Fish

May 04, 2008

Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops & Saffron Sweet Potatoes

Scallops are a sweet tasting mild fleshy bivalve that allow for endless recipe variations. They work equally well with both bright citrus flavors and smokey bacon. And somehow their unique flavor doesn't get lost in either one.

I personally get lost in bacon quite easily.

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A word on scallops... in France they come fresh, popped straight from the shell, without any additives. In the States, they are mostly frozen and then thawed. When buying previously frozen scallops make sure to ask if they have additives.

Many frozen scallops have a saline solution (or some weird chemical) added that is supposed to keep them tasting juicy. However, it often ends up steaming the scallops during the cooking process making them difficult to properly sear. The best previously frozen scallops are "dry packed". They sear nicely and taste fresh without any strange milky liquid.

And a word on sweet potatoes...

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They are not yams! They are a distant relative but, were domesticated in the Americas as early as 5000 years ago. They are also not kissing cousins with potatoes either, although probably closer in relation. They come in many different colors: white, orange, and purple. And, they are extremely high in nutritional value.

I came up with the idea for saffron sweet potatoes purée by mistake. I was actually trying to figure out the ingredients to a soup I had at a Spanish restaurant in Paris. But, after tasting the purée, I decided to leave it – super yummy!

The purée has no butter or cream and it is amazingly velvety in texture and rich tasting. The dandelion greens are a nice bitter contrast for the sweet potatoes and the smokiness of the prosciutto goes along with everything. I also made little white sweet potato croutons to scatter around the plate for fun and to add some crispiness.

1 potato, 2 potato, sweet potato, more!

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April 25, 2008

Shrimp Salad in Puff Boats with Roasted Red & Yellow Tomato Coulis

I only went to the market to buy milk. But I came home with 2 pounds each of red and yellow tomatoes, some pea shoots, buckwheat sprouts, and shrimp.

I forgot the milk.

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I hate it when I do that. I'm so A.D.D. in supermarkets. The colors really sidetrack me. This is why people make lists. Stick to the list! I guess I was a little curious to see if tomatoes were starting to taste juicy again. I realize I didn't need to buy 4 pounds to answer that question.

The tomatoes were juicy (Hallelujah!). So I roasted them up with a whole bulb of garlic and puréed them separately to taste their differences. The yellow tomatoes were a bit milder in acid but just as flavorful as the red.

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Originally I thought the roasted tomatoes would make great soup (they did, I'll post that next) but, I also thought they would make a nice rich coulis, a sauce made from puréed and strained vegetables or fruits.

Which led to: tarragon shrimp salad in choux puff boats with my little shoots and sprouts, and a few swirls of red & yellow tomato coulis. Whoo-wee, that all sounds complicated doesn't it? It's not, just a tad time consuming.

Like I've got anything better to do on my days off – tax extension be damned!

I've never used buckwheat sprouts before and they sure have an interesting flavor: a cross between sour grass and wheat grass. Sweet and sour. Pea shoots, on the other hand, taste exactly like pea shoots.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe. If serving a crowd or in need of a dish to take to a party, the choux puff boat can be baked in a Springform 9" cheesecake pan and filled with any salad right before serving. Egg salad, chicken salad – whatever. Then people can scoop it from the boat or cut wedges.

As for the 4 pounds of roasted tomatoes all I can say is they have far more uses than just soup and coulis. They also make great pasta sauce, meat sauce, salsa base, or side dish when served whole. I've left the quantities in tact so you have room to experiment too!

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April 18, 2008

Grapefruit Glazed Scallops with Roasted Beets and Thyme

Gotta love a fruit that doubles as a bowling ball. And one that sounds equally funny in French (pamplemousse) and English (grapefruit). There's certainly nothing grape-like about this puckery citrus and I don't find the texture mousse like at all.

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But, every name has a history and the grapefruit is no exception. According to Wikipedia it was originally documented first in Barbados. It had developed as a hybrid from the even larger citrus bowling ball, pomelo.

Perhaps the French named it pamplemousse because it was a mouse sized pomelo? No. That can't be right.

In the U.S. the fruit was called shaddock or shattuck until the 1800's. Wikipedia gives no reason as to why or how the name was changed to grapefruit, but one can speculate that it's current alias alludes to the grape-like clusters it grows in.

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Regardless, it's a terrificly refreshing fruit.

The idea of this recipe came as I was pondering over what to do with fresh scallops. The egg sack, known as the corail in French, is a beautiful shell pink color. Just about the same color of grapefruit – violà! Inspiration! – grapefruit glazed scallops!

Using grapefruit can be tricky as I found out, because it has a way of over powering everything. Like a bowling ball, it knocks down all the other pins. Some tips: use very small pieces of grapefruit in the garnish so as not to upstage the beets or scallops, and leave out the zest or just add a tiny little piece for decoration.

The glaze is infused with thyme and you can slather it on generously because the grapefruit juice is greatly reduced and has a fabulous sweet tangy flavor without the bite. Also the thyme really brings the dish together.

I seared the scallops with walnut oil and added some to the vinaigrette for the beet garnish. It adds depth and nuttiness – two of my favorite human characteristics, so don't leave them out either.

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March 17, 2008

Oysters Beignet

I am lovin' this beignet batter. It's really just beer batter but, it sure makes everything taste goooood.

After I finished deep frying my oysters, I then when onto to experiment with other ingredients: tangerine slices, frozen chocolate truffles, and spoonfuls of the batter dropped in like doughnuts. No complaints here!

