Friday, October 28, 2016

Ham Steak with Apple Walnut Glace

     A Tasty Ham Steak!
     Fruit sauces often accompany ham.  Fruit sauces for ham are usually garnished with pieces of fruit.  Depending on how the fruit is cut, the sauce can have a refined or rustic appearance.
     Apples and walnuts are a classic combination.  Both apples and walnuts taste good with ham, so a sauce made with these items will taste good with ham too.  Walnuts add a comfortable warm flavor and some crunch to the sauce.
     The word "glace" literally refers to glass, ice or something that has a glassy appearance.  The same can be said about the culinary context of this word.  Glace can refer to ice, something made with ice, cake icing or a sauce that has a glassy appearance.  A shiny translucent glaze sauce can be called glace.
     Most boneless ham steaks require very little cooking time, because the cured ham is already cooked.  It is just a matter of heating the ham steak to a serving temperature.  Cooking till a few caramelized highlights appear will increase flavor, without drying out the meat.

     Apple Walnut Glace:
     This recipe yields about 2/3 cup.  (1 generous portion)
     This is a simple reduction sauce that only takes about 15 minutes to make.
     Step 1:  Peel and core 1 medium size apple.  (Gala Apple is good choice.)
     Cut the apple into thin wedges.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add the apple wedges.
     Add 3 tablespoons of coarsely chopped walnut pieces.
     Sauté till the apple wedges start to become tender.
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/4 cups of water.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/4 cup brown sugar.
     Add 1 clove.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce a medium thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.
     Step 5:  Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter while stirring, just before serving.
     Ham Steak with Apple Walnut Glace:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Select a 10 to 12 ounce boneless ham steak.
     Heat a griddle or sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add the ham steak.
     Grill the ham steak till it becomes hot and a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 2:  Place the ham steak on the front half of a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the Apple Walnut Glace over the ham steak.  (Try to mound the apples and walnuts on the ham.)
     Serve with a potato and vegetable of your choice.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     This is a nice tasting ham steak entrée that is easy to make!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Antipasti! - Italian Delicatessen Platter

     An Italian Delicatessen Style Event Platter!
     The word "antipasti" refers to food that is served before the pasta course and entrée course during a formal Italian multi-course meal.  Antipasti basically means the same thing as appetizers.  Antipasti can also be served on its own as a snack, salad or light meal.
     Antipasti is meant to be shared.  Many Italian restaurants offer an antipasto platter for two or more guests.  A typical restaurant antipasto platter consists of a combination of deli style meats, cheese, vegetables and pickle products.  The food on a restaurant style antipasto platter is arranged in a way that increases eye appeal.
     Antipasti can be served banquet style or as a party platter.  An extra large platter of nicely arranged antipasti is a real crowd pleaser.  Guests can pick and choose whatever Italian deli meats, cheeses and goodies that interest them.
     Italian delicatessens offer good antipasto platters and banquet event platters.  This is a nice convenience for last minute occasions or when unexpected guests arrive.  Getting a party platter from the local Italian deli for a big party event at home is a tradition in many old neighborhoods.  Likewise, catering a large banquet with party platters from a local Italian delicatessen is like introducing the flavors of the neighborhood to guests at the event.
     Today's recipe is a simple Italian delicatessen style lunch meat and cheese antipasti platter for about four guests.  The Italian deli meats on this antipasto platter are very nice quality.  Quality is a key thing to keep in mind when selecting items for a deli platter.  The better the quality, the more compliments will be heard from guests.    
     For a deli style antipasto platter, the less complicated the presentation, the better.  The simple design should have a central focal point and the items should flow from the center outward to the guests.  In other words, the design should draw the attention of guests, while the quality of the food items does all the talking!
     Be creative with your Italian deli style antipasto design and make use of traditional order.  For example, Parmigiana Cheese should be next to the Prosciutto, because these two items are traditionally served together.  Salami should be next to the pickled products, because the flavor of these classic preserved items go well together.       

     Marinated Portobello Mushrooms: 
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.
     Sliced mushrooms should only be marinated for a short time or they will become soggy.  It is best to make the marinated mushrooms shortly before serving.   
     Step 1:  Place 1 cup of thin sliced small portobello mushrooms in a mixing bowl.  
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.   
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of white truffle oil.  
     Add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  
     Add 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 2:  Toss the ingredients together.
     Place the mixing bowl in a refrigerator.
     Chill and marinate the mushrooms for 10 to 15 minutes.
     *Do not marinate the mushrooms for too much time or they will become bitter tasting and soggy.   

