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My mom, sister, and I have all been using this banana muffin recipe for years because it makes the absolute best banana muffins. I was determined not to give up on one of my favorite recipes just because it contained flour and after two tries came up with a gluten-free version that tastes just as delicious as the original (promise). This time, I made the original recipe for a friend who had just given birth and then a gluten-free batch for me. It was cool to cook them side by side; their appearance and texture was identical!

For variety, I made some with pecans, others with chocolate chips, and even saved a few to top with homemade cream cheese icing and serve as cupcakes for a friend who was turning eighteen! Needless to say, the double batch of muffins disappeared within three days. My family ate both the regular muffins and the gluten-free ones and wasn’t able to tell the difference. I call that success!

I hope that your family enjoys these as much as mine!

Best Banana Muffins (Original Recipe)

Mix together:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder

In a separate bowl mash and mix:
5 large ripe bananas
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Then add the following ingredients to the wet ingredients above:
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup of chopped pecans (optional)
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Gently mix the flour and baking powder mixture into the wet ingredients being sure not to over mix. Bake at 375 degrees until tops are light brown (about 20 minutes).

Best Gluten-Free Banana Muffins

Mix:
3/4 cup almond flour (keeps them moist and delicious)
3/4 cup quinoa flour (packs in the protein!)
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum (helps hold the muffins together)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

In a separate bowl mash and mix:
5 large ripe bananas
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Then add the following ingredients to the wet ingredients above:
1/2 cup sugar in the raw
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup of chopped pecans (optional)
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Gently mix the flour and baking powder mixture into the wet ingredients being sure not to over mix. Bake at 375 degrees until tops are light brown (about 20 minutes).

Gluten-free muffins next to the regular muffins. Bet you can’t tell the difference!

A super moist Gluten-Free Banana Muffin loaded with pecans and chocolate chips.

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I grew up eating sweet potato biscuits so when I looked into my frig and noticed two baked sweet potatoes left over from a few nights ago I immediately wanted to make the biscuits for myself… I mean my family.

Last year I discovered that I have a wheat allergy so I’ve begun experimenting to figure out how to convert my favorite recipes to be gluten-free. I know I’ve found a successful recipe when my husband comments on how good the dish is and that he doesn’t even miss the flour. The girls thought the biscuits were so delicious that they called them cookies. I hope that your family enjoys these as much as mine!

Ingredients:
2 cups gluten free baking mix (I use Pamela’s Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix which already has leavening agents)
1 cup almond flour (great for baking. I got mine at Trader Joes)
4 tablespoons of packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 mashed (baked) sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup (i.e. 1 stick) softened butter
2 to 4 tablespoons milk (depending on the moisture of the potatoes)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and in a second, smaller bowl, mash the sweet potato and butter together (a pastry blender works well for this). Mix the flour and wet ingredients together and slowly add a little milk until the mixture is moist but not sticky.

Place a little flour down on your counter and press the dough out until it’s about 3/4 of an inch thick (I made my biscuts too thin this time). Cut biscuits with a biscuit cutter (or do it the way my mom taught me- with the top of your non-stick spray).

I baked enough for our family of four to eat that night and froze the rest (in preparation for when baby #3 arrives). To cook immediately, place on a greased cookie tray and bake for about 15 minutes.

To freeze, simply place uncooked biscuits on a greased tray and freeze until hard (for about an hour). Remove from freezer and place in a zip-lock. When ready to cook the biscuits just put them in the oven frozen and cook for an extra 5-10 minutes.

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Sophia mixing the wet and dry ingredients.

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Sophia pressing out the dough.

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Delish!

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Easy Dishes from the Sea

Shrimp, crab, scallops, rockfish, two decadent sauces, and crispy risotto cakes were on the menu this week. Not only are these dishes great tasting but they take very little time to prepare.

Try making the Saffron Beurre Blanc or Lemon and Olive Oil Emulsion with Fresh Herbs to transform the most bland fish into a French delight. Reinvent last night’s risotto by turning it into crispy risotto cakes that no one will recognize as leftovers.

Here’s what we learned how to make:

  • Sauteed Shrimp Louis XIV
  • Crab Cakes
  • Pan Seared Dry Scallop on a Risotto Cake
  • Saffron Beurre Blanc (A fabulous sauce for any fish dish)
  • Fillet of Rockfish Grilled
  • Lemon and Olive Oil Emulsion with Fresh Herbs

Sauteed Shrimp Louis XIV
If you like spicy shrimp, this dish is for you!

The Louis XIV references a pricey Louis XIV cognac that is traditionally used to make this dish. Chef Patrice encouraged us to use a cheaper cognac or brandy instead.