This video is a continuation from "How To Shuck 'Em" so I do not give a detailed explanation again on how to pry apart oysters. However, I felt it only appropriate to stick in another Britney Spears song (Gimme More) just to carry along the previous theme.

I'm kinda vibing with ol' Britney Spears lately, maybe because she always seems to be in situations where she has to prove herself.

Not all beignet batter uses yeast or beer. If you want a batter that is more bread-like, compressed fresh yeast or active dry yeast will give it that texture and a nutty flavor. (I used active dry yeast in video).

However, if yeast intimates you, using a mixture of baking powder, cornstarch, and flour can be substituted. It will not have the exact same bread-like flavor or texture, but it provides a nice tempura-like crunch with a quick bread taste and it is much faster to prepare. (works extremely well for vegetables, shrimp, and oysters). I've included both recipes at the end.

When it comes to deep frying I always use peanut oil because it is neutral in taste and has a high smoke point. You can turn up the heat under your oil without billowing black noxious smoke taking over your house (or flames for that matter).

It's important to maintain a temperature of 180˚C or 360˚F. This insures that the surface of the food you're frying, will quickly form a protective barrier preventing the oil from soaking into the main ingredient and making it greasy and inedible. Inversely, if the oil is too hot, then the batter will burn before the inner ingredients gets a chance to cook indirectly. Always monitor the temperature if not using a professional deep fryer or one with a built in thermometer.

Britney fan or not, this batter is versatile for sweet and savory dishes. Whether you want to make plain beignets coated with sugar or turn seafood and vegetables into something unrecognizable yet delicious, it's a safe bet.

Turn up the music and have some fun!

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February 26, 2008

Oysters: How to Shuck 'Em

There is a long stomach wrenching story that goes along with this video. I'm not sure if I should tell you, but I will anyway.

First, watch the video (4 minutes). It's the first part of two videos (the second on how to beignet oysters coming next week). I filmed it myself so you'll have to excuse the low lighting and the unintentional body shots. I got a little carried away with the Brittney Spears opening too. No regrets, oysters are an aphrodisiac after all... or are they?

I bought a box of 50 oysters on Sunday (my day off) for this video and throughout the evening while I shucked them and dipped them in batter to beignet, I ate about half raw and deep fried.

Monday rolled around and I met some friends that were visiting from San Francisco and the whole day I just felt groggy. I kept thinking it must be fatigue from cooking double shifts each day day. I felt so sleepy that I had to cut our date short.

Tuesday morning I returned to work at 8AM and felt like a tractor had run over me. Looking for a shred of sympathy, I told another cook: "You know I feel really tired, I don't feel so good". He responded: "You don't come to cook at a restaurant like this to be tired."

Well, no shit sherlock.

Right before our afternoon service I could feel my intestines rolling around and I knew something was wrong. Then came the sensation that I was being knifed repeatedly in the lower gut. It came and went throughout the lunch service but I managed to withstand it.

I should say, I managed to withstand it while totally messing up every order on the planet. I heard more than my fair share of, "Ah Amy, c'est quoi ça?" (Ah Amy, what is that?) It's really hard to hear all the long menus coming in when you're doubled over in pain. And you know we do everything verbally. Everything has to be memorized – no point of sale system – so you've got to listen and be sharp. I made it through the dinner service, but just barely.

I came home and slept and returned Thursday morning to work. This time the knifing in my stomach returned accompanied with some terrible side effects. Everything started coming out of me. I mean everything and everywhere. I felt like some one was taking my intestines and tying them in knots.

Now you have to understand that when you cook in a restaurant you don't get sick. It just doesn't happen. If you are truly sick then you better have pnemonia or the plague or something incurable. So I was back and forth to the toliet praying that my body would soon finish evacuating itself before the lunch service began trying not to make to big an issue of it.

Of course no one even asked if I was okay. They just kind of looked at me like maybe I drank too much or something the night before. I know I'm older, a woman, and American but, if some one is really sick don't you think you're going to ask if the obvious: Are you alright?

Thankfully one of the excutive chefs took interest in my well-being and asked if I was okay and offered to get me some medecin. I explained in my best French/American sign language that everything was coming out of me. "Tu as le Gatro" he told me.

I find this name for malady Gastrointestinal really funny because in Paris gastronomical restaurants are nicknamed "Gastros" as opposed to "Bistros". So yes, I had le Gastro while I was working at un Gastro. (no fault but my own though, they were my oysters)

The ever-kind chef, brought me back pills to stop me up and they worked. I managed to pull off another day of two services, lunch and dinner, thanks to the pills and basically slogged my way through Friday. However, I found out later that when you have "gastro" you're not supposed to take these pills while you're body is trying to rid itself of problem. It only prolongs the pain. Which it did. Enough said.

So now I'm okay. And what I've come to conclude is that I think I must be allergic to oysters. I always seem get sick when I eat more than three or four.

But honestly, I do love them. And I love to pop them open and eat them raw straight from the ocean with just a squeeze of lemon. I only wish that my stomach would be more supportive of this habit.

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January 26, 2008

Langoustines au Curry Thaï

If I eat another bowl of beef bourguingnon this winter I'm going to pop. Besides the sun is finally flirting with Paris and my winter waistline needs some downsizing. This recipe combines the French love for tender langoustines and spicy homemade yellow Thai curry. Langoustines resemble overgrown shrimp and are next in kin with crayfish but, their flavor is closer to lobster which makes them highly sought after in France.

