Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Grilled Smoked Pork Chop with Laverbread, Bacon Bits and Mushrooms

    A Good Smoked Pork Chop With Healthy Welsh Laverbread!
    In Welsh Celtic language, Bara Lawr translates to Laverbread.  Laver is a dark purplish green seaweed that clings to rocks.  Laver is also called Nori in Japanese language.  Sheets of Roasted Nori Seaweed can be used to make Laverbread, if fresh Laver is not available. 
     Prepared Laver has a rich flavor.  Laver is usually cooked down, till it becomes a thick paste consistency.  Nori seaweed is prepared in a similar way, before it is roasted. 
    The health benefits of laver seaweed are well known.  Laver is loaded with vitamins and minerals.  Laver contains a high concentration of Iodine.  Iodine fights certain types cancer and it gets rid of heavy metal toxins that accumulate in soft internal organs.  

     Cheap low quality smoked pork chops are not really smoked.  An artificial smoke flavor is added to the light brine.  Grocery stores and low budget restaurants usually sell cheap artificial smoked pork chops.  
     Good butcher shops sell lightly cured pork chops or plain pork chops that have been slow smoked the old fashioned way.  I recently purchased a couple of good smoked pork chops at a butcher shop in Las Vegas.  I figured that the flavor of a smoked pork chop would go well with Laverbread.  
     Eggs, lamb, mutton or beef are traditionally served with Laverbread in Wales.  Wales is sheep farming country, so the top choice of accompanying meat for Laverbread is mutton or lamb.  Smoked Pork is a nice choice too and it adds a rustic flavor. 

     *This entire recipe yields 1 hearty entrée!

     Bacon Bits:
     Cut 2 1/2 strips of bacon into small square shpes.
     Sauté or grill the bacon bits over medium/medium low heat.
     Drain the grease off of the bacon bits and keep them warm on a stove top.
     *Save the bacon grease for later in the recipe!

     This recipe yields one large portion!
     Sheets of roasted nori seaweed were used to make this laverbread.  Old fashioned pressed oats are a better choice than steel cut oats for this recipe.  The seaweed mixture must be cooked down to a thick paste consistency, so patties can be formed.
     Step 1:  Boil 1 quart of water in a sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 5 sheets of roasted nori seaweed.  (The sushi wrap stuff!)
     Add 1/3 cup of old fashioned oats.  
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Bring the liquid back to boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the laverbread mixture becomes a thick paste. 
     Remove the pot from the heat. 
     Step 3:  Allow the laverbread to cool to room temperature. 
     Chill the laverbread in a refrigerator, till it becomes firm.  
     Step 4:  Place about 1 cup of dry oats in a mixing bowl.
     Form the laverbread into a large patty shape.
     Place the patty on the oats and coat both sides.
     Step 5:  Heat a cast iron griddle or skillet over medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of bacon grease or lard. 
     Gently pan fry the laverbread on both sides, till it is hot and the oats are crispy golden brown.  Try to only flip the laverbread once.  
     *If the patty needs repacking after flipping, then reshape it with a spatula.  
     Keep the laverbread warm on a stove top.
     Mushroom Garnish:
     Cut 2 medium size button cave mushrooms into thick slices.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Sauté the mushrooms, till they become tender.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Keep the mushrooms warm on a stove top.

     Grilled Smoked Pork Chop:
     Lightly brush an 8 ounce smoked pork chop with unsalted butter.
     Heat a char grill or ribbed cast iron griddle to a medium/medium high temperature.  
     Grill the smoked pork chop on both sides, till it is heated to a warm serving temperature and grill marks appear.

     Grilled Smoked Pork Chop with Laverbread, Bacon Bits and Mushrooms:
     Place the laverbread on the back half of a plate.
     Lean the smoked pork chop against the laverbread.
     Place the mushroom slices on the plate in a semi circle pattern around the pork chop.
     Cascade the bacon bits over the laverbread and on the plate.
     Cascade thin bias sliced green onion over the laverbread and over the bacon bits on the plate.
     Serve with a potato of your choice on the side.

     Welsh style comfort food! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dominican Stewed Goat

