Friday, January 29, 2016

Buffalo Salisbury Steak with Parsnip Scallion Crème Potato and Roasted Shallot Glace Viande

     Gourmet Wild Game Comfort Food!
     When the weather is chilly, when an economic recession strikes or during troubled times, comfort food is in high demand.  For example, shortly after the tragic events of 9/11 occurred in 2001, there was a change in consumer demographics.  Trendy food that challenged a customer's comfort zone, like fusion food, was in low demand.  The dining public sought comfort food like never before.
     I was working in a Michelin rated French restaurant that was located in a 5 Diamond rated beach resort shortly after 9/11.  The restaurant cuisine featured eccentric fusion food that was no longer in demand, because of changing consumer demographics.  The sales numbers actually hit rock bottom.
     After the managerial axe came down, the French fusion chef was cast off and a classic cuisine chef took his place.  The classic cuisine chef designed a very nice menu of modern French comfort food.  After a few weeks the restaurant completely turned around and new record high sales numbers were set.  In fact, the restaurant received the highest awards from two of the most respected rating agencies.  Gourmet comfort food was in high demand during the those troubled times and switching to this classic cuisine literally saved the restaurant from failure.

     The style of the gourmet comfort cuisine at that old French restaurant was inspiration for creating today's Buffalo Salisbury Steak recipe.  Why a Salisbury Steak?  Back in the late 1800's and early 1900's, the original Salisbury Steaks were marketed as classy weight loss diet food for elite members of society.  Since then, the reputation of Salisbury Steak changed for the worse, yet the original idea was worth resurrecting in a modern gourmet comfort food recipe.
     If you ever had to endure a really awful Salisbury Steak at a school cafeteria, then you know just how bad a Salisbury Steak can be.  Even worse, if your parents told the baby sitter to feed you Salisbury Steak TV Dinners when you were a kid, then the chances are that you might think that the flavor of burnt aluminum foil is part of the recipe.  These nightmarish examples of how truly awful that Salisbury Steak can be are definitely very difficult to overcome.
     Hopefully, today's recipe will vanquish the stereotypically bad memories of Salisbury Steak once and for all.  The classic flavors are rich, yet comfortable and the flavors do not challenge the senses.  Ground Buffalo Meat (American Bison) in keeping with the original Salisbury Steak goal of reducing fat and calories.  A Salisbury Steak made with Buffalo greatly increases the appeal, especially when served with an elegant tasting crème potato and a classic French savory sauce!

     Glace Viande:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Glace Viande

     Parsnip Scallion Crème Potato:
     This recipe yields 2 hearty portions.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/3 cup of peeled small chopped parsnip.
     Gently sauté till light golden highlights appear.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Simmer and reduce till the water evaporates and the parsnips are very tender.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the parsnips in a fine mesh strainer.
     Press the parsnips through the strainer into a mixing bowl.
     Set the mixing bowl aside.
     Step 4:  Place a peeled 8 ounce Russet potato in a sauce pot.
     Cover the potato with cold water.
     Boil over medium high heat till the potato is fully cooked and soft.
     Step 5:  Drain the water off the boiled potato.
     Add the potato to the parsnips in the mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of cream.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Unsalted Plugra Butter.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 6:  Mash and whisk the potato mixture till it is creamy and smooth.
     Step 7:  Fold 2 tablespoons of thin sliced scallion (or green onion tops) into the potato mixture.
     Step 8:  Place the Parsnip Scallion Crème Potato into a star tipped pastry bag.
     Keep the pastry bag warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Green Beans:
     Green Beans are a nice garnish for the Buffalo Salisbury Steak!
     Step 1:  Trim 6 green beans so they are about 5" long.
     Step 2:  Blanch the green beans in salted boiling water in a small sauce pot till they are a little bit more than halfway cooked.
     Drain the water off of the green beans.
     Step 3:  Return the green beans to the sauce pot.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 4:  Set the pan aside away from the heat.
     Reheat and finish cooking the green beans over low heat shortly before the entrée is served.