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Preparing live snappy langoustines makes my stomach do back flips. I often substitute jumbo shrimp so I don't have to watch them squirm while I hold down the thorax (so they can't pinch or run away) and twist their middle tail fin, like a key, pulling out the green filled intestine in one long strip. Apparently they don't feel pain, or so French chefs like to say, but anyone who has seem them writhe after the disembowelment would disagree. Well, they sure are darned tasty anyhow.

Seriously, use shrimp, it's much easier.

Once you get past the pinching langoustines, this is a surprisingly simple dish. Some of the ingredients might seem exotic, but they should be findable at big grocery stores. I've included substitutions just in case.

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December 21, 2007

Christmas Eve Cioppino

If there's one dish that screams San Francisco to me, it's Cioppino served with a big round loaf of Sourdough bread to mop up all the juices. And while I'm home with my apron strings tied to the stove, we're eatin' Cioppino for Christmas Eve. No bouillabaisse, no moules marinière, no matelote – I want San Francisco Cioppino! I could make this dish on my little two burner stove in Paris, but it's just not the same without Dungeness crab, Tomales Bay sweet clams, and line caught halibut or ling cod.

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Cioppino is the ultimate party food for grown ups. You get to eat it with your fingers, lick 'em clean, and pretend it's adult to do so. It's a fun dish with lots of energy, color, and texture: red crab legs popping out, grey clam shells bursting open, large chunks of white fish, warm chunky tomato sauce flecked with chopped green peppers, pink curly que shrimp with little fan tails. I really can't think of another dish that sets the tone right for the holidays.

If I haven't sold you on Cioppino already, then let me add that the broth can be made a day or two before your dinner party. When ready to serve, reheat and add all the fish and shellfish. It's a one pot party dish that has style, class, and loads of San Francisco history.

Note to cook: I always use a mixture of what's fresh in the market. I usually choose one firm white fish, a mixture of shellfish or just one type (clams, shrimp, cockles, scallops, etc.), and some crab. Unfortunately, my fish market was plain sold of crab for the day so I couldn't take a photo with it. Take my basic recipe and then adapt it to your area!

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November 30, 2007

Trade your Soul for Sole?

Why is it that simple tasting French food is always the most difficult to prepare? For years I wondered why the classic fish dish, Sole Meunière always commanded high prices in restaurants, sometimes higher than filet mignon and always wads of euros more than salmon. It's just a whole fish cooked in brown butter with a squeeze of lemon and some chopped parsley thrown in!

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Now I know better.

Just trying to skin sole will teach you why it's so darned pricey. But more than that, the art of cooking it to perfection is just that: ART. I know because I just attempted with three expensive whole fillets that all ended up mushy. Not crispy on the oustide and flake-a-licious on the inside. Not lightly browned and opalescent white. Not nutty brown butter-ish with lemon saliva bursting sauce. And not all together served in one piece, but instead falling apart fish fingers. Bummer.

However, my fourth fillet I got right. And I will share with you my findings with the hopes that you will not waste your time and money as I did mine.

But first a little story on sole and how it took the soul of one of France's most revered cooks, Chef Vatel.

Before the Roi de Soleil's extravagant palace of Versailles was constructed in 1682, the King traveled around the country with his aristocracy. Wherever he went they were required to go too. In this way he kept an eye on his scheming court and also kept them in dept paying for their travel expenses and hosting lavish parties in his honor.

In 1671, the king traveled to Chantilly to meet with his commander, Prince Condé before waging war on Holland. A great feast was planned hosted by the Prince for the King and his court with the aid of his "Master of Cooks", François Vatel.

The first night of feasting, a light supper was provided of turtle soup, creamed chicken fried trout (whatever that is), and roast pheasant. Seventy-five extra guests attended the party. Vatel was horrified that some of the tables at his super did not receive enough pheasant roast. (I think I would have been happy not to receive one of his roast pheasants) Although his staff assured him that he wasn't to blame for the shortage of food and unknown quantity of royal guests, he was humiliated by this blunder.

No doubt his fear of failure was doubled with the failed firework show that was ruined by cloud cover and the desire to prove himself as a master chef in the absence of the King's Chef, the god father to Haute Cuisine, Varenne.

At four o'clock in the morning after what he considered to be a failed first diner, Vatel was still hard at work desperately trying to secure enough food for the next day's gala event, an even more extravagant and opulent menu of anchovies sevigne, melon with Parma ham, lobster quenelles with shrimp sauce, and filet of sole.

He met with a fish monger in the early hours of morning who arrived with an inadequate amount of fish. He asked the purveyor, "Is this all"? and the man replied back to him, "Yes sir" not knowing that Vatel had also ordered more from several seaport towns in France. Vatel waited hoping that more would arrive. Nothing came.

ImagesExhausted from twelve sleepless nights of preparing for Prince Condé's feasts and unable to see a way out of total disgrace, he went to his room and fixed his sword to his door. He ran into it several times. The first two times only wounding himself, the third thrust he pierced his heart. Some say he ran upon it another five times.

Fifteen minutes after his suicide fish poured in to the royal household and assistants came running to find Vatel so that he could distribute it. Too late, Vatel lay dead in a pool of blood.

The dinner went on as planned minus the filet of sole course, and all agreed – the Roi de Soleil included – that his death, although tragic, only proved Vatel's code of honor. Vatel traded his soul for sole.

