All posts by Stephen

Snails, Beets and Cream in Puff Pastry

Last week, at the Leb Farmer’s Market, I was able to get my hands on some delightful fresh beets. It also happened to be my day off, so I decided to get funky and try something really different.

Earlier in August we had been shopping at a specialty food shop and picked up some Escargot dishes, so snails were on my mind and in my pantry. I wanted to do something a little more imaginative and “fun” than just cooking some snails in garlic butter.

The result was much more fun and satisfying:

beets-cream-snails-puff-pastry
I was on my second bite when my Lovely Bride asked if I’d taken a pic!

Wow, was this ever delicious!

The preparation is quite simple and straightforward, the shopping list inexpensive. You can probably make this in about 40 minutes, start-to-finish.

Shopping List

  • Carrot (1 large)
  • Beets (2 small)
  • Fennel (1 head)
  • Shallot (2 medium sized)
  • Green Onion (1)
  • Butter (3 Tbsp)
  • Olive Oil (3 Tbsp, Medium, for frying)
  • Dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc) (1/2 Cup)
  • Heavy Cream (1/2 Cup)
  • Snails (1 can)
  • Puff Pastry sheets

Preparing the Puff Pastry

First I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees, then I buttered the phyllo dough sheets and layered them in a muffin-tin:

Phyllo dough "purses" for the Snails and Cream
Phyllo dough “purses” for the Snails and Cream

Count out 6 or 7 snails into each “purse”

snails in puff pastryTop the snails with a pinch of salt and finely-chopped Fennel fronds.

Beet Cream Filling

  • Brunoise 1/4 Cup of each:
    • Carrot
    • Beet
    • Fennel Stalk (the white part)
    • Shallot

Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a non-stick saute pan on medium heat, add the Carrot, Beet and Fennel. Cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the Shallot and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add the wine and cream, lower the heat, and reduce to a very thick sauce. Stir frequently to avoid scorching. When the sauce is thick enough, remove from heat and reserve until you are ready to bake the Puff Pastry purses.

Reduced Beet Cream Sauce
Reduced Beet Cream Sauce

When you are ready, add two tablespoons of the sauce on top of the snails in each purse. Crimp and gently  twist the purses closed and bake in the oven until golden (about 8-10 minutes).

Prepare the Garnish

Fried Beets and Shallots

  • Julienne the second Shallot and set aside
  • Cut the second Beet into slices, about 1/8 inch thick, set aside
  • Chop the Green Onion finely, on a bias
  • Heat the Olive Oil in the saute pan and fry the Beet slices until they are crisp
  • Fry the Shallot until caramelized to a nice golden brown
  • Drain the fried garnish in a paper towel

To serve, line your plate with fried Beet chips, place the purse on top, then sprinkle with fried Shallots and Chopped Green Onions.

Beet Cream with Snails in Puff Pastry

Enjoy with a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc.

Experimental Recipe – Green Onion Aioli

Last night I had a friend over after work. We drank a couple of beers and talked about food and cooking. He is going to come over next week to spend some time with me in the kitchen, I am going to teach him how I make some of my favorite dishes (yes, there will be pics and posts!).

I had him try some baby potatoes with garlic aioli – a recipe that I made out of a Tapas cookbook I picked up this weekend – and he just about fell over. It’s a dead-simple thing, making aioli, but getting the proportions right is the key.

This morning I woke up thinking about that aioli, and how would it taste if I subbed out the garlic for green onions? I let the thought simmer on the back burner of my mind while I took care of some housekeeping and decided to try an Experimental Recipe.

Extracting the Green Onion Flavor

The most important part of this experiment, for me, was getting the most flavor out of those fresh green onions. They are one of my favorite garnishes, with such a lovely green flavor and lightly pungent aroma.

