Archive for the ‘French’ Category
It’s arguably long overdo. About three years now I’ve been tinkering around in kitchens doing my best to follow a recipe or practice a technique, but like any independent study, without a syllabus to help guide my direction, it’s safe to say that I’ve been all over the place with my culinary exploits.
The salmon burger isn’t exactly the most original idea these days. Most establishments that bill themselves as seafood or above average dining have some variation of a fish burger. My experiences have been lack luster. More often than not, the fish is dry and chewy, the tartar sauce doesn’t add much flavor or completely overwhelms the fish, the bun is too hard. In short: not worth my $15.
But a little while back I had lunch at Michelle Richard’s Central and spotted their tuna burger on the menu. My mind flashed all the failed executions and disappointed burgers I had had up to that point. I hesitated. “How is the tuna burger?” I asked our server. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, a tiny smile curled her lips pausing just a second longer than she normally would have before saying, ”It’s excellent.” Sold. Have to trust in involuntary reaction like that. The burger was indeed heaven. Soft, buttery brioche buns encasing a delicate and tender tuna pattie with a rich, tangy sauce to complement. My faith was renewed. This little burger would be a new project. But I’d still need to figure out a good recipe.
Nothing like another established French chef exploring American cuisine to point me in the right direction. Did you know Hubert Keller has a PBS show? I didn’t either until one Saturday morning, after my 2nd cup of coffee, 3rd asprin and 1st bowl of cereal, I stumbled on his little show. Nothing fancy, just standard PBS programing, but it took me a few seconds to process what he mentioned he would be cooking that day. Did he say salmon burgers?! I must still be drunk. No effing way.
I must say I do enjoy starting the week with a breakfast post. Typing up a lazy sunday’s brunch for Monday helps take the edge off of the stinging reminder of the impending hours spent in front of my computer in my office. Nothing like a few hours on the couch on my laptop to offset that sentiment. But while I was dreding the work week, I got to thinking. What could I make on Sunday that would be good left overs for Monday? Or even Tuesday. Yeah sure, lots of dinner leftovers would work fine, but I’d like to have something a bit more versatile, something I could tweek to suite what ever mood I was in the next day. What could possibly be so easy, versatile, and preserve well in the fridge? Oh right, crepes!
The recipes for crepe batter vary depending on what you’re reading, but the general recipe is pretty standard: flour, milk, eggs, salt, rest, pour, serve. The only trick I’ve ever discovered was shown to me by a roommate born and raised in Paris (I only had to bug her 37 times to teach me something “French”). Maybe it’s more obvious to some, but her “trick” of melting a little butter and whiping the pan with a paper towel to coat was brilliant to me. Doing this seasons your pan so the crepe won’t stick, no butter clumps up or burns and the crepe cooks quickly and evenly.
So who’s recipe did i end up going with? Home French cooking simply equals Julia. Period. And not surprisingly, it’s the most common sense way to mix the batter in my opinion. Plus this is a master recipe, adding a little vanilla extract or sugar can sweeten up the mix for dessert crepes easily.
I really shouldn’t call anything Jacque Pepin recommends a cheat. I mean, if he does something in the kitchen, it may as well be a law because you know there’s a sound rationale behind it and he’s going to do it right. Lately I’ve been reading his autobiography, The Apprentice, and I stumbled upon the souffle recipe that his mother used to make. I’ve been getting into making souffles lately partially because I enjoy the challenge and partially because a well made souffle is fucking delicious. What really attracted me to the recipe was that Pepin’s mother didn’t actually make her souffle the traditional way. Instead of separating the yolks and whites and recombining after changing the composition of both, she just mixed everything together with a white sauce and popped it in the oven. WTF?
And there I was, scratching my head wondering if this was a real thing or not. Had my cookbooks been lying to me? Is it really possible to make a tasty, delicate souffle without the multiple, messy steps I had become accustomed? Well, turns out Pepin wins yet again (no surprise). Not only was the souffle a great meal, but it rose beautifully. Simple, relatively fast, and much less sensitive to the normal restraints of throwing a souffle together. Future Top Chef contestants, you are welcome.
Well, actually that may not necessarily be accurate. My mom loves tomatoes so I know any dish with tomatoes as the centerpiece is going to be a hit. I myself am not a big tomato fan, but I must admit the Provençal variation is pretty damn tasty. And it pairs brilliantly with roasted read meat or a simple white fish. Snazzy, simple and dare I say.. elegant? All you really need to Provençal anything are the trifecta: tomatoes, garlic and olive oil so tinker with these ingredients. What follows are the classic stuffed variety, but there’s no reason why the mix can’t contribute to other dishes if your looking to add a little acidity and garlic.
Ok, let’s clarify that title. A French chef, makes a Chinese dish that is similar to Italian cuisine. This is a recipe I had to try after picking up a copy of God’s Jacques Pepin’s Fast Food My Way. The dish is actually called pillows of scallop and shrimp mousse, or a bit more accurately, scallop and shrimp stuffed Chinese pot stickers. Thinking this was something like a dumping, and loving the concept of a scallop/shrimp mousse, I busted the dish out for a few friends. Another aspect I really liked, was that you can pretty much use your wrappers to form any shape you want. Folding over like triangles or wrapping into actual wontons should work just as well. Like most new recipes out of a new cookbook, there were a few ups and downs, but the final product was solid and fresh and delicious.
The prep work for this one is pretty easy. You do need a food processor of some sort though, even a tiny, $10 will do, otherwise you have to mince the scallops very finely and be sure to defrost your shrimp if frozen. Also you need to get your hands on some wonton wrappers. I’d also recommend using them a few at a time since they tend to dry out so keep them in the bag till you’re ready to use them. The only tricky part is the pan searing/steaming process, but we’ll get to that in a bit. I would also definitely not skip out on adding a splash balsamic vinegar which pairs with the soft/crispy pot stickers perfectly.
If I was going to be on Top Chef (which I’m well aware is never going to happen), one thing I would master before at some point and time before the contest starts would be making a perfect souffle. I’ve been watching Top Chef for five seasons now and time and time again this dish has caused nothing but heartache and frustration. Anthony Bourdain talked about how it was without question the most difficult station to manage while in culinary school. It’s a dish few restaurants will serve and even when they do they usually specify that the dish will take an unusual amount of time. So I decided I wanted to see how difficult putting together this fragile dish would be expecting to fail miserably. What can I say? I like a challenge.
Surprisingly, I was pretty happy with the result. Trying to put this dish together gave me a pretty good understanding of the importance of each step. Making a souffle isn’t really that hard, but like most baking, it’s a goddamn science in that each step needs to be done just right … and I usually hate science.