About Mastering and Enjoying Home Cooking. Drink, Cook, and Live Well!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kay’s Perfection Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Chicken is a staple in many house holds. If you eat chicken once a week for sixty years, you may end up cooking 3120 birds and you may have spent more than 140 days cooking them based on 1 hour per bird. You might as well learn how to do it simply and achieve a PERFECT BIRD where the wing tips crunch like potatoes chip, the skin is a dark brown and crackling crisp, and the whole bird is succulently juicy especially the breast and the whole bird extremely flavorful. The magic of the recipe is the heat of the oven. The bird will cook at 500 F for 1 hour. The pota­toes will have absorbed some of the juices of the chicken. This is a meal fit for kings. I rate this recipe with 5 stars! Boy could my mother cook a chicken!

The regime of very high temperature cooking requires being aware that it is rather easy to burn ingredients if they are not suitable to this heat. Do not pepper the bird or the potatoes as the pepper will just burn. Do not substitute marga­rine for butter as it too will just burn. Do not use a seasoned salt as ingredients in it will also burn.

1 Free range frying chicken (3 ½ ~ 4 ½ pounds)
3~4 Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into wedge shaped slices not too large
1 Stick of melted unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Pepper (after the bird is cooked)

Pre-heat the oven to 500o F. (That is not a mistake - 500!)

Wash chicken well and dry it thoroughly inside and out with paper towels. Remove any excess fat from the cavity flaps. If the cavity opening is too closed down, remove some of the flaps with a sharp knife. The cavity opening should be larger than a golf ball to allow heat to enter. This is vital to correct cooking.

Wipe the bottom of a glass roasting pan with olive oil. (Do NOT line the pan with tin foil.) Cover the bottom of the pan with cut up potatoes wedges. Salt these.

Place the whole chicken on top of the potatoes in the center of the pan. Pour the melted butter over the chicken and the potatoes. Salt the chicken. Roast in center oven rack for one hour until the bird is a dark golden brown.

Remove the bird to a platter and arrange the potatoes around it. Using a spoon, pour some of the juices over the the potatoes. Now pepper the bird and the potatoes. Garnish with a few sprigs of rosemary. Serve on the table.  Use kitchen shears, a sharp knife and thongs for serving. Let stand 8 minutes before carving.

If you have more guests, double the recipe but for best results, use two pans. You may split the chicken down the breastbone and through the back and cook the haves atop the potatoes wing tip up. Then each serving is a half a chicken per person and no further carving is required.

Don’t mess with the heat although, the first time, you will be tempted to turn the oven down, it would be a mistake. Don’t try to stuff the bird either. You may think that a single 4 pound bird is plenty to go around but everyone will want seconds!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rock Cornish Game Hens

Cornish game hens are a small domestic chicken that weigh 16 ~ 24 ounces and may actually be male or female. Cornish game hens are available fresh or frozen year around and taste similar to chicken. For the chef, their smaller size makes them ideal to serve one per guest. These are often served stuffed, but are best  roasted unstuffed for a uniform result and stuffed after they have been cooked. Wild rice mixtures make a good dressing.

    1 Rock Cornish game hen per guest
    Melted butter
    Peeled carrots, chopped
    Celery, chopped
    Quartered whole onions
    Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Line bottom of roasting pan with chopped carrots, celery, and quartered onions. Wash and pat dry hens. Tuck wing tips under so they do not burn. Salt and pepper inside and outside of hens. Liberally butter the outside of the hens and place them on the vegetables. Roast in oven. Baste birds every 15 minutes with additional butter. Roast until the birds are golden brown and the juices form the bird's cavity runs clear. Using latex gloves, dress the birds with your prepared dressing. Set roasted birds on a warm platter. Garnish the platter with a green vegetable like peas or green beans.