I took five of them, cut them down to 2″ lengths, and put them in the NutriBullet with a 1/4-cup of water and about a 1/4 teaspoon of fresh-ground peppercorns (I am using a blend of Black, Pink and White peppercorns right now). I pureed this for about 40 seconds, making sure all of the stems were broken down.

The result was an intensely green onion-flavored froth with an amazing aroma.

Green Onion Puree
Green Onion Puree

The second step was to get some of that extra water back out of the puree. I put it into a small pan and reduced it on low heat for about five minutes, stirring gently to release the air. When it began to look more ‘liquid’ I took it off the heat to cool down to room temperature. I also stirred in one tablespoon of Champagne Vinegar so it could start working on permeating the onion puree.

Mixing Your Aioli

      Puree:

    • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 5 Green Onions
    • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 tablespoons Canola Oil

Separate the yolk from a large egg and put it in a small dish to warm up to room temperature. When the yolk and puree are right, add them together in a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of lemon juice and whisk.

Note: When I initially made this I did not include the lemon juice. When I tasted the finished product I found it needed a little more ooomph, so I whisked in the lemon juiceBoom! Perfect.

Once the sauce has achieved a creamy, uniform consistency, start drizzling in your olive and canola oil while whisking briskly.

Serving Ideas

I had some blanched veggies left over from the other night’s dinner so I used them for dipping:

Blanched Chilled Veggies with Green Onion Aioli
Blanched Chilled Veggies with Green Onion Aioli: Asparagus, Red Bell Pepper, Zucchini, Carrot, Mushroom and Snap Peas

I have to say that it is simply amazing with the asparagus and the snap peas.

Give it a try, I’d love to hear what you think.

Souped-Up Short Stack Pancakes

The Lovely Bride has a favorite breakfast – pancakes!

Before I learned about my gluten-sensitivity I used to make them for our breakfast almost every Sunday. When I decided to eliminate gluten from my diet (as much as possible, anyway) this little tradition fell by the wayside.

Recently we discovered a gluten-free pancake mix, Glutino, which is very tasty and easy to use.

Glutino gluten-free pancake mix

The directions say to stir together equal parts of pancake mix and milk, plus oil and an egg. Starting with 1 and 1/2 cups of mix, I put in the oil (I used Olive Oil, of course!) and the egg first, then started stirring in a cup of milk. The batter was very wet and runny, so I opted not to add that additional 1/2 cup.

I let the batter sit while the electric griddle warmed up and I fried a few slices of Black Pepper Encrusted Turkey Pastrami (in lieu of Bacon). I brushed the griddle with butter and poured out eight medium-sized pancakes.

gluten free pancakes on the electric griddleThe pancakes fluffed up nicely and turned a beautiful golden-brown. I took them off the griddle and put them in the warmed-up oven while I fried a couple of eggs over-easy.

My Favorite Breakfast “Sandwich”

To make the Souped Up Short Stack you’ll need some American Cheese slices and Bacon (I sub in the Turkey Pastrami). When the eggs are fried the way you like them, start building your sandwich (starting with the foundation). You can use as many layers of pancakes as you want:

  1. Pancake
  2. Fried Turkey Pastrami
  3. Pancake
  4. Slice of American Cheese
  5. Pancake, smear with a little butter
  6. Over-easy Egg
  7. Pancake
  8. Over-easy Egg
  9. Drizzle with Maple Syrup and Sriracha Hot Sauce

Enjoy!

Souped Up Short Stack Pancake Sandwich

 

Experimental Recipe – Chilled Seafood with Cilantro/Jalapeno Puree

Last week the Lovely Bride and I took a 9-day vacation, away from the frozen forests of New Hampshire to the warm(er), sandy shores of the Carolinas.

