Friday, September 30, 2011

Oo La La

Nothing could be more perfect to end my Brasserie Les Halles menu than Creme Brulee! The origins of Creme Brulee are disputed.  The French call it Creme Brulee, the Spanish call it Catalan Cream, and the English call it Trinity Cream or Cambridge Burnt Cream.  Who cares! It's a decadently chic dessert that will have you saying, "Oo La La"!


Creme Brulee:

Serves 6, Best made day ahead, perfect for dinner parties!


Note:  My ramekins are 1/2 cup and made 10, not 6!  So depending on the size of your ramekins, the serving size may vary.


Ingredients:

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
6 ounces granulated sugar
10 egg yolks
6 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions:

"Put the heavy cream in a large pot.  Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a paring knife and scrape the insides into the cream.  Put the empty pod in as well. Add half the granulated sugar to the cream, stir well, and bring the mixture to a boil.

Place the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and whisk in the remaining granulated sugar, continuing to whisk until the mixture is pale yellow and slightly foamy.  Remove the cream mixture from the heat and slowly, gradually whisk it into the yolk mixture.  Make sure to whisk constantly to prevent the hot liquid from curdling the yolks.  Remove the vanilla bean pod and discard.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Place the ramekins in the baking pan and fill the pan with water so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Divide the custard evenly among the ramekins and cook them in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until the top is set but still jiggly.  Remove the ramekins from the oven and let cool to room temperature. The custards can be held overnight, covered with plastic in the refrigerator."  (In order to easily remove the ramekins from the water bath, wrap rubber bands in an X-shape around the ends of your tongs to make a nonslip surface.)


To serve:
"Sprinkle 1 tablespoon brown sugar over the top of each custard.  Carefully run a propane torch's flame over each custard to caramelize the sugar.  Wait a minute, then serve the custards with spoons."  If you don't have a torch, you can pop them under a broiler, but watch carefully!

Recipe courtesy of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Remember That Demi-Glace?

Remember that demi-glace?  If you missed it, click here. I finally got a chance to use it in what is touted to be "one of the most popular dishes at Les Halles," Mignons de Porc a L'ail, from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook.  I made this before, but with store-bought stock, and found with all the reduction of the sauce that it was a little salty.  Not this time!  I used home-made veal stock and a shot of demi-glace.  It turned out great! This dish consists of pork tenderloins stuffed with garlic confit and bacon, marinated overnight, and then roasted, and topped with a shallot, wine, and garlic confit sauce. It's not hard...try it! I'll show you how:


Mignons de Porc a L'ail:

Serves 4-6. I served with mashed potatoes, as Bourdain suggested.

Ingredients:

4 heads of garlic confit, click here to learn how. (Don't forget the recipe requires 4 heads of garlic, not just the 2 I show in the Techniques tab, you'll have to double it.)
4 pork tenderloins, about 10 oz each (I used 2, 18.4 oz pork tenderloins - that's all I could find)
2 slices of bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
1/2 cup strong, dark chicken or veal stock (if using store-bought, I highly recommend using a low-sodium or sodium free stock, if you can find it)
1 sprig of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Directions:

The day before:
"Use a fork to mash half of the garlic cloves.  Reserve the remaining cloves separately in a small bowl.  Lay two tenderloins down across a cutting board."  (Because I was using larger tenderloins, I cut halfway through the tenderloins, lengthwise, so they would flatten out and mimic using smaller ones.)


"Lay some plastic wrap across them and give them a light pounding with the heel of your hand.  You're looking to flatten the tenderloins ever so slightly on the fatter end. Remove and discard the plastic wrap.

