Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Night Menu, Grilled Thyme Pork Chops, December 30, 2011

Tony got me Jacques Pepin's new cookbook for Christmas and it's an awesome book.  I made all Jacques recipes this week except the Sweet Potato dish that I made up.  Jacques is so good with techniques and he's also an artist so he does everything in a decorative way, which I like.

Split Pea Soup with Cracklings

This year at Christmas my cousin was talking about pea soup... and then I got this book and there was this split pea soup recipe.... and Tony went to get some dried chick peas for something he was making and he grabbed a bag of split peas and yellow peas just for fun...and so, I thought, making this recipe was meant to be. Here it is...

6 oz chicken skin, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 medium onion, cut into i inch pieces (about 2 cups)
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped (1 Tbsp)
8 cups water
2 tsp herbes de Provence
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce, plus more for serving
1 lb dried split peas, picked over and rinsed

Put the chicken skin in a large skillet and saute over high heat for 8-10 minutes, until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp.  Transfer the cracklings and fat to a large saucepan.  Add the onions to the saucepan and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and mix well, then stir in the water, herbes de Provence, salt, pepper, Tabasco and split peas.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and boil gently for 1 hour.

It was good and simple.  We liked the flavor the chicken skin gave, but I think Tony was looking forward to the "cracklings" being crispy, but as you can imagine they were, but then they are cooked  in liquid for an hour, and they weren't anymore.  Personally I didn't eat the chicken skins but Tony thought they were good.

Grilled Thyme Pork Chops

This was very simple and quick to make.  It was in his book and I was flipping through the pages trying to figure a good main dish.  My concern was that the next day we were roasting a whole standing rib roast on New year's Eve and last Friday I served fish, most of the week we were eating chicken because of one of the recent posts about de-boning a whole chicken (we practiced a couple times).  What's left??  Pork.  Actually Jacques calls this a "grilled" dish and I had planned to do that, but it was cold out side and I had just bought this non-stick, ceramic coated pan at Homegoods and it claimed to brown food more than a Teflon non-stick pan.  I cooked it just like he said, season with salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp or so of dried Thyme, 4 minutes on each side with olive oil brushed onto the pork chop first and let it rest 5-10 minutes ( I let it rest 5 minutes before plating).  To ensure that there wound be a nice brown crust I didn't move it at all once I got it in the pan, until I flipped them.  This pan worked out perfectly!  Nice crust and juicy inside, just right.

Sweet Potato and Fromage Blanc Brulee

I wanted to use sweet potatoes but do something different with them.  I had bought some Fromage Blanc just because, and thought that added to a puree of sweet potato might be good.  This is what I did...
I peeled then cut 2 large sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch thick rounds and braised them in a large skillet with 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil and a splash of water.  Braising is cooking over low heat, with a small amount of liquid.  I checked them after 30 minutes and they were nice and soft.  Leaving most of the liquid behind add the sweet potatoes to the food processor and process until creamy; squeeze the juice of 1/2 orange to the braising pan and reduce it until it's syrupy, pour into the processor; add salt, pepper, the zest of 1 orange, 8 oz of Fromage Blanc; a teaspoon or 2 of cinnamon; 1 tbsp of softened butter;  I tasted as I went to see if it needed more salt or whatever; Remove to a pastry bag that's fitted with a large decorative tip and put it into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes; chilling the mixture helps to show the form of the decorative tip that you use; pipe out serving sizes into mounds onto a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat and put into the refrigerator until you are ready to heat and serve them.

I put the sheet pan into the oven just to warm the mounds of sweet potato for about 15-20 minutes then I sprinkled about 1-2 tsp of brown sugar over the mounds and used my torch to Brulee the sugar.  This was very good with the pork.

Braised Endive

I wasn't sure what vegetable to do when I was at the store I just grabbed what looked good and figured I'd make one of them.  I got one big endive, a bunch of Swiss chard and asparagus.  I settled on the endive but instead of raw in a salad (which is what I was thinking with that), I saw Jacques did a braised endive so I went with that.  I kind of followed his recipe but I didn't have the 8 medium endives, I had one large, so I ended up cutting it in half when he left his whole, and he says to remove the rind from one lemon and put it in the pan along with 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 4 Tbsp butter, 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt and 3/4 cup of water.  I did all that but reduced the amounts to equal doing just the one big endive.  This was good, but I didn't think it went perfectly with the other components of this dish.

