Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rustic Beef Shank Bourguignon

     A Simple Rustic Burgundy Style Beef Shank!
     Sometimes, a great dinner is uncomplicated.  Beef Shanks are not usually found on a fine dining menu, but renewed customer interest in classic offal entrées has opened the door for classic Beef Shank recipes.
     The Burgundy region of France is famous for great wine.  Local Burgundy region recipes have always been designed to pair well with the local Chablis, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir wine.  Many of the old Burgundy region paisan recipes evolved to become famous haute cuisine entrées.  Beef Bourguignon is a prime example.
     The modern Beef Bourguignon recipe originated during the Russian occupation of Northern France after the Napoleonic Wars took a turn for the worse.  Apparently the Russian troops occupied a farm house in the Burgundy region and they demanded some hearty food, so beef was the top choice.  Beef Shanks were available, so they were braised with rustic cut mirepoix vegetables and the local red wine.  Needless to say, the Russians were pleased and the recipe became known as Beef Burgundy.
     Beef Shanks were used to make the original recipe and because the French resented the Russian occupation, minimal effort was applied when cooking the original version of this entrée.  More than likely, the Beef Shank meat was not taken off the bone and cut into bite size pieces and the vegetables were left whole.  This means that the original Beef Burgundy was very rustic looking, but such is the case when cooking for enemy forces.
     The rustic qualities of the original rustic preparation of Beef Burgundy actually are quite appealing in this modern age of complicated fine dining cuisine.  A large beef shank that is braised in a red wine sauce till it is tender certainly will catch the eye of hungry guests!      
     As time moved on and Beef Burgundy became a refined haute cuisine item, Beef Tenderloin Tips replaced the Beef Shank meat.  A petite mirepoix and pearl onions flavored the rich red wine braising sauce.  Shaved Black Truffle is also in the classic haute cuisine version of Beef Burgundy.  As one can see, the rustic paisan qualities of the original Beef Burgundy were cast aside.  
     Today's Rustic Beef Shank Bourguignon recipe is as close to the original peasant style recipe as it gets.  Rustic Beef Shank Burgundy is unpretentious, yet hearty enough to satisfy guests.  Simple rustic French paisan entrées like this provide comfort when times are hectic.  
     Rustic Beef Shank Bourguignon:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Fond means foundation, as in referring to the start of a sauce.  Fond describes the brown bits of the beef that stick to the bottom of the pan.  Suc is another word that describes the brown bits that are stuck to a pan.
     Step 1:  Select a large 10 to 12 ounce beef shank steak.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauteuse pan (or wide sauce pot) over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add the beef shank.
     Sear the beef shank on both sides till it is thoroughly browned.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Remove the beef shank and set it aside on a platter.
     Discard the grease from the pan.
     Step 4:  Place the pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, while stirring with a whisk.
     Try to scrape the brown bits that are stuck to the pan into the butter.
     *The milk fats from the butter will combine with the fond.
     Step 5:  Add about 1 tablespoon of flour to the butter in the pan while stirring, to create a roux.
     Constantly stir till the roux turns a golden blonde color.
     Step 6:  Add 1 1/2 cups of burgundy wine.
     Add 3 cups of rich beef stock while stirring.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil, while occasionally stirring.
     Step 7:  Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 whole garlic clove.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 8:  Return the beef shank to the thin burgundy sauce.
     *There should be enough thin sauce in the pan to cover the beef shank.  Add a little bit of water if there is not enough braising sauce.
     Add 1 center section of a yellow onion.
     Add 1 large piece of peeled carrot that is about 4" long.
     Add 1 fluted large button cave mushroom.
     Add 1 celery stalk that is about 4" long.
     Step 9:  Cover the pan with a lid.
     Place the pan in a 300ºF oven.
     Slowly braise till the beef shank becomes tender.
     Step 10:  Remove the beef shank and vegetables from the braising pan and place them on a platter.
     Set the platter aside.
     Skim off any excess grease that floats on the braising sauce.
     Pour the braising sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a wide sauce pot.
     Step 11:  Place the pot with the braising sauce over medium high heat.
     Rapidly boil and reduce the Burgundy Sauce, till it is a medium thin consistency that easily coats a spoon.
     Step 12:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Return the beef shank and vegetables to the sauce.
     Gently warm the beef shank to a serving temperature.
     Place the beef shank on the front half of a plate.
     Place the rustice mirepoix vegetables on the back half of the place.
     Pour a generous portion of the Burgundy Sauce over the beef shank and onto the plate.
     Serve with sliced rustic farm style French Bread on the side.
     Voila!  The beef bone marrow becomes part of the sauce, and this gives Burgundy Sauce the richness of a Bordelaise Sauce.  This is some good rustic French paisan cooking!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Yogurt Marinated Cornish Game Hen Brochette with Cranberry Gastrique