Top the tenderloins with the mashed garlic, spreading the pastelike substance evenly along the length of the tenderloins.  Lay the bacon slices across the garlic the long way."  Like so:


"Now lay the other two tenderloins on top of the first two, the fatter ends pointing in the opposite direction from the ones on the bottom, so that they nestle together in a yin-yang sort of way, creating a fairly even-shaped tube. Using kitchen string, tie each double tenderloin together tightly and evenly a several points along the tube (that way it can be sliced into medallions without cutting the string).  Refrigerate overnight."  Like so: 

The next day:
"Preheat the oven to 350 degrees." (I recommend 450 degrees.) "Remove the tenderloins from the refrigerator. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter stops foaming, season the pork, then add it to the pan." "Cook the pork over high heat for about 6 to 8 minutes per side, after which the meat should be nicely browned." (I found that if I were to cook the pork over high heat for 6 to 8 minutes per side, it would have burned.  It browned quicker, so I removed it after it had a nice, golden brown crust, and compensated by upping the oven temperature. It worked great and hopefully Bourdain will forgive me!) "Place the meat in a roasting pan and finish cooking in the oven for about 20 minutes.  When cooked through, but still moist in the center, remove from the oven and allow to rest on a plate."  (I used a oven-safe meat thermometer, and pulled it out at 135-140 degrees. Tent with foil and remember, the temperature will continue to rise while resting.)

For the sauce:
"Discard the fat from the saute pan and add 1 tablespoon of the butter.  Heat over medium-high heat, then add the shallots.  Cook for 2 minutes, or until the shallots are soft.  Stir in the wine with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom to dislodge the good stuff.  Cook over high heat until the wine is reduced to a glaze consistency, then stir in the stock.  Cook over high heat until it's reduced by half.  (At this point you should, if you can, whisk in a spoon of that good demi-glace from your stash.) Add any drippings from the plate that's holding your cooked pork.  Whisk the remaining tablespoon of butter into the sauce, as well, as the remaining cloves of garlic confit and the parsley.  A little splash of raw wine at this point is nice, too." (Because I used a no-sodium stock and demi-glace, I did add a pinch of salt to the sauce, taste it.)

To serve:
"Slice the pork into 1 1/2-inch medallions, arrange them around a platter, and spoon over the sauce.  This dish is very good with mashed potatoes, in which case, you might want to arrange the medallions on and around the potatoes, with the garlic confit-studded sauce also poured over and around.  Delicious."  

What to drink?  The remainder of the wine, of course!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lily-Livered...!

I had another "Dinner Night"!!!  It was really fun and the menu was inspired by Brasserie Les Halles.


I began this decadent meal with Frisee aux Lardons.  This is a beautiful salad of fresh lettuce, fried lardons (bacon cubes), homemade croutons, tossed with a tangy dressing, and topped with a creamy poached egg!  Yum! I chose to use a recipe from My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde. I've made it before and it's delicious. I wanted to keep the menu authentic and use the recipe from my Les Halles cookbook; but, it was tossed with a chicken liver vinaigrette and doubted I could get my lily-livered kids to eat it! 


Frisee aux Lardons

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the salad
1 large head frisee (I used a blend of baby mixed greens with frisee)
2 shallots, diced
Olive oil for frying
1/2 baguette, cut into cubes
1 pound slab bacon, cubed
6 large eggs

For the dressing
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Break up the frisee, wash and spin it dry, and place in a large bowl with the shallots.

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and fry the bread in batches until golden on all sides, then remove from the pan and place on paper towels.  Wipe out the pan, add a little more olive oil, and fry the bacon until golden brown. Place on paper towels.

To poach the eggs to perfection, bring a pan of water to a gentle simmer.  (I highly recommend using a non-stick pan, if you have one.)  Carefully break in the eggs, return the water to a simmer, then immediately remove the pan from the heat.  Cover it with a lid and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Put the vinegar and mustard along with the salt and pepper into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine.  Add the olive oil and shake again. Pour over the frisee and toss well.  Add the golden bread cubes and bacon to the salad and toss.  Serve on individual plates, each salad topped with a hot poached egg. It's a great salad!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ro*Tel? Do Tell!

