Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Chicken Breast Filets Sauté en Shiitake Sun Dried Tomato Velouté

     Sauté Comfort Food!
     Velouté sauce is basically a gravy that is made with light color stock.  The most common are made with chicken stock or fish stock.  Velouté is always thicken with a Blonde Roux.  The only exception is when Velouté is used to make a Suprême Sauce, then a White Roux is used to thicken the stock.
     In classic French cooking, Mother Sauces like Velouté are always made ahead of time.  The Mother Sauces are then turned into Secondary Sauces as needed.  In a busy fine dining restaurant, this style of food preparation works well, but in a home kitchen or a small café style restaurant, preparing so much food ahead of time may not be practical.  
     Italian cuisine requires far more sauces that are made to order than classic French cuisine.  Italian sauté style cooking usually requires making the sauce in the same pan as the featured protein, so by far, traditional Italian cuisine is the best resource for learning advanced sauté cooking techniques.  
     Sauté chefs often make a Velouté Sauce to order by dredging the meat in flour, before sautéing.  The flour coating is cooked to a golden color, then stock (or fortified broth) is added to the pan.  The liquid combines with the fat (oil or butter) and golden flour coating, just like how Blonde Roux combines with stock to make Velouté.  The thin Velouté Sauce and protein item in the sauté pan is then simmered and reduced till the sauce can coat a spoon.  By then, the protein item will be perfectly cooked and the entrée is complete.  
     Sautéed Chicken Breast Filets en Chicken Velouté Sauce is a basic recipe.  Basically this item is just Pan Fried Chicken & Gravy that is made to order.  This simple entrée does provide comfort, but modern comfort food is usually jazzed up a little bit.  Adding a couple of familiar items, like Shiitake Mushrooms and Sun Dried Tomato to the Velouté Sauce will increase the appeal.  
     I actually used to occasionally run Chicken Breast Filets Sauté en Shiitake Sun Dried Tomato Velouté as a special du jour at a small French café on days when business was a bit slow.  This item sold well on chilly days when customers sought comfortable food that offered some pizazz.  A sauté food item like this is also nice for home cooks that have limited time in the kitchen.           

     Chicken Breast Filets Sauté en Shiitake Sun Dried Tomato Velouté:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Place 4 sun dried tomato halves in a container.
     Add 2 cups of hot water.
     Soak till the sun dried tomatoes soften.  (About 30 minutes.)  
     Cut the sun dried tomato halves into bite size pieces and set them aside.
     Step 2:  Cook 1 or 2 portions of a brown rice ahead of time and keep it warm.  (Rice is the classic choice for Chicken Velouté.)
     Step 3:  Select a 6 to 8 ounce chicken breast filet.
     Butterfly cut the chicken breast into 2 thin filets that weigh 3 to 4 ounces apiece.
     Lightly season the chicken with sea salt and black pepper.
     Dredge the chicken filets in flour.
     Step 4:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.  
     Add the flour coated chicken filets.
     Sauté till the flour is a light golden color on both sides.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic. 
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced shallot. 
     Add 1/3 cup of thick sliced shiitake mushrooms. 
     Add the reserved sun dried tomato pieces.
     Sauté and toss the ingredients together till the mushrooms start to cook.
     Step 6:  Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 2 cups of chicken stock.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     *Flip the chicken filets in the sauce occasionally, so they cook evenly.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use a custard cup mold to place 1 portion rice on the back half of a plate.
     Place the two chicken filets on the front half of the plate, so they lean against the rice.
     Spoon the Shiitake Sun Dried Tomato Velouté Sauce over the chicken and onto the plate.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Viola!  A fancy sauté style chicken velouté & rice entrée!   