     A Modern Café Style Cornish Game Hen!
     Other than at old fashioned yacht clubs and banquet events, Cornish Game Hen is rarely offered at modern restaurants.  Many fine dining restaurants used to place Cornish Game Hen on the menu as a token poultry offering or this item was only offered during the holiday season.  Usually the Game Hen was stuffed with Rice Pilaf and roasted in an oven, then served with a fancy Velouté Sauce.
     In recent years, Cornish Game Hen has become more popular in home kitchens than at restaurants, because of lifestyle changes.  Single adults or couples that lead a busy work schedule tend to cook single portion meals, with no food leftover.
     Cornish Game Hens really have nothing to do with bird hunting.  It is all about the size.  Cornish Game Hens are raised for 28 to 30 days, so they weigh a little less than 2 pounds after they are slaughtered.  Rock Cornish Game Hens are cross bred, so the breasts are slightly meatier, but they still weigh less than 2 pounds.  A Cornish Game Hen is the perfect size poultry portion for a single portion meal.      
     Many people only associate cranberries with the holiday season.  Cranberries are nice any time of year.  Trendy restaurants now feature dried cranberries in salad creations in place of old fashioned raisons.  During the last decade, cranberry products of all kinds have flooded the market, so it is just a matter of time before consumers get tired of this berry fruit.  Fresh cranberries are usually only marketed in early winter, but frozen cranberries are good for cooking too.  Cranberries are one of the few fruits that freeze well.
     Goat milk yogurt marinades are used extensively in Persian and Arabic cuisines.  The enzymes in yogurt help to tenderize and flavor the meat.  When using yogurt as a marinade, it is best to flavor the yogurt.  For today's recipe, the yogurt marinade is flavored with cranberry and lemon.
     A gastrique may sound fancy, but this is a fairly easy sauce to make.  Traditional gastriques are only flavored with digestif herbs.  A digestif is an item that aids or soothes the digestive process.  When made properly, a gastrique causes an interesting taste bud sensation.

     Bamboo Skewers:
     Select 2 bamboo skewers that are 8" long.
     Soak the bamboo skewers in water till later in the recipe.  

     Cornish Game Hen Fabrication:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Split a game hen open by cutting lengthwise through the back bone.
     Step 2:  Open the game hen with your fingers.
     Crack the breast bone with a short sharp strike of a chef knife.  (Do not cut all the way through the breast bone!  Just crack the bone.)
     Split the breast bone by bending the two halves of the game hen by hand.
     Step 3:  Use a boning knife to remove the breast bone, rib cage, wish bone and thigh bones.  Be careful not to damage the skin!
     *The only bones that should be left in the game hen are the 2 wings and 2 leg bones.
     Step 4:  Chill the deboned game hen till it is needed.

     Cranberry Yogurt Marinated Cornish Game Hen:
     This recipe yields enough marinade for 1 game hen.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped cranberries.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sugar.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the liquid is a very thin syrup consistency.  There should only be about 3 tablespoons of syrup after reducing.
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
     Step 4:  Place 1/2 cup of goat milk yogurt in a mixing bowl.
     Add the prepared cranberry syrup.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 pinches of ground sage.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Place the marinade in a container.
     Place the deboned game hen in the marinade.
     Coat the game hen with the marinade.
     Marinate the game hen for 2 to 3 hours in a refrigerator.

     Cranberry Gastrique:
     This recipe yields about 2/3 cup.   
     Gastrique has a long shelf life if it is refrigerated.  
     *This recipe involves working with hot molten sugar.  Hot sugar can cause very serious burns.  Wear protective clothing and gloves!
     Step 1:  Place a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add 1/2 cup of sugar.
     Boil till the liquid evaporates and the molten sugar starts to foam and bubble.
     Cook the sugar till it is a light amber brown color.  (335ºF to 345ºF)
     Step 2:  Immediately add 1 cup of chopped cranberries.
     *Do not stir!  The fruit will immediately stop the caramelized sugar from cooking any further and the sugar will pull the flavor and color out of the cranberries.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium heat.
     Wait till the hardened sugar starts to melt.
     Step 4:  Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 bay leaves.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thyme leaves.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of whole black peppercorns.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of sea salt.
     Step 5:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat. 
     Gently simmer and reduce till the liquid is a thin syrup consistency that can glaze a spoon.
     Step 6:  Pour the gastrique through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Keep the gastrique warm on a stove top.
     Sticky Black Rice: 
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Black Rice will not stick to itself on its own.  It must be mixed with a starchy rice.  
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/4 cups of water in a sauce pot over high heat.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Add 1/2 cup of Indonesian Black Rice.
     Add 1/2 cup of Sticky Rice.
     Bring the liquid back to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Let the rice cook and steam for about 20 minutes.
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top.