     Italian Delicatessen Style Antipasto Platter: 
     This deli style antipasto platter is enough for 2 to 4 guests.
     Quality is the key to a great deli platter.  The better the quality of the ingredients, the more compliments will be heard.  Locally crafted or imported Italian products are far better than national brand "Italian style" products at an average grocery store, so go shopping at a real Italian delicatessen to get the best!
     Try not to leave any gaps or spaces between the meats, cheeses and vegetables.  A deli platter should always look full.
     Step 1:  Place a bed of leaf lettuce on a platter.  
     Mound 1 cup of chopped leaf lettuce on the center of the platter to build some height.  
     Step 2:  Select 3 to 4 ounces of thin sliced Spicy Capicola.
     Fold each slice of Capicola in half.  
     Overlap the folded Capicola slices on a section of the platter.  
     Step 3:  Arrange 3 to 4 ounces of thin sliced Toscano Salami next to the Capicola.   (Toscano salami cannot be folded or rolled or the large pieces of fat will fall off!)  
     Step 4:  Place 2/3 cup of Giardiniera next to the Toscano Salami.  
     Place a few sliced pickled banana peppers on the Giardiniera.
     Place a few olives on the giardiniera.  
     Step 5:  Place 3 to 4 ounces of loosely rolled thin slices of Pistachio Mortadella next to the Giardiniera.  
     Step 6:  Place 3 ounces of loosely rolled thin slices of Sharp Provolone Cheese next to the Mortadella.  
     Step 7:  Place 2 to 3 ounces of thin sliced Parmigiana Cheese next to the Provolone Cheese.  
     Step 8:  Place 3 to 4 ounces of loosely folded paper thin slices of Volpi Prosciutto next to the Parmigiana Cheese.  
     Step 9:  Place the Marinated Portobello Mushrooms next to the Prosciutto.    
     Mound 2/3 cup of thick sliced Roasted Red Bell Peppers (peperone) on the of the antipasto platter.   
     Garnish the peppers with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     *Anchovy filets are optional for this antipasto platter.  I usually garnish the peppers with anchovy filets. 
     Step 10:  Serve with Italian bread or crostini on the side.  
     Serve with olive oil, oregano, red wine vinegar and lemon wedges on the side.  
     Viola!  A nice Italian deli style party platter that is loaded with great flavors!                 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Eastern European Style Head Cheese Platter

     Head Cheese!  
     Horror movie fans usually equate Head Cheese with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  A macabre Head Cheese perspective does have a way of initiating inquisitive responses from guests.  Any angle that creates interest is good for Head Cheese, because only a small niche demographic sector of the dining public actually likes this deli style offal product.  As one can imagine, Head Cheese is not an easy item to market to the masses.
     Head Cheese is not as scary as its reputation suggests.  Those who are in the know will proudly exclaim that good Head Cheese actually is a classic delicacy that should be revered for its authenticity.  
     The origins of Head Cheese lie somewhere in Northeastern Europe back in the Dark Ages.  The Barbarian clans and tribes simply wasted no food and every little scrap was used to make something nutritious.  Cooking pig skull bone scrapings in a gelatinous broth is the epitome of conjuring up an idea of what to do with the last bits of a slaughtered pig during cold weather.  After the broth chilled, the meat was surrounded with firm edible gelled aspic, which kept the meat moist for several weeks.  
     To make a hot meal, all one had to do was cut a thick slice of Head Cheese and warm it in a pot till the aspic liquified, to make an instant stew.  Eating the gelled Head Cheese cold was an option too and this tradition continued into this modern age.
     Modern Head Cheese is a delicatessen item that is shaped like a loaf or a log.  Head Cheese is most often thin sliced as a lunch meat.  A top quality Head Cheese can also be served on a banquet platter, just like a fine pâté.  
     Common grocery stores usually only stock national brand deli meats and the quality is really nothing to rave about.  Grocery stores usually only offer a couple kinds of packaged pre-sliced head cheese and these items are better off avoided.  
     So, where does a shopper find great traditional deli meats that look like they came from the old country?  Putting on the ethnic thinking cap will provide the answer!  Good Head Cheese can be found in German delis, Greek food markets, Amish markets and Eastern European food stores.  
     I shopped for Head Cheese at the Jones Eastern European Food Market in Las Vegas and found a nice selection.  They had a nice Head Cheese in a light translucent aspic that was lightly flavored with blood.  They also had a Black Head Cheese made with gelled blood sausage.  Those who prefer strong blood iron flavored items, like Blood Sausage or Black Pudding, will prefer Black Head Cheese.  The lighter flavored Head Cheese is featured in today's party platter recipe.                 