     Roasted Shallot Glace Viande: 
     This recipe yields 1 generous portion.  (Enough for 1 Salisbury Steak entrée)
     Enriching the glace viande with red wine would yield a flavor that is too heavy for the parsnip crème potato.  White wine is a better choice.  
     Step 1:  Peel 1 whole large shallot.
     Brush the shallot with vegetable oil.
     Place the shallot on a small roasting pan.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Roast the shallot in a 350ºF oven till it is lightly caramelized.
     Set the roasted shallot aside.
     Step 3:  Place 3 ounces of dry white wine in a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Simmer and reduce the wine by half.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of glace viande.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.
     Step 5:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chilled unsalted butter while stirring.
     Step 6:  Pour the sauce into a ceramic cup.
     Add the roasted whole shallot. (Do not sir after adding the shallot or the shallot will be damaged!)
     Keep the sauce cup warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Buffalo Salisbury Steak:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.
     Step 1:  Place 7 ounces of ground American Bison meat in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of bread crumbs.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of whisked egg.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Use a ring mold to shape the buffalo mixture into a round thick patty that is about 5 1/2" wide.
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Place the Buffalo Salisbury Steak in the pan.
     Add 1 whole garlic clove.
     Add 6 whole small button cave mushroom caps.
     Step 4:  Turn the mushroom caps occasionally, so they cook evenly.
     When the mushrooms are fully cooked, set them in a bowl on the stove top and keep them warm.    
     Continue sear the Buffalo Salisbury Steak on both sides till it is fully cooked and browned.
     Step 5:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the finished Buffalo Salisbury Steak on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Keep the Buffalo Salisbury Steak warm on a stove top.
     Discard the whole garlic clove that is left in the pan.

     Buffalo Salisbury Steak with Parsnip Scallion Crème Potato and Roasted Shallot Glace Viande:
     This recipe describes 1 entrée presentation.
     Step 1:  Select a ring mold that is about the same diameter as the Buffalo Salisbury Steak.
     Place the ring mold on the center of a plate.
     Use the pastry bag to pipe the Parsnip Scallion Crème Potato into the ring mold, to create a platform that is about 3/4" thick.
     Remove the ring mold.
     Step 2:  Place the Buffalo Salisbury Steak on top of the potato platform.
     Step 3:  Arrange the six buttered green beans on the plate, so the fan out from center.
     Place the six sautéed mushroom caps on the plate between the green beans.
     Step 4:  Use a spoon to remove roasted shallot from the glace viande and place it on top of the steak.
     Spoon a generous amount of the glace viande over the Buffalo Salisbury Steak and on the plate.

     This is comfort food at its best!  A modest wine like Bicyclette French Rosé is a nice pairing choice!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu

      A Very Old Rustic French Recipe!
      Pot Au Feu is very easy to make.  This classic French recipe came from an age long before French cooking became a fine art.  A Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu looks like a lot of food in a large stew bowl, but the cuts of meat are basically soup stock bones with some meat attached.  The nutritious broth is has a very rich flavor that is satisfying on a chilly day.  It is well worth the long wait for a Pot Au Feu to come out of an oven!
     "Petite Marmite" actually refers to the earthenware vessel that a Pot Au Feu was cooked in many centuries ago.  Usually the earthenware pot full of stew ingredients was started over a fire, then later placed in an oven that was being heated for bread baking.  This method was best for a recipe that took all day to cook, because clay pots stood less chance of cracking in an oven than over an open fire.  This basic cooking method is easy to duplicate in a modern kitchen.

