12/30/11

What To Expect From The French Laundry Napa Valley and Wine Pairing

Synopsis: World renown 5 star restaurant is a once in a lifetime experience--around 14 courses of exquisitely prepared miniature dishes that please the eye and palate. Pair light wines like champagne or Pinot as the flavors are delicate.
The French Laundry
Once a laundry, saloon and brothel, now a world-renown restaurant, The French Laundry was founded in 1994 by Chef Thomas Keller in Yountville, Napa Valley. Chef Keller was named "America's Best Chef" by Time magazine and "Chef of the Year" by the Culinary Institute of America plus he won consecutive "Best Chef" awards from the James Beard Foundation. Naturally, The French Laundry is at the top of any foodie's "bucket" list, so I was thrilled that we had reservations after several years of trying to obtain one without success. I must not have been the only first time customer apprehensive about what to expect at this venerable establishment, since The French Laundry website even has a page entitled "What To Expect" where they say "...that's how we try to welcome you--as a guest in a home we love".
Salmon Tartare
Indeed, the place looks more like a home that a famous building, with their sign nearly hidden in the foliage in front. We were early for our 5:30 reservation, so we peeked into the kitchen while we waited for the front door to open. A bevy of chefs were prepping in an immaculate but not ostentatious kitchen. We were welcomed into the restaurant, which continued the theme of modesty with its simple decor. The room was lit with candles and soft light, with comfortable chairs and quality place settings and stemware, but there is nothing pretentious or stuffy about the atmosphere. The feeling is one of warmth and welcome.
We had downloaded and perused the wine list prior to arriving and had decided that wines by the glass would give us a more affordable way to try a number of different selections. The French Laundry wines by the HALF bottle range from $45 to $1,285. We found wine by the glass that fit our more modest budget: the Weegmüller "Haardter Herzog" Kabinett Riesling and the Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey "Les Vireuils" white Burgundy which we thought had an off-taste and exchanged for the HdV "Hyde Vineyard" Chardonnay from Carneros. One can choose between the regular Chef's Tasting Menu and the Tasting Of Vegetables--we had one of each.
Salad Of Hachiya Persimmon
Prior to our first course, we were brought two tiny (about 1" wide) warm gougeres filled with melted cheese--fantastic! Then, two tiny "ice cream cones" of salmon tartare. I unobtrusively took photos at our corner table with my iphone--the light was dim, so the photos are not the best. The salmon cones look large--but they were about 2" tall--just a bite of salmon with a cream interior and crispy shell. Our first courses of the menu were Baked Sierra Beauty Apple for me--reminiscent of an apple betty--and "Oysters and Pearls" for Paul, which was a creamy mixture of tapioca, caviar and oysters--one of the evening's best dishes.
Celeric "Gratin"
Next on the vegetable tasting for me was the Salad of Hachiya Persimmon with heirloom beets and petite greens. The greens were precious--one tiny sprig was the size of half my pinkie fingernail. I liked the sweet persimmon, but the beet slivers were about the size of a slivered almond, so it was difficult to taste their natural rich flavor. Paul's salad was the Salsify "En Feuille de Brick", also with the tiniest bits of salsify, Asian pear, radicchio, walnuts and radicchio. The flavors were lovely but delicate and would have been better with a brut champagne or dry sparkling wine, even though I loved the nectar-like aromatics of the Riesling.
"Caesar Salad"
We switched to a glass of the Maume Gevrey-Chambertin "En Pallud" from Burgundy (a Pinot Noir) and a glass of the Hirsch "San Andreas" Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast to go with the Celeriac "Gratin", which had a nice creamy sauce that went well with the chestnuts in the dish, and the Sautéed Fillet of New Zealand Medai which had chorizo and piquillo peppers spicing it.
Garnet Yams "En Cocotte"
Paul's next course was a deconstructed "Caesar Salad" with tender lobster "mitts" and a few wisps of romaine. The photo make it look large, but it was in fact a gem-like square about 2" wide plated in the middle of a very large white plate. It comprised a tasty two bites of lobster with a hint of garlic and butter.
Salmon Creek Farm Pork Belly
I had the Garnet Yams "En Cocotte" --a vegetable lover's delight. I was thrilled to see the humble yam given formal tableside service usually reserved for fish or meat. A cart was wheeled to our table with several covered silver dishes. One was opened to reveal Savoy cabbage chiffonaded and gently cooked. It was carefully spooned into the serving dish. Another silver lid was lifted to reveal the yams that had been baking in maple syrup--they were placed on the cabbage, topped with tiny Candy Cap mushrooms, then soaked with the bourbon maple syrup sauce. This was another of the evening's top dishes and paired perfectly with Pinot Noir.
"Calotte De Boeuf Grillée"
Paul's next two meat courses were the Salmon Creek Farm Pork Belly and Snake River Farms "Calotte De Boeuf Grillée" which he declared delicious. My Niçoise Olive "Garganelli" had tubular pasta made from special eggs flown in from Japan. Unfortunately, I could not taste the difference and it seemed a shame to have spent the money for such an expensive ingredient when a locally raised organic egg surely would have made an excellent pasta. I also thought the pasta was a little too "al dente" and this was the only non-dessert dish I was served that I did not devour in its entirety.