     French Baguette:   
     Fresh bread is always best!  Here is a link to the Baguette recipe in this website.
     • French Baguette Bread

     Sweet Mint Vinaigrette Potato Salad:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Place 10 ounces of red bliss potatoes in a sauce pot.
     Cover with an extra 2" of water.
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Boil till the potatoes are fully cooked, but not mushy.
     Step 2:  Cool the potatoes under cold running water.
     Drain off the water.
     Chill the potatoes to 41ºF in a refrigerator.
     Step 3:  Cut the potatoes into thin slices and place them in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 cup of thin sliced peeled celery.
     Add a few thin carrot strips for color.
     Set the bowl aside.
     Step 4:  Place 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced mint.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced sweet onion.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Slowly stream 4 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the mixture, while whisking, to make a partially emulsified vinaigrette.
     Step 5:  Add just enough of the sweet mint vinaigrette to the potato mixture, to coat the ingredients with flavor.
     Chill the potato salad before serving.  

     Garlic Eggplant:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Cut 1 trimmed medium size eggplant lengthwise into 3/16" thick slices.
     Place the eggplant slices side by side on a wire screen roasting rack.
     Sprinkle a few generous pinches of sea salt on both sides of the eggplant slices.
     Allow the eggplant to sweat for 20 minutes.
     Step 2:  Rinse the salt off of the eggplant under cold running water.
     Pat the eggplant slices dry with a pastry towel.
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add enough blended olive oil, so the oil is 1/4" deep.
     Add 5 whole garlic cloves.
     Pan fry the garlic till it starts to turn a golden color.  
     Step 4:  Pan fry a few of the eggplant slices at a time.
     Sauté on both sides, till a few golden brown highlights appear.
     *Remove the garlic cloves after they brown and discard them.  Add oil as necessary, because eggplant does soak it up.
     Step 5:  Place each sautéed eggplant slice on a platter as they finish.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Set the eggplant aside.

     Eastern European Style Head Cheese Platter:
     This recipe yields 1 banquet platter for 2 to 4 guests.
     Step 1:  Select 1" thick slice of a nice quality head cheese that weighs about 10 ounces.
     Place the head cheese on a ceramic plate that will fit on a larger serving platter. 
     Chill the head cheese plate to 41ºF.    
     Step 2:  Cut 7 or 8 long bias slices of baguette bread that are 3/8" thick.
     Brush the bread with melted unsalted butter (or olive oil).
     Heat a griddle to medium/medium low heat.
     Grill both sides of the bread till a few golden brown highlights appear. 
     Step 3:  Place the chilled dish with the head cheese on the center of a large serving platter.
     Step 4:  Mound a portion of the sweet mint vinaigrette potato salad on one side of the platter.
     Garnish the salad with a mint sprig.
     Step 5:  Fold the seared garlic eggplant slices in half and overlap them on the other side of the platter. 
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of minced parsley over the eggplant.
     Step 6:  Sprinkle a pinch of Hungarian Paprika over 4 hard boiled egg halves.
     Place the hard boiled egg halves on the platter.
     Step 7:  Arrange the grilled baguette slices on the back half of the platter.
     Garnish the platter with curly leaf parsley sprigs.

     Head cheese fans will surely like the look of this Eastern European style platter!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

French Baguette Bread

     A real French Baguette dough only requires a few ingredients and it is one of the simplest doughs to make.  It is the techniques used to make this bread that makes a baguette great.  "Practice makes perfect" as the old saying goes and with practice, anybody can make baguettes that rival those found at a French bakery.   
     A few things to keep in mind are: 
     • High gluten flour is best for this recipe.  Bread flour is the next best choice.  All purpose flour should not be used to make Baguettes. 
     • The exact amount of flour needed depends upon many variables.  Altitude, humidity, low barometric pressure and arid conditions are variables that make slight adjustments necessary for the total flour measurement.  It is best to first add the bulk of the flour (enough to make a moist dough) then add small increments till the dough is the right consistency.  Recording the total amount of flour used will make it easier to duplicate the perfected baguette recipe at a later time.  
     • No fat, oil or butter is used in a baguette recipe.  Baguette dough is not enriched.  Some modern bakeries add ascorbic acid and/or modifiers to enhance texture, but this is just a crutch.  A great texture can be created with the bare natural ingredients.    
     • A humid steamy oven is required during the first few minutes of baking to create the crisp crunchy crust that baguettes are famous for.   Some ovens have a "steam-shot" feature built in.  Most ovens do not.  When the sheet pan of baguettes are place in the oven, ice cubes can be tossed on the pan to create steam.  Ice cubes can also be tossed directly on the bottom of a gas oven.  Tossing ice cubes into an electric oven is not a good idea for obvious reasons!    
     • In France, a true baguette is never be longer than 14" in length, but everybody knows that baguettes are offered in a variety of lengths.  Extra long baguettes should still never be more than about 4" wide.

