the plate.
     Step 3:  Mound the crispy onions on top of the liver, so they resemble a small haystack.
     Step 4:  Garnish the plate with a vegetable and potato of your choice.
     *The vegetables in the photo are buttered brussel sprout, sautéed portobello mushroom and a turned roasted potato half.

     This is a delicious liver entrée!  If you like veal liver, this recipe is a must to try!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Clams Provencal

     Palourdes à la Provençale
     Clams Provencal is French appetizer that is relatively easy to make.  Clams Provencal is a great appetizer to share with dinner party guests.  The aroma and flavor of this appetizer certainly wets the appetite!    
     The word "Provencal" refers to cooking in the style of Provence France.  Southern French cuisines are very healthy, because the focus is on locally sourced farm fresh vegetables, olive oil and seafood.  The food of Provence tends to be lighter and full of flavor, just like most Mediterranean cuisines.
     Old classic French Provencal cooking involves no tomatoes or any new world ingredients, just like old classic Italian cooking.  Modern Provencal recipes include tomatoes and peppers in the list of ingredients.
     A classic Provencal topping for clams would be herbs gathered during a morning walk in a meadow, bread crumbs, butter, olive oil, shellfish liquor or meat glaze and seasoning.  A modern Provencal style clam topping is a highly seasoned tomato sauce that is enhanced with local herbs and a little bit of chile pepper.  Either way, Clams Provencal certainly pleases the palate!  

     Shellfish Safety:     
     • Always save the receipt for shellfish.  In case of pathogen contamination, a receipt or shellfish tag will make it easier to trace the source.
     • Clams that have open shells or broken shells must be discarded, because they are dead.
     • Fresh clams should have a pleasant ocean breeze aroma and they should not have a strong odor.
     • Always keep the clams ice cold.  Clams can be kept on ice in a refrigerator for a few days.    
     • Whole raw clams can also be frozen for later use, but they will easily freezer burn after a few weeks.
     • Always wear protective thick rubber gloves when shucking clams.  A cut on the skin will almost always get infected.
     Quahog Clams:
     American East Coast Quahog (Hard Clams) are best for today's recipe.  Hard Clams are usually identified by names that describe the size.  The most common sizes are Littleneck, Cherry Stone and Largeneck.  Any of these Hard Clam sizes are good for today's recipe.
     The clams in the photos were not labeled by size at the food market, but judging from experience, they are about the size of a small cherrystone or a big littleneck.
     For an appetizer portion, 6 to 8 littlenecks or 5 to 6 cherrystones is plenty.  If largenecks are available, only offer 4 or 5.
     Shucking Clams:
     I have shucked several tons of clams during my career and I make this task look easy.  Practice makes perfect, so always strive to improve your shucking technique!  
     The clam knife in the pictures above is the most popular safe clam knife style in the restaurant business.  The handle has a non-slip texture and the handle floats in water.  The blade is semi sharp on one edge.  The knob shaped handle fits in the palm and it allows plenty of pressure to be easily applied.
     The object is to shuck clams, so they look clean, plump, juicy and undamaged, just like the raw clams in the photo above.        
     Step 1:  Clean the outside of the shells and purge any sand from the clams.
     *Purging means soaking the clams in cold water with 1 tablespoon of corn meal for 1 hour in a refrigerator.  After purging rinse off the clams.   
     Step 2:  The heel of a clam is the easiest part to pry.
     Apply pressure on the heel with the blade.
     Twist the blade with a "wiggle" motion to slightly pry open the heel and slide the clam knife edge between the 2 shells.
     Step 3:  Twist the blade while gripping the clam to open a small gap.
     Step 4:  The muscle that attaches the clam to the shell should be cut with the clam knife first.  This is done by running the blade against the inside of one shell, so the blade scrapes against the shell.  This motion will cleanly cut the mussel and leave the clam meat undamaged.    
     Step 5:  The top shell can now be twisted off and discarded.  
     Step 6:  Rinse the clam under cold water, if any shell chips can be seen.
     Step 7:  Slide the clam knife against the bottom shell to sever the attaching muscle. 
     Step 8:  Place the half shell clam on ice till it is needed.
     Continue shucking till all the clams are shucked!