"St Nectaire"
The "St Nectaire" was a carefully composed combination of wilted radicchio, truffled bread bits and a prune puree that had less flavor than I would have expected from the name and the listing of ingredients.
"Pecan Pie"
However, the next four courses were the gastronomic equivalent of the end of a fireworks show when all guns are fired for a grand finale. Despite the tiny servings, the number of dishes we had already consumed had already sated us--but the desserts were irresistible. Sorbets were served to cleanse our palate--sour cherry or buttermilk. My buttermilk sorbet was just a spoon's worth, but it was all that was needed. Imagine the brightest, cleanest, freshest taste of dairy hitting your mouth with a flash of cold, then melting away instantly like a snowflake!
Buttermilk Sorbet
The "Pecan Pie" With Verjus-Poached Honey Pears was the perfect amount of sweetness loaded with pecan flavor. Our dessert course was quickly followed by extra treats--warm, fresh miniature donuts, macadamia nuts rolled in chocolate, chocolate truffles with various fillings and an unbelievably delicious "caffe fredo" which was a tiny cup with frozen coffee cream topped with an airy mixture that looked like steamed milk but must have been the lightest foam of meringue. We had been asked about any allergies at the beginning of the meal and I mentioned that I didn't eat chocolate, so I wasn't served the chocolate soufflé--there was no need at this point as I could not have had another bite, no matter how delicious.
Desserts
For wines to pair with the dessert courses, we chose the Oremus Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos and the D'Oliveira Verdelho "Reserva" Madeira--two types of wines we had never tried. I remember my wine class teacher in Culinary School Antonio Gardella rhapsodizing over Hungarian wines and saying that though they are rare in the US, they historically have been considered in Europe as being on a par with French grand cru, so I was very interested in trying the Tokaji Aszú. The grapes are allowed to contract Botrytis cinerea or "noble rot" which concentrates the flavor. The Tokai was lusciously sweet and aromatic as nectar. The Madeira was smoky and woody and did not pair as well with the desserts. Overall, if I could redo our wine choices, I think I would choose a dry champagne for the savory dishes since the flavors were so delicate. Some of the ingredients are served in such tiny amounts, that their flavors were diminished. The sauces were exquisite, but none were strongly flavored. Even the meat dishes would not pair well with a powerful red like a Cabernet Sauvignon as the decisively tasty meat portions were around 2" long and the other parts of the dish prepared with a light touch. I think the Pinot Noir we had paired was as strong a red wine as could be paired successfully with the meal we had. The one exception was the yam dish which was the most powerfully flavored dish and was perfect with our Pinot.
Besides the beautifully prepared food, the French Laundry experience was remarkable for the service. The servers silently and unobtrusively place and remove utensils and plates. We witnessed the graceful choreography as they served all the diners at the adjoining table of eight simultaneously without any fanfare or superfluous movements. Our waiter was knowlegeable and affable, happy to answer our many questions, plus he gave us a copy of the day's menu which is below, plus little bags of yummy shortbread cookies.
However, The French Laundry will have to be third on the list of the best dining experiences in my life behind the two kaiseki meals I had in ryokans in Japan: the Hiiragiya Ryokan in Kyoto and the Kankaso Ryokan in Nara. Multiple courses are served to you in your room, each presented on a priceless dish--an heirloom pottery bowl, a gilt enameled plate, a gorgeous natural stone, an elaborate laquered tray hundreds of years old--and the composition of the food creates a piece of art that complements the serving dish and reflects the season of the year. The tastes are carefully orchestrated to encompass all varieties of cooking techniques, textures, flavors and colors creating an amazing variety in the dining experience. Obviously, the quality of ingredients and technique at The French Laundry are the very best, but the texture of the dozens of ingredients in the savory dishes tended to be the same softness as if everything had been cooked sous vide. The fresh greens that garnished many dishes were so miniature that their texture was barely discernible. That note aside, we had a wonderful meal (which took around three hours to experience) and a once-in-a-lifetime taste of the virtuosity of one of the world's best Chefs.
c h e f ’ s t a s t i n g m e n u | 2 8 De c e m b e r 2 0 1 1
PRIX FIXE 270.00 | SERVICE INCLUDED
6640 WASHINGTON STREET, YOUNTVILLE CA 94599 707.944.2380
_______________________________________
“OYSTERS AND PEARLS”
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Point Reyes Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar
ROYAL OSSETRA CAVIAR
Maine Sea Urchin, White Truffle, Sicilian Pistachio and “Sablé”
( 50.00 supplement )
_______________________________________ 
SALSIFY “EN FEUILLE DE BRICK”
Asian Pear, Tardivo Radicchio, Black Walnuts and Mizuna
MOULARD DUCK “FOIE GRAS AU TORCHON”
Honey-Glazed Cranberries, Pecans, Oxalis and Black Winter Truffle
( 30.00 supplement )
_______________________________________ 
SAUTÉED FILLET OF NEW ZEALAND MEDAI
Chorizo, Littleneck Clams, Piquillo Peppers, Spanish Capers and Saffron “Nuage”
“ST. PIERRE AVEC MOUSSE AU CRABE”
Petite Onions, Nantes Carrots, Tokyo Turnips and “Sauce Bordelaise” ( serves two )
_______________________________________ 
“CAESAR SALAD”
Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster “Mitts,” Caramelized Romaine Lettuce, Garlic Melba and “Bottarga di Muggine”
_______________________________________ 
SALMON CREEK FARM PORK BELLY
Young Fennel, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Sunchokes and Niçoise Olives
FOUR STORY HILL FARM “CUISSE DE POULARDE”
French Laundry Garden Cabbage, Pomegranate, K&J Orchard Chestnut and Black Truffle
_______________________________________ 
SNAKE RIVER FARMS “CALOTTE DE BOEUF GRILLÉE”
“Pommes Darphines,” Chanterelle Mushrooms, Petite Radish, Red Ribbon Sorrel and Green Peppercorn Sauce
_______________________________________ 
“VERMONT SHEPHERD”
Baby Beets, Celery Root and Piedmont Hazelnuts
_______________________________________ 
SOUR CHERRY SORBET
Coconut “Petit Beurre” and Vanilla “Soda”
_______________________________________ 
ALPACO “MOUSSE AU CHOCOLAT”
Spice Pudding, “Panna Cotta,” Fuyu Persimmon and Marcona Almond “Glacée”
“POMMES ANNA”
Funnel Cake, “Pruneaux d’Agen,” Rum “Anglaise”
and Salted Caramel Ice Cream
_______________________________________ 
MIGNARDISES