     French Baguette Bread:   
     This recipe yields 3 medium size (14") baguette loaves.   
     This recipe is written for a metal gear drive dough mixer with a dough hook attachment!      
     Step 1:  Add 2 tablespoon of fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon of dry yeast to 16 ounces of lukewarm water (112ºF) in a mixer bowl. 
     Place the mixer bowl in a warm place, like on top of a low temperature oven.
     Wait for the yeast to activate.  (About 10 minutes)
     Step 2:  Add 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar.   
     Add about 4 cups of flour and do not stir.  Let the flour float like an island.  
     Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt, so the salt lands on the floating flour island.
     Step 3:  Place the mixer bowl on the mixer and attach the dough hook.
     Mix at low speed, till a loose moist dough forms.
     Step 4:  Start adding a little bit of flour at a time (about 1/4 cup per addition), till the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. 
     *You will be able to see when the dough is starting to become elastic.  
     Continue mixing till the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a dough ball that clings to the dough hook.
     Step 5:  Turn off the mixer.
     Drop the bowl to the low position.
     Unlock the dough hook and leave it in the mixer bowl with the dough.
     Cover the mixer bowl with a dry pastry towel.     
     Allow the dough to rise more than double.
     Step 6:  Remove the towel.
     Re-attach the dough hook.
     Raise the mixer bowl. 
     Turn the mixer on low speed for about 10 seconds to beat the dough down.
     Step 7:  Remove the dough hook and set the mixer bowl of dough aside.  
     Place the dough on a floured counter top.
     Knead the dough for 1 to 2 minutes.

     Cut the dough into 3 equal size portions for medium size baguettes. 

     Step 1:  Roll a dough portion dough back and forth, till it becomes a 10" long cylinder shape.
     Step 2:  This step adds texture and eliminate large gas bubbles.
     Use the fingertips on both hands to press and tuck the dough into itself along the length of the cylinder shape.  This will create a seam that runs the length of the baguette dough. 
     Pinch the seam shut.
     Step 3:  Roll the cylinder shape dough back and forth, till the surface becomes smooth and the dimensions of the cylinder shape are about 3" wide and about 14" in length.  
     Step 4:  Place the shaped baguette dough on a large sheet pan that is lined with parchment paper.  The seam side of the baguette must face down!
     Use a knife to score a few diagonal slashes on the dough, so the dough releases steam when it is baked. 

     Place the baguette pan in a warm area or on top of a low temperature oven.
     Allow the shaped baguette dough to rise to about 1 1/2 times its original size. 

     Steam is needed to give a baguette its crisp crunchy crust!
     Step 1:  Heat an oven to 425ºF.  
     Place a roasting pan on the bottom of the oven and let it get hot.  
     Step 2:  Place the baguette pan on an upper rack in the oven.
     Place 3 cups of ice cubes in the hot roasting pan that sits on the bottom of the oven.
     Immediately shut the oven door, so the steam is sealed in.   
     Step 3:  Bake till the baguette crust is crispy golden brown.  
     Cooling and Staling:  
     Place the baguette sheet pan on a cooling rack, so air can circulate underneath. 
     Allow the baguette to stale for 30 minutes, so the pith does not gather when the bread is sliced. 

     Unfortunately the photos of the finished baguette loaves could not be found, but there are thousands of baguette pictures on the internet.  The baguettes were bias sliced at a thin angle to make the long crostini for the party platter in the photos above.  As one can see, the texture of the bread pith was right on the money!     

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rosemary Pork Loin Cutlets, Roast Vegetables, Braised Red Cabbage and Baked Apple