(Even more tragic none of his recipes survive today with the exception of a famous dessert topping he created called Chantilly cream, a mixture of whipped cream and sugar. Perhaps you've had some on a hot fudge sundae?)

No need to trade your soul for sole. The recipe's on the following page!

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September 28, 2007

Saumons Parfumés Aux Cèdre, Navets à la Nivernaise

That's a really fancy way of attempting to say: salmon grilled on a cedar plank with glazed turnips, carrots, onions and potatoes. I'm sure some one is bound to correct my Franglais, but I couldn't quite figure how to say 'cedar smoked barbecued salmon' in French without the title being a mile long. Technically, in France, when a dish is described as à la nivernaise it means that you're sure to find carrots and onions. I've thrown in some turnips (navets) and potatoes for heartiness.

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This dish is low-cal, high taste, little preparation, and packs a lot of energy. If you signed up for my Chef's Challenge, it will fuel your next work-out! It's raining here in Paris, so I'm afraid my stats aren't so great (excuses, excuses). Cooking the salmon on a cedar plank adds smokiness and dries the outside flesh leaving the inside moist. I brushed a little olive oil over the top for magpie appeal and added a sprinkle of fleur de sel, but that's it!

For the vegetables, it's a one pot dish that can cook while the salmon is grilling. It's best to use baby vegetables and trim the tops of the baby turnips and carrots leaving 1/2" of the stem for that almost-country look. The veggies are simmered in a water, wine, and fresh herb combination. When they're done cooking, the veggies are separated and the liquid reduced. Swirl in some butter – et voilà! – you've got a very tasty glaze to pour over the vegetables. The cooking liquid becomes a tasty broth while simmering all those root vegetables and the flavor concentrates after reduction. It's subtle but tastes fancy!

PS. I'm cooking at a Chateau in Lyon this week, I'll be back next week hopefully with some neat pics and stories about "roughing" it in the paysanne.

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September 02, 2007

Tempura Green Beans & Cod Escabeche

This recipe is in no way shape or form French. Sorry! But, it is good – I promise that at least!

So here's my latest fusion offering: Japanese tempura served up alongside Baja style lime-cilantro marinated fish with Puerto Rican pickled red onions. Typically escabeche is a pickling marinade with cooked seafood added to it. But, I've used it for pickling the onions and the liquid as a dipping sauce for the green beans.

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I've put together a short video (only 4 min) for the tempura. You've got to check it out because I found the cutest Moulinex Minuto deep fryer and I want to show it off! Seriously, I haven't been this excited about a new toy since I bought my first power blender in college. Tempura is super fast to prepare. It took 3 minutes to whip up the batter and 40 seconds to deep fry the green beans.

There are two basic types of tempura batter. One is thin and it works well for vegetables – especially for green beans where you want to see the color show through the batter. For fish I prefer the thicker batter, similar to a beignet batter, where the eggs are separated and the whites whipped up separately and folded back into the mix. This creates a big fluffy crunchy crust when deep fried that goes nice with jumbo prawns.

The fish is marinated in lime juice and cilantro for twenty minutes almost like ceviche but then it is baked or grilled to finish the cooking. I used cod because it looked fresh in the market, but mahi mahi would work better or even halibut. Any firm white fish will do that isn't too thin and doesn't fall apart easily.

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The pink pickling marinade is a melange of cider vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves with a thinly sliced red onion left to soak up the juice. For real escabeche, cooked shrimp or seafood is then added and can be kept up to 2 days in the refrigerator. With the added seafood, it's a refreshing sweet-tart starter or light meal.

After draining the onions, the pickling liquid tasted so good that I decided to skip the traditional tempura dipping sauce and use it instead. Just in case you're not a vinegar fanatic like me, I've included the recipe for the Japanese dipping sauce below.

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May 03, 2007

Poisson Provençal

What is it about France in the summer – oops! – I mean France in the Spring, that inspires provençal fare? Nothing conjurs up Provence to me like ripe tomatoes, salty olives, astringent lemon, grilled fish & meats, and freshly picked herbs.

This simple recipe, Poisson Provençal, is herb roasted fish with a salsa of tomatoes and olives garnished with the first baby artichokes of the season. The fish is roasted whole so that it stays nice and juicy over the grill without drying out. Included are simple instructions for preparing whole fish from beginning to end and, of course, my quirky ways of getting the job done.

Although I love reading new recipes, I love to learn technique more. There are thousands of recipes in the world and I can never remember any of them past the meal that I've just cooked. However, technique enables one to walk through the farmers' markets and choose what is fresh without fear.

I sincerely hope that in my video series Paris On The Terrace, that I offer more than just a recipe, but technique in food preparation that will aid in exploration!

For recipe click on continue reading...

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April 27, 2007

BBQ Scallops

I'm impatiently waiting for my work visa to be re-issued so I can get back to work at the 3-star restaurant I cook at. In the meantime, I've decided to start a video series this Spring called Paris On The Terrace, which will include recipes for the barbecue. This series will also demonstrate food preparation skills that allow the home chef to prepare meat and fish from beginning to end.

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This video recipe features St. Jaques or scallops along with instructions on how to shuck them. I love barbecuing scallops because they only take a few minutes to cook and they come with their own little heat safe dishes. Fill a few shells with vegetables to serve alongside the scallops. They make a beautiful presentation on the plate and I guarantee guests will be surprised.

