Meat

March 22, 2008

Easter Dinner: Filet d'Agneau Du Boulanger

Lamb, lamb, lamb...

Flipping through old cookbooks to find something different to serve for Easter dinner I came upon a recipe I made at Le Cordon Bleu during my Superior Cuisine course: Lamb Rib Roast Baked in a Bread Crust served with Jus and an Artichoke Hazlenut Oil infused Purée.

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The lamb is baked in yeast bread crust with a vegetable stuffing surrounding it and served with a purée of artichoke blended with hazlenut oil and a teensy bit of cream. Globe artichokes are in season now, and of course, Spring lamb is always symbolic of Easter. The addition of hazlenut oil adds extra warmth and comfort to the purée.

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The tricky part of this recipe is getting the cooking time right. Since there is no way to check for done-ness of the lamb through the bread. I find that by the time the bread is browned the lamb is cooked perfectly. Be careful not to over sear the lamb in the pre-cooking steps. It needs to be rare.

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The fun part of this recicpe is decorating the top of the lamb loaf. Why not make an Easter basket or give it some bunny ears?

Happy Easter!

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December 31, 2007

Herb Crusted Standing Rib Roast, Yorkshire Pudding, Brussels Sprouts

I look forward to prime rib for one reason: yorkshire pudding. There's nothing like slicing into a steak that melts in your mouth like butter, but I am partial to the little popovers that soak up all the jus.

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And I refuse to make excuses for enjoying brussels sprouts. If they're not overcooked, they are delicious. Too often people boil the hell out of 'em and then they get that funny smell – you know the one I'm talking about? But, if they are steamed briefly (4-5 min.) and then quickly sautéed in a tiny bit of good ole' fashioned bacon grease, they are absolutely edible!

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So what's the difference between a popover and yorkshire pudding? Not a lot. Except the later is cooked in the pan drippings from the standing rib roast which makes them extra flavorful. These little puffed beauties have to be cooked à la minute, but that's okay because the rib roast has to rest for a good 15-20 minutes anyway. As soon as the roast is being carved, the popovers should be coming out of the oven so it all times out perfectly.

Happy New Years!!!

vichyssoiseVichyssoise with Crab, garnished with Crème Fraîche and Chives



oystersUPOyster and Heirloom Carrot salad with Warm Oyster Vinaigrette



primeribUCHerb Crusted Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Brussels Sprouts



choccake2Gâteau Chocolate

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December 11, 2007

Suprême de Volaille Farcies aux Champignons Sauvages

Here it is – the moment you've all been waiting for – another chicken recipe! But, this one is special because it has a French title which automatically elevates it from mundane to elegant. Why is that? Regardless, chicken breasts stuffed with wild mushrooms is anything but boring.

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I wanted to post some recipes during the holidays that are easy to prepare for a diner party, light in fat, low in cost, French, and beautiful. Immediately chicken stuffed with wild mushrooms came to mind. Chanterelles, shitake, and oyster mushrooms are plentiful right now so take your pick or use all of them together.

If serving this dish to a crowd, stuff the chicken ahead of time. Cook it à la minute after your first course and let your guests marvel at your chef capabilities. The chicken takes 6 minutes to cook through and the sauce about 3 minutes. A word to the wise, practice once beforehand so you are comfortable with the time limitations.

Holiday shopping getting you down? Watch my video – at least you're not cooking on a two burner plaque! (okay, so it's in Paris, tant pis.) 'Tis the season to be jolly! (recipe on page continued. Click on the link at the very bottom)

More Chicken Recipes from the Blogoshpere:

Chicken and Mushroom Cream Sauce
Pan Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions, Rosemary
Chicken, Mushrooms, Tomatoes with Port Wine

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July 28, 2007

Menu de Harry Potter: Soupe de Choux-fleur Violet et Salade Tiède de Boeuf avec Cresson et Tomates Vertes

I finally finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Can you tell? I spotted a magical purple cauliflower in the market yesterday and I just had to have it. I got it home, stared at it for awhile, and then decided to flick my wand and turn it into soup. Not my wand exactly – who needs holly and phoenix feathers when you have a 24cm Global knife?