Banana-Mint Ice Cream with Rum Raisin Sauce

This was a recipe that reminded me of another one I had made from a friend who is a vegan.  She said to slice bananas and freeze them, after they are frozen add them to the food processor and process, adding sweetened almond milk until you have what looks like ice cream.  It works amazingly well.  Jacques is the same idea but he's not a vegan and he uses sour cream.  Here it is...

Ice Cream

3 ripe bananas cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/4 cup honey
6-8 fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup sour cream


1/4 cup peach preserves
1/4 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp dark rum
1/4 cup golden raisins

For the ice cream: arrange the bananas on a silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet in a single layer.  Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours or over night.  Remove the bananas from the freezer and allow them to sit for a few minutes.  They should still be partially frozen.  Put the bananas in the bowl of a food processor add, the honey, mint, sour cream and process for at least a minute, until the mixture is smooth and creamy ( this is ice cream after all).  Place in a container, cover and freeze for several hours until solidly frozen. 

For the sauce:  Mix the preserves, orange juice and rum together in a bowl until smooth.  Stir in the raisins. 

At serving time scoop some of the ice cream into a bowl and coat with the sauce, garnish with a fresh mint leaf.  Love it!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Friday Night Menu, December 23, 2011, Flounder with Mustard Sauce

I got the new issue of Bon Appetit and as I flipped through I came across a couple pages of "French"...that's all I needed to see...Friday's menu was born.

Roasted Vegetable Tart

This could be French but it wasn't in the French section I was telling you about.  It was on the front cover and looked really good so I gave it a go.  Here it is.

Flounder with Mustard Sauce and Haricots Verts

So the recipe called for Dover Sole but my Whole Foods didn't have that fish so I got what I thought would be a substitute.  It was a good substitute but maybe much thinner because it cooked in half the time the Dover Sole would have. 

Basically you season the fish with salt and using a fine mesh sieve, dust paprika over both sides.  Cook undisturbed in a large non-stick skillet with a Tablespoon of grape seed oil heated in it.  The Dover Sole will take 3-5 minutes on each side but the Flounder takes more like 2 minutes per side.  Remove to a serving dish and serve with the mustard sauce (below).

Mustard Sauce

Bring to a simmer in a small saucepan; 3/4 cup dry white wine, 2 tsp minced shallot, 1 small sprig thyme, 1/2 small bay leaf and 1/4 tsp white wine or tarragon vinegar, transfer the mixture to a medium metal bowl and let cool slightly; meanwhile, simmer 6 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foamy, skim foam from surface and discard, pour clarified butter into a small glass measure cup and keep warm; Whisk 2 large egg yolks, 1/8 tsp paprika and 1 Tbsp water into the wine mixture; set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until ribbons form, about 5 minutes, slowly whisk in butter, whisk constantly for about 2 minutes until it's well blended and fluff; remove from the heat and whisk in 1 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard, season to taste with kosher salt.

Haricots Verts were blanched ahead of time and just heated in butter, then tossed with fresh minced tarragon, parsley, shallot and garlic then seasoned with salt and pepper.

Chocolate Souffles with Chantilly Cream

So Bon Appetit had a recipe for a chocolate souffles but I wanted to follow Julia Child's recipe (just because). 

Chantilly Cream is simply heavy cream that is whipped and it's sweetened with sugar and flavored with vanilla.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

De-boning a whole chicken

I gave Jeanne a new cookbook for Xmas...Essential Pepin. The book comes with a DVD where Jacques demonstrates various culinary techniques.

As we watched the video clips, one really stuck out...De-boning a whole chicken.  (After a little research on the web) It seems that Jacques has demonstrated this many times on different shows (see below).