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Roasted Smoked Turkey Drumettes and Russian Spice Cabbage

     Smokehouse Cuisine!
     Smoked meats are traditionally a winter food.  Cured meat, cured smoked meat and smoked meat all have a long shelf life if they are stored at a cool temperature.  In the old days, the cellar of a house served as the refrigerator during winter months.  A large root bin or root cellar was part of nearly every home.  A moderately cool spot in a cellar was used to store pickled products and jars of preserved fruit or vegetables.  Dried vegetables and fruit were also stored in this cool area.  A cold spot in the cellar was usually reserved for hanging smoked or cured meats.  The object in the old days was to store enough food in the cold cellar to get through most of the winter, but hunting during winter was also necessary, especially if arctic air extended winter by an extra month or two.  
    In modern times, transportation and distribution methods used by food markets have resulted in less reliance on cellars for food storage.  Most vegetables and fresh meats are available year round, so there is less reliance on preserved food and smoked meats during the winter season.  Winter season food items of the past are rarely featured on restaurant menus, but an exception can be found at restaurants that specialize in old fashioned rustic comfort food.  
     A few rustic mountain ski resorts and hunting lodges still use time tested artisan methods to prepare preserved food for the winter menus, just like back in the old days.  This means maintaining a farm style smokehouse on site or contracting a smokehouse in the local community.  Using a smokehouse to preserve meats and sausages for the winter not only kept food on the table, it also guaranteed that the food had a great flavor.  Every traditionalist and every outdoorsman likes the flavor of smoked meat.  Hand crafted smoked meat definitely is a good sales point for a menu at a traditional restaurant in a remote mountain resort.
     Rustic mountain hunting lodge style food does have a way of satisfying cravings that stem from recessed traits in human genetics that go all the way back to the prehistoric caveman hunter gatherer days.  For a clerk that is stuck working endless weeks in a big city office, dining on a rustic smoked meat entrée at a restaurant down the street will certainly provide an escape from the everyday mundane existence during a 45 minute lunch break.  The aroma and flavor of hickory smoked meat is enough to trigger thoughts of simpler times and the great outdoors, which in turn provides comfort during the dining experience.    
     Turkey is native to the Americas and smoked turkey is a traditional favorite.  A meal of smoked turkey breast has a rustic flavor that provides a high level of comfort.  The secondary cuts, like the legs, neck and wings are often used like smoked ham to flavor recipes.  
     Smoked turkey legs and wings sell for a modest price, but the quality can vary.  When fresh from the smoker, the leg and wing meat is moist and tender.  After aging for a few weeks, the moisture content dissipates and the meat becomes tough.  Aged tough smoked turkey leg and wing meat is better for stews and soups.  Freshly smoked moist tender turkey wings and legs can be featured on their own, but the meat may still require some stewing or braising in order to guarantee tenderness.           
     Tender juicy fresh smoked turkey wing drumettes are best for today's recipe.  If the smoked turkey wings are the least bit dried out, then they should be slowly simmered in broth till they become tender, before they are briefly roasted before being served.  Two smoked turkey wing drumettes provides enough meat for one hearty portion.

     Seasonal Herb Focaccia:
     Serving some hand crafted bread with a simple smokehouse style meal can add to the dining experience.  Follow the link to the recipe in this website.   

