Saturday, April 21, 2007

Argentine Chimichurri Sauce

My wife wants to celebrate a friends birthday, and her recent engagement while they were on vacation in Argentina. She decided to throw a surprise party next Saturday, and invite 14 people to an Argentine Feast to recreate the memory of their engagement.

Argentine cuisine evolved distinctly from the rest of Latin American cuisine because of the heavy influence of Italian, Spanish, French and other European cuisines which makes the typical Argentine diet a variation on what is often called the Mediterranean diet.

Argentines are famous for their high protein diet, particularly beef. Grilled meat (parrilla) from the asado is a staple, with steak and beef ribs especially common. Chorizo (pork sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), chinchulines (chitterlings), mollejas (sweetbread), and other parts of the animal are enjoyed. In Patagonia, lamb and chivito — goat — are eaten more than beef. Whole lambs and goats can be seen on the asado. While Argentina has a large seacoast most of the fish caught is exported, and is not consumed there because of the abundance of beef, pork, and poultry.

South America is quickly gaining recognition for producing wines of exceptional quality that are still reasonably priced. Argentina and Chile have taken Old World grapes and found varieties uniquely suited to their particularly long growing seasons.

One up and coming variety is Malbec. Originally from the Bordeaux region where it is used primarily as a blending grape, Malbec is also the dominant grape of the famous black wines of Cahors in southwest France. But it truly thrives in the sunny, dry Argentine climate, producing fruity wines loaded with blackberry and black cherry flavors. Argentine Malbecs are similar in flavor to their European counterparts, but with softer, lusher structure, more like New World Merlot.

Lesser known is Carmenère, a variety once widely cultivated in Bordeaux and sometimes labeled Grande Vidure. In 1991 winemakers discovered that 40 percent of the vines in Chile that were believed to be Merlot were actually Carmenère. Stronger and spicier than Merlot and lower in acidity, this grape produces wines with soft tannins, rich color and aroma, and abundant flavor. Ever since Chile began actively marketing Carmenère in the mid-1990s, it has come to symbolize that nation, much as Shiraz has come to represent Australia.

The national sauce of Argentina is called Chimmichurri, and if you are going to have an Argentine Feast you will need lots of it on hand. This recipe comes from my friend David Holt, and it will make 3 cups which is about what we need for marinating, basting, and dipping.

The taste of Chimichurri is often described as dragging your steak through a garden.

Chimichurri Sauce

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar, or to taste
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Juice of 1 lemon ( I sometimes just use limes)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Argentinian Feast Menu

We are going to put together a menu from the following items. I will be sharing the recipes for everything throughout the week as we plan the dinner party.

Main Dishes

The Argentines love their organ meats, while Americans of this generation are a little bit squeamish when it comes to such things as sweetbreads. We are going to keep it simple by using Flank Steak which marinates well, and slices easily. We are also going to use some fresh sausages of various types.

The marinated game hens weigh about 1 pound each, and I have the butcher saw them in half. I marinate them the night before, grill them in the morning to get a nice char, then finish them in the oven stuffed with a mixture of chorizo, spinach, caramelized onion, corn, raisins, pine nuts, and a little bit of cornbread to hold it all together. You can use any type of game bird, but split game hens are easy to marinate, safe to stuff, easy to order, and make an elegant presentation.

For the seafood we try to find the freshest white fish available and grill it with a finish of capers, and marinated artichokes.

Chimichurri Flank Steak
Grilled Sausages Basted with Chimichurri sauce
Marinated Games Hens
Fresh Snapper or other white ocean fish

Side Dishes

Sides are simple in Argentina, and as you would guess corn plays a major role, but with an Italian twist. A polenta with Poblano chiles and cheese works well as a starch.

Salads are very simple in Argentina, and are a popular side to beef dishes. the Fresh Mozzarella, and sliced tomato harken back to the Italian influence.

Grilled Asparagus and Baby Squash
Polenta with Poblano Chile, and Cheese
Tomato's and Fresh Mozzarella
Tossed Green Salad

Assorted Miniature Emapanda's

Empanadas, or small meat pies are served all over the world. The Argentine version has Moorish influences that came over with Spanish settlers. Empananda's are easy to make if you purchase Goya wrappers at a Latin Market. If not just use pie dough and make your own. The meat recipe we will use is strictly Argentine with cumin, chorizo, and raisins, etc... . the others are just ones we thought up as we were going. We decided to make our own because the one's we found pre-made were pretty pedestrian.

Meat Empanadas
Bacon Empanadas
Seafood Empanadas

Assorted Miniature Tamales

Yes, they do have variations of Tamales all over South America. We cheated here by buying some from Williams Sonoma. They are excellent, individually wrapped in different colors. They are a great time saver if you can spare the $64 including shipping for three pounds of these puppies. Sure you can make them at home for a fraction, but why bother when you have so many other things going on before a big party?

Beef and California Chile Tamales
Chicken and Smoked Gouda Tamales
Pork with Green Chile Tamales
Blue Corn Green Chile and Jack Cheese Tamales

Charcuterie

Argentina like Spain is known for Jambon which is a dry cured ham which is very similar to Prociutto. We make it easy on ourselves and purchase sliced Italian specialty meats including prosciutto, garnished with cheese, olives, and large capers.

Ceviche Cocktails

Ceviche is a native dish of Peru, but it served all over Latin America, and the Caribbean. Ceviche consists of white fish cooked in lime juice with red onions and mild hot peppers.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pork Tenderloin with Michigan Cherry Sauce

I think it's Spring, at least that is what the calendar on the wall says despite the 4 inches of snow on the ground and winds raging between 30-40 mph today in Chicago.

This pork tenderloins recipe works well with fresh, or frozen cherries.

1 pork tenderloin, about 1 pound
½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup pitted Bing cherries (see note)
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch bits

Cut the pork tenderloin into 6 pieces. Put the pieces, one at a time, between layers of plastic wrap and use a meat tenderizer or rolling pin to pound them into rounds about 4 inches across. Sprinkle the rounds with the salt and pepper.

Put the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, and when the oil is hot, cook the pork, turning once, until the surface of each piece is golden brown, about 7 minutes altogether.

Use tongs or a fork to transfer the pork to a plate. Toss the cherries in the oil left behind in the pan. Pour the chicken broth and balsamic vinegar over the cherries and turn the heat to high.

When the broth has boiled down to about half its original volume and the cherries are tender, about 5 minutes, return the pork to the pan, along with any juices that have collected on the plate.

Reheat the pork in the sauce for a minute, then transfer it to serving plates. Swirl the butter into the pan juices and pour the sauce over the pork.

Monday, April 9, 2007

April Showers

Well, here we are in April and I have gotten a little behind in updating the blog. I think one of the reasons is we have gotten a little repititious in our meal planning at home as the weather cooled back down. Nothing stifles the creativity more than a cold snap in early Spring. If you are not in Chicago I want you to know that we had a White Easter.

The Lenten diet ended on Good Friday, but I really wasn't able to take advantage of much because of the holiday. That's right, no Culver Burger. The diest worked well, in six weeks I shed 23 pounds which isn't bad. Anyway we will have some more recipes up soon as we get back into the swing of things.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Halibut with Citrus Dill Butter

Spring is here and that means we are going to see a lot of fresh ocean fish start rolling in from the West Coast. Halibut recently arrived into local markets and I have had it three different times in the last couple of weeks.

Halibut is one of those things that is very easy to make, and is very good when fresh, in fact the fresher the better. I like to broil it in the oven, or grill it up out side on the bbq. I just place it on a piece of foil and it is ready to go.

Citrus works well with Halibut and sometimes I do a quick marinade of fresh tangerine and lim juice when I have the time.

Halibut with Citrus Dill Butter

1 LB Fresh Halibut
1 Orange, or Tangerine
1 Lime
1 oz Butter
Dill

Place the Halibut Filet on a piece of foil and grill on the bbbq, or broil in the oven till a golden brown. I usually make a compound butter of lime, tangerine, and dill to serve on top. Simple, easy, and good for you.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Perfect Prime Rib

I've cooked Prime Rib a lot of different ways, smoked, rotisserie style outside, indirect on a gas, or charcoal BBQ, timed in the oven at a constant temp with a meat thermometer, encased in rock salt, and finally today's recipe which requires a little math to put together the correct cooking time. I actually like this one the best because it produces the great crust you expect when you dine out at a restaurant which specializes in Prime Rib.

This recipe if followed correctly produces perfect Prime Rib with little hassle.

1. Coat the Prime Rib with olive oil, kosher salt, rosemary, cracked pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and diced fresh onion. Wrap in a plastic bag and let marinate overnight in the fridge.

2. Preheat oven to 500° degrees F.

3. It is easy to determine the exact cooking time to roast a prime rib by multiplying the weight of the roast by 5 minutes. Be as accurate as possible. Example: The prime rib roast weighs 5.53 pounds. Multiply 5.53 (pounds) times 5 (minutes) which equals = 27.65. This means the prime rib will roast for (27.65) or 28 minutes at 500° degrees F. After 28 minutes immediately turn the oven temperature off. Do not open the oven door during the next 2 hours the prime rib roast is still cooking.