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Fascinated by the purple color, I did a little research and discovered that it is not dyed or hoaxed or under any sort of spell. The color is caused by presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. There were orange cauliflowers at the market too. I discovered these have 25 times the level of Vitamin A compared to the white varieties. Who knew cauliflower could be so vibrant and vitamin rich? Not me.

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Salads sound good to me in hot weather and so does no-fuss preparation, hence the warm beef salad with spicy watercress and witchy heirloom green tomatoes (green zebras). They kind of look like dragon eyes before you slice them up and I love the tart tomato juiciness paired with the salty-sweet beef. It's an interesting and refreshing combination. The watercress just adds a little kick for extra oomph.

The light dinner turned out tasty. The other witches and wizards at the table agreed. I still haven't figured out a proper aperitif. I wanted to make pumpkin juice but I didn't find any in the patch. Butterbeer sounds more appealing – anything with butter in the name sounds good to me.

I know my French friends are eagerly awaiting the le version française. It is amazing to me, but not surprising, how J.K. Rowling has captured the hearts of adults and children throughout the world with her stories.

Felicitations to Madame Rowling for inspiring us world wide!

For recipes click on "continue reading Menu de Harry potter..."

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July 12, 2007

Storm the Bastille: Carré d'Agneau Mariné Aux Herbes et Ratatouille

Bastille day is just around the corner and instead of letting 'em eat cake why not serve up something a tad more respectable? Rack of lamb for instance with a tasty herb pesto crust and a fashionable side dish of ratatouille. After all, you don't want your head on the platter at the end of the meal. You wouldn't want to insult your guests while they're starving to death with just a plain ol' piece of cheap stale bread. So treat them like the royalty they are...

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Lamb is easy to prepare for a crowd and beautiful presented on plates. The curve of lamb's small thin bones always adds artistic flare. It can be carved table side for added entertainment or plated secretly in the kitchen. Cooked rare to medium-rare, it's sure to provide a revolutionary red to the plates.

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Everyone wants to try ratatouille thanks to the movie, but sadly most ratatouille is like an overcooked vegetable swamp that tastes as awful as it smells. I prefer a quickly cooked eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and basil melange served up in a tomato cup and topped with a fried basil flag. It's fresh tasting and a perfect compliment for lamb. Use any vegetable trimmings from the ratatouille in the jus for an extra whack! Add some crusty 'cake' to sop up all the drippings or an elegant baguette.

Although many a beheaded beauty preferred sugary sweet french treats as their dernier dîner, a rich dark chocolate final ending is sure to send guests straight to heaven. The idea is not to weigh down the guests during the meal but to give them just enough hope to carry on. Silky pots de crème will make a lasting impression and are simple to prepare ahead of time without extra fuss during the meal.

Besides, unless you have servants or a hired cook, it is deathly important to keep both eyes on the party. Happy Fête National!

For the rack of lamb recipe click on "continue reading Storm the Bastille..." recipe serves 10 people.

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June 29, 2007

How To Stuff Sausage: Boudin Blanc

God forgive me for this video. It will either get passed around the Internet as a valuable guide to making sausage or used in 7th grade sex education classes. Even if I do rot in hell, it was a lot of fun to make. Very Satisfying.

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Stuffing sausage is a little like crafting. It takes time, some specific knowledge, and is more fun to do with at least one other person. I made the traditional French sausage, Boudin Blanc, but added foie gras and black truffles. Tse, my blogging friend from Chez Tse, made two different types of Italian sausage: sundried tomato & basil, and traditional pork. All of our sausage turned out delicious.

We bought natural sheep casings, or intestines, from our butcher. He loves me because I make my own saucisse. I'm telling you, if you really want to know the quickest way to a man's heart, make him sausage. He also offered us his favorite recipes and a few kisses behind the meat counter. What a ham! Sheep casings are smaller than hog or cow. Make sure to buy the size that best suits the recipe or style of sausage.