     Three traditional meals can be made with an authentic Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu.  To make three meals in the same pot, a cook has to replicate the order that that the ingredients were added in the original recipe over 1,000 years ago.  Way back in the Dark Ages, a Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu was made in a farm house kitchen on a day when the livestock was slaughtered and butchered.  
     Way back in the old days, chicken was the first farm animal that was harvested on butchering day. Chicken and aromatic mirepoix vegetables were simmered in a Petite Marmite earthenware pot with water to create a broth.  The chicken broth was the start of the Pot Au Feu and later in the day the meaty bones of other freshly butchered farm animals were added to the pot.  
     The first meal of a Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu was chicken, mirepoix vegetables and some broth.  This was served to the farm workers before noon.  This chicken and mirepoix vegetable soup is called Petite Marmite Soup in modern times and it is a classic French recipe.
     After serving the chicken for lunch, the rest of the broth was left in the Pot Au Feu.  More mirepoix vegetables were added.  Meaty bones from freshly butchered lamb, goat, cattle, horse or pigs were added to the pot as the day moved on.  In the late afternoon, some of the broth and vegetables served with bread as a second meal.  The broth nutritious broth was meant to revitalize the tired farmworkers.
     Sometime after sunset, the slowly cooked meat scraps were tender enough to fall off of the bones.  This is when the third and final Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu meal was served.  As one can imagine, a farmworker that was busy butchering meats all day would have a big appetite, so the meaty third meal from a Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu would have been mighty satisfying!

     It is difficult to trim the meat off of neck bones, joints, ribs and backbones, so these secondary cuts of meat are perfect for adding to a Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu.  These meaty bones also sell for a low price, so a big batch of Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu can cheaply feed many hungry guest!  
     Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu does not exactly look pretty, but that is the nature of rustic French farm food recipes from back in the Dark Ages.  As far as Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu goes, what really counts is the flavor and nutritional value!
     Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 hearty meals for 2 or 3 guests. 
     There are no fancy cooking techniques involved with this old rustic French recipe.
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 quarts of water in a soup pot.
     Add 1/2 of a chicken that is cut into quartered pieces.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of diced carrot.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of diced onion.
     Add 1 cup of sliced leek.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of diced celery.
     Add 2 cups of chopped cabbage.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of thyme.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground sage.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of marjoram.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Simmer till the chicken is fully cooked and the vegetables are tender.
     Step 3:  *At this stage of the recipe, the chicken and some of the vegetables is served with bread as a light meal for 2 guests.  This part of the Pot Au Feu is now called Petite Marmite Soup in modern times. 
     Use a slotted spoon or fryer net to scoop the chicken pieces and some of the vegetables out of the Pot Au Feu.
     Place the chicken and vegetables in 2 large soup bowls.
     Pour a portion of the broth over the chicken and vegetables.
     Serve with sliced bread and butter on the side.
     Step 4:  Transfer the remaining chicken broth and vegetables from the pot to an extra large oven proof casserole dish.
     Add 16 ounces of meaty veal neck bones.  (Or 16 ounces of meaty pork neck bones.)
     Add 10 ounces of meaty lamb neck bones.
     Add 1 thick piece of salt pork that weighs 4 ounces.
     *Check the level of the liquid.  The broth should almost cover the meaty bones.  Add water if there is not enough broth.
     Step 5:  Cover the casserole dish with a loose fitting lid.
     Place the Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu in a 300ºF oven.
     Do not stir the ingredients while the Pot Au Feu bakes.  Allow the exposed meat on the surface to brown, to create a richer flavor!
     Bake the Pot Au Feu till the meat is tender enough to start falling off the bones.  This may take about 2 to 3 hours.  Add water occasionally, so the level of broth almost covers the bones.
     Step 6:  Remove the casserole dish from the oven.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Place the casserole dish on a hot pad on the table and serve.  (Or transfer the Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu to a large ceramic serving bowl.)
     Serve with rustic French bread and butter on the side.
     The first sip of the rich tasting Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu broth will cause hungry guests to smile from ear to ear!  The vegetables are so soft that they combine with the cartilaginous broth.  The tender neck bone meat literally falls off of the bones.  Petite Marmite Pot Au Feu is classic French comfort food at its best!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Escarole Lentil Soup

