Monday, June 28, 2010

Cream of Chicken Soup

Sometimes flawed recipes can turn into delicious mistakes. This recipe is one of those. I set out to make a braised chicken dish and ended up with soup. Errors in recipes are often times salvageable if the recipe is approached from another angle. In this particular instance, I mistakenly incorporated too much liquid, so I thought, why not continue with the recipe, puree everything at the end, add cream, and reduce? So, you'll see many of these ingredients in the future when I remake this recipe for the blog. In the meantime, enjoy this impromptu soup dish.

3 Chicken Portions, leg quarters
1 Gallon Chicken Stock
4 Celery Stalks, halved
3 Leeks, white parts, chopped
2 Red Onions, quartered
4 Carrots, chopped
2 oz. wt. Thyme sprigs
3 Stalks Lemongrass
1 Gingerroot, bruised
1 Bunch Cilantro, chopped
1 Qt. Heavy Cream

Bring the stock to a boil and add the chicken. Boil for 5 minutes and then add the vegetables, herbs, ginger, and bring to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 45 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, pull the chicken from the stock and remove the meat from the bones. Meanwhile, add the cream and increase the heat to high and reduce the stock by half.

When the soup is reduced and seasoned, use a blender or stick-mixer to puree. Add the pulled chicken back into the soup and heat for 10 minutes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Halibut Bourguignon

The secret to cooking fish is mastering "cuisson" - the point at which it is ready, but not overcooked. Fish firms up during cooking and, when it has reached "cuisson", it will feel firm but give slightly when pressed. The juices leeching from foods can often tell you when they're ready to eat without having to poke or cut them and release all of their flavor.

1 Large Shallot, unpeeled
1 C. Red Wine
1/4 lb. Bacon, diced
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Garlic, minced
1/4 lb. Baby Button Mushrooms
2 Tbsp. Butter
1 Halibut Steak
1 Bunch Spinach
Coarse Sea Salt

Blanch the shallots for 2 minutes before peeling. Meanwhile, reduce the red wine by half. Saute the bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Add the shallots, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute until softened and lightly caramelized. Add the bacon and hold them warm.

Heat the butter and remaining oil in a pan until the butter is foaming. Pan-fry the halibut for a couple of minutes on each side, then remove and let rest.

Heat a pan with oil until very hot. Remove the pan from the heat and add the spinach; season to taste. The residual heat from the pan will wilt the spinach.

Arrange the spinach in the center of the plate and place the halibut on top. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the fish. Add the reduced wine to the original shallot pan, and stir to deglaze. Drizzle the fish with the pan liquid.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Creme Brulee

The literal translation is "burnt cream", but despite its unappealing name, Creme Brulee is one of the most popular desserts in culinary history. When I hear the name, I immediately think about cracking the shell of my Creme Brulee with the back of a spoon [as per Amelie]. For those of you in the dark, Creme Brulee is essentially a custard that is then topped with granulated or brown sugar. This sugar is then burned using a blowtorch or the broiler setting of the oven until it has become solid, like edible glass. The smooth texture of the custard contrasts with the hard shell on top to create a wonderful, crunchy, creamy, vanilla dessert.

2 Qt. Heavy Cream
2 C. Sugar
2 Vanilla Bean
14 Egg Yolks
2 Whole Egg

Cut open the vanilla bean and scrape down the insides of the bean to remove all the vanilla. Add the vanilla, cream, and sugar to a sauce pan. Whisk to incorporate and heat to simmer. Once the cream begins to simmer, remove from heat and let it steep for about 30 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the whole egg and egg yolks. Strain the cream into the eggs and whisk to combine. Portion the custard evenly into serving bowls (makes about 12).

Bake for 90 minutes in a water bath (about 1/4"-1/2" deep) at 300 degrees. Chill for 24 hours. Sprinkle the tops of the custard with sugar and brulee them using a blowtorch until the sugar is caramelized. Garnish with fresh fruit and/or mint.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Seared Bratwurst w/ Chianti Sauce & Caramelized Shallots

It's almost summertime and that means barbeque. I don't have a grill, so this recipe will be done indoors. If you're fortunate enough to have a grill, just fire up the bratwursts and follow all of the other recipe instructions. This is a great sauce for all cuts of meat, but I especially recommend it on pork. The acidity of the Chianti is smoothed out by brown sugar and melted butter. The fresh sage is the secret to this dish. Acid, sage, and pork are quite possibly the best trio I've discovered so far this year. Try this dish with a light, fruity red wine or summery wheat beer.

1 lb. Pork Sausages (Bratwurst!)
8 Tbsp. Butter, chilled and diced
3 Shallots, thinly sliced
1 Clove Garlic, minced
Fresh Thyme Sprigs
2 C. Chianti
2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

With good cuts of meat, you want to cook them when they're at room temperature. A steak will always cook better when grilled at room temperature vs. straight out of the refrigerator. You want the bratwursts to baste in their own fat, so DO NOT prick them with a fork.

Once cooked, the fat from within the sausages will begin leaking out when you slice the meat. This fat is pure flavor! If you prick the sausages, all this flavor will leak out during cooking. Grill the sausages until done, if you have the equipment and set aside to rest.

If you're like me, and don't have a grill, sear the bratwursts on medium heat on one side, then flip the brats and place into a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and allow to rest for 3 minutes. I love to cook my bratwurst in a cast iron skillet. Once I remove the sausage, I pour the pan drippings and pork-infused oil into a jar to use in other dishes later. These sausages release a lot of "liquid flavor". I recommend you save as much as you can. If you sear the sausages on a heat above medium or roast them in the oven above 350, you'll have wonderful sausages, but the pan drippings will burn. This is why I recommend cooking them on a lower temperature once they've been seared.

While the sausages are searing, melt about 2 tablespoons of the butter in a pan, then add the shallots, garlic, and thyme. Cook over medium high heat to caramelize the shallots, then add the wine and brown sugar and bring to a steady boil. Stir the liquid to thoroughly dissolve the sugar. Boil until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and discard.

Remove the sauce for the heat and whisk in the dijon mustard and the cold butter, a few pieces at a time. Do not add all the butter at once or the sauce will break. Finish the sauce with the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. I like to serve this dish over herb-whipped mash.