t a s t i n g o f v e g e t a b l e s | 2 8 D e c e m b e r 2 0 1 1
PRIX FIXE 270.00 | SERVICE INCLUDED
6640 WASHINGTON STREET, YOUNTVILLE CA 94599 707.944.2380
_______________________________________ 
BAKED SIERRA BEAUTY APPLE
Granola, Garden Blossoms and Yogurt Mousse
_______________________________________ 
SALAD OF HACHIYA PERSIMMON
Heirloom Beets, Petite Greens and Spice “Gastrique”
_______________________________________ 
CELERIAC “GRATIN”
French Laundry Garden Celery, K&J Orchard Chestnuts, Gingerbread and Honey-Poached Cranberries
_______________________________________ 
HERB-ROASTED SALSIFY
Poached Quail Egg, Piedmont Hazelnuts, Mizuna and Périgourd Truffles
BUTTERNUT SQUASH “BISQUE”
Maine Lobster “Mitts,” Creamed Hearts of Romaine and Black Winter Truffle
_______________________________________ 
GARNET YAMS “EN COCOTTE”
Candy Cap Mushrooms, Savoy Cabbage, Red Walnuts and Bourbon Maple Syrup
_______________________________________ 
NIÇOISE OLIVE “GARGANELLI”
Cavolo Nero, Jingle Bell Peppers, Spanish Capers, Pine Nuts and Garlic Confit
VIDALIA ONION “RISOTTO”
Hobbs’ Bacon, Nantes Carrots, Shallots,
Scallion Salad and Port Wine Reduction
_______________________________________ 
“ST. NECTAIRE”
Black Truffle “Pain Perdu,” Tardivo Radicchio, “Pruneaux d’Agen” and Sicilian Pistachios
“WELSH RAREBIT”
Cabot “Clothbound Cheddar,” Cauliflower Florets and Bitter Ale Béchamel
_______________________________________ 
BUTTERMILK SHERBET
Oregon Huckleberries and Marcona Almond “Waffle”
_______________________________________ 
COEUR DE GUANAJA CHOCOLATE “SOUFFLÉ”
Banana Ice Cream and Burnt Lemon-Caramel Sauce
_______________________________________ 
“PECAN PIE”
Verjus-Poached Honey Pears, Maple-Brown Butter “Gastrique” and Grains of Paradise Ice Cream
_______________________________________ 
MIGNARDISES

12/18/11

To Die For Pavlova With Raspberry Coulis

A double win as I made this dessert twice recently and everyone raved about it! One friend said it was the best dessert he'd ever had--pretty big words!

Raspberry Pavlova With Raspberry Coulis and Fresh Fruit
 
Chef's Notes:
Your mixing bowl and whisk must be very clean, dry and grease-free to make proper meringue. Also, the whites will not whip up properly if there is even a speck of yolk in them.
Ingredients For Meringue:
    •    6 egg whites
    •    1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
    •    1/2 tsp. cornstarch
    •    2  cups superfine or castor sugar
    •    1 tsp. lemon juice
    •    1 tsp. vanilla extract
Directions For Meringue Shell:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Put egg whites, cream of tartar and cornstarch into a very clean, dry mixing bowl and whip on high speed until peaks just start to form. Turn the speed to medium and slowly add the superfine sugar. Add the lemon juice and 1 tsp. vanilla and continue mixing until the meringue is smooth and glossy. Do not over beat the meringue, but make sure the it is not gritty--that would indicate the sugar is not fully mixed in.
Line a baking pan with parchment and draw a large circle in the middle with pencil if making one large Pavlova--you can invert a large bowl on top and trace the outline. Alternatively, use a 4" wide bowl to make individual Pavlovas. Put four little drops under the four corners of the parchment paper so it will stick to the baking sheet. Using a pastry bag, pipe the meringue into a circle, starting in the center and making concentric rings. Finish by piping a decorative border around each circle. Bake until the meringue is set, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The meringue should be firm but not brown. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the meringue in the oven to finish drying for about an hour.

Ingredients for Raspberry Coulis:
    •    2 10 oz. packages frozen raspberries
    •    1/2 tsp. vanilla for puree
    •    1 cup sugar
Direcions For Raspberry Coulis:
While the meringue is cooking, put 1/2 cup water, raspberries and cup of granulated sugar into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens by a third. Set aside to cool enough to strain through a china cap or cheesecloth to remove the seeds. Put into a glass container and chill in the refrigerator.
Other Ingredients:
    •    1 pint whipping cream
    •    1 pint of fresh fruit of your choice: raspberries, blueberries, sliced strawberries or blackberries
    •    1/2 cup slivered and toasted almonds
Directions For Whipped Cream:
Put the whipping cream into a clean mixer bowl and whip until soft peaks form.

To Assemble The Pavlova:

Plate the meringue shell(s), fill with whipped cream and drizzle with raspberry puree, Decorate with fresh fruit, sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve immediately.



BTW, I discovered something delicious to drink: tonic water with lemon made with Tom's homemade tonic syrup. The taste is so much better than store bought tonic--it's slightly sweet and pleasantly bitter. Lovely on ice with my homegrown Meyer lemons!
Find it here.

12/15/11

Elegant Salmon Cakes

Less expensive than crab cakes, but just as elegant, salmon cakes with Hollandaise sauce pair beautifully with a Pinot Noir.

Salmon Cakes With Hollandaise Sauce:
Ingredients for salmon cakes:
3 small waxy potatoes, such as red or Yukon Gold, to make 1/2 cup
1 egg
1 6 oz. can salmon
1 tsp. minced fresh dill
2 Tbsp. fresh minced parsley
pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups, approximate, panko bread crumbs
3 Tbsp. ghee or clarified butter

Directions for salmon cakes:
Peel and slice the potatoes, place into a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook around 10 minutes or until the potatoes are softened but not mushy. Drain, let cool, and cut into a small dice--cubes about 1/8" on each side. In a mixing bowl, stir the egg with a fork until well mixed, add the salmon and flake it apart with the fork. Add the dill, parsley, pepper and salt and stir until mixed. Pour the bread crumbs into a shallow bowl. Divide the salmon mixture into four parts and form each one into a ball, then pat into a patty. Carefully place in the panko, turn and coat the other side. Heat the clarified butter in a large frying pan (see here on instructions on making clarified butter) over medium heat and add the cakes. Turn the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes or until the cakes are browned on the bottom. Flip and cook 5 more minutes or until browned on the second side. Cover to keep warm as you make the Hollandaise.

Ingredients for Hollandaise:
1/4 ghee or clarified butter
2 egg yolks
3+ Tbsp. warm water
juice of 1 lemon, about 1/8 cup juice
dash Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
dash white pepper
Directions for Hollandaise:
Warm the butter and pour into a measuring cup (you can microwave the butter in the cup for 20 seconds). Use a bain marie or double boiler--bring the water in the bottom pot to a low boil. In the top pot, whisk the egg yolks with 3 tbsp. water. Slowly drizzle the butter into the egg yolks, whisking continuously. Drizzle in the lemon juice, whisking continuously, then add the Tabasco, salt and pepper. Continue cooking and whisking until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it becomes too thick, whisk in more water until you have the right consistency.
Serves 2.