     Cranberries en Cranberry Gastrique: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Add 1/2 cup of whole cranberries.  (Fresh or frozen.)
     Poach the cranberries till they just start to become tender.
     Step 2:  Drain the water off of the cranberries.
     Place the poached cranberries in a small bowl.
     Add 1/4 cup of the Cranberry Gastrique.
     Keep the Cranberries en Cranberry Gastrique on a stove top.
     Yogurt Marinated Cornish Game Hen Brochette Fabrication: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Remove the game hen from the marinade.  (Discard the marinade.)
     Brush off any excess marinade.
     Step 2:  Place the deboned game hen flat on a cutting board with the skin side facing up.
     Spread the game hen flat and position the legs and wings so the look nice.
     Step 3:  Drain the water off of the soaked bamboo skewers.
     Step 4:  Press and hold the game hen gently with one hand against the cutting board.
     Hold a bamboo skewer parallel to the cutting board.
     Run the bamboo skewer through the wings and breast meat, with the skewer parallel to the cutting board.
     Insert the second skewer through the legs and upper thigh meat.
     *The game hen should be skewered, so it remains flat and retains its shape when it is picked up by the skewers.

     Grilled Yogurt Marinated Cornish Game Hen Brochette: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion. 
     Step 1:  Heat a cast iron ribbed griddle or a chargrill to a medium temperature.
     Brush the grill with vegetable oil.
     Step 2:  Place the game hen brochette on the chargrill with the skin side down.
     Cook till some grill marks appear.
     Step 3:  Flip the game hen to grill the bare meat side.
     Grill each side twice and try to create cross-check grill marks.
     Step 4:  Place the game hen brochette on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Roast the game hen brochette in a 300Fº oven till it is fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read 165ºF for 15 seconds.)

     Yogurt Marinated Cornish Game Hen Brochette with Cranberry Gastrique:
     This recipe describes 1 entrée presentation.
     Step 1:  Place 1 large portion of the Sticky Black Rice in a small bowl shaped mold that is lightly brushed with vegetable oil.
     Gently press the rice into the mold.
     Invert the mold onto the back half of a plate.
     Step 2:  Lean the chargrilled Yogurt Marinated Cornish Game Hen Brochette against the mound of rice, with the skin side facing up.
     Step 3:  Spoon a generous portion of the Cranberries en Cranberry Gastrique over the game hen brochette and onto the plate.
     Step 4:  Garnish the rice and brochette with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with a vegetable of your choice.
     *The vegetable in the photos is sautéed thin strips of zucchini.

     Voila!  A modern cranberry game hen entrée for the summer season!                            

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chat Masala Pêche Melba

     A Classic Peach Melba Made With Chat Masala Peach Ice Cream!
     The original Peach Melba was created by Auguste Escoffier in the late 1800's.  This dessert was named in honor of the opera star Nellie Melba.  The original version of Peach Melba was presented on a swan ice carving and raspberry puree was not part of the recipe.  
     A few years after creating the original Peach Melba, Auguste Escoffier became the first chef at the luxurious Carlton Hotel in London.  Escoffier offered a new version of Peach Melba on the Carlton Hotel's grand opening menu.  The swan ice carving was no longer part of the presentation and raspberry puree was added to the recipe.  Escoffier's Carlton Hotel Peach Melba was made with peaches, topped with raspberry puree and vanilla ice cream.  This is the classic Peach Melba recipe that all chefs now refer to.  
     Instead of featuring the classic Peach Melba as a recipe in this website, I decided to make a nice ice cream flavor that would accent the peach theme of the original recipe.  Chat Masala is an Indian spice mixture that accompanies fresh fruit and desserts.  Chat Masala has a tangy exotic Indian spice flavor.  Chat Masala contains tangy dried mango powder, cumin, Himalayan Black Salt, coriander, ginger powder, salt, black pepper, asafoetida (Afghani Giant Fennel) and chili powder.  Cardamom is sometimes added to the Chat Masala mixture, but not always.  
     Chat Masala gives peach ice cream a complex, yet comfortable spice flavor.  I have to admit, the Chat Masala Peach Ice Cream really made the Peach Melba taste more than just interesting.  It turned out to be a nice fusion of classic Indian and French flavors.   