     Provencal Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 2/3 cup.  (Enough for 1 Clams Provencal Appetizer) 
     There are hundreds of different Provencal Tomato Sauce recipes and they are all correct.  There really is no single definitive Provencal Tomato Sauce recipe, because most chefs tailor the ingredients to best suit the application. Today's Provencal Tomato Sauce recipe is designed for clams!
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Briefly sauté till the garlic becomes fragrant.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of seeded diced plum tomato.
     Sauté till the tomato, starts to become tender.
     Step 3:  Add 2 teaspoons of tomato paste.
     Sauté till the tomato paste gains a little bit of light brown color around the edges.  (French Pincer Technique.)
     Step 4:  Add 3/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1 pinch of Crocus sativa Saffron (or 2 pinches of Safflower Saffron).
     Add 1 pinch of rosemary.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chiffonade cut basil leaves.  (Chiffonade = very thin ribbons)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Immediately add 1 tablespoon of chilled unsalted butter while stirring.
     Set the sauce pot aside.

     Clams Provencal:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer.
     Step 1:  Place the 6 shucked small cherrystone half shell clams in a shallow single portion casserole dish that is about 7" wide.
     Spoon a generous amount of the Provencal Sauce over each clam.
     Spoon any extra sauce into the casserole dish.
     Add 2 tablespoons of dry white wine to the sauce that lays in the dish.
     Step 2:  Bake the Clams Provencal in a 350ºF oven till the sauce starts to bubble and the clams are fully cooked.  (The clams should still be moist and juicy.)
     Step 3:  Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.
     Garnish with a basil leaves and Italian Parsley sprigs.
     Served with sliced baguette bread on the side.  

     The aroma and flavor of Palourdes à la Provençale is nothing less than delicious!  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Chanterelle Pollack Ragoût with Fried Parsley

     A Hearty Whitefish Ragoût For A Chilly Day!
     The French word "Ragoût" simply translates to stew.  Stewing is a braising technique, no matter whether the stew is cooked on a stove top in a pot with no lid or if the stew is slowly baked in a sealed pot in an oven.  Stewing or braising techniques are the best methods for making tough cuts meat tender.  This does not mean that the stewing or braising recipes are limited to using only tough cuts of meat.
     Tender cuts of meat or seafood can also be braised or stewed.  When tender items are stewed or braised, usually the goal is to infuse flavor.
     If a delicate item, like whitefish filets are used to make a stew, a little bit of forethought is required.  If the white fish is added early in a stew recipe that has root vegetables in the list of ingredients, then the delicate whitefish will surely break up into tiny pieces by the time the stew finishes cooking.  Since delicate meats or fish filets take very little time to cook, it is best to add these items after the root vegetables finish cooking or shortly before serving the stew.
     Stew is a great cold weather food, because all the nutrients remain in the pot.  The stewing broth or sauce is full of nutrients that are easy to digest.  The fast that nutrient uptake occurs, the quicker that relief from cold will occur.  A ragoût of chanterelle mushrooms, root vegetables and whitefish provides plenty of good healthy cold weather nutrition!

     Pollack is a light tasting whitefish that has a nice clean flavor.  The flavor and texture is similar to Cod.  Pollack has a tendency to separate between the grains of the filet meat, so it must be handled gently and cooked carefully or the filet will fall apart.  For example, after adding petite filets of Pollack late in a stew recipe, the stew should not be stirred.      
     Sustainable seafood is not just a selling point at fine dining restaurants, it is the right choice to make when purchasing seafood of any kind.  It is best to check the current sustainability status of Pollack or any seafood species before making a purchase.  A good seafood sustainability reference on the internet is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

     Dried Chanterelles:
     Fresh chanterelles tend to sell for over $30 per pound, but fresh chanterelles are not available during winter.  Dried chanterelles are the only option during the winter season.
     Soak 5 or 6 dried thick chanterelle slices (about 1/5 cup) in 1 cup of water overnight in a refrigerator.
     Remove the reconstituted chanterelle slices from the soaking liquid.
     Save the soaking liquid for later in the recipe.
     Coarsely chop the reconstituted chanterelles and set them aside.