     A Healthy, Hearty, Delicious Vegetarian Soup! 
     Escarole is a type of leafy endive lettuce that is used to make many European soup recipes.  Braised Escarole is also a classic vegetable offering.  Escarole has a natural savory butter flavor when it is cooked.
     Lentils have a rich deep flavor that is unlike any other bean.  Dried Lentils also do not require much cooking time to become tender.  The combination of escarole and lentils creates a nice tasting nutritious soup that is perfect for a chilly day!  
     Escarole Lentil Soup:
     This recipe yields 2 large bowls of soup.  (About 4 cups.)
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 3 tablespoons each of:
     - small diced carrot
     - small diced celery
     - small diced onion
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Gently sauté till the vegetables are tender.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of chopped escarole leaves.
     Gently sauté till the escarole wilts.
     Step 3:  Add 3 3/4 cups of vegetable broth.  (Chicken broth or pork broth are optional for a non-vegetarian version.)
     Add 1 1/4 cups of dried lentil beans.
     Add 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the soup to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer the soup till the lentils are cooked soft.  (Only add broth if the level of liquid drops below the lentils.  The consistency of the soup will be adjusted later in the recipe!)
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Mash about half of the lentils in the soup.
     Step 7:  Return the pot to low heat.
     *Check the consistency after the soup heats.  The mashed lentils will thicken the soup.  Add about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of broth if the consistency of the soup is too dense.
     Adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper if necessary.
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat.
     Step 8:  Ladle the soup into a large soup bowl.
     Serve with sliced French bread on the side.
     No garnish is necessary!
     This nutritious soup has a nice warming effect!  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ukraine Borscht

     Borscht is a traditional Russian and Eastern European entrée that is made with winter cellar vegetables.  There are many different variations of borscht recipes.  Most borscht recipes feature any color of beets and cabbage.  Tomatoes or tomato paste is sometimes added.  Borscht can be made as a vegetarian entrée and it can also have meat or sausage added to the recipe.
     Borscht can be served like a stew or like a soup.  Vegetables can be coarsely chopped, shredded or pureed.  Borscht can be thin or thick.
     Sour cream is added to borscht as it cooks in some regions.  Sour cream will make the borscht look like a pink cream soup if red beets are in the recipe.  If  there is no sour cream in a borscht recipe, then sour cream is almost always served as an accompaniment.
     Potatoes are added to some recipes, but bread is usually served with borscht as a starch.  Some folks like to stir slices into the borscht at the table.
     When making borscht, many cooks assume that Russian cooking is always bland, so they only season the borscht with salt and pepper.  Russia is a big country with many cooking styles.  Cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, cumin, ginger or cloves are commonly used to flavor borscht.

     Today's borscht recipe needed a name, so it could be differentiated from other borscht recipes that I make.  I decided to call this a Ukraine Borscht, because I have seen photos of red borscht like this in Ukraine cooking journals.  Red beets and red cabbage give this borscht its deep red color.  Nearly any root cellar vegetables can be added, so my choice was celery root and turnip.  Pork broth also enriches the flavor.
     I once prepared today's borscht recipe at a country club for the annual meeting of American WWII prisoners that were held in Russia, till after the war was over.  Back in WWII, American pilots that were shot down chose to parachute inside Russia, rather than behind German lines.  It was far safer and cheaper for the Russians to hold the American flyers in soft prison camps till the war was over, rather than try smuggle the American pilots back across enemy lines.  The American POW's in Russia said they were treated pretty good and they became good friends with the Russians who held them till the war was over.
     When I cooked for the annual American ex POW's that were held in Russia, there were only seven of these veterans that were still alive.  One of the veterans who was interned as WWII Russian POW was President Gerald Ford's brother.  This made the WWII Russian POW meeting even more special.
    I figured that the American POW's had a sense of humor, so when the chef asked me what soup should be offered, I replied with one simple word.  "Borscht!"  The chef laughed while saying that he had never made borscht before, so he asked me to prepare it as a soup.
     I made today's Ukraine Borscht recipe for the Russian POW's, but I added the one ingredient that Americans away from home can only dream about, especially when stuck in a Russian internment camp.  Beef!  I used a light beef broth and added thin strips of beef to the Ukraine Borscht recipe.  The flavor of that borscht was tasty!
     I figured that since the first course of the banquet meal was soup, looking at the facial expressions of the ex POW's when a hot bowl of borscht was sat in front of them could be a funny sight to see.
     The POW's had a look of dread when they saw the Russian Borscht and the room was filled with silence.  Then they all started laughing!  Apparently the ex POW's had to eat borscht a few times a day, everyday, during the entire time they were being held as POW's in Russia.
     Once the ex POW's tasted the Beef Borscht, they all complimented the flavor!  One member of the group said "I wish the Russian cooks would have put beef in our borscht back when we were POW's.  This tastes much better than any borscht that we had back at the Russian prison camp!"  As far as borscht goes, that was a rather nice compliment!
     Ukraine Borscht:
     This recipe yields 2 hearty servings of borscht!   (About 4 1/2 cups.)
     This is a coarse rustic borscht version that is not pureed. 
     Step 1:  Heat a large sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 chopped shallot.
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds, till the garlic and ginger becomes aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of julienne sliced carrot.
     Add 1/3 cup of julienne sliced turnip.
     Add 1 cup of thin golden beet strips.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin celery root strips.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of thin red beet strips.
     Add 2 cups of thin sliced red cabbage.
     Add 4 ounces of a peeled russet potato that is cut into 1/4" thick strips.
     Step 3:  Sauté and stir the vegetables till they just start to cook.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste.
     Stir the vegetables, till the tomato paste starts to caramelize.
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add enough light pork broth, so the vegetables are covered with 1" of broth.  (about 3 to 4 cups)
     Step 6:  Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 2 spice cloves.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Hungarian Paprika.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Stir the borscht.
     Step 7:  Raise the temperature to high heat.
     Bring the borscht to a boil.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Gently simmer the borscht, till the vegetables are tender, but not mushy.  Allow the broth to reduce till it barely covers the vegetables.
     *Do not stir the vegetables as the borscht simmers or the vegetables will break apart!
     Keep the borscht warm over very low heat.
     Ladle the borscht into a large soup bowl.
     Garnish the borscht with parsley sprigs.
     Garnish with a few thick slices of bread.
     Serve with a small bowl of sour cream on the side.
     A healthy bowl of Ukraine Borscht is appealing when the weather gets cold.  As everybody knows, the winter is cold in the Ukraine ... very cold!

