Monday, June 19, 2017

Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail

     A Classic American Seafood Restaurant Specialty! 
     Many old fashioned seafood restaurants have their own docks where fishing boats unload fresh caught fish.  Good fresh seafood needs no sauces or extensive preparation.  Plain raw, broiled or fried seafood are usually the only options at a traditional fresh seafood restaurant.  Owners of these kinds of seafood restaurants take great pride in serving the very best quality seafood with minimal preparation.
     Most east coast seafood restaurants offer a Crab Stuffing to go with lobster, shrimp, pompano or flounder.  Just like in Baltimore, Maryland, the best Crab Stuffing is made with about 95% crab meat.  The other 5% of the ingredients are aromatic vegetables, eggs and bread crumbs.
     Second rate seafood restaurants offer a Crab Stuffing with less than 50% crab meat content or they sell crab flavored surimi as real crab.  One can tell if a restaurant is using pre-made frozen crab cake products by judging the percentage of crab meat too.  Usually these kinds of seafood restaurants are located far away from the coastline or they are corporate chain restaurants.  A traditional seafood restaurant located in a highly competitive coastal area would lose plenty of customers by serving low quality crab meat products, unless the restaurant targets a tourist clientele that does not know any better.
     When I made the Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail photo example for today's recipe, the 2010 British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster had just occurred.  All seafood from Gulf Of Mexico waters and the Gulf Stream was heavily contaminated.  In fact, the residual contamination will pose a health threat for the next 50 years, so many people that are in the know have stopped eating Gulf seafood altogether.  This includes Spiny Lobster and Blue Crab from the Gulf Stream waters.    
     Fortunately there are alternative resources for Crab and Lobster that come from uncontaminated ocean waters.  Today's recipe makes use of Alaskan King Crab and Australian Spiny Lobster Tail.  If you feel confident about the local Florida Spiny Lobster and Chesapeake Blue Crab being safe to eat, then by all means use these traditional items to make today's Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail recipe.
     Spiny Lobster Tails are the best for stuffing.  The size of a Spiny Lobster seems to have no effect on the quality of the tail meat.  Spiny Lobster is harvested worldwide and the price can vary by a wide margin at seafood markets.    
     Maine Lobster is the only true lobster species, because Spiny Lobster are more closely related to shrimp.  Maine Lobster has very large claws and Spiny Lobster has no claws.  Maine Lobster meat has a richer flavor than Spiny Lobster too.  Small Maine Lobster Tails are good for stuffing, but the problem is that a large lobster tail is needed to make a traditional Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail.  When a Maine Lobster grows to over 2 1/2 pounds, the tail meat can become tough and it does not always fill the tail shell.  Large Spiny Lobster Tails are the better choice for making Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail, because the tail is full of tender meat, no matter how big a Spiny Lobster grows.
     Rock Lobster Tails and African Lobster Tails are poor choices for stuffing.  African Lobster Tails are usually marketed by foreign fishing companies that show no respect for local African fishermen and lobster trappers.  Rock Lobster Tails are usually marketed as a frozen product and there is a high percentage of Rock Lobster Tails that show signs of molting or decomposition.
     Fresh live Chesapeake Blue Crab is the best choice for making a Crab Stuffing.  Poaching the Blue Crabs and shelling the meat is labor intensive, but the flavor is best.  The next best choice is to purchased Canned Fresh Lump Blue Crab Meat.  For a Crab Stuffing, the chunkier the meat, the better, so Super Lump or Lump Blue Crab Meat is the best choice.
     As an alternative, Alaskan King Crab Legs are a good choice.  King Crab is pricier than Snow Crab, so greater care it taken when processing this seafood product.  The Alaskan Crab Fishery is superbly managed and top quality Alaskan King Crab has a "sweet" flavor that is not briny at all.  Alaskan King Crab is fairly easy to shell and the meat can be torn into large chunks, so this alternative crab is good for making a traditional Crab Stuffing.
     There is something about Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail that is very appealing for a special occasion or holiday.  In fact, Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail is one of the best selling items of all time for New Year's Eve or Valentine's Day.  Today's recipe is expensive to make at home and it is even more expensive to purchase at a good restaurant.  For a special treat or a special event, a traditional American coastal seafood restaurant style Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail is a nice choice!

     Crab Stuffing:
     This recipe yields about 6 ounces.  (Enough for 1 large 8 ounce lobster tail.)
     A good crab stuffing contains about 90% to 95% Crab Meat.  Blue Crab or King Crab are best for a crab stuffing.  The chunkier the crab meat, the better the stuffing will be.  
     Step 1:  Shell about 3/4 cup to 1 cup of Alaskan king crab meat.  (About 5 ounces.)
     *Be sure that there is absolutely no shell or cartilage in the crab meat.  Try to leave the large pieces of crab meat intact instead of breaking them up.
     Place the crab meat in a mixing bowl.
     Chill the crab meat till it is needed.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced mixed green bell pepper and red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely minced Hickory Smoked Bacon.
     Gently sauté till the vegetables are tender.  (The smoked bacon should not be cooked crisp.)
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 3:  Add the sautéed aromatic vegetables and bacon to the crab meat in the mixing bowl.
     Add 2 pinches of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.  (optional)
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Add 2 tablespoons of plain fine French bread crumbs.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of whisked raw egg.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.
     Gently fold and mix the ingredients together, till the binding ingredients are evenly distributed.  (Try not to break up the crab meat chunks.)
     Step 5:  Place the crab stuffing in a container.
     Chill till the mixture becomes stiff enough to hold its own shape when squeezed.  (About 1 hour.)

     Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Select an 8 ounce spiny lobster tail.
     Use a chef knife or kitchen shears to split the lobster tail open by cutting through the top half of the shell lengthwise.  Partially cut through the raw lobster meat at the same time, so it will be butterflied, when it is popped out of the shell.  (Do not cut through the bottom of the lobster shell!)
     Remove the mud vein.
     Step 2:  Spread the lobster tail shell open and gently pull the lobster meat upward,  without detaching the meat from the fan of the tail.
     Close the shell under the meat.
     Drape the butterflied tail meat over the top of the empty shell.
     Step 3:  Place the fabricated lobster tail on a small roasting pan or pie tin.
     Spread out the lobster tail fan, so it is fully opened.
     Step 4:  Mound a generous amount of the crab stuffing on the lobster meat.  (About 5 to 6 ounces.)
     Gently press and shape the stuffing onto the lobster tail meat.
     *Do not firmly pack the crab stuffing or it will become too dense.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 cup of water to the roasting pan.
     Pour 2 tablespoons of dry white wine over the stuffing and lobster.
     Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of lemon juice over the stuffing and lobster.
     Drizzle 2 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter over the stuffing and lobster.
     Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of plain fine French bread crumbs over the lobster stuffing.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of Spanish Paprika over the stuffing.
     Step 6:  Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the Stuffed Lobster is halfway done.  (About 5 minutes.)
     Remove the pan from the oven.
     Use a spoon to baste the lobster with the pan juices.
     Step 7:  Place the pan back in the oven.
     Bake till golden highlights appear on the stuffing and the lobster meat is fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read 165ºF.)
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Carefully use a wide spatula to set the Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail on the front half of a plate.
     Spoon some of the butter and pan juices from the roasting pan over the stuffed lobster.
     Serve with a vegetable and potato of your choice.  (The stuffed lobster in the photos was served with buttered thyme carrots and boiled bliss potatoes.)
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig and a decorative "winged" lemon half.

     The aroma and flavor of Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail will certainly impress guests!  The small amount of hickory smoked bacon adds a subtle old fashioned east coast fish house flavor to the stuffing.  This is a great entrée for a special occasion!  