Prepare all of your ingredients in advance because this dish cooks quickly and should be served immediately. Also keep in mind that shrimp cooks very fast. If you cook it half way, it will finish cooking on its own by the time you plate and serve it.

Here’s what you need to prepare in advance:

  • shrimp (cleaned and deveined)
  • chopped onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • cracked black pepper
  • chopped parsley
  • thyme (fresh or dried)
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • cognac or brandy
  • salt
  • garnish: fresh parsley and finely chopped tomatoes

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Sprinkle your shrimp with salt, cracked pepper, thyme and olive oil. Add the shrimp to your hot oil. As soon as the shrimp begin to change color, add the onions and garlic. As you saute these ingredients, add several tablespoons of butter to provide moisture and flavor. Deglaze your pan with cognac and light it to flambe it. Add a little more salt and garnish with fresh parsley and finely chopped tomatoes.

Spicy Shrimp!

Crab Cakes
Tonight I ate the finest, most expensive crab cake that I’ll probably ever eat in my life. Instead of using egg or mayonnaise as a bonding agent for the crab, Chef Patrice made a scallop mouse using fresh scallops and heavy whipping cream and then gently folded it into sauteed vegetables and blue crab.

When I described the crab cakes to my oh-so-practical mom she said that scallops are expensive and would rather eat the scallops separately than have them whipped into a crab cake. As fabulous of an experience as it was to eat these melt-in-your-mouth crab cakes, the likelihood of me (and I assume most of my readers) ever using scallops and heavy cream in our crab cakes is highly unlikely so instead I’ve decided to outline some helpful tips that we can all use when making crab cakes at home.

  1. When purchasing lump crab meat choose regular lump rather than jumbo lump. Regular lump crab meat is more affordable than jumbo lump meat (which can be used in crab salads).
  2. In case you were wondering, the lump crab meat sold in a plastic containers has already  been cooked and pealed.
  3. It’s common to find shells in packaged crab meat. Roll each piece of meat in your fingers to check for shells before using it.
  4. Chef Patrice uses blue crab from Venezuela rather than local Maryland crab because it’s more affordable.
  5. It’s important to keep crab cold.
  6. Peppers are a traditional garnish for crab cake. Try use three different colors of peppers chopped very finely for maximum flavor and presentation.
  7. Make sure that your garnish is fully cooked before adding it to your crab meat (it won’t have time to cook when you saute your crab cake). Consider using a small amount of pealed, diced celery and shallots in addition to your peppers. Season your garnish with salt and Old Bay.
  8. In addition to using scallops as a bonding agent you can also use salmon or lobster.
  9. To create perfectly round crab cakes, press your crab cake mixture into an oiled cookie cutter and onto a piece of parchment paper.
  10. If you want to make your crab cakes in advance, simply flash them in the oven at 400 degrees for a few minutes before you serve them.
  11. To compliment your crab cake, consider making a salad with cucumbers, katamala olives, feta, olive oil and sherry vinegar.
  12. Top your crab cakes with beurre blanc (recipe below) or tartar sauce.

Fancy Crab Cakes

Saffron Beurre Blanc
This rich and tangy sauce can be used on a variety of fish dishes. The vinegar gives it a nice punch, the butter gives it a rich texture, and the saffron (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saffron) turns it a beautiful yellow color. The key to making this sauce successfully is in the emulsification profess- a process of whisking cold butter into the boiling sauce and then adding more cold butter to cool it down again.
To make the base of your sauce you’ll need:

  • chopped shallots
  • olive oil
  • cracked black pepper
  • bay leaf
  • champagne vinegar (or vinegar of your choice)
  • thyme
  • white wine

Sweat the shallots in olive oil on medium heat in a pot. Once the bottom of your pot becomes brown, deglaze with several tablespoons of champagne vinegar, about 1/2 cup of white wine. Add the remaining ingredients and reduce this mixture until dry (i.e. all that’s left is a thick syrup.)
To finish the sauce you’ll need:

  • heavy whipping cream
  • butter
  • salt
  • saffron
  • a whisk and chinois (or strainer)

With your pot on the warm burner, add several tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and quickly whisk in several tablespoons of butter. As the mixture comes to a boil add several tablespoons of butter, whisking quickly to prevent the sauce from separating. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of saffron in the sauce and allow to sit for a few minutes before you press the mixture to a chinois. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and keep warm to prevent it from separating (curdling).