     Chat Masala Peach Ice Cream:
     Because so many ice cream desserts are milkshakes, sundaes, ice cream sandwiches or floats, I decided to place all of the ice cream making recipes in the Street Food Website.  A gourmet ice cream truck certainly would be a welcome sight on a hot summer day and this was the reasoning behind where to publish the gourmet ice cream recipes! 
     Follow the link to the recipe in the Street Vender Food Website.  

     Raspberry Coulis: 
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup of raspberry coulis.  (2 to 3 garnish portions)
     Step 1:  Place 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Place the pot over medium/medium high heat
     Step 2:  Boil till the water evaporates and the molten sugar starts to foam.
     Cook the molten sugar till it turns clear.  (soft ball candy making stage or 235ºF)
     Step 3:  Immediately add 1/2 cup of fresh raspberries.
     Allow the molten sugar to seize the raspberries and do not stir.  Just gently shake the pan.
     Step 4:  Wait till the juice from the raspberries starts to liquify the sugar.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till the sugar completely liquifies and the raspberries are very tender.
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat and allow the ingredients to cool to less than 100Fº.
     Press the raspberry mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a second small sauce pot.
     Step 7:  Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the raspberry sauce is a thin syrup consistency that can glaze a spoon.
     Step 8:  Place the raspberry coulis in a container and chill to 41ºF.

     Brandied Peaches:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Place a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1/3 cup of water.
     Add 2 ounces of brandy.
     Add 1 pealed pitted medium size peach that is cut into wedges.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat. 
     Simmer and reduce till the excess liquid evaporates and the peach wedges are lightly glazed.
     Step 4:  Place the brandied peaches in a container and chill to 41ºF. 

     Caramel Sugar Garnish:
     This recipe yields 1 or 2 garnishes.
     A silicone baking mat is good for making amber sugar garnishes like the one in the pictures above.  A piece of aluminum foil that is lightly brushed with vegetable oil can also be used.  
    A thermometer can be used to gauge when the molten sugar reaches the amber temperature range, but it is just as easy to judge the color of the sugar by eye.  
     Too much sugar is better than too little sugar when making a caramel sugar glass garnish.  Any extra caramel sugar in the pot can be melted with water and used to flavor other recipes. 
     Step 1:  Place a shallow pan of water on a countertop that is wider than the sauce pot that will be used to make the caramel.  (cooling bath)
     Step 2:  Place a silicone baking mat on a countertop.
     Step 3:  Place a small stainless steel sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 1 cup of sugar.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Step 4:  Boil till the water evaporates and the molten sugar enters the candy stages.
     Keep an eye on the sugar.
     When the sugar approaches 330Fº, it will start to caramelize.
     Allow the sugar to caramelize to a light amber color.
     Step 5:  Briefly dip the bottom of the sauce pot in the pan of water on the countertop, to stop the sugar from becoming darker.  (Do not completely cool the caramel or it will solidify!)
     *Use a spoon too gauge when the caramel sugar is cool enough to to stream on the silicone baking mat.  When a spoonful of caramel can be slowly poured off of the spoon back into the pot, then it is cool enough.
     Step 6:  Immediately use the spoon to stream a design of caramel sugar on the silicone baking mat.  Make a garnish design of your choice. 
     Step 7:  Allow the caramel to cool to room temperature.
     Gently bend the silicone baking mat to free the caramel glass garnish.
     Place the caramel sugar glass garnish where it will not be damaged.

     Chat Masala Pêche Melba:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Place the Brandied Peaches in a dessert glass.
     Place 1 scoop of Chat Masala Peach Ice Cream on the brandied peaches.  (About 4 ounces)
     Step 2:  Pour about 2 tablespoons of the Raspberry Coulis over the ice cream and peaches.
     Carefully insert the amber caramel sugar garnish vertically into the ice cream.
     Garnish with a small mint sprig.
     Place the dessert glass on a doily lined glass plate.  

