Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Beans To Bundle Up With

This is a quick post because I have a photo I am excited to use. This is the veg I served with the previous post (Rack of Lamb in Puff Pastry) and if you are looking to make this dish, then here is a nice veg on the side.

Do these in advance and re-heat to serve.

Green Bean Bundles

15 - 20 Green Beans, trimmed
1 Stalk of a Green Onion, cut in half
Sesame Oil
Sprinkle of Paprika
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a large sauce pan, bring salted water to boil. Add drizzle of sesame oil. Blanch green beans for 1 minute then refresh in ice bath. Repeat with green onion. Use the picture as a guide.

Reheat in a steam insert or your microwave or whatever you feel comfortable with.

Sprinkle salt and paprika just before serving.

Serves 4.

Variation: Toast some sliced almonds and sprinkle on for Haricot Almandine. You can drizzle some hazelnut oil if you have some and then these are very tasty.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Rack en Chemis

This past weekend my partner and I (she prefers to be referred to that since we are now business partners) spent the weekend at her parents to cook some dishes for some photos (that's my sexy hand right there). It was interesting because they had no running water and we had to basically boil down snow to wash the dishes afterwards. But enough of that.

I should record all the dishes because all the photos turned pretty well. The first dish was a good one to do because it simply photographed well and it isn't that difficult to make.

Puff pastry is kind of like pie dough. Yet this stuff can rise like a weed even though it has no leavening agent that you would normally add. No yeast. It rises because of steam. It's actually very tasty and a pain to make from scratch. I haven't actually made it since school and I have been using store bought for my purposes.

Enough of that. Rack of lamb is usually expensive and if you ever see it on sale, get some and freeze it for dinner parties. Trust me. Where I live doesn't offer the highest quality of lamb but it suffices. Frozen New Zealand. I don't have a choice. However, if your butcher offers lamb from Washington or southern Ontario, go for it. The meat is more tender and more flavourful. But it's expensive (ironic that meat from the other side of the planet is cheaper than the stuff a few kilometres away).

As for juniper berries, well, I guess you'll have to search around for that one. Hell, you may even have a juniper bush in your backyard and never knew what to do with the berries. Well, here's one way of using it.

Rack Of Lamb in Puff Pastry with a Juniper Reduction

1 Rack of Lamb, bone clean and cut into chops
1 Package of Puff Pastry
Blend of Dried Herbs and Spices:
Garlic, Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, Paprika, Cayenne, Pinch of Sugar
Dab of Melted Butter

For the Reduction:
About 6 Juniper Berries
500 ml Lamb or Beef Stock
Drizzle of Maple Syrup
1 Shallot, finely diced
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
Splash of Port or Sherry
1 Sprig of Fresh Thyme and Rosemary
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees.

Season lamb with blend of herbs and spices and sear in a frying pan on high heat. Nice and brown of course. That's it!

Serves 4.

Just kidding. Lay out pastry and sprinkle any leftover herbs and spices you have. Lay lamb on pastry and wrap. Brush a little melted butter and bake in oven for 25-35 minutes. If you like it rare, 25 minutes and that's it. If you like it well done, drop the temp by 50 degrees and bake for 40 minutes.

For the sauce, in a small sauce pan, add your melted butter on medium high heat. Add shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add garlic and juniper berries and cook for 1 more minute stirring constantly (don't burn the garlic). Add port or sherry and reduce for 1 minute. Add stock, syrup, herbs and reduce to about 100ml. Strain through a fine mesh colander (or a chinois, if you know what that is) and season with salt to taste.

Drizzle on pastry when serving.

Serves 4.

Not kidding.

Chef`s tip: Serve this with your favourite green vegetable that is hopefully not overcooked. Mash is good with this but I served a fig risotto with this and it turned out very well (lamb and fig have a affinity). How do you make fig risotto? Well, there are several ways you can infuse the flavour. First, oh fig. That deserves it's own post methinks.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

I'm Dangling Carrots Here

Another soup, I know. But having just finished my diploma in snow blowing, it's no wonder that I was inspired to write about the heartiest of all dishes.

