Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spring Dinner

Appetizer: Crab and Avocado "Ravioli"
Fish: Scallops with Parsley-Tarragon "Soup" and Morel Mushrooms
Main: Gnocchi with Truffled Wild Mushrooms
Dessert: Lemongrass-Ginger Panna Cotta

Lemongrass-Ginger Panna Cotta

Serves 8
  • 3 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 T powdered gelatin
  • 6" lemongrass stalk, sliced thinly; remove tough outer leaves (1-2 layers)
  • 2" piece of ginger, peeled and cut into a 1/6" dice
  • 2" piece of vanilla bean. Cut open lengthwise, and scrape out as many of the vanilla granules into the cream as you can.
Place 1/3 c of the milk into two wide bottom bowls and sprinkle the gelatin over the two. Allow to sit for 15 minutes. Bring the cream, sugar, lemongrass, ginger and vanilla bean to a boil. Remove from heat and let flavors develop for 10-15 minutes. Return to heat and warm slightly. Remove from heat again. Scrape the milk-gelatin mixture into the cream mixture and whisk until dissolved. Whisk in the remaining whole milk. Pour everything through a mesh strainer. Distribute evenly between receptacles (wine glasses, ramekins, whatever). Let cool to appx room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator. Let set for at least 8 hours. If desired, you may run a knife around the edge of each receptacle, and dip each cup quickly into boiling water, then flip it out onto a plate. The best way to "flip" is to place the plate directly on top of the ramekin, as a lid almost. Then invert and gentle ease off the ramekin.

Notes to self on setting: Occasionally, I have had issues with separation. After doing some research, it seems like a few things will help. Cooling in ice, and stirring, probably the stirring more than anything. A pastry chef recommende not bothering adding powedered gelatin to water first, that you could just add it directly, and that would dissolve it, which kind of makes sense. I al also going to try cooking the milk with the cream, b/c it seems like they may not be homogenizing sufficiently.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Scallops with Tarragon-Parsley “Soup” and Morel Mushrooms

Note: This dish is technically very easy, and actually not very time-consuming. It also allows you to do most of the preparation beforehand and then finish the dish with about 10 minutes of cooking right before serving. However, it does require getting the proper order of operations, which is why the instructions are so lengthy. Don't be dissuaded; it's a great dish, and easy to do.

Serves 6

  • 30 whole bay scallops scallops (fresh, not frozen--frozen will have absorbed too much water to caramelize).
  • 1/2 pound sliced morels, lightly sautéed in butter; or freshly shaved white truffles
  • 1-2 T butter
Tarragon-Parsley Soup
(source: A Return to Cooking, by Eric Ripert)
  • 2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed chervil leaves (if you can't find chervil, you may omit it)
  • 1/2 cup packed tarragon leaves
  • ~ 1/2 cup water
  • 2 sticks butter cut into 1/2" cubes
  • Kosher salt to taste

Morel Preparation:

Selecting morels: morels should be firm (surprisingly so, given how delicate they look) and clean-looking. They should not be soggy, falling apart and bug-ridden. It is true that there will be some small bugs, and even (yes, it's true) the occasional maggot. However, this should be the exception not the norm. I mention this because the first time I attempted to prepare morels, I bought them late in the season, and they were crawling with maggots. I remembered reading that there was the occasional maggot and thought it was OK at first. It's not. I ended up throwing away $60 worth of mushrooms. If preparing the morels makes you want to retch, they're probably bad. Trust your gut :)

Cut each morel in half lengthwise. Place them in a bowl of salted water and soak for several hours (at least three). Try to keep the cut side up. Soaking them will get all of the bugs to vacate their shelters and ensure you don't get any more protein than your looking for. About an hour before cooking place the morels on a paper towel in a colander and let them dry out. Slice up the morels and let them continue to dry out on the paper towel and colander.

"Soup" Pre-Preparation

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Throw in all of the herbs at once, and blanch them for 1-2 minutes. Drain them in a strainer, and run cold water over them to stop the cooking (you may also submerge them in an ice bath). Puree all of the herbs in a blender, adding water as necessary to facilitate the blending. Set aside.