     Viola!  A modern of Peach Melba made with a gourmet ice cream flavor!  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Filetto di Salmone Livornese

     A Light Healthy Livorno Italy Style Salmon Entrée!
     Livornese Sauce is a classic Italian veal sauce.   In many Italian restaurants, Livornese Sauce is made with Salsa di Pomodoro and the result is a savory sauce that tastes like it was slowly simmered for hours.  The Salsa di Pomodoro version of Livornese Sauce is best for veal, pork or poultry.  
     Livornese Sauce can also be made with fresh tomatoes, instead of Salsa di Pomodoro.  A fresh tomato version of Livornese Sauce is well suited for seafood.  Over-ripe fresh plum tomatoes are best for this sauce, because they have a richer flavor and a softer texture that requires less cooking time.
     Salmon is popular worldwide.  Salmon is not really a native Italian fish, but it is a popular modern Italian restaurant offering.  Livornese Sauce made with fresh tomatoes looks good with salmon and it tastes even better!
     When selecting salmon, it pays to do a little bit of research.  Farm raised Atlantic Salmon is in abundant supply, so the low price makes this fish attractive to shoppers.  The problem is that farm raised salmon is plagued with health, environmental and sustainability issues.  Now that GMO farm raised salmon have entered the market, health and environmental concerns have reached a peak.
     I personally do not recommend farm raised salmon, but for some people it is the only choice.  Salmon that is farmed in cool North Atlantic waters is a better choice than salmon raised in temperate water.  Salmon that are raised in warm water tend to have more parasite and disease problems.  The chemicals that are used to correct salmon parasite problems in warm water fish farms are harmful to the environment.  Some of the chemicals used in foreign salmon farms have been proven to pose a health threat.
     Genetically Modified Farmed Atlantic Salmon are gigantic, when compared to an ordinary wild salmon.  The size of the GMO Salmon is an environmental concern, because if these big fish escape, they could overwhelm the native fish species.  The mysterious long term health effects of genetically modified salmon are a major concern too.    
     The Alaskan wild salmon fishery is well managed from a sustainability standpoint, therefore Alaskan wild salmon is the best choice.  There are several Alaskan salmon species that are worth giving a try and each has its own characteristics.  
     Filetto di Salmone Livornese:  
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     For seafood it is best to use over-ripe fresh plum tomatoes, instead of Salsa di Pomodoro.
     Step 1:  Select 2 over-ripe large plum tomatoes.
     Place the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water.
     When the skin of the tomato just starts to pull back and wrinkle, remove the tomatoes from the boiling water.
     Immediately cool the tomatoes in ice water.
     Step 2:  Peel the loose skin off of the tomatoes.
     Slice the tomatoes in half vertically and scrape out most of the seeds.
     Trim the top core off the tomatoes where the stem was attached.
     Coarsely dice the peeled tomato filets.
     Set the diced tomato aside.
     Step 3:  Lightly season a 6 to 8 ounce salmon filet with sea salt and black pepper.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Place the salmon filet in the pan with the skin side facing up.
     Sear the salmon on both sides, till it is halfway cooked and light golden highlights appear.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the salmon filet on a platter and keep it warm on a stove top.
     Drain the excess oil out of the hot pan.
     Step 5:  Place the pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely chopped onion.
     Sauté till the garlic starts to turn a golden color.
     Step 6:  Add the reserved prepared diced over-ripe plum tomato.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried crushed red pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Briefly sauté till the tomatoes start to cook.  (About 1 minute)
     Step 7:  Add 1/2 cup of fumet (whitefish broth).
     Add 5 ripe black olives that are cut in half.
     Add about 1/2 tablespoon of small capers.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Step 8:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Return the salmon filet to the sauce in the pan.
     Gently simmer till the salmon is fully cooked and the excess liquid evaporates.  The finished sauce should not look watery.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     This recipe describes 1 entrée.
     The salmon can be served with rice, risotto, potatoes or pasta.  Coiled Fettuccine Pasta adds a nice touch! 
     Step 1:  Use a long tine carving fork to coil a small portion of warm al dente cooked fettuccine pasta on the back half of a plate. 
     Set the salmon filet on the front half of the plate.
     Step 2:  Spoon most of the Livornese Sauce over the salmon.
     Spoon a little bit of the sauce over the pasta.
     Garnish with lemon slices and a parsley sprig.
     Filetto di Salmone Livornese is an excellent summer recipe!