12/1/11

Culinary Class Final -- The Perfect Egg

WEEK #15 CULINARY CLASS FINAL:
Eggs are the easiest ingredient to cook because they are so versatile and cook easily at a low heat. Obversely, they are one of the most difficult to cook well for two reasons: because they become leathery when overcooked (at temperatures above 180 degrees), and because the egg yolks solidify (cook through) at 149-158 degrees whereas the whites solidify at 144-149 degrees--meaning that theoretically, the temperature should be exactly 149 to cook the entire egg evenly. (read the Discover article on the perfect boiled egg). Incidently, if you see green around the yolk of a boiled egg, it was cooked either at too high a temperature or too long. The green is from hydrogen sulfide in the white interacting with iron in the yolk and will give off a "rotten egg" smell.
So, no wonder our culinary class final was to make a French rolled omelette, cooked through evenly, with no browning on the surface and seasoned well--a measure of our pan control and seasoning ability. We also had to demonstrate our knife skills with brunoise, julienne and dice. The most difficult is the large dice. Try making several 3/4" cubes from a carrot with perfect 90 degree angles and identical size! For those who are interested, here's the method to make the perfect French omelette (no browning or crispiness on the outside as many American omelettes are made): whisk 2 eggs with a tablespoon of water (not milk or cream as the fat inhibits the protein in the egg from encasing water in the omelette--which gives the moistness to the finished product), adding salt and pepper (and herbs if desired). Coat the bottom of your pan with oil and pour off any excess, heat it so the eggs will sizzle when added--no sizzle means the eggs will stick, stir the eggs with a heat resistant spatula and fold the edges in towards the middle. When the eggs are starting to set but still moist, "paint" the eggs across the bottom of the pan so the layer is even, then cook carefully--taking the pan off the flame and putting it back on to maintain a low temperature until the egg is almost set through. Lift one edge of the omelette and roll it up and onto a plate. Let it sit for a minute to complete cooking. When sliced in half, their should be a pinwheel pattern of the rolled eggs and the eggs should be moist but cooked thoroughly.
Thanksgiving leftovers are delicious! Wrap them up in dough, bake and serve with a rich Syrah.
Empanadas with Thanksgiving Leftovers:
Pastry for Empanadas:
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter
1/4 cup cold water
In a small bowl, mix the egg and extra yolk slightly, using a fork. In a mixing bowl, mix the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender or two dinner knives (cross the blades so they act like scissors), cut the butter into the flour until the butter bits are less than 1/4" across. Mix in the egg with half of the water, mixing quickly with the fork until the dough just comes together, adding the rest of the water as necessary.  Knead quickly on a floured board, only to incorporate all the ingredients. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Making Empanadas:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap the dough. Spread out the plastic wrap and pat the dough flat. Put another piece of plastic wrap on top, then roll out the dough to 1/8" thickness. Cut into 6" circles using a cookie cutter or lid. Put leftover turkey, dressing, gravy and/or cranberry sauce in the middle, leaving 1/2" border of dough around the edges. You can also use a good melting cheese instead of gravy--like cheddar or Gruyere. Fold the dough in half and press the edges together to seal. If the dough is not sticking together, paint a bit of water or milk in the seam, then seal. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Serves 4.

11/17/11

The Baker's Dozen Of Culinary Class: #13

WEEK #13 CULINARY CLASS:
In preparation for Thanksgiving our culinary class made turkey 3 ways--stuffed with aromatics and roasted whole on a bed of mirepoix, restaurant-style--butchered, seared and roasted on mirepoix, and deep-fried. And of course, the fixin's: a mashed potato-sweet potato mixture, green beans, cranberry sauce, and gravy. No big surprises, since I've been making Thanksgiving dinner for about 30 years. After so much trial and error, I've found the ultimate for perfect roast turkey: buy an organic, free-range bird that hasn't been frozen, brine it overnight, coat it liberally with paprika, roast with a buttered cheesecloth over the breast for the first hour, baste liberally during cooking, let it sit 20 minutes before carving--it's always moist and tender. (see recipe) But, this year, we're having something different: pork loin stuffed with apples and walnuts and deboned turkey leg stuffed with cranberries and wild rice. The latter I learned in class this week--how to debone the leg, roll it and tie it (same trussing technique as the pork loin). Video one below shows Chef Charles Fredericks butchering a turkey, video two demonstrates how to truss meat.
Roast Pork Loin Stuffed With Apples and Walnuts:
2 1/2 lb. boneless center cut pork loin roast, butterflied
salt and fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 Granny Smith or Pippin apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary plus several sprigs
4 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
5 cups mirepoix: a mixture of onion, carrot and celery chopped into uniform size, in the ratio of 2 parts onion to 1 part carrot and 1 part celery
8 oz. chicken broth
1/2 cup red wine--some of the Syrah you will pair with the dish will work well
Toast the walnut pieces under the broiler. Remove and let cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, cook the shallots and garlic in oil until the onion is translucent--do not brown. Add the apples, minced rosemary, and brown sugar and cook until the apples start to soften. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Set aside to cool, then stir in the walnuts.

Tie Before Trussing
Have your butcher butterfly the roast or do it yourself by slicing through it lengthwise partway--leaving 1 1/2" intact so you can open it up like a book. Put the roast on plastic wrap and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Pound the meat with a meat tenderizer until is is flat. Remove from the wrap and salt and pepper both sides. Run the stuffing in a line down the middle and roll up. Use cooking twine to tie it up in three places, then truss it securely (see video). Put the mirepoix in a deep roasting pan, put the roast on top, arrange sprigs of rosemary around the roast and add the chicken broth. Roast in the oven about 1 hour, until internal meat temperature is 135 degrees, basting with the broth in the pan a few times during the cooking process. Remove roast, tent with foil to keep warm as you make your pan sauce reduction.
Strain the broth and put into a saucepan. Add the wine and cook over high heat until reduced by half. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the twine that trussed the roast, slice into 1 1/2" pieces and drizzle with sauce. Enjoy with a glass of the handcrafted 2008 Jason-Stephens Estate Syrah.