     Dominican Republic Style Stewed Goat         
     There are regions in the Dominican Republic and nearly every Caribbean country where goats are raised on farms that are located on rough terrain.  Rough terrain is fine for farming goats, because these animals prefer harsh living conditions that other animals avoid, solely as a defense mechanism.  Goats also eat plants that most other animals avoid.  
     Goats literally can survive just about anywhere and they will eat just about anything.  This is why goat is one of the most popular local cuisine meat choices worldwide.  
     In countries that have vast lush grazing land, there is no need to depend on raising goats for meat.  Goat is farmed for milk, like dairy farm cattle.  
     In this modern age, members of mainstream society sometimes seek alternative healthy meat options.  Pigs, chickens and cattle often depend on drugs, antibiotics and hormones for survival.  The thought of consuming traces of these chemical compounds terrifies many people and rightly so.  Often the consequences of consuming artificial compounds is evident many years after the fact. 
     What alternative meats do naturalists seek?  Meat from animals that are not farmed like they are run through a factory where the only thing that matters is bottom line profits.  Meat from animals that are disease resistant and free range animals that do not depend on artificially manipulated feed are the top choices.  
     Wild game or free range farmed wild game are the best alternative options for natural meat.  Second choice options are farmed animals that are self sustainable, like ostrich, kangaroo, rabbit and of course goat.  This is where classism enters the picture, because high society members would not be caught dead eating what the healthy poor folks and local natives eat!  In essence, the classism psyche works in favor of the working class, because if high society members all preferred goat meat, the price of goat meat would shoot through the roof!  Goat meat has a reputation for being a down home food staple that sells for a low price, so high society members leave it alone.  
     The low price is why goat meat is one of the best alternative meat choices.  There will be no snobbish connoisseur sitting at the table complaining about how the food was not cooked to perfection when a goat stew is served!  Connoisseurs are usually too high and mighty to eat goat!  Down home folks that have a big appetite from doing hard work all day actually relish the thought of a big bowl of hearty goat stew.  So be it!  It is all relative.     
     Hot chile peppers are a common ingredient in Dominican cuisine and there is something about chile peppers that increases strength and endurance.  Folks that eat hot chile peppers are usually strong willed people.  
     Honestly, chile pepper heat is relative to the beholder.  One who eats hot chile peppers on a regular basis will build up a tolerance to the chile pepper heat.  Chile pepper food that may seem mild tasting to an avid chile pepper eater, might cause an average person that eats no hot peppers at all, to describe the flavor as being way too spicy hot to eat.  This is the law of chile pepper jungle and this is why mercy must be applied, when tempting newcomers to try spicy chile pepper food.  
     Plenty of traditional Dominican food is prepared spicy hot, but the spicy flavor is within reason.  The traditional goal of spicy recipes in tropical climate regions is to cause a small amount of perspiration, in order to create a cool feeling that provides relief from the heat.  When just the right amount of chile peppers are in a recipe, the food is spicy, but it is not too spicy hot to easily enjoy.  Just the right level of spicy heat creates the desired cooling effect.  
     This is why Scotch Bonnet Peppers are part of so many recipes in the Caribbean region.  A little bit of Bonnie Pepper goes a long way and small amount provides relief from tropical heat!

     Ocho Rios Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce
     Ocho Rios Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce can be found in nearly every Caribbean food market.  Almost every Caribbean restaurant has bottles of Ocho Rios Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce in the kitchen and a bottle is placed on every dining room table.  Ocho Rios Scotch Pepper Sauce is prized in the entire Caribbean region and Florida.  This Scotch Bonnet Pepper sauce is one of the best!  
     The flavor of Ocho Rios Hot Sauce is easy to imagine.  It is pure slow cooked Scotch Bonnet Peppers with a hint of mustard.  This hot sauce goes well with seafood, chicken and basically just about any Caribbean food.  
     Since fresh Scotch Bonnet Peppers are not readily available in areas outside of the Caribbean region, there are two options.  Orange habanero peppers can be substituted, but the flavor profile is not really the same as a Scotch Bonnet Pepper, even though these chile pepper varietals are closely related.  Trinidad Scorpion Peppers have a Scotch Bonnet flavor, but Scorpion Pepper are at least ten times as spicy hot, so it is all to easy to add too much spicy heat to a traditional recipe.  
     The best option, if no fresh Scotch Bonnet Peppers are available, is to purchase a bottle of Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce.  Bottled Ocho Rios Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce is commonly used by Caribbean chefs and cooks as a cooking sauce, because the flavor is pure and unadulterated.  
     If there are no local Caribbean food markets in the area, this hot sauce can be purchased at internet stores, like Amazon.  Ocho Rios Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce is product that comes from the Caribbean island nation, Saint Lucia near Barbados.  This hot sauce is highly respected and the quality is superb.  Highly recommended!  