If you stick to the basic measurements, experimenting with sausage and flavors can be a lot of fun. For 1 kilo of ground meat add 20 grams salt and 4 grams ground pepper. I used ground veal in my boudin blanc so I had to add some ground fat back or pure pork fat to my mixture so it would taste juicy and survive the cooking procedure. Tse did not add any fat to her ground pork shoulder.

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I recommend letting the sausages refrigerate for at least 4 hours and overnight if possible, before cooking so that all the flavors blend. We poached our sausages in barely simmering cooking liquid before browning in olive oil. Fresh sausage tends to be delicate, and I find that poaching them first insures they won't explode over high heat. Make sure to prick them several times before poaching.

Happy sausage stuffing!

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June 15, 2007

Salade de Carmine Braisée à l'Orange et Canard Fumé

I had smoked duck for the first time this weekend at a pizza restaurant of all places! I ordered a wild mushroom pizza with thin slices of smoked duck and it was delicious. I was so impressed with its flavor that I had to do some experimenting...

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Smoked duck is a good substitute for bacon. It's salty and smokey in the same way with an added meaty-woodsy flavor and it's leaner. The baby radicchio is a terrific match for smoked duck and they both pair nicely with the sweetness of orange. I also tried a variation on Eggs Benedict substituting smoked duck for Canadian Bacon (I'll print that recipe next).

Inspired by the old French recipe Duck a l'Orange, I came up with a lighter variation. The smoked duck is quickly pan fried to render the little bit of duck fat on the slices. Then orange juice is added to the pan and reduced. Whole raddiccio is braised lightly in the duck-orange sauce and served alongside the duck slices with some fresh orange segments. Any remaining warm duck-orange sauce is mixed with a little tarragon vinegar and olive oil to create a tangy warm vinaigrette. Add a few herbs et Voilà!

Smoked duck can be served raw too (like smoked salmon or trout) but I like it warm with the fat crisped up. If it's overcooked it will loose it's beautiful red color and some of it's flavor. Duck does not taste good over cooked. Most wild fowl doesnt, for that matter, it turns livery and leathery.

Hope you enjoy this recipe and can find smoked duck slices in the super market!?!? For the recipe click on "Continue Reading Salade de Carmine...."

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June 08, 2007

Dîner d'Anniversaire!

It's not easy always being the older woman. The fear of loosing one's beauty and no longer being attractive feeds insecurity. Not to mention always having to be the mature responsible person in the relationship. But finally my husband has caught up with me in age! Yippeee!!!

Because my hubby is such a sweetie, I prepared a birthday dinner for him with fruit at the forefront. A fruit-a-licious menu! I love to use fruit in unusual ways. I like to barbecue it, roast it, and bake it with spices or condiments normally reserved for savory dishes. I'm sure I get this from my father who likes to salt everything from cantaloupe to watermelon, "Brings out the flavor!" he always says.

Appertif Kir Royal avec le Syrop de Fraise
Raviole d'Ananas Roti aux Chevre, Salade de Lardon
Rôti de Porc Aux Pruneaux et Des Légumes Rôtis
Fromage Bleu Avec du Pain de Figue
Clafouti Aux Cerise
Après Dîner Cognac

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For the roasted ravioli, I sliced paper thin rounds from a whole pineapple. I stuffed two slices with a spoonful of pungent medium-hard goat's cheese and pressed around the edges to form the pasta. Then I brushed a honey-basalmic glaze over the top. Right before serving the raviolis are broiled to caramelize the glaze and melt the cheese slightly. The salad is comprised of mesculen, crispy lardon, and a vinaigrette of olive oil, sherry vinegar, and the warm run-off juices from the broiled pineapple raviolis.

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Nothing could be easier than a pork roast stuffed with prunes. Just stick a long knife or sharp pick through the center of the roast and cram in the prunes. I sear the pork roast on all sides first and then place it in a baking dish with whole new potatoes, sweet potatoes (yes, I'm into pork and sweet potatoes right now!), whole spring onions, and fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Roast everything together et Voilà you have a beautiful main course that allows the time to focus on guests.