Mussels en Thai Green Curry Mayonnaise Glacage With Pickled Lemon Relish

     A Tasty Mussel Appetizer!  
     Green Mussels are farm raised, so they have a flavor that is more mellow than wild mussels.  Green Mussels are fairly large, so they are good for roasting with a saucy topping.  Green Mussels are usually sold as a frozen product.  They are pre-cooked on the half shell and packed in vacuum sealed bags.  
     The French culinary word "Glacage" refers to "a coating or something that coats."  Glacage most often refers to cake or pastry coatings of any kind.  For savory cuisine, Glacage usually refers to a sauce that coats an item before it is broiled or roasted.  Hollandaise based sauces are the most common savory glacage and they are nearly always used to finish seafood items.  The Hollandaise Glacage coated item is passed under a broiler (salamander) till golden highlights appear.  
     Mayonnaise, Hollandaise or Béchamel based sauces can be used to add a glacage finish to seafood items.  Today's recipe is a Mayonnaise Glacage.  A mayonnaise glacage is usually broiled or baked till golden brown highlights start to appear, just like when making an old fashioned East Coast style Crab Imperial.
     The Mayonnaise Glacage for today's mussel appetizer recipe has a complex spicy Thai Green Curry flavor.  Thai Green Curry Paste is available at Asian food markets and some grocery stores.     Only a small amount of Thai Green Curry paste is needed for flavoring the mayonnaise.  Thai green Curry Paste is very strong, so a little bit goes a long way!  
     The Pickled Lemon Relish adds a light refreshing crisp flavor to this appetizer.  Persian or Arabic pickled whole lemons are available in Mediterranean food markets.  A jar of Persian Pickled Lemon makes this relish easy to make.

     Pickled Lemon Relish:
     This recipe yields about 1/4 cup.  (2 garnishing portions)
     Step 1:  Place 1 tablespoon of minced onion in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of brunoise diced peeled celery.  (brunoise = 1/8" cube shapes)
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped seeded whole Persian Pickled Lemon.  (Leave the pickled lemon rind attached to the fruit!)
     Step 2:  Place 2 tablespoons of the Persian pickled lemon pickling juice from the jar in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar.
     Step 3:  Place the pot over low heat.
     As soon as the liquid begins to simmer, pour the hot pickling juice over relish ingredients in the mixing bowl.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 4:  Place the relish in a refrigerator and chill for 2 hours.
     Drain the excess liquid off before serving.

     Thai Green Curry Mayonnaise Glacage:
     This recipe yields enough for 6 large green mussels. 
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of mayonnaise in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Thai Green Curry Paste.  
     Add 1 teaspoon of small chopped seeded red jalapeño pepper.  
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced green onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced onion.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Step 2:  Stir the ingredients together.
     Set the glacage aside or chill it for later use.

     Mussels en Green Curry Mayonnaise Glacage With Pickled Lemon Relish:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer portion.  (5 or 6 green mussels)
     Step 1:  Place a bed of rock salt on a small roasting pan.
     Step 2:  Select 5 or 6 poached large green mussels on the half shell.
     Spread a thin layer of the Thai Green Curry Mayonnaise Glacage over each mussel.
     Place the glacage coated mussels on the bed of rock salt, so they sit level.
     Step 3:  Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Roast till a few light golden brown highlights appear.  (About 3 to 5 minutes.)
     Step 4:  Mound 2 tablespoons of the Pickled Lemon Relish on the center of a plate.
     Arrange the finished mussels on the plate in a starfish pattern.
     Garnish the pickled lemon relish with some thin bias sliced green onion top.

     Beyond delicious!  This is a nice appetizer for a multi course dinner.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Clams Casino

     A Great Tasting Clam Appetizer!
     My first job in the restaurant business was as a dishwasher and prep cook at one of the busiest seafood restaurants in Florida.  In the old days, a cook started at the very bottom end of a restaurant.  You had to learn how to scrub pots, wash dishes and clean, before you learned how to cook!  Dishwashing at a bushy little restaurant is a great way to develop good hand speed and agility.
     The menu at the seafood restaurant consisted of simple old fashioned broiled or fried seafood.  The seafood was so fresh that it needed no sauces or fancy preparations.  The seafood restaurant had a 75 seat capacity and we served over 900 customers a night.  That steaming hot Florida seafood restaurant was a gold mine!  The waiting line to get in was a block long.  Sometimes customers waited an hour for a table, but the long wait was well worth it.
     One night, the manager cooked a fancy clam dish that was not on the menu.  I asked what the dish was called and he said "Try one!"  One Clam Casino was all that it took to get hooked, because the flavor was incredibly good!
     A few years later in the early 1980's, I learned the Clams Casino recipe while working at an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia.  Clams Casino was a local favorite at that time and it sold well.  The aroma of Clams Casino was nearly irresistible and the same topping worked well on oily fish like Mackerel or Bluefish.  
     The only variable in a Clams Casino recipe is the choice of bacon.  Cheap bacon tastes like cheap bacon.  A light hickory smoked bacon is best for this recipe.  Any size of Hardshell Clam (Quahog) from Little Neck up to Cherrystone can be used to make Clams Casino.  Many chefs prefer small Littleneck Clams for this recipe.