(Make sure you take the Prime Rib out of the fridge 2-3 hours ahead of time so it can go into the oven at room temperature.)

This method will cook a perfectly medium rare prime rib, roasted to perfection producing a crispy outer crust and perfectly cooked throughout.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mini Taco Salads

We had Mexican Night on Sunday and everyone brought Mexican themed food. So we are going to continue on with that theme this week. Mini Taco Salads are a great appetizer that are easy to make ahead of time and keep in the freezer till needed.

Mini Taco Salads

Frozen Mini Pastry Shells
1 lb Ground Beef
Taco Seasoning
Small Can of Salsa
Water
Finely Diced Onion
Finely Diced Sweet Peppers
Shredded Lettuce
Sour Cream

Brown ground beef, and drain the grease. Season with Taco Seasoning, and brown a little more, add salsa and water, simmer for twenty minutes.

Finely dice the onions and sweet peppers, shred and dice the lettuce

Spoon taco meat into the shells, top with cheese, and bake in the oven for ten minutes at 350, or freeze for later use.

Take out of the oven, and top with the diced vegetables, a little sour cream, and serve. Never freeze the lettuce, peppers, and onions, always add them fresh when you are about to serve.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Easy Chile Relleno's

Chiles Rellenos are made of Chile Poblano (Ancho) or Anaheim chiles, with skins removed, dipped in batter, stuffed with cheese, or meat, and covered with lightly spiced green, or red sauce. Blistering fresh chiles is one of the tricks of the Mexican food cooking, and it can be a major pain in the ass if you are making these in any type of quantity. You can however buy mild, whole, canned green chili's which makes putting these together a snap. You can find everything you need at any Super Mercado. I like to make this dish, and bring it to pot luck's, or dinner parties. They are easy to make and always a hit.

Easy Chile Rellenos

2 Large Cans Mild Whole Green Chili's
1 lb Chorizo Sausage
1 lb Grated Cheddar Jack Cheese
6 Eggs
Salt
Cayenne
1/4 cup Flour
1/8 cup Corn Meal
2 cans Salsa Verde

Cook the bulk chorizo until browned and crumbly. Blend with 1/2 the cheddar jack cheese and stuff into the peppers.

Seperate the yolks from the egg whites. Whip the egg whites with an electric mixer till peaks form. Beat the egg yolks with one tablespoon flour and salt. Mix the yolks into egg whites and stir until you have a thick paste.

Roll the chiles in 1/4 cup flour and dip each one in the egg batter. Coat evenly. Fry, seam side down on both sides until golden brown. Place on paper towels to drain.

Place the fried Chile Relleno's in a caserole pan, it's ok to stack if neccesary, and top with Salsa Verde, and the grated Cheddar Jack cheese. Heat in oven at 350 until cheese bubbles and serve.

Low Carb Variation

Substitute Low Carb Thickener for the flour in the egg batter. Substitute Soy Flour for the wheat flour and you cut out all the carbs.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Grilled Flank Steak with Pesto

I like to marinate Flank Steak overnight before cooking with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic, and either Red Wine Vinegar, or Balsamic. The Balsamic can be a little strong but is great when I am in the mood for it. Sometimes we roll, stuff, and grill it, other times we just grill it, and slice it on the bias, serve it with salad and grilled vegetables.

Flank Steak is incedibly simple, and it tastes great.

One Flank Steak
Red Wine Vinegar
Chopped Garlic
Olive Oil
Rosemary
Kosher Salt
Pepper

Marinate the Flank Steak overnight and grill on the BBQ till done to your liking. Flip only once, and once top with pesto. Slice on the bias, or against the grain.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Northwest Oyster Stew

Oysters can be eaten half shelled, raw, smoked, boiled, baked, fried, roasted, stewed, canned, pickled, steamed, broiled (grilled) or used in a variety of drinks. Preparation can be as simple as opening the shell, while cooking can be as spare as adding butter and/or salt, or can be very elaborate.

Oyster Stew is a very simple dish to make, and in it's traditional form consisted of oysters, a little butter, salt, and pepper added to scalding milk. Our recipe is almost as simple, but we liven it up a little bit to make it interesting. It is truly more of a soup, than a stew since little cooking time, and no braising are involved.

It is traditionally served during the Winter months, especially during the holidays in the Midwest. Oysters were once shipped in by rail, in bushell baskets, on ice, and were an expensive luxury enjoyed during that time of year. Obviously the cold Winter temperatures aided in their shipment before the advent of refrigeration.

Oyster Stew

2 tablespoons butter
4 strips of diced bacon
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 dozen small Pacific Oysters, shucked, with their liquor
1 cup dry sherry
3 cups heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

In a large heavy saucepan, brown the bacon and set aside, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Add the celery, bell pepper, and onion; sauté until softened but not browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the bacon, Worcestershire, Tabasco, Old Bay, Oysters with their liquor, sherry, and heavy cream. Serve with some oyster crackers, or sourdough bread.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cajun Chicken Stew

This isn't your average Chicken Stew because of the addition of the "Trinity", and Cajun seasonings. Chicken Stew can be boring to me, but the Cajun spices help it out.

Cajun Chicken Stew

1 chicken, about 4 pounds, cut up, or use parts
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 Red Bell Pepper chopped
1 large sweet or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 tbls Cajun Blackening Powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
6 cups chicken broth
2 carrots, sliced
3 to 4 medium potatoes, peeled, cut in cubes
1 cup pearl onions, peeled, or use frozen or canned, drained pearl onions
2 tablespoons butter
8 to 12 ounces andouille sausage
1/4 cup flour
kosher salt
freshly fround pepper

Wash chicken and cut up; pat dry and remove any excess fat. Season with a little olive oil and the Cajun Blackening Powder. Heat 1 tablespoon butter, and olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven; add celery,onion, bell peppers, and chicken and brown chicken pieces slowly on all sides.

Cajun seasoning, and black pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove chicken pieces and let cool slightly. Skim any visible fat from the broth. Meanwhile, add carrots, potatoes, and onions to the broth; cover and continue simmering.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat; sauté the smoked sausage until browned. Stir in 1/4 cup flour until well blended with the fat. Add the sausage mixture to the simmering stew.

Remove chicken from the bones; chop and add to the stew. Bring the stew back to a simmer; cover and continue cooking until vegetables are tender and stew is thickened. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Beef Stew

Braising (from the French "braiser") is cooking with "moist heat," typically in a covered pot with a small amount of liquid which results in a particular flavor. Braising relies on heat, time, and moisture to successfully break down tough connective tissue and collagens in meat. It is an ideal way to cook tougher cuts. Stews, and Pot Roasts are both styles of braising.

Most braises follow the same basic steps. The meat or poultry is first browned in hot fat. Aromatic vegetables are sometimes then browned as well. A cooking liquid that often includes an acidic element, such as tomatoes or wine, is added to the pot, which is covered. The dish cooks in relatively low heat in or atop the stove until the meat is fork-tender. Often the cooking liquid is finished to create a sauce or gravy.

Beef Stew

1 1/4 pounds stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup flour
6 large garlic cloves, minced
6 cups beef stock
1 cup of Guinness beer
1 cup of red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups peeled baby carrots
Kosher Salt
Ground Pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Season and flour the beef and then brown on all sides. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add beef stock, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

While the meat and stock is simmering, melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes.

Add vegetables to beef stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat. Transfer stew to serving bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon is a retro dish that was very popular in the 50's, and 60's, in fact this recipe is based on one from Julia Child who helped make French Cuisine popular in this country.

Beef Bourguignon is a well-known, traditional French recipe. It is essentially a type of beef stew prepared with cubed beef stewed in red wine (preferably an assertive, full-bodied wine such as Burgundy), generally flavoured with garlic, onions, carrots, bacon, a bouquet garni, and garnished with pearl onions and mushrooms.

Blanching the Bacon to remove the smoke flavor is traditional, but sometimes I don't do it because I like the smoky flavor of the bacon even though it isn't technically correct for the dish.

Beef Bourguignon

6 oz of blanched bacon
2 to 3 Tbsp cooking oil
4 lbs trimmed beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
Salt and
freshly ground pepper
2 cups sliced onions
1 cup sliced carrots
1 bottle of red wine
2 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
1 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 medium herb bouquet (tie 8 parsley sprigs, 1 large bay leaf, 1 tsp dried thyme, 2 whole cloves or allspice berries, and 3 large cloves of smashed garlic together in cheesecloth)

Beurre manié for the sauce: 3 Tbsp flour blended to a pasted with 2 Tbsp butter

24 small brown-braised white onions
3 cups sautéed quartered mushrooms

Blanch the bacon to remove its smoky taste. Drop bacon slices into 2 quarts of cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, and dry on paper towels.

In a large frying pan, sauté the blanched bacon to brown slightly in a little oil; set them aside and add later to simmer with the beef, using the rendered fat in browning. Brown the chunks of beef on all sides in the bacon fat and oil, season with salt and pepper, and turn them into a heavy casserole pan. Add the bacon to the casserole pan as well.