Friday, June 16, 2017

Curry Apple Carrot Soup

     A Tasty Soup For Any Season!
     Apple is a traditional sweetener for curry.  Carrots also have a semi sweet flavor.  The naturally sweet light flavor of apples and carrots mellows the complex curry spice flavor.  The result is an interesting soup flavor that provides warmth on a chilly day and gives relief to the heat during the summer season.     
     I have sold this soup as a special du jour item at many restaurants during the last three decades.  In Florida and Las Vegas, customers really liked this soup.  In conservative areas, like Pennsylvania, many restaurant workers still define how good a soup is, by whether it is sold in a can.  Needless to say, it was no use trying to sell modern soups, like Curry Apple Carrot when working in Philadelphia.  Curry Apple Carrot is more popular in trendsetting restaurants in warm weather climates.  Curry Apple Carrot Soup is also a good selling item in traditional English pubs, because the clientele are familiar with curry spice food.  
     While working as a sous chef at a fine dining French café in Florida that hosted weekly fashion shows, I ran Curry Apple Carrot Soup as a special du jour item one day.  Oddly enough, one of the customers at the café that day just happened to be an editor for Gourmet Magazine.  The editor liked my Curry Apple Carrot Soup!  The editor said that he would return in 3 weeks and that he wanted me to submit a standardized recipe for the soup.  He also wanted the soup to be prepared for photos for a story in Gourmet Magazine.  He handed his business card to the chef and I, then mentioned that he would call to give notice upon his return.
     I was happy about how the editor wanted to feature my Curry Apple Carrot Soup in Gourmet Magazine!  The French chef was happy too, because the notoriety would boost business.  Unfortunately, one week later tragedy struck.  The billionaire owner of the classy French Café had all of his assets frozen, due to a stock market insider trading scheme that he was involved in.  The French chef and I went two weeks without a paycheck and we both had quit our jobs at the café or go broke.  Leaving that bankrupted restaurant meant that my Curry Apple Carrot Soup was not going to be featured in Gourmet Magazine, but thats life in the fast lane.   
     A few months later, the bartender at the French cafe called me on the phone and told me how the café was still struggling to make ends meet.  When I mentioned the Gourmet Magazine deal, the bartender said that the editor of Gourmet Magazine actually did return for the soup recipe.  As it turned out, the bankrupt French café hired a second rate cook at a low wage to replace the French chef and I, so the food quality plummeted.  The bartender was laughing about how bad the cook really was!  The bartender said that the cook made the Curry Apple Carrot Soup with canned apple sauce and canned carrots that he purchased with petty cash at the food market next door.  The Gourmet Magazine representatives refused to have anything to do with that cook's version of the soup and they never returned.  I just laughed and thanked the bartender for letting me know what went on.    
     Anyway, readers of this recipe should be happy to know that Curry Apple Carrot Soup looks and tastes good enough to be featured in famous food magazine.  Restaurateurs will be happy to know that the cost of making this soup is very low, so the profit margin is extremely high.  Curry Apple Carrot Soup has been made by many chefs before me, but the version that I make always seems to turn out the best.  Most chefs thicken this soup with a cornstarch slurry, which actually is a shortcut method that robs flavor.  Roux is the best choice for thickening this soup, because it increases flavor while creating a silky smooth texture.   
     Curry Apple Carrot Soup
     This recipe yields about 1 quart.  (2 large soup bowls)
     Step 1:  Heat a large sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped peeled celery.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté and stir till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of small chopped carrot.
     Add 3/4 cup of chopped peeled cored apple.  (Gala Apple is good for this recipe.)
     Add 3 1/2 cups of light chicken stock.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the soup to a boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Garam Masala.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Yellow Madras Curry Powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add sea salt to taste.
     Gently simmer till the vegetables are very soft and the volume is about 4 cups.
     Step 5:  Remove the soup from the heat and let it cool.
     Use an emersion blender, food processor or blender to puree the soup.  (The soup in the photos was pureed the old fashioned way, by pressing the ingredients through a fine mesh strainer.)
     Step 6:  Pour the soup puree through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Place the pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream while stirring.
     Add 3/4 cup of milk while stirring.
     Bring the soup to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  When making roux, it is better to make too much than too little.  Any extra roux can be saved for other recipes.  Roux can be refrigerated for 7 days.
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 ounces of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a whisk.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Stir the roux till it becomes a light golden blonde color.
     Remove the roux pot from the heat.
     Step 8:  Slowly add just enough of the roux to the soup, while whisking, to thicken the soup to a thin consistency that barely coats a spoon.  (3 to 4 tablespoons of roux)
     Step 9:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the soup is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon and the volume is about 4 cups.
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Cinnamon Croutons:
     Only a few croutons are needed to garnish each bowl of soup. 
     Step 1:  Cut 1 slice of French Boule Loaf Bread into 3/8" cube shapes.  (About 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup.)
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     When the butter becomes hot and the milk fat liquids evaporate, add the bread cubes.
     Gently stir the croutons in the hot butter, till the croutons are lightly toasted and crisp.
     Step 3:  Use a slotted spoon to remove the croutons from the pan and set them aside in a container.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of cinnamon and 1 pinch of sugar over the croutons, while gently shaking the container.
     Keep the croutons warm on a stove top.
     Ladle 2 cups of the Curry Apple Carrot Soup into a shallow large soup bowl.
     Sprinkle 5 or 6 Cinnamon Croutons on the surface of the soup.
     Garnish the rim of the soup bowl with 2 or 3 Italian Parsley leaves.
     The golden orange color and the aroma of Curry Apple Carrot Soup is quite appealing.  This is a great soup for any season of the year!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

T-Bone Steak with Candied Smoked Bacon and Twisted Peppers

     A Modern Tasty Steak Topping!   
     T-Bone Steaks have a superb Strip Steak on one side and a piece of Tenderloin on the other side of the bone.  Tenderloin piece can be just a sliver of meat or it can be the size of a full Filet Mignon Steak when cut close to the Porterhouse Section of the beef loin.  Steak aficionados tend to disregard the Tenderloin side of a T-Bone and they focus on the wide Strip Loin side, because of the rich flavor.  However, a T-Bone that has a large Tenderloin piece does appeal to the ladies.    
     Candied Bacon has been featured as an accompaniment in fine dining restaurants since the 1990's.  Candied Bacon is relatively easy to make, but it is just as easy to make a batch that is unpalatable.  If the brown sugar is not cooked to the melting point, the candy coating will be brittle and the Candied Bacon will have an unpleasant texture.  If the brown sugar is caramelized too dark, the flavor will be bitter and the candy coating will look black.  When lightly caramelized, the sugar coating will adhere to the bacon and the color will be a golden brown shade.   As one can see, a moderate oven temperature and the length of roasting time are critical when making Candied Bacon.
     The state of doneness of the bacon also is critical when making Candied Bacon.  The bacon must only be partially cooked before it is sugar coated or the brown sugar will cook to an undesirable dark color before the bacon turns golden brown.  If the bacon is cooked crisp before it is sugar coated, then the bacon will be burnt by the time the brown sugar becomes molten.
      Classic Candied Bacon is made with perfectly flat full strips of bacon.  To accomplish this, the bacon must be covered with parchment paper on both sides and sandwiched between two sheet pans before baking.  A perfectly flat full strip of Candied Bacon is a very nice looking garnish, but it has limited applications.  
     Many modern chefs prefer to candy bite pieces of bacon.  Bite size pieces of Candied Bacon can be sprinkled on everything from salads to steaks.  Candied Bacon pieces do not have to be perfectly flat, so this style of Candied Bacon is much easier to make.    
     For today's recipe steak the smoked bacon is cut into bite size pieces then cooked till the bacon is blanched.  When the brown sugar is added, the Twisted Peppers are also added, so the peppers infuse with the flavor of the Candied Smoked Bacon in the oven.  As can be seen in the photos above, the Candied Bacon has a nice color and it is not overly dark.  The molten brown sugar clings to the bacon and it also is not too dark.  The cooked peppers are still green, yet fully cooked.  The result is a great tasting topping for a good T-Bone Steak!
     Twisted Peppers are Hybrid Shishito Peppers.  The Twisted Pepper spicy heat level is somewhere between green bell pepper and a mild green jalapeño.  The flesh of a Twisted Pepper is very thin and these peppers cook quickly.  There is no need to remove the seeds in Twisted Peppers that are served whole, because these hybrid peppers contain relatively few seeds.  Popping off the stems is all that needs to be done.   