Fillet of Rockfish Grilled
You’ll be surprised at how tasty this light and healthy fish can be!
What you’ll need:

  • rockfish
  • fresh thyme
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper

Lay several sprigs of fresh thyme and some chopped garlic and olive oil on your filets of fish and allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes. Remove the thyme and garlic and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place your fish on a HOT grill, pretty side (i.e. light colored) down on the diagonal. (Heat is the key to preventing fish from sticking. If you use too much fat/oil then your fish will go up in flames, so make sure that your fish is evenly coated with a little oil.) Allow the fish to have nice marks seared into it and then rotate it to the opposite angle so that your fish has nice hash marks on it. Use a pronged fork to flip your fish. Briefly cook the fish on the other side. Don’t worry about your hash marks on this side as no one will see the marks. Remove the fish before it’s fully done (it will continue to cook once it’s been removed from the grill) and brush with a little more olive oil. Top your fish with the lemon and olive oil emulsion (instructions below).

Lemon and Olive Oil Emulsion with Fresh Herbs
Make this emulsion immediately before you’re ready to serve the fish.

Hold a metal bowl over your burner and heat it with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper. As the mixture begins to boil, whisk in some olive oil. Add chopped herbs of your choosing (we used thyme, chives, tarragon, dill) and serve.

Pan Seared Scallops
I’ve never cooked scallops at home but after discovering how easy they are to make, I may just have to!

Here are a few tips Chef Patrice gave us:

  1. Buy fresh #10-20 scallops (#10 means that there are 10 scallops per pound. #10s are the perfect size for an appetizer).
  2. Remove the foot, which is tough, before cooking.
  3. Scallops cook fast. Remove them from the fridge for 5-10 minutes before you sear them so that they aren’t cold in the center.
  4. You can cook scallops in a regular, cast iron, or non-stick pan.

Season your scallops with salt and pepper on both sides. In a hot pan melt some clarified butter. Brown the scallop on one side and then briefly sear it on the other side (do not brown or you’ll overcook the scallop). Remove the scallop from your pan as soon as it becomes firm (which will only take about 2-3 minutes).

Risotto Cakes
Here’s an easy and delicious way to reinvent leftover risotto:

  1. Dice and saute whatever vegetables you have in the fridge (consider using pumpkin, acorn squash, mushrooms, etc.).
  2. Once this has cooled, mix your vegetables with a little grated cheese into your risotto.
  3. Press the risotto into oiled cookie cutter and onto a sheet of parchment paper.
  4. Heat clarified butter in a pan and pan sear the risotto cakes on each side until golden brown.
  5. Place your pan-seared scallop on top of the risotto cake and finish it off with saffron Beurre Blanc for a she-she appetizer.

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Being raised in the south, it’s hard not to enjoy homemade sausage gravy for breakfast, a delicious pulled pork sandwich (with coleslaw) for lunch, or fall-off-the-bone ribs for dinner. There’s been more than one occasion, when visiting my grandparents on their farm in Tennessee, that I’ve eaten pork for all three meals (not something that I’m necessarily proud of).

I was excited to learn new ways to cook the ‘other white meat’ but was not prepared, however, to make sausage from scratch. At first I was grossed out, but after a few days of contemplation, have decided that I would rather understand how sausage is made so that I can make more informed decisions about my family’s sausage consumption. Because of this experience, I’ve decided to limit the amount we consume and try to select fresh, locally made sausage or make it myself.

This week we learned how to prepare:

  • Spare Ribs with Rub and Mustard BBQ Sauce
  • Sauteed Pork Chop with Sauce Charcutiere (pan sauce)
  • Potato Dauphin (yummy potato cakes)
  • Sausage Du Jour (homemade sausage)

Spare Ribs
This rub makes much more than you’ll need but once made can be stored in an airtight container for several months. When preparing your ribs rub them down several hours before you plan to cook them. Begin cooking the meat about three hours before you need to serve it.

Here’s what you’ll need to make the rub:
1 C Chili Powder
1 C Dried Sage
2-3 T Dry Mustard
1-2 T Chipoltle or Cayenne
1 1/4 C Brown Sugar
1/4 C Black Pepper
1/2 C Kosher Salt

Place your meat on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes to an hour at 325 degrees. Turn your oven down to 275 degrees and cook the ribs until you can pick it up at one end and it easily bends (this is how you determine if it’s tender enough to ‘fall off the bone’). It will take around 2 1/2- 3 hours to cook.

To make the Mustard BBQ Dipping Sauce you’ll need:
1/2 C Onion (chopped)
1 1/2 C Dijon Mustard
Chopped Garlic
1/2 C Brown Sugar
3/4 C Cider Vinegar
3/4 C Beer
1 T Cumin
1 t Black Pepper
1/2 t Cayenne Pepper
1 1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1-3 Chipoltle peppers in adobo sauce (chopped)
1 t Tabasco sauce
Salt (to taste)

It’s best to make this sauce a day in advance so that the flavors have time to blend.