Remove all but a little fat from the frying pan, add the sliced vegetables and brown them, and add to the meat. Deglaze the pan with wine, pouring it into the casserole along with enough stock to almost cover the meat. Stir in the tomatoes and add the herb bouquet. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer slowly on the lowest heat possible, either on the stove or in a preheated 325 degree oven, until the meat is tender. Check at about 40 minutes.

Remove all solids from the sauce (except the beef) by draining through a colander set over a saucepan. Return the beef to the casserole. Press juices out of the residue into the cooking liquid, then degrease and boil down the liquid to 3 cups. Off heat, whisk in the beurre manié, then simmer for 2 minutes as the sauce thickens lightly. Correct seasoning and pour over the meat, folding in the onions and mushrooms. To serve, bring to a simmer, basting meat and vegetables with the sauce for several minutes until hot throughout.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Country Captain Chicken

While living in the South I came across this recipe for an unusual curried chicken dish. It is pretty unique to the Southeast, so if you haven't lived down there for an exteneded time you probably have never come across it.

The chicken is browned and then stewed in a sauce of tomatoes, "The Trinity", garlic, and curry powder. At the end, golden raisins are added. The dish is served over rice sprinkled with toasted almonds. As with all chicken recipes in the South, Country Captain Chicken varies with the cook. Some prefer it with just boneless breast meat, while others like the whole fryer cut up into pieces. One thing is always certain about this dish; it is perfumed and spiced with curry.

This delicious dish, known throughout Georgia, dates to the early 1800s. It is thought that this dish was brought to Georgia by a British sea captain who had been stationed in Bengali, India and shared the recipe with some friends in the port city of Savannah, Georgia. Savannah was then a major shipping port for the spice trade. The dish was named for the officers in India called “Country Captains.”

Country Captain Chicken

1 Broiler Chicken cut into parts
1/2 cup flour
4 slices chopped bacon
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup celery chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper chopped
1/2 large green pepper chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can plum or Roma tomatoes, crushed
1 tablespoon curry powder or to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 rounded tablespoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 . In a shallow dish, combine flour, salt, and pepper. Roll chicken pieces in flour mixture to coat all sides. In a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat, brown the bacon, and remove once brown. Add chicken pieces and cook 5 minutes per side or until light brown.

Transfer chicken to an oven-proof dish and keep warm in the oven; reserving drippings in frying pan.

Reduce heat to medium low. To the pan drippings, add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are transparent. Add tomatoes, curry powder, salt, pepper, and thyme; cover pan and simmer gently an additional 15 minutes. Add the browned chicken and golden raisins; cover and simmer another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is tender.

I like serving this with some Mango Chutney, on the side with some Rice.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Italian Pot Roast

Pot Roast is right near the top of the list when it comes to comfort food, and it is really pretty easy to make. Pot Roast is a braised beef dish. Pot Roast is typically made by browning a roast-sized piece of beef (taken from the tougher chuck cut) to induce a Maillard reaction, then slow-cooking in an acidulated liquid in a covered dish. What you get is a very succulent, and tender cut of meat.

I have found that Gallo Hearty Burgundy does a great job as a cooking wine in braising dishes requiring a full bodied red wine. You can use whatever you like, but at around 6 bucks a bottle you don't mind dumping it in a stew, or roast. I don't mind sipping it either while cooking. A little bit for the stew, and a little bit for me, a little bit for the stew.... .

Italian Pot Roast

4 pound Beef Chuck Roast
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 all-purpose flour
1/2 cup red wine
1 (15-ounce) can chopped tomatoes,
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon Italian Spice Blend
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large Dutch oven, with a lid, over medium-high heat. Season the meat generously with salt, pepper, Italian Spice and flour. Add the oil to the pot, lay the meat in the pan and sear on both sides until brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate. Pour off most of the fat but leave a little for the vegetables.

Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to the pan, and cook until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the remaining flour, and with a wooden spoon scrape up any browned bits that cling to the bottom of the pot Add wine and tomatoes and cook until liquid has thickened, about 5 minutes more. Add broth, thyme, and bay leaves, bring to a boil. Return the roast to the pot, cover, place in the oven and cook about 2 1/2 hours. Remove the lid and continue to cook, uncovered until tender about 1 hour more. You can also add any vegetables you want to roast and serve with it at this time.

Low Carb Variation

Very simple, just leave out the flour, increase the seasoning while browning the meat so it crusts up well. Add ThickenThin not/Starch thickener which works like cornstarch instead of the flour before you put it in the oven. Roast up some squash, or cauliflower and avoid the starch.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Seafood Gumbo

High on the list of favorites of Cajun cooking are the soups called gumbos. Gumbo exemplifies the influence of African and Native American food cultures on Cajun cuisine. The word originally meant okra, which is a word brought to the region from Western Africa. Okra, which is a principal ingredients of many gumbo recipes, is used as a thickening agent and for its distinct vegetable flavor.

A filé gumbo is thickened with sassafras leaves, a practice borrowed from the Choctaw Indians. The backbone of a gumbo is a dark roux, which is made of flour, toasted until well browned, in fat, or oil, not butter as with the French. The classic gumbo is made with chicken and the Cajun sausage called andouille, but the ingredients all depend on what is available at the moment.

Cajun cuisine originates from the French-speaking Acadian or "Cajun" immigrants in the Acadiana region of Louisiana. It is what could be called a rustic cuisine — locally available ingredients predominate, and preparation is simple. An authentic Cajun meal is usually a three-pot affair, with one pot dedicated to the main dish, one dedicated to steamed rice, skillet cornbread, or some other grain dish, and the third containing whatever vegetable is plentiful or available.

The aromatic vegetables bell pepper, onion, and celery are called by some chefs the holy trinity of Cajun cuisine. Finely diced and combined in cooking, the method is similar to the use of the mire poix in traditional French cuisine — which blends finely diced onion, celery, and carrot. Characteristic seasonings include parsley, bay leaf, "onion tops" or scallions, and dried cayenne pepper. The overall feel of the cuisine is more Mediterranean than North American.

Cajun cuisine developed out of necessity. The Acadian refugees, farmers rendered destitute by the British expulsion, had to learn to live off the land and adapted their French rustic cuisine to local ingredients such as rice, crawfish, and sugar cane.

Cajun Dark Roux

The Acadians inherited the roux from the French. However, unlike the French, it is made with oil or bacon fat and more lately olive oil, and never butter, and it is used as a flavoring, especially in gumbo and etoufée. Preparation of a dark roux is probably the most involved or complicated procedure in Cajun cuisine, involving heating fat and flour very carefully, constantly stirring for about 15-45 minutes (depending on the color of the desired product), until the mixture has darkened in color and developed a nutty flavor. A burnt roux renders a dish unpalatable. The scent of a good roux is so strong that even after leaving one's house the smell of roux is still embedded in one's clothes until they are washed. The scent is so strong and recognizable that others are able to tell if one is making a roux, and often infer that one is making a gumbo.

Ragin Cajun Gumbo

This recipe makes a big batch, but it easily scales down for smaller portions. Some people like Okra, some don't, so if you omit the Okra, or cut back on it, just add more vegetables of your choice, and some File powder so it thickens correctly.

The Stock

4 quarts Chicken Stock
4 Quarts Shellfish Stock
8 ounces onions, chopped
4 ounces celery with tops, chopped
4 ounces carrots, chopped
2 heads garlic, cut in half horizontally

Sachet d'épices

In a small cheesecloth bag or tea ball, place:

1 teaspoon or so black peppercorns, cracked
A few parsley stems
1 bayleaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves

The Roux

1-1/4 cups flour
1 cup oil

All the rest

2 cut up chickens
1-1/2 pounds sliced andouille sausage
4 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound can of Blue Crab Meat
2 pounds okra, sliced
3 onions, chopped
1 bunch green onions with tops, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
5 ribs celery, chopped
5 Cloves of minced garlic
3 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Creole seasoning to taste
Salt to taste
Tabasco, or to taste.

Simmer the stock with the vegetables, and the Sachet d'épices for a couple hours to let the flavors meld. The longer it simmers the more character the stock develops,

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with Creole seasoning and brown in the oven. Slice the sausage and brown.

Sauté the onions, green onions, bell pepper and celery add them to the roux, then mix into the stock.

Add the Chicken and Andouille.

Add the bay leaves and Creole seasoning to taste and stir. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer; let simmer for about 45 minutes. Keep tasting and adjusting seasonings as needed.

Add the okra and cook another 30 minutes or so then add the shrimp. Give it another 6-8 minutes or so, until the shrimp are just done, turning pink. Be very careful not to overcook the shrimp; adding the shrimp should be the very last step. (Okra acts as a thickener, if omitted make sure to add some File Gumbo Seasoning.)

If there is any fat on the surface of the gumbo, try to skim off as much of it as possible

Low Carb Gumbo Alternative

This dish is anything but low carb because of the flour roux, and rice, but serving it over spaghetti squash rather than rice is a great low carb substitute.

When creating low-carb versions of your favorite dishes, you won't be happy unless the texture and thickness is close to what you expect. For example, with gravy - do you want it watery or do you want a nice thick gravy? If you can't have starch what do you do for thickening?