     Dominican Stewed Goat:
     This recipe yields 1 large hearty portion!
     Goat meat is available at most locally owned butcher shops.  Because of low demand, it is usually sold frozen.  I purchased 3 pounds of goat stew meat at John Mull's Meats in Las Vegas.  The famous Road Kill Grill is part of the John Mull's Butcher Shop operation, so grab a plate of great BBQ while there!  
     Goat stew meat is cut into large bite size pieces.  The bones are attached to the meat.  Trimming off the bones is optional.  Leaving the bones attached to the stew meat is traditional, because the bones increase flavor in a stew.
     The level of spicy heat in this recipe is medium hot.  The spicy heat can be adjusted to personal taste by reducing or increasing the amount of Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce or habanero peppers.  Keep this in mind!  One half or one quarter of a Scotch Bonnet Pepper per recipe will yield a medium spicy hot flavor.  One whole Scotch Bonnet Pepper will create a very spicy hot stew!
     • The mild chiles in this recipe add flavor, without increasing the spicy heat.  Caribbean spices give this stew a unique tasty flavor. 
     • Bottles of Bitter Orange Juice can be found in Latino Food Markets.  Bitter Orange is Seville Orange Juice.
     • Cooking aromatic vegetables in molten sugar is a common Caribbean cooking technique.  Molten sugar pulls flavor out of whatever it makes contact with.   
     Step 1:  Place 10 to 12 ounces of large bite size pieces of goat stew meat in a container.  (Leave the bones attached, but trim off any small broken bone pieces or bones that have sharp edges.) 
     Add 3/4 cup of Seville Orange juice (Bitter Orange).
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Marinate the goat meat in a refrigerator overnight or for at least 12 hours.
     Drain the liquid off of the goat meat and discard it.  (Bitter orange juice tames the strong flavor and it tenderizes the meat!)
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauce pot or sauteuse pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of lard or vegetable oil.
     Add the marinated goat meat.
     Sauté till the meat is thoroughly browned on all sides.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Remove the goat meat from the pot and set it aside on a dish.
     Drain off any excess grease from the pot, but leave about 1 tablespoon of grease in the pot.
     Step 4:  Add 2 tablespoons of Piloncillo (or light brown sugar) to the pot.
     Simmer till the sugar is molten.  
     Step 5:  Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Add 1/2 cup of small chopped bermuda onion.
     Cook the onions and garlic in the bubbling molten sugar, till they are tender.
     Step 6:  Add 1/3 cup of bitter orange juice.
     Return the seared goat meat to the pot.
     Add enough water to cover the goat meat with 1" of extra liquid.
     Step 7:  Add 3/4 cup of canned tomato puree.
     Add 1 chopped plum tomato.
     Add 1 small chopped seeded Cubanelle Pepper or Banana Pepper.
     Add 1 small chopped seeded jalapeño pepper.  
     Add 2 teaspoons of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of allspice.
     Add 1 small laurel leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 8:  Add 1/2 of a chopped fresh Scotch Bonnet Pepper or 1 tablespoon of Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce.  (Adjust to personal taste, but this stew should be on the spicy hot side.)
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped red bell pepper or roasted red bell pepper.  
     Add 3 or 4 pickle green tabasco peppers.  (optional) 
     Step 9:  Bring the stew to a gentle boil over medium heat. 
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.  
     Gently simmer the stew, till the goat meat is tender.  (This takes a while!  Add water if necessary.)
     Step 10:  After the goat meat becomes tender, raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced cilantro.
     Adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper if necessary. 
     Step 11:  Rapidly simmer and reduce the stewing sauce, till it becomes rich and there is slightly more meat than sauce.  (The sauce should be reduced to a medium thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.)
     Step 12:  Remove the laurel leaf.
     Keep the stew warm over very low heat.
     Use a cup as a rice mold.  Place 1 portion of plain cooked white rice in a wide shallow stew bowl.
     Ladle the Dominican Stewed Goat around the rice in the bowl.
     Garnish the rice with a cilantro sprig or curly leaf parsley sprig.  
     Garnish the rice with a couple of pickled green tabasco peppers.  
     Serve with bread, lime wedges and a bottle of Scotch Bonnet Pepper sauce on the side!

     There are a few traditional Dominican names for this stew, but those names can easily be confused with a similar goat stew that is made in Central America.  I figured that writing the name of this traditional Dominican stew in plain English would avoid confusion.  
     Dominican Stewed Goat is awesome tasting and it is pleasantly spicy hot!  This stew has a unique flavor that is quite appealing. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Spätzle mit Schweinehals Linseneintopf

    Spätzle with Pork Neck Lentil Stew!
    Good hearty German food has a way of making guests smile on a chilly day.  A slow cooked braised entrée wastes no nutrients, because the ingredients are contained in one pot.  Stewing food makes nutrients easy to digest.  This is important in cold weather.  The easier the food is digest, the quicker the body recovers from being out in the cold for an extended time.
     Old fashioned braised or stewed entrées are not difficult to make.  Tough cuts of meat require a long simmering time, so they will become tender.  The bones add plenty of cartilaginous nutrients that keep tendons and muscles strong.
     The caramelized neck bone meat in today's recipe gives the thin braising sauce a rich flavor.  Lentils add even more flavor to the braising sauce.  All in all, this is rich satisfying plate of hearty winter food! 