Scallops preparation:

Remove tough muscle from the side of the scallops. Pat all dry with a paper towel. Place onto some kind of mesh to allow more liquid to drain. Return scallops to refrigerator.

Finishing the morels (you may do this before or while the scallops are cooking)

Saute the morels in 1 T butter for around 5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Finishing the "soup" (you may do this while the scallops are cooking, too)

Melt the butter over medium heat. You don't want it to get to hot, so once it's melted, remove from the heat. Whisk in the herb puree. Taste and add salt as needed. You will likely need quite a bit of salt before the flavor starts to come out.

Cooking Scallops:

Immediately before you plan to serve the dish cook scallops. Turn the heat to high. Place a small amount of butter (1/2 to 1 Tbsp) into a non-stick frying pan. Melt the butter to bubbling. Add the scallops, ensuring that each has the large round face down, in contact with the pan. Cook on first side until each scallop has noticeable caramelization. If your scallops retained too much water, you will not get the caramelization; in this case cook until mostly cooked through. Once caramelization is achieved, turn the scallops over and caramelize the other side.

Finishing the Dish

Ladle the parsley-tarragon soup into wide, shallow soup bowls. This is a generous amount of sauce for 6 people, and would be fine for 8, too. Place 5 scallops into each bowl in a star formation. Diving the sauteed morels evenly amongst the bowls and place in the center of the star.

Crab “Ravioli”

Serves 6

Special tools: Seafood scissors. If you haven't tried these, you must. It makes shelling ANYTHING easy, and painless (OK, maybe not stone crab, but anything else).
  • 2 pounds king crab, or other good crab (weight is only for shells)
  • 2 avocadoes avocado sliced into 1/8" radial slices, to preserve the shape
  • 1 recipe lemon aioli, use only half the usual amount of garlic.

Remove crab from shells. Place in a strainer and allow to continue to dry out for several hours (if you can).

Cut each avocado in half lengthwise, rotating gently to separate the two halves. then gently score the edge of the peel at the bottom of top and carefully remove the skin. For the side without the pit, carefully cut a 1/6" slice, so you have an avocado "donut." Place three of these to a plate. For the side with the pit, remove the skin as before, and cut radially around the pit to get your slice. Once you've made a full revolution, gently remove the slice from the pit and the rest of the avocado. 2 avocados should be plenty to get you three attractive slices of avocado per person.

Mound the crab into the hole in each of the avocados. This will create the effect of a ravioli.

Drizzle the ailoi over the top and serve.

Alternate preparation: Serve as a terrine, with diced avocado on the bottom, crab on top, and aioli drizzled over the top.

Additional ideas: de-constructed cobb salad, add mini-cubes of cooked bacon, Roquefort, and frisee on top. Potentially layer a slice of egg on top of the avocado.

Roast Pork Sandwich with Peach Chutney

Serves 2

  • ½ of a cooked one pound pork tenderloin
  • 4 slices of good bread
  • ½ cup spicy peach chutney, warmed
    • Substitutes: warmed peach preservers, lingonberry preservers, or cherry preserves mixed with mustar
  • ~1 cup loosely packed arugula leaves
  • Balsamic vinaigrette
  • Shaved, nutty cheese, such as aged gouda
  • Mayonnaise
  • Optional: marinated red onions

Toast bread, and spread mayonnaise on it. Slice pork loin into ¼ inch slices. Warm pork slices in the microwave for 30-40 seconds, till warm and just starting to steam. Toss arugula with vinaigrette. If using marinated onions, place on bread first. Arrange pork slices on bread such that they are slightly overlapping. Spoon warm peach chutney over the top. Arrange shaved gouda over the top of the chutney (liberal application recommended). Place half of the arugula on top. Finish the sandwich with the other piece of bread.

Tamarind Pork Loin Wrapped in Prosciutto

Serves 2

  • 1 pound pork lion
  • 3 oz. very thinly sliced prosciutto
  • ½ cup, plus ½ cup tamarind chutney: You can get this at some grocery stores, or buy some from a local Indian restaurant (very cheap, if not free). In St. Lucia the grocery stores carried a very, very spicy tamarind chutney made with habanero peppers. That is how we first tried this.
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat dry the pork loin, liberally salt and pepper it. Place the pork on a roasting/broiling pan, and spoon the chutney liberally along its length. Do not attempt to rub it on the sides, just put a lot on top, and as it cooks, it will work its way down. Place slices of prosciutto cross-wise over the pork (initially, you'll create a "T" with the pork loin and the piece of prosciutto) until you have covered the whole loin, but don't fold under. Once you've covered the loin in prosciutto, one side at a time, gently fold the prosciutto under the pork.