I came across this stuff while dieting to use as a substitute for flour, and cornstarch, it is called ThickenThin not/Starch thickener which works like cornstarch. It's easier than using starch. Just dump it in the Gumbo instead of the roux, and stir it in. It has more thickening power than flour so use half as much. Add a 1/4 cup of olive oil to make up for the oil that was omitted in the making of the roux. The product isn't a soy derivative, it is made up of various vegetable gums.

This product works great, but you will miss the nutty taste that is created with the traditional roux, but it allows you to cook with one cup less oil, no carbs from the flour, and when you are low carb dieting you will swear it is very close to the original.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Spicy Southern Fried Chicken

The best Fried Chicken I have ever had at a restaurant was at Ezell's, which is a little hole in the wall in Seattle. Seattle isn't exactly a Soul Food capital, but Oprah Winfrey who also lives in Chicago is a big fan of Ezell's, and actually has it flown in on occasion when she gets the craving for Fried Chicken, and isn't watching her diet.

Fried Chicken is a very simple food, and it is easy to prepare, but it isn't exactly easy to make great Fried Chicken. Here are a few key's.

The first key to great Fried Chicken is marinating it in Buttermilk 12 hours, or more before cooking. If you like tender juicy chicken there is no substitute for doing it this way. I like my Chicken spicy, moist, tender, savory, and crunchy. This particular recipe achieves those goals every time.

The second key is those elusive, eleven herbs and spices. You will find a recipe for a Fried Chicken Seasoning mix below you can make up ahead of time. I am pretty sure you will like it much better than the legendary KFC recipe which is now just a shadow of the way Colonel Sanders' used to do it fifty years ago. He fried it in a pressure cooker which sealed the juices in, and most importantly cooked the chicken faster which is important in a restaurant.

The next key is putting together a dry batter mix that gives the chicken plenty of texture, and sticks to the chicken without falling off. We double dip our chicken using Buttermilk on the first dip, and Egg Wash on the second. If the recipe is too spicy for you just omit, or limit the Red Pepper Sauce.

The final key is cooking it correctly. Traditionally in the South most families have a large, deep, covered, black, cast iron pan from Lodge Cookware that has been in the family for a generation, or two, or in larger quantities it is simply deep fried outdoors. Whichever way you do it you want to make sure the oil is heated to 375 degrees which seals the chicken, and prevents it from becoming greasy,

Spicy Southern Fried Chicken

Soak the Chicken Overnight

2 1/2 pounds Frying Chicken
Buttermilk
1/2 cup Hot Sauce (optional)

Spicy Chicken Egg Wash

3 eggs
1/3 cup water
1 cup hot red pepper sauce (optional)

Fried Chicken Breading Mix

1 cup self-rising Flour
1/2 cup Corn Meal
1/2 cup Cracker Meal
1/2 cup Potato Buds
Fried Chicken Seasoning
Peanut, or Vegetable oil for frying

Fried Chicken Seasoning

2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon onion salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon basil leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon marjoram leaves, crushed finely
1 teaspoon thyme

Mix the buttermilk and the hot sauce, marinate the chicken overnight.

In a medium size bowl, beat the eggs with the water. Add enough hot sauce so the egg mixture is bright orange.

In another bowl, combine the Flour, Corn Meal, Cracker Meal, Potato Buds, and Fried Chicken Seasoning to make the breading mix.

Season the wet chicken with the Fried Chicken Seasoning. Dip the wet buttermilk soaked Chicken in the seasoned breading mixture, then dip the seasoned chicken in the egg, and then coat well again in the breading mixture.

Heat the oil to 375 degrees F in a deep pot, or fryer. Do not fill the pot, or fryer more than 1/2 full with oil.

Fry the chicken in the oil until brown and crisp. Dark meat takes longer then white meat. It should take dark meat about 13 to 14 minutes, white meat around 8 to 10 minutes. Fry the first couple of pieces, white, and dark, one at a time, and sample to make sure it is cooked long enough.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Stuffed Giant Tiger Prawns

Prawns are one of those things that freeze well when processed correctly. The best frozen prawns are caught, and processed within 15 minutes of catching. Giant Prawns are fun to play with because they are getting almost Lobster sized at this point. You can get them as large as 6-9 per pound, but you need to call around.

Stuffed prawns are easy to put together as long as you have a Prawn large enough to stuff. I wouldn't go any smaller that 14 prawns to one pound.

Prawns are very versatile and easy to prepare in only a few minutes. Make sure you don't overcook the Crustacean because there is nothing worse than a rubbery Prawn.

Prawns are produced all over the world in fresh, and salt water. Over half of the Prawns eaten today are produced in farms overseas. I prefer the wild Mexican Prawns, and they do grow to a quite a large size. The largest prawns I have ever seen come from off the coast in Chile.

Stuffed Giant Tiger Prawns with Basil Cream Sauce

12 Giant Tiger Prawns (9-1, peeled, deveined and butterflied)
12 oz. Dungeness Crab, or Blue Crab meat (flaked)
1 each red, yellow, and green Bell peppers (finely diced)
1 rib celery (finely diced)
2 Tbs. scallions (sliced thin)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup fresh sourdough bread crumbs
2 whole eggs (beaten)
1 lemon (zested and juiced)
1 Tbs. fresh garlic (chopped fine)
1 Tbs. fresh basil (minced)
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
Kosher salt & milled pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce (to taste, several shakes recommended)
6 slices of bacon (cut in half)

In olive oil, sauté peppers, celery, and scallions to soften (no more than a minute). Remove from heat and add bread crumbs and crab meat, mixing well. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs and add remaining ingredients (except bacon slices). Mix thoroughly. Add crab mixture and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Heat oven to 400° F. On a cookie sheet, divide and shape stuffing into twelve walnut-sized portions. Press one portion into each butterflied prawn and wrap with bacon slice, finishing with the seam side down. Bake for eight to ten minutes until bacon is starting to crisp.

Basil Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup diced onions
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 quart heavy cream
1 teaspoon chicken base
3 tablespoons Pesto,
1 teaspoon Roux

Heat butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add garlic and onion and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add white wine and reduce by half. Add heavy cream and chicken base and reduce by half again. Add pesto and roux, bring to a simmer and heat until slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Beef Stroganoff

I have always love Beef Stroganoff, and there is a place near Chicago by O'Hare Airport that does it for you right at tableside called Le Cave.

The place looks like it is straight out of a Sinatra movie, and he has actually been there a number of times when he was roaming the earth. The interior is designed to look like a cave, and it really does, sort of like eating in a French Wine Cellar. They do a lot of things well there, but they are known for there Stroganoff.

Beef Stroganoff, in its modern form, is dish of strips of beef filet with a mushroom, onion, dijon, and sour cream sauce. It is usually served over rice, or noodles. If you are on a low carb diet there are plenty of good lo carb pasta's out there.

The dish comes from Russia, but was adopted by the French, and became the rage in the 1950's when it was prepared tableside in continental restaurants.

Beef Stroganoff

1 lb Fillet of Beef
1 1/2 medium Onions
1 clove crushed Garlic
1 clove chopped Shallot
4 oz sliced Mushrooms
1 oz Butter
1/4 cup Beef broth
1/8 Pint Sour Cream
Dijon Mustard
Tomato Paste
Worcestershire Sauce
Cognac, Brandy, or Sherry
Salt
Black Pepper

Slice the Filet into thin medallions. Slice the Onions thinly. Cut the stems off the Mushrooms and also slice thinly. Over a low heat melt half the Butter (with a tad of Olive Oil) in a Frying Pan and add the Onions. Move around regularly until they are translucent. It is important that they do not burn. Add the sliced Mushrooms and toss around for a minute or so until they are soft and coated with the juices.

Spoon out the Onions, and Mushrooms into a dish.

Add the remaining Butter to the Frying Pan and allow it to get very hot - so that it froths. Drop in the Beef medallions and fry briskly on all sides. The Beef really needs only to be browned and not over-cooked in the middle. A couple of minutes at the most, and finish by deglazing the pan with the cognac, or sherry.

Tip the Onions and Mushrooms back into the Frying Pan. Season well with Salt & Pepper. Add Beef Broth, Tomato Paste, Dijon, the Sour Cream, and cook at the same heat for another minute so that the Cream reduces to a syrupy consistency.

Garnish with chopped scallions, and serve with pasta, or rice.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Stuffed Sole with Scallop Mousse

Sole is easy to find across the United States. If you live in Seattle you have access to great fresh Sole almost every day. Sole is a very light fish, and can be pretty boring. Great Sole in other words, in my opinion, depends on the Sauce. The Sauce is what you will remember anytime you order great Sole in a restaurant.

26 years ago I first stayed at a small boutique hotel in Sausalito, California called the Casa Madrona. It is still there, and has become more fabulous as the years have gone by. Around the corner from the hotel there was a new French Bistro opening that evening. I went there, was one of the first customers, and had an incredible meal.

Christophe Restaurant Francais is still going strong even though I haven't been there in awhile. It still serves some of the best regional French Cuisine in California at decent prices. This recipe is from the first meal I had on opening night at Christophe's.