Saute the onions in butter until soft. Combine the next 8 ingredients (mustard through cayenne pepper) in a heavy saucepan. Slowly simmer for 20 minutes (do not boil). Add the remaining ingredients and continue to simmer for an additional 20 minutes stirring frequently. Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.

Sauteed Pork Chop
Select 1/2 inch thick pork chops with the bone-in (which provides moisture and flavor). Pork chops thinner than 1/2 inch will dry out too quickly when cooked.

Salt and pepper the pork chops on both sides. Heat oil in a large pan and infuse it with garlic by sweating several cloves of smashed garlic (with skin on). Remove the garlic and place the meat in the hot oil. Do not move the meat. Add the garlic back into the oil along with some fresh sage and sliced shallots. Allow your pork chop to cook fully on one side and then flip and cook fully on the other side. Remove and place on a cooling rack. Let rest for about 10 minutes before you cut into it.

Sauce Charcutier (Pan Sauce)
Take the pan you just used to cook the pork chops and dump any remaining oil that is left in it, leaving all the flavorful drippings stuck to the bottom of the pan. Reheat the pan and add some rough cut shallots and a little clarified butter. Deglaze the pan with about 3/4 cup of white wine and a few tablespoons of vinegar. Reduce the sauce completely until all that is left is a thick syrup. Add about 1 cup veal (or beef) stock and transfer your sauce into a smaller pot to reduce it again. Simmer the sauce until you’re pleased with its consistency and flavor. Add 2-3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard and immediately pass your sauce through a chinoise (or strainer). Add some cornish pickles (for extra acidity and crunch) to the sauce and serve over your pork chops.

Potato Dauphin
These potato cakes are a great compliment to the pork chop recipe listed above or a hearty breakfast. When cooking these, it’s best to use a small non-stick pan which will allow you to cook individual, perfectly round potato pancakes. If you don’t have a small pan, just do your best to cook them in a large one. These can be made in advance and reheated in the oven.

Julienne your potatoes (cut them into very thin, fine strips). Add some chopped thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Heat a non-stick pan and add enough clarified butter to thoroughly coat the bottom. Your butter should be hot enough that when you add the potatoes they make a popping noise (if your butter isn’t hot enough they’ll stick to the pan). Add the potatoes and cook the patty on both sides until it’s golden brown. The potato cake should be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. If your potatoes are nicely browned on the outside but seem slightly undercooked on the inside, then cook them for a few additional minutes in the oven.

 

Mmmm... Potato Darphin

 

Sausage Du Jour
We all know that fat is an essential ingredient in sausage but did you know that pork sausage is 35-45% fat? That’s a lot of fat.

Fat is essential to sausage, so if you choose to eat sausage it’s probably best to get comfortable with the fact that you’re eating something that’s not very healthy for you and should be consumed in moderation. One way you can make sausage slightly more healthy is by making it yourself and adding lots of extra goodies (like dried fruit) to help reduce the amount of meat and fat you consume.

I discovered that sausage is surprisingly easy to make using a medium ground pork butt (with 35%-45% fat content) and a few herbs and other items to provide flavor.

Much to my dismay, the experience of stuffing intestines with super fatty meat was my least favorite class experience thus far, but was nevertheless a valuable one.

Learning about how sausage is made has been a valuable experience. Here are a few of my take-aways:

  1. Knowing how high the fat content is in sausage will help me limit my consumption.
  2. The casing of sausage is made of pig intestines. I now prefer to eat sausage sans casing.
  3. When selecting sausage, I will do my best to choose fresh, locally made sausage without chemicals or additives that can be so easily disguised.
  4. Sausage making is easy (as long as the pig casings/intestines aren’t involved).
  5. If I make the sausage, I can add lots of extras ingredients (like dried fruit) that serve as healthy fillers and decrease the amount of fat in a sausage patty.

Making homemade sausage is simple and can be made with just about any ingredients that you can imagine. I’ve outlined some ingredients that we used in our sausage but feel free to be creative when making it yourself.

  • Garlic
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Dried Fruit (Sour Cherries, Cranberries)
  • Toasted Fennel (an herb found in most sausage)
  • Caraway
  • Coriander (toasted)
  • Onions (sweated)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes (julienned)
  • Pink Peppercorn (whole)
  • Rosemary
  • Pork rub (outlined above)

When selecting your mixture of flavors remember that no one flavor should dominate. Sweet dried fruits compliment sausage nicely. Once you think you’ve come up with the perfect combination, fry a little piece and taste it. You can cook it immediately or let it sit overnight to allow the flavors to mix. I suggest shaping the sausage by hand which is much easier (and less gross) than dealing with the casings.

Rather than go into the details of how we stuffed the sausage into the casings I’ve provided a few photos of our experience (for those of you living vicariously through my experience! =)

 

Attempting to use a KitchenAid attachment to fill the pork casing

 

 

Chef Decided to Upgrade to the Professional Machine

 

 

Here we go!