Pan sauce
    1 ¼-Cup white wine
    ½ cup chicken stock
    3 Tablespoons port
    1 Tablespoons sherry
    3 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into patties used to mount the sauce

Remove roasting pan to stovetop and apply high heat. Add white wine, chicken stock, port and sherry. Stir the pan contents pressing down on vegetables with a spoon. Cook for four minutes stirring all the white. Strain the sauce into a frying pan. Reduce a little more if too loose. When thickened, remove from heat. Add patties of cold butter and swirl the sauce until the butter has melted. Pour sauce over the games hens.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fine Dining Like Royalty

In former years, patrons could be treated like royalty in a fine dining establishment where white table clothed booths and tables filled an opulent room framed by tuxedoed waiters poised patiently ever attentive for the hint of a look or a nod from a patron.  Busboys and waiters alike would slip around silently, and a missing fork or dropped spoon would  reappear out of nowhere. Someone would scrape any breadcrumbs that had managed to appear between a changes in course. Glasses were refilled and wine poured. Waiter would retire unobtrusively five or more feet back where they could observe if they were again needed. A woman’s menu had no prices because that would be too impolite. It was somewhat ritualistic that a patron would wait for the waiter to place your napkin in your lap. An expected visit with polite chatter with the Maitre ‘D would happen at least twice maybe more times at every table. A good Maitre ‘D remembered your face and said “nice to see you again.”  A great  Maitre ‘D not only knew if you had been to the restaurant before but looked your name up from your reservation or from when you were initially seated. He would greet you with affection by name. If you were drinking wine, the sommelier would visit to see if they could be of service. They knew every dish in the kitchen and knew what the chef recommended as wine with that plate and they could tailor the selection to a price range you suggested.

Courses where delivered from charts and every dish, of every course, was covered with a silver domed server. Salads were served with an ice cold fork on a cold plate. If you ordered oil and vinegar or a Caesar salad, often, the dressing was made at your table the way you like it. The table was set with real silverware and the correct forks, knives or spoons were either already present or changed according to what you ordered. Butter on the table was decoratively molded and on an iced butter boat. Everyone had four types of glassware. If you ordered a fine bottle of wine at dinner, you maybe offered Havana cigars from their fancy humidor. A purposed cart and dessert waiter while supervised by the Maitre ‘D. would attend a special dessert prepared at the table

I am fortunate to say that my wife, Vicki and I attended quite a few of these memorable restaurants. Today’s trend in less ostentatious, less fancy, fewer staff, toward more affordable. If you can get that old style experience, know that it is an increasingly rare event that should be savored. It is certainly great to be royalty, even if it is only once.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

It is hard to think of a more satisfying comfort food than macaroni and cheese. This is my new method, which is easier because buying the cheese in thin slices eliminates the tedious task of grading cheese. I now use only white Vermont and Munster. I stop using small elbow macaroni as it does not yield enough pasta. This recipe uses rigatoni.

1 ½ Pounds rigatoni
4 tablespoons sweet butter
4 tablespoons AP flour
½ Pound white Vermont sliced thin
½ Pound Munster sliced thin
1 Cup Heavy cream
Half and Half as needed
Pinch of sweet paprika
1 Teaspoon Garlic powder
1 Teaspoon onion powder
Pinch of nutmeg (optionally)
Pinch white pepper
Salt to taste, if needed

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bring a covered pot with 4 quarts water to a boil. Begin cooking the pasta, keeping in mind, that while you’re making the sauce, the pasta should be drained as soon as it is “al dente”.

Melt butter in a large casserole dish over low heat, add flour. Stir while cooking until very slightly light brown. Whisk in cream over medium heat. Bring to a boil, adding more half and half as it thickens.  Add a slice each of both cheeses, whisking as they melt. Alternatively add half and half and cheese until the volume of sauce has increase to fill half the casserole. Whisk in pinch of sweet paprika, garlic, onion powders and ample white pepper. Taste then correct seasonings.

Whisk in pinch of sweet paprika and a pinch white pepper. Add grated Fontina cheese and slowly heat to melt stirring frequently. Now add half the grated cheddar cheese and slowly heat to melt stirring frequently. Add in the cooked pasta. You will need to stir this very well insuring the sauce is distributed evenly all over the pasta.