We spent a couple of days in Charleston, SC, and had the opportunity to enjoy some amazing food. At The Ordinary we had a lovely dinner of small plates, paired with some wonderful local beers and (non-local) wines. One dish that really grabbed me was the Chilled Razor Clams:

Chilled razor clams in a cilantro-jalapeno puree
Chilled razor clams in a cilantro-jalapeno puree

On our return I decided to take a shot at re-creating this sauce. The following is my Experimental Recipe for this dish, I have only made it once and it could use a couple of tweaks. This is enough for two good-sized appetizer portions.

roasted garlic and shallots

Start by roasting some garlic and 1/2 shallot in a little olive oil in the oven, 30 minutes at 350 degrees. While this is going you can prep the rest of the puree.

I used my new digital scale to record the measurements for this recipe, the units are in grams (no I’m not going to convert them). You can get an inexpensive digital scale at many department or specialty food stores (and I recommend that you do).

For making the puree I used my NutriBullet, as it does an amazing job of it!

  • 1/4 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored 35g
  • 1/3 Jalapeno pepper, seeded 12g
  • bunch of Cilantro leaves (no stems) 16g
  • 1/4 yellow Bell pepper, seeded 38g
  • Peruvian Pink Rock salt 2g (this is optional, I picked this up at Southern Season and couldn’t resist trying it. You can use kosher salt)
  • 1 Tbsp Apple Cider vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp ground Cayenne pepper
  • roasted Garlic 3g
  • roasted Shallot 17g
  • leftover roasting oil 5g

Put all of this into your blender and puree:

pureed cilantro peppers and roasted garlic
yes, it’s a very bright green!

Chop one scallion on the bias and dice up another 1/4 of the Granny Smith apple for garnishing the plate. Put all of these components in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

Chilled Seafood!

March in New Hampshire is no time to be looking for Razor Clams, so I substituted shrimp and the little scallops, about 1/4 pound of each. After they were peeled, rinsed and patted dry I tossed them into a skillet for a good sear on both sides.

When they are done take them out of the skillet and on a plate/container to be put into the fridge for chilling.

At dinner time spoon about three tablespoons of the puree into a small soup bowl, put some diced apple and chopped scallion on top, then add the shrimp and scallops. You can garnish with other items too, I used bell pepper rings, you can go with radish slices, maybe even a little sour cream.

Voila!

chilled seafood with cilantro jalapeno puree

Experimental Postscript

When I make this dish again I am going to add more Jalapeno and Cayenne, to give it a bit more heat, probably double what I used here. The acid levels were good and the punch of the Cilantro was well-balanced by the apple and yellow Bell pepper. Maybe some Cayenne-infused sour cream on top…

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

“Nobody is Cooking Anymore” – A Lament

via Esquire:

“And the reason they look the same is that their creators all pretty much think the same. A protein is pared down with the loving skill of a sushi master (and frequently with the knife of one, too); it is then prepared in some diabolically clever way, and put into the center of a plate. Some vegetable, prepared with equal virtuosity, is plated with like meticulousness, on the same plate. Finally, some third ingredient, and possibly a fourth, is added on top, with or without tweezers. These items were either cooked or cured or grown separately, and they are put on the plate separately, and when I eat them, I eat them separately, unless I manage to spear two or three of them on the same fork tine. Sure, one dish might have a fermented carrot, and other locally milled grits; otherwise they differ no more than Hef’s girlfriends.”

Read more: Nobody Is Cooking Anymore – Josh Ozersky Cooking Essay – Esquire

Here in rural New Hampshire we don’t have much of this kind of “composition”, and it certainly almost never appears in my own cooking, except maybe little tapas things (and I have never used a tweezers on food!), like these Southwestern Marinated Shrimp:

shrimp salsa and avocadoIs this what Ozersky is decrying? It may look like the type of dishes that he is describing, but it is intentionally constructed to be precisely the type of dish he prefers – everything to be eaten together – a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

No, nothing has been “transformed”, though the ‘salsa-fied’ vegetables under the shrimp might disagree, but I believe it is a good example of cookery, as the distinct parts of the dish are designed to be eaten together:

  • small, one-bite shrimp
  • thin slices of avocado
  • fresh salsa
  • sour cream
  • with a tortilla chip to help you scoop it all onto your fork!