     Clams Casino:
     This recipe yields enough topping for 1 dozen medium size Hard Shell Clams!  (Six medium size Clams Casino is considered to be an appetizer size portion.)  
     A good clam knife is essential.  An old fashioned white handle Dexter Russell clam knife is still the best choice, because the handle floats in water. 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 3 strips of hickory smoked bacon that are finely chopped.
     Gently sauté the bacon till the grease renders and some light golden brow highlights appear.
     Step 2:  Drain off all but 1/2 tablespoon of the bacon grease.
     Return the pan to medium low heat.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped mixed red bell pepper and green bell pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Briefly sauté till the peppers and onions just start to become tender.
     Add 2 tablespoons of dry white wine.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
     Step 5:  Shuck 12 fresh medium size Hard Shell Clams (Quahog), so the meat is still attached on the half shell.
     Rinse any broken shell bits off of the clams under cold running water.
     Cut the muscle that attaches the clam meat to the half shell.
     Step 6:  Line a roasting pan with a bed of rock salt.  (A bed of rock salt on the pan allows the clams to sit evenly.)
     Place the clams on the half shell on the rock salt lined pan.
     Step 7:  Place about 2 teaspoons of the prepared casino topping on each clam.
     Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice on each clam.
     Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese on the casino topping on each clam.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 pinches of fine plain French bread crumbs on each clam.
     Drizzle about 1/4 teaspoon of virgin olive oil on each clam.
     Step 8:  Place the roasting pan and clams in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake the Clams Casino till a few golden brown highlights appear on the topping and the clams are fully cooked.
     *The baking time depends on the size of the clams.  The clams casino is done baking when the shells are hot and light golden brown highlights appear on the topping.  

     Place a bed of parsley sprigs or endive lettuce on a plate.
     Set each Clams Casino on the bed of greens.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of chopped Italian Parsley over the clams.
     Garnish the center of the plate with a fluted lemon slice that has fine chopped parsley pressed onto the surface.

     The aroma and flavor of classic Clams Casino is simply irresistible!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Zuppa di Mare

     A Traditional Zuppa di Mare!
     Italy was known for great food long before vegetables from the new world were introduced during the Columbian Exchange.  There were no sweet potatoes, potatoes, corn, chile peppers or tomatoes before the age of Columbus and this is reflected in traditional Italian recipes.  
     Today's Zuppa di Mare has no tomato or chile peppers in the recipe, like many modern Zuppa di Mare recipes do.  Pre-Columbian Exchange Zuppa di Mare recipes were nearly always made with a clear fish broth or seafood broth.  The broth was sometimes thickened with a flour slurry.  No cream was added.   
     The Italian word "Chiara or Chiaro"  translates to "clear."  The word Chiaro can be used to designate an old traditional Zuppa di Mare recipe that contains no tomato, but this is not really necessary in Northern Italian fine dining restaurants that place value upon originality.
     Today's Zuppa di Mare recipe is simple and it is always cooked to order (a la minute).  I learned this recipe while apprenticing in a Northern Italian fine dining restaurant that was managed by an Italian Monk that had a thorough knowledge of Italian food history.  The chef said that this style of old fashioned Zuppa di Mare was best, because the soothing light flavors reflected upon simpler times.
     The selection of seafood for making Zuppa di Mare is a personal choice or it is based upon availability.  The seafood should be a combination shellfish, squid or octopus and fish.
     Many Venetian chefs like to add baccala (dried salt cod) to the mixture, to increase the umami flavor.  Sun Dried Anchovies are a nice option for increasing the umami flavor too.  During the times of ancient Rome, Garum would have been added to give the Zuppa di Mare a strong umami flavor, which was en vogue back in those days.  Garum is a classic condiment that is basically liquified fermented fish guts, which is rarely used in modern times.  
      Zuppa di Mare:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.  (About 4 1/2 cups)  
     Zuppa di Mare is made to order and it should not be made ahead of time.  There should be a high proportion of seafood to broth in this soup!  
     The clams at the local food market looked awful the day that I made recipe photo example, so none were added.  Small whole clams are traditionally part of Zuppa di Mare, so add a few if they are available.
     Zuppa di Mare is nearly always served with a small portion of pasta.  Fettuccine is the most popular pasta shape for this soup.   
     Step 1:  Cook 2 small portions of fettuccine pasta in boiling water over high heat.
     When the fettucini is al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Cool the fettucini under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the fettucini.
     Sprinkle a few drops of olive oil on the pasta.
     Toss the pasta, so it becomes lightly coated with olive oil.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a deep sauté pan (sauteuse pan) over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 cloves of sliced garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic is a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of diced celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced onion.
     Sauté the vegetables till they start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 3 1/2 cups of light whitefish broth.
     Add 1 chopped imported Italian canned anchovy filet or 1 tablespoon of tiny sun dried anchovies.  (optional)
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Simmer the soup till the soffritto vegetables are tender.
     Step 6:  Add 8 ounces of whitefish filet that is cut into six large bite size pieces.  (Cod, Snapper or Striped Sea Bass are good choices.)
     Add 6 ounces of scallops.
     Add 10 to 12 medium size shrimp.  (Peel, devein and remove the tails of the shrimp.)
     Add 10 to 12 small whole clams.
     Bring the liquid back to a gentle boil.
     *Do not stir the soup after adding the seafood or the fish pieces will break apart!
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer till the seafood is fully cooked and the broth is rich with the flavor of fruits of the sea!
     Step 8:  Add 3 ounces of sliced small squid tops and tentacles.  (The squid will cook in just a few seconds, so always add the squid last.)
     Briefly simmer till the squid is fully cooked.
     Step 9:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Gently stir the zuppa.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     This recipe describes 1 soup presentation.
     Place 1 small portion of the prepared fettuccine in a shallow soup bowl.
     Use spoon to place half of the seafood around the pasta in the bowl.
     Pour about 1 3/4 cups of the hot broth over the pasta, so the pasta is reheated.
     Serve with sliced Italian bread on the side.
     No garnish is necessary!