     Roasted Smoked Turkey Drumettes and Russian Spice Cabbage:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.   
     Smoked turkey has a long shelf life and it is often sold as a frozen product.  Smoked turkey wings or legs can be tender or tough, depending on how fresh they are.  Chewing on a sample of the smoked turkey wing is the best way to determine whether the meat is tender enough to be served on its own or whether the smoked turkey wing will need to be stewed till it is tender.
     Step 1:  Select 2 large fresh hickory smoked turkey wing drumettes that weigh 6 to 8 ounces apiece.
     *Check to see if the meat is tender.  If the wing meat is moist and tender, then they are ready to serve.  If the smoked turkey wings are dried out and tough, then simmer the wings in a pot of light broth over low heat till they become moist and tender.     
     Step 2:  Select 1 small head of white cabbage that is about 6"to 7" in diameter.
     Cut 2 center cut slices that are about 3/4" thick.
     Minimally trim the cabbage core, so the leaves remain attached.
     Step 3:  Brush a small roasting pan (or casserole dish) with vegetable oil.
     Place the 2 thick slices of cabbage side by side in the pan.
     Place a 3/4" thick slice of onion in the pan.
     Place 2 pieces of carrot in the pan that are about 4" long.
     Brush the cabbage and vegetables with melted unsalted butter.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 cups of turkey broth (or chicken broth) to the pan.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cider vinegar.
     Step 5:  Sprinkle these herbs and spices over the cabbage:
     - 2 pinches of cardamom.
     - 2 pinches of marjoram. 
     - 2 pinches of ground fenugreek.
     - 1 pinch of thyme.
     - 1 pinch of dried mint.
     - 1 small pinch of ground cumin.
     - 1 small pinch of ground clove.
     - 1 pinch of ground ginger.
     - 1 small pinch of cinnamon.
     - 1 pinch of black caraway seed.
     - 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper. 
     Step 6:  Place the 2 smoked turkey drumettes on top of the cabbage.
     Cover the roasting pan with a domed lid or aluminum foil.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast till the vegetables become tender.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Remove the lid or foil.
     Place the pan in a 375ºD oven.
     Roast till a few golden brown highlights appear.  (Just a few minutes.)

     Step 1:  Remove the pan from the oven and allow the ingredients to cool to a safe serving temperature.
     Set the smoked turkey wing drumettes aside.
     Use a large spatula to place the 2 thick cabbage slices on a plate, as a bed for the smoked turkey wings.
     Place the smoked turkey wing drumettes on top of the cabbage.
     Step 2:  Garnish the plate with the roasted onion slice and carrots.
     Spoon a generous amount of the jus from the roasting pan over the turkey, cabbage and vegetables.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     *Serve with bread and a potato of your choice on the side. 

     Viola!  A simple rustic smoked meat and cabbage entrée with aromatic Russian spice flavors!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Crawfish and Andouille Pie

     Old Fashioned Louisiana Cookin'!
     There are many great recipe variations for Crawfish Pie.  The pie crust can be sealed or it can have an open top.  The filling can be made with a cream sauce, a red roux thickened shrimp stock sauce or a creole tomato sauce.  Some Crawfish Pies are made with no sauce at all.  Fish, ham, mushrooms, sausage or smoked fish are sometimes added to the recipe to increase flavor.  Every Louisiana home cook and chef adds their own personal touch when making Crawfish Pie.
     More often than not, Crawfish Pie is made with a standard 10" to 12" diameter pie tin.  The big pie is cut into slices and served.  In recent years many restaurants have shifted to using individual portion size pie tins or small rustic cast iron pie skillets for meat pies.  Baking a bunch of small Crawfish Pies is the easiest way to serve a large dining full of guests, because there is less mess and less waste.  Individual portion size pies also look good on a plate.
     A small individual size pie tin or a single portion pop-ring mold can be used to make today's Crawfish Pie recipe.  The pie in the photo examples was made with a 5" diameter pop-ring mold.  When using a pop-ring mold, the pie crust has to be contained within the mold or the crust will break when the pop-ring latch is opened.
     Another item to note when making individual portion Crawfish Pie, or any sealed crust pie for that matter, is to be sure to poke an effective steam vent hole on top.  The steam vent hole that I cut on the pie dough for the Crawfish and Andouille Pie photo example was too small and a piece of the chunky filling clogged it up.  While baking the pie, the steam built up and the pie nearly exploded in the oven.  Luckily I noticed the swollen pie just in time, but the fancy decorative "wagon wheel" design that was applied to the top of the pie with dough scraps was distorted from being stretched by the steam pressure that built up.  Even so, the pie still looked okay and it is the flavor that counts.  All I can say is when making this style of pie, be sure that the steam vent hole is cut large enough so it does not get clogged up!      
     Many old traditional Crawfish Pie recipes are made with canned condensed milk or cream.  Canned condensed milk was a real commodity back in the old days before refrigeration was commonplace.  Not much has to be done when using canned condensed milk, because it is the consistency of reduced fresh cream, so less roux is needed for thickening the sauce.
     Needless to say, using condensed canned milk will yield a heavy Crawfish Pie that may be better suited for chilly weather.  Making a roux thickened sauce with shrimp stock and milk will yield a slightly lighter filling that is better suited for warm weather.
     For today's recipe, Andouille Sausage was added to the crawfish filling.  Enough Andouille was added to warrant mentioning the sausage in the recipe title.  The smoky spicy flavor of Andouille compliments the flavor of crawfish.  The flavor is guaranteed to not disappoint guests!
     French Pie Crust:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
      Pâte Brisée - French Pie Crust Dough