     Board Cut Spätzle Dough:
     This recipe yields enough spätzle dough for about 4 large portions!
     Step 1:  Place 3 1/4 cups of bread flour in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Mix the dry ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Form a well in the center of the flour.
     Place 4 whisked large eggs in the well.
     Stir the egg till it starts to combine with the flour.
     Start kneading till a very stiff dough forms.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of milk or water at a time, while kneading, till a medium stiff semi sticky noodle dough is formed.  (About 5 to 7 tablespoons)  
     Do not add too much liquid or you will end up with spoon spätzle batter!  The dough should not be as stiff as an Italian pasta dough, but it should be firm.  After pressing a finger on the dough to leave a dent, the dent should remain intact. 
     Step 4:  Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. 
     Board Cut Spätzle Preparation:
     Step 1:  Allow the dough to reach room temperature.
     Step 2:  Roll out a portion of the dough out, so it forms a rectangle shape that is about 3 1/2" x 10" and 3/8" thick.   
     Step 3:  Gently press the dough strip onto a spätzle board or a small cutting board, so it sticks in place.  Be sure to leave 3" to 4" of bare board as a leading edge. 
     Step 4:  Heat a pot of water over medium/medium high heat.  The water should only be gently boiling.
     Step 5:  Hold the board with the spätzle stuck to it with one arm and point the bare end of the board toward the pot of hot water.  (The board should be held close to the pot of gently boiling water, so each spätzle lands in the water after it is cut.) 
     Grasp a long straight cake spatula with the other hand.
     Place the blade of the spatula flush against the board in front of the dough.  Tilt the spatula blade to about a 15º to 25º angle.
    Drag the spatula blade back over the leading edge of the dough.  (Backstroke)
    Move the blade forward and cut a long thin slice of dough and try to scrape the bare end of the board with the blade in one quick motion.  The spätzle should fly off the blade into the water.  (Like a little sparrow!) 
     Step 6:  Continue this quick backstroke drag and forward stroke cutting motion, till all the spätzle dough is cut and in the pot.     
     *The knife should always be in contact with the board or dough, when cutting spätzle!  Once the board cutting spätzle technique is mastered, the sound and feel of making spätzle will become second nature.  A good German cook can cut spätzle as fast as lightening!  
     *Start learning by making medium size spätzle.  Medium size is a forgiving size.  Small 1/8" thick spätzle are not difficult to make, after getting the feel of working the board with a spätzle knife.
     Step 7:  After the spätzle float to the top of the gently boiling water and they are tender, use a pasta net to place the spätzle in a colander and drain off any excess water.
    The boiled spätzle can be chilled in a refrigerator until they are reheated with butter later in the recipe.

     Pork Neck Lentil Stew:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion!  
     Step 1:  Select about 14 ounces of meaty pork neck bones.  
     *There is a lot of bone in this cut of pork and the amount of meat is usually estimated.  The pork meat on the neck bones should add up to be equal to a 7 or 8 ounce portion.  Any large pieces of excess fat should be trimmed off.
     Step 2:  Heat a braising pan or a wide shallow pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add the pork neck bones.  
     Thoroughly brown the neck bones on all sides.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.  
     Add 1/2 of a minced green onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 4:  Add just enough flour to soak up any excess butter in the pan, while stirring.  (About 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons)
     Step 5:  Add 1 cup of pork broth.
     Add enough water to cover the neck bones with 1" of extra liquid.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Step 6:  Add 1 laurel leaf.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Step 7:  Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently braise the neck bones and sir occasionally, till the meat becomes tender.  Only add water if the liquid drops below the level of the neck bones.
     Step 8:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of rinsed brown lentils.
     Add 4 peeled thick celery sticks that are 4" long.
     Add 4 peeled thick carrot sticks that are 4" long.
     Add about 1/3 cup of large bite size onion pieces.
     Return the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 9:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add black pepper.
     Adjust the sea salt if necessary.
     Step 10:  Simmer uncovered, till the lentils become tender and the liquid reduces to a thin consistency.  
     Keep the pork neck lentil stew warm over very low heat.
     Remove the laurel leaf before serving.
     Pan Fried Spätzle:
     Spätzle is usually finished by pan frying it in noisette butter, roasted lard or bacon grease!
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Allow the butter to become a golden brown color with a light hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of smoked bacon grease.
     Step 3:  Add 1 portion of boiled spätzle, while shaking the pan.
     Sauté and toss the spätzle, till the spätzle puffs up and golden highlights appear.  (This only takes about 1 minute.)
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Keep the spätzle warm on a stove top.

     Spätzle mit Schweinehals Linseneintopf:
     Step 1:  Place a bed of the pan fried spätzle on a plate.
     Step 2:  Remove the pork neck bones and aromatic vegetables from the pot and temporarily set them aside on a dish.
     Step 3:  Spoon the lentils and thin braising sauce on the center of the bed of spätzle.
     Mound the pork neck bones on the lentils.
     Place the carrot, celery and onions on the pork neck bones as a garnish.
     Garnish with a curly leaf parsley sprig. 

     Viola!  A simple hearty plate of German style pork neck bones and lentil stew over spätzle.  This is a satisfying plate of comfort food that tastes nice and rich!  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Apple Chicken Sausages and Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Sausages With Braised Black Forest Bacon Root Vegetables

     Oktoberfest Food!
     I thought about making a German style braised root vegetable recipe for a few days.  I had some turnip, parsnip, carrot and potato in the refrigerator for a start.  More kinds of root vegetables were needed and I found a nice variety in Las Vegas food markets.  I purchased some golden beets and celery root.  Parsley Root was available a few days ago, but it was now sold out.  Even so, I ended up with plenty of tasty root vegetables for today's recipe.