Further, I believe that this very blog will be an answering call to Ozersky’s cry for help, as it is dedicated to the proposition that people can and should be cooking high-quality food at home.

Please share your thoughts.

How to Make Canned Soup Taste Delicious

I grew up with Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup, it brings back powerful memories of my childhood. Now, as an adult, these cream soups don’t seem to taste as yummy as they used to (probably because they are made much more cheaply!).

I still want to eat them, they make a quick, hot lunch on a cold winter’s day. So I have figured out a way to make them delicious without making the whole thing from scratch.

This technique works best with Cream of Chicken or Cream of Celery, for Cream of Mushroom you can substitute the diced celery with fresh or canned Mushrooms. Of course, depending on your palate, you can also add a little Taco seasoning or Creole seasoning…

onion, celery, leek, garlic

Dice one slice of onion, one stalk of celery

Mince a clove of garlic

Cut a slice off the white end of a leek, cut in half, then cut small slices from the green end

Cook the onion and celery in butter until the onion starts to brown, then add a splash of white wine, 1/4 cup of Chicken Stock, the garlic and the leek.

Reduce.

Cut some chicken meat into cubes, thigh works well (lots of flavor), add to the pan.

Add some salt and pepper and simmer on low medium heat until most of the liquid is gone.

Add the cream soup and stir in a can-ful of whole milk. Raise the heat until the soup starts to boil, then reduce and simmer for 3-4 minutes, the soup should get nice and thick. Kepp stirring occaisionally so the soup doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan.

cream of celery soup

Garnish the soup with a dash of Paprika and enjoy!

“Peacemaker”-style Fish Tacos

When I lived in New Orleans one of my favorite sandwiches was the Peacemaker, a fried oyster po’boy with cole slaw, cheddar and bacon (the best one was at a Streetcar-themed restaurant up around the corner from the Riverbend area).

fried oyster sandwich
via NOLA.com: “The fried oyster loaf – otherwise known as an oyster po-boy or peacemaker – has become the subject of debate. This one is from 2007 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.”

You can read some history of the sandwich at NOLA.com:

“When the New Orleans man returns from making a night of it ‘with the boys’ he provides himself with what is called a peacemaker and carries it home under his arm. The peacemaker is also known as an oyster loaf.”

It appears to be quite controversial!

In any case, while we were grocery shopping this week I spotted some “bacon and dill encrusted” flounder fillets in the fish case, and they reminded of this delicious sandwich. I asked the Lovely Bride what she thought about the idea of a flounder Peacemaker, and she suggested putting it into a tortilla for a fish taco (yes, she has been all about the tortillas this week!).

Grocery List for Southwestern Fish Tacos

“Southwestern” Tartar Sauce

Make this the day before you wish to make the tacos, to give the flavors a chance to come out fully.

  • 1 rounded tablespoon of Sweet Relish
  • 1 rounded tablespoon of Mayonnaise
  • 1 rounded tablespoon of Sour Cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Weber “Bold n Spicy Chipotle”

Mix well, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Pickled Salsa

Make your salsa a couple of hours before you want to eat it, so the yummy flavors can marry. The Lovely Bride and I like the bright, acidic taste of the pickled vegetables.

  • 1 small Yellow Onion
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper
  • 1/2 Red Onion
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Shallot
  • 2 Green Onions
  • 1 medium Tomato
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon Cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Taco Seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons Texas Pete Hot Sauce
  • Juice of one Lime
  • ? Red Wine Vinegar

Chop all of the vegetables and herbs into 1/4 inch pieces, combine in a bowl, add Cumin and taco seasoning, Lime juice, hot sauce and enough vinegar to submerge all of the mixture.

Cover and put the salsa in the fridge for an hour or so.