     Oktoberfest Cuisine!
     Oktoberfest is a celebration where tons of German beer and food are consumed.  Of all the autumn celebrations worldwide, Oktoberfest is probably the best event for people that need to put on a comfortable layer of fat for winter.  If a person does not gain a few pounds during Oktoberfest, then they did not celebrate enough!
     Oktoberfest was originally a harvest celebration.  In the old days, the fall harvest had to be done at a fast pace, before the first frost set in.  People worked around the clock and many passed out from sheer exhaustion.  When the harvest was finished, everybody was hungry and dead tired.  Good strong beer made during the harvest helped ease the pain and it put everybody in a celebratory mood.  Simple hearty peasant food was served up with the beer.  The workers indulged for a couple of weeks, till they regained strength or ran out of beer, whichever came first.
     Rosemary Pork Loin Cutlets taste nice with braised red cabbage.  A baked spiced apple adds a nice touch to a plate of food that has an Oktoberfest theme.
     Braised Red Cabbage:
     This recipe yields 2 to 3 hearty portions.  
     Black Forest Bacon is an American product.  The bacon slab is coated with German winter spices during the curing process.  
     Step 1:  Heat a braising pan or a wide sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 2 ounces of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 strip American style Black Forest Bacon that is coarsely chopped.
     Gently sauté till some of the fat renders the bacon just begins to turn a light golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/2 cup of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped celery.
     Gently sauté till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Add 9 cups of thin sliced red cabbage.  (About 1/2 of a medium size red cabbage head.)
     Sauté and stir the cabbage till it starts to wilt.
     Step 4:  Add 1 peeled cored Gala Apple that is diced.
     Continue to sauté and stir, till the cabbage wilts.
     Step 5:  Add 1 cup of French Rosé Wine (or a full bodied Blush Wine).
     Add 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
     Add 2 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add enough water to barely cover the cabbage with liquid.
     Step 6:  Add 2 pinches of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 3 spice cloves.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 7:  Stir the ingredients.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Cover the pan with a loose fitting lid.
     Place the covered pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Stir the cabbage once every 10 to 15 minutes.
     Braise until the cabbage becomes tender.
     *While the cabbage is braising, the roasted rosemary pork, vegetables and the baked apple can also be cooked in the oven.
     Step 9:  Remove the pot from the oven.
     Place the pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till no excess liquid remains.
     Keep the braised red cabbage warm over very low heat.
     Roasted Rosemary Pork Loin Cutlets and Vegetables: 
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     Step 1:  Place 1 celery heart that is cut in half in a roasting pan.
     Cut a 5" long piece of whole carrot in half lengthwise.  Place the carrot halves in the roasting pan.
     Add 2 large peeled russet potato quarters.
     Brush the vegetables with melted unsalted butter.
     Step 2:  Select 5 or 6 trimmed pork loin cutlets that are about 1/4" thick.  The total weight should be about 8 to 10 ounces.
     Place the pork loin cutlets in the roasting pan.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine to the pan.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary leaves over the pork and vegetables.
     Step 3:  Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast till the pork is fully cooked and light brown highlights appear.
     Step 4:  *The thin pork cutlets will finish cooking first!
     Remove the pork cutlets from the pan and place them on a platter.
     Keep the pork warm on a stove top.
     Step 5:  Return the pan with the hard vegetables to the oven.
     Continue roasting till the vegetables are fully cooked and caramelized brown highlights appear.
     Keep the roast vegetables warm on a stove top.
     Baked Apple:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     The apple can be baked at the same time as the pork and vegetables.
     Step 1:  Core a medium size apple.  (Gala Apples are nice for baking.)
     Cut the bottom of the apple so it sits flat.
     Peel the apple around the center and leave the skin on the top and bottom of the apple.
     Step 2:  Brush the apple with melted unsalted butter.
     Season the apple with 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Step 3:  Place the apple on a small roasting pan.
     Bake the apple in a 325ºF oven till it becomes tender, but not mushy.
     Keep the baked apple warm on the stove top.

     Rosemary Pork Loin Cutlets, Roast Vegetables, Braised Red Cabbage and Baked Apple: 
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Return the Rosemary Pork Loin Cutlets, Roast Vegetables and Baked Apple to the oven for a minute or two to reheat them before serving.
     Step 2:  Place a generous portion of the Braised Red Cabbage on the front half of a plate as a bed for the pork loin cutlets.  (About 1 1/2 cups.)
     Overlap the Rosemary Pork Loin Cutlets across the cabbage.
     Step 3:  Place the baked apple on the plate.
     Arrange the roasted vegetables on the plate.
     Pour any jus that remains in the roasting pan over the pork cutlets.
     Step 4:  Garnish the plate with a parsley sprig.
     Garnish the baked apple with a tall rosemary sprig.
     Awesome German Oktoberfest food!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Heuhaufen Spaghetti Squash with Sour Cherry Crème

     A German Style Spaghetti Squash Haystack!
     Much of German cuisine is tastefully rich, yet comfortable at the same time.  The flavors provide relaxing comfort at the dinner table.  Many German vegetable recipes have an interesting combination of savory, sweet, sour and comfortable warm spice flavors.  Various levels of butter and pork fat also contribute to the appeal.  A combination of these German flavors is nice for a light delicate tasting autumn vegetable like Spaghetti Squash.
     Regardless of the size of spaghetti squash, the cooking method remains the same and the cooking goal remains the same.  The goal is to only bake a whole spaghetti squash for just enough time to allow the moisture inside the spaghetti squash to lightly steam the spaghetti shaped strands of squash marrow.  The strands of spaghetti squash should still be fairly crisp after baking, but not crisp enough to easily break.  Overcooked spaghetti squash is about as interesting to eat as a bowl full of mushy overcooked noodles.  "Al dente" or "blanched" are two good culinary terms to keep in mind when baking a whole spaghetti squash.
     The Sour Cherry Crème is nice garnish for the sweet savory German style Spaghetti Squash.  It is optional and only a small amount is needed.  I just happened to have a few reconstituted sour cherries on hand, so I put them to use in a garnishing sauce.  The small amount of Sour Cherry Crème does add a nice touch.
     Boiled eggs that have a semi hard cooked yolk are common in fine dining.  A boiling time of 8 to 9 minutes will produce a semi soft egg yolk.