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Clafouti is simple to make and it does not contain a lot of sugar or flour. I like to soak the cherries in kirsch for an hour or two before adding them whole. Traditionally the cherries are not pitted for two reasons: it will turn the batter pink and they taste better baked with the pit in. I do advise warning your guests beforehand so no one looses a tooth. Substitute cherries for blanched apricots if desired. For the clafouti recipe see my old post Cherry Clafouti

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The candles didn't stick to well in the clafouti, so I had to substitute some cakes to hold up those heavy, heavy numbers!

For recipes click on "Continue reading Diner Anniversaire!"

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June 04, 2007

Côtelettes de Porc aux épices, Gratin de Patate Douce à l'Orange et au Gingembre

I've never seen sweet potatoes in Paris and when I spotted them today in the Monoprix (French Safeway) there were only two looking forlorn in a basket all by themselves. I had to save them. They're probably not in season. I don't even know if sweet potatoes have a season! I always see them year round back home – that's not saying much though is it?

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I hold patate douce dear to my heart...

Ten years ago when I cooked in SF I used to take the last night train home after dinner service. We always got a free meal with our shift and I would package mine togo and trade the ticket lady, a Southern woman, my dinner for a free ride home. It was a good deal for both of us. The food was hot and delicious and I was poor. One ticket home was the equivalent to one hour's worth of work in those days. (Eeeek! That was a long time ago!!!)

There were always weirdos on the last train out of SF. Lots of drunks and druggies. I learned all the Caltrans code words for 'drunk' or 'jerk' as the conducters would radio back and forth to each other about the passangers. But sometimes, the ticket lady, needing a respite from all the chaos, would sit beside me, eat her free meal, and talk food. She was a soul food specialist and she luuuuuved sweet potatoes like no one I have ever met before. And although she had no desire to go back to the South, I still think she might be persuaded if some one offered a life long supply of sweet potatoes.

Sweet potato pie was her specialty and I still have her recipe – and no, you can't have it – I promised I wouldn't share it with anyone. But she also sang the virtues of sweet potato hash, sweet potatoes mashed, candied sweet potatoes (and yams too), and sweet potato chips. She even liked sweet potato raw. And so do I, but I don't know if you're supposed to eat it that way.

I can't eat a sweet potato today without thinking of her. I'm sure we'll both meet again some day in that sweet potato pie up in the sky. But for now, I'll leave you with a recipe for lightly spiced pork chops served up with some orange-ginger sweet potato hash in her honor.

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May 19, 2007

Veau Grillée et Asperges Sauce Maltaise

In honor of the 60th Anniversary of the Cannes film festival I've created a decadent dinner to enjoy at home. Think of it like an Oscar party but French! Pour a glass of champagne and enjoy watching all the televised glitz and glamour while eating grilled veal finished with herb-orange butter and white asparagus topped with sauce maltaise (an orange flavored hollandaise sauce). This recipe is straightforward and elegant. Don't be afraid of the sauce, it's really not difficult...

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Before moving to Paris I had never tasted fresh white asparagus. I had only tried it once from a can and it was stringy, wet, limp, and disgusting. Although I had seen it before in markets, I never attempted to try it because of my previous experience. When I arrived in Paris some friends invited me over for a dinner of filet mignon and white asparagus served with hollandaise sauce. I couldn't believe how sweet the asparagus was and how well it pared with with the creaminess of the sauce. (of course, what doesn't hollandaise sauce taste good on?). This recipe is inspired from that first meal – Thanks Jenny & Stuart!!!


White asparagus has a very short season from April to May. Although the stalks appear white, it is really green asparagus that has been covered with at least 8 inches of mulch to keep sunlight away from the ripening spears. The spears are harvested before their tips grow through the top of the mulch. The base of the stalks tend to be woodier than green asparagus and need to be peeled with a vegetable peeler. If this step is left out, the eating experience will be not-so-nice as fibrous strings will prove difficult to cut and chew.