Jeanne and I have both tried it now and it is (believe it or not) easier to accomplish than you think!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday Night, Steak with Mustard Butter, December 9, 2011

So if you noticed last week I started to talk about doing "Jeanne and Julia", that is making all the recipes in the Mastering the Art of French Cooking book.  Well I will still do that, but much slower.  In a week in a half I have made about 20 of her recipes, including the two in this weeks Friday Night menu and I have gone through more butter... and cream... and cheese.... and eggs... than you can imagine.  Like we like to say here at our house "everything in moderation", so I can make it all I just don't want to go as fast as I thought I might. 

Anyway this week I did make two recipes in the book the Cauliflower mold with Sauce Mousseline and the Pear and Almond Tart.  I figured between the duck last weekend, the chicken I roasted during the week and fish and salads the other days, we needed some beef.  I decided to go with a couple good steaks for the grill and I thought I would make one of Julia's sauces, instead I went with a Mustard Compound Butter from her book.

Cream Filled Mozzarella with Roasted Tomatoes and Basil

So the cheese is something we discovered a few years ago and we love it.  It's called Burrata Cheese, if you see it buy it.  We had it at a small restaurant in Boston probably 10 years ago and we couldn't believe how good it was for Mozzarella cheese...something was different but we didn't know what.  In making mozzarella the cheese curd is stretched and kneaded until the desired texture and formed into a ball.  For Burrata they do that but before closing it they fill the center with outstretched mozzarella and cream.  When you cut into it the milky, creamy goodness spills out and it is awesome!  I got these medium sized tomatoes on the vine and roasted them for 20 minutes with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic cloves.  When they came out I drizzled on some Balsamic vinegar and fresh basil.  I plated it all with some slices of Baguette.

Steak De Deux Maniers with Mustard Butter

Well everything sounds better in French so I googled..."translate Steak Two Ways from English to French"... and Steak De Deux Maniers is what came up.  Basically I stood at the meat counter at Whole Foods and I picked out a nice bone-in rib eye for Tony (looked freshly cut and perfect) and I didn't want a lot of meat so I picked a tenderloin for me because of it's size.  I was looking for something to go along with the steaks as a sauce in Julia's book and I found this section of compound butters.  I have made compound butters before, its softened butter that you add flavorings to like roasted garlic, herbs, capers, etc... this one was made by mixing a stick of softened butter with 2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard and a couple Tbsp of minced parsley.  You combine the ingredients and place the flavored butter on some plastic wrap and roll it and twist the ends like a sausage and chill it.  When you serve the steak cut off a Tbsp or so and let it melt on top of the steak. 

Cauliflower Mold with Sauce Mousseline

So this was a combination of a starch and vegetable to go with the steak.  It almost was like mashed potato but then again it was a whole head of cauliflower too. 

To make this you butter a 6 cup souffle baking dish and coat it with stale bread crumbs.  Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and put the rack in the lower third of the oven.  In a covered saucepan cook 1/2 cup of finely chopped onions in 1 Tbsp of butter for 10 minutes; scrape the onions into a 3 quart mixing bowl; add salt, pepper, pinch of nutmeg, 1/2 cup of grated Swiss cheese; 2/3 cup of stale white bread crumbs; beat in 5 eggs; heat 1 cup of milk and 4 Tbsp of butter to a boil and slowly pour this mixture into the egg mixture while beating; fold in 1 head or about 3 cups of pureed cooked cauliflower; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and place the baking dish in another baking dish filled half way with boiling water; bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.  She gives about 5-6 different options for a sauce to pour around the outside of the cauliflower mold after it's inverted onto a serving dish.  I picked this Sauce Mousseline, it's a hollandaise with whipped cream folded into it.  This is the kind of thing that is in her book that is good but if you are trying to keep your arteries clear it's just not necessary. We thought it tasted very good but the cauliflower mold would have been excellent with out the sauce.

Pear and Almond Tart

So this was really good, high end tasting and not too bad with the fat content.  It's a sugar crust from the book.  I made it in the food processor with the blade attachment.  Here is the recipe...

