Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sautéed Chicken vs. Chicken Fricassée!

These two techniques are almost identical and are both FEVI (Fairly Easy, but Very Impressive) dishes to serve. Sautéing chicken produces a juicy meat with a lovely sauce. A Fricassée, after lightly sautéing, then stews the chicken in broth and/or some vegetables which will infuses the meat with rich and intense flavors. The chicken cooks all the way through, becoming very tender and falling off the bone. A few of the same secrets will make either technique a sure fire success. I have included my favorite recipe for each. Please be sure to read the secrets first because I have not repeated them in the instructions. 

Secret #1
The chicken pieces must be at room temperature when you sauté them or the skin will break and fall away from the meat. Pat dry and let rest on paper towels for at least an hour before cooking.

Secret #2
Do not crowd the pan. Chicken pieces need a bit of room in between them to sauté correctly, but not too much or the fat in the empty space will burn. Leave just enough space so that they are not touching one another. If you need to fill the holes use pieces of chicken that you will not serve (neck or back but not the liver). If there is too much to avoid crowding, then cook the chicken in batches. 

Secret #3
White meat cooks faster than dark meat. So take the breast out 3-5 minutes (depending upon the size) earlier than the dark meat.  If you are cooking in batches, cook them separately and cook the dark meat 3-5 minutes more than the breasts.

Secret #4
Warm your oven to 200F so that you can place the chicken and vegetables in the oven to keep them warm while reducing the sauce.

Secret #5
You must not walk away from the stove while reducing the sauce! (If you need to do something. remove the skillet from hot burner until you come back. You will pick it up where you left off.). Remove chicken and vegetables and keep warm. If you have more than a cup or so of liquid, take some out and reserve. Put up the heat and boil. While boiling it will reduce and thicken. Once it gets a bit thick, add the liquid back in small quantities so that it is reabsorbed into the thickened sauce. If you need more liquid, add additional chicken stock ¼ cup at a time until you have the amount of sauce you need. If this does not work for you, you can thicken with a tablespoon of cornstarch that has been mixed with two tablespoons of boiling water or stock.

Secret #6
Both techniques produce a lovely sauce so the chicken should be served with a starch (mashed potatoes, rice or orzo) that will absorb the delicious flavors of the sauce.

Gerard’s Wine Suggestions:
Sautéed Chicken: Despite the use of white wine in the cooking, we recommend a red wine with this dish. A Vin de Pays d’Oc - Paul Mas Estate 2008, blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. A very nice table wine with appealing “terroir”.  $14.99
Fricassée: The stewed tomatoes in this dish require a wine with tannins and acidity. Gerard chose 2010 Domaine de la Madone Beaujolais Villages Nouveau. 100% Gamay,. $11.99
Special pick for either dish: Présidial 2009 from Jean-Luc Thuvenin, a Brilliant ready-to-drink Bordeaux.  Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, made by Jean Luc Thuvenin, (he started the “garage movement” in Bordeaux in 1989).  A classic Bordeaux! Experts agree that 2009 is going to be one of the greatest Bordeaux vintages of our lifetimes! Don’t miss it! $18.99
Wines available at Pine Plains Fine Wine & Spirits – 518-398-7633 - 20% discount for one case mix and match.

LouLou’s Sauté of Chicken with Shallots
Serves 4
6-8 Pieces of Chicken (at room temperature)
6 -8 Shallots (peeled and separated into any sections)
1 Cup of White Wine
Salt (kosher) & Pepper
5 Tablespoons of Margarine
Heat 5 tablespoons of margarine in a skillet. When hot, brown the chicken on fairly high heat.  (This should take about 5 minutes for the skin /exposed meat to become golden brown – but not burnt). Add the shallots on top of chicken parts and kosher salt. for about 5 minutes. They should cook and brown a bit.  Add pepper. Add thyme. Add wine (enough to have 1/3 of the height of the chicken in liquid). Cover. Let simmer for 30 minutes.  Check every few minutes to ensure that there is some liquid in the pan. If not add ¼ cup of water, each time. Turn pieces over to cook evenly. When chicken is done, remove it and shallots from pan (keep warm). If you need more sauce add another ¼ cup of wine or chicken stock and reduce while scraping the bottom of the pan. Place on warm platter, nap sauce over chicken and shallots.