     Cumin Tomato Northern Beans:
     This recipe yields 2 petite portions.  (About 1 cup.)
     Fancy beans are a nice accompaniment for a steak!  
     Step 1:  Place 1 cup of rinsed cooked Northern Beans (or rinsed canned Northern Beans) in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add enough water to cover the beans.
     Stir the ingredients together. 
     Step 2:  Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the tomato sauce is thick enough to cling to the beans.
     Keep the Cumin Tomato Northern Beans warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie. 

     Buttered Miniature Hybrid Beets and Turnips:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Select 6 or 7 colorful hybrid miniature beets and turnips.
     Trim the root end and cut off the excess green tops.
     Step 2:  Place the mini beets and turnips into a small sauce pot.
     Add enough water to cover the vegetables.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the sauce pot with a lid.
     Cook the root vegetables till they are tender.
     Step 4:  Cool the vegetables under cold running water.
     Carefully use the back of a paring knife to scrape the skin off of the root vegetables.
     Step 5:  Place the mini root vegetables in a sauté pan.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 6:  Place the sauté pan over medium low heat just before serving, to reheat the root vegetables.  

     T-Bone Steak with Candied Smoked Bacon and Twisted Peppers:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     It is best to cook this steak topping to order, so the peppers do not become faded and mushy.
     When the candied smoked bacon and twisted peppers are ready to be finished in the oven, then it is time to start grilling the steak!  Be sure to heat the chargrill or cast iron ribbed griddle, before it is time to cook the steak.
     Step 1:  Preheat a chargrill or cast iron ribbed griddle to a medium/medium hot temperature.
     Step 2:  Trim any excess fat cap off of a 16 to 20 ounce T-Bone Steak.  
     Lightly season the steak with sea salt and crushed black peppercorns.
     Set the prepared steak aside.
     Step 3:  Cut 2 slices of Hickory Smoked Bacon into 1 1/2" long pieces.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Place the smoked bacon pieces in the pan.
     Gently sauté the bacon till a few golden highlights appear and the bacon just starts to become crisp.  (Cooked a little more than blanched.) 
     Step 4:  Use a slotted spoon to remove the lightly cooked bacon pieces from the pan and set them aside in a container.  
     Leave the bacon grease in the pan.
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Add 10 to 12 of Hybrid Twisted Peppers (Shishito Peppers) that have the stem end cut off.
     Briefly sauté the peppers till they just start to cook.
     Use a slotted spoon to remove the peppers and add them to the bacon in the container.
     Step 6:  Drain the excess bacon grease out of the pan.
     Return the pan to medium heat.     
     Add 1/3 cup of Light Brown Sugar.
     Heat the sugar till it starts to become molten.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Return the smoked bacon pieces and twisted peppers to the pan.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 7:  *Start cooking the seasoned T-Bone Steak at this time!  Grill the steak with a crosscheck pattern, so the steak looks nice.  Cook the steak to your desired state of doneness.  
     Step 8:  While the steak is cooking, place the pan with the molten brown sugar, smoked bacon and twisted peppers in a 350ºF oven.
     Once every 2 minutes toss the ingredients together in the pan, so the sugar glazes the ingredients.
     Bake till the molten brown sugar lightly coats the bacon and peppers are still green.  
     Remove the pan from the oven.
     Keep the Candied Smoked Bacon and Twisted Sweet Peppers warm on a stove top till the steak finishes cooking.
     Step 9:  When the T-Bone Steak is cooked to the desired finish temperature, place it on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Let the steak rest for about one minute before serving.

     Step 1:  Place the T-Bone Steak on the front half of a plate.
     *For a T-Bone steak that has a big tenderloin piece, face that side of the steak toward the customer to show it off.  For a T-Bone with a smaller tenderloin piece, face the big strip side of the steak toward the customer.
     Step 2:  Place the Buttered Miniature Beets and Turnips on the back half of the plate.
     Mound 1/2 cup of the Cumin Tomato Northern Beans on the back half of the plate.
     Garnish the beans with a cilantro sprig.
     Step 3:  Cascade the Candied Smoked Bacon and Twisted Peppers over the back edge of the steak, but try to leave the bone exposed.
     Spoon any remaining brown sugar glaze in the pan over the Candied Smoked Bacon and Twisted Peppers.
     The flavors of this T-Bone steak entrée are mouthwatering!  The smokey sweet candied steak topping is certainly different and it surely will draw compliments from guests.     

