Saturday, 27 March 2010

Excuse Me, I Need To Make This Cauliflower

Growing up I never liked cauliflower. Actually, truth is, I never really liked vegetables and cauliflower simply just happens to be one.

As with many other vegetables, after learning how to cook them and use them in soups, stews or whatever, I have learned to love this floral vegetable for a number of reasons. Much like broccoli and asparagus, it has a number of ways it likes to be cooked: steamed, blanched, sauteed or roasted. It is usually inexpensive and keeps for a decent amount of time in your crisper. And it is very low in fat and high in fiber and vitamin C. It can be eaten raw but ugh. Not for me.

Now onto Bechamel. All you need to know is that Bechamel is essentially a milk sauce thickened with a roux and flavoured with cloves, onion and garlic.If you're interested, it is also one of the five mother sauces and is also known as White Sauce. Not too many people make this anymore. Reason being is that 35% cream is easier to buy, easier use and it tastes better. I've never ended up with lumps of roux in my 35% cream before. However, Bechamel has two major advantages for me: it is cost effective and it has more of a binding ability than that of 35% cream. Sometimes I use 35% and sometimes I use Bechy. It depends on what you're doing really.

Before I bore everyone with sauce cookery 101, I will mention that this recipe is a derivative of Bechamel called Mornay. Without getting into too much detail, a derivative is simply one of the mother sauces with an added ingredient to make something new. In our case, we are using Emmenthal Cheese to make our creamy sauce.

One last thing. As with many French Classical sauces, the names of the sauces are usually names after some dude. If you ever have to study sauce cookery, then ugh. It sucks. All these names of things that offer no hint or clue to what makes this sauce unique. I wonder, if cooks were still naming sauces after people today, who would have this honour bestowed upon them? Actors? Athletes? Journalists? Politicians? Or how about the Chefs who created them? Naw. No way. If there is one thing that we chefs aren't, that would be vain. Right?

Roasted Cauliflower with Mornay

2 Heads of Cauliflower, cut into florets (if you like the wacky coloured ones, go ahead, though I've learned the orange varietal comes from Ontario!)
1 L of 2% Milk
100 g Butter
100 g All Purpose (A.P.) Flour
1 Small Cooking Onion, rough dice
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
2 Cloves (no, not a typo. The spice.)
350 g Emmenthal Cheese, grated
Ice for Ice Bath
Drizzle of Oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste

In a tall stock pot, bring salted water to a simmer. Blanch cauliflower until tender; approximately 4 minutes. Remove and place into ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain and pat dry. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a sauce pan, melt butter until frothy. Add onions, garlic and cloves and cook for 3 minutes. Add flour and stir frequently. Add one third of your milk and whisk vigorously until smooth. Add remaining milk and continue to whisk. Bring to a slight boil. Stir constantly. Once it heats to a scald, remove from heat and strain. Return to heat and whisk in cheese. Season to taste.

Toss cauliflower in a drizzle and lay onto a baking sheet. Roast in oven for 8-10 minutes or until a little golden. Remove and place in a bowl and cover with Mornay sauce.

Serves 8.

Variation: you can use this on broccoli or asparagus or even pasta.

A Humble Chef's tip: make sure you use cold milk when adding it to your aromatic roux.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

A Derivative Post with a Derivative Recipe

Spring is nearly here and I have yet another recipe with my favourite vegetable: asparagus. However, in my first recipe, asparagus is used to make a puree soup. The next one we use it in a pasta. Here it is cooked and used in a salad. As many of you obviously know, asparagus is best in spring because only the young shoots are eaten. Extremely healthy with a high amount of fibre, calcium and every vitamin in the alphabet.

There are three basic styles of dressings used for salads: the first is the obvious one where fat is added to an acid and emulsified, creamy dressings such as ranch or mayonaisse and, finally, cooked dressings. Like Hollandaise. I have already talked about Hollandaise in a previous post. And since asparagus is so healthy, then you are required to use something fatty to go with it. Obviously.

Hollandaise has a classic method that can be a little tricky for the first time. However, if you are adventurous, there is an alternative method. Similar to Beurre Blanc, you whip your eggs over simmering water with a pinch of sugar. Once it triples in volume, then you monter au beurre (whisk in cubed butter) and return to heat if it gets a little too cool. With this method, your hollandaise is less likely to split.

This sauce is known as Maltaise; one of the many derivatives from Hollandaise. Thanks to my Professional Cooking textbook, I am able list off some the many derivatives. Bearnaise is with a tarragon reduction. Foyot is with a hint of demi-glace. Choron uses tomato paste. Paloise is similar to bearnaise but uses mint instead of tarragon. Very nice with Leg of Lamb. Suffice to say, there are too numerous to name. Especially since nobody is really going to make any of them. Obviously.

A Bloomin' Sauce with Bloody Oranges on a Hammy Sparrow-Grass Salad

30 Asparagus Spears
3 Belgian Endives (for garnish)
1 Yellow or Orange Pepper, julienne
6 oz. Prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into strips
1 Box of Spinach
8 Egg Yolks
Splash of White Wine
200 g Clarified Butter, warm
2 Large Blood Oranges, juiced
Pinch of Cayenne
Pinch of Paprika
Ice for Ice Bath
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a tall pot, bring salted water to a boil. Blanch asparagus until tender. Remove and shock in ice bath. Drain and pat dry. Using prosciutto, tie up asparagus into bundles of 5.

In a frying pan, heat juice of blood orange until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

In a steel bowl, combine eggs with wine. Over simmering water, whisk eggs until it triples in volume; about ten minutes. Remove from heat and slowly drizzle in clarified butter while whisking vigorously. When finished, add blood orange juice and cayenne. Reserve for later.

Arrange on plates, spinach, peppers, endives and asparagus bundles. Drizzle dressing on top, garnish with paprika and serve immediately.

Variation: instead of spinach, use whatever lettuce you like. With the exception of iceberg. But lollo rosso, frisee and mache. These all work well.

A Humble Chef's tip: to clarify your butter, melt butter, remove milk solid then place in your fridge for an hour. Take out, pierce a hole and drain excess water and heat up again.