     I have not seen American style Black Forest Bacon at a market for a while.  I thought this style of bacon would add a nice flavor when braising the root vegetables.
     Black Forest Bacon is an American style product and it should not be confused with meats that are prepared in the Black Forest region of Germany.  The same can be said about American Black Forest Ham, which is nothing like an authentic Black Forest Ham from Germany.  According to European originality laws, only German Black Forest Ham is the real thing.  It is illegal to sell American Black Forest Ham in Europe, because this ham is really a novel invention of its own and the Black Forest name is used solely for it's marketing potential.    
     American Black Forest Bacon is flavored with German winter spices, then it is cured.  The flavor of American Black Forest Bacon actually is pretty good!

     Fancy flavored chicken sausages have been popular in recent years, because consumers think of chicken sausage as being a healthy alternative.  This is not always true, because cheap manufactured chicken sausages do have plenty of fat and chicken skin whipped into the ground chicken mix.  Hand crafted chicken sausages from a good butcher shop are a better choice.  The difference in quality is easily noticed.    
     Apfelwurst is a traditional German pork sausage that is flavored with apples.  Chicken Apple Sausages have a lighter flavor than the traditional pork version.  Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Sausages have a nice mild flavor too.
     Apple Chicken Sausages and Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Sausages With Braised Black Forest Bacon Root Vegetables:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée or 2 petite portions.
     Step 1:  Heat a braising pot or a wide sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 thick slices of American Black Forest Bacon, that are cut into 1" long pieces.
     Add 4 thick carrot sticks that are 3" long.
     Add 4 thick parsnip sticks that are 3" long.
     Add 5 small Yukon Gold Potatoes that are cut in half.
     Add 4 pieces of celery root that are cut into 1/2" cube shapes.
     Add 4 thick turnip sticks.
     Add 5 thick golden beet wedges.
     Sauté and stir the ingredients, till the vegetables and bacon start to become aromatic.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste.
     Sauté and stir till the tomato paste lightly caramelizes.
     Step 4:  Add 3/4 cup of lager beer.  (gold color lager)
     Add 1/2 cup of beef stock.
     Add 3/4 cup of pork broth.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of raw sugar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated orange zest.
     Step 6:  Add 3 spice cloves.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 teaspoon of coarse chopped Italian parsley.
     Add 2 pinches of minced fresh rosemary.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 7:  Add enough water, so the braising liquid almost covers the root vegetables.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Step 8:  Place 2 raw Apple Chicken Sausages on top of the vegetables.
     Place 2 raw Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Sausages on top of the vegetables.
     Cover the pot with a loose fitting lid.
     Place the pot in a 325ºF degree oven.
     Braise till the sausages and vegetables are almost fully cooked.
     Step 9:  Remove the lid from the pot.
     Return the pot to the 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the sausages are fully cooked and light brown highlights appear.
     Step 10:  Remove the braising pot from the oven.
     Place the braising pot over medium heat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce the braising sauce, till it is a medium thin consistency.
     Keep the braised root vegetables and sausages warm over very low heat.
     Spoon the braised root vegetables and the braising sauce on a plate as a bed for the sausages.
     Place the Apple Chicken Sausages and Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Sausages on the bed of braised root vegetables.
     Sprinkle a little bit of fresh orange zest over the sausages and vegetables.
     Garnish the plate with sprigs of Italian Parsley and rosemary.
     Oktoberfest is a workers celebration of the fall harvest.  The food should be casual and full of flavor.  Most importantly, the food has to go well with beer!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ocean Perch Provencal

     Healthy French Provence Region Food!  
     There are many different definitions and variations of Provencal Sauce.  Many French chefs that I apprenticed with described Sauce Provencal as a preparation style.  Modern textbook definitions state that Sauce Provencal is a tomato sauce made in the style of Provence.
     It is the chef's choice as to whether the sauce is made like a refined tomato puree for fine dining or whether the sauce is made rustic peasant style with a coarse texture.  I worked with a Corsican chef who was a culinary arts instructor at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris.  This chef preferred to make the peasant style version of Sauce Provencal, because it looks good on a plate and the rustic theme is true to the nature of the sauce.  
     Researching old Haute Cuisine descriptions of Sauce Provencal shows that the sauce actually is made with butter, garlic and a few select herbs.  There is no tomato and no lavender in the oldest traditional Sauce Provencal recipes.

     Today's Provencal Sauce recipe is a rustic tomato version that offers interesting complex flavors.  Brandy is used in this Provencal Sauce recipe instead of wine.  It is best to save the bottle of good French country wine (AOC vin de pays) for serving with today's healthy Ocean Perch entrée!