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April 10, 2007

Truite Grillée: BBQ Trout

This recipe is inspired by my neighborhood market and the untamed herbs that spill over my windowsill. It's not fancy or difficult but overwhelmingly deliceux! The only requirements are a bahbehque and 5 minutes of preparation. In fact, it's so simple that I'm almost embarrassed to post it. However, my husband asked me to repeat it for some friends so I know it must yummy.

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The French have spent the last 1000 years or so matching the produce of the terroir to regional wine. I think the saying is, "What grows together, goes together." For intstance Camembert cheese and cider pair perfectly as do trout and Alsatian wine. For this recipe try a dry but fruity Alsatian Riesling or a Alsatian Pinot Gris. It's used for the jus too, so make sure to buy two bottles just incase!

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For an easy but satisfying outdoor dessert serve large strawberries with creme fraiche and brown sugar for dipping. I had forgotten how satisfying this combo was until recently.

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Really, sometimes it's the simple things that are the best are in life. Non?

For trout recipe click on "Continue BBQ..."

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January 21, 2007

Sea Bass with Wild Mushrooms

My poor husband never gets to eat my food because I spend 14 hours a day cooking in a Parisian 3-star restaurant. I'm sure he wonders if I even know how to scramble eggs. Nonetheless here's a yummy easy sea bass recipe. I love cooking fish and I rarely get to because I spend fall day and night preparing and cooking meat!

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To learn how to clean fish check out my How To Fillet a Fish video. Sea bass can be tricky to fillet because they are big and bony. This recipe doesn't call for fish fumé anyway so there's no need for fish bones. But it's nice to know how to clean fish just incase you're ever cast in an episode of Survivor. The sea bass rests upon a bed of sauteéd wild mushrooms with a simple brunoise (small dice) of ratatouille scattered around.

So what are the chef's tricks to getting crunchy skin and soft white moist flesh? In a small cast iron or nonstick skillet heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Don't be afraid to use high heat. Once the olive oil is smoking put the fish skin side down to sear AND DON'T TRY TO MOVE IT. Turn down the heat to medium low after thirty seconds and let it cook for a minute longer. Gently turn the fish over with a spatula and cook for 5-6 minutes longer on low heat until the white flesh is opaque. The skin should puff up and be super crunchy. If the skin is sticking to the bottom of the pan then either the oil wasn't hot enough (you didn't wait until it was smoking!!!) or it wasn't seared long enough.

If preparing fish for a dinner party it is easier to use a baking sheet to finish the cooking. Simply sear the fish ahead of time in a skillet, turn out onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet skin side up, and finish the baking right before serving in the oven at 350˚F for 10 minutes. I don't recommend doing this too far ahead. Cover with foil until ready to bake.

For the full recipe click continue reading...

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December 26, 2006

Holiday Menu

One day left until I leave Paris and get on a plane to San Francisco. Yipppeeeee!!!! Cooking in the 3-star restaurant I work at is unbearable right now. We are all dying to get out. This month we've been working 6 days a week to pay back for our vacation time which makes no sense to me – c'est comme ça in our traditional French restaurant.

Seriously, if I have to de-feather, de-bone, gut, and cook another fowl I think I'll slit my wrists. Nonetheless, I made this menu for some friends that are leaving the restaurant – and there are no birds in this meal.

And one more thing - HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! Gros Bisous and well wishes for a relaxing Holiday season and fun filled New Year!!! Thank you for all the support, wonderful comments, and inspiring emails that you have provided me over this last year!!!

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Menu

Red and Black Caviar Amuse Bouches
Black Truffle Slices on Warm Crostini
Veuve Cliquot Champagne

Tuna Tartar with Pearls of Japan & Avocado
Moet & Chandon Rosé Champagne

Carrot and Red Pepper Double Soup
Magnum Jordan Pinot Noir, Nicole's Vineyard 1999

Leg of Lamb with Herb Potatoes

Spiced Persimmon Purée with Vanilla Ice Cream & Pecan Caramel

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Caviar Appetizers
Ingredients:
15-16 small fingerling potatoes
Creme Fraiche
1 lemon
A small jar of black caviar or roe (I cheated and didn't use real caviar)
Package of belini's
Hummous
Red caviar or roe

Instructions:
1. Trim potatoes on both ends so they stand up straight. With a small melon baller scoop out half of flesh. Cook in boiling salted water for 7 minutes or until cooked. Remove and chill until ready to fill.
2. Zest one whole lemon. Save half for decoration and finely chop the rest. Add chopped zest to creme fraiche. Fill potatoes with creme and top with a teaspoon of caviar and one zest peel.
3. For the red caviar appetizer simply place a teaspoon of hummous on a belini and top with a teaspoon of red caviar.

Truffles on Toast
Ingredients:
One baguette sliced
Olive oil
One truffle
Fleur de sel

Instructions:
1. With a mandoline slice truffle into rounds about 1/8" of an inch thick. Thicker if your budget can allow it!
2. Make crostini with the baguette by placing sliced rounds on a baking sheet. Sprinkile olive oil over pan and bread and bake at 350˚K until bread is toasty. Top with a slice of truffle, a sprinkle of fleur de sel – and that's it!