Rotelle Casserole with Sausage and Portobello

     Baked Pasta!
     One of the recurring goals of Italian cuisine is to make a great tasting entrée with only the primary ingredients, with nothing extra added.  This means getting the most amount of flavor from each ingredient.  To accomplish this, it is important to perfect cooking techniques and select the highest quality ingredients.
     In an Italian restaurant kitchen, there are many old traditional recipes that never change.  If a new cook adds extra ingredients based upon personal taste, it will be noticed.  I have seen Italian chefs go absolutely ballistic over a cook changing an old traditional recipe.  There is no use trying to improve a traditional Italian recipe that is already perfected!
     While apprenticing in Italian kitchens, I had a good habit of asking questions when in doubt, instead of asking a question after a mistake had been made.  This is the healthiest attitude to have as an apprentice, because it prevents work related injuries.  Asking questions to avoid mistakes prevents tough Italian chefs from kicking oven doors shut on your arm and you will see far fewer meat cleavers thrown in your direction!  Nobody ever said life is easy when apprenticing!

     The sauce in today's recipe is made "a la minute."  This mean the sauce is made to order or it is made in a short amount of time.  The only tomatoes that should be used for this sauce are imported canned Italian San Marzano Tomatoes that are packed in their own juices.  San Marzano Tomato juice from a can is so rich, that it literally looks like a thick puree!  This breed of tomato takes very little time to cook and they are renowned as the being the best tomatoes that money can buy.

     *This entire recipe yields 1 hearty entrée!