11/11/11

Veterans Day and the Kitchen Table Gang Trust

Baby Boomers like me grew up under the shadow of the Vietnam War. I was a child at the tail end of the 1960s and marched with my parents in peace and civil rights marches. Back then, police were called "pigs" and the military was hated because it drafted brothers, sons, and boyfriends to fight a war that most of us didn't want. I'm still a pacifist and wish our military had not gotten involved in the Middle East, but age and experience has tempered my views of the military. Having met young people who enlisted to make a living in this tough economy, with military enlistment their only hope for a college degree, I have compassion for our troops. Most of them are just kids, just out of high school, and probably naive about what lies ahead in the battlefield. So, when I heard a heartfelt message from Michelle Obama to support our troops, I looked at the Kitchen Table Gang Trust website, run by veterans, which can provide addresses for active military personnel serving in harm's way. I packed beef jerky, ziploc bags and wipes to protect from the dusty wind in Afghanistan, cans of tuna and salmon, nut bars, dried fruit and good Columbian coffee.
A friend of mine, Adam, just returned from half a year in Kabul working as a engineer for a contractor. He was in a restaurant next to the store that was blown up in June, so spent the rest of his time there either in the guarded compound or going out in the field in a heavily armored convoy. Life is precarious in Afghanistan--both for Americans and Afghans. It's difficult to imagine living in fear for one's life, another reason I feel compassion for our young people who find themselves there. You can read about Adam's experience on www.empowertothepeople.org/

11/10/11

How To Fillet A Fish Like A Pro

Chef Charles Fredericks SBCC School of Culinary Arts
WEEK #12 CULINARY CLASS:
Another excellent class with Chef Fredericks who explained the difference between round and flat fish, covered two cooking competencies: searing and poaching, and how to make court boullion and beurre blanc and how to fillet and break down fish. The first video shows Chef cutting off the top fillet (I wish I'd kept my iphone on longer so you could see the beautiful clean cut he made), the second is the separation of the lower fillet and the third shows the removal of the skin--once again, I cut the camera too soon, so you can't see how perfectly he sliced it off without any flesh left on the skin.
Bright red gills of salmon
In selecting whole fish for optimum freshness, there are 5 points to examine:
  1. The eyes should be clear, not opaque
  2. The gills should be bright red, not dull or dried
  3. The skin should be glossy but not slimy
  4. The scales should be tight, not falling off the fish
  5. The fins should be moist, never dry or cracked
Incidently, the fins of a salmon are one of the two indicators of whether the fish is wild caught or farm-raised: farm-raised salmon will show fusing of the fins together and have thick bones because they are fed calcium to give them extra weight (more weight=more money) and are constricted in their movements, leading to less use of their fins.

When filleting and slicing fish, it's important to have a very sharp knife and make smooth cuts. Dull knives and sawing at fish will damage the cell structure of the flesh and degrade the texture.


Torii Mor Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Red Wine Reduction Sauce:
Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
11/2 oz. container of demi-glace*
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 Tbsp. Herbes de Provence
1 bottle (750mL) Pinot Noir or other dry red wine
2 14.5-oz. cans low-salt chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
½ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh sage, finely chopped
salt & pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 1½-pound well-trimmed 8-rib racks of lamb, preferably frenched

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrot, garlic, and Herbes de Provence to pot. Sauté until vegetables are deep brown, about 8 minutes. Add demiglace, wine, and broth to pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer uncovered
until reduced by half, about 11/2 hours. Strain into large bowl, pressing on solids in strainer to release all the liquid. Spoon off any fat from surface of stock; return stock to same large pot. Simmer until reduced by ?, about 15 minutes.

Mix butter and flour in small bowl to a smooth paste. Whisk paste into stock. Simmer sauce until slightly thickened and smooth, whisking constantly, about 1 minute longer. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Transfer to small saucepan,
cover, and chill. Rewarm before using.) Combine fresh herbs in a bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. oil and mix until herbs stick together. Season
lamb racks with salt and pepper. Firmly press ? of herb mixture over rounded side of each rack. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Place on large rimmed baking sheet. Cover; chill.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat remaining olive oil in large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 lamb rack to skillet, herbed side down. Sauté until browned, about 4 minutes. Turn lamb over and sauté until browned, about 3 minutes. Place lamb, herbed side up, on rimmed baking sheet. Repeat, fitting remaining lamb racks on same sheet. Roast lamb until thermometer inserted into center registers 135°F for medium-rare, about 25 minutes. Let lamb rest on sheet 15 minutes. Cut lamb between bones into individual
chops. Arrange 3 chops on each plate. Drizzle with sauce. Serves 8.
Read about our visit to Torii Mor and the Great Oregon Wine Trail.

11/2/11

Comfort Food -- The Best Mac 'N Cheese Recipe

WEEK #11 CULINARY CLASS:
This week in class, we made two types of potatoes--hash browns and Potatoes Lyonnaise, roasted tomatoes, and Eggs Benedict. Chef Fredericks explained the technique behind Hollandaise sauce to avoid having the sauce "snap" or curdle.
3 Important Tips For Making Successful Hollandaise:
1. Use clarified butter--as you can see on the chart from last week's post, clarifying butter raises the smoke point 75-120 degrees--so clarified butter has a wider range of stable temperatures during the cooking process.
2. Add water to the egg yolk at the beginning of the process. If your temperature is getting way too hot, adding water will lower the temperature to 212 degrees (water boils at 212 degrees).
2. Keep the temperature of the ingredients between 90 -145 degrees so the yolks don't harden. They will begin to set around 145 degrees. The optimum temperature is about body temperature: 98 degrees. You don't need to use a double boiler if you can keep the heat of the Hollandaise low--if in doubt, use a double boiler!
3. Use the proper whisk and proper whisking technique--use a balloon whisk with many wires, designed for sauces.
Hollandaise is an emulsion--the blending of two dissimilar ingredients together. No, the emulsion is not between the egg and lemon juice! The emulsion is between butter and air, with the egg yolk being the emulsifier. The lemon juice is a flavoring component which is added after the basic sauce is made.
HOLLANDAISE SAUCE:
1 lb. butter
2 egg yolks
juice of 1/2 lemon
splash of Tabasco sauce
Clarify the butter by bringing it to a hard boil. At first, the butter will look opaque, but after a couple minutes of hard boil, the surface between the bubbles will begin to be clear. The butter in the photo is just about ready--you still see some streaks of opaque milk solids on the surface. When the surface is clear, pour the butter into a measuring cup and let the milk solids settle to the bottom. You can pour the clarified butter from the top. You should get a 75% yield from your butter--meaning that the water that evaporates out and the milk solids that settle our represent 25% of the original butter.

Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water and heat until it is just below a boil. In the top of the double boiler that is set on the counter, whisk the egg yolks with about 3 Tbsp. warm water. Begin to drizzle in the butter, whisking continuously. As Chef Fredericks mentions in the video, if too much butter is added and the mixture looks greasy, whisk faster until it is incorporated. If the sauce becomes too thick and starts to clump up, drizzle in warm water and whisk thoroughly--adding in small amounts until the sauce is smooth again. It should be a lemony yellow color. Whisk in the lemon juice and Tabasco. Then, cook over the double boiler, whisking continuously, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but then flow off the spoon. Serve immediately. The warmth and high protein content of Hollandaise provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, so do not let it sit out more than an hour and do not reheat it.

If the Hollandaise breaks, put about 3 Tbsp. warm water into a clean bowl and drizzle a bit of the broken sauce into it, whisking furiously. Continue whisking as you slowly add the broken sauce--it will come together but will never have exactly the same smooth, creamy texture and fluffiness as a well made sauce. Makes 1 1/2 cups of sauce.
Chef Charles Fredericks Making Hollandaise:
Year after year, macaroni and cheese is at the top of the list of foods our kids want for Thanksgiving. This recipe is extra rich and cheesy. I asked for this recipe years ago at Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch in Los Angeles, home of great Southern food.
Aunt Kizzy's Macaroni And Cheese Recipe:
2 lb. dry macaroni, cooked according to package directions
4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. flour
2 cups of evaporated milk
4 cups + 3/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/8 tsp. black pepper salt to taste Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Scald the milk (heat in a saucepan--do not let it boil). In a separate saucepan, melt the butter and whisk the flour into it. Cook over low heat, whisking, for a couple of minutes--do not let the mixture brown. Whisk in the warm milk and cook until smooth. Add 4 cups grated Cheddar cheese and pepper; add salt to taste. Mix with the cooked pasta and put into 8" baking dish. Top with extra grated cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake another 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Pair with California Cabernet Sauvignon.

10/27/11

The Perils and Pleasures Of Pork

WEEK #10 CULINARY ARTS CLASS:
Another great class with Chef Fredericks where we made pork cutlets, homemade applesauce, wilted swiss chard with pancetta and potatoes au grain. Online, I discovered Chef Fredericks was a Dinner Chef at the James Beard Foundation in 2002, a great honor. Chefs are invited to cook a five course meal, plus three to five hors d'oeuvres, for 74 guests at the Foundation. You can take an interactive tour of the James Beard Foundation kitchen here. I dig the wallpaper! Also, take a look at their recipes, the Tawa Baingan (eggplant and potato layers with coconut sauce) looks especially good.

Chef Fredericks paired his James Beard Foundation menu with Brewer-Clifton wines which are from the Santa Rita hills in Santa Barbara County. I haven't had the chance to sample them, but I know that one of the two partners, Steve Clifton, owns the local winery Palmina which makes nice Italian varietals.
What is a sautoir? A deep, wide, straight-sided frying pan used in classic French cooking for braising, pan frying and sautéing. It is particularly useful in the kitchen because it can go from stove top to oven. Buy one with a thick bottom, long handle and tight fitting lid. Like your Dutch oven, you will end up loving this kitchen tool!

NOTES ON COOKING OIL:
Use a high-smoke point oil (best over 420ºF) for deep frying and pan frying. At Culinary school, we use olive oil pomace which is made from the pulp of the olive oil after the first press for extra virgin olive oil. It has less flavor, but a higher smoke point.
Here's a table of common cooking fats and their smoke points:

Butter260ºF
Refined safflower oil320ºF
Clarified butter (or ghee)335-380ºF
Pork lard370ºF
Walnut oil350-400ºF
Extra virgin olive oil350-410ºF
Margarine410-430ºF
Vegetable oil410ºF
Pomace oil410-440ºF
Canola oil*430-445ºF
Refined sunflower oil460ºF
Corn oil450ºF
Cottonseed oil450ºF
Peanut oil450ºF
Refined soybean oil450ºF
Soybean oil495ºF
*Personally, I avoid canola oil in all my cooking. Have you ever heard of a canola plant? No--because there is no such thing. Canola is made from hybridized rapeseed plants which normally contain erucic acid. Most canola oil is processed using a petroleum product called hexane.

One of the many things I've learned from Chef Fredericks is the importance of contrasting flavors. We made applesauce with apple cider vinegar--just enough to give a bright zing to complement the sweetness of the apples and brown sugar. It's those little nuances that make the difference between a good cook and a real chef.
EASY HOMEMADE CHUNKY APPLESAUCE:
4 large tart apples, like Pippin or Granny Smith
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cup water, approximate
1 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
pinch cinnamon
Peel the apples, remove the core and chop into a small dice--about 1/4" cubes. Place in a saucepan with the vinegar and enough water to fill the pot just below the level of the top of the apples. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour on the stove over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the apple is soft but not mushy. The water should cook away, leaving a thick sauce--add more water during the cooking if needed, or increase the heat to evaporate some of the water if the sauce is too watery. Add the sugar and cinnamon to taste. Stir the sauce just until some of the apple is broken up but chunks still remain. Serve with the pork cutlets above.

Why did I title this post "The Perils and Pleasures Of Pork"?  I taste what we create in Culinary class to learn how to be a better cook, but my avowed vegetarianism is threatened by pork products. I took one nibble of the pork cutlet and ended up eating both of them. The crispy pancetta in the wilted swiss chard was irresistable. I fell off the vegetarian wagon yesterday, but I'm back on today, making buckwheat blueberry pancakes for breakfast and loading up at Lane Farms with organic veggies.

This recipe is from my childhood:
Crispy Panko-Crusted Pork Cutlet:
2 pork cutlets
1 1/2 cup flour
1 egg
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 cups, approximate, oil for frying*
salt and pepper
In a sautoir or deep frying pan, pour in oil to a depth of 2" and heat over medium heat. The oil should be hot, but not smoke. To set up your standard breading procedure, you will need 3 wide, shallow bowls. The flour goes in the first, the egg in a second (whisk the yolk and whites together thoroughly with a fork), and the Panko in the third bowl. Season the cutlets with salt and pepper on both sides, dredge in the flour, then dip in the egg, then in the Panko. Using long tongs, carefully put the cutlets in the oil. They will sink to the bottom. The oil should be bubbling around the cutlets. After a few minutes, the cutlets will rise to the surface. Turn with the tongs and continue cooking until golden brown. Drain on two layers of paper towel, then slice and serve.