Today is the first day of Fall; and as a distinct chill fills the air, it's time to scour the pantry for some cans of Ro*Tel. According to their website, "Way back in the 1940's, Carl Roettele opened a small family canning plant in Elsa, Texas."  (That's deep in South Texas.) "Starting with the freshest, most flavorful tomatoes, he added chopped green chili peppers and a special blend of spices to create a sensational taste."  I've heard that Ro*Tel is a regional ingredient and may be hard for some to find. That's too bad, because this spicy concoction is just what you need to add excitement to your Fall dishes, like this Picante Pot Roast. This is a great dish that will happily sit on your stove for hours, and is great leftover and shredded to make awesome tacos. 


Picante Pot Roast

Serves 6-8.

Ingredients:

1, 3-pound boneless chuck roast
3-4 garlic cloves, slivered
1-2 pickled jalapenos, slivered
Lone Star Dry Rub
2 tablespoons bacon drippings (save that bacon grease), or canola oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2, 10-ounce cans Ro*Tel Tomatoes and Green Chiles (Original)
1/2-1 cup unsalted beef stock
6 medium carrots, peeled and cut in half
1 1/2 medium yellow onions, sliced into rings
1-2 avocados, sliced just before serving
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

With a knife, cut little slits all over the roast and insert the slivers of garlic and jalapeno.  Rub the meat well with as much dry rub as will stick. Let sit at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight (that's what I do).  Remember to bring the roast close to room temperature before cooking (about 30 minutes).

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Heat the bacon drippings (or oil) over medium-high heat in a heavy lidded skillet or Dutch oven.  Dredge the meat in the flour, and brown it in the drippings or oil.  Turn down the heat to medium.  Pour in the onions, carrots, Ro*Tel (liquid and all), and 1/2 cup of the stock.  Bring just to a simmer, cover, and bake for 4 hours, turning the roast with tongs once or twice.

Check the meat after 3 hours, and add more stock if it is getting dry.  If it seems a little soupy, uncover it for the last 30 minutes of baking.  The meat should be falling-apart tender when done. Serve the meat and vegetables hot, with a few slices of avocado and a sprinkling of cilantro.

Adapted from Texas Home Cooking, by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.

What's The Secret to Texas Cooking?

Want to know why Texas food is so intoxicating with it's spicy, savory zest?  It's a dry rub!  That's what makes Texas barbecue different from other regions of the USA. Dry rub is a mixture of spices and is rubbed on the surface of whatever meat you choose, adding amazing flavor and a crusty texture.  It's great on beef, chicken, pork, burgers and even pot roast! I mix it up and store it in an air-tight container in my pantry to always have on hand.


Lone Star Dry Rub

Makes about 2 cups.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon ground cayenne

Thanks to Cheryl and Bill Jamison from their book Texas Home Cooking.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chicken Soup for the Soul

I know we've all seen these books by Jack Canfield. In fact, there are some titles you may have never heard of, such as: Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR, Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul (forward by Paula Abdul), and the beloved classic, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Menopause. Really? Well, no need to let your mascara run...make this instead: Chicken Tortilla Soup. This is a delicious, heartfelt soup made from the simplest of ingredients to create a truly soul-satisfying meal in a bowl.


Chicken Tortilla Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the soup:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 chicken thighs (skin removed)
Kosher salt
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth, store-bought or homemade
12, 2-inch stems fresh cilantro (save the leaves for the garnish)
1 1/2 cup fresh tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, canned, or frozen-thawed)
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

For the garnish:
2 ripe avocados, diced and tossed with a squeeze of lime juice
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco (this is the best if you can find it), feta, or ricotta salata cheese
4 dollops of sour cream
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Lime wedges for serving

For the crispy tortilla strips: (If you're too lazy, you can buy them, but it's better to make them.)
6, 6-inch fresh corn tortillas
1/2-1 cup canola oil for frying

Directions:

For the soup:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes.  Add the chili powder and tomato paste and stir with a wooden spoon to mix and cook briefly; take care not to let the chili powder scorch.