     Crawfish and Andouille Pie Filling:
     This recipe yields about 1 3/4 cups.  (Enough for 1 hearty individual portion pie.)
     The filling can be made well ahead of time!
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of diced Andouille Sausage.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped seeded Green Serrano Pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped mixed red and green bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped celery.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté and stir till the vegetables are tender, but not browned.
     Step 2:  Add just enough flour while stirring, to soak up the excess grease in the pan and to make a pan roux.  (About 1 tablespoon.)
     Stir until the flour thoroughly combines.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 cup of shrimp stock.
     Add 3/4 cup of cream.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Stir the sauce as it heats and thickens.
     *The sauce should be a medium thin consistency at this point.
     Step 4:  Add 3 tablespoons of small chopped tomato.
     Add 1 minced green onion.
     Add 1/2 cup of shelled crawfish tail meat.  (Add the orange crawfish fat from each crawfish head shells too!)
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of basil.
     Add 1 small pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of minced Italian Parsley.
     Step 6:  Add 1 pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.  (to taste)
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 7:  Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium heavy consistency that easily coats the ingredients.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Allow the filling to cool to room temperature.
     Place the Crawfish and Andouille Filling in a container.
     Chill in a refrigerator to 41ºF.

     Crawfish and Andouille Pie:
     This recipe yield 1 hearty individual portion pie.
     Step 1:  Select a 5" diameter pop-ring mold or small pie tin that has a 1 1/2 cup to 2 cup capacity.
     Brush the pie mold with melted unsalted butter.
     Step 3:  Roll 2 thin round sheets of the French Pie Dough that are about 3" wider than the pie mold.
     Drape one sheet of dough over the pie mold.
     Press the dough in place.
     Trim the excess dough around the rim of the pie mold, so it is slightly larger than the pie mold.
     Step 2:  Spoon the chilled Crawfish and Andouille filling into the pie.  (Fill the pie almost to the level of the rim.)
     Step 3:  Brush the edge of the pie dough with egg wash.
     Drape the second sheet of pie dough over the top of the pie.
     Gently press the edges together.
     Trim off the excess pie dough.
      Use a fork to gently press the edge of the crust together, so the fork leaves decorative marks.
     Step 4:  Brush the top of the pie with egg wash.
     Cut some of the excess pie dough scraps into decorative shapes.
     Decorate the top of the pie.
     Brush the decorations with egg wash.
     Step 5:  Poke a small steam vent hole in the top center of the pie.  (About 1/4" diameter.)
     Step 6:  Place the pie mold on a baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 425ºF oven.
     Bake till the crust is golden brown and the filling is piping hot.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Allow the pie to cool to a safe serving temperature.
     Carefully remove the pie from the pie mold.
     Step 8:  Use a large spatula to place the finished individual portion size Crawfish and Andouille Pie on a plate.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.
     Serve with vegetables on the side.