This recipe sounds hard to make, but it is actually pretty simple, and only takes around a half hour to put together if you have your ingredients handy. It is one of my favorites, and people bow when you make this recipe, but the secret is, it is very simple to make.

Stuffed Sole with Scallop Mousse

1 lb of Fresh Petrale Sole Filets
1/2 pound bay or sea scallops
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 chopped Shallot
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/8 cup cold heavy cream
1 cup White wine

Place the scallops into the bowl of a food processor and pulse 4 to 5 times. Add the egg whites and pulse until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon zest and parsley. Pulse to incorporate. With the machine running, slowly add all of the cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl 1 last time, put the lid back on and run for 5 more seconds.

Wrap the Sole Filets around the Mousse and place in a pan with butter and lightly brown. Place filets in pan with wine as the braising liquid, and put in the oven to cook at 375 for 14 minutes. Take out, and plate with a little base of champagne sauce. Drizzle the champagne sauce over the top, and serve.

What Sauce to Use?

Well we just spent a week going through the mother sauces, what do you think would work well? Hollandaise, Beurre blanc, and Veloutte's all come to mind for me.

I am going to go for something that is Veloutte based. Veloutte as we know is one of the mother sauces. Since this is seafood I am going to reach in the freezer, and bring out a portion of the shellfish based veloutte I have made.

I like to keep four different veluote's pre made in the freezer. Chicken, Fish, Shellfish, and Veal. I make them once a year, and freeze them in portion cups. Shellfish, chicken, and fish are easy to make in a couple of hours, the veal however takes awhile. I make Shellfish veloute out of lobster, crab, crayfish, or shrimp shells.


Champagne Sauce


1/2 cup shellfish veloute, or you can substitute with fish stock, or chicken broth


1/2 cup champagne


1/8 cup cup butter


2 cups heavy whipping cream


In a medium saucepan, reduce 1/2 cup of champagne, and 1/2 cup veloutte to approximately 1/4 cup of liquid. Add the cream and reduce mixture to 1 cup of liquid. Add butter and stir until butter melts and thickens the mixture.

Truffles

If you have any fresh Truffles around this is a great time to use some. Truffles can be overpowering, not to mention expensive, so only use a little bit. If you live in the Northwest keep an eye out for the fabulous Oregon Truffles. Oregon Truffles are much less expensive than their French, and Italian counterparts. James Beard felt the Oregon Truffle was on a par with the European Truffle, but take that with a grain of salt because the late great chef who lived most of his life in New York City was born and raised in Portland, Oregon.

Chanterelles

Chanterelles grow wild out in the Northwest, but they also abundantly grow wild in Western Michigan. Sliced Chanterelles are also a great addition to this sauce when they are in season. Same with the fantastic Michigan Morels.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Corned Beef and Fried Cabbage

St Patrick's Day is only a couple of weeks away, and in Chicago you can find Corned Beef in most of the Grocery Stores, and Butcher Shops. We have a Butcher shop in our area called Orchard Prime meats which cures it's own briskets at this time of year. So we like to eat it a couple of times in March, and get the craving out of our system.

Originally "Corned Beef and Cabbage" was a traditional dish served for Easter Sunday dinner in rural Ireland. The beef, because there was no refrigeration at that time was salted or brined during the winter to preserve it, it was then eaten after the long, meatless Lenten fast.
Since the advent of refrigeration, the trend in Ireland is to eat fresh meats. Today this peasant dish is more popular in the United States than in Ireland. Irish-Americans and lots of other people eat it on St. Patrick's Day, Ireland's principal feast day, as a nostalgic reminder of their Irish heritage.

The Best Corned Beef I have ever had was from a butcher shop in Seattle that does nothing but Corned Beef, and Pastrami called Market House. Market House, located in the Denny Regrade, was started back in 1948, and specializes in curing beef briskets for 14 whole days which is the old fashioned way of doing it in a barrel. Corned Beef today is mostly injected with an industrial needle and cured in that fashion. The best, and most traditional Corned Beef is barrel cured.

Most people boil Corned Beef, but I don't. I follow the Market House Recipe, and roast it in the oven for around 3 hours depending on the size of the brisket. A full size brisket can take as long as four hours.

Market House Corned Beef

Corned Beef Brisket
Water
Coca Cola, or Dr Pepper

Place the brisket, fat side up in a roasting pan with water, and 1/2 can Coca Cola. Tent with foil, and roast for at least three hours at 350 degrees depending on the size of the brisket. Take off foil for the last 1/2 hour of roasting. You can also add a Sweet Mustard Onion Glaze at that time if you choose. I can't remember where I picked up adding the Dr. Pepper, or Coca Cola to the braising liquid, but it supposedly helps tenderize the brisket while it is cooking.

Sweet Mustard Onion Glaze

1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
1/8 cup Whole Grain Mustard
1/4 cup Honey
1 oz Cider Vinegar
One Onion
1 tsp Sugar
Olive Oil

Saute onions with olive oil until they are translucent. Add a teaspoon of sugar to caramelize the onions at higher heat. Keep cooking till they browned and caramelized. Set aside to cool. Combine the mustard's, honey, caramelized onions and blend together. thin with a little cider vinegar and you have your glaze.

Fried Cabbage

Boiled Cabbage is really boring, but Fried Cabbage is simple, and fantastic. Even though you are using bacon it never tastes greasy. Fried Cabbage is a great low carbohydrate side dish by the way that is filling, a nutritious.

One Head of Cabbage
Two Onions
4 Strips of Bacon
Lots of Ground Pepper
Kosher Salt

Dice Bacon and cook till browned. Slice Cabbage, and Onions thinly. Fry the Cabbage, and Onions in the drippings with plenty of Cracked Black Pepper, and Salt to taste.

O'Brien Potato's

Once again we aren't into the boiled cabbage, and potato's, but we keep it Irish by making our special type of O'Brien Potato's when we are not watching the carbohydrates.

Diced Cooked Potato's (Cooled)
Diced Onions
Diced Sweet Green Peppers
Diced Sweet Red Peppers
Olive, Vegetable Oil, or Bacon Drippings

Corned Beef Hash

When we make a big brisket, we slice the best, and hash the rest. Corned Beef Hash is an excellent treat for breakfast. We always make sure we have some leftover to make hash. On a large brisket we usually reserve the tip, and fattiest portions for the hash.

Cooked Corned Beef
Bacon
Onion
Potato's
Carrots
Salt
Pepper

If you have a meat grinder you can simply grind up all the ingredients together and mix. I prefer to carefully chop and dice each ingredient by hand to give it more texture. How you prepare it is your preference. Once it is ground, or diced and mixed together we simply fry it in a pan till crispy brown, and serve. A note on the bacon, don't use a maple bacon, it doesn't mix that well with the corned beef.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Seasonal Planning

True seasonal cuisine follows a schedule throughout the year influenced by the weather, holidays, vacations, and the products available at different types of the year. In this modern world we can make anything, anytime we want due to the advanced transportation, freezing, and preservation processes that have been developed over the last century.

Still food, and cooking has it's season's, and if you want to have a gourmet kitchen you need to put together a schedule that works for you so you always have the freshest ingredients on hand. Planning ahead maked it easy throughout the year.

We just talked about the Mother Sauces this week, and the reason is that you can prepare a number of them ahead to use throughout the year. When you have that stuff done ahead of time it is really easy to grab a small portion from the freezer and produce a meal that would take most people a couple of days to prepare. Today I am sharing with you the things I have done in the past to prepare for the culinary year.

Right now we are in Lent, so I focus on protein which means we eat a lot of Seafood, Beef, and Pork. Since fish is a staple of Lent we are going to spend a lot of time with that among other things till Easter.

Winter- Late January, and February

Everything, including animals, and humans slows down this time of year right after the New Year, and I tend to make savory dishes, and stews during this time of the year. It is a time for smaller dinner parties, and relaxation after the bustle of the Holidays.

We have people over at Super Bowl, but we limit it to keep it comfortable, and get away from cooking for the masses after the Holiday orgy.

Fresh Dungeness Crab is a great treat this time of year since the harvest starts around Christmas out in the Northwest. The best crab of the year is available at this time because of the body fat the crab contains at this time.

Lent - Late February, March, Very Early April

This is the time for us to get back in shape. We tend to go low carb, and high protein this time of year mixed with exercise. Since we cut off the alcohol, and the empty calories it provides, the party is usually on hold for six weeks. We do however find that we save a lot of money which is great for our Spring travels.

St Patrick's Day is a big holiday in Chicago, or another excuse to get drunk depending on who you talk to. They dye the river green, have a big parade, in downtown, and the South suburbs. It's lent for us, so no green beer over here, no potato's either, but I do roast the traditional brisket of Corned Beef and serve it with something called Fried Cabbage.

Lent doesn't have to be boring, every Friday there is Seafood, and during the week we grill quite a bit on our indoor grill. We try to get imaginitive with the sauces, and work our away around the absence of carbohydrates.

Early Spring - Late March, April

To me it all starts with Easter Sunday which is a day I can have anything I want since the self imposed Lenten restrictions are over. Ham, Lamb Rack's, and Roasted Leg of Lamb with Mint are traditional.