     Blond Roux:
     Make a small batch of blonde roux ahead of time for the stew recipe.  Any extra roux can be chilled and saved for another recipe.
     Step 1:  Melt 2 ounces of unsalted butter in a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add an equal amount of flour while stirring with a whisk.  (The roux should look like a thick shiny liquid and it should not look caky.)
     Constantly stir till the roux is a golden blonde color.
     Step 2:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Stir occasionally while the roux cools.
     Set the roux aside.
     Chanterelle Pollack Ragoût: 
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     The pollack is added late in the recipe, so it does not break up into tiny pieces.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 minced clove of garlic.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced shallot.
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds till the garlic becomes aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 3 peeled whole Boiler Onions.
     Add 1/4 cup of thick sliced parsnip.
     Add 5 thick carrot sticks.  (2 1/2" long)
     Add 6 thick peeled celery sticks.  (2 1/2" long)
     Sauté till the vegetables just start to cook.  (Do not brown the vegetables.)
     Step 3:  Add the reserved chopped chanterelle mushrooms.
     Add 4 ounces of peeled russet potato that is cut into large bite size pieces.
     Add 1/3 cup of dry white wine.
     Add enough whitefish stock (fumet) to cover the vegetables with 1" of extra liquid.  (About 2 cups to 2 1/2 cups.)
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the stewing vegetables to a boil.
     Step 5:  Add just enough of the reserved blonde roux while stirring, to thicken the broth to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Step 6:  Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of fresh rosemary leaves.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Simmer till the vegetables become tender and the sauce reduces to a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     *The Fried Parsley can be prepared while the stew simmers! 
     Step 7:  Add 6 ounces of pollack filet that is cut into large pieces
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Gently simmer till the pollack filet pieces are fully cooked.  Do not stir the stew or the fish pieces will break apart!
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.      

     Fried Parsley:
     This recipe yields enough to garnish 1 serving of ragoût.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add enough blended olive oil, so the oil is 1/8" deep.
     Step 2:  Cut about 15 small Italian Parsley sprigs.  (Sprigs with large leaves work best.)
     Fry a few sprigs at a time in the hot oil, till the leaves and stems are crisp.
     Use a small cake spatula to place the fried parsley sprigs on a dry pastry towel on a plate.
     Step 3:  Continue frying the parsley sprigs in small batches till they are all done.
     Set the Fried Parsley aside.
     Chanterelle Pollack Ragoût with Fried Parsley Presentation:
     Remove the bay leaf from the stew.
     Use a large serving spoon to place the Pollack Ragout with Chanterelles in a shallow bowl.  (Try to place a few of the pollack pieces on top, so they can be seen.)
     Place the fried parsley sprigs against the rim of the bowl around the stew.
     Garnish the stew with a rosemary sprig.
     Serve with sliced French Baguette Bread on the side.

     Voila!  A healthy hearty winter stew!  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Escalopes de Veau with White Asparagus and Cèpe Sherry Crème

     The Elegant Rich Flavor of Cep Mushrooms and Sherry Crème! 
     I used to butcher 2-3 veal legs per week while working a busy sauté station at a yacht club several years ago.  Knowing what each veal leg section is best used for is important when "breaking down" a leg of veal.
     There are three tough sections that are better off ground or stewed.  These tough sections include the flank caps.
     The natural shape and characteristics of the rest of the veal leg sections determine what is the best cut.  Large tender sections are sliced into whole cutlet shapes.  Small or narrow sections are sliced into scallopini shapes.  A small piece of the tenderloin is also part of a veal leg and this tender section can be cut into tips or petite medallions.
     Veal scallopini and cutlets are usually pounded thin with a meat mallet, so the meat is an even thickness and to ensure tenderness.  If cutlets are cut thin enough, they do not necessarily need to be tenderized.  Scallopini almost always need to be tenderized.
     All of the scraps are separated for stewing or ground veal.  The bones are sawed in pieces for veal stock.  The meaty shank section can be sawed into thick slices for braising dishes like Osso Bucco.

     It may sound like a lot of work, but a whole leg of veal can be completely broken down in less than thirty minutes.  This includes removing all silver floss, tendons and as well as portioning.  The best way to break down a leg of veal quickly is to keep several razor sharp boning knives on hand.  When one knife started "dragging" or getting slightly dull, switch to the next sharp knife.  It is better to sharpen and hone all of the boning knives at one time, while on break.
     A chef's honing steel helps to keep a knife sharp when it begins to dull, but the edge will dull more often as time goes on.  A chef will have to run the edge of the knife on the honing steel several times while working on a veal leg and this reduces efficiency.  This is why switching to a fresh sharp knife saves time.