Top with slices of both cheeses. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and browned.
  1. Rigatoni are a form of tube-shaped pasta of varying lengths and diameters originating in Italy. They are larger than penne and ziti, and sometimes slightly curved, though nowhere near as curved as elbow macaroni. Rigatoni characteristically have ridges down their length.
  2. If your kids expect all “Mac and cheese” to be yellow, you may use yellow food coloring to the desired shade of yellow.  I skip it.
  3. This is not the French version of Muenster but the milder and less expensive Wisconsin, New York or Vermont version.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kae's Melting Moments - Cookies

2 Cups flour
2 Teaspoons baking powder
½ Teaspoon salt
½ Cup powdered sugar
1 Cup sweet butter
1 Teaspoon vanilla
Optionally, 1 teaspoon almond extract or almond oil

Lemon Icing
Powdered sugar
Lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Yellow food coloring added until icing is lemon colored
Finely minced lemon zest

Cream sugar and butter, then sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix with butter mixture until well mixed. Refrigerate until easy to handle (2 hours is plenty).  Pre-heat oven to  350 F.

Form small rounds of dough and flatten with a fork coated with flour on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 F for 10~12 minutes.

When cool, ice with lemon icing that is made to taste.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Maude's Old Fashion Chocolate Fudge

I do not know Kae’s (my mother) friend Maude but this simple recipe looks like a fun project for the grandkids and Grandma or Grandpa.

12 Marshmallows (some also for kids to eat)
¾ Cup evaporated milk
2 Cups sugar
1 Cup walnuts
6 Ounce package of chocolate chips
1 Stick (1/4 pound) salted butter
1 Teaspoon vanilla

Combine Marshmallows, milk and sugar and bring to a boil. Stir and cook seven minutes once boiling. In a heat proof bowl, add chocolate chips and butter. Pour over boiling mixture and beat until well mixed. Stir in nuts. Turnout mixture into a butter pan and cool overnight.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sichuan (Schezuan) Pepper aka Prickly Ash

This pepper is not actually a member the pepper family. It has a unique aroma and flavor that is neither hot nor pungent; rather it has lemony flavor and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth that enhances chilies usually used with it. Only the outer husks are used; the shiny black seeds are discarded as they have a hard gritty sand-like texture. Husks are stemmed then toasted before mortared or ground then added to the dish just before serving.

Sichuan pepper are one of the traditional ingredients in the Chinese spice mixture five-spice powder and also Japanese  shichimi togarashi, a seven ingredient seasoning often found as a shaker on the condiment tray of your Asian noodle shop. Shichimi togarashi is made typically with equal parts each of ground red chiles and ground sansho (berries of the prickly ash tree related to Sichuan pepper) plus one portion each of the following: dried orange or yuzu peel, black sesame, white sesame, ginger, and nori flakes.

Due to their lemony undertones, this pepper works well with duck, chicken and fish.

Sichuan culinary history reaches all the way back to the Ba and Shu kingdoms in the 21st to 5th centuries BC. During the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), a 50 volume  cookbook was published. Despite its reputation to the contrary, not all Sichuan food is red-hot. Of the eight major culinary cuisines in China, Sichuan cuisine is perhaps the most popular throughout the country and across the world.

Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken)

This dish may well be the world's most popular Chinese dish and is a excellent show case for the Sichuan pepper flavor. It is also one of the few Chinese dishes that have largely remained authentic yet served worldwide. A blend hot, sweet and sour, this delightful chicken dish is also quick to prepare. The chicken slices easier if it is slightly frozen. Note that when the chilies are left whole, the dish is less hot than in they were broken up. For this reason, I use whole arbor chilies that are quite hot.

2 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin bite sized pieces
3 Cloves of garlic, minced finely
1 Tablespoon finely minced peeled ginger
Whites of 5 scallion, sliced on the diagonal into 1 inch lengths
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
Handful of whole dried red chilies (show courage)
1 Teaspoon toasted ground Sichuan peppers added just before serving
2/3 Cup roasted peanuts

2 Teaspoon Tamari (less salty) soy sauce
1 Teaspoon sweet rice wine or Shaoxing wine
1½ Teaspoon cornstarch
1 Teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon water

2 Teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoon cornstarch
1 Teaspoon Mushroom soy sauce
1 Teaspoon Tamari soy sauce
2 Teaspoon Chinkiang (Black rice vinegar) or seasoned rice vinegar
1 Teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 Teaspoon Marin
1 Tablespoon chicken stock or water
Pick out any black seeds or stems from a tablespoon of Sichuan pepper berries. Heat a small pan until hot and toast pepper berries until fragrant (30 seconds or so). Turn out into a mortar or grinder. Grind into a not too course grind. Set aside.