     Hoo dawgy!  This is a tasty Crawfish and Andouille Pie!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Bucatini All'Amatriciana

     Abbruzzese Shepherd Style Pasta!
     Bucatini All'Amatriciana is a classic Italian recipe.  Amatrice, Italy, is the area where this pasta originates.  Pasta All'Amatriciana is spicy enough to warm up a cold shepherd after a long day of working in chilly bad weather.
     Guanciale (dry cure pig cheek) is what the local Italians use to make this pasta.  Guanciale is not always easy to get in America, even at good Italian markets.  Pancetta or American style Smoked Cured Hog Jowls can be used in place of Guanciale to make this pasta.  If Pancetta is the only option, then it is best to purchase a thick slice, so it can be cut into large dice pieces.  
     Bucatini Pasta is like a thick Spaghetti Pasta that is hollow in the middle.  The hollow center in Bucatini is very small.  Because of the unique shape, Bucatini easily wiggles when picked up with a fork.  It is best to wear a pasta bib when eating Bucatini if the pasta dish has a lot of sauce.  Fortunately Bucatini All'Amatriciana is usually only made with enough sauce to coat the pasta with flavor.    

     Bucatini All'Amatriciana:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     Bucatini Pasta usually takes 11 to 12 minutes to be cooked al dente.  The sauce can be made while the pasta is boiling, so be sure to prepare the ingredients ahead of time.
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/4 cups of imported Italian canned whole San Marzano Tomatoes and a proportion of the juice from the can in a mixing bowl.
    Thoroughly crush the tomatoes by hand.
     Set the crushed tomatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Start cooking 1 portion of Bucatini Pasta in boiling water over medium high heat.
     Occasionally stir the pasta till the pasta is al dente.
     Step 3:  *The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks!
     Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 3 ounces of medium diced Guanciale.  (Smoked Cured Hog Jowl or Pancetta can be substituted.)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of coarse chopped garlic.
     Add 2 shallots that are cut in half.  (Separate the shallot layers.)
     Sauté till a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 4:  Add the reserved crushed San Marzano Tomatoes.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of crushed dried red pepper.  (to taste)
     Add 1 pinch of crushed black peppercorn.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 7 whole Italian Parsley leaves.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Gently simmer the sauce till the pasta is ready.
     Step 6:  When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the Bucatini Pasta to the sauce.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the pasta on the center of a plate.
     Sprinkle 1 or 2 tablespoons of grated Pecorino Romano Cheese over the pasta.

     If you like a spicy a la minute pasta, then Bucatini All'Amatriciana is for you!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Barbati Tomato Kura

     Yard Long Beans and Tomato simmered with Curry leaves, Fenugreek, Chile and Jaggery!      
     Today's traditional Indian vegetarian Yard Long Beans recipe is a good choice for those that seek flavors that do not come from a container of Yellow Curry Powder that is purchased at an average grocery store.  All too often, western world recipes for Indian food are oversimplified and all that is called for when flavoring a recipe is generic Curry Powder.  National brands of Curry Powder yield middle of the road flavors that really are not correct for every Indian recipe.  
     To really make great Indian food, it is better to become familiar with the traditional spices of India.  Chefs in India literally have 30 to 60 bowls of different spices sitting at a cooking station and they know exactly how much and which combinations of spices to use when making specific recipes.  Indian chefs also know when to add certain spices during the cooking process.  This may sound complicated, but just by taking an interest in authentic Indian cuisine the learning process begins.  
     Part of the Indian cuisine learning process is the understanding of how spices have a medicinal effect and certain combinations of Indian spices can improve health.  What this all means is that a cook that is interested in Indian cuisine literally will have plenty of research to do, but the benefit is that there will be plenty of good tasting healthy food to eat!          
     All of the ingredients in today's recipe can be found at an Indian food market.  Yard Long Beans can also be found in Asian food markets.  Yard Long Beans are in the Cowpea family and they have a rich tasty green bean flavor.  Curry Leaves are best when fresh.  Curry leaves are fried in oil till they become crisp for the start of many recipes that require masala spice mixtures.
     Jaggery is not raw sugar and it is not piloncillo.  Jaggery is not processed in a centrifuge to separate the molasses and impurities from the raw sugar.  Jaggery is concentrated cooked solid raw sugar that contains 50% sucrose and the rest is comprised of water, invert sugar, protein, ash and sugar cane fiber.  Jaggery can be found at Indian food markets.  If no Jaggery is available, then substitute Piloncillo or light brown sugar.  The flavor of those two sugars are close to jaggery, but not quite as rich tasting.