Cook at 350 for 20-30 mintes, or until the pork is 145-150 degrees according to a meat thermometer. This equates to "medium-medium-rare" Still a little pink, but warm through.

Pairs very nicely with baked sweet potato fries, or plantain tostones. If you cook extra, you can use it for a sandwich the following day.

As an alternative, more savory approach, use pesto rather than tamarind sauce.

Spicy Peach Chutney

Needs editing, can't remember 100%

  • 1 T butter
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans
  • 1 can peaches and juice
  • 5 cloves
  • 1/8 – ¼ tsp cardamom
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Kosher salt to taste

Melt butter and sauté pecans until they start to smell toasty. Add peaches, and mash with a potato masher. Add cloves. Cook over medium-low heat until you achieve a thick, bubbly texture, like jam. Add cardamom, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Should be sweet and spicy. Goes beautifully with pork.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cap Maison Rum Punch

This was how we were greeted when we arrived at Cap Maison in St. Lucia (well, after the glass of champagne right when we arrived…). It is by far the best rum punch I've ever had, which is a drink I had not previously given much esteem. This is a wonderful cocktail, period. I spent the rest of the trip trying to get something similar (much to Roy's amusement) and was disappointed every time. Not too sweet at all. As with so many good cocktails, the secret is in the quality of ingredients; you must use fresh lime juice, and it is greatly improved by the freshly grated nutmeg.

  • 1 part sugar syrup:
    • 1 part sugar, 1 part water
    • Heat stove top and boil for 4 minutes
    • Cool completely. Will store very well if not contaminated with bacteria.
  • 2 parts fresh lime juice
  • 3 parts dark rum
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Add lots of ice, an the dash of Angostura Bitters and freshly grated nutmeg on top

Bon appétit!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Spicy Broccoli Rabe, a la Giacomo’s

Serves 2-4 as a side

Inspiration: The broccoli rabe dish at Giacomo's restaurant in the South End. This is not swimming in olive oil, but it still very good.

  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 3 anchovy filets, mashed to a paste
  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, tough stems removed (the easiest way to do this, is just to cut off the stems below where the leaves starts, this will leave you with enough stems to keep the dish substantial, without feeling like you're eating a forest)
  • ¼ of a 15 ounce jar of hot yellow pepper rings (banana peppers or pepperoncini), drained
  • Pinch of hot red pepper flakes

Bring a 2 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 T of salt. Set up an ice bath nearby (a bowl of ice and water that is larger than the colander you will be draining the rabe into). Blanc the broccoli rabe in the boiling water for 3 minutes, pour into a colander, then immediately submerge in the ice bath. Loosen the leaves, so that it cools thoroughly and uniformly in the bath.

Heat 2 T olive oil over high heat. Add the garlic and the anchovies and sauté till the garlic just starts to turn golden. Add the broccoli rabe, pepper ringes, and red pepper flakes. Saute over high heat until the broccoli rabe starts to brown at the edges. Add more olive oil if a) it needs it, or b) you want it to be swimming in a pool of EVOO as at Giacomo's (mmm…..) Season with salt and pepper and serve.

*Note* if you don't like spicy things, just do the garlic, without the pepper rings or flakes. Still very good.

Potato Gnocchi

Source: Modified from… How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman

Serves 3-4 (main course portions)

Special Equipment: Potato Ricer

  • 2 large russet potatoes (2 to 2.25 pounds)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed.

*Note* gnocchi is NOT hard. It takes about an hour, but most of that is boiling the potatoes. It is scary, because until you've done it you're afraid that you'll either make the gnocchi tough, or that they'll simply dissolve. Fortunately, you can ensure that neither of these things happens, simply by checking the dough as you make it. Give it a try; you'll be very proud of yourself!