Prepare garlic, ginger, and scallions. Assemble the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Cut the chicken into thin bite sized pieces. Thin strips cook quickly and maintain tenderness when flash cooked in the wok. Add the marinade ingredients and stir in the chicken pieces. Let marinate 15 minutes.

Into a hot wok, add peanut oil and then toss the whole chilies until fragrant. Drain then add and stir-fry chicken for several minutes until nearly fully cooked. Now add the ginger, garlic, and spring onions and stir-fry another minute. Stir the sauce ingredient then add to wok. Continue to cook. As soon as the sauce has thickened, mix in the peanuts. Remove from heat and sprinkle with ground Sichuan peppers. Serve immediately.

Very good with plain steamed Jasmine rice.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Good Life

Photo by Steve Salkow
Perhaps one of the greatest things I ever ate was fresh tuna Sashimi at Mama's fish house on the island of Maui, Hawaii. The fish was speared that morning by one of the restaurant's two divers. This welcoming place, and Maui's Favorite Restaurant, is located on Maui's North Shore. The view though the open windows under the shade of the coconut palms is this gorgeous curved Kuau Cove featured in this photograph.
Sashimi is the epitome of simple. It is raw fished sliced into mouth sized pieces that is served with fragrant hand-grated wasabi-root and a soy dipping sauce. It is a bell ringer reminder you do not need fancy to make wonderful!
Another favorite dinner is simply fresh oysters in their half-shelves, horseradish, Tabasco and a handy bottle of fine Russian vodka. Pretty hard to beat.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Baking Biscotti (Italian for Biscuit)

These twice cooked Italian cookies make for a good holiday gift. Traditionally biscotti are with almonds although pistacios are also frequently used. These hard crusty cookies in Italy are served morning or evening with a "una bella tazza di caffe".
Italian Biscotti Jars
These instructions are more for process preparation than as a recipe. Cookies are to be cooked on parchment paper on a doubled walled cookie sheet. (The double wall prevents burning and gives even results.) To get consistent results, pipe lines of dough in even adjacent rows, apart from each other. Use full circle pipe nozzle. Allow for expansion between rows as well at the ends. The rows may be 4-6 pipes wide necessary to make a biscotti 3-4 inches wide. Traditionally the cookies are long and thin.

Even though baked twice, the initial baking should be thorough. Once baked to a golden brown or to the point that a toothpick inserted comes back dry and clean, allow cookies to cool. Slice into 3/4 inch cookies with a sharp serrated knife. Separate to allow an even second baking and re-bake cut side down to drive out remaining moisture. Cool and store in air tight container.

Typical recipe for 100 cookies

1 Cup sweet butter
5 Eggs
4 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon of baking powder
1 Tablespoon baking soda (helps over come acid of lime juice)
2 Teaspoons vanilla
2 Cups chopped blanched almonds (page  )
2 Cups sugar
Zest of lime
1 Cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 Cup candied ginger, chopped finely

Bake 375 F for 20 minutes. Second baking, cut side down, 375 F 10-15 minutes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Flat Enchiladas Enchiladas Chatas in 3 minutes!

San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Flat (chatas) enchiladas are very popular in Sonoran Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico where they are also called enchiladas montadasor (mounted) and may be topped with one or more fried egg.  In this recipe, there is no frying, so these enchiladas are quicker and have fewer calories than the conventional rolled variety. Since these are cooked on their own plate, there are no pans to cleanup. This recipe works very well in the microwave but may be cooked in a 425 F oven until bubbly hot. (Use a potholder to grab the plate.) A great sauce will make a great enchiladas but it can be made a day, week, or months ahead of time and kept frozen until needed.

4 Tablespoons La Milpa Enchiladas Sauce (Chile Colorado), warmed
3 White corn tortillas
4 Tablespoons white melting cheese 50% each Monterey jack and queso fresco
Chopped iceberg lettuce with tomatoes slices, tossed in a vinaigrette
Chopped green onions
Chopped cilantro
Fried eggs if desired.