In the bowl of a food processor add 1 1/3 cup of flour, 5 Tbsp sugar, 1/8 tsp baking powder; add 5 tbsp of chilled butter and 2 Tbsp of chilled shortening and pulse about 10 times or until it looks like grated cheese; add 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp of cold water and 1/2 tsp vanilla; pulse until it comes together to form slightly bigger clumps (it will still look crumbly); if you can grad a bit and squeeze it together and it holds it's shape it's good; Form into a disk and chill for at least an hour; roll it out and fit it into a 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom; place a buttered piece of parchment on it and fill with beans of pie weights and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 5-6 minutes, remove the parchment, prick the bottom of the crust and finish baking for another 8-10 minutes more or until the crust gets lightly browned; remove the tart pan and cool on a rack.

Make the Frangipane ahead so it's ready when you are.  To make this Frangipane or almond custard it goes like this...

In an electric mixer add 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, gradually add 3/4 cup of sugar until a thick pale ribbon is formed; beat in 1/3 cup flour; beat in 1 cup boiling milk; Pour into a saucepan and over moderate heat whisk reaching all over the bottom of the pan; vigorously beat as it starts to coagulate; lower the heat and beat with a wooden spoon for 2 or 3 minutes to get rid of any raw flour taste; off the heat beat in 3 tbsp of butter, 2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 tsp almond extract, 1/2 cup almond flour and 2 Tbsp Kirsch liquor.

For the pears she says to combine 2 cups of Bordeaux wine, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar and one cinnamon stick to a boil and add 2 lbs of pears that you have peeled and cut in half and removed the core from; cook until the pears are tender when pierced with a knife (she said 8-10 minutes in simmering liquid but my bosc pears took more like 45 minutes covered); remove the pears from the liquid and drain on a rack; reduce the wine to the thread stage which is at 230 degrees or when it begins to look syrupy and add 1/4 cup of the syrup and 1/4 cup of red currant jelly ( I used apricot) together in a small pan and heat together.

To assemble brush the inside of the tart shell with the syrup and spread in the frangipane then top with the pears in a decorative fashion and brush with more syrup; decorate with some toasted almond slices and your done!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Night Menu, Roast Duck with Orange Sauce, December 2, 2011

The Jeanne and Julia Project...

Julie and Julia came on last week and I watched it. One week later I have now made 8 of her recipes in the "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" book. Well one was just the Bechamel sauce as a component of a dish but of the recipes in the book. Starting on Monday night for dinner I made Gratin of Leeks with Ham, which included Julia's Bechamel Sauce (which has a slightly different ratio of butter to flour and even the milk then I have made from other recipes), the next night was Chicken Breasts rolled in Parmesan and Fresh Bread Crumbs with her Turnips braised in Butter. Two nights ago I made Fish Filet poached in White Wine with Mushrooms, and now I can check off the Roast Duck with Orange Sauce, Peas Braised with Butter and Onions and the Potato Cheese Sticks. The French have a way of making dishes so good! It might be the butter and cream, I don't know...but whatever it is, I like it!

Potato Cheese Sticks

I tasted one of these cheese sticks and couldn't believe was a Cheeze-it!! It was easy to make, but I did have trouble squeezing the mixture out of the pastry bag onto the baking sheet; I have some more of the unbaked dough that I am going to try just spreading it out onto a sheet pan, bake, cut and bake again to get the edges browned. But this is how Julia's recipe goes...
Peel and cut 1/2 lb baking potatoes (about 1 large russet) and boil in salted water until soft; drain and put through a ricer; you should have about 1 cup of potato; stir the potato over moderate heat for 2 or 3 minutes until it forms a light film on the bottom of the pan to dry them out a bit; Beat 2/3 cup of flour into the potato; bit by bit add 1 stick of softened butter; season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste; add 1 egg and beat in; add 1 cup or 4 oz of Swiss cheese. (I seasoned and tasted it before putting in the egg and keeping in mind the cheese would add a saltiness). Julia pipes 2 1/2 inch sticks onto a cookie sheet, using a 1/4 inch fluted pastry tube; bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Roast Duck with Orange Sauce