     Spaghetti Squash:
     One small spaghetti squash yields 3 to 4 portions.
     The size of a spaghetti squash can affect the baking time.  For the most part, a baking time of 20 to 25 minutes is sufficient for any spaghetti squash that is smaller than a football.  For any size larger about 5 or 10 minutes of extra baking time may be needed.
     Step 1:  Use a metal skewer to pierce 2 small holes on 1 whole spaghetti squash, to create steam vents. 
     Step 2:  Place the whole spaghetti squash on a rack in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, till the spaghetti squash shell feels piping hot when touched.
     Step 3:  Remove the spaghetti squash from the oven.
     Allow the spaghetti squash to cool to room temperature.
     Step 4:  Cut the spaghetti squash in half across the middle.  
     *Do not cut spaghetti squash end to end, or the spaghetti strands will be cut into short pieces!  Long strands of al dente spaghetti squash is the goal.
     Use a spoon to scoop out the small amount of seeds and loose pulp from the middle of the squash.
     Step 5:  Starting from the center layer, gently use a fork to loosen, pry and pull the long strands of the spaghetti squash out of the shell.
     Step 6:  Chill the prepared spaghetti squash till it is needed.  
     *The spaghetti squash can refrigerated in a sealed container for a few days. 

     Boiled Egg:
     Always start boiled eggs in cold salted water.  The boiling time starts when the water first comes to a boil.  8 to 9 minutes will produce a semi soft yolk like the one in the photos.
     Cook 1 hard boiled egg.  
     Cool the egg under cold running water and peel the egg.  

     Sour Cherry Crème:
     This recipe yields 2 garnish portions.  (About 3 tablespoons.)
     Step 1:  Soak 8 to 10 dried sour cherries in water, till they start to become soft.
     Drain the water off of the sour cherries.
     Step 2:  Heat a small sauce pot over low heat.
     Add the semi soft sour cherries.
     Add just enough water to cover the sour cherries.
     Simmer till the water evaporates and the cherries become tender.
     Step 3:  Add 1/3 cup of cream.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of nutmeg.
     Step 4:  Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a medium thin sauce consistency that coats a spoon.
     Keep the sour cherry crème warm on a stove top.

     Heuhaufen Spaghetti Squash:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 slices of smoked bacon that is small chopped.
     Sauté till the bacon just starts to become a golden color.
     Step 2:  Drain all but 1 tablespoon of grease out of the pan.
     Return the pan to medium/medium low heat.
     Step 3:  Add 3 tablespoon of diced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of diced celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of diced carrot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of diced sweet red bell pepper.
     Add 1 small apple that is cut into small bite size pieces.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color and the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 cups of light chicken broth.
     Add 3 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 2 spice cloves.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 small pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 small pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Simmer and reduce the liquid, till about 1/2 cup of liquid remains.
     Step 5:  Remove the 2 spice cloves.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter while stirring.
     Step 6:  Add 1 1/2 cups (1 large handful) of prepared spaghetti squash strands.
     Simmer and toss the ingredients together, till the spaghetti squash becomes hot.
     Keep the spaghetti squash warm over very low heat.

     Heuhaufen Spaghetti Squash with Sour Cherry Crème:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Spaghetti Squash is best when it is served shortly after it is cooked.
     Step 1:  Mound a tall haystack of the German style spaghetti squash on the center of a plate.
     Step 2:  Garnish the plate with 1 hard boiled egg that is cut in half.
     Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of the Sour Cherry Crème on top of the haystack as a garnish.
     Garnish the haystack with an Italian Parsley leaf.

     This is a nice Spaghetti Squash recipe for Oktoberfest! 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Herbs de Provence Crusted Petite Meatloaf with Classic Demi Glace on Rosti and Juniper Berry Braised Beet Greens