     Purchasing and preparing a whole leg of veal does save money in a restaurant, but in a home kitchen this might be impractical if there is not enough space in the freezer.  Fully prepared veal cutlets and scallopini can be packaged and frozen for later use, but these items will eventually be subject to freezer burn if they are not cooked within a few months.
     Some grocery stores offer prepared veal cutlets and scallopini, but more often than not, the quality leaves something to be desired.  When purchasing small quantities of veal cutlets or scallopini it is better to go to a good butcher shop.  Pro butchers take pride in offering perfectly cut veal.

     Escalopes de Veau with White Asparagus and Cèpe Sherry Crème:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     This is an "a la minute" style sauté recipe that should be cooked shortly before serving.
     Step 1:  Soak about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dried cep mushroom slices in 1 cup of water in a refrigerator overnight.
     Remove the reconstituted cep mushrooms from the soaking liquid.
     Save the soaking liquid and set it aside.
     Chop the ceps into small pieces and set them aside.
     Step 2:  Select 3 or 4 veal escalopes that weigh about 2 ounces apiece.
     Pound the veal escallops with a meat mallet so they are thin and even.
     Lightly season the veal with sea salt and white pepper.
     Dredge the escalloped veal pieces in flour.
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil or duck fat.
     Sauté the veal escallops, till they are fully cooked and light brown highlights appear.
     Step 4:  Drain the excess butter out of the pan.  Leave about 1/2 tablespoon in the pan.
     Return the pan to medium heat.
     Step 5:  Add 6 peeled white asparagus spears that are about 4" long.  (Only peel the white asparagus if they are large or thick.  Thin white asparagus will be tender without peeling.)
     Add the reserved small chopped cep mushrooms.
     Briefly sauté for about 20 seconds.
     Step 6:  Add 3/4 cup of sherry.
     Simmer and reduce the sherry by half.
     Step 7:  Add 2 tablespoons of the cep mushroom soaking liquid.
     Add 3/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Simmer and reduce educe the sauce, till it is a medium thin consistency that can easily coat a spoon.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     Overlap the escalloped veal and white asparagus spears across the front half of a plate.
     Spoon the cep sherry cream sauce over the veal and asparagus.
     Serve with a vegetable of your choice.
     Braised Thin Cabbage Wedge with Red Bell Pepper:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     The entrée in the photos was served with a braised thin cabbage wedge that was topped with a sprinkle of chopped red bell pepper.  This vegetable has nice eye appeal!
     Step 1:  Cut a medium size cabbage head in half from top to bottom.
     Cut a thin 3/8" thick slice of cabbage from top to the core end.  Leave the core attached.
     Step 2:  Place the thin cabbage wedge in a wide sauteuse pan or sauté pan
     Add just enough water or light chicken broth to cover the cabbage.
     Drizzle 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter over the cabbage.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 3:  Place the pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Cover the pan with a lid.
     Allow the cabbage to braise, till it becomes tender, but not too soft.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use a spatula to place the thin cabbage wedge on a plate.
     Sprinkle some warmed diced red bell pepper over the cabbage.

     This is a rich tasting veal entrée that is perfect for the winter season!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Black Rice Vermicelli Primavera

     A Modern Variation of the Classic Pasta Primavera!
     Pasta Primavera is a New York Italian recipe.  The word "Primavera" refers to spring vegetables.  The original Primavera Sauce was a Besciamella Sauce that was lightly flavored with Parmigiana Cheese.  The vegetables in a Primavera Pasta are cooked al dente.
     I first learned how to make Pasta Primavera while apprenticing with a great Sicilian Chef from New York City.  Way back in those days, Pasta Primavera was fast becoming popular nationwide.  Every chef was serving Pasta Primavera with a Besciamella Sauce back then and this had something to do with why this pasta was so popular.

     As time moved on, many chefs changed the original Pasta Primavera recipe.  When cream sauces were considered to be unhealthy, some chefs served plain pasta with steamed vegetables and called it Primavera.  Some chefs made Primavera with only vegetables sautéed with olive oil and the olive oil was also the sauce that coated the pasta.  Making Pasta Primavera with Tomato Sauce was much easier to do and many chain restaurants offer this version.
     Many modern fine dining chefs make Pasta Primavera almost like the original recipe, but they simmer and reduce heavy cream with Parmigiana Cheese, instead of making Besciamella Sauce ahead of time.  Reducing cream to make a pasta sauce is taboo for many reasons.  Cream basically is fat and reducing cream to make a sauce dramatically increases the level of fat, cholesterol and calories.  A customer that eats Pasta Primavera that is made with a cream reduction will feel so bloated that they probably will skip dessert, which causes lost sales opportunities.  Not only this, food costs rise because cream is a very expensive item.