10/18/11

The Magic Of Mirepoix -- Coq Au Vin Cookoff

Paso Robles Syrah
Last week, Touring and Tasting's magazine editor, Wendy van Diver, asked if I'd prepare Coq Au Vin to compare recipes for the upcoming issue. What fun! I love to make food and share it with the office--especially if there are several bottles of Syrah from different wineries to taste along with it! I already have a tasty, EASY recipe for coq au vin on my blog here. But in week #7 of Culinary class, we made the dish with mirepoix, in classic French style, to add flavor and body to the sauce without needing flour for thickening. I adapted the recipe we used in class. The following is a more time consuming recipe than the one on my 2/18/10 post, but the rich, flourless sauce is worth the extra effort.
TAMA'S CLASSIC COQ AU VIN WITH PARSLEY POTATOES:
Coq au vin
olive or vegetable oil
6 chicken legs, cut into thigh and drumstick
salt and pepper
4 strips bacon, cut into 1" pieces
*1 large onion, fine dice
*2 carrrots, fine dice
*3 stalks celery, fine dice
*these three make the mirepoix which should be in a ratio of 2:1:1 -- 50% onion, 25% carrot, 25% celery
1/2 head of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 cups chicken broth
1 4 oz. can of tomato paste
1 bottle red wine--red Rhone, Beaujolais or Syrah
2 tsp. thyme, in two parts
1 bay leaf
12 pearl onions, blanched
2 packs button or Crimini mushrooms
Parley Potatoes:
24 baby Yukon gold potatoes
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. minced parsley
salt and pepper
You should have a sautoir or saute pan for this dish: a large frying pan with straight sides and tight fitting lid. Along with a sharp, top quality chef's knife, a sautoir is a must-have. It goes right from the stove top into the oven, plus the wide base is excellent for reducing sauces.
Mirepoix
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle salt and pepper over all sides of the chicken. Heat 1/2" of oil in your sautoir over medium heat (do not let it smoke) and place half the chicken pieces in it. Brown the chicken on both sides--the oil should be sizzling and bubbling lightly--turn down the heat if the oil starts to smoke or bubble furiously. Set the first batch aside and brown the second batch. Pour off most of the oil and put the bacon in the pan and saute it until browned. Lower the heat and add the mirepoix and let it sweat (cook without browning) until the onion is translucent. Add the sliced garlic and cook just until it releases a garlic smell. Then, add the broth and scrape up and mix in the fond (the browned bits on the bottom of the pan) using a wooden spoon. Add the tomato paste and 1 tsp. thyme, stir well. Nestle the chicken into the mirepoix. Pour in the red wine until the level is 3/4 up the sides of the chicken. Cover tightly and put in the oven for 1 1/2  hours, turning the chicken over halfway through the cooking (total cooking time will be about 2 1/2 hours).
Start preparing the onions and mushrooms: to blanch the onions, first cut the root end off each one but do not peel off the papery husk. Boil a pot of water large enough to fit the onions and put them into the boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove them into a large bowl filled with ice and water. When they have cooled, the outer peel will come off easily. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter and cook the drained onions for about 5  minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly browned. Add the mushrooms and sprinkle with the white wine, thyme and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook and stir until mushrooms are done. Take out the coq au vin and remove the chicken to a plate. Strain the juice and return to the sauce pan. Stir in the vegetables and add the chicken which will continue to cook while you prepare the potatoes.
Parsley potatoes: Put the potatoes into a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Cook until done--test by piercing a potato with a fork to see if the inside is soft. Drain and put into a bowl with the butter. Toss to coat evenly and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Top with minced parsley.
Serve the coq au vin with the potatoes and a Syrah or Rhone blend. We had the 2007 Venteaux Vineyards estate Syrah, the 2008 Sculpterra estate Syrah, the 2007 Vina Robles estate Syrée (a blend of Syrah and Petit Sirah) and the 2007 Calcareous Vineyard estate Syrah--all delicious. All four are from Paso Robles and gave us a good taste of the range of flavor profiles in the varietal.



10/13/11

Exploding Watermelons and Pork That Glows In The Dark

Four years ago, the New York Times published an article titled "Fake goods and unsafe food threaten Chinese exports" after thousands of dogs and cats in the USA became ill or died from melamine in pet food imported from China. The Washington Post declared "For years, U.S. inspection records show, China has flooded the United States with foods unfit for human consumption. And for years, FDA inspectors have simply returned to Chinese importers the small portion of those products they caught -- many of which turned up at U.S. borders again, making a second or third attempt at entry." ("Tainted Chinese Imports Common") The problems with imported Chinese food was outlined by the US Department of Agriculture :
1. unsafe veterinary drug residue in farm-raised shrimp and fish
2. unsafe processing and handling,with the most common problems cited by FDA being “filth, unsafe additives, inadequate labeling, and lack of proper manufacturer registrations"
3. lack of oversight, since most of China's 200 million farms and food companies are not certified
("Imports From China and Food Safety Issues")

Besides the pet food contamination, problems in China's food supply have included 300,000 children
sickened with kidney ailments after consuming infant formula adulterated with melamine, an industrial chemical added to raw milk to raise its apparent protein content, use of toxic dye in duck feed, chili sauce, and other foods, use of industrial bleach to whiten noodles, carcinogenic drugs in fish and shrimp, poisoning from steroids used in pork production, illegal dyes in foods, insect filth in bean curd, filth from insects and animals in dried mushrooms and garlic and fluoroquinolone and chloramphenicol (known carcinogens) in honey, and heightened levels of lead and cadmium from contaminated soils in the Pearl River Delta region of southern China. This matters to the US because we are importing more and more cheap food from China. The majority of our apple juice, garlic, canned mandarin oranges, fish, and shrimp come from them.

I visited China in 1987, when people were still wearing Mao jackets and farming the land by hand. From our tour bus, we could see into the mud huts where farmers lived and see them in the fields shouldering the plow since they were too poor to even have an animal to pull it. Their economy has grown by more than 90x its size since then. But farmers are still struggling to make a living, making about $900 a year vs. city workers making $2,965 a year.

In a land where rural life has been difficult, imagine!, between 20-43 million Chinese died of starvation in the 1950s, the financial incentive to cut corners or add toxic additives that can increase the value of product--like adding melamine to add weight and apparent protein to milk--is seductive for the struggling peasant class. I guess when a farmer is scrabbling to get by,  a cheap additive like clenbuterol  to make their pigs leaner and bring a better price is hard for them to resist--especially when it may take years for a human to feel the effects of the drug on their respiratory system.  Add to this endemic corruption and widespread environmental pollution, with a real environmental disaster of unclean water and heavy metals in the soils from industrial smokestacks belching smoke that is not regulated, and it not surprising that the Chinese people are getting angry. So angry, in fact, that some protesters have even set fire to themselves.