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Insalata di Mare

     A Tasty Traditional Italian Seafood Salad Antipasti!
     I learned how to make Insalata di Mare when I was a garde manger chef at Northern Italian fine dining restaurant.  At every Italian restaurant that I worked in during the following years, the seafood for Insalata di Mare was prepared the same way.  Every Italian chef knows this recipe by heart and the basic recipe never changes.  As the old saying goes, "There is no need to reinvent the wheel!"  Insalata di Mare is perfection at its best! 
     Only the freshest seafood should be selected and it is very important to not overcook the seafood for Insalata di Mare.  The seafood must be cooked al dente or just a little bit more than three quarters fully cooked.  This ensures that the seafood will be tender and juicy when the salad is served.

     Insalata di Mare
     This recipe yields 1 salad entrée.
     The seafood for this salad should be cooked and quickly cooled shortly before serving.
     Always add the sliced squid last.  Squid only takes a few seconds to cook.  When seafood is cooked al dente, it is still slightly raw and warm in the center.
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 quarts of water in a sauce pot.
     Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Step 2:  Add 8 medium size scallops.  (About 3 to 4 ounces)
     Add 6 peeled and deveined large shrimp.
     Boil the shrimp and scallops till they are almost three quarters fully cooked.
     Step 3:  Add about 1/2 cup of sliced squid and tentacles.  (3 to 4 ounces)
     Boil for about 45 seconds, so the squid is cooked tender.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from heat.
     Place the pot in a sink and cool with cold running water.
     Add 2 to 3 cups of ice to thoroughly cool the seafood.
     Drain the water off of the seafood.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Step 5:  Place the chilled poached seafood in a mixing bowl.
     Add enough virgin olive oil to coat the seafood.  (3 to 4 tablespoons)
     Add 1 pinch of coarse ground black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of minced fresh basil.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 6:  Chill the seafood in a refrigerator for 10 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Toss the ingredients together one last time just before serving.
     Step 7:  Mound 1 1/2 cups of Mixed Baby Lettuce on the center of a plate.
     Place 6 or 7 ripe Plum Tomato slices on the place around the lettuce.
     Place 1 long thin sliced carrot triangle garnish on the plate between each tomato slice.
     Place 1 half of a ripe olive on each tomato slice.
     Step 8:  Mound the chilled seafood on top of the lettuce on the center of the plate.
     Spoon some of the extra lemon olive oil dressing over the salad and tomatoes.

     Insalata di Mare is a great summertime salad that is quite healthy to eat! 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Linguine a Zucchine e Agrodolce Ciliegia Selvatica

     A Tasty Light Pasta!
     Agrodolce is a classic Sicilian sweet and sour sauce.  Agrodolce is actually originated in Arabic cuisine way back when sugar was traded like a spice and used like a spice.  The chief spice traders in the Mediterranean region before the European Middle Ages in history were the Arabic spice traders.  Sicily has a long history of maritime Arabic trade and some Arabic cooking influences can be noticed in Sicilian cuisine, just like all cuisines that border on the Mediterranean Sea.
     Linguine and Zucchine Agrodolce is a nice light vegetarian pasta.  Agrodolce Sauce is usually made with a balance of sweetness from sugar and a tart sour flavor from lemon and/or vinegar.  Aromatic ingredients are added to make the sweet sour flavor more complex.  Dried fruit also is usually added to Agrodolce to increase the flavor depth.  Dried berries or raisins are the most common dried fruit added, but many chefs select other dried fruits to add a signature touch.  Dried Wild Cherries (Sour Cherries) are popular throughout Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean region.  An Agrodolce flavored with Dried Sour Cherries tastes surprisingly nice with the light savory summer squash flavor of zucchini.  Today's Sicilian style pasta is a classic choice for the warm summer season!
     Wild Cherry Agrodolce Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1/2 cup.  (Enough for 1 portion of pasta.) 
     Dried Sour Cherries can be found in Eastern European and Mediterranean food markets.  
     Step 1:  Place these ingredients in a sauce pot:
     - 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
     - 1/4 cup of sugar
     - 1 cup of dry white wine
     - 1/2 tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced Dried Sour Cherries.    
     Add 2 finely chopped garlic cloves.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a very thin syrup consistency.
     *The yield should be about 1/2 cup.  The sauce will reduce again when added to the sautéed zucchini later in the recipe.
     Step 3:  Place the thin Wild Cherry Agrodolce Sauce in a container.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top or chill it for later use.

     Linguine Pasta:
     Cook 1 portion of Linguine Pasta in a pot boiling water till it is cooked 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 and set it aside.