Assemble enchilada: Place 1 tablespoon of enchilada sauce on a microwave/oven safe plate and top with a tortilla. Spoon over tablespoon of enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and add next tortilla, add more sauce and cheese. Top with last tortilla, follow by another tablespoon of enchilada sauce then cheese. Microwave 3 minutes on high. (Alternately, preparre several servings and bake in 425 F oven. Let rest 1 minute then garnish plate with lettuce, tomatoes, and scallions, chopped cilantro, and optionally, fried eggs.

La Milpa Enchiladas Sauce (Chile Colorado)

La Milpa Enchiladas Sauce (Chile Colorado)
Traditional enchiladas are seasoned with chili pepper made from a variety of dried red chile peppers soaked or ground into a sauce with other spices. A mix of different chilies gives a better flavor.  It is important to cook the sauce until no graininess from chilies remains. I often include a dried chipotle pepper for smokiness. A rendered pork fat is more flavorful than plain lard. Do not use commercial chili powder as it usually has too much cumin.

2 Dried Ancho or pasilla chilies
1 dried aji amarillo chilies
Optionally, add 2 level teaspoons of hot New Mexico ground chile pow­der if you want a hotter sauce or 2 dried hot guajillo chili. Add additional arbor peppers if you want even more heat.
2 ½ Cups homemade chicken stock
2 Large clove of garlic or more if you like
3 Tablespoons rendered pork fat (manteca)
2 Tablespoons white all-purpose flour
Pinch of ground cumin
Optionally, pinch of ground Mexican oregano
¼ Cup cream or half-half
Pinch or two of sugar as required - see text

Break open chili pods discarding stems, internal tissues and membranes and seeds. (Optionally wash chilies, shake off excess water, and then toast in hot dry pan 30-45 seconds until fragrant.) Soak chili pods in hot water for 60 minutes until soft. Discard water. Place in blender with 2 ½ cups hot chicken stock and garlic. Add optional hot New Mexico ground chili powder if required. Process until very finely blended, maybe 2 full minutes. Strain results through a sieve using a wooden spoon and reserve sieved chili stock. Make a roux by blending 2 tablespoons of the pork fat and flour and cook it on low until it is a medium brown color. Remove from heat. Whisk in sieved chili stock, cumin and cook on stove over very low heat for 1 hours adding water or more chicken stock as needed. Taste the sauce for heat, and if not spicy enough, add more ground HOT chili powder. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Correct salt and add sugar and cream as required. The amount of sugar should not be per­ceptible and is used to just take any bitter edge off. Salt will also help moderate the bitter undertones. The cream serves to mellow the sauce.

1. Since this posting, I now have devloped a sauce based on an optimal blend of chiles - see my post for
Tex-Mex Enchilada Chilli Blend.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wente’s Corn Madeleines

The Mexican assistant-chef at Wente Vineyard made these and gave the recipe to my mother at the same period in the 1970’s that pastry chef Dana Forkas worked her magic there.

Williams and Sonoma Non- Stick Pan
5 Tablespoons each of  white and yellow cornmeal
1 1/3 Cup A.P. Flour
¾ Teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoon sugar
2 Medium eggs
1 ¼ Cup buttermilk
½ Cup melted butter
½ Cup red peppers, seeded, minced
½ Cup onion, minced
½ Cup fresh corn kernels (from 1 ear), steamed 10 minutes

Preheat oven to 425 F. Prepare two greased madeleine pans. Combine and mix well dry ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients and then peppers, onion, and corn. Mix on low speed until uniformly well mixed. Pipe mixture into madeleine pans, filling the molds about 3/4 full. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges have browned. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a rack. Serve warm.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Simplest Potato Salad

For the nutritional value, potatoes are inexpensive and available year round. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. This is a no frills recipe:

Steam assorted varieties of fingerling potatoes until just fork tender. Refrigerate until cool or cold. Slice on the diagonal. Garnish with tomato slices and a pinch of basil. Dress with oil and vinegar and salt and pepper.
Voilà - tastes as good as it looks.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lori’s Stuffed Italian Tomatoes - Pomodori Repieni al Forno