     Great Italian food is made by well thought out design.  All it takes to make Besciamella is milk that is thickened with a little bit of flour and butter roux.  Besciamella Sauce is a better choice than a cream reduction for a pasta sauce for several good reasons.  Besciamella is lighter on a customer's tummy and the customer will be more likely to order dessert with aperitifs.  Besciamella reduces food cost, while increasing profits.
     Besciamella does require labor time, but a skilled cook can make a perfect batch in less than 40 minutes and the overall cost is still far less than a few pastas that are made with reduced cream.  By classic Italian culinary design, Besciamella is the best choice!

     Today's recipe features pasta noodles that are made with Black Rice Flour.  Black Rice is considered to be a "super grain" in modern times because it is far more nutritious than plan white rice.  Black Rice is a high protein grain that contains no glutens, so it is en vogue in recent years.
     Dried Black Rice Vermicelli is available at Asian food markets.  This pasta looks jet black when it is dry and after cooking it fades to a dark gray color.     
     Besciamella Sauce: 
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.
     Besciamella can be made plain or it can be lightly flavored, depending on what the sauce is used for.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring.
     Stir till the roux becomes a white color with no hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 3/4 cups of milk while stirring with a whisk.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil while occasionally stirring.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 small laurel leaf.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add white pepper and sea salt to taste.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.  (The finished volume should be about 1 1/2 cups.)
     Step 5:  Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool.
     Chill the sauce if it is not used immediately.    
     Black Rice Vermicelli: 
     This recipe yields enough for 1 pasta entrée.  
     Black rice flour vermicelli noodles can be found in Asian food markets.
     Cook 1 portion of black rice vermicelli in boiling water over high heat, till the pasta is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta and set it aside.

     Green Beans:
     Blanch 4 to 5 green beans in boiling salted water till they are al dente.
     Cool the green beans in ice water.
     Cut the green beans into bite size lengths.

     Pearl Onion Preparation:
     This is the best way to prepare pearl onions!
     Step 1:  Boil 2 cups of water in a small sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 5 whole pearl onions.  (Leave the skin on!)
     Boil the pearl onions, till they are blanched al dente.
     Cool the pearl onions in ice water.
     Step 2:  Minimally trim the root end off of each onion.
     Pinch the untrimmed skin toward the tapered end, to pop the pearl onion out of its own skin. 
     Chill the peeled blanched pearl onions till they are needed.
     Black Rice Vermicelli Primavera: 
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     Any combination of vegetables that are available during the spring season can be used to make primavera.The vegetables must be sautéed quickly till they are only cooked al dente.  Then the sauce is added.  The sauce must be heated quickly, so the vegetables retain some crispy bite. 
     It is important to not add too much Parmigiana Cheese.  Prima Vera Sauce should have a delicate flavor!   
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 clove of chopped garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic becomes a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 3 thin slices of shallot.  (About 1 teaspoon)
     Add 1 cup of a mixture of these vegetables:  
     - petite thin carrot sticks
     - thin sliced celery
     - thin green bell pepper strips
     - thin yellow squash or zucchini strips.  (remove the squash core first)
     Add 1 thin sliced small portobello mushroom.     
     Add 5 or 6 petite broccoli florets.
     Add about 1/5 cup of asparagus tips.  
     Add the reserved blanched green beans.
     Add the reserved pearl onions.
     Add 1/2 of a green onion that is thin bias sliced.
     Step 3:  Lightly season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Sauté the vegetables till they are al dente.
     Step 4:  Add 1 tablespoon of diced fresh plum tomato.
     Add 1 cup of baby spinach leaves.
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds, so the spinach starts to wilt.
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/3 cups of the thin besciamella sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely grated imported Italian Parmigiana Cheese.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil while stirring till the cheese melts.  (Add a splash of milk if the sauce becomes too thick.)
     Step 6:  Add the al dente black rice vermicelli. 
     Toss the pasta, vegetables and sauce together, till the pasta becomes hot.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 7:  Use a chef's carving fork to place the pasta in a shallow wide pasta bowl.
     Try to expose a few pieces of each vegetable on the surface of the pasta.
     Pour any excess sauce over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of minced Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
    Fettuccine is the classic choice of pasta for primavera.  Black rice vermicelli adds a modern healthy touch!  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Red Lentil Soup with Roasted Red Jalapeño Garni