     Barbati Tomato Kura:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.  (About 2 1/4 cups.)
     Himalayan Black Salt has a pink or orange color when dry.  When added to water, the brine will have a gray color.  Himalayan Black Salt has a high mineral and sulphur content that adds a nice flavor to this recipe!  Use sea salt if none is available.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
     Add 15 small fresh Curry Leaves.
     Sauté till the curry leaves are crisp.
     Step 2:  Add 4 crushed garlic cloves.
     Add 1 chopped Red Thai Chile pepper.  (To taste.  These are peppers are spicy hot!)
     Sauté till the garlic starts to become a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of coarse chopped white onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of coarse chopped green or red bell pepper. 
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of small chopped tomato.
     Saute till the tomato starts to become tender.
     Step 5:  Add 2 cups of yard long beans that are cut into 2" long pieces.
     Sauté and stir till the long beans start to cook.
     Step 6:  Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Jaggery.  (Substitute light brown sugar or piloncillo if none is available.)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground fenugreek.  (ground methi)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of Himalayan Black Salt.  
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the excess liquid evaporates and the yard long beans are tender.  Stir occasionally.  (The finished volume of the sauce should be 1/2 cup.) 
     Step 8:  Add 1/4 cup of coarse chopped fresh cilantro just before serving.
     Step 9:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Mound the Barbati Tomato Kura in a shallow serving dish.
     Serve with and Indian bread of your choice and Steamed Basmati Rice on the side. 

     The flavor?  Sweet, spicy hot with a complex fenugreek maple flavor and a roasted peanut flavor from the fried curry leaves!  This is a great tasting Indian long bean entrée that can be served as a side dish. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Insalata di Balsamic Artichoke, Olive and Tomato

     An Italian Style Lightly Marinated Salad!
     Today's Italian style Balsamic Vinegar marinated salad is a nice antipasti.  Modena Italy is the home of cave aged Balsamic Vinegar.  The quality of the Balsamic Vinegar is easily noticed in a simple salad, so it is best to select a good one from Modena.
     The secret to making a Mediterranean style marinated salad is to only marinate the ingredients for a short time.  This way the vegetables do not turn limp and the flavors remain bright.  Another good tip is to only add enough Balsamic Vinegar to lightly coat the ingredients with flavor.  Adding too much Balsamic Vinegar will result in an overbearing flavor.
     Balsamic Vinaigrette:
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup.  (2 portions)  
     The vinaigrette should be loose and not fully emulsified for this recipe.
     Step 1:  Place 2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon on minced fresh basil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Set the bowl aside for 5 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Step 2:  Slowly add 1/4 cup of olive oil while gently whisking to create a loose vinaigrette.
     Step 3:  Place the Balsamic Vinaigrette in a container.
     Chill till the dressing is needed.
     Stir before serving.

     Insalata di Balsamic Artichoke, Olive and Tomato:
     This recipe yields 1 salad entrée.
     Poached fresh artichoke hearts or good quality canned artichoke hearts can be used for this recipe.
     Step 1:  Place 1/6 cup of julienne sliced onion in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 large artichoke hearts that are cut into quarters.
     Add 5 large pitted black olives that are cut in half.
     Add 1 large ripe Plum Tomato that is cut into wedges.
     Step 2:  Add just enough of the Balsamic Vinaigrette to coat the ingredients with flavor.  (About 2 to 3 tablespoons.)
     Gently toss the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Place the marinated salad mixture in a container.
     Chill for 5 minutes in a refrigerator.
     *Do not marinate this salad for too much time, or the tomatoes will become mushy!
     Step 4:  Place a bed of small Boston Lettuce Leaves on the center of a plate.  (About 2 cups.)
     Mound the artichoke and tomato salad on the bed of lettuce.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Viola!  A nice light summer antipasti salad!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Guisado de Conejo y Leche de Coco