 

 

Pretending that we enjoy working with pig intestines

 

 

Our sausage before it's cooked.

 

 

The Next Morning: Scrambling eggs to go with our sausage

 

 

The sausage is finally starting to look yummy

 

 

Breakfast!

 

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Perfecting Beef

This week my friend Anna and I were unable to attend our regular Tuesday class, taught by our French instructor Chef Patrice, and instead joined the Thursday class taught by a jovial American named Chef Bryan. Chef Bryan’s class felt like happy hour compared to Chef Patrice’s feverish pace and professional expectations as he snaps instructions and prepares five dishes all at once. Anna and I agreed that we really enjoyed the Thursday class but prefer our Tuesday class as it feels like a miniature version of France’s acclaimed culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu.

During the first fifteen minutes of class, Chef Bryan explained the different grades and cuts of meat and reminded us that traditionally, cows were used as draft animals and for milk. At the end of their life they would be slaughtered and eaten but never raised exclusively for their meat. In his opinion, consumers should only eat high-quality beef and only on special occasions. When selecting meat we should choose “prime” beef  (best quality) rather than “choice” (mid-quality) or “select” (poorest quality).

Chef Bryan also encouraged us to “get comfortable with fat” as fat provides flavor and tenderness to meat. Look for a piece of meat that has nice marbling and fat distributed evenly throughout it. If you choose to cook a lean meat, flavor can be added to it by wrapping it with fat (pork fat is preferable to beef fat because it’s considered to have better flavor). Lean meat can be tenderized by cooking it very slowly on low heat.

He explained that moisture flows away from the source of heat so if you’re searing a piece of steak in a pan, the moisture will naturally move to the top of the steak (the converse is true if you’re using a broiler to heat it from the top). Ideally, you should cook a piece of meat until it is fully done on one side and flip it over once in order to retain the moisture as much as possible. Once the meat has been cooked, it should always be allowed to rest for about 10 minutes to allow juices that have escaped the heat and gathered in the center to redistribute throughout the steak.

This week we learned to prepare:

  • Roast Beef
  • Thai Basil Stir Fry
  • Brussel Sprouts (a bonus vegetable!)
  • Beef Bourguignon
  • Spatzel (a German noodle)

I will outline the first three dishes in my blog. If you want to make Beef Bourguignon, I suggest using Julia Child’s recipe. If you’re looking for an easy one-dish meal, I highly recommend giving the Thai Basil Stir Fry a try. It can be made in about 20 minutes and is delicious!

Beef Bourguignon

Roast Beef
To make a traditional roast beef you should purchase “Top Butt” or “Top Round,” which is a lean, flavorful piece of meat. Since this is a lean cut of meat, it’s best to add a little fat by wrapping a sliver of unsalted pork fat back (or bacon) around the outside. Before wrapping the fat/bacon, use a small knife to make slits in the side of the meat and insert rosemary and garlic into these holes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and tie it all together with butcher’s string.

Side note: As long as you poke the holes before you cook the meat they will close as the meat cooks and you won’t loose the moisture. Once you begin cooking the meat and the juices undergo pressure, you should not pierce the meat until it’s rested and ready to serve.

Heat canola oil in a skillet until it’s very hot. Brown the sides of the meat first so that the fat wrapped around the meat become one with the surface of the meat. Once the meat is browned on all sides, place it in a 275-325 degree oven (low and slow is best).

Cook your beef until the internal temperature is about 225 (remember that once you remove the meat from the oven, it will continue to cook for several minutes). The internal temperature for rare meat should be between 120-125, medium rare around 130-135, and medium around 140-145.

When slicing into a perfectly prepared piece of roast beef, there should be about a 1/2 inch cooked exterior and a consistently pink interior throughout the rest of the meat (if cooked low and slow it should cook evenly through the center).

Roast Beef Cooked to Perfection

Thai Basil Stir Fry
This dish is going to become a staple at our house because we love these flavors and it is quick and easy to prepare! Thai sauces are meant to be light and thin, so try to resist the urge to thicken it with cornstarch! I plan to add water chestnuts, carrots, snow peas, broccoli or any other veggie I have on hand to make it a little more healthy.

Make your sauce to taste using:

  • rice wine vinegar
  • soy sauce
  • fish sauce (a few tablespoons)
  • brown sugar
  • chopped garlic
  • Thai chili peppers (1 chopped and a few tossed into the stir fry for presentation)

Other ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • several cloves of chopped garlic
  • thinly sliced flank steak
  • canola oil
  • 1/4 cup whole Thai basil leaves (which has an anise-like flavor)
  • lime
  • rice or noodles

Tips: Make your rice, prepare the sauce, and chop all of your ingredients in advance, because as soon as you begin cooking this dish it’s going to be ready very quickly. In order to get thin slices of flank steak put it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before slicing it. This will help it firm-up and allow you to cut it more finely.

