Saturday, 22 November 2008

Whip It Up

When I started this blog, little did I realize that I was going to open each post with a brief intro and some chat relating to whatever recipe I write. I truly wonder if people actually read this. But, here I am 50 posts(!) later and now I must write about todays recipe: Zabglione with Berries. Ugh. Well, I suppose I have to think of something. Hold on. Let me think for a second. Wikipedia search maybe? Nah. I'll wing it.

I demonstrated this recipe earlier this week at a cooking class and I could tell the ladies watching me looked nervous as I whipped this dessert. They asked me, "Are you serious?"

It is true it takes a bit of work, however, if you have a hand mixer that you can use: this is the time. If you are brave enough to go for it with some gusto good for you. All I can offer to help is two words: figure eight (if you are unsure what this means, then use a hand mixer).

This morning on my way to work I listened to an interview with La Dolce Vita star David Rocco from the food network. Sounds like a nice guy who stumbled onto a great gig. Anyways, he went on about getting involved with your ingredients and some silly zen notion that food will taste better when you get your hands dirty. I guess there is some truth to this but some things you don't have to do by hand if you don't want to or if you are simply physically unable to. You want to make a glossy meringue by hand then be my guest. Are you comfortable enough rolling out pasta with a rolling pin or would you prefer sing a pasta roller? For this recipe, you are better off using a hand mixer unless you have been shown the best way of aerating egg yolks.

Trust me. You'll thank me later.

Zabaglione with Strawberries

4 Egg Yolks

200 ml White Wine or Sparkling White Wine

250 g Sugar

15-20 Strawberries, halved
Juice from 1 Lemon
200 ml Whipping Cream
Ice for Ice Bath
12 Biscotti
Mint for Garnish

Using an electric mixer, whip cream to stiff peaks. Reserve.

In a sauce pan, bring a little water to a simmer.

In a bowl, combine yolks, wine and sugar and lightly whisk.

On simmering water, whisk with a hand mixer the egg mixture until it triples in volume. After 10 minutes, place mixture into an ice bath and whisk for another 10 minutes.

Combine with cream by carefully folding into the mixtures.

Serve immediately with berries and biscotti. Garnish with mint.

Serves 6.

Variation: This is a base that you can expand on. Instead of wine, use Frangellico and garnish with hazelnuts or something like that.

A Humble Chef's tip: throw away your hand mixer and get your hands dirty! Food will taste so much better once you become one with your ingredients. Close your eyes and feel the gooey egg yolks coat your figures before you eat them. Trust me. You'll thank me later.

A Humble Chef's test: just checking to see if you actually read my intro.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Stir It Up

So far the winter is going well. I've recently discovered that I enjoy getting attention and teaching culinary skills is a great way to fill my void. Having said that, I truly relish the days where I get to go in front of a group of people I may or may not know and freely offer my knowledge (as little as it is for a humble chef) on cooking and entertaining.

Perhaps now I can let myself to lob my humility aside and finally admit that I do have a few useful things to offer: an essential skill (cooking), entertainment (my sense of humour) and the ability to create enthusiasm in people to try new things. On top of that, recipes. I do hope the readers of this blog try some the recipes I have offered (actually, a friend told me on Saturday that he has made some of the soup recipes and they were great for simplicity and effieciency, thanks!) and I reach out to people to offer comments, criticisms or praise.

Moving on, today's recipe is too easy. A classic variation of a dish I use to make everyday at a club I used to work at. Chicken Stir-Fry with Basic Rice Pilaf is so easy and quick, it may become a staple for you. The stir-fry sauce is a simple Teriyaki style sauce that I like because it uses common ingredients in peoples kitchens.

The key to stir-fry is allowing the oil to get hot. Very hot. Smoking hot. Piping hot. About to catch on fire hot. My wife hot. The heat speeds up the process and evaporates much of the water from the vegetables leaving a thick flavorful sauce.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Chicken Stir Fry

1red pepper, julienne
1 green pepper, julienne
1 small red onion, julienne
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
Dried Ginger
Drizzle Sesame Oil
Drizzle Canola Oil
Pinch of Cumin
Pinch of Cajun spice
Stir Fry Sauce (see below)
Salt & pepper, to taste

In a hot stir fry pan, heat oils. Add chicken and let cook for 2 minute.