     Linguine a Zucchine e Agrodolce Ciliegia Selvatica:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     For pasta, a little bit of Agrodolce goes a long way!  Only enough Agrodolce is needed to coat the pasta with flavor.
     Step 1:  Keep a pot of water boiling, so the prepared Linguine Pasta can be reheated later in the recipe. 
     Step 2:  Cut 1 medium size zucchini lengthwise into thin slices.  (About 1/8" thick.)
     Cut the long thin slices into 1" to 1 1/2" lengths.  (About 1 1/4 cups is needed.)
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add the zucchini pieces.
     Sauté the zucchini till a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 4:  Add the reserved 1/2 cup of thin Wild Cherry Agrodolce Sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Step 5:  Place the prepared Linguine in a pasta net.
     Reheat the pasta in the pot of boiling water for a few seconds.
     Drain the water off the pasta.
     Step 6:  Add the Linguine to the sauce and zucchini in the sauté pan.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Simmer and reduce till the Agrodolce Sauce is a thin syrup consistency that can cling to the pasta.
     *Be sure to toss the ingredients together occasionally, so the pasta does not stick to the pan.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the pasta and zucchini on a plate.
     Pour any excess Agrodolce Sauce over the pasta.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Linguine a Zucchine e Agrodolce Ciliegia Selvatica has a unique flavor that appeals to the senses!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Salade of Belgian Endive and Finocchio with White Truffle Rose Petal Vinaigrette

     An Elegant Tasting Composed Salad For Summer!
     Belgian Endive is an elegant tasting bitter lettuce that has a crisp texture.  Finocchio is also called Anise Bulb or Florence Fennel.  Finocchio has a light a light aromatic anise flavor that pairs well with Belgian Endive.  Both of these salad items are usually accompanied by a fancy vinaigrette of a chefs choosing.
     Obviously a "one size fits all" standard Italian or French Vinaigrette will fall short of expectations when served with certain food items that have unique flavor profiles.  Fine dining chefs often design a vinaigrette so it best suits specific flavor combinations.  The texture of the vinaigrette is part of the design too.  For example, a loose stirred vinaigrette is a better choice for certain salad applications than a fully emulsified smooth vinaigrette.  A stirred vinaigrette allows the components of the vinaigrette to separate and this can create a wider range of taste sensations.
     Mushrooms taste good with bitter lettuce and aromatic fennel, so White Truffle Mushroom Oil is a good choice for today's salad.  Flowers symbolize the spring and early summer seasons, so adding some rose petals to the vinaigrette creates an interesting seasonal flavor.  Rose Petals and Rose Water are used extensively in Arabic, Persian and Indian cuisines, so the use of roses in a modern vinaigrette is really nothing new.  The combination of bitter lettuce, aromatic fennel, white truffle and rose petals may be difficult to imagine, but all it takes is one taste to see that this unique flavor combination tastes great!  

     White Truffle Rose Petal Vinaigrette:
     This recipe yields about 1/4 cup.  (2 petite portions)
     Fresh edible rose petals are not always available.  Dried edible rose petals and Rose Water are easy to find at Mediterranean food markets.  If dried rose petals are used, then the dressing must stand for at least 10 minutes so the crumbled dried rose petals reconstitute.  If fresh rose petals are used, then slice the petals into very thin chiffonade strips that are as wide as a thread.
     White Truffle Oil varies in strength.  Some taste much stronger than others.  Only a light White Truffle flavor is needed for this vinaigrette, so a strong tasting White Truffle Oil should be diluted with Pomace Olive Oil or Canola Oil. 
     Step 1:  Place 2 teaspoons of crumbled dried rose petals (or very thin chiffonade sliced rose petals) in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of rose water.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of water.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Stir the ingredients.
     Set the mixture aside for 10 minutes, so the flavors meld and the dried rose petals reconstitute.
     Step 2:  Slowly add 1/2 teaspoon of strong tasting White Truffle Oil while gently whisking.
     Slowly add 2 1/2 tablespoons of Pomace Olive Oil (or Canola Oil) while gently whisking.
     Step 3:  Place the vinaigrette in a container.
     Allow the vinaigrette to stand for 10 minutes so the flavors meld or chill it for later use.
     *Stir before serving!

     Salade of Belgian Endive and Finocchio with White Truffle Rose Petal Vinaigrette:
     This recipe yields 1 composed salad.
     A Composed Salad requires that each item be arranged on a plate with a planned design in mind.  A symmetric design with a central focal point looks good from all angles.
     This is a strong tasting vinaigrette, so a little bit goes a long way.  
     Step 1:  Use a 3" ring mold to place 1/2 cup of mixed baby spinach leaves and frisée lettuce on the center of a plate.
     Place 1/4 cup of thin sliced fennel bulb on top of the lettuce greens.
     Remove the ring mold.
     Step 2:  Gently peel and separate 8 large Belgian Endive leaves.
     Trim the ends of the Belgian Endive leaves, so they are just about equal in length.
     Equally space the Belgian Endive on the around the mound of lettuce and fennel, so the leaves point out from center.
     Step 3:  Slice a roasted red bell pepper into 8 thin strips that measure 2 1/2" x 1/4".
     Place the roasted pepper strips on the plate between the Belgian Endive leaves, so they point out from center.
     Step 4:  Stir the White Truffle Rose Petal Vinaigrette.
     Drizzle a small portion of the vinaigrette on the salad components.  (About 2 tablespoons.)
     Garnish the mound of lettuce and fennel with green fennel top sprigs.