     Country Style Sauce Provencal:
     This recipe yields 2 generous portions.  (1 1/4 cups) 
     Like many Sauce Provence recipes, this sauce is highly seasoned.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 chopped garlic cloves.
     Add 1 thin sliced small shallot.
     Gently sauté till the shallot turns clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped leek.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped mixed red and green bell pepper.
     Sauté till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 3:  Add 1 cup of peeled seeded coarsely chopped plum tomato.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Herbs De Provence.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil leaves.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of whitefish stock.  (fumet)
     Add 3 ounces of brandy.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce till a little more than half of the excess liquid evaporates.  (The sauce will be finished with the fish in the next recipe!)
     Remove the pot from the heat and set it aside.
     Ocean Perch Provencal:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée or 2 petite lunch portions.  
     Step 1:  Select 2 ocean perch filets that weigh 4 ounces apiece.  (Leave the skin on the filets.)
     Lightly season the filets with sea salt and white pepper.
     Dredge the filets in flour.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Place the floured perch filets in the pan with the skin side facing up.
     Sauté the perch on both sides, till they are almost fully cooked.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add the reserved thin Country Style Provencal Sauce.
     Gently warm the sauce with the fish, till the fish is fully cooked.  (Do not stir or flip the fish or the Ocean Perch will break apart!)
     Step 4:  Use a spatula to set the Perch Filets on a plate.
     Keep the Perch plate warm on a stove top.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil to the provencal sauce in the pan.
     Stir the sauce.
     Simmer and reduce till the excess liquid evaporates.  (The sauce should look like a coarse tomato sauce with very little liquid left to weep out.)
     Step 6:  Spoon the sauce over the perch filets.
     Serve with a vegetable and potato of your choice.
     *The entree in the photographs was served with buttered bliss potato wedges and a sautéed small portobello mushroom.
     Garnish with a small basil sprig.
     This Country Style Sauce Provencal variation is abundant with herbs and the brandy flavor adds a nice old fashioned touch!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Whole Grain Linguine, Smoked Salmon, Asparagus and Basil Crème

     A Quick, Simple, Tasty Creative Pasta!
     In traditional Italian a la minute pasta cooking, the sauce is made in the same amount of time that is takes to cook al dente pasta.  A la minute pasta sauces usuall can be finished in 8 to 12 minutes.  This style of pasta cooking is perfection oriented.  A la minute pastas are also perfect for folks that are on the go!
     Cream sauces are not really traditional Italian pasta sauces, but the exception is in Northern Italy where the weather can be quite chilly.  Along the French border, cream sauces are occasionally seen on menus.
     French chefs often make cream sauces for pasta, but pasta seldom is associated with French cuisine.  Chefs in American restaurants kind of go overboard with cream sauces for pasta.  During the 1990's it seemed like every pasta at creative American restaurant was made with heavy cream sauces.  Basil Cream Sauce is one of the old standby sauces from that era.  Even national chain restaurants offer a Basil Cream Sauce on the menu, even though it is made with a manufactured freeze dried instant cream sauce product.  This kind of Basil Cream Sauce only appeals to quantity oriented customers and not the quality oriented crowd.
     What does a Basil Cream Sauce taste good with?  The easy answer is chicken.  Every chain restaurant seems to have offered pasta with Chicken and Basil Cream at one time or another, so customer interest is fairly burnt out.
     Smoked salmon and asparagus is a natural match for a nice Basil Crème Sauce.  Basil Crème sauce accents those flavors nicely.

     Farro is an ancient grain that was popular in Roman times.  Farro refers to a whole grain predecessor of hybridized wheat.  The exact species of grain is debatable.  Spelt or Durham gets the nod of most food historians.  Either way, Farro Pasta is a rustic whole grain pasta.
     Rustic whole grain pastas have once again become popular in recent years.  Whole grain pastas do have a little bit more earthy flavor than refined semolina pastas.
     Whole Grain Linguine, Smoked Salmon, Asparagus and Basil Crème:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     The cardinal rule of Italian pasta cooking is to only add enough sauce to coat the pasta with flavor.  This rule even applies to pasta sauces that are not authentic Italian, like Basil Crème.   
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of whole grain linguine in boiling water over high heat, till it is al dente.  The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks!
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of chopped garlic.
     Briefly sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 3 ounces of coarsely chopped smoked salmon.
     Add 2/3 cup of asparagus tips and bias sliced asparagus stalks.  (Thin asparagus stalks do not need to be peeled.  Thick asparagus spear stalks need to be peeled.)
     Sauté and toss the ingredients together, till the smoked salmon turns an opaque color.
     Step 4:  Add 1 tablespoon of very thin chiffonade cut basil leaves.  (very thin ribbons)
     Add 1/4 cup of milk.
     Add 2/3 cup of cream,
     Add 1 small pinch of black pepper.
     Step 5:  When the sauce starts to simmer, add 2 tablespoons of grated Parmigiana Cheese.
     Stir till the cheese melts.
     Step 6:  Simmer and reduce the sauce. till it becomes a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat or reheat it to order.
     Step 7:  By now, the whole grain linguine should be cooked al dente.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan.
     Toss the pasta and sauce together.
     Step 8:  Use a carving fork to place the pasta on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with a fresh basil sprig.
     This simple pasta nice comfortable aromatic flavor!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Grilled Ham and Zucchini Salad with Gorgonzola and Wild Berry Vinaigrette

     A Zesty Comfortable Salad Entrée!
     There is nothing that I like less than a salad made with cold lifeless ham and plain raw vegetables.  Lightly grilling the ham and zucchini does bring out more flavor.  The flavor of zucchini wakes up when it is lightly grilled or seared!