     Place a 6 ounce Italian sausage on a roasting pan.
     Roast the sausage in a 325ºF oven till it is fully cooked.
     Allow the sausage to cool.
     Cut the baked Italian sausage into thick slices and set them aside.
     Rotelle Pasta:
     Cook 1 portion of rotelle pasta in boiling water over high heat till the pasta is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Toss the pasta with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil so it does not stick together.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Rotelle Casserole with Sausage and Portobello: 
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/3 cups of imported Italian canned peeled seeded San Marzano Tomatoes that are packed in their own juices in a mixing bowl.
     Squeeze and crush the tomatoes by hand.
     Set the tomatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 3 minced cloves of garlic.
     Sauté the garlic till it turns a golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 3 small portobello mushrooms that are cut into thick slices.  (About 1/3 cup)
     Sauté till the mushrooms start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add the reserved sliced sausage.
     Sauté the ingredients till the mushrooms and sausage are lightly browned.
     Step 5:  Add 2 tablespoons of dry red wine.
     Add the reserved hand crushed tomatoes and their juices to the pan.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground fennel seed.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 6:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil while stirring.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce till it is a medium thin consistency.  (This only takes a few minutes.)
     Step 8:  Add the reserved al dente cooked rotelle pasta to the sauce.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 9:  Select a single portion shallow casserole dish that is about 7" wide.
     Spoon about half of the pasta mixture into the casserole dish.
     Sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of grated mozzarella cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese on the pasta.
     Step 10:  Place a second layer of the remaining pasta mixture on top of the pasta that is already in the casserole dish.
     Try to arrange a few pieces of the sausage and mushrooms on the surface of the pasta.
     Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of grated mozzarella cheese on the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese on the pasta.
     Step 11:  Place the casserole dish in a 350ºF degree oven.
     Bake the pasta till it piping hot and the cheese melts.  (Try not to brown the cheese or it will taste bitter!)
     Step 12:  Place the casserole on a doily lined serving platter.
     Sprinkle a little bit of fine chopped Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     Garnish the pasta with a couple of Italian Parsley sprigs.
     This baked "wagon wheel pasta" is easy to make and it tastes great!                  

Chestnut and Pumpkin Stuffed Pork Chop with Brandy Ginger Gravy

     Gourmet Stuffed Pork Chops!
     Stuffed Pork Chops are a classic comfort food entrée.  Roasted chestnuts and fresh pumpkin taste nice in a bread stuffing.  A sauce like Brandy Ginger Pork Velouté is a perfect choice for today's stuffed pork chops.  Yes, a French Velouté Sauce is basically the same thing as gravy!

     Brandy Ginger Gravy:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.
     Step 1:  Place in a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while stirring with a whisk to make a roux.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir the roux till it is a golden blonde color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of light pork stock while stirring with a whisk.    
     Add 1/2 cup of brandy.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced ginger.
     Bring the liquid to gentle boil.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.  (1 or 2 pinches)
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the gravy is a medium thin consistency that can easily glaze a spoon.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chilled unsalted butter while whisking.  
     *This French technique is called "Monte au beurre."  Mounting a velouté sauce (gravy) with butter will keep a skin from forming on the surface of the sauce.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
     Chestnut and Pumpkin Stuffed Pork Chop:
     This recipe yields 1 large hearty portion.
     Step 1:  Warm 1/2 cup of chicken broth in a sauce pot over low heat.
     Keep the broth warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of diced celery.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of diced onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of peeled seeded diced raw pumpkin.
     Sauté till the diced pumpkin is tender.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the sautéed vegetables and pumpkin in a mixing bowl.  (Add the butter from the pan too.)
     Add 2/3 cup of stale French bread that is cut into large cube shaped pieces.  (Leave the crust on the bread.)
     Add 5 roasted chestnuts that are cut into quarters.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of ground sage.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Step 4:  Add just enough warm chicken broth to the stuffing mixture, to moisten the stuffing.  (The stuffing should not be soggy.  Save any extra chicken broth for another recipe.)
     Gently toss the stuffing ingredients together.  (Do not over-mix or the stuffing will become dense and heavy!)
     Step 5:  Select a thick 8 to 10 ounce pork chop with the bone attached.
     Butterfly cut the pork chop meat to make a pocket for the stuffing.
     Step 6:  Open up the butterflied pork chop and place the stuffing inside.
     Press the meat and stuffing together, so it looks nice.
     Step 7:  Lightly brush a roasting pan with melted unsalted butter.
     Set the stuffed pork chop on the pan.
     Brush the pork chop with melted unsalted butter.
     Lightly season the stuffed pork chop with sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of water to the baking pan.
     Step 8:  Roast the stuffed pork chop in a 325ºF till the pork and stuffing is fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer placed in the center of the stuffing should read 165ºF for 15 seconds.)
     Allow the pork chop to rest for 1 or 2 minutes, before serving.