I like purée soups because they are easy, require less prep time than chowders or broths. And once you've got some practice with purée soups, then making them will become second nature. I don't bother with recipes usually, but especially more so with soups because the technique is usually the same: onion, principal ingredient, stock, purée and season.

For purée soups, you can use frozen or fresh (or dried, but, egh). When you can, use fresh. Easier to control the water levels, usually better tasting and it leaves you the option of roasting your principal ingredient. However, sometimes you have to use frozen (ever try making Corn Chowder for Christmas?) and utilize what you have available to you. That is a staple of cooking that is truly learned to deal with as you gain experience.

Some chefs like adding an extra potato or two to help thicken the soup. This is to help reduce food cost and thicken their soup with a cheap vegetable. Well, that is something I might have done when I was going through college along with collecting all my coupons to save 5 bucks.

This recipe was kind of an accident and I probably wouldn't bother keeping record of it because at first glance it is not very unique. But then again, this is exactly the type of soup where I would say, "That's different. I should try and remember that one." And then I'll forget it.

Purée of Carrot Soup With Goat's Cheese (Potage Crecy au Chevre)

20g Unsalted Butter
800g Carrots, chopped
1 Small Onion, chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
700ml Stock (chicken or veg)
200ml Orange Juice (no pulp if possible)
Pinch of Tumeric, Cayenne, Rosemary, Thyme, Clove
A Few Pinches of Dried Ginger (or fresh if you got it)
Salt and White Pepper to taste
40g Goat`s Cheese

In a medium size sauce pan on medium heat, melt a dab of butter and heat until frothy. Add onion and garlic and cook for one minute. Add dried spices and herbs and continue to cook. Add carrots. Add Orange Juice and reduce by half.

Add stock and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add cheese. Purée soup with an immersion blender. Season properly and add stock for desired consistency.

Serves 6.

Variation: You can omit the OJ and use cranberry juice. It's a little bitter but that is easily solved with some sugar. However, the colour is truly unique.

Chef's Tip: If you aren't interested in peeling a whack of carrots then chopping them up, then don't do it. Go ahead and spend the extra 50 cents and buy ready baby carrots. When you're in a hurry, this is a major time saver.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Chocolate Cake Without the Bouquet of Flours

Valentine's. Sometimes I surprise my wife with a decadent treat for her to come home to. This is a relatively easy recipe that I've adapted and changed over the years.

Working with chocolate can be fun or a headache depending on the chocolate you buy and how much you eat during the process. I usually over measure my chocolate a gram or two to compensate for quality control. Because you never know when the chocolate you just bought could have, uh, gone rancid or something. Really.

When melting your chocolate avoid boiling the water. You don't want to burn the chocolate or get any moisture inside the chocolate.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Unsalted Butter and Flour, for preparing the pan
200g Semisweet Chocolate, chopped
110g of Unsalted Butter (1 stick is good)
4 Eggs, separated
Splash of Vanilla Extract
8g granulated sugar
Splash of Espresso

Preheat your oven at 375 degrees.

Butter a springform pan and lightly dust it with flour. Turn upside down to remove excess.

To melt chocolate, place a stainless steel bowl on top a pot of simmering water and add the chocolate and remainder of the butter. Taste it as you go and wash your hands before you handle the next stage of the recipe.

In a bowl, combine egg yolks, espresso and vanilla and briefly whisk. Pour into melted chocolate and vigorously fold in. Taste it. Wash your hands again. Ask your spouse to taste.

To make meringue first refer to a previous post. If you forget, quite simply start with sprinkle of sugar on the bottom of a pan. Add egg whites and whip like crazy. Slowly add sugar until egg whites are glossy and shiny and have stiff peaks (appropriate for Valentines). Do yourself a favour and use an electric mixer.

Gently fold into chocolate mixture and taste one last time. Pour into springform pan. Bake fo 20-25 minutes. Use a toothpick to check for doneness. Let cool for 15 minutes. Pop out cake carefully and if you have a wire rack, go ahead and cool it down on that for an hour.