     The soothing gentle seafood flavors can be tasted in every spoonful of this Zuppa di Mare!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Smoked Salmon Spread Platter

     Smoked Salmon!
     Some people refer to today's appetizer as Smoked Salmon Pâté, but there really is no such thing as a spreadable pâté.  There also is no such thing as a pâté that requires cream cheese.  Today's appetizer cannot be called a mousse either, because it is not airy and light.  Smoked Salmon flavored Cream Cheese may just be a simple spread, but the elegant flavor is very appealing.
     Smoked Salmon Spread is easy to make and it is a real crowd pleaser.  The comfortable flavors are easy to identify, so guests do not hesitate to give this appetizer a try.  Smoked Salmon Spread can be presented any number of ways when served as canapés or hors d'oeuvres.  
     Smoked Salmon Spread can also be served as a fancy appetizer platter for 1 or 2 guests.  Yacht clubs often offer a Smoked Salmon Spread Platter as a light lunch item or appetizer.  Many English pubs have a Smoked Salmon Spread Platter on the appetizer menu too.               
     Salmon that is cold smoked is best for this recipe.  Salmon that is cold smoked is somewhat soft, like raw salmon, so it is easy to puree together with the cream cheese.  The rich flavor of cold smoked salmon does not need to be complicated with herbs or spices.
     American Neufchatel Cheese is a good choice for today's recipe, because it has a much lower fat content than Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  American Neufchatel is smooth and spreadable.
     American Neufchatel was originally the result of a failed attempt to reproduce French Neufchatel.  The creator of American Neufchatel liked the outcome of the cheese making experiment and named the soft light cream cheese "Neufchatel" anyway.  This causes many European cheese mongers to shake their head in disgust, because the real French Neufchatel is nothing like the American version.  Authentic French Normandy region Neufchatel Cheese has a somewhat crumbly texture, so it will not work as a spread.  
     Smoked Salmon Spread:
     This recipe yields 8 ounces.  (2 appetizer portions)  
     A food processor is best for this recipe.
     Step 1:  Place 4 ounces of Cold Smoked Cured Salmon in a food processor.
     Puree the salmon till it is smooth.
     Step 2:  Add 4 ounces of softened American style Neufchatel Cheese.
     Blend till the ingredients are thoroughly combined and smooth.
     Step 3:  Place the Smoked Salmon Spread in a container and chill to 41ºF.
     Smoked Salmon Spread Platter:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Place the Smoked Salmon Spread into a star tipped pastry bag.
     Pipe about 4 ounces of the Smoked Salmon Spread into a small ramekin.
     Place the ramekin of smoked salmon spread on top of a few baby mixed lettuce leaves on a plate.
     Step 2:  Garnish the salmon spread with a lime slice curl and a scallion floret garnish.
     Step 3:  Garnish the plate with petite portions of:
     - finely chopped hard boiled egg
     - capers
     - finely diced tomato
     - finely diced onion
     Step 4:  Cut a mini baguette into thin slices.
     Lightly brush each slice with melted unsalted butter.
     Heat a griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Grill the bread slices till they are lightly toasted.
     Place the petite crostini slices on the border of the plate.

     This is a tasty casual afternoon appetizer platter!