Lori’s recipe is a favorite of mine. When summer came and the tomatoes were at the peak season of their season, these little beauties were quickly consumed no matter how may were made.
1 Cup uncooked long grain white rice
6 Tablespoons of non-filtered extra virgin olive oil.
8 Large vine ripen tomatoes (Early Girl is a great variety)
1 Teaspoon ground black pepper and some salt
6 Large cloves of very finely chopped Italian red garlic
1 Large bunch of Italian parsley chopped fine

Cut the “lid” off the tomatoes and retain. Being careful not to pierce wall of tomato, hollow out tomato cores with a spoon and retain pulp. (I use a small sharp knife tip run around the inside edge of the tomato, followed by an X-shape cut through the core not deep enough to pierce the bottom of the tomato, the fol­low up with a spoon.) Reserve the tomato pulp. Add tomato pulp, pepper, garlic, rice, and salt all together. Squeeze tomato pulp through your hands to break it up. Stuff tomatoes with mixture but make them flat on top. Cover each tomato with its own tomato lid and place in a shallow glass-baking dish. Drizzle tomatoes with oil.

Cook very slowly for 4 hours on 325 F. Baste the liquid that runs in the pan back over each tomato, starting at 30 minutes and every 30 minutes there after. After three hours, test rice with a fork, if still too hard, add a few teaspoons of water to each tomato top. When cooked, and cooled, transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with your best tasting olive oil. Serve lukewarm. Garnish platter with a few large springs of parsley.

1.  For this recipe, the rice will be slightly crunchy in spots as not 100% of it completely cooks by this method. I think it is part of why I like these so much. As an alternative, in the first 15 minutes of cooking, the stuffed tomatoes are covered with tin foil, the rice gets cook completely but the tomatoes and the rice both seem overcooked and often the tomato may split. It is only through very slow cooking that produces an intense tomato flavor and gets so sweet.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cooking from Scratch

First, there was darkness, and, then a BIG BANG… 19 billions year went by, mankind’s ancestors crawled out of the mud. Not long after that, they published The Joy of Cooking. Viola, we were soon cooking with confidence. Why you say?  Because Irma Rombauer had written down easy to follow information and how-tos for the home chef. Soon we were off confident we could render squirrel, opossum and raccoon so armed with the confident words of this conversational cookbook.

Super markets and more cookbooks later almost anything is practical although a few of us may hesitate to stay up so late at night as be afforded the opportunity for opossum. Cooking from Scratch is quite satisfying. Tara Stolz, a blogger from Florida points out there is “not much that can't be made at home, better and/or cheaper. And, of course, she is right as rain! (http://cooking-from-scratch.blogspot.com)

My friend Bob Kong called me one afternoon and threw down a challenge – did I have a recipe on preparing caviar. His friend Larry had given him a seventy-five pound sturgeon. I quickly searched The Joy of Cooking and found a recipe. I called Bob back with the good news. I said I would help. Turns out, Bob had heard Larry incorrectly; the fish was too big for Larry to weigh but the roe weighed 75 pounds. We did not get out of the kitchen until three in the morning. The effort, nonetheless, was a great satisfaction. We had the best caviar I had ever tasted. Bob gave me 10 pounds of the finish product. I served some to my father who said not only was it as good as Beluga. but it was the first time in his life where he actually had as much caviar as he wanted at one sitting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chèvre is French for Goat (revised)

Greek Feta cheese has a distinctive salty, tangy flavor and crumbly texture. The world of cheeses have many similar cheeses yet newspaper foodies exult only feta. This cheese is made from sheeps milk, or from a mixture of sheep and goats’ milk There are thousands of alternative cheeses.

For topping pizza or making a salad, there are endless alternatives that are worth trying. Many of these have less salt, which in the case of salt restrictive diets make the healthier choices:

Teleme (smooth-tart flavor without the salt), Bryndza (one of the softest crumbly type of cheese, Queso fresco (less slat), Queso cotija, fresh Mizithra (contains less salt), Montrachet (texture is softer, moister and it contains less salt).

Many French cheeses simply blow my socks off. Buche de Chevre (La Buchêtte chèvre) is a cheese that is sharp and tangy near the rind becoming successively richer and creamier towards its center. From salad to pizza, to stuffed quail or chicken breast, there is little time to try all the cheese possibilities. When our family visited France, we found every single town made their own wonderful cheeses.