Time to get the vegetable, and herb garden in shape for the Summer months. It is also time to catch up, and make your stocks for the year. I like to make, when I have the freezer space, batches of Fish Stock, Shellfish Stock, Veal Stock, Chicken Stock, Beef Stock, Veloute's, and Espagnole during this time of year. I try to make a years supply over a few rainy weekends.


Things I like to have in the garden

I'm not running a farm, but I do like things fresh from my own garden. We live in rural Chicago and there are plenty of farm stands to pick from during the season. We also have access tot he bounty Southwestern Michigan has to offer. Still there are a few things I prefer to grow myself in the space provided that are easy to take care of.

I have grown onions, potato's, cucumbers, and corn, in the past, but unless you have a large patch of ground it really isn't worth the time for me since they are inexpensive commodities available fresh, and usually in better shape from a farm side produce stand.

Out at my childhood house in Seattle we had a number of fruit tree's in the yard. My cousin in Orange County carries on the tradition by really studying growing fruit in his backyard. He has about twenty different types of tree's going back there. He has a huge avocado tree, but he hates Avocado's, so we load up when we are out there.

I am sure we will plant a couple of fruit tree's here at the new house outside of Chicago, but I am not sure yet which way I will go yet.

Vegies

Beefsteak Tomato's
Cherry Tomato's
Plum Tomato's
Eggplant
Hot Peppers
Sweet Peppers
Scallions
Garlic
Salad Greens

Herbs

Basil
Dill
Fennel
Oregano
Rosemary
Parsley
Chives
Tarragon
Chervil
Sage
Thyme

Berries

Strawberries
Raspberries

Spring - May and Early June

Fresh Seafood and other ingredients are in abundance. The garden of course is started full of vegetables I plan to can in the Fall.

Soft shell crabs from the East Coast start to be harvested. We eat them quite a bit when they are in season.

At the end of June the fresh berries are in from different places around the country. If you live in the Pacific Northwest you really have it made since some of the best berries in the world are harvested in the Puyallup Valley.

Michigan is prime Blueberry country, and it is a great time to buy them to use fresh and freeze the remainder for use the rest of the year. Michigan also has great Cherries that you will rarely find anywhere else. Wild Chanterelles, and Morels are abundant when the ground is moist.

Traditional Preserves

Pepper Jelly (Red, and Green)
Blackberry
Raspberry
Strawberry
Blueberry
Boysenberry
Apple Butter
Cherries

Since Kate is Diabetic I am going to be delving into the world of Sugar Free Preserves this year for the first time. I think Splenda is truly a gift from the God's because it opens so many new doors for people who cannot tolerate sweets. This is also a great time of year to put those fresh Berries into pie's.

Summer - July, August, and Early September

Corn is a big deal in the Midwest, and I have a good friend, Bob Korn, no I am not kidding, who drives around Minnesota trying to find the sweetest corn on the cob he can find. Bob is very picky about his corn, and according to him there is an art to picking, and preparing proper corn on the cob.

Fried Chicken is another favorite which we make outside so we don't stink up the house. Fried Chicken is not an easy thing to make well. I have seen a lot of great Chef's including Bobby Flay fall flat on their faces while trying to duplicate Southern Roadhouse Fried Chicken.

Potato Salad is another Summer favorite, and I am very picky about Potato Salad since my dad made the best one I have ever tasted. To him it was all about texture, and patience. A great potato salad takes two days to make to achieve that perfect consistency his was famous for.

Fish Fry's, Clambakes, Pig Roasts, BBQ Rib's, these are the things we concentrate on when the weather get's hot, and we can comfortably entertain outside.

It is prime BBQ season, and we tend to cook, and eat outdoors every night that the weather permits. This summer we will be building a couple of decks, putting in a stone patio, hot tub, outdoor cooking area, outdoor fireplace, vegetable/herb garden, backyard landscaping, and outdoor lighting. It is going to be quite the Summer long project.

Fall - Late September and October

It is time to harvest the fresh herbs, and dry them for for future use. Canning tomato's, pickles and relishes take's up time, and fills the home with a nostalgic breeze while the first football games of the year are on TV. Canning is an art, and we are going to spend a lot of time going over that come Fall. My parents did a great job canning, and you can really taste the difference using farm fresh, or ingredients directly from your garden throughout the year.

The Ball canning guide which was first written in the 1930's is till the bible to use. Botulism is a danger in canned goods, so make sure you follow the directions, and don't cut any corners.

What we didn't grow in our garden in Seattle, we used to supplement with fresh farm grown produce from Pike Place Market, or sometimes we would head East of the mountains to the Yakima Valley to get the best produce to can.


Just a few of the traditional items I like to can

Tomato Sauce
Red Salsa
Green Salsa
Taco Sauce
Sweet Cucumber Chips
Mustard Pickles
Dixie Relish (Chow Chow)
Corn Relish
Green Tomato Relish
Pesto
Asparagus
Green Beans
Mango and Pear Chutney

Wine and Spirits

Fall is also the time of the crush in wine producing regions like California, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and Michigan. Kate loves great wine, and we have a cellar in our basement which holds her collection which can be quite extensive at times.

Michigan has a young wine industry that does well, but I think what they will known for worldwide someday is their Eau de vie, Grappa's, and Appertif's which are craft made in Western Michigan, where an abundance of different fruits, including grapes are grown.

Eau de vie is a French term for a colourless brandy distilled from fermented fruit juice. The term is informally used for like beverages from non-French speaking countries. It is distilled from young fruit and rarely aged in wooden casks, thus preserving the freshness and aroma of the fruit. Spirits in this category include kirschwasser, a cherry-based beverage. When the eau de vie is made from from the pomace, the result is called Pomace brandy or in France Mar (wine), sometime eau de vie de marc. Eau de vie is used in the production of Calvados.



The Holidays - November, and December

The wheels come off over here starting at Halloween through the New Year. This is the time of the year for the big parties as we invite different groups of friends, and family over to celebrate. We also attend quite a few functions,

This is the time of year when Kate, and her mom take over the kitchen making the most incredible cookies, breads, and other baked goods. I am not much of a baker, but I have dabbled a bit in Artisan breads.

Think Turkey, Ham, Prime Rib, Roast Tenderloin, Lobster, Alaskan Crab Legs, and whatever extravagant, and gluttonous feast we can think up. We all entertain, and we entertain big, having twenty, or more people over on the weekends.

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Mother Sauces....Tomato

Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Tomato Sauce, and Velouté are the mother sauces of French cuisine. We also have added Beurre Blanc which isn't officially a mother sauce, but it also is a solid base other sauces are built from. Once you know how to make these you can add a few different ingredients to each base to make 100's of different variations.

We finally have reached the end of the Mother Sauces this week and the finale is the easiest one of all to make. A Tomato sauce is any of a very large number of sauces made primarily out of tomatos, usually to be served as part of a dish (rather than as a condiment, so Ketchup is not a Mother Sauce) Tomato sauces are common for meats and vegetables, but they are perhaps best known as sauces for pasta dishes.

Tomato sauce isn't exactly one of those things you need to make at home unless you have a garden full of sun ripened tomato's that you want to preserve, or you can cook immediately with.

When I grow Tomato's in the backyard, and I haven't had a chance to do that since I have been in Chicago, I harvest them in September, and make a large amount to be canned, and used throughout the year.

The simplest tomato sauces consist just of chopped tomato flesh (with the skins and seeds optionally removed), cooked in a little olive oil and simmered until it loses its raw flavour, and seasoned with salt. Water is often added to keep it from drying out too much. Onion and garlic are almost always sauteed at the beginning before the tomato is added. Other seasonings typically include pepper, sweet pepper, basil, oregano, and parsley.

Tomato Sauce

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed with flat of knife and sliced thinly
1/2 to 1 cup diced, fresh basil.
1/2 cup red wine.
1 T turbinado (raw) sugar (or Splenda)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 28 oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes, or fresh sun ripened Tomato's
1 t lemon juice
3 T brandy

If you have good fresh tomatoes, blanch them in boiling water until the skins are loose and wrinkled. Cool in cold water and remove skins before dicing. If you squeeze through strainer with mesh small enough to catch the seeds, the removal of the seeds will make the sauce a little less bitter.

Start by throwing some olive oil in your pan, or pot, heat it up, and add your garlic, basil, onions, and spices. Once your onions are translucent add the rest of your ingredients and bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes and you have tomato sauce.

You can add dried Italian spices too, and I often do, but you can also do that later when you use the sauce later in the year when you are making a recipe.

The Mother Sauces....Beurre Blanc

Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Tomato Sauce, and Velouté are the mother sauces of French cuisine. We also have added Beurre Blanc which isn't officially a mother sauce, but it also is a solid base other sauces are built from. Once you know how to make these you can add a few different ingredients to each base to make 100's of different variations.

Beurre Blanc, or Butter Sauce as we said isn't officially one of the mother sauces, but as I said it is a base you can build many interesting, and easy sauces from.

In cooking, Beurre blanc—literally translated from French as "white butter"—is a rich, hot butter sauce made with a reduction of vinegar and/or white wine and shallots into which cold, whole butter is blended off the heat to prevent separation. (Lemon juice is sometimes used in place of vinegar and stock can be added as well). This sauce originates in the Loire Valley cuisine.