Heat some canola oil in a hot pan and quickly brown the meat for a little over a minute (stirring it so that it doesn’t stick). Remove the beef, add a little more oil and sweat the shallots. Add some freshly chopped garlic and then immediately add your sauce. Smash a few chilis and add them to your liquid. Add the browned beef to this mixture and finish cooking it. Toss in some whole Thai basil leaves and serve on top of rice or Thai-noodles. Serve with a slice of lime.

Easy and Delicious!

Brussel Sprouts
Chef Bryan recommends boiling brussel sprouts until they’re tender (about 10 minutes) and blanching them in ice cold water in order to get rid of their cabbagy flavor. Finish them by reheating them in a pan and sprinkling them with a little sugar, pepper, salt, and Parmesan cheese.

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Poultry All Dressed-Up

If you’re like me you’ve grilled chicken breasts a hundred different ways and would love a few ideas on how to make this standard bird a little more exotic.

Say goodbye to your dry chicken breasts and dress-up the old bird by making super she-she Chicken Roulade Cordon Bleu, oh-so-comforting roasted chicken, or super affordable chicken legs with a simple sauce that will make your family think you’ve turned into a French gourmet!

Here’s what we learned to make this week:

  • Chicken Roulade Cordon Bleu
  • Roasted Whole Chicken
  • Poached Chicken Leg with Sauce Supreme
  • Duck Breast Confit with Gastrique Orange Sauce
  • Duck Leg Confit with Mixed Greens
Yum!

For the sake of time I won’t blog about the duck dishes but may include them in a future blog.
 
First, let me share a few tips that I learned (or was reminded of) this week:

  1. Two small chickens (around 2 1/2 pounds each) are better than one large chicken.
  2. If you purchase chicken breasts you’re essentially paying for the whole chicken so it’s better to purchase the whole chicken (assuming you have the time to cut it apart which often I don’t!).
  3. Freeze your leftover chicken bones and pull them out when you’re ready to make chicken stock.
    1. It’s best to use uncooked bones but you can also use ones that you’ve cooked.
    2. Make your chicken stock in bulk and freeze it in containers that you can pull out and use as you need it.
  4. When cutting apart chicken, the goal is to cut through the cartilage (i.e. at the chicken’s joints) rather than the bone (which can leave behind bone shards).
  5. Cooking chicken with the bone in it keeps the chicken moist and extra flavorful.

 

Dinner! (My second one of the evening)

Chicken Roulade (Round) Cordon Bleu 
This is a delicious make-ahead dish that will blow your family and friends away – both in presentation and taste! It must be assembled and frozen ahead of time (to freeze into place it’s round shape) which means that you could double or triple the amount you need, freeze them, and pull them out when you need to prepare a special meal that doesn’t require too much prep.
 
The downside to this recipe is that it’s best accomplished using a deep fryer (which allows it to maintain it’s perfectly cylindrical shape) and creates a firm exterior. It’s possible to pan fry it but Chef Patrice warned that it would turn out squished and flat. I don’t have a deep fryer yet but Chef Patrice encouraged us that it’s worth the $45 investment for a cheap counter-top fryer. You’ll also need a meat thermometer to make sure that it’s cooked throughout.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  1. plastic wrap
  2. deep fryer
  3. meat thermometer
  4. chicken breasts
  5. meat tenderizer
  6. aluminum foil

MAKE IN ADVANCE AND FREEZE:
Place two chicken breasts, slightly overlapped, between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with the flat side of a meat tenderizer. Pound the meat so that the two breasts become one rectangular piece of thin meat. Once you’re satisfied with the shape, lay it on aluminum foil and layer your preferred stuffing (here’s what we included):

  1. salt
  2. pesto or tapenade
  3. ham (thinly sliced, consider using Virginia ham)
  4. cheese (swiss or guerrier)
  5. sauteed spinach (patted dry. otherwise it will make everything soggy)
  6. sun dried tomatoes (julienned- cut thinly so that they’ll cook)

Assembling the Cordon Bleu

Alternatively you could make a Mediterranean version of this using prosciutto, basil and mozzarella).

Roll your ingredients in your foil (being sure not to get any foil or plastic wrap stuck in the roll) and freeze.