Often we seem to get stuck in a rut. Should we always use cream cheese for cheese blintzes? How about a variation on the ricotta in lasanga? Should all cannoli made with mascarpone? Why not a goat cheese cheesecake? I am wondering what a cheese blintze would be like made with a rich and creamy French Reblochon cheese?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Death to the 30-Minute Meal

I marinate steak longer than that. You come home worn out, everyone’s hungry, what to do next!

In Italy, where life is no different from here, their habits are tuned by centuries of traditions to their advantage. We move to the patio where the table looks out on the garden. Unceremoniously, the chef brings to the table a half of bottle of wine, a cutting board, half a loaf of bread, a knife, some salami, some cheese, a tin of olive oil and a handful of basil leaves freshly pinched from the garden. Grandma yells at the kids to go wash their hands. Soon a clanging of glass, silverware and small plates is heard as elbows bend and heads bob munching the savory offerings. A big pot of water with a pinch of salt goes on the stove. Grandpa is opening another bottle of wine. The sound of laughter echoes from the patio. Grandma sends one of the kids around back to pick a small bowl of ripe tomatoes from the garden for a sauce while she crushes fresh garlic and slices some pancetta on a cutting board for a sauce. There is no sense or urgency; after all, the city traffic has been horrendous- but now we are home- “siamo a casa” where life is good.  We have the family.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Old Bath House Restaurant Basic Souffle

The Old Bath House, which closed in 2005, was a landmark romantic location in Monterey, California with great food, service and great wines. The Old Bath House  looked out over Lovers Point over the Monterey Bay. You order this dessert at the start of the meal and saved room in anticipation.

7 Ounces butter (14 Tablespoons or 1 stick plus 6 Tablespoons)
1 Cup flour
1 Cup milk
½ Teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ Cup cream
1 1/3 Cups sugar
12 Egg yolks
            12 Egg whites

 Photo by Bob Aronson
Butter and sugar a soufflé mold and pre-heat oven to 375 F.
Combine butter and flour in a sauce pan and heat on very low heat to make a roux1. Over medium heat, add milk and cream, stir until thickened. Add sugar and allow to thicken again. Remove from heat and whisk in egg yolks. Beat the egg whites with ½ teaspoon cream of tartar until stiff peaks form and are they are shiny. Mix a spoonful of the egg white into the batter to lighten it. Next, fold in the remaining egg whites in the batter. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes.
For a chocolate soufflé add 14 ounces melted chocolate and 1/3 cup of dark rum when the mixture is off the heat, before adding the egg yolks.
For strawberry soufflé, add ½ cup of strawberry puree and 1/3 cup of Johannes­burg Riesling when mixture is off heat, before adding the egg yolks.
      1.  roux is a mixture of flour and butter

Friday, June 10, 2011

Waking the Palate - Appetizers Pave the Way

The appetizer is akin to a symphonic overture setting the stage for what’s to follow. Olives, capers, lemon, olive oil, crunchy bread, garlic, cheese, wine, salty, tart, spicy, sour can help start ringing the dinner bell. Appetizers have become a very important part of social life and facilitate our coming together.

When the weather turns unbearable, “grazing on appetizers” is highly appealing and can be completely extemporaneous. The diversity of savory dishes and a simple salad can be imminently attractive to your guest. It is more informal that a sit down dinner and easier on the chef. It has no set start or stop time and does not carry the more formal obligation to reciprocate. No rules, no place settings, no correct salad fork, just fun with friends.

As a chef, it is your chance to show your creativity not necessarily preparing all, or for that matter, any on the offerings but assembling a culinary collection of foods and wines that you find interesting and fun. Glorious summer is upon us.

Try a soft Chèvre (goat) cheese, which has a more pungent flavor than a cream cheese but a similar mouth feel.  It pairs exceptional well with herbs, toasted nuts, cracked black pepper, onion and garlic or may be topped with a fruit like grilled mango on a bruschetta.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cream of Tomato Soup to the Rescue

This is a quick and easy tomato soup to rescue a sick friend when you need "first-aid soup" straight away. It is made with fresh tomatoes but, if not available, use organic low-sodium San Marzano tomatoes (30 oz can.) The best of these are imported from Naples Italy and the can will bear the DOP mark.