     When I go low priced restaurants, I usually only order a salad, so that I am not disappointed by a poorly made hot entrée.  On the other hand, a simple salad cannot always be counted upon to be a good choice at bargain basement restaurants either.
     The problem with low budget restaurant salads tends to be consistency issues related to balance.  For example, when I did lunch at a small local diner in Chicago, the waitress made the Greek Salad and she must have really liked Feta Cheese.  The Greek Salad had at least 10 ounces of Feta Cheese piled on top.  The large amount of Feta caused the salad to be out of balance.  Because of the high salt content in Feta, the salad was unpleasant to eat.
     The key to being a good garde manger chef is to have a good sense of tasteful design and flavor balance.  If a salad or cold platter is made with a composed design, then it will be more appealing to the senses.
     Balance is necessary to keep in mind when flavoring a salad with strong tasting ingredients, like bleu cheese.  Just because Gorgonzola is one of the oldest original bleu cheese varieties, it does not mean that Gorgonzola should be the only flavor tasted in a salad.  Just enough Gorgonzola should be added to the salad to accent the flavor of the other ingredients.

     The choice of dressing may sound a bit odd to some readers, but the fruity flavor of raspberry and blueberry do taste nice with grilled field vegetables, ham and strong cheese.  Some strong flavored bleu cheese varieties do pair well with a deep wine that has berry characteristics.  The same can be said about a a berry flavor vinaigrette.  Sometimes a tart berry flavor is a good and sometimes a sweetened berry flavor is a better choice.  Either way, a mountain berry vinaigrette is a nice choice for today's salad recipe.

     The egg in the photo is a good example of an egg that is too fresh.  The fresher the egg is, the more difficult it is to peel after it is hard boiled.  Eggs that are 7 to 14 days old are easier to peel, because excess moisture is released from the egg white through the shell via osmosis.
     I have an American Egg Board Certificate from a lecture at culinary arts school, so I know a little bit about eggs.  If you wish to become an AEB certified Eggspert, check into where American Egg Board speaking events are held.  Here is the link:  American Egg Board
     Wild Berry Vinaigrette:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 large salad or 2 petite salads. 
     ... Wild Berry sounds better than plain old Berry!  
     I used a combination of raspberry vinegar and blueberry vinegar to make the dressing.  If those two vinegar flavors are not available, then gently simmer a small amount of mixed berries with a little bit of white wine vinegar, till the fruit flavor infuses with the vinegar.  Strain and cool the berry infused vinegar before making the vinaigrette.
     Step 1:  Place 1 teaspoon of raspberry vinegar in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of blueberry vinegar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.
    .Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of finely minced shallot.
     Step 2:  Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, while stirring, to create a loose vinaigrette.
     Set the vinaigrette aside for 10 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Stir before serving.
     Grilled Ham and Zucchini:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 salad.
     The better the ham, the better the salad will be!
     Step 1:  Cut a thin slice of roasted ham into 4 wide ribbons that are about 6" long.  (Deli style ham is too thin.  The ham should be about 1/8" thick.)
     Step 2:  Cut a medium size zucchini lengthwise into 5 thin slices.  (about 3/16" thick x 6" length)
     Step 3:  Lightly brush the zucchini and ham slices with blended olive oil.
     Heat a ribbed cast iron grill or chargrill to a medium temperature.
     Grill the zucchini and ham slices on both sides, till light grill marks appear.                              
     Step 4:  Season the zucchini with sea salt and black pepper.
     Keep the zucchini and ham warm on a stove top.
     Grilled Ham and Zucchini Salad with Gorgonzola and Wild Berry Vinaigrette:  
     This recipe yields 1 large salad.  
     Step 1:  Mound 2 1/2 cups of mixed baby lettuce on the center of a plate.
     Garnish the greens with:
     - 4 thin plum tomato wedges
     - thin onion slices
     - a few very thin carrot strips
     Step 2:  Place alternating slices of the grilled ham and zucchini vertically on the sides of the mound of lettuce.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of crumbled gorgonzola cheese over the salad.
     Step 3:  Spoon just enough of the wild berry vinaigrette over the salad to add flavor.  (Save any excess vinaigrette for another recipe.)
     Garnish with 1/2 of a hard boiled egg and Italian Parsley leaves.
     This salad is perfect for summertime lunch munch!  