     The composed flower design of this salad will let guests know what to expect to taste.  This aromatic salad is a nice start for an evening of fine dining!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Roast Leg of Lamb with Fennel Demi Glace and Danish Bleu Cheese

     Roast Leg Of Lamb! 
     There two schools of thought concerning the best temperature for roasting a leg of lamb.  Low temperature slow roasting has become popular in recent years, but roasting a leg of lamb at a high temperature is the classic method.  
     Low temperature slow roasting is what many chefs recommend for beef or lamb in this modern age.  Slow roasting usually yields a generic texture and flavor that is average at best.  Low temperature slow roasted lamb may be tender and juicy, but the full rich flavor of lamb does not develop.  Low temperature roasting is very forgiving, so the roasting time is not quite as critical, but slow roasting for too much time will result in dense dry meat that has very little flavor.
     High temperature roasting produces more caramelization, a richer flavor, better meat color and a superior texture.  High temperature roasting is less forgiving, so a cook has to be right on the money or the leg of lamb will be raw near the bones or the outer portion will be way overcooked.  High temperature roasting seals in flavor and it allows the intramuscular fats to produce tender meat quickly, so more color is retained.
     While apprenticing with a French chef from Corsica, I learned to roast lamb at a high temperature, so rich caramelized flavors were created.  The aroma of lamb that is roasted at a high temperature is nearly overwhelming.  When people outside of the restaurant caught a whiff in the air, it was difficult to resist stepping through the door.
     Later in my career while working as a sauté chef and saucier at an exclusive yacht club, I was responsible for organizing the menu selections for an international food theme night each week.  The manager of the yacht club selected seven international recipes for the special du jour menu and it was my job to quickly research the selections, then prepare the international food items.
     One week the yacht club manager selected a roast leg of lamb recipe from a great Italian restaurant in Chicago for international food night.  The lamb leg was specially prepared by marinating for one day, then inserting a mixture of garlic, prosciutto, herbs and Parmigiana Cheese into holes that were poked deep into the meat.  The recipe also required that the leg of lamb be roasted in a 650ºF to 850ºF oven.  That is very high roasting temperature!
     I prepared the Chicago Italian leg of lamb recipe exactly as it was written.  After roasting the lamb legs at a high temperature for fifteen minutes, the roasted lamb aroma was absolutely mouth watering!  Everybody in the restaurant was asking what was cooking.  A little while later, the lamb was roasting at such a high temperature that smoke from the dripping fat was billowing out of the oven!  The kitchen was filled with roasted lamb smoke, then the fire alarms went off!  We all knew why the fire alarms went off, so there was no panic.
     When the fire alarms go off at an exclusive yacht club, the fire department responds in no time flat.  Every available fire truck and fireman responded to the alarm about a dozen fire fighters stampeded through the back door kitchen that was filled with lamb fat smoke.  The first words out of the fire chief's mouth was "Man!  Does that smell good!"  I explained where the smoke was coming from and that just about caused the firemen to start drooling with hunger filled awe.  The yacht club chef walked over and he was trying not to laugh about the situation.  Everybody was standing there fanning smoke from their eyes and licking their lips.  The high temperature special roasted lamb smelled incredibly good!
     The fire fighters ended up just hanging around for a while, like they were waiting for the lamb legs to come out of the oven.  It looked like these guys were used to getting some free handouts when they responded to calls like this.  The chef announced to the fire fighters that this was a members only club, with a non profit food cost budget and we really could not feed them roasted lamb for lunch without getting fired from our jobs.  The chef really knew what to say, but the fire fighters looked a little bit disappointed, so I asked "Who does the cooking at the fire house?"  A couple of the firemen responded.  I quickly wrote down the lamb recipe and handed it to the firemen, then mentioned that the lamb legs must be cooked between 650º and 850º degrees to get them just right.  I also said, "Be careful when you cook this recipe, because the fire department will probably show up when the alarms go off!"  We all laughed and the fire fighters left smiling with a copy of the lamb recipe.
     Roasting at an extra high temperature is best done outdoors or in a well ventilated restaurant kitchen.  Most home kitchen ovens have a maximum temperature of 450ºF, so writing a 650ºF temperature roast lamb recipe would only appeal to a very limited audience.  Even so, traditional high temperature roasting is usually done between 350ºF and 450ºF, so a traditional lamb roasting method can be done in a home kitchen with good results.  Smoke will be produced, so be sure to turn the fans on and open the windows.  The aroma will make the neighbors hungry, so expect uninvited dinner guests to be knocking at the door!