     Colombian Coconut Milk Rabbit Stew!
     Guisado de Conejo y Leche de Coco is one of the best tasting rabbit stews that there is!  The flavor of this light stew is phenomenally good and it can be served any season.  Like most Colombian stews, the list of ingredients is simple and the featured flavor is not muddled with additional items of personal taste.  
     Light savory stews are popular in Colombia and Central America, especially during the summer season.  Serving a stew during the hot summer season contradicts European culinary philosophy, but there is a trick to the tale.  When performing strenuous physical activity in a hot humid tropical climate, nutrients in the body are thoroughly depleted and energy levels plummet.  A stew provides plenty of efficient nutrient uptake, which quickly revitalizes the body and mind.  Eating hot food in a hot climate also causes light perspiration, which in turn creates a cooling sensation.
     Colombian food tends to be savory and if chile peppers are added, then they are only used like a spice.  Only a small amount of spicy hot Chile Pequin is needed for today's rabbit stew.  Coconut milk contains plenty of oil fat, which carries the capsicum oil, so it is best to add a sparing amount of Chile Pequin even if one is used to extra spicy hot food.  
     Rabbit is a healthy meat option that is nearly fat free.  Rabbit has a light flavor that tastes like chicken, but the meat is much cleaner tasting.  Because rabbit meat is so lean, it can be notoriously tough if it is not marinated or slowly simmered with acidic ingredients for a long period of time.  The rabbit simmers for more than 2 hours in today's recipe, so when the stew is finished, the rabbit meat is ready to start falling off of the bones.

     Rabbit Fabrication For Stew:
     This recipe yields 1 prepared rabbit.
     Whole rabbit is available at most butcher shops.  A butcher can fabricate a rabbit for stewing upon request, but Rabbit fabrication is as easy as quartering a chicken.  
     Step 1:  Select 1 whole rabbit that weighs about 2 1/2 pounds.
     Cut all 4 legs off at the joints.
     Step 2:  Clip the ends of the rear legs and press the meat down the bone, so the exposed bone is bare.  (Frenching the bone.)
     Set the leg pieces in a container.
     Step 3:  Trim off the tail of the back section.
     Cut the two back strap tenderloin pieces off of the lower back.
     Trim any useable meat pieces off of the carcass.
     Add the back straps and meat pieces to the legs in the container.
     Chill till the rabbit stewing pieces are needed.
     Step 4:  Save the carcass and bones for making broth or white stock for another recipe.

     Guisado de Conejo y Leche de Coco:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add the rabbit legs, back straps and meat pieces.
     Sauté till the rabbit pieces are lightly browned.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped red bell pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped yellow bell pepper.
     Sauté till the peppers start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use a slotted spoon to transfer the ingredients from the sauté pan to a sauce pot.
     Step 5:  Drain off any excess oil from the sauté pan.
     Add 1 cup of water to the sauté pan.
     Deglaze the pan.
     Add the jus to the ingredients in the sauce pot.
     Step 6:  Add 1 cup of light vegetable broth to the sauce pot.
     Add 1 cup of light chicken broth.
     Add enough water to cover the ingredients in the pot with 2" extra liquid.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over medium high heat.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 whole dried Pequin Chile Peppers.
     Add 1/2 cup of thin tomato wedges.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 8:  Gently simmer till the rabbit meat is tender and do not stir the stew.  (About 2 hours.)
     Allow the stewing broth to reduce to about 1 1/2  to 2 cups in volume.
     Step 9:  Remove the bay leaf from the stewing sauce.
     Raise the temperature up to medium heat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till about 3/4 cup of liquid remains.
     Step 10:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of coconut milk.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is thin consistency.  (The finished volume should be less than 1 cup.)
     Step 11:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Arrange the rabbit pieces on the center of a shallow plate.
     Pour the coconut milk stewing sauce and vegetables over the rabbit and onto the plate.
     Step 12:  Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with a bowl of white rice and bread on the side.