Parsnip and Portobello Stuffed Pork Chop with Brandied Persimmon Puree

     Persimmon Season!
     There are many persimmon varietals worldwide.  The word "Persimmon" comes from one of the Algonquin Native American languages called Powhatan.  The East Coast Native American words for Persimmon loosely translate to "dry fruit or dry tasting fruit."  
     Unripe hard persimmon has a dry astringent flavor that causes thirst.  When persimmon is fully ripened, the flavor is semi sweet and fruity.  
     Some varieties of persimmon take a long time to ripen, while others ripen in 1 to 2 weeks.  The fastest way to ripen persimmons is to place them in a refrigerator.  Chilling persimmons will speed up the ripening process.  A persimmon is not ripe until the skin splits in a few places on the fruit.  Ripe persimmons should be soft and not firm to the touch. 
     Persimmons do not need to be peeled, because they are usually pureed and passed through a strainer.  Where the stem is attached on the fruit, there is a pebble size core that should be removed.  The core does not have the same color as the fruit.

     Indiana and East Coast Persimmons are what I usually cook with.  For today's recipe, I selected two different varieties of persimmon.  One was an Indiana Persimmon and the other was a large Hachiya Persimmon.  Both ripened at the same time in the refrigerator. 
     Persimmon is nice for making sauces to accompany savory food and it is good for making old fashioned dessert recipes.  When I use persimmon to make a sauce for savory food, I like to create an entrée that has an old fashioned American theme.  Stuffed pork chops are as old fashioned as Appalachian style food gets!

     Parsnips have savory flavor that is perfect for flavoring a bread stuffing.  Sautéing parsnips till they lightly caramelize will sweeten the parsnips.  Portobello Mushrooms have a mellow rich flavor that goes well with both parsnips and persimmon.  Pork tastes nice with these ingredients too.
     This is a nice early winter stuffed pork chop entrée that has a rich comfortable flavor.  The Brandied Persimmon Puree Sauce really adds a nice touch.  

     Brandied Persimmon Puree:  
     This recipe yields enough puree for 3 or 4 stuffed pork chops!  Any extra brandied persimmon puree can be saved for other recipes.  
     Be sure to ripen the persimmons in a refrigerator, till they become soft and till the skin splits in a few places on the fruit.
     Step 1:  Select 1 Indiana Persimmon and 1 Hachiya Persimmon.
     Trim off the small core where the stem was attached on the persimmons.  (If there is a core!)
     Cut the persimmons into small pieces.
     Step 2:  Place the persimmon pieces in a small sauce pot.
     Add enough water to cover the persimmons with 2" of extra water.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar.
     Add 1 small pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of ground ginger.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Step 3:  Place the pot over medium heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer till the persimmon fruit is very soft.  (This may take more than one hour!  Add water if necessary.)
     Step 5:  Allow the persimmons and liquid to cool to room temperature.
     Puree the ingredients with a food processor, blender or a blending wand.
     Press the thin persimmon puree through a fine mesh strainer into a second small sauce pot.
     Step 6:  Place the pot over low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of brandy.
     Gently simmer and reduce the puree, till is becomes a medium puree sauce consistency.
     Step 7:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Reheat the puree sauce when it is needed

     Parsnip and Portobello Bread Stuffing:
     This recipe yields enough stuffing for 1 large pork chop or 2 small pork chops.
     Overstuffed pork chops used to be a common sight at old fashioned comfort food restaurants.  The large amount of stuffing increases the eye appeal.  The large portion of stuffing takes the place of accompanying potatoes.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 cup of coarse chopped peeled parsnip.
     Sauté till the parsnips turn a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 2 small portobello mushrooms that are cut into small bite size pieces.  (About 1/6 cup)
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of diced onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Sauté till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 3:  Add 3/4 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Simmer and reduce, till only 1 third cup of liquid remains.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 3/4 cup of French Bread that is cut into large diced cube shapes.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Gently stir and fold the ingredients together.
     Set the stuffing aside.

     Parsnip and Portobello Stuffed Pork Chop:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     Step 1:  Select a thick boneless pork chop that weighs 6 to 8 ounces.
     Butterfly cut the pork chop open through the fat cap side of the pork chop.
     Step 2:  Place a generous amount of the parsnip and portabollo stuffing in the butterflied pork chop.  Evenly pack the stuffing, so the stuffed pork chop looks nice.
     Step 3:  Brush the top and bottom of the pork chop with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the stuffed pork chop on a wire creen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Season the pork chop with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of Herbs de Provence over the pork chop.  (An Herbs de Provence mixture with no lavender flowers is best!)
     Step 4:  Slowly roast the pork chop in a 325ºF oven.
     *The center of the stuffing should have a minimum temperature of 165ºF when it is fully cooked.  The pork chop should only have a few caramelized highlights or the meat will become dry!
     Set the roasted stuffed pork chop aside to rest for 1 minute.
     Parsnip and Portobello Stuffed Pork Chop with Brandied Persimmon Puree:
     Use a saucing spoon to paint wide streaks of the warm Brandied Persimmon Puree on a plate, as a bed for the stuffed pork chop.
     Place the Parsnip and Portobello Stuffed Pork Chop on the Brandied Persimmon Puree.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig. 
     *If the persimmon puree bleeds persimmon water, it is okay.  That is part of the nature of persimmon fruit!

     Delicious old fashioned comfortable flavors!  That is what today's early winter persimmon recipe is all about.