I started by following her directions for the duck stock and cutting off the excess fat early in the day. I pricked the skin on the back, lower part of the breasts and the thighs like she said. She didn't say to leave it to dry in the refrigerator all day but that's what I did, since you want the skin to be dry to get a nice crust. I found the recipe already typed for me on line (I know it's cheating but I need more time to cook instead of typing).  So basically it's like a whole roasted chicken, but she says to roast breast side up in a 425 degree oven then after 15 minutes turn it down to 350 degrees, then on it's side for 30 minutes, the other side for 30 minutes, then back to breast side up until it's done.  I took the temperature after 1 hour and 20 minutes (she specified that it would take 1 hour and 20 to 1 hour and 40 minutes), and it shot right up to 165 degrees.  She says 165 is too much, the French like their ducks more like 140 degrees, but I thought the temperature was perfect, not dry at all.  The problem was the skin.  If I wasn't trying to follow Julia's recipe exactly (she is the queen in the kitchen), I would have left the temperature up at 425 degrees for a little longer to get the skin crispy more, It looked to me like it needed that heat, but now I know next time more heat or stick to duck pieces that can be pan seared???

Peas Braised with Lettuce and Onions

The duck chapter in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" suggested peas to go with duck.  I flipped through the book and found this recipe.  She suggested you use freshly shelled peas in the spring but here we are in December and so I got a bag of frozen peas, it worked out perfectly.  Here is the way Julia says to do it....

First you cut a head of Boston lettuce into quarters and tie with kitchen twine to make sure they keep their shape, set aside; Bring 6 Tbsp of butter, 1/2 cup of water, 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar,1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp black pepper to a boil in a saucepan; add 3 cups of peas and toss to cover in the liquid; bury 8 parsley stems in the midst; arrange the lettuce quarters over them and bast with the liquid; place about 12 green onions with bulbs or small white onions that have been blanched for 5 minutes, over the lettuce and be sure to pierce them with the tip of a knife for even cooking; cover the sauce pan with an inverted lid or bowl and fill the top with ice cubes to create steam, and as the steam condenses it falls back onto the peas; cook for 20 to 30 minutes until the peas are tender; correct seasoning; discard the parsley and lettuce strings; just before serving toss the peas and onions with 2 Tbsp butter; place on a serving platter and arrange the lettuce around and on top of the peas; serve at once.

So it was delicious, but I didn't think the inverted cover with the ice cubes was necessary (for frozen peas anyway), The idea of the lettuce holding it's shape was good but when you take the string off it falls apart anyway, and surprisingly the 20-30 minutes of cooking was good, I thought it would be way too long but I think I ended up cooking them 25 or 30 minutes.

Creme Caramel

This isn't from Julia's book, it's from Jacques Pepin's show called Essential Pepin. I am sure it's very close to Julia's recipe except I didn't heat the half and half. Jacques made it so simply without heating anything just whisking eggs, sugar, vanilla and half and half (he said there was no reason to heat the half and half anymore, that was years ago they did for some reason, but not necessary now-a-days). So caramel stumps me sometimes and I am trying to figure out a full proof caramel. So he did it this way and I followed...Pour 1 cup of sugar into a sauce and dribble in water, just enough to wet all the sugar granules, then let it boil over medium-high heat. After about 5-10 minutes you will see big bubbles appear and you can swirl the pan (before that don't touch the pan or even stir it or it will crystallize), let it get a nice deep golden color then pour out some caramel into a 6 or 7 cup,
round, Pyrex baking dish; enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish. Very carefully and slowly add water (about 4-6 Tbsp) to the caramel that is still in the pan and slowly stir over low heat so it cools to a sauce and doesn't harden. Now you can make the custard. It a large mixing bowl, whisk together
4 eggs

1egg yolk

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup sugar

After whisking for a good 2-3 minutes add and whisk in

3 cups half and half

Pour this mixture over the hardened caramel in the baking dish and place the baking dish into another baking dish that is slightly larger and pour hot water to come half way up the sides of the dish. Put into a 350 degree oven for about an hour ( mine took about 1 hour and 15 minutes). It will still be jiggly and you can test it by putting the tip of a knife half way from the center of the bowl and the outside of the bowl. If it comes out clean it's done (don't put the knife all the way to the bottom or it will break when you un-mold it.

Un-mold onto a dish with a rim and remove the excess liquid and pour thick caramel on top of the custard with the caramel sauce that you made. This was gooooood!!!