Season the chicken thighs lightly with salt and nestle them in the tomato-chili paste, turning them once so they're entirely coated.  Add about 1 cup of the broth and adjust the heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook the chicken, turning once, until it's extremely tender when pierced with a knife, 30 to 40 minutes.  Add a little more broth if the pan starts to dry out. (It probably won't.)  When the chicken is done, remove it from the pan, let it cool a bit, and then cut or shred it into bite-size pieces, discarding the bones, bits of fat, or gristle.   Set the chicken aside.

If there is any visible grease in the pan, spoon it off, like so:

Add the remaining broth and the cilantro stems and stir. Simmer, uncovered, until the broth is reduced by about one third, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the tortilla strips.

For the crispy tortilla strips:
Cut the tortillas into 1/4-inch-wide strips.  Line a plate with paper towels.  In a small high-sided saucepan, heat about 1-inch of the oil over medium heat.  When it reaches 375 degrees, or when a strip of tortilla sizzles immediately when dipped in the oil, add 6 to 8 tortilla strips.  Fry until the strips aren't bubbling much and are pale brown, about 1 minute.  Using tongs, transfer to the paper towels to drain.  Repeat with the remaining tortilla strips.

To serve:
Divide the shredded chicken, tomato, corn, and black beans into 4 large soup bowls.  Reheat the broth, if necessary, so it's piping hot and pour into each bowl. Garnish with the avocado, cheese, sour cream, chopped cilantro, the crispy tortilla strips, and a lime wedge to squeeze over the soup at the table. This is chicken soup for the soul!

Adapted from Martha Holmberg's recipe from Fine Cooking.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Guacamole Song!



Wow! What more do you need to know? Here's my recipe for a simple, yet delicious, guacamole!



Guacamole:

Feel free to alter amounts to suit your preference, e.g., if you like more tomato - add more, if you want more lime juice - add more, etc.

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados (should be slightly soft, but not mushy)
1/2 lime, juiced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup chopped white or red onion, rinsed under cold water (use a strainer)
1 large roma tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Couple grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno or serrano chili, seeded and chopped (optional if you like it spicy)

Directions:

First peel the avocados, remove the pits, squeeze each half of the avocados into a bowl or molcajete (mexican mortar). Add the lime juice and mash with a fork or the metlapil (mexican pestle). Like so:


Add the remaining ingredients and let sit a few minutes before serving. This lets the flavors blend. 

If you want to serve it with tortilla chips, I highly recommend spreading them on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for about 5 - 8 minutes. Serve this beautiful guacamole with thoughtfully warmed tortilla chips and it just might make you sing! Olé!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Cat's Meow

Few things are as perfect as this Italian Shortbread with Almonds and Jam served perched on a glass of good Portuguese Madeira - tapas style!  This shortbread looks impressive and tastes fabulous, but is really easy to make.  You don't pre-bake the shell, it uses store-bought jam, and you don't even grease the pan!  If that's not enough, it's best made a day ahead and stored at room temperature! It's the perfect ending to my Mediterranean-inspired meal: Potato Croquetas with Saffron Alioli and Braised Paprika Chicken.  Thank you Cindy Mushet for the recipe, from her book Desserts: Mediterranean Flavors, California Style


Italian Shortbread with Almonds and Jam

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4-1/2 cup low-sugar apricot jam (I like Polaner brand, Apricot Spreadable Fruit)
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Confectioners' sugar, for serving (just a sprinkle)
1, 9" fluted tart pan with removable bottom (you can use a pie pan, but it won't look as fancy)
1 bottle of good Portuguese Madeira (I like The House of Sandeman - Rainwater Madeira)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle level.

Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed in a stand mixer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until very light, scraping down the bowl from time to time.  Add the almond extract and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds more to blend well.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour and salt together.  Add to the butter mixture and beat on low speed, just until the dough is thoroughly blended, 30 to 40 seconds.  (The dough will be stiff.)  Remove 1/2 cup of the dough and spread on a small plate in a thin layer, place it in the freezer.

Press the remaining dough evenly into the pan - it can be a little higher at the edge, but the center shouldn't be elevated.  Spread the jam evenly over the dough to within 1/2 to 1 inch of the edge.  Retrieve the remaining dough from the freezer and crumble it over the jam, allowing some jam to show through.  Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the top.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.  

To serve, remove the tart rim and dust lightly with confectioners' sugar.  Cut into wedges and perch on a small glass of Madeira.  MEOW!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Deja Vu!

Keeping in mind my awesome Mediterranean-inspired meal from last weekend, following the Potato Croquetas with Saffron Alioli, I served my Braised Paprika Chicken. I've posted this recipe before, but I thought you would like a picture. This chicken has everything you could want: slowly braised chicken thighs, smokey paprika, diced potato, sliced onion, a good glug of sherry, and topped off with fresh parsley!  It makes my mouth water just writing about it!  Look how nice it looks!


This dish begs for a nice crusty baguette and a glass of Cabernet!!!

For the recipe, click here, you'll be glad you did!  

Don't forget to check back for the spectacular dessert recipe in this menu!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tapas or Pinchos?


Saturday, I had friends over for a Mediterranean-inspired meal, full of the flavors of Spain and a spectacular Italian dessert.  I kicked off the party with a traditional tapas dish: Potato Croquetas with Saffron Alioli.  The word Tapa actually means "lid" or "to cover". Apparently, bars in Spain began serving wine with a slice of bread on top of the glass to keep flies and dust out. There must of been a huge fly problem!!!  In the Basque region, the bread was topped with delicious appetizers and fastened with a toothpick.  This is known as Pincho or Pintxo, meaning "spike". Then, by counting the toothpicks, they would know what to charge. So, call these croquetas tapas or pinchos; either way, they are delicious and everyone loves them!


Potato Croquetas with Saffron Alioli

Makes 24 to 28.  Feel free to add 4 oz of chopped ham or chorizo to the potato mix, if you like.

Ingredients:

For the saffron alioli:
Pinch of saffron threads (about 10 or so threads)
1/2 teaspoon hot water
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the potato croquetas:
1 lb large russet potatoes (about 2)
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup or so all-purpose flour
1/2 cup or so Panko bread crumbs
1 quart olive oil, for frying (so don't spend a lot on the oil)

 Directions:

For the saffron alioli:
Mix the saffron threads with the hot water in a small cup.  Let it sit for at least 5 minutes.  Mix the saffron/water with the remaining ingredients until smooth.  Can be made up to 2 days in advance, covered, and chilled.

For the potato croquetas:
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Place in a 2-quart pot and cover with cold, salted water and boil until tender, about 8 minutes.  Drain and mash with a potato masher or fork, leaving the potatoes slightly chunky.  Let cool.

Once cooled, add 1 beaten egg, the herbs, softened butter, salt and pepper and stir until combined.  Spoon tablespoon size balls (you'll have to use your hands) onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Chill for 30 minutes.

Next, line up 3 bowls.  Fill the first bowl with the flour, the second with 2 beaten eggs, and the third with the Panko.  Roll the potato balls in the flour, gently shaking off the excess.  Dip into the egg, letting excess drip off, then roll in the Panko.  Place on the baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart pot until it registers 325-350 degrees on a thermometer.  Working in batches of 4, fry the croquetas, turning occasionally until browned. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, remove the croquetas and drain on paper towels.  Repeat with the remaining croquetas.  

I make these up to 3 hours before serving and store at room temperature.  That way, I can clean up the mess before my guests arrive.  Reheat in a 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes.