     Gourmet Meatloaf!
     There once was a movie, that had a scene where a fugitive ducked into a local diner to meet with some thugs that were planning a crime.  The cops that were tailing the suspect said, "Well, if the thugs don't kill him, then the meatloaf will!"  That statement says it all about the reputation of meatloaf at greasy spoon diner restaurants! 
     During the last few decades, gourmet American diner restaurants have been a trend.  At these restaurants, gourmet ingredients and skilled culinary techniques are combined to improve the quality and appeal of standard diner fare, like meatloaf.  During the recent Great Recession, many top fine dining chefs successfully marketed gourmet elegant comfort food that customers easily recognized, like a fancy meatloaf variation.  These trends gave meatloaf a fresh new reputation, which inspired consumer interest.   
     Home cooks always make the greatest meatloaf, no matter how lousy the meatloaf really is.  If mom's meatloaf is criticized by a guest, the family will rally in support of mom's meatloaf, because it is the meatloaf that the family member knows best.  This act can be described as "meatloaf loyalty."  
     When the kids grow up and experience a better meatloaf somewhere else, the home meatloaf loyalty finally dissolves and the mom is sad because nobody raves about her meatloaf anymore.  The reality is that the meatloaf was only good, because the family members never ate meatloaf anywhere else.  Therefore, the meatloaf recipe was never changed or improved and eventually meatloaf burnout occurred.
     Life is too short to eat the same meatloaf week after week with no changes.  As the old saying goes, "Variety is the spice of life!"  In order to curb meatloaf burnout, try making a gourmet style meatloaf that renews interest.  When guests or family members say, "I cannot wait to see what kind of gourmet meatloaf you create next," then you know that you have achieved success.  Renewing interest in meatloaf is what making gourmet meatloaf is all about!         
     Today's gourmet meatloaf recipe is made with Certified Black Angus Beef.  Portobello Mushrooms give the meatloaf a rich savory flavor and the French Herbs de Provence crust adds even more appeal.   
     Classic demi glace is a perfect sauce espagnole that is reduced to perfection.  Classic demi glace is the cadillac of demi glace sauces.  Standard demi glace is 1/2 glace viande and 1/2 sauce espagnole that is reduce to a half glaze consistency.  Either of these demi glace variations are a big improvement over a home style brown gravy.  
     Rosti Potato is kind of like a savory rustic potato pancake.  Rosti potato is perfect for serving with a nice meatloaf.  Braised fresh beet greens are a nice vegetable to serve with heavy food.  Juniper Berries add a unique bitter flavor to braised beet greens and juniper berries are a natural digestif.  Keep in mind that the dried juniper berries should be soaked overnight in a refrigerator.  

     Classic Demi Glace (Sauce Espagnole Reduced To Perfection): 
     This espagnole sauce recipe can be used to make Classic Demi Glace.  Classic Demi Glace is a perfect Espagnole Sauce that is reduced to perfection.  The beef stock and sauce are all made in one process.      
     For a perfect Sauce Espagnole, roast the scraps, bones and vegetables without charring anything black.  Skim the grease off the top of the stock as it cooks.  Add only enough brown roux to create a very thin sauce.  Simmer then strain the sauce carefully so it has no impurities.  Simmer and reduce the sauce to a perfect half glaze consistency.
     When making the stock, select a large pot that is big enough to easily contain the bones and liquid.  If the bones are crammed in a pot that is too small, then the stock will not be able to be stirred when the brown roux is added.     
     Step 1:  Place 4 pounds of veal bones, beef bones and meat scraps in a large deep roasting pan.
     Add 4 tablespoons of tomato paste.
     Add this coarse chopped unpeeled mirepoix mixture:  
     - 3 ounces of carrot
     - 3 ounces of celery 
     - 6 ounces of onion  
     Roast the mixture in a 350ºF oven till the bones and vegetables caramelize to a deep brown color, with no black charring.  Toss and stir the ingredients occasionally. 
     Step 2:  Remove the roasting pan from the oven.
     Place the bones and mirepoix into a stock pot. 
     Deglaze the roasting pan with water and add the jus to the stock pot. 
     Cover the bones with 2" of extra water.
     Step 3:  Briefly bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium high heat. 
     Reduce the temperature to low heat. 
     Gently simmer for 4 hours. 
     Add water occasionally to cover the ingredients.
     Occasionally skim the grease off of the top of the simmering stock.
     Step 4:  Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 3 1/2 ounces of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while stirring with a whisk, to make a roux.   (About 3/4 cup to 1 cup.  The roux should look like shiny hot peanut butter and it should not look caky.)   
     Constantly stir till the roux turns a brown color.
     Remove the pot from the heat.  
     Step 5:  Slowly add enough of the brown roux to the stock pot to thicken the broth to a very thin sauce consistency.    
     Stir the ingredients together.
     *If all of the brown roux is added and the sauce seems too thin, do not worry.  The sauce will be reduced to the correct consistency later in the recipe!   
     Step 6:  Simmer the thickened meat stock for one hour and stir it occasionally.  Add water if necessary. 
     Step 7:  Remove the stock pot from the heat.
     Use a fryer net or tongs to remove and discard the bones.
     Pout the slightly thickened stock through a fine mesh strainer into a large sauce pot. 
     Discard the bones, meat scraps and vegetables. 
     Step 8:  Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of Madeira Wine per quart of thickened stock.  (For example, 2 quarts of slightly thickened stock will require 1 cup of Madeira.) 
     Add 1 bouquet garni of bay leaf, chervil and thyme. 
     Add 1 cup of mushroom trimmings.
     Add 1 bunch of parsley stalks.
     Add 2 chopped shallots.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of whole black peppercorns. 
     Add sea salt to taste. 
     Step 9:  Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that easily glazes a spoon.  
     Step 10:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container.  (The yield should be about 1 quart.)  
     Set the sauce aside or chill it for later use.
     Reheat the sauce to order.  (About 1 1/2 ounces are needed for 1 meatloaf portion.)