Sauce maltaise is just a gussied up hollandaise sauce. I prefer to make this the traditional way over the stove, but it can be made in a blender as well. Instead of thinning the egg yolks with water add reduced orange juice with some finely chopped orange zest (1 Tablespoon per egg yolk). The egg yolk and juice is then whisked over an open bainmarie of water until it has tripled in size, lightened in color, and thickened enough to see the bottom of the bowl. Next, remove from heat and slowly drizzle warm (not hot!!!) clarified butter. Reserve in a warm place (it cannot be reheated!) for up to an hour, but preferably just minutes from serving it.

Veal tends to be a sensitive subject in the U.S. because of the way it is raised. I only buy veal that has been allowed to live life outside in the open as opposed to in a crate inhibiting ability to move or stand. I once viewed a baby calf that was raised this way at a dairy farm in Holland and that memory will forever haunt me when I shop for veal at the supermarket. Veal doesn't have to be raised inhumanely to taste tender. The herb-orange butter melts over the top of the veal fillets after grilling to give it a beautiful glaze and delicate flavor.

For recipe press continue reading at bottom of the page...

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April 04, 2007

La Chasse au Lièvre: Hunting Rabbit

Perhaps this video is a little untimely considering that Easter weekend is coming up, but the hunting season is coming to a close here in France and I wanted to share this rare look inside a 3-star restaurant in regards to game preparation. I have never had the opportunity to work with game in the United States. Most of the meat we receive in the U.S. has already been cleaned and semi-prepared.

Although it was sometimes emotionally difficult to work with cute and fury animals, towards the end of the season I felt more connected to the food I was preparing. I prefer eating food that I know has lived a healthy life free from chemicals, pesticides, steroids, and unnormal/unnatural diets.

Meat does not come from the super market. It is bought at the super market. Funny how French kids inherently understand that while American kids are convinced chicken is born boneless and skinless. The other day while I was enjoying some sunlight at Le Jardin de Tuilleries, a toddler caught my eye running around one of the fountains. He was waddling after a little duck but eventually gave up his chase, pointed at it, and said, "mmm...." Then his mother reinforced this, "Oui, ça c'est colvert, mmmmmm....."

In the States, we tend to think of Daffy Duck before we think of dinner.

If you're ever lost in the woods, stuck in Appalachia, looking to impress a new date, or wanting to reconnect with the food chain here is my video on HOW TO SKIN A RABBIT. This is a wild rabbit or hare (not the petstore kind) and they are very big and have lots of lean meat. The French word is "Lievre".

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March 27, 2007

Porc Fillet Roti: Pork Tenderloin Roasted

The good news is I'm back in Paris! The bad news is the French Government hasn't deemed my work permit permissable yet. The 3-star restaurant I normally cook at is short staffed right now and here I am lounging around my Parisian apartment doing nothing but stuffing myself on croissants and baguette. C'est terrible!

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In the meantime I have some recettes deliceux pour vous that I've been working on at home. Today's recipe is simple to prepare and can be on your dinner table in half an hour. The porc tenderloin is quickly seared, then smothered in dijon mustard and freshly chopped rosemary. Next it is roasted with onions and apple slices. Add a little jus at the end et voila! I should also mention that this recipe is low in fat and has no starchy carbs either. Click on the end of the page for the full recipe.

I almost forgot...I've also been putting together some interesting videos. So stay tuned for How to Skin a Rabbit. What do you mean this doesn't interest you?

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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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October 21, 2006

The Chacuterie Plate

I don't have a lot of time on my one day off from the 3-star restaurant I cook at to make fancy meals and I find myself craving simple dishes that are healthy. I love chaucterie for lunch. Thinly sliced cured meats, small cornichon pickles, paté, a selection of cheese served with a big basket of sliced baguette and butter. To me, the chaucterie assiette is very French and I often order it at bistros – when I have time to go to bistros – oh la vache!

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I experimented with different smoked salmons (white from Bretagne and pink from Ireland), procuitto ham, coppa, and comté fromage. The salad is just plain ol' salad with a basamic vinagrette (1 T vinegar, 3 T olive oil) with diced veggies I found in the fridge. C'est facile, non?

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For another variation try it as an appetizer served on little blinis. I made variations with goat cheese, comté cheese, blue cheese, cured meats, smoked salmon, figs, and veggies. Really beautiful, colorful, and simple.