Serves 1-12 (depending your fondness for chocolate)

Chef's tip: Garnish with something. You can use fresh berries, whipped cream, chocolate mousse (no, it isn't too much chocolate), mint oil or all the above. Your call. As you can see, I used Icing Sugar and Berries.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Made With Real Cocoa

So, you've tried my "Hunter-Style" braised chicken and you're ready for the next stage. Right? Yeah. So I like to think. Should I bother posting a Coq au Vin recipe that nobody will ever make? Well of course I should.

What's funny to me is how easy this dish is to make and the reluctance to make it. First you need to ask yourself one question? No, not "Do I feel lucky?" How about "Do I feel nervous about searing some chicken, adding some basic vegetables, adding wine and stock and slowly braising it"? If the answer is a "I dunno" or "What's braising?", well, then perhaps trying that french restaurant downtown might be next on your to-do list. Or maybe just getting the 14 pc. bucket of chicken instead.

It is a tasty little dish that can be made in advance and kept warm until you serve. The alcohol evaporates leaving you with the flavour of the wine so you can serve it to your kids or your pregnant sister-in-law.

There are no tricks. No secrets. No nifty techniques. You won't even need your crock pot that you never use. Just trust me.

Coq au Vin
2 Chicken Thighs
2 Chicken Drumsticks
2 Chicken Breasts, cut in half
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 White Onion, finely diced
250 g Mushrooms, sliced
200 ml Chicken Stock
50 g All Purpose Flour
400 ml Red Wine (not white! unless that's all you got)
2 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme, chopped
A Few Whole Black Peppercorns
2 Bay Leaves
50g Butter

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.

In a wide pot, on medium high heat, brown chicken in a bit of oil. Remove chicken and set aside. Add a little butter and add mushrooms, onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add flour and cook for one minute. Add chicken stock, bay leaves, peppercorns and wine and bring to a boil. Add chicken and cover.

Place pot into oven and cook for 30 - 40 minutes. Remove from oven, add thyme and remainder of the butter.

Reduce sauce for 10 minutes on stove top and serve.

Serves 4.

Variations: Classically, this dish might have been made with bacon (my God, bacon again) and pearl onions. Well, if you feel decadent this weekend then be my guest.

Chef's Common Sense Tip: Make sure the handle of your pot is not plastic and make sure it can withstand the heat of the oven. Sounds silly but I've had people ask me.

Bacon. Tomato. Cream. Enough Said.

It has been a while since I last posted anything but here I am, back from the grave. On my other blog perhaps I will go into detail why I haven't posted anything for a while but here I will stick to recipes.

I am starting a catering company and I made a soup recently that I served to a group of ladies who raved over it. Actually, it was an ideal soup to bring and offer samples because it is a little different but not so different that it would detract people to try the damn thing.

It is winter so here is a winter recipe that is quick, cheap and easy (my favourite kind). Just like Butternut Squash, you can roast the principal ingredient of the soup (in this case, plum or roma tomatoes) to caramelize the sugars. This is extra work of course so you can decide whether you want to bother or not. Me? Glad you asked. Well, of course I would. I'm a chef and strive to intensify the flavours as much as possible. Well, at least I would at work; at home is a completely different story.

Puree of Tomato and Bacon
8 Fresh Plum Tomatoes, quatered
3 Strips of Bacon, diced
1 White Onion, medium dice
1 Clove of Garlic, crushed
2 Sprigs of Fresh Basil
100ml of White Wine
750ml of Chicken or Vegetable Stock
200 ml of Whipping Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven on roast at 400. On a baking sheet, lay out tomatoes skin down. Drizzle some oil over top and sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 5-7 minutes or until golden crusted.

In a medium sauce pan on medium heat, cook bacon with touch of butter. Once fat is rendered (about 2 minutes) add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent.

Add wine and reduce by half. Add tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add basil and cream.

Using a blender, puree the stock until desired consistency (how rustic are you?) then bring back to temp.

Season carefully to taste.

Remember: there is salt in the bacon, so taste the soup as you go.

Variation: Omit the cream, chop the tomatoes finer and leave as a broth. Then add some cooked pasta, then you have a version of Minestrone. A tasty version though. Unless you don't like bacon (ha!).