Rolling the Cordon Bleu

SEVERAL HOURS BEFORE DINNER:
Several hours before you’re ready to serve dinner you will bread and fry the cordon blue. Here’s what you’ll need to create the breading:

  1. Bread Crumbs (Panko bread crumbs are best)
  2. Pecans
  3. Cumin
  4. Flour
  5. Eggs
  6. Salt and Pepper
  7. Oil (for your deep fryer)
  8. Food processor (to chop your pecans and bread crumbs)

In a bowl large enough to place your frozen Cordon Blue, whisk several eggs with salt and pepper. Place bread crumbs in another bowl (chopped in the food processor with pecans and a lot of cumin) and flour in another bowl. Coat your frozen cordon blue first with the flour, next with the eggs wash, and finally with your breadcrumbs. For an extra thick exterior, dip in the eggs and breadcrumbs a second time.

Breading and Egg Wash

Place your breaded cordon blue in a 365-375 degree deep fryer. Cook it only a minute or two until it’s about 1/2 the color that you want it to be (you’ll finish cooking it in the oven where it will become a darker brown). The cordon blue will still be frozen inside. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours.

ABOUT 45 MINUTES BEFORE DINNER:
Heat your oven to 325 degrees and cook your cordon blue until it reaches the internal temperature of 165 degrees. Let is cool for about 10 minutes so that when you slice it the cheese won’t pour out. Use a serrated knife to cut it.

Perfect!

Who wouldn’t want to eat this?

 

Roasted Whole Chicken
If there’s one thing I’m not good at it’s cooking large pieces of meat. I can throw about anything on the grill and have it turn out nicely but I’m always scared of placing a large piece of meat in the oven because I’ve cooked my fair share of chewy dry meat. I was excited to learn how Chef Patrice roasts a whole chicken and plan to try it myself soon.

Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken and stuff it with a sprig of thyme and mirepoix (diced onions, carrots, celery, and garlic). Tie the chicken tightly closed with butchers string (to help prevent the chicken’s juices from escaping). Dry the chicken with paper towels and sear it in a pan of smoking hot clarified butter (if it’s not hot enough the chicken will stick to the pan). Rotate the chicken, searing it on each side. Place in a 420 degree oven for 10-15 minutes (to let it brown a little more) and then reduce the oven to 325 degrees. Cook the chicken until if you poke a hole in it with a knife and lay it on it’s side, a light pink liquid comes out (red means that there’s still blood in it that needs to be cooked) or it’s internal temperature is between 160-165 degrees. Remove the string from the chicken and put on a cooling rack and cover with plastic wrap. Your chicken will continue to cook for a few minutes once it’s pulled out so it’s ok if it’s a little pink near the bone when you initially pull it out.

Use the chicken drippings and cooked mirepoix to create a jus (a reduced stock that is used as a sauce) in your pan on the stove-top. Add 1/2 cup white wine and 1 1/2 chicken stock to this mixture and simmer. Once your sauce is reduced, pass it through Chinois (or strainer), reheat, and thicken with cornstarch mixed with cold water to thicken it.

Roasted Chicken

Poached Chicken Leg with Sauce Supreme
If you would have asked me before this class if I liked chicken leg my answer would have been a definite no. After tasting this dish, however, my opinion has changed. Made properly, even this bony, brown piece of meat is yummy.

To poach chicken legs you simply bring chicken stock with a little salt to a boil. Add your chicken legs, thyme and bay leaf and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes (or until the meat is about to fall off the bone.

Sauce Supreme:
Thicken the juices from your poached chicken legs using a tablespoon or two of rue (a flower and butter paste). Add some heavy cream and whisk. Bring your mixture to a low boil. Strain through a chinois and add salt and lemon to taste (the lemon will add the acidity needed to balance the richness of the cream).

Place the chicken in the sauce, top with sauteed mushrooms, and spoon over rice pilaf for an affordable, delicious dinner.  

 

Mmmm...

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Savory Sauces

“There is no such thing as a diet sauce,” Chef Patrice announced matter-of-factly at the beginning of class. The good news, he assured us, is that sauce is the last thing you put on a plate, and with it, you can cover up a multitude of mistakes.  We learned that the key to making a great sauce is by reducing it so that the flavors intensify.

I found it interesting to learn how to make these sauces, but the reality of me making a sauce that requires homemade veal stock (a 24-hour process) and fish fume is highly unlikely. Until I get around to making a homemade stock or fume I plan to use boxed beef stock and seafood stock (which is the closest substitute I could find in the grocery store).

Here’s what we covered:

  • Sauce Bordelaise (red wine sauce)
  • Steak au Poivre (pepper crusted steak with sauce)
  • Sauce Bearnaise (a creamy dip for french fries)
  • White Wine Sauce with Poached Tilapia
  • Vanilla Blurre Blanc with Pan Seared Tilapia (vanilla infused butter sauce with tilapia)
  • Tarte en Band aux Pommes with Avec sauce du chocolate (apple pastry with chocolate sauce)

I’ve decided to describe the first three techniques listed above because, in my opinion, the fish dishes required too much effort and the chocolate sauce was good but not great.