     Chestnut and Pumpkin Stuffed Pork Chop with Brandy Ginger Gravy:
     Place the chestnut and pumpkin stuffed pork chop on a plate.
     Pour a generous amount of the ginger brandy gravy over the pork chop and onto the plate.
     Serve with a vegetable of your choice.  (Buttered peeled asparagus spears look nice on a plate!)
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.
     The flavors of this stuffed pork chop entrée combine to create a satisfying warm comfort zone sensation on a chilly day!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sumac Berry Chicken Fricassee with Mint Chutney Couscous

     Mediterranean Style Fricassee!
     Sumac Berry has been used since ancient times.  Persians used it as a spice.  Romans used it as a means of preserving chicken.  In the new world, sumac berry was used to treat arrow wounds and as a cough medicine by Native Americans.  Sumac Berry Spice is ground dried Red Sumac Berries and it has a lemony red wine flavor.  Sumac Berry Spice is available at Mediterranean food markets.

     Round Pearl Couscous is popular in the Middle East.  Lebanese Couscous looks like pasta balls that are about the size of a pea.  When cooked with an item that stains, the round couscous will absorb the color tint.  Mint Chutney makes round pasta couscous look like petite peas.    
     Couscous is not only shaped like tiny pasta balls.  There is couscous pasta that mimics the look of tiny whole grain and this style of couscous is popular in North Africa.  The original couscous in ancient times was steamed whole millet grain or other small local native grain.  Natural grain couscous, especially millet, is still traditional in some Mediterranean cultures in modern times.

     Mint chutney is an Indian condiment that accompanies bread, soups and entrées.  Mint chutney can also be used like a spice paste to flavor recipes.  Mint chutney is nice for flavoring couscous.
    Pre-made jars of mint chutney can be found in an Indian food market.  Honestly, jars of mint chutney are the same quality as a home made mint chutney.  It takes several bunches of mint to make 1 cup of mint chutney and by the time it is finished, the cost will be much higher than buying a jar of mint chutney.

     Fricassee is a word that describes an old French quick stewing cooking technique.  Some say that fricassee has its origins in France, but nobody is sure.  Fricassee is basically small pieces of fowl, game birds or small wild game that is stewed in a thin sauce.  Lemon is probably the most popular flavor for a fricassee.  The tart lemon red wine flavor of sumac berry tastes nice in a fricassee.
     Traditionally, fricassee tends to be a bit saucy.  Bread or rice usually served with fricassee so the extra sauce can be sopped up.
     Fricassee can be thickened with roux, beurre manie, flour slurry or the sauce can simply be reduced till it is thick enough to coat the pieces of meat.  Fricassee can also have a very thin broth sauce that is only finished with butter or cream.  When chilled for several hours in a refrigerator, a good fricassee sauce will gel and it will resemble aspic.  Fricassee that was accidentally chilled was the original inspiration for creating French Chaud Froid garde manger technique.  
     Sumac Berry Chicken Fricassee: 
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.
     Mediterranean and French cooking techniques are combined in this recipe!
     Step 1:  Cut 8 ounces of boneless chicken breast into large bite size pieces.
     Place the chicken pieces in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 cup of plain goat milk yogurt.
     Add 2 tablespoon of water.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sumac berry spice.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Refrigerate and marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons each of these small chopped vegetables:
     - onion
     - celery
     - green bell pepper.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Sauté the vegetables till they are tender.
     Step 3:  Add just enough flour while stirring to absorb the excess butter in the pan.  (About 1 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons.)
     Stir the roux till it becomes a light golden color.
     Step 4:  Add 3 cups of chicken stock.
     Stir the sauce till it comes to a gentle boil.  The sauce will thicken to a very thin soupy consistency.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add the chicken pieces and the goat milk marinade.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg or mace.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 6:  Simmer and occasionally stir for about 10 minutes.  Allow the sauce to reduce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of torn Italian Parsley leaves.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 tablespoons of cream.
     Step 7:  Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that easily coats the chicken pieces.
     Keep the fricassee warm over very low heat.
     *The Mint Chutney Couscous can be cooked while the fricassee simmers!
     Mint Chutney Couscous: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of pearl couscous in boiling water over high heat in a sauce pot, till it becomes tender.
     Drain the water off of the couscous and return the couscous to the sauce pot.
     Step 2:  Place the sauce pot over very low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 2 teaspoons of mint chutney.  (Pre-made mint chutney is available at Indian food markets.  Mint chutney is very strong.  A little bit goes a long way!)
     Step 3:  Stir the ingredients.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the excess liquid evaporates.
     Keep the mint chutney couscous warm on a stove top.
     Sumac Berry Chicken Fricassee with Mint Chutney Couscous:
     Use ring mold to mound a portion of mint chutney couscous on the back half of a plate.
     Spoon the sumac berry chicken fricassee on the plate around the couscous.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of sumac berry spice over the fricassee.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Sumac Berry Chicken Fricassee has a nice tart flavor that is refreshing in warm weather.  Sumac Berry Spice also helps to ward off a common cold when the weather is chilly!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Svinjski Vrat and Ajvar Mezze