     This is a great tasting Colombian rabbit stew for summer!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chicken 'n' Biscuits!

     Old Fashioned Country Cooking! 
     Chicken 'n' Biscuits is a nice old fashioned hearty entrée.  The biscuits serve as the starch of the entrée and they take the place of rice or potatoes.  The biscuits soak up the chicken gravy, just like dumplings and this creates a warm satisfying feeling.
     Chicken 'n' Biscuits has been a popular meal since the colonial times.  In the old west, chuck wagon and mining camp cooks served up Chicken 'n' Biscuits as a filling meal.  Chicken 'n' Biscuits was a popular cheap down home style meal during the Great Depression too.
      Chicken 'n' Biscuits recipes do vary.  Most Chicken 'n' Biscuit recipes require Chicken Gravy (velouté), Milk Gravy (Béchamel) or an enriched broth.  Pennsylvania Dutch style Chicken 'n' Biscuits are usually made with a chicken stock and milk gravy.  In the Louisiana, a variety of French style Chicken Fricassee preparations are poured over the biscuits.  In the American South, the stewed meat is often made with roasted chicken and the gravy is made with pan drippings.  Modern Soul Food style Chicken 'n Biscuits recipes can have some fancy ingredients added to the gravy, like peppers and garden herbs.  Basically, no matter what style of Chicken 'n' Biscuits recipe is chosen, the goal is to create a satisfying plate of food that provides comfort!  
     Today's recipe is a fancy modern Soul Food style version of Chicken 'n' Biscuits.  The gravy is fancied up with aromatic vegetables, bell pepper and herbs, but the rich chicken flavor still reigns supreme.   

     Buttermilk Biscuits:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Buttermilk Biscuits

     Chicken 'n' Biscuits:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.  
     Uncooked chicken leg or breast pieces can be used for this recipe.  I used chicken breast because that is what I had on hand, but the leg meat adds a richer flavor.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot (or sauteuse pan) over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 6 to 8 ounces of thin sliced raw chicken.
     Sauté till the chicken is a little more than halfway cooked, but not browned.
     Step 2:  Add 1 sliced garlic clove.
     Add 1 tablespoon of diced carrot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of diced celery.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced onion.
     Add l/4 cup of diced red bell pepper.
     Sauté and stir till the onions turn clear in color.  
     *Try not to let the ingredients brown.  Stir often! 
     Step 3:  Add just enough flour while stirring, to soak up the excess butter and to make a pan roux. (About 3 or 4 teaspoons.)
     Continue to stir till the roux combines.
     Step 4:  Add 1 3/4 cups of light chicken stock while stirring.
     Add 1/2 cup of milk.
     Bring the gravy to a gentle boil while occasionally stirring.  
     *Scrape any roux that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan too.  The gravy will be a very thin consistency at this time.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (1 or 2 pinches)
     Step 6:  Gently simmer and reduce till the gravy is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 thin sliced green onion.
     Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Step 8:  Place 2 warm Buttermilk Biscuits on the back half of a plate.
     Use a slotted spoon to mound the chicken and vegetables on the front half of the plate.
     Pour a generous amount of the fancy chicken gravy over the biscuits and chicken.
     Step 9:  Garnish the plate with Italian Parsley sprigs.
     Serve any extra gravy in a gooseneck sauce boat on the side.
     Serve with a few extra Buttermilk Biscuits on the side! 

     Warm, cozy and delicious!  This is a comfortable tasting modern Soul Food style Chicken 'n' Biscuits!