Tuna Tartar with Pearls of Japan
Ingredients:
1 small box of pearls of japan
Fresh herbs: chives, tarragon, chervil
1 carrot brunoised
1 zuchinni brunoised (just the green skin)
Rocket or fancy small lettuce leaves
1 Kilo of sushi grade tuna
2 Avacadoes
1 limes
1 lemon
Olive oil
Tabasco

Instructions:
1. Make half the box of pearls of Japan and follow instructions on box. Blanch brunoised carrot and zucchini in boiling water for one minute and mix with pearls and 1 T of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. In a blender or with a hand mixer blend half a bunch of tarragon, chives, and chervil with 1/3 cup of olive oil. Strain.
3. Chop tuna into small pieces and mix with a few tablespoons of herb oil, salt, pepper, and 1 T of lemon juice (not too much or it will cook the tuna).
4. Mash avocadoes and add lime juice to taste, salt, pepper, and a few dashes of tabasco
5. Layer salad in a ring mold of choice with tuna, avocado, pearls of japan, and some lettuce (dressed in the herb oil) on the top

Carrot and Red Pepper Double Soup (Alice Waters)
Ingredients:
1 Bag Carrots
3 Red Peppers
Olive oil
6 cups chicken stock
Salt and Pepper

Instructions:
1. Peel and chop carrots. Heat a skillet on medium and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Cook carrots until soft (don't brown!). Add carrots to a big pot with 2 cups of chicken stock. Blend with a hand mixer. Add more chicken stock as necessary to create a thick soup consistency. Season with salt and pepper
2. De-seed and chop red peppers. Repeat instructions above but add to a separate pot and start with one cup of chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper The soups should have the same consistency
3. When ready to serve ladel carrot soup in first and then the red pepper soup in the middle. The pepper soup will form a flower shape.
4. Garnish with yogurt or creme fraiche and chives

Leg of Lamb with Herb Potatoes
Ingredients:
Leg of lamb for 6 people (ask your butcher!)
One package of yukon gold potatoes. Figure 3/person
One yellow onion
6 cloves of garlic
one boullian cube of lamb stock to make 1cup of stock (you can substitute chicken stock)
Thyme
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Instructions:
1. Have the butcher cut around the bottom of the leg of lamb bone so after cooking you can simply slide it out. Tie leg with cooking string and season generously with salt and pepper on all sides.
2. Slice yukon gold potatoes into 1/2" rounds. Slice onions. Peel and crush garlic (don't chop finely)
3. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
4. In a large roasting pan mix lamb boullian, potatoes, onions, salt and pepper, thyme, and garlic
5. Place lamb on a grilling rack over potatoes. The melting fat from the lamb will drip onto the potatoes!!! Turn the lamb every 25 minutes.

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Persimmon Purée with Vanilla Ice Cream and Pecan Caramel
Ingredients:
2 large ripe mush persimmons
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
pinches of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and vanilla powder to taste
Premium vanilla ice cream like Haagen Daas
One cup pecans chopped
1/2 cup sugar
silpat mat

Instructions:
1. Take persimmons and scoop out flesh into a bowl. Mash with a fork. Add lemon zest and spices to your liking. Cover and refrigerate
2. Spread pecans on a silpat mat
3. Place sugar in a small pot and add 3 tablespoons of water. Mix gently with your finger tip until sugar is dissolved. You can add a little more water if necessary. Be careful not to get sugar water on sides of pot because it will crystalize.
4. Place sugar water on medium high heat in a small pot and watch. Once it starts to boil and bubbles begin to pop slow and the color turns a dark amber (but not black!!!) remove from heat and pour over pecans. It will harden and then you can break apart into big decorative pieces. Do not stir caramel while it's cooking. If necessary you and swirl the pan gently to even out the color. The color is very important too – amber to dark amber is okay for this candy.
5. Place a scoop of ice cream into a bowl and spoon spiced persimmon purée around it. Stick a caramel piece in the center of ice cream or however you find most decorative. Serve up!

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July 28, 2006

Zucchini Week: Risotto Stuffed Courgette Flowers

I love the delicate flowers of zucchini's. They are really fun to fry in beignet batter or stuff and sauté with risotto. Besides, if you're growing zucchini's right now you probably have more than you know what to do with – so picking a few flowers won't hurt!

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Lobster served with a anise cream sauce and zucchini flower stuffed with lobster risotto

Gently untwist the flower at the top and remove the stamen inside. Then fill the flower with risotto with the aid of a pastry bag. Twist the top of flower back again to form a little risotto pouch and sauté in butter for a few minutes each side. Easy!
Risotto recipe to follow...

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June 19, 2006

Saint Jacque's Heart: Scallops & Artichokes

Paris is wonderful for many reasons, but fresh scallops or Saint Jacques, have to be one of my top ten. It's difficult to get fresh scallops in California and I normally opt for the frozen bag type, but here in glorious Paris every Poissonerrie has scallops overflowing – in the shell, out of the shell, with the pink corail (eggs) or without. Ah, the good life!

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I decided to do a little experiment with big globe artichokes that are flooding the Parisian farmer's markets right now and scallops. Oh yeah, and some bacon too! Both artichokes and scallops can take the smokiness of bacon. In fact, I think it really makes the dish. If you're vegetarian try substituting some thinly sliced black truffles (don't drop the plate – ha ha).

The only tricky part to this recipe is turning the artichoke. Turning is a French thing – it's the process of chiseling a vegetable into a sculpted piece of art. In this case it means to cut off all the leaves and cut around the artichoke leaving a whole heart. We wouldn't dare throw away all those leaves in Northern Cal, home to hundreds of artichoke farms – quel dommage!