A Feast of Sauces

Sauce Bordelaise (Red Wine Sauce)
For this sauce you want to use a dry red wine that’s not very sweet such as a Bordeaux or Merlot. As a general rule, you should use the same type of wine (though not necessarily the same quality–save the best stuff for drinking!) in your cooking that you plan to serve with your meal. It’s best to use shallots instead of onions when making sauces. This sauce should have a smoky flavor which is best added by using a little bit of bacon.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • chopped bacon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • clarified butter (1 tablespoon)
  • shallots (several tablespoons)
  • carrots (several tablespoons)
  • smashed garlic (two cloves)
  • a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf
  • 1 cup of wine
  • 1/4 cup veal stock (or beef stock if you’re unable to find/make veal stock)
  • finish with: butter, salt and pepper

In a small pot, sweat the bacon in a tablespoon or two of butter. Add the shallots and carrots. Once these have begun to soften add the smashed garlic and herbs. Deglaze your pot with a cup of wine and simmer. Allow the wine mixture to simmer so that it cooks down until the pot is “dry” meaning that there will be a few tablespoons of cooked down vegetables coated with a little syrup (the reduced wine and vegetable juices).

Once your sauce is “dry” add a 1/4 cup of veal stock and simmer until it’s reduced to the proper consistency.

If you have trouble thickening the sauce by reducing it on the stove top then you can add a little cornstarch mixed with cold water and slowly add it to the sauce until you’re pleased with the thickness. Pour your sauce through a chinois strainer, pressing firmly on the vegetables to extract all of the flavor possible. Add several tablespoons of butter, salt, and pepper to your strained sauce to finish it.

When spooned onto a plate your sauce should spread but not be soupy. Remember that it will thicken as it cools.

Reduction

Steak au Poiure (Pepper Crusted Steak with Sauce)
Steak au Poiure is steak with a pepper crust that’s been seared in a pan on the stove top. I prefer to grill my steak but this is an option that I’ll keep in mind if the weather prohibits me from cooking outdoors.

Chef Patrice recommends using a top cut steak (from the cow’s leg) which is tastier than more expensive cuts, but can be a little tough if cooked improperly. If possible, get a piece of top cut steak that’s been tenderized by the butcher (they have a machine that punctures little holes in it which will tenderize it and allow it to cook more quickly).

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • top cut steak
  • whole peppercorns
  • finely chopped shallots
  • cognac (or brandy)
  • veal stock (or beef stock)
  • salt, pepper
  • soft butter
  • serve with french bread

Coat the steak with several tablespoons of crushed peppercorns. Heat several tablespoons of clarified butter in a hot pan on high heat and sear the meat until it’s dark brown, cooking it on each side for 3-5 minutes, or until desired doneness. It will take practice to get the inside/outside combination perfect. Remove steak from pan.

Dump any of the leftover fat in your pan (but leave anything sticking to the bottom). Sweat the chopped shallots in the pan and then put the steak back in it. Pour 1/4 cup cognac (or brandy) and flambe (light) it. Flames will impressively leap up around your steak as the cognac burns off. Remove the steak and add about 1 cup veal stock to deglaze the pan. Simmer the sauce for about 10 more minutes to reduce the sauce. Once you’re happy with the consistency, add salt to taste.

Add a little butter to the sauce for extra creaminess. Put the steak in the sauce (still in a warm pan) to warm it and then serve alongside a slice of crusty French bread.

Delish!

Bearnaise Sauce
According to Chef Patrice, the Belgians invented the French Fry and the French made it great by creating its perfect compliment, Bearnaise Sauce. One evening when you’re not counting your calories, try making this creamy sauce. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to practice your hollandaise sauce making skills so that you’ll be ready to make it again for your eggs benedict!

The nice thing is, once you’ve reduced the ingredients listed below, you can save them for several months in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to make the bearnaise sauce, all you’ll have to do is prepare a hollandaise sauce (which should not be made in advance) and mix in a little bit of the reduction.

Here’s how to make the reduction:

  • 1-2 tablespoons of clarified butter
  • 1 finely chopped shallot
  • several tablespoons of finely chopped tarragon (fresh or dried)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smashed black pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup white wine

Sweat your shallots in the clarified butter and then add the pepper and tarragon. Add about 1/2 cup red wine vinegar and 1/3 cup white wine. Reduce this mixture until there’s little more left then the tarragon and shallots coated in a thick syrup of your reduced red vinegar and white wine.

Add this mixture (to taste) to your hollandaise sauce (technique can be found in my previous post about eggs).

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