     A Balkan Style Snack Platter!
     Svinjski Vrat basically translates to "pork neck."  Svinjski Vrat is prepared many different ways in Balkan region countries.  Fresh raw pork neck is usually poached, stewed or slowly roasted and it is served as an entrée.  At Greek or Eastern European delicatessens, pork neck products are usually boneless, dry cured and/or smoked.  Thin sliced Cured Smoked Svinjski Vrat is perfect for making sandwiches, mezze and snack platters.

     The Svinjski Vrat that I chose was purchased at a Croation/Bulgarian deli near Chicago.  The pork neck was lightly seasoned, dry cured and lightly smoked.  The deli clerk explained that this version is meant to be eaten like a lunch meat at room temperature or it can be gently warmed in a sauce.  After tasting the Svinjski Vrat, I noticed it had a rich flavor that was almost like Italian style cave aged dry cured ham.  The locally crafted Svinjski Vrat was one of the best tasting pork products that I have ever tasted!
     The shop owner recommended a vegetable spread to go with the variety of deli meats that I purchased.  The deli had a large selection of Ajvar Vegetable Spreads and similar products.  Serbia is where Ajvar originated and it is popular throughout the entire Balkan region.  Ajvar is a finely minced relish of sweet red bell pepper, eggplant, garlic and mild fresh paprika pepper.
     Ajvar is relatively easy to make from scratch, but purchasing a jar of avjar is much more cost effective.  A glass jar of ajvar only costs a few dollars, while the fresh ingredients needed to make the same amount will cost at least twice as much.  Honestly, the quality of ajvar products at an Eastern European deli are just as good as ajvar that is made from scratch, so the ajvar products are the better bargain.  
     I purchased a mixture of spicy olives while I was at the Croatian/Bulgarian deli too.  There was no less than seven different kinds of olives in the mixture.  I also bought a thin loaf of crusty fresh baguette bread, so I was all set for making a nice mezze platter!

     The word Mezze (Meze) translates to "an appetizer platter that is meant to be shared or one of many courses offered during a casual social meal."  When arranging an appetizer platter, it is best to keep the presentation simple with a clean organized look.  The deli meat appetizer platter presentation in the pictures is a good example.
     Just like with Italian cuisine, it is not how many ingredients or extra garnishes that makes a plate of food great.  It is the quality of the few select ingredients that makes a good plate of food something to remember!
     Svinjski Vrat and Ajvar Mezze:
     This recipe yields a simple appetizer platter for 2 guests.
     The ingredients for this appetizer platter can all be found in an Eastern European food market or Greek delicatessen.  
     Overlap 6 thin slices of Dry Cure Smoked Svinjski Vrat on the front half of a plate.
     Overlap 6 slices of crusty baguette bread on the back half of a plate.
     Mound 1/4 cup of Ajvar on the middle of the plate.
     Place about 10 assorted spicy olives on one side of the plate.
     No garnish is necessary!
     This simple Balkan style deli appetizer platter really pleases guests!