Then you cook the heart and scoop out the choke. It's a bit of muscle work, but you're left with a cool little cup for the scallops and it makes for great presentation. Everything else in my recipe is really easy.

Recipe to follow....

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June 10, 2006

Crazy for Couscous

This is one delicious summertime salad that is sure to impress. The couscous starter with shrimp & vanilla oil will steal the show at your next BBQ or fancy sit down dinner. Mis en place can be adusted for chic individual portions or a for a crowd.

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Couscous is a pasta that is made from semolina or, in some regions, from coarsely ground barley or millet. The semolina is sprinkled with water and rolled with the hands to form small pellets. It is labor intensive to make by hand and used to be done by groups of women. Glad we have machines today! It's origins can be traced waaaay back to North Africa and later it's migration to Provence and Brittany around 1359.

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Of course, you don't have to get all fancy with the ring of cucumbers and shrimp on top, but it does give it that je-ne-sais-quoi. Recipe to follow...

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June 05, 2006

Fun With Phyllo

Kids won't eat fish? Wrap it in Phyllo. Husband/Wife/Partner just invited the boss over for dinner and you've only got leftovers in the fridge? Wrap it in Phyllo. Need appetizers for a huge dinner party that you can make the day before and refrigerate and bake right before serving? Wrap it in Phyllo. It's easy, versatile, and makes everything look and taste better.

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Phyllo (Filo) pastry dough means "leaf" in Greek and it is a dough well worth having on hand. Although the flaky pastry has a Greek name, it's origins are Turkish (Istanbul) dating back to the Ottoman reign. Phyllo is often associated with the famous Turkish dessert, Baklava, that is a rich honey and pistachio treat. However, there are countless uses for it.

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I really do think phyllo is fun! It can be molded into any shape: cone, present, triangle, circle, rectangle, etc and filled with any thing left over in the fridge, savory or sweet. Although you can make the dough by hand (very difficult with unsatisfactory results) it is easier to purchase at the grocery store. Phyllo dough is flour that has been compressed with water and just a little oil. Then it is rolled through huge machines that elongate the glutens in the flour to make paper thin layers.

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How to use it: I normally use about three layers at a time. Make sure they are properly defrosted if previously frozen and not dried out. Each layer needs to be brushed lightly with melted butter (clarified preferred, but not essential) or olive oil. Place the layers on top of each other, put filling in the center, and shape the dough around it. Voila! Bake it for around 6-10 minutes at 350˚F / 170˚C until pastry is golden brown.

Any filling used should already be precooked or something that only needs to be warmed through like goat cheese with fresh basil and tomato (yummy!). Just make sure filling ingredients aren't too soupy or it will turn the dough to mush.

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Recently I made a last minute dinner for my visiting parents using frozen scallops and one carrot and one leek. The results was heavenly. I julienned the veggies and sautéd with butter until al dente and separately cooked the scallops until just warm in the center. Then I buttered my phyllo dough and made a bed of the carrots and leeks with the scallops on top.

I formed the pastry dough into a big peony shaped flower around the filling and loosely tied the top with kitchen string to help keep it's form while cooking. What fun to cut into at the dinner table and inhale the delicious steam coming through the openings in the pastry!

I have also used phyllo to wrap individual par cooked rack of lamb with a pistachio/herb dressing, confit pigeon leg with foie gras and duxelles, and much much more. The fun is endless. Kids like to play with it too – it's like a wrapping a present and then getting to eat it afterwards.

Recipes to follow: Scallops in Phyllo Dough

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April 26, 2006

Crispy Sea Bass with Capers, Lemon, and Chicken Jus

This recipe reminded me of Zuni's restaurant in San Francisco. (Haven't been? You must go!) The sauce was reminiscent of the jus they do for their specialty roast chicken. You know, the one you have to wait 45 minutes that's cooked in a wood fire oven and worth every second? This dish, Croustillant de Bar Au Pain Perdu, is fish, but it has a chicken jus combined with brown butter and the salad has a tangy red wine shallot vinegar dressing that compliments the fish and the chicken jus perfectly.

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Even Jamie, my cooking partner at Le Cordon Bleu, who made the worst grimaces when the chef brought out a tin of capers during our demonstration, couldn't get enough of the sauce. And she's a vegetarian! I saw her gobble down the chicken jus like there was no tomorrow! I might have been sighted licking my plate, but I wouldn't want to admit to that in public.

The toughest part of this dish is wrangling with the sea bass. They are huge with fins that poke holes in your fingers, and big scales with tough skin. I filleted one huge one (1.5 feet) for us to share and it took me at least thirty minutes. Thankfully Jamie compensated and prepared our jus from carmelized chicken bones and chicken stock as well as most of the garnishes. By the way, if you haven't already check out my video on filleting fish it should be running smoother.

I have simplified the recipe because most of us don't have the luxury of using thirty million pots and pans and taking the time to make homemade chicken stock. If Rachel Ray only has 20 minutes to whip up chili, then how are the rest of us supposed to manage? The sauce is an old popular French recette that can be used to accompany poultry, white fish, or eve perhaps breaded veal.

Recipe is on the next page...