It is not uncommon to see recipes that include a beurre blanc sauce to which heavy cream has been added as a "stabilizing agent". This is a point of contention amongst many culinary enthusiasts and can be heavily frowned upon. To be precise: Adding heavy cream to beurre blanc turns it into beurre nantais (Nantes butter) which is a variation of the mother sauce and not the base.

Beurre Blanc

2 tablespoons shallots, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice or white wine vinegar
4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste

In a non-aluminum saucepan, combine shallots with the wine. Reduce a glace (until syrupy). Add the lemon juice or vinegar and reduce a glace. Remove from heat and add one chunk of butter, stirring with a whisk to blend. Slowly add all the pieces of butter until well combined. This technique is called monter au beurre, to finish, or "mount" a sauce with butter. If you need to return the sauce to the heat to incorporate all the butter, do it over very low heat, or the sauce will break.

Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and serve immediately, or hold in a double boiled over barely simmering water, or in a Thermos.

Variations

You can go anywhere from this basic beurre blanc, with endless variations -- herbs, onions, fruit juices or purées, soy, chiles ... your imagination is the only limit.

Ray's Boathouse BoPo and Fire Butter

If you have ever been to Ray's Boathouse, and had some steamed clams you probably have noticed that the butter dipping sauce is quite incredibly addictive. Well it is high grade 100% butter that has been melted down, and separated, then it is recombined, and whipped with a whisk to make the creamy sauce. When you melt butter it separates into 2-3 components. The first is the Salt, next is the clarified butter which is oil, the last is the Whey which is white, and creamy.

To make this you need to be willing to melt at least a pound of butter. If you use salted butter you skim off the salt which is at the very top first. Next you ladle off all the clear, or clarified butter. Once you have the butter separated you slowly mix back in, while whisking, the clarified butter, into the Whey. This is what they call an Emulsion, and that is what you are creating. You don't add all the clarified butter back in, or it is going to break, so you need to find a use for the additional 1/4 of clarified butter remaining. One idea is you can mix it with garlic throw it on some bread, or use it to make a little Hollandaise.

This is also a good basic sauce to flavor with some Citrus, or Tabasco. Patrons of Ray's Boathouse often ask for Tabasco to spice up their Chowder, or BoPo to create what they call Fire Butter.

Compound Butters

Compound Butters are excellent, go great with Fish, and are very easy to make from whatever ingredients you have in the vegetable, or fruit drawer. For halibut I like to mix a little fresh Orange, Lime, and Lemon Juice with cold Buttter. I then re-refrigerate the butter and serve sliced on the top of the cooked fish, or vegetables. As it melts it turns into a savory, creamy sauce.

The whole idea on any type of compound butter, or Beurre Blance is to do it at low heat so the butter does not separate.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Mother Sauces....Mayonnaise

Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Tomato Sauce, and Velouté are the mother sauces of French cuisine. We also have added Beurre Blanc which isn't officially a mother sauce, but it also is a solid base other sauces are built from. Once you know how to make these you can add a few different ingredients to each base to make 100's of different variations.

Mayonnaise is a staple in this country, and around the world. It is hard to find a household that doesn't have a jar of Hellman's, or Best Food's Mayo in the fridge. Processed Mayonnaise is a handy thing to keep around, but you really have not had Mayonnaise until you have tested the homemade fresh variety.

Fresh Mayonnaise is a mother sauce, processed Mayonnaise, not so much.

Mayonnaise is a thick sauce made primarily from vegetable oil and egg yolks. Whitish-yellow in color, it is a stable emulsion formed from the oil and yolks and is generally flavored with salt, pepper, vinegar and/or lemon juice, and frequently mustard.

Mayonnaise is made by slowly adding oil to an egg yolk, mustard, vinegar, and salt. The mustard helps to keep the emulsion stable while whisking vigorously to disperse the oil into the liquid. Egg yolk contains lecithin, which acts as the emulsifier. All ingredients are added at the beginning of the process to prevent speckles. Adding the salt after emulsification can cause white speckles.

The traditional French recipe is essentially the same as the basic one described above, but it uses top-quality olive oil and vinegar. Some nouvelle cuisine recipes specify safflower oil. It is considered essential to constantly beat the mayonnaise using a whisk while adding the olive oil a drop at a time, fully incorporating the oil before adding the next tablespoon.

Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/8 teaspoon sugar
Pinch cayenne pepper
4 to 5 teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar
1-1/2 cups olive or other salad oil
4 teaspoons hot water

Beat yolks, salt, mustard, sugar, pepper, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a small bowl until very thick and pale yellow.

Place yolks, salt, mustard, sugar, pepper, and 3 teaspoons lemon juice in blender cup or work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade, and buzz 15 seconds (use low blender speed). Now, with motor running, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup oil (use moderately high blender speed). As mixture begins to thicken, continue adding oil in a fine steady stream, alternating with hot water and remaining lemon juice. Stop motor and scrape mixture down from sides of blender cup or work bowl as needed.

Variations

Sauce Nicoise: Prepare mayonnaise as directed and set aside. Mix 2 tablespoons tomato puree with 2 minced pimientos and 1/2 crushed clove garlic; press through a fine sieve and blend into mayonnaise.

Ailoli Sauce: Prepare mayonnaise as directed and mix with fresh crushed garlic.

Russian Mayonnaise: Prepare mayonnaise, then mix in 1/4 cup black or red caviar, 1/2 cup sour cream, and 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill.

Mustard Mayonnaise: Prepare mayonnaise, then mix in 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard.

Curry Mayonnaise: Prepare mayonnaise, then blend in 1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder.

Chantilly Mayonnaise: Prepare mayonnaise, then fold in 1/2 cup heavy cream, beaten to soft peaks.

Fruit Mayonnaise: Prepare mayonnaise, then beat in 3 tablespoons each orange juice and superfine sugar, 1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind, and a pinch nutmeg. For added zip, mix in 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other fruit liqueur. Serve with fruit salads.

The Mother Sauces....Veloute

Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Tomato Sauce, and Velouté are the mother sauces of French cuisine. We also have added Beurre Blanc which isn't officially a mother sauce, but it also is a solid base other sauces are built from. Once you know how to make these you can add a few different ingredients to each base to make 100's of different variations.
In preparing a velouté sauce, a light stock (one in which the bones used have not been roasted), such as chicken, veal, shellfish, or fish stock, is thickened with a blond roux.

Thus the ingredients of a velouté are butter and flour to form the roux, a light chicken, veal, fish stock, or shellfish stock, salt and pepper for seasoning. Commonly the sauce produced will be referred to by the type of stock used e.g. chicken velouté.

It is often served on poultry or seafood dishes, and is used as the base for other sauces. Sauces derived from a velouté sauce include Allemande sauce (by adding lemon juice, egg yolks, and cream), Suprême sauce (by adding mushrooms and cream to a chicken velouté), and Bercy sauce (by adding shallots and white wine to a fish velouté).

Veloute Sauce

1 1/2 cups white stock (veal, chicken, or fish) - white stock just means the bones were not roasted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over low heat (don't let it burn) and add the flour. Raise the heat to medium and stir the butter and flour together for about 2 minutes. You are making the roux. Take a good whiff and it should have a pleasant toasted smell.

Whisk the simmering stock into the roux and keep heating and whisking. When the stock begins to simmer again, turn down the heat to low and cook until the sauce thickens. A thin skin may form, just skim it away with your spoon. Depending on your stovetop, the sauce may take 5 - 10 minutes to get to your desired consistency.

Season with salt and pepper. Strain if you have a fine mesh strainer or chinois.

White Veal Stock

10 pounds Veal bones
2 large onions
2 to 3 cloves
2 stalks celery
2 white leeks, washed
4 carrots, peeled
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
4 to 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/2 bunch parsley (1 cup loose)

Cover the bones with cold water. Bring slowly to a boil and skim the solidified blood and albumin that rises to the surface of the water. Boil for 2 hours, skimming regularly. Most Of the scum will rise to the top during these first 2 hours.

Stick one of the onions with the cloves. Add to the pot along with the celery, leeks, carrots, garlic, seasoning and herbs.To give an amber golden color to the stock (if a consommé or aspic is to be made from the stock), cut an unpeeled onion in half and brown in a skillet on medium heat on top of the stove until the cut side turns quite dark. Add to the stock.

Boil slowly for 6 hours, or 2 hours if you use only chicken or fish bones. Evaporation will reduce the liquid. Add water periodically to compensate. Strain and reduce to 3 quarts. Refrigerate overnight then discard the fat which will have solidified on top of the stock. Pack in small containers and freeze if not needed.

White Fish Stock

10 pounds White Fish Bones (Halibut, and Cod work well, Salmon is too strong)
2 large onions
2 to 3 cloves
2 stalks celery
2 white leeks, washed
4 carrots, peeled
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
4 to 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/2 bunch parsley (1 cup loose)


Cover the fish bones with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for an hour and periodically skim the foam off the top.

Add your vegetable and seasonings, and simmer for another hour.