Put the potatoes in boiling, lightly salted water. Adjust the heat, so it's not a full boil and cook until the potatoes are very tender, around 45 minutes. Drain and peel. Re-fill the pot with lightly salted water and bring to a boil again.

Push the potatoes through the ricer into a medium sized mixing bowl. Add a salt and pepper to taste. Add the ½ cup flour and slowly and gently fold it into the potatoes. I find this works best using a rubber spatula and a gentle lifting motion. Add more flour until the mixture forms a dough you can handle (I've consistently found this to be the right amount, ½ cup, I've tried less, and it doesn't hold together).

Very lightly knead on a floured surface, then roll off a small ball and put it in the boiling water. If it stays together after a minute or so, you are in good shape. If not, add more flour, and knead it in. Your goal is to make this with as little kneading and flour as possible.

Using your hands, on a lightly floured surface, roll a piece of the dough into a long, ¾-inch diameter cylinder. You'll probably have to create about 5 of these "ropes," but do them one at a time. Using a knife, cut off ¾ inch sections of the rope. Be careful only to press on the part of the dough you want to cut, don't angle the knife and squish the dough. You should be creating small "pillows of gnocchi." If you have it, put the gnocchi on wax paper. Otherwise, just leave them on the floured surface. Continue doing these until you've cut up all of your ropes. You can also press them against the tines of a fork, to create the ridges that give this pasta its name (gnocchi is Italian for knuckles) but I think this is a risky step. You risk squishing your gnocchi and losing the wonderful texture you worked so delicately to create.

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water. You can do this in batches if you wish, but it's not really necessary, unless you're making more than this. 1 minute after the gnocchi rise to the surface they are ready. Remove them with a slotted spoon, and plate them. Drain off as much water as possible. Add your sauce, and you're done!

Butcher Shop Bolognese Sauce

Serves 8

Source: Barbara Lynch, The Butcher Shop, Boston

  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large stalk celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 5 ounces chicken livers trimmed and finely chopped (if you've never done this, you'll now understand the term "you'll be chopped liver"
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh sage
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ pounds ground meat; ½ pound each of ground veal, pork, and lamb
  • 1 ½ cups red wine
  • 1 ½ cups chicken or beef stock
  • 1 ½ cups chopped canned tomatoes, and juice (preferably San Marzano brand)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup heavy cream (optional—but highly recommended, at least ¼ cup)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat the olive oil in a large pot/pan, at least 4 quarts in size Add the onion, celery, and carrot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8-10 minutes. Add the chicken livers and sage and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the livers lose their red color, 2-3 minutes.

Add the ground meat in batches, letting it brown a little before adding more. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and cook until no red or pink color remains. Pour off most of the fat. Add the wine, and Increase the heat to high (if it wasn't their already), and boil the wine until it's almost gone, 10 – 15 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, and basil. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer, uncovered until the sauce is thick, dark, and rich. This should take about 1 hour, if at 45 minutes you feel like you've got a long way to go, increase the heat. Stir in the cream, and continue to cook and additional 3-5 minutes.

Serve over pasta or gnocchi with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Wonderful, and freezes beautifully.

Middle Eastern(ish) Salad

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 ten ounce package of arugula
  • Two-three 0.75 ounce packages of fresh mint, or one bunch
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds removed, and juice reserved
  • 4-6 ounces good, chalky (as opposed to creamy) goat cheese (or to taste)
  • Balsamic vinaigrette
    • 1 part balsamic vinegar
    • 2-3 parts very good olive oil
    • Liberal pinch kosher salt
    • ½ tsp Dijon mustard

      gradually whisk in olive oil with other ingredients until emulsified

Toss mint and arugula with vinaigrette; add some of the reserved pomegranate juice, if desired. Plate greens and crumble goat cheese and pomegranates over the top.

Suggestion: would also be good, and even more middle eastern tasting with medallions of goat cheese with a sesame seed or pistachio breading

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Italian Tuna Dinner

Salad: Goat Cheese Truffles, with blanched arugula and peperonata. The Babbo Cookbook: pg. 35

Main: Cumin-seared tuna with "Tapesto" sauce

Side: couscous with lemon & olives.

Dessert: Panna Cotta with Balsamic Vinagar

Couscous with Olives & Lemons

Good couscous side.