P.S.
Just bought the Zuni cookbook and it's incredible. My French chefs would have a fit it they read some of her techniques, but I love it! She won two James Beard awards for outstanding restaurant and oustanding cookbook. Worth the splurge

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April 23, 2006

VIDEO: How To Fillet A Fish

Top five reasons why it's important to know how to fillet a fish:

1. Don't get voted off the island. Make yourself indispensable with your filleting skills.
2. Impress your boyfriend on his next fishing trip when you take out your leatherman and fillet the fish he just caught in less than five minutes.
3. Get a job on a private party yacht cruising around the Caribbean.
4. Precursor to becoming a sushi chef.
5. Fish stays fresher if it's whole and you can use all the bones and trimmings for one of those really tasty french sauces.

Fish
Episode 3: How To Filet A Fish

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April 06, 2006

Lobster Again?!?!

I should have known that today was going to be tough when I got to school and some one had taken my seat in the demo room. I know it sounds petty (and is petty), but I sit in the same place everyday, and have for 7 months. Everyone knows it's my chair. I came into the demo room, spotted my taken chair, and looked over at the rest of the class who all simultaneously shrugged as if to say "I know, it's terrible, whaddyagonnado?". Grumpily, I sighed in defeat and went and sat next to the Chair Stealer. She didn't even offer to give me my seat back either, ha-rumph!

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After the Chair Stealer threw my chi off for the morning, I was brought back to the light by the amazing recipes our chef had in store for us. A lobster salad with strawberry vinagrette served over ripe melon and garnished with lollo rossa lettuce (my fav!), next came more lobster over risotto garnished with an incredible sauce and puréed fennel with vanilla bean, lastly he prepared a dessert of fruit salad covered with pistachio sabayon and puff pastry decorated with italian meringue. Oh la la, incroyable!!!

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At the end of every demo we get little plates of all the dishes so that we can taste what we are supposed to cook in our practicals. Normally we sit in our seats and the chef's assistant passes back racks of tasting plates for us to sample. But today because it was lobster, everyone crowded the front of the demo room pushing each other to get second helpings and grabbing huge lobster fillets off the chef's display plates and gobbling them up without sharing or anything. I don't like it when people get pushy. Maybe it's the school teacher in me, but I like it when people follow the rules, especially when it comes to lobster.

I left the demonstration annoyed. Then I went to get coffee with my group members and got even more annoyed because no one wanted to sit outside on one of the first sunny days we've had in months. Then I got more annoyed because my cell phone went kaput so I couldn't even call my husband and express my unhappiness (probably for the better anyway). When it was finally time to go to my practical I got even more annoyed, because we had a rent-a-chef (visiting chef) as our supervisor and they never know how we're supposed to cook the recipe or how our real chef did it in the demo, but they like to yell at us for doing everything wrong. Double ha-rumph!

P1010268.JPGThis time I handled the lobster more bravely than in the past (Lobster Attack Part II). I picked a fat one and plopped it in my pot of boiling water with the lid on firm – just in case it tried to escape like last time. After two minutes I took it out and twisted the thorax from the head, pulled off the hood shell, and proceeded to move onto the meat in the pinchers. But the rent-a-chef came over and told me I was doing it wrong.
To smash the claw I used the palm of my hand and came down hard on it. It broke neatly and I pulled the claw meat out in one piece retaining the shape of the pincher. This was the way our real chef showed us. But no, Rent-A-Chef wanted me to use the back of my knife to crack the shell. As he was hovering over me, I used his method and it broke the claw meat. I looked up at him and he just shrugged and walked away. Triple ha-rumph!

Aside from my unusually fussy disposition, I managed to glide through the recipe super fast. Just as I was plating my gorgeous lobster, the chef decided that I needed a circle mold for my risotto. I tried to explain that our real chef hadn't used one. He told me to wait so he could get one. There is nothing more annoying than having all your food hot and perfectly cooked and then having to wait. nothing more annoying. I had just reheated the lobster in olive oil to the perfect done-ness and he wanted me to wait! TO WAIT!?!?! HA! You can't go back and re-heat lobster for a third time. That's worse than double dipping!

So, I waited. He eventually came back with one mold (for our whole group) and I made a stupid little circle with my risotto and placed my cold lobster on top with my cold sauce, cold vanilla fennel purée, and cold risotto stuffed squash blossom
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Lucky for him, (because I was about ready to unleash demons from hell) he gave me good grades and admired my beautiful presentation. I told him, "but everything is cold!" and he said he didn't care that the sauce and fennel purée were delicious, but my risotto needed more seasoning. The lobster was cooked perfect. Happy with my grades and still incredibly angst, I packed up my knives quickly and left.

I took a taxi home with my lobster leftovers packed up for my husband to enjoy, wrote this post, and now I'm going to pour a glass of wine in the setting sun and hope that tomorrow my chair will be free.....

Tasty Easy Recipes:
Strawberry Vinegrette: Let a half basket of strawberries macerate in one part red wine vinegar then blend up and add three parts oil, strain out strawberry seed with a fine sieve. Season with salt and pepper. Totally delicious and easy!

Vanilla Bean Fennel Purée: Trim one fennel and take out hard middle section. Slice and throw into a pot. Cover with half milk, half water and add a vanilla bean pod and two star anise if available. When fennel is soft, purée in blender with a touch of cream. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds, then add back to purée. Cover with film and keep warm until serving.

Lobster: stick it into a big pot of boiling water for two minutes to kill it. Then take out and de-shell (reserve shells for sauce if making). Heat up lobster meat right before serving in hot olive oil or serve cold (like me).

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