Keep checking my blog for the remaining recipes in this menu!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Part Deux - Demi Glace

I began today searching for ice cube trays. I need them to store my demi-glace (once finished) in my freezer for some lucky dishes. Apparently, ice cube trays are a "seasonal item" reserved for summertime, not fall. Who knew? Finally, at my third store, I found them in the summer clearance section! So, I guess if you need ice cube trays in the winter, you'll be out of luck.

Anyway, after bringing my precious trays home, I pull my pot of basic brown veal stock out of the fridge, crack open my Les Halles cookbook and begin again:

Demi-Glace:

Ingredients:

2 quarts basic brown veal stock
2 cups red wine
3 shallots, peeled and chopped

Directions:

After tucking away some of my veal stock (in the freezer for future recipes), I start with 2 quarts of stock and continue reading. According to Anthony Bourdain, "In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, dump in red wine equal in amount to one fourth of the volume of stock.  Add a few peeled chopped shallots.  Begin reducing the red wine over high heat."  


"When about half the wine has cooked away, add your stock, bring to a near boil, and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Let me stress again: DO NOT EVER BOIL YOUR STOCK!"


"Gently simmer and simmer and simmer and reduce, reduce, reduce until you have a lush, dark, intensely flavored brown sauce.  It should be reasonably thick, but not candy-sticky." (I reduced mine by half, about 4 hours of careful simmering.)  "When your demi looks good, simply repeat the straining process (if anything, even more carefully)."  If you need information on straining, refer to Part Un - Basic Brown Veal Stock.


"Storage:  You can freeze this stuff in batches, large or small.  I like the Julia Child idea of filling ice cube trays with the stuff, so that you can later pop out a cube at a time for small meals or for jacking anemic sauces or stews with flavor, color, and texture."


"This stuff you just made is the mother, the source for all other sauces down the line.  You can bring it down more later, infuse flavors, add garnishes, all sorts of crafty business."

Well, I did it!!!  I'm so excited!!!  I can't wait to use it....but not today, I'm beat!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Part Un - Basic Brown Veal Stock

Yesterday, I found myself in a predicament. I was at my favorite Global Foods Market to pick up whole black peppercorns and quail eggs. I was planning on sharing some adorable uses for quail eggs. Guess what? After driving out of my way, they were out of black peppercorns and quail eggs! Did I mention the "Utility Work" sign (left lane closed ahead) and no one was even working!!! That's irritating! So in my pathetic annoyance, I asked someone if they could get veal bones. Why you ask? So did they! It was a low point in my shopping ventures. But I want to make demi-glace. I have to salvage my sense of purpose and make the gas money worth it. I've never made demi-glace and have heard it is the "magic bullet" to amazing food.

The butcher, a rotund guy, said he had to cut some veal up anyway and to wait 15 minutes. I browsed the aisles and it was no later than 10 minutes and I had 5 pounds of freshly cut veal bones! Thanks Global Foods, but they charged me for bones! Shouldn't bones be free? Well, it's day 2 and I'm still working on my demi-glace. I chose to use Anthony Bourdain's version from his Les Halles cookbook. Thomas Keller's was just impractical in my kitchen. Here's what I've done so far:

Basic Brown Veal Stock

Ingredients:

5 pounds veal bones
5 quarts water (1 quart of water per pound of bones)
Handful of flour 
Generous dose of tomato paste
Mirepoix (a mix of onions - about 1 cup, carrots -1/2 cup, and celery -1/2 cup)
A few thyme sprigs
Some whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Directions:

According to my Les Halles cookbook, "Take as many veal bones as you can fit into your largest heavy-bottomed pot or pots, wash them in cold water, and dry them.  Lay them out in a lightly oiled roasting pan, no more than two layers deep.  If you want to cheat, as many of us do, throw a wad of tomato paste on top of the bones, sprinkle a handful of flour over them, and mix through.