Shortly before serving drain the salsa through a fine strainer. Add more hot sauce and salt & pepper to taste.

Peacemaker-style Fish Tacos
fish taco ingredients

  • Cut two slices from a Red Onion
  • Cut two slices from a Yellow Onion, drizzle with the juice of 1/2 Lemon and 1/2 Lime
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cook bacon at Medium Heat in a non-stick pan to your desired level of done-ness. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towel.
  • fish tacos 004Sprinkle Mexican blend shredded cheese on the tortillas, then add some Taco Seasoning to your level of taste. Put Sharp Cheddar on one-half of the tortilla.
  • After removing the bacon, add enough Olive Oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Turn stove to Medium High heat.
  • Put the tortillas in the oven on the center rack to melt the cheese.
  • Fry the fish fillets in the oil/bacon fat, about 2 minutes on each side, until crispy. As soon as the fish is done, remove the tortillas from the oven and put on a plate.

Build the tacos by placing the fish fillets on the cheddar side of the tortilla, add bacon on top of the fish, then spoon on some Cole Slaw, finally add rings of Red and Marinated Yellow Onion.

fish taco with pickled onions and sharp cheddarAdd your salsa and southwestern tartar to taste (dipping is a great choice!).

 

Enjoy!

 

Tequila – Ranch Chicken Thighs

Tequila-Ranch Chicken in a Tortilla

Makes two to four servings, depending on the size of the tortillas/portions. Prep and cooking time is about one hour, depending on how organized you are and how much you have had to drink.

Good side dishes include Yellow Rice, Spanish Rice or anything with a similar Southwestern, Spanish or Mexican theme.

Link to Grocery List

Marinate 4 Boneless Chicken Thighs that have been cut into finger-sized strips for one hour –

1/4 cup Creamy Ranch Dressing
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 oz Tequila
1/2 cup Margarita Mix
1 Tablespoon Taco Seasoning
2 cloves of Garlic – crushed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry Cilantro

While the chicken is marinating, make your sauce –

1 tablespoon Creamy Ranch Dressing
1 tablespoon (Weber) “Bold n Spicy Chipotle Seasoning” (or something similar with chipotle)
2 rounded tablespoons Sour Cream
Juice from 1/4 of a lime
1/2 of an Avocado, crushed with a large fork

Stir together and set aside for later.

For your garnish/topping –
Chop 2 Green Onions
Cut a couple of slices off a Red Onion and chop finely, enough for 2 tablespoons

Set aside for later.

(At this point I started the heat on a package of Spanish Rice, everything should be ready about 30 minutes from now.)

Prep the following to saute with the chicken –
Using a carrot peeler, shave down one small carrot
Cut 6 thin slices from a Red Bell Pepper
Cut 6 thin slices from a Green Bell Pepper
Cut 4 thicker slices from a Yellow Onion
1/4 cup canned Mushroom Slices
1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro leaves

Turn on the oven to pre-heat to 350 degrees.

Saute the vegetables –
Put 1 tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan and caramelize the onions, once they start to get that nice, golden color add the carrot shavings, Red and Green Pepper slices, Mushrooms and about 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil. Turn down the heat and cover the pan.

Strain the marinade from the chicken strips through a colander, then add chicken to the pan, combine well and cover.

tortilla with cheeseWarm the Tortillas and melt the cheese
Sprinkle shredded Cheddar Cheese (or Mexican/Taco blend, whatever you like) onto your tortillas, along with the chopped Green Onion and chopped Red Onion, distribute fairly evenly. Place the tortillas in the oven on the center rack.

Uncover the pan and stir the chicken, it should be getting nice and firm. Add the chopped fresh Cilantro, stir.

When the cheese on the tortillas is melted take them out of the oven and start plating up –
Spoon the chicken and vegetables onto the tortillas and add sauce to taste.

You may wish to add some Black Olives, chopped Lettuce, diced Tomatoes or whatever to this.

Enjoy!