Thursday, July 23, 2015

Truffle Butter - Your New Best Friend

Truffles are extremely expensive, and many people (including myself) just can't afford them. So, for us "peasants," truffle oil is the way to go. I know this is extremely controversial among chefs; although, I know plenty that use it. The controversy is spawned by the fact that most truffle oils don't contain any truffle, rather a synthetic product (2,4-dithiapentane) that mimics the flavor and aroma. Many chefs and people in the know turn their nose up saying it tastes unauthentic, metallic, and rancid. Whatever.

Don't fret, because I've got good news for you! There are some affordable truffle oils that do contain truffles! My favorite is Truffieres de Rabasse Black Truffle Olive Oil and is a bargain at $12.00 for 1.86 ounces! Taking into account that a little goes a very, very long way, it is a steal! Remember to store your truffle oil in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator. FYI: If stored in the refrigerator (which is what I do), it may take on a cloudy appearance which in no way affects the quality. 

Whatever kind of truffle oil you purchase, my recipe for truffle butter will change your life! I like a slice on a perfectly grilled steak! Absolute perfection! It will keep for months in the freezer, so try some in your mashed potatoes, tossed with pasta and asparagus, add some to risotto, etc. Having this truffle butter in your freezer is one of the best investments you could make! Enjoy!

Truffle Butter
Makes 1 log

2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/4 cup shallots, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 pound unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons truffle oil

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and shallots and gently sweat until translucent, but not browned. Deglaze the pan with the wine, raise the heat to medium, and reduce until almost dry. Remove the pan from the heat. Place the garlic/shallot/white wine mixture in a small bowl and chill in the refrigerator until completely cold. In a stand mixer (or by hand), whip together the garlic/shallot/white wine mixture with the butter, parsley, and truffle oil. 

Once whipped and completely incorporated, place the mixture in a log shape onto an approximately 12"x9" piece of parchment paper. Fold the parchment over the butter, and using a ruler or bench scraper, drag towards you to create a uniform log shape. 

Roll up the log and twist the ends. Store in the freezer until ready to use.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Col du Tourmalet!

With the Tour de France 2015 entering week two in the beautiful Pyrenees mountains, I am giddy with excitement! Today's stage 11 will no doubt be as enchanting as it is perilous. While my favorite riders are Sagan, Van Garderen, and Quintana, it appears that spindly Chris Froome may very likely take the yellow jersey in Paris...again...sigh. Anyway, to celebrate the beauty of the Pyrenees, I want to share this wonderful recipe from Jamie Oliver that utilizes the region's most famous cheese, "Roquefort Salad with Warm Croutons and Lardons." This fantastic, main course salad is a real showstopper, and one of my absolute favorites! Roquefort, homemade croutons, bacon, walnuts, and a mustardy vinaigrette - what's not to love? A lovely bottle of wine, such as Savagnin from Jura, makes this an excellent summer meal! 

Roquefort Salad with Warm Croutons and Lardons

Serves 4 as a main

For the Salad:
Olive oil
8 ounce piece of smoked streaky bacon, the best quality you can afford, rind removed
2 thick slices of sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 large handfuls of lamb's lettuce, watercress or rocket, washed and spun dry
2 large handfuls of radicchio, washed and spun dry
A large handful of shelled walnut haves, sliced
A bunch of chives, finely chopped
3.5 ounces Roquefort cheese

For the Dressing:
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put a large frying pan on a high heat, and once hot, add a good couple of lugs of olive oil. Cut your bacon into half-inch lardons, and add to the pan. Fry, stirring occasionally, for around 3 minutes, or until you've got a good bit of color on the bacon and a lot of the fat has rendered out. Turn the heat down a little and add your bread to the pan, making sure you spread the croutons out so they take on some color. Fry for another 3 minutes, or until they've sucked up all the wonderful flavor and are lovely, crisp and golden.