Place the roasting pan" (I use a rimmed cookie sheet, because I don't have a roasting pan or the room to store one), "in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Roast the bones, turning occasionally to work the tomato paste and flour through the grease. Avoid scorching. You do not want any black color." I roasted mine for about an hour or so.  "While the bones are roasting, assemble the following vegetables in an amount totaling no more than one third the volume of bones."  I listed my amounts above.  "Peel the carrots and onions.  Remove the celery leaves."  "Roughly chop the vegetables into large chunks. Put the vegetables in another oiled roasting pan," (used a small broiling pan) "and roast them, stirring frequently, until evenly browned and caramelized.  Dump the bones and vegetables into the pot or pots," and fill with cold water.  "Add a few sprigs of thyme, some whole black peppercorns, and a couple of bay leaves." 


"Bring up nearly to a boil-BUT NEVER BOIL-then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Simmer slowly for eight to ten hours, occasionally skimming foam, scum, and oil from the top." 


"When done, lift out the bones and strain the liquid through a fine strainer or chinois-or better yet, through cheesecloth draped in a strainer.  Do it as many times as you can stand.  The more the better."


"Now you have a basic brown veal stock."  

No, now I have basic brown veal stock!!!  Next step, make it into demi-glace!

Check back for Part Deux - Demi-Glace!!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Holy Figs!

Fresh figs just arrived in my local stores!  I'm so excited! According to the California Fig Advisory Board, figs are the most talked about fruit in the bible.  No wonder, they are truly beautiful! Look!


If you've never tasted a fresh fig, you owe it to yourself to try some.  Usually, they are served with cheese, cut in half and grilled, and/or drizzled with honey and walnuts. Those are all delicious, but I can't help but love this savory version from Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin.  It's bacon-wrapped figs!  Yes, BACON!!!

 

Bacon-Wrapped Figs

Makes an exciting amuse-bouche for 8, although my husband thinks 8 serves him, he loves these!

Ingredients:

8 fresh figs
8 slices center cut (30% less fat) bacon - if you use the regular thick bacon, it won't crisp up and is kinda gross
8 toothpicks
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

With a small knife, gently cut just through the skin below the stem (don't cut off the stem) and gently peel off the skin downward.  Basically, you're peeling the fig but leaving the stem intact.  This seems a little tedious, but it's not brain surgery.  Preheat your broiler and set the rack about 4 to 5 inches below the broiler.  Next wrap each fig with a slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick.  Don't stretch the bacon too tight around the fig or it will break as the bacon cooks.  (I know, I've done it!)  Place the figs on an appropriate size baking sheet lined with foil (makes cleanup easy).  Broil for 8 to 10 minutes, until the bacon is crisp.  Place on serving dish or individual amuse-bouche plates and sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper.  You can use a knife and fork for large figs like these, but smaller ones can be finger food.  These are amazing!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Life's a Peach!

I was browsing a bookstore recently, and saw Judith Jones' book The Pleasures of Cooking for One.  I don't know why, but it made me feel sorry for her.  If you're as lucky as I am, you should appreciate the fact that you can cook for people you love.  You're lucky to have them! Why don't you make them this Texas classic, Texas Hill-Country Peach Cobbler. It is so easy, so creamy, so crusty, and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream - Divine! My kids love to watch it cook in the oven, you'll see why! This is the last recipe in my trilogy of favorite recipes that are easy, most requested, and travel well.  If you're going to a Labor Day cookout, why not bring this?  If you missed the other two recipes, check them out: Salsa Mexicana and Corn Souffle.


Texas Hill-Country Peach Cobbler

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar (separated into 1 cup plus 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter (melted)
3 cups fresh sliced peaches
9x13 baking dish (this makes a thinner cobbler with lots of crusty bits - this is what I use) or an 8x8x2 (this makes a thicker cobbler with less crusty bits)
Vanilla ice cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour the melted butter in the dish.  Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, 1 cup of sugar, and milk together and pour into the pan.  Do not stir!  Lay the peaches evenly over the batter.  Top evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar.  Bake for an hour. Bonus: Your house will smell great!