     A Healthy Refined Red Lentil Soup For Any Season!
     Throughout history, wealthy members of society have sought food that improves health in order to extend their lifespan.  This certainly goes on in modern times.  Well to do folks often fall prey to any miracle dietary health food trend that is publicized by the media.  The fat free diet, zero carbohydrate diet and gluten free diet are prime examples of health trends that target gullible consumers.  After being exposed to endless media sales pitches, unwary consumers sometimes self diagnose like a hypochondriac.  The next the you know, the old adage of "there is a sucker born every minute" comes into play. 
     Instead of eagerly participating in the latest and greatest miracle dietary health trends that are usually just marketing schemes, it is better to rely on old traditional healthy food items that are well proven.  Does one see beans advertised by the modern media as a miracle cure?  No, but beans actually offer a list of health benefits that are a mile long.  
     Historically, the reason that beans are not marketed to the societal elite is because beans are frowned upon as being peasant food.  This bean ideology prevails in fine dining restaurants, therefore relatively few traditional fine dining chefs offer beans or bean soups on a menu.  
     Modern fine dining chefs that are aware of time tested healthy food items do market menu items that feature beans, because this pleases health oriented customers.  Usually the menu items that feature beans have a sentimental theme or a rustic payson theme.  Soup is a good medium for making refined looking bean offering, because bean soup can be prepared as a puree.  As one can see in the photos above, a pureed Red Lentil Soup does have an elegant look.     
     There are many varieties of Lentil Beans.  Most are identified by their color.  Red Lentils are popular in African, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine.  Red Lentils take very little time to cook and they provide many beneficial nutrients, like fibrous carbohydrates, calcium and complex proteins.  Red Lentils provide strong muscles, strong bones, healthy teeth, long lasting energy and a healthier digestive tract.  
     Not only are Red Lentils healthy, they also taste good!  Red Lentils have a very mild flavor that tastes interesting in braised recipes and soups.    

     Red Lentil Soup:
     This recipe yields about 2 3/4 cups.  (Enough for 1 large bowl of soup.)  
     I made this soup with no garlic.  Garlic can easily overpower the unique delicate flavor of Red Lentils.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.  (Use olive oil if you are a strict vegetarian!)
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped peeled celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped carrot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped onion.
     Sauté till the mirepoix vegetables start to become tender,
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of small chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Sauté for 1 minute.
     Step 3:  Add 3 cups of vegetable stock.
     Add 1/2 cup of red lentils.  (masoor dahl)
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Bring the soup to a boil over medium high heat.
     Step 5:   Reduce the temperature to medium low heat. 
     Gently simmer the soup till the lentils and vegetables are very tender.  
     *Allow the soup to reduce to about 3 cups in volume.  Only add water if necessary.
     Step 6:  Remove the soup from the heat.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Use an electric blending wand, food processor or blender to finely puree the soup.   
     Step 7:  Pour the soup through a fine mesh strainer into a sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over low heat and reheat the soup. 
     Check the consistency.  The soup should have a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon. 
     *Simmer and reduce if the soup is too thin or add water if the soup is too thick.  The finished volume should be about 2 3/4 cups.
     Keep the Red Lentil Soup warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Roasted Red Jalapeño Pepper Garnish:
     Step 1:  Lightly brush 1 red jalapeño pepper with vegetable oil.
     Place the pepper on a roasting pan.
     Roast the red jalapeño in a 350ºF oven, till the skin on the pepper becomes loose and lightly caramelized.
     Step 2:  Allow the roasted red jalapeño to cool.
     Remove the loose pepper skin and the stem.
     Split the roasted red jalapeño in half and remove the pulp and seeds.
     Step 3:  Julienned slice the roasted red jalapeño and set it aside.  (Julienne is 1/8" x 1/8" x 2 1/2" to 3".)

     Red Lentil Soup with Roasted Red Jalapeño Garni:
     Pour the red lentil soup into a shallow soup bowl.
     Gently place about 1/2 tablespoon of the julienne sliced roasted red jalapeño on the center of the soup, so they float.
     Float 3 small Italian Parsley leaves or cilantro leaves on the surface of the soup around the roasted red jalapeño garnish.

     This is a tasty refined Red Lentil Soup looks good too!