Add vegetables and spices and cook for 4 minutes. Add stir fry sauce. And bring to a boil.

Serve over rice pilaf.

Serves 6.

Stir Fry Sauce

250 g Brown Sugar
200 ml Water
200 ml Soy Sauce
200 ml Rice Wine Vinegar
Pinch of Ginger Powder
50 g Cornstarch

In a sauce pan, combine water, soy sauce, vinegar and ginger and bring to a boil. Dissolve cornstarch in some water and whisk into sauce pan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.

Keep refrigerated until needed. Will keep for several months.

Variation: instead of chicken, try shrimp or beef or lamb or pork or mussels or . . . . you get the idea I think. One suggestion I heard today was pineapple which would be wonderful, or oranges, or passion fruit, or whatever.

A Humble Chef's Tip: if you make the rice ahead of time, you can nuke your rice in bowls, place the bowls into your serving dish upside down, let the rice set and remove the bowl. Nice presentation and easy to do.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Phyllo Up

It appears I haven't posted for a few weeks. Shame really. For those who have been reading more faithfully, you have my apologies. And for those about to rock, I salute you.

I had a comment/request from the last post about convection ovens and their uses. Simply put, all a convection oven is an regular oven with a fan. The fan circulates the heat more thoroughly and results in faster cooking times. It is important to note that when following a recipe, the temperature recommended in the method is for standard ovens. It will take a bit of time to adjust to the timing but a good rule of thumb is to reduce by ten to fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. Anything you can cook in a standard oven can be done in a convection. However, don't forget that this reduces the cooking time. This is especially important when cooking a large roast such as a prime rib or a striploin. In a convection, the circulation of heat will increase the amount of loss in the cooking. In other words, you will have less yield. Slow roasting is the key and with a convection, you have to be careful with your heat because you are cooking for a long period of time. I hope that helps dear reader and I also hope that doesn't confuse you more. Convection ovens are great and learning how to use it is worth your while.

I don't have many fish recipes and I should. It's so easy. I've recently did a class on phyllo pastry (big fan here! See previous post for another recipe) and the attendees were all struck on how easy it was.

What I like about this recipe is the ease of the method and the final presentation. Try it and you won't be disappointed I assure you .

If you're sick of salmon (it's everywhere eh?), feel free and change it for something else. All of my recipes with fish have regretably been all salmon but don't you worry. You can go with tuna, halibut, trout, whatever man. Just be sure to make the portion size of your fish big enough to cook in about 15 minutes. From there, go nuts!

Salmon Wrapped In Phyllo with a Peach Salsa

1 Side Salmon, cut into approx. 6 steaks
4 Sheets of Phyllo
5 Peaches, cut in small squares
Half of 1 Red Pepper, finely diced
Half of 1 Red Onion, finely diced
Half of 1 Green Pepper, finely diced
1 Bunch of Dill, finely chopped
2 Lime, juiced
1 Lemon, juiced
Dash of Paprika and Chili Powder
50 g Butter
Drizzle of Olive OIl
Salt and Pepper to taste

Season salmon with paprika, chilli and pinch of chopped dill.

In a frying pan, sear one side of the salmon. Let cool.

Combine peaches, onion, peppers and lime juice. Season to taste.

Lay down phyllo (about 2.5 inches wide. Butter one side and sprinkle with dill and pepper. Repeat. Place salmon in middle and wrap upwards.

Cook for 15 minutes. Garnish with Peach Salsa.

Serves 4 -6.

Variation: like I said, whatever fish you like. Also, if peaches aren't your thing, works great with strawberries, honeydew or cantaloupe.

A Humble Chef's tip: make the salsa in advance so you can drain some of the water out. To make it easy, add your desired amount of salt then place in a colander over a bowl and let osmosis and gravity work their magic.