  • use kalamata olives instead. They are easier to find, cheaper, and not so bitter.
  • Grape tomatoes are also nice.
  • Would also be good with basil

Good with most Mediterranean mains.

Tapesto (?)

Makes ¾ cup sauce, somewhere between a tapenade and a pesto, hence the name. Good on fish.

  • 12 kalamata olives
  • ¼ c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ¼ bunch of parsley
  • 1.5 tsp capers
  • 1 tsp good balsamic vinegar
  • .75 ounce package of fresh basil
  • Zest of ¼ lemon

Add all ingredients except basil and lemon zest to a food processor. Process till coarsely chopped. Add basil and lemon zest, and continue processing until the consistency of a tapenade; you should still be able to identify the different ingredients, but they should be very finely chopped.

Serve with seared fish, such as tuna (with cumin).

Spanish-ish Lobster Dinner

Appetiers: Foie gras and fig canapés

Soup: Spicy tomato soup (from The Butcher Shop)

Main: Poached lobsters with aioli, and Espinacas

Poached Lobster

Serves 2

  • Two 1.5 pound live lobsters
  • Aioli or hollandaise sauce (recommend adding tarragon to hollandaise)

Bring water to a boil. Place lobsters in boiling water for 6 minutes. Remove from water and serve immediately. If you want to eat the tomalley (the green liver), cook for an additional 2 minutes).

Note: If you want to decrease the amount of struggling on the part of the lobsters when you put them in the pot, you can put them in the freezer for around ½ an hour first. They will be very lethargic when you pull them from the freezer and still alive. Of course, this is not exactly nice either, but it does make it slightly less traumatic for the chef.

Foie Gras Canapes

Serves 4 generous appetizer portions

  • 8 thinly sliced (1/3") pieces of brioche loaf bread, toasted.
    • For Boston residents, Flour bakery sells whole brioche loaves which freeze very nicely.
  • Foie Gras Mousse (source: 1080 Recipes, Simone & Ines Ortega)
    • 3.5 ounces foie gras pate (canned is fine)
    • 1 T evaporated milk or heavy cream, lightly beaten
    • 1 T brandy
    • ½ teaspoon paprika
    • Or (for Boston residents) Use pre-prepared foie gras terrine from The Butcher Shop.
  • Fig jam, heated to a warm syrup

Cut toasted bread into quarters.

  • If using pre-made terrine: Cut terrine into 1.5" 1.5" x ¼" pieces. Place each piece on the brioche bread
  • If making mousse, mix all mousse ingredients. Spread, or pipe onto brioche bread using a pastry bag.

Spoon ~ ½ tsp fig jam syrup on top of each canapé. If using terrine, allow to soften before serving.

Pairings: Sidecar, Tokaji, Sauternes, champagne.

Shrimp and Cheesy Grits

Serves 2-3

Cheesy Grits

  • ½ cup quick grits
  • 2 ¼ cup water
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese cut into ½" cubes (you can use reduced fat cheese for this recipe, and it still tastes great)
  • Garlic salt (to taste)
  • Cayenne pepper (to taste)

Instructions: Bring water to a boil. Stir in grits, cover and cook over med/low heat until thick and bubbly (12-14 minutes). Add cheese and mix until completely melted. Add garlic salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Cover and set aside if done prior to shrimp.

Shrimp (prepare all ingredients while grits are cooking)

  • 1 pound medium shrimp (31-40/pound), peeled and deveined
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 T. butter
  • 3 Roma or on-the-vine tomatoes diced, (2 tomatoes if larger size)
  • 1 red pepper, cut into a large dice

Instructions: Melt 1 T of the butter in a non-stick sauce pan. Once foam subsides, add garlic and sauté over medium-high heat until beginning to turn golden. Return heat to high. Add shrimp and sauté with butter just until pink on both sides. Add all tomatoes and continue to sauté over high heat until tomatoes form a thick sauce. Add an additional T butter if needed to achieve this thickness. (4-7 minutes)

Service: Place grits in a pasta bowl. Add shrimp and tomato sauce over the top. Divide cut red peppers over each dish.

Optional: Add ¼ cup 1/6" diced dried chorizo. Add during last minute of sautéing tomatoes & shrimp.