White Chicken Stock

10 pounds Chicken bones
2 large onions
2 to 3 cloves
2 stalks celery
2 white leeks, washed
4 carrots, peeled
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
4 to 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/2 bunch parsley (1 cup loose)


Put the leftover bones and skin from a chicken carcass into a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Add veggies like celery, garlic, onion, carrots, parsley.

Add salt and pepper, about 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper.

Add the rest of your spices.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to bring the stock to a low simmer.

Simmer uncovered at least 4 hours, occassionally skimming off the foam that comes to the surface.

Remove the bones and strain the stock.


Shellfish Stock

4-6 cups shellfish shells, from shrimp, lobster, and/or crab
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 large yellow onion, sliced or chopped
1 carrot, roughly sliced or chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly sliced or chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 sprigs of thyme
Several sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
10-15 whole peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt

Break thick shells (lobster and crab) into smaller pieces by putting in a sealed, thick plastic bag and either rolling with a rolling pin or hitting with a meat hammer to crush. Cut up thinner shrimp shells with a chef's knife. Don't crush or cut too small. You can even skip this step if you want, if you are already dealing with broken up shell pieces (like cracked crab). Put in a large stock pot and cover with an inch (but no more than an inch) of water.


Put the stove temperature on medium high and slowly heat the shells in the water. As soon as you see that little bubbles are starting to come up to the surface, reduce the heat to medium. Do not let it boil. You want to maintain the temperature at just below a simmer, where the bubbles just occasionally come up to the surface. Do not stir the shells. Stirring will muddy up the stock. As the bubbles come up to the surface a film of foam will develop on the surface. Use a large slotted spoon to skim away this foam. Let the shells cook like this for about an hour; skim the foam every few minutes. The foam comes from shells releasing impurities as their temperature increases.


Put the thyme, bay leaves, and parsley in cheese cloth. Secure with kitchen string to make a bouquet garni.
Once the stock has stopped releasing foam, you can add the wine, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, herb bouquet garni, and peppercorns. Bring to a low simmer and reduce heat so that the stock continues to simmer, but not boil, for 30 minutes. If more foam comes to the surface, skim it off. Add salt and remove from heat


Dampen a few layers of cheesecloth and place over a large, fine mesh strainer, over a large pot or bowl. Pour the stock into the strainer. Discard the solids. Either use the stock right away, or cool for future use. If you aren't going to use in a couple of days, freeze (remember to leave some head room at the top of your freezer container for the liquid to expand as it freezes.)


Variations

Poulette: Mushrooms finished with chopped parsley and lemon juice
Aurora: Tomato puree
Hungarian: Onion, paprika, white wine
Ivory/Albufera: Glace de viande
Normandy: Mushroom cooking liquid and oyster liquid/fish fumet added to fish veloute, finished with a liaison of egg yolks and cream
Venetian: Tarragon, shallots, chervil

Allemande Sauce

The classical Allemande sauce is made with veal velouté, but you can use chicken veloute if that's all you have on hand.

1 quart veal (or chicken) velouté
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste Place the veloute in a saucepan and bring to a simmer; reduce very slightly.

Beat the yolks and cream together in a stainless steel bowl. Temper the liaison by slowly adding a small amount of the hot veloute; repeat until you've incorporated about a third of the sauce into the liaison.

Slowly stir the liaison back into the pan.

Reheat to a very low simmer. Do not bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Strain through cheesecloth.

Supreme Sauce

1 quart chicken veloute
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons cold butter
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
Lemon juice to taste

Heat the veloute in a medium saucepan and simmer until reduced by 1/4, stirring occasionally. Pour the cream into a metal bowl and temper by slowly incorporating a small amount of the hot veloute. Slowly stir this into the sauce, and return to a very low simmer. Swirl in the raw butter until melted, then season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Strain through cheesecloth

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ted Kennedy's Annual Lenten Diet

Lent is here again, and while I am more of a lapsed Catholic than anything else, we always try to give up something for Lent. Since we do like to party over here it makes sense for me to give up Carb's, and Alcohol during this period of time that lasts till Easter.

I love flour, bread, potato's, and sugar, beer, wine, and spirits, but it doesn't really like me, so I use this time of year to shed the excess weight put on during the Holidays, and the Fall. This year I am pretty serious about it, and plan to be well under 200 lbs by Memorial Day or sooner.

One of Kate's cousin's greeted me as Lou Ferrigno at a wedding in Jamaica this year, so no more of that for awhile. I am not a diet guru, but I find that keeping it low carb, and staying under 20 carbs a day helps me lose weight the quickest, and also satifies my appetite. So you are going to see a lot of protein being dispayed in different ways over the next six weeks, and we won't forget fish on Friday's.

When you are eating like this you need some serious sauces, so that is why we are going through and detailing how to make the Mother Sauces of France this week. Once you know how to make the right Sauce, the most boring food tastes fantastic. Sure it is rich, but it is on my diet.

I am 6'0 tall and I should weigh around 190 pounds based on my frame. I have been known to flirt with 240 on occasion. The first year of marriage is never easy on the waist line so by doing this diet over Lent I should lose close to 30 pounds. I stay on a moderate version through Memorial Day, and enter Summer at an optimum weight so I can have some fun, and actually take my shirt off in public.

Eating well, and correctly isn't the only thing we do. We make sure we get out and walk 3-4 miles around the neighborhood every day when weather permits. We also have been known to strap on the cross country ski's, and cruise around the golf course when we have time. A little activity, and the right diet is all it takes.

The Mother Sauces....Espagnole

Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Tomato Sauce, and Velouté are the mother sauces of French cuisine. We also have added Beurre Blanc which isn't officially a mother sauce, but it also is a solid base other sauces are built from. Once you know how to make these you can add a few different ingredients to each base to make 100's of different variations.

Espagnole is the true Brown Sauce, it has a strong taste and is rarely used directly on food. As a mother sauce, however, it then serves as the starting point for many derivative sauces, such as: Sauce Africaine, Sauce Bigarade, Sauce Bourguignonne, Sauce aux Champignons, Sauce Charcutiere, Sauce Chasseur, and Sauce Chevreuil, just to go as far as the "Cs". There are hundreds of other derivatives in the classic French repertoire.

In a restaurant the classic method of making espagnole is to prepare a very dark brown roux, to which are added several gallons of veal stock or water, along with 20–30 lb of browned bones, pieces of beef, many pounds of vegetables, and various seasonings. This blend is allowed to slowly reduce while being frequently skimmed. The classical recipe calls for additional veal stock to be added as the liquid gradually reduces but today water is generally used instead. Tomato sauce is added towards the end of the process, and the sauce is further reduced.

A typical espagnole recipe takes many hours or even several days to make, and produces four to five quarts of sauce. In most derivative recipes, however, one cup of espagnole is more than enough, so that the basic recipe will yield enough sauce for 16 to 20 meals. Frozen in small quantities, espagnole will keep practically indefinitely.

Espagnole, and Veloute is a project I like to do on in either Late Spring, or Fall on a rainy weekend to pass the time while watching some football on TV. When I do it try to make four different types of stocks, veloutes, or other base sauces at the same time. It is sort of like pickling, and preserving. I pour them in individual foam containers, and freeze them in 1/2 cup, or 1 cup portions.

Basic Brown Stock

Yield: 2 gallons

Ingredients:

8 pounds veal marrow bones sawed into 2-inch pieces
6 pounds beef marrow bones sawed into 2-inch pieces
16 ounces tomato paste
4 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped carrot
2 cups chopped celery
4 cups dry red wine
1 bouquet garni
Salt and pepper
16 quarts of water

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the bones in a roasting pan and roast for 1 hour. Remove the bones from the oven and brush with the tomato paste. In a mixing bowl, combine the onions, carrots, and celery together. Lay the vegetables over the bones and return to the oven. Roast for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. Place the roasting pan on the stove and deglaze the pan with the red wine, using a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan for browned particles.

Put everything into a large stockpot. Add the bouquet garni and season with salt. Add the water. Bring the liquid up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the stock for 4 hours, skimming regularly. Remove from the heat and strain through a China cap or tightly meshed strainer.

Espagnole Sauce

2 gallon brown stock, hot
3 cups brown roux
1/2 cup bacon fat
4 cups chopped onions
2 cup chopped carrots
2 cup chopped celery
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup tomato puree
1 bouquet garni

In a stock pot, whisk the hot stock into the roux. In a large saute pan, heat the bacon fat. Add the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir the tomato puree into the vegetables and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato/vegetable mixture to the stock/roux mixture. Add the bouquet garni and continue to simmer, skimming as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce for about 45 minutes. Strain the sauce through a China cap.

Variations

Madeira sauce: Espagnole sauce mixed with Madeira wine.

Mushroom sauce: Espagnole sauce and mushrooms.

Bordelaise sauce: Espagnole sauce with red wine, shallots and herbs.

Lyonnaise sauce: Espagnole sauce with chopped onions, parsley and white wine.

Charcuterie Sauce: Espagnole sauce with chopped onions, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, white wine.

Sauce Africaine: Espagnole sauce, tomato, chopped onions, chopped bell pepper, salt, garlic white wine, basil, parley, bay leaf, and thyme.