4 Large fresh sweet tomatoes from your garden
1 Carrot, chopped fine
1 Small onion, chopped fine
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Cup chicken stock
1 Teaspoon of triple concentrated tomato paste
¼ Teaspoon white pepper
1/8th Teaspoon garlic powder
1/8th Teaspoon of red pepper (more if you like soup spicy)
1 Tablespoon gravy flour
1/3 to ½ Cup heavy cream
Juice from one half a lemon, if soup tastes too flat
Sea Salt to taste

Sauté the carrot and onion in 2 tablespoons butter on medium in a tall sauté pan until the onion is translucent. Add can San Marzano tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes, chicken stock, tomato paste, garlic powder, white pepper, red pepper. Blend soup with a post blender until smooth. Cook for twenty minutes. Add 1 tablespoon gravy flour. Boil a few minutes to thicken. Taste. Correct seasoning by adding sea salt, additional pepper in needed and taste again. If too flat tasting, add lemon juice as required. Taste again. Add 1/3 to ½ cup heavy cream.

Stir and serve with a few wedges of toasted buttered whole grain bread.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pizza Dough and Baking Pizza on your Grill

In my book, Generations of Passionate Home Cooking, I explain in detail the process of producing a good sourdough starter/sponge.  On the leeners web site they go over the process in some detail using their Goldrush Sourdough Starter. Superior pizza dough is like Nirvana – it is a trifecta of taste, chew, and smell. Like all things exceedingly worthwhile, it requires the best ingredients.
Pizza Dough
1 1/2 Cup of sourdough yeast sponge
1 Tablespoons SAF Red Instant yeast
Optionally, 2 tablespoons King Arthur Pizza Dough Flavor
1 Cup of King Arthur’s Italian-Style Flour (“00” milled) (8.5% protein level) more as required
3 Cup of King Arthur Artisan Organic All Purpose Flour*
1 + 1 Teaspoons salt added at two times
Bottled drinking water
Great flavor olive oil

Combine flours and mix well. Early in the morning, pour the sponge (1 ½ cups of it) into your work bowl. Add yeast, half the salt, 1 cup of flour and bottled drink­ing water until the mix is loose. Let this stand covered with a wet cloth for an hour.

Now stir in 3 cups of flour with the other half of the salt with a paddle or by hand until the dough is still a little sticky. This is moisture dependent. Adding more liquid allows more flour. The flour should be added a little at a time. Add a little more "00" flour if needed

Now hand-knead the dough or mix it with a dough hook setting the speed to low for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is somewhat smooth and elastic. If doing this with a mixer, do not add too much flour. The dough should be somewhat sticky else, it will be too dry. If necessary, add back gradually a little water until the consis­tency is just right.

Coat the insides of a clean stainless steel or glass bowl with a film of great olive oil. Now turn the dough in it to coat it all over. Now cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a wet towel and set it in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it doubles in volume. You may place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. The cold retards the whole operation but an extra day develops further character and nutrition. You pickup where you left off the previous day, once the dough has come back to room temperature.

When double in volume, punch down and knead until the dough is glossy and fully elastic. Cover and let rise again to twice volume. Punch down the dough and divide it with a knife or scissors into four or six equal balls, depending on the size pizzas you are making. Dust dough ball in flour, shake of excess. Roll out dough ball very thin trying to keep the thickness uniform on parchment paper larger than the pizza. You may stack the “blanks” on their parchment paper, one of top of another until ready to make pizza. Assemble pizza per recipe and trim parchment paper to just larger than the pizza. Place pizza and its parchment paper on cooking stone using a batten. Don’t have a bat­ten you say? A double walled cookie sheet is very stiff and will work fine as a batten. You also use the batten to retrieve the cooked pizza by sliding the parch­ment paper onto it.

Watch video for more information.

*  can use Artisinal Flour also by Kind Arthur which is hard winter wheat. It adds a better taste and contributes a better chew.

Making Homemade Pizza on the Grill