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September 23, 2006

Sautéed Cerveaux (Fried Brains)

Our staff meals at the 3-star restaurant I cook at used to be reminiscent of traditional bistro fare. I remember looking forward to such entrees as moules frites, porc roti avec jus, poisson provencal but now it seems that all we eat are offal (awful) dishes that make my stomach do backflips.

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We get two hearty meals a day to sustain us through the twelve – sometimes 13 hour – work day and I am always surprised at the French love of organ dishes. Now that I am cooking with the Chef de Viande we make all the meat for the staff – or in this case, he makes all the meat and I silently protest in the background and find other tasks that I must complete first.

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I have actually visited Rungis, the largest market in the world and have seen the tools used to extract the brain from the animal skull in one piece. The brain is put in a metal clamp that holds it steady then a fork like plunger comes down and cracks the skull neatly in two and grabs the brain in one piece. It is horrifying to watch because the animal eyes are often still in the skinless skull and when it splits in two the eyes go their separate ways.

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So, just how do you turn this gelatinous wiggly grey matter into something delicious? First, it is necessary to pick out any veins or blood vessels on the brain and remove the film. If the film is not taken off then it will not brown properly when sautéed. To draw out impurities and blood soak the brains in cold water (overnight if possible) changing the water every few hours. When the brains are sufficiently soaked, the water will be clear.

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Quickly blanch the brains in boiling water and drain well. Then season with salt and pepper, roll through flour and fry up in salted butter until golden brown. Top with sautéed garlic, parsley with a squeeze of lemon. We serve them along side creamy potatoes which is supposed to compliment them in some way. Voila! Bon appetit! For the recipe click on "Continue reading Sautéed cerveaux..." at the bottom of the page

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September 10, 2006

Feeding the Masses: Croque Monsieurs!

One of the responsibilities I have at the 3-star restaurant I cook at is to help make our staff lunch and dinners. We work from 8AM to 11PM with a two hour break in the middle and we are fed two meals a day to keep us going.

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This last week our dinners have been revolting (from a preparation and eating standpoint) with French delicacies of Tete de Veau (head of veal) and Tongue, but last night was yummy. We made Croque Monsieurs for the whole staff and they were gobbled up faster than...well faster than the head cheese...

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What is a Croque Monsieur? It is simply a ham and guyere cheese sandwich with a little béchamel sauce spread inbetween and on top for added creaminess. I know that many people are frightened by the idea of making béchamel because it is one of the quintessential French white mother sauces, but it's easy and takes minutes. And you can make it the day before and refrigerate it.

Once you make a roux (flour and butter mixture that thickens the sauce) add milk a little salt, pepper and nutmeg et Voila! C'est facile, non? For recipe click on "Continue reading Food for the Masses" at the bottom of the post.

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The origin of the name Croque Monsieur, is uncertain but the first part derives from the verb croquer (to crunch or to munch). Its first recorded appearance on a Parisian café menu was in 1910. It originated in France as a fast-food snack served in cafés. If you top it with a fried egg the dish is known as a croque madame.

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Bon Appetit!!!

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August 30, 2006

Cat Got Your Tongue???

How to cook tongue? That is the question I would like to ponder in this post. Is there a way to make it edible without gagging? Now I know many people love tongue especially those that have been brought up eating it. It's an acquired taste shall we say? At the restaurant I cook at we make it once a week for staff dinner. And now that I'm at the meat station that job is mine, mine all mine. To cook tongue. There is a God afterall.

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I always watch in awe as our thirty-six young chefs wolf it down. But me, well, my own tongue does this weird thing whenever I try to take a bite. It kind of balls up in the back of my throat terrified that I might mistake the cows tongue for my own tongue and swallow itself. Then my throat just simply closes, shuts down, fermez la porte and I have to spit it out before the rest of the contents in my stomach come forward in a desperate attempt to force my tongue back in the direction it was intended to be all along – lying horizontally flat.