     Herbs du Provence Crusted Petite Meatloaf:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty individual portion meatloaf. 
     A petite single portion meatloaf is best for herb crusting.  This way the herbs do not scorch.  
     Small terrine pâté loaf pans are best for this recipe.  A stack of petite terrine pans cost very little money, if several petite meat loafs need to be made.       
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small diced carrot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small diced peeled celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small diced onion.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced portobello mushroom.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Gently sauté the vegetables till they start to become tender.
     Step 2:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the vegetables and butter from the pan into a mixing bowl.
     Add 7 ounces of Ground Certified Black Angus Beef.  
     Add 1/4 cup of fresh plain French bread crumbs.  (Soft bread crumbs, not dried.)
     Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Brush a petite terrine pan with vegetable oil.  (The terrine pan should be about 2 1/2"x 5")
     Place the meatloaf mixture into the roasting pan.
     Use your hands to shape the meatloaf mixture into a smooth bread loaf shape.  (The meatloaf should be a little bit taller than the pan and mounded into a loaf shape.)
     Step 4:  Brush the meatloaf with melted unsalted butter.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of Herbs de Provence on the meatloaf.  
     *Select a French Herbs de Provence mixture that has no lavender flowers.  Lavender leaves are usually part of French Herbs de Provence and that is traditional.  American Herbs de Provence has lavender flowers in the mixture.
     Gently press the herbs onto the meatloaf.
     Step 5:  Place the meatloaf terrine pan on a roasting pan.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.  
     Roast the meatloaf till it is fully cooked and the crust is lightly browned.  (A probe thermometer should read 160º to 165º.)
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Keep the meatloaf warm on a stove top or reheat it in a 300ºF oven before serving. 

     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (1medium size rosti)
     The rosti can be made while the meatloaf bakes.  
     Step 1:  Grate 1 peeled 6 ounce russet potato into a mixing bowl.  
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Toss the ingredients together, so they do not oxidize.
     Step 2:  Add 2 tablespoons of grated onion.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Heat a small non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Place the rosti mixture into the sauté pan.
     Flatten the mixture evenly with a spatula.  Round the edges to create a pancake shape.
     Sauté the rosti to a light golden brown color on the bottom half.  (Do not disturb the rosti as it pan fries!)
     Step 4:  Flip the rosti in the pan.
     *If necessary, use a spatula to press the rosti back into a pancake shape.
     Pan fry the rosti for 1 minute.
     Step 5:  Place the sauté pan with the rosti in a 325ºF degree oven.
     Roast the rosti in the oven till it is fully cooked and the crust is crispy golden brown.
     Keep the rosti warm on a stove top.

     Juniper Berry Braised Beet Greens:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     The greens can be made while the meatloaf bakes.
     Step 1:  Soak 8 dried juniper berries in 1 cup of water overnight in a refrigerator.
     Place the soaking water and juniper berries in a sauce pot.
     Simmer over very low heat, till the juniper berries become softened.
     Set the liquid and juniper berries aside.
     Step 2:  Cut the green tops off of 3 to 5 beets.  (Enough for 1 bunch.) 
     Trim the excess stems and any damaged leaves. 
     Wash the greens under cold running water.
     Drain off any excess water.
     Step 3:  Heat a deep sauté pan (sauteuse pan) over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Sauté till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Step 4:  Add the beet greens.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Sauté till the beet greens wilt.
     Step 5:  Add the reserved juniper berries and the juniper berry liquid.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar.
     Add 1 1/2 ounces of dry white wine. 
     Add 1 1/2 cups of light chicken stock.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil. 
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Cover the pan with a loose fitting lid.
     Braise the greens, till they become tender.  (Beet greens do not take much time to become tender, so the green and purple colors will be pronounced!)
     Step 7:  Remove the lid.
     Raise the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the excess liquid evaporates.
     Keep the juniper berry braised beet greens warm on a stove top.

     Herbs de Provence Crusted Petite Meatloaf with Classic Demi Glace on Rosti and Juniper Berry Braised Beet Greens:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Place the Rosti on the center of a plate.
     Place the Juniper Berry Braised Beet Greens on the plate around the Rosti.
     Step 2:  Cut the Herbs de Provence Crusted Petite Meatloaf into 3/8" thick slices.
     Overlap the meatloaf slices across the Rosti.
     Step 3:  Spoon and cascade about 1 1/2 ounces of the Classic Demi Glace over half of the meatloaf and on part of the Rosti and beet greens.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Voila!  This gourmet meatloaf entrée definitely is classic comfort food!