Put the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and a good pinch of salt and pepper into a clean jam jar. Put the lid on and give it a shake, then have a taste and make sure you've got the balance right. You want it to be slightly too acidic at this stage, as you'll get quite a bit of saltiness from the bacon and French dressings tend to be quite sharp.

Once your dressing is made, get everyone around the table so they're ready to tuck in as soon as the salad is ready. Put your salad leaves on a big platter, tear in the radicchio, then pour over the wonderful, thick dressing. Scatter over most of your walnuts and chives and all the croutons and lardons. Quickly mix it all up with your clean hands so that every single leaf is coated.

Use the tip of a knife to crumble off little nuggets of Roquefort and let them fall straight on to your salad. Finish by scattering over the rest of the walnuts and chives from a height, and tuck in!

Recipe from Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pizza on the Grill

It's no secret that I love to grill and barbecue, especially in the summer. Not only does it keep my kitchen cleanup to a minimum, it also keeps my house cooler in the sweltering heat of summer. Until recently, I avoided recipes for pizza on the grill. I honestly thought it sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. Well, I gave it a go, hoping I wouldn't have to make an emergency call for take-out. Turns out, it's a brilliant way to cook pizza! Not only did my pizzas turn out with a delicious smokey flavor, it was actually quite fun! 

I made a simple tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil pizza for my kids, and a "Chicken Fajita Pizza" for me and my husband. Both were delicious! If you are planning to fire up the grill on this fourth of July, skip the boring hot dogs and burgers, and give this a try! Your guests will have a blast designing their own pizzas! All you'll need is a nice green salad, some ice-cold beer, and peach cobbler/vanilla ice cream, to ensure a fourth of July that is as memorable as it is fun!

Grilled Chicken Fajita Pizza

Makes 2 large oval pizzas

For the Pizza Dough for the Grill:
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees) (My hot tap water is hot enough.)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

For the Chicken Fajita topping (Amounts are for 1 pizza, double for 2):
1 leftover, cooked chicken breast from my chicken fajita recipe, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 cup leftover, cooked onions and bell peppers from my chicken fajita recipe, chopped into bite-size pieces
Enough of your favorite salsa to spread over the dough (I like Roasted Tomato-Jalapeno Salsa)
Freshly grated Monterrey Jack and sharp cheddar cheese, to top the salsa
1 avocado, diced
Sprinkle of chopped, fresh cilantro

For the Pizza Dough for the Grill
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water and stir to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until the yeast mixture begins to foam, 5-10 minutes.

Turn the mixer on low and add the salt and olive oil. Add the flour, a little at a time, mixing on the lowest speed until the flour has been completely incorporated. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium and let it go until the dough gathers into a ball, about 5 minutes. If the dough seems too wet, add a little more flour. If the dough seems too dry, add a little more water, etc. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Turn the dough into a large bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil, to prevent sticking. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about an hour.

To Grill the Pizza
Have all your toppings ready and available! (It's good to be organized, as the pizzas cook quickly!) Divide the dough into two balls on a lightly floured surface.

Prepare a charcoal (or gas) grill to high heat on one side of the grill. (E.g., if using charcoal, pile the charcoal on one side of the grill.)

When your grill is ready, roll out one dough ball to a 1/4" thickness in an oval/rectangular shape. (The oval shape allows the pizza dough to cook on the hot side of the grill, and heat and melt the cheese on the other cooler side of the grill without burning the dough.) Brush the dough on one side with olive oil. Place the oiled side of the dough directly over the hottest part of the grill. Brush the top side of the dough with olive oil. Continue to cook the dough on each side until slightly charred and puffed, only a couple minutes per side. Remove the dough to a cutting board.

Spread the salsa (or tomato sauce,...whatever you wish) over the dough. Top with the cheese, chicken, onions and bell peppers. Return the pizza to the cooler side of the grill. Cover to allow the cheese to melt and toppings to heat, approximately 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and top with the avocado and cilantro.

Repeat the process with the second pizza and desired toppings.

Happy 4th!
Love you, Tom!