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However, correctly prepared it should cut easily and have a texture similar to beef brisket – kind of stringy. The two most difficult parts are peeling the skin off the tongue (I did not include picture, I thought I'd save you the horror) and cutting it. There's something about slicing that makes my own tongue just quiver.

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See? It doesn't look too bad once prepared right. It could be mistaken for beef to the slightly inebriated eye. And the vinagrette that goes with it is delicious and hides most of the flavor (so I'm told). Well to all you tongue lovers out there....this is how we do...

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To go recipe click on link "Continue reading: What? Cat got your tongue?"

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April 19, 2006

Lamb Presents

We made a dish today at Le Cordon Bleu, that was super yummy. I loved the theme of the recipe because I got to create each part as if it were a present. The lamb was wrapped in brik pastry, like one of those packages with loads of tissue paper popping out. The vegetable Tian (layers of tomato, onion, eggplant, zucchini) I baked in a ring mold and placed strips of zucchini around the sides to form a wrapping paper with a bow of zucchini on top. The little breaded deep fried garlic cloves brought back memories of styrofoam popcorn – but they actually tasted really good.

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The lamb is first seared rare and then left to cool in the fridge. Any cut of lamb will do– you can choose a fillet or have individual chops. Next we made an herb crust with pistachios, pine nuts, basil, egg white, and oil that we smeared over the meat. We wrapped the meat up in brik pastry and baked it for 10 minutes. This is one of those recipes that would be excellent for a dinner party. Everything can be done ahead and refrigerated and then baked right before serving. If you're not a lamb eater then why not fish? Salmon would be de-lish.

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The vegetable Tian is nothing more than slices of zucchini, eggplant, onions, and red peppers sautéed quickly in olive oil and then layered together with sliced tomato. A little salt and pepper et viola! You can cook the Tian in a big dish or make individual ones.

I would love to give quantities here, but I'm afraid this is one of those Le Cordon Bleu special recipes. However, you can take the general idea and play around with it. It was a lot of fun to create. Let me know if you have any questions about brik pastry or anything else.

P.S. This book has most of the recipes that we cook at school in a menu format (entrée, main course, dessert). It's a great book. I've already bought two for both my mums! Wish I had bought them on Amazon, they're 20 euros cheaper, can you believe that!?!? I got all the chefs to autograph it too, so I suppose that makes up for the extra expense.

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March 29, 2006

Homemade Saucisson: Boudin Blanc

Making sausage is really fun and we've made a lot of it at Le Cordon Bleu. It tastes much better than the commercial kind filled with chemicals, additives, and un-identifyable meat. It's not difficult to make if you have a meat grinder (or a butcher who will grind it for you), a plastic pastry bag, and a sausage pastry tip. The trickiest part is finding the natural casing (intestines cleaned) and pure pork fat or fatback (so it won't dry out). After you get the basic technique down you can get really crazy with maple sausage breakfast links or fiery Italian sausage, the possibilities are endless...

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This article is for Matthew Rose who asked me how to make sausage, specifically Boudin Noir. I prefer Boudin Blanc for it's delicate flavor and lack of blood, however, the methods are the same. The problem with Boudin Noir is finding the blood. Sometimes we get pints of it in the kitchens at LCB for specific recipes like Poulet en Barbouille – pint of pig blood anyone? Blood when it's cooked binds ingredients together and turns a beautiful dark chocolate color, but it takes some getting used to. Here's the technique:

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Grind all the meat and fat up together. Weigh meat and add salt and pepper to it (20g salt/ kilo meat, 4g pepper/ kilo meat). Then mix meat and all precooked & cooled ingredients together in a big bowl. Load up your pastry bag with meat filing and pastry tip and scrunch casing over the tip then tie off the end of the casing. Gently squeeze away. Make sure not to overfill so you can tie off links with cooking string. Once finished poke a few holes in casing with toothpick, especially if there's any air bubbles. Boil for 20 minutes then fry up! Voila!

After cross referencing many different Boudin Blanc recipes they all seem to be the same with the exception of whether or not to add breadcrumbs instead of potato starch. Here's the old tried and true standby sans breadcrumbs...

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