Some unexpected results of unregulated chemical additions to food have been  exploding watermelons (see video) and pork that glows in the dark! (www.Chinasmack.com)

China's response to these problems have been typically heavy-handed but mostly symbolic. 57 out of an estimated 10 million government officials were sanctioned for taking bribes related to food safety issues. The city of Chongqing approved the death penalty for "primary culprits, recidivists and criminals who cause serious health hazards or get a huge amount of illegal profit", though the real aim of the provision seems to be the Mafia-style gangs called "black societies".


Another of China's solutions to the problem of food contamination has been organic food grown behind guarded gates for the rich and political elite.  According to the LA Times story, "their limited supply is sent to Communist Party officials, dining halls reserved for top athletes, foreign diplomats, and others in the elite classes. The general public, meanwhile, dines on foods that are increasingly tainted or less than healthful — meats laced with steroids, fish from ponds spiked with hormones to increase growth, milk containing dangerous additives such as melamine".


Here in the US, we are mostly complacent. We have no laws mandating disclosure of the food source if it is repackaged here or added to other ingredients. So, if powdered milk with melamine is imported into the US to be make into brownie mix--guess what? You won't know. "The FDA inspects less than 1 percent of food shipments destined for the United States, and it performs laboratory examinations on
an even smaller percentage of shipments." ("A Decade Of Dangerous Food Imports From China") .



My solution? Buy local organic foods whenever possible, in season (because out-of-season produce is sure to be imported) and as unprocessed as possible. Make your own baked goods from ingredients you know are made in the US--it will be better for your health, better for US jobs, better for your community--since revenue goes to your neighborhood farms and ranchers. Farmer's markets are great sources for fresh, clean food--and--you can grow your own food in gardens, pots and even in old tires on your driveway!


10/5/11

Risotto--Week #7 Culinary Class

This week in Culinary class, we made risotto and coq au vin. "Riso" is "rice" in Italian--"otto" is a suffix that indicates "small" and "adorable", so "risotto" would be "adorable little rice". However, as Chef Fredericks pointed out, in the culinary world, risotto is not a term for rice but for the cooking technique of gradual and incremental addition of liquid during the cooking process. So, it is possible to make butternut squash risotto without any rice whatsoever, just with cubes of the squash cooked and stirred as liquid is added--creating a creamy sauce around the cooked chunks. View a recipe for Fresh Fava Beans With Risotto.
I dislike the texture of most veggie burgers--too mushy. I've played around with crunchy nuts and found this combination works well. I've made these to bring to a traditional bbq so I can have something off the grill instead of hot dogs or beef. Keep them chilled in a cooler, between parchment paper, if you transport them, since raw egg is a food safety concern if left at room temperature for more than a few minutes.
Parmesan Nut Burgers:
olive oil
2 Tbsp. onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic
3 button or crimini mushrooms
pinch oregano
1/8 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. basil
1 egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds
approximately 3/4 cup Panko crumbs
Coat the bottom of a frying pan with a light film of olive oil, heat over low heat. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms. Sweat the vegetables (cook without browning) until onion is translucent. Stir in the oregano, marjoram and basil and remove pan from heat to cool. In a mixing bowl, stir the egg with a fork until well mixed. Add the Parmesan cheese, almonds, Panko and cooled onion mixture (use a spatula to scrape into the mixing bowl). Mix well with enough Panko to form a moist ball. Divide into two parts and pat each one into a patty. Coat the bottom of a frying pan with oil, heat over medium low and add the patties. Cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat to low. Cook the patties until browned on the bottom, flip with a spatula and brown the other side. Serve on bun with toppings of your choice. Makes 2 servings.

9/29/11

Fluffy Gnocchi - and Wine Themed Crossword #2

Getting up at 5:30 am for the Culinary Fundamentals class has reprogrammed my biological clock. The positive side is that I'm seeing a lot of beautiful sunrises! My daughter, who loves potato gnocchi, will be happy to know that I learned the secret for making them light and fluffy. My problem has been that I've followed recipes slavishly and missed the secret that it is not the recipe but the technique that is important. Like fresh pasta dough, gnocchi dough should be mixed with the minimum amount of flour to keep them light.

In class, we made gnocchi with garlic and chili--I made mine with goat cheese, browned butter and sage to pair with a nice Pinot Noir--the Torii Mor, La Colina Vineyard from the Dundee Hills of Oregon. Goat cheese and Pinot is a terrific pairing.
Homemade Gnocchi With Goat Cheese and Brown Butter Sauce:
2 large russet potatoes
2 egg yolks
4 oz. room temperature goat cheese
All-purpose flour, about a cup
4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. finely minced sage
2 Tbsp. finely minced parsley
4 Tbsp., approximately, of grated Parmesan
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Pierce the potatoes with the tines of a fork to release steam when they cook. Bake the potatoes in a 350 degree oven until done--turn once during the approximate 1 hour baking time. Remove and let cool a bit. In the  meantime, mix the egg yolks and goat cheese. Grate the potatoes onto a tray or into a large bowl. Add the egg/cheese mixture and a half cup of flour. Mix them together with your fingers and gather into a soft dough, adding flour as needed. Add the least amount of flour possible so the dough stays light. As the dough starts to come together, press it gently into a four balls. On a lightly floured board--again using as little flour as possible--roll out each ball into a coil of dough, gently pressing out any air pockets. Cut into 1/2" pieces. For use with sauces like marinara, one would press the dough with the back of a fork to make grooves in one side to hold the sauce. With a butter sauce, there is no need to add the grooves as the butter will easily coat the gnocchi. Serves 4.
Tips on Technique from Chef Fredericks:
1. Cut the end of the potatoes at an angle--this part will go on the grater first.
2. Use the skin of the potato to protect your hands from the hot interior. The hot grated potato will let off steam, so a tray is good for spreading the potato out to prevent the gnocchi from being sodden.




3. Press the dough gently into coils--there will be some air pockets that you want to get rid off. Cut the coils into manageable lengths when rolling. See video of Chef Fredericks forming and rolling coils.

4. See video of Chef Fredericks to see how to make grooves on one side of the gnocchi with a fork.

Try your hand at my second attempt at creating a wine themed crossword!

Wine Themed Crossword by Tama

Solution to puzzle here.