     Beef Stock:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Beef Stock

     Light Color Espagnole For Lamb: 
     This recipe yields about 2 cups.
     For lamb, a Red Roux is used to make the Espagnole instead of a Brown Roux.  Using a red roux makes it is easier to identify the lamb sauce in a busy kitchen and a lighter color is traditional for a sauce that is flavored with fennel.
     Any extra Sauce Espagnole can be refrigerated for 7 days or frozen for later use.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 3 cups of beef stock.
     Add 2 ounces of Madiera Wine or Dry Sherry.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Make a rusty red color roux with 2 ounces of unsalted butter and and equal amount of flour while constantly stirring over medium/medium high heat.  
     *Do not stop stirring or the roux will scorch!  
     Keep stirring till the roux turns a rusty red color. 
     Remove the pot from the heat.
      Step 3:  Only add enough of the red roux to the meat stock pot to thicken the beef stock to a very thin sauce consistency.  Whisk until the roux is combined.  (Any extra roux can be saved for another recipe.)
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the Sauce Espagnole, till it is a thin sauce consistency that can glaze the back of a spoon. 
     Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container and set it aside.
     Roasted Leg of Lamb with Fennel:
     This recipe yields a 24 ounce roasted boneless section of lamb leg.  (3 to 4 portions) 
     A section of whole lamb leg or a section of boneless lamb leg can be used for this recipe.  Add about 5 more ounces if the bone is attached.  
     The vegetables and fennel in the pan will caramelize dark.  They are not meant to be served.  They will fortify the deglazed pan jus for making the Fennel Demi Glace. 
     Step 1:  Select a 24 ounce boneless section of lamb leg.
     *Do not trim the fat off.  The caramelized fat is what creates the mouthwatering flavor.
     Use butcher twine to truss the boneless lamb leg section, so it retains an even round shape.
     Rub the lamb leg section with 2 to 3 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Rub 5 cloves of minced garlic on the lamb meat.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of rosemary leaves over the lamb and press the herb onto the meat.
     Step 2:  Place 1 1/2 cups of coarse chopped green fennel bulb tops in a deep roasting pan.
     Add 1/4 cup of coarse chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of coarse chopped carrot.
     Add 1/4 cup of coarse chopped celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Toss the vegetables together.
     Step 3:  Mound the coarse chopped fennel tops and vegetables on the center of the roasting pan.
     Place the prepared lamb leg section on the bed of vegetables, with the fat side facing up.
     Place the roasting pan in a 425ºF to 450ºF oven.
     Roast the lamb to the desired finish temperature.
     *Medium (135ºF center temperature) to Well Done (160ºF center temperature) is best for leg of lamb, because the full flavors will develop.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Place the lamb leg section on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Let the lamb leg rest on a warm stove top for at least 5 minutes before carving.
     Set the roasting pan with the caramelized fennel and vegetables aside.    

     Fennel Lamb Jus:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup of reduced jus. 
     The deglazed fennel lamb pan jus replaces Glace Viande in the Demi Glace recipe.
     Step 1:  Place the roasting pan on a burner set to low heat.
     Add 3 cups of water.
     Add 1 teaspoon of crushed or coarse ground fennel seed.
     Gently use a wooden spoon or whisk to scrape the brown bits (suc) that are stuck to the pan to create au jus.
     Simmer the caramelized vegetables, fennel tops and jus for 5 minutes.
     Step 2:  Remove the roasting pan from the heat.
     Pour the jus through a fine mesh strainer into a sauce pot.  (Discard the solid ingredients.)
     Step 3:  Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Skim off any grease that floats to the top.
     Simmer and reduce till 1 cups of Fennel Lamb Jus remains.
     Remove the pot from the heat.

     Fennel Lamb Demi Glacé:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups.  (4 generous portions)
     Step 1:  Place the sauce pot containing 1 cup of reduced Fennel Lamb Jus over medium low heat.
     Add 1 cup of the Light Color Espagnole For Lamb.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.  (The yield should be about 1 1/4 cups.)
     Step 2:  Pour the sauce into a ceramic ramekin or sauce boat.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Roast Leg of Lamb with Fennel Demi Glace and Danish Bleu Cheese:
     This recipe describes 1 entrée presentation.
     Danish Bleu is a soft double cream bleu cheese.  It has to be sliced before it is crumbled.  
     Step 1:  Brush all of the rosemary off of the surface of the roasted lamb.
     Remove the trussing twine.
     Step 2:  Place the roast leg of lamb on a cutting board.
     *There should be no need to trim off the fat, because the bulk of it should have sputtered away while roasting at a high temperature.
     Slice the roasted lamb into 1/4" thick slices.
     Step 3:  Overlap the lamb slices across the front half of a plate.  (A 6 to 8 ounce portion.)
     Place a vegetable and potatoes of your choice on the back half of the plate.
     Step 4:  Spoon a generous amount of the Fennel Demi Glace over the sliced lamb and onto the plate.  (About 2 ounces.)
     Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of crumbled Danish Bleu Cheese over the lamb.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Roasting at a high temperature seals in the juices and the lamb becomes very tender.  I only used a fork to cut the lamb in the photos while dining, even though the lamb was cooked well done by personal preference!  The flavor of high temperature roasted lamb is noticeably better than slow roasted lamb!