Fricassée of Chicken with Mushrooms
Serves 4
6 Tablespoons of Olive Oil (not a first cold press)
6-8 Pieces of Chicken (at room temperature)
¼  Cup of Flour
1 lb of Fresh Mushrooms
1 Can of Stewed Tomatoes (Del Monte-Italian Style)
Salt, Pepper
1 Tablespoon Fresh Chopped Parsley
Rinse the mushrooms and pat dry. Trim and separate caps from stems. Cut caps in halves or quarters if large. Dredge chicken pieces in flour. Heat half of the olive oil in a skillet until hot but not smoking. Sauté the chicken pieces until they are brown on all sides. Carefully regulate the heat to avoid scorching.  In a separate skillet heat the remaining olive oil and add mushroom caps and stems, stirring occasionally until brown (5-6 minutes). When chicken is browned, add mushrooms and stewed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to medium low. Cook covered for about 20 minutes.  Turn the pieces and cook uncovered  for another 10 minutes. Remove chicken and mushrooms from skillet and keep warm while you reduce the sauce. Place chicken on a warm serving platter. Nap some sauce over each piece and sprinkle with the parsley. Pour remaining sauce into a gravy boat.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Au Gratins

Some people think that if you put grated cheese on top and stick any dish under the grill- you have made a ‘Gratin”. While that is not far from the truth, but here are three FEVI (Fairly Easy  - Very Impressive) gratins that work well with a salad and a light red wine for a light meal or as a side dish to dress up a simple roast.  I like to serve the zucchini with lamb, the cauliflower with roast beef and the Mac & Cheese with roast chicken!  

Zucchini Au Gratin
3 lbs of zucchini
3 eggs (beaten)
8 oz Crème Fraiche (Vermont brand, I buy at Adam’s – or mix 4oz  of heavy cream with 4oz of sour cream).
5 oz of grated Swiss Cheese
Butter, Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg
Rinse and dry zucchini (do not peal). Cut into large cubes. Cook in salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Drain and squeeze in a colander to remove excess water. Place zucchini in a buttered oven dish and mash with a fork. In a separate bowl mix beaten eggs, cream and ¾ of the cheese and some salt, pepper and nutmeg.. Add mixture to zucchini and mix with a fork.  Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Place in preheated oven (350F) until it is golden brown. (30- 40 minutes)

Cauliflower Au Gratin
1 large cauliflower
2 cups of milk (I use skim)
1½ cups grated Swiss Cheese
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons of butter
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg
Break cauliflower into pieces (”florets”) and steam or boil in salted water until tender but not mushy.  Drain. Allow to cool.  In a heated sauce pan mix the equal parts of melted butter and  flour. Whisk together adding the milk a ¼ cup at a time. Keep whisking as it becomes a smooth creamy mixture. You just made a Bechamel!  (See that was not hard was it?).  To the béchamel add one cup of the cheese. Stir and when melted remove from the flame. Add salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. In a buttered flameproof dish place the cauliflower and pour in the béchamel sauce. Stir so the sauce is evenly distributes through the cauliflower. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and place in preheated 350F oven until golden brown (about 30 minutes)

Killer Mac & Cheese with Ham
2/3 cup diced onion
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 2/3 cups milk
1 1/3 cups cream
1 bay leaf
4 peppercorns 
11/2 cups grated (mix swiss & cheddar cheese)
1 box of elbow macaroni
1 cup good-quality ham (I love the Farmland’s Pit Ham at Quattros)
2-3 tablespoons bread crumbs
salt, pepper grated nutmeg
In a very large heavy-bottomed saucepan melt the butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute gently for 2-3 minutes.  Add the flour and stir well, never allowing the flour to brown.  Switch to a whisk and slowly add half the milk while whisking constantly.  Add all the cream while still whisking, then the rest of the milk.  Bring to a simmer, add the bay leaf.  Turn the heat as low as possible and simmer the sauce, whisking occasionally, for 30 minutes.Preheat the oven to 375, slice ham in long pieces. Butter the casserole. Cook macaroni in salted boiling water until tender, then drain and run cold water over it to prevent sticking.  Remove the sauce from the heat and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove bay leaf. Add ¾  of the cheese, and whisk until it’s all melted.
Add the macaroni and ham stir to incorporate.  You’ll notice the sauce is very loose--the pasta will absorb much of it in the oven.  Pour into buttered gratin dish, or individual large ramekins.  Sprinkle with cheese, breadcrumbs. Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes.  Turn on the broiler if it’s not browned.  (This is inspired by a recipe from Thomas Keller’s – of Per Se and French Laundry Fame!)

Gerard’s Wine Suggestions
While these gratins all have melted cheese on top, it is the main ingredient inside that will guide our choice of wine.
Zucchini gratin : Languedoc Cotes de Tongue 2009 –a young fruity wine with soupple tannins to pair with the vegetable’s delciate flavor. $10 at Village Wine in Millbrook
Cauliflower Gratin : Côtes-du-Rhône Domaine d’Andezon 2009 –notes of berries that will stand up to the rich flavors of the cauliflower. $12.99 at Arlington Wine & Liquor
Mac & Cheese: Valpolicella Allegrini 2009 Light bodied with notes of cherry. To be chilled before serving.  - $13.99 at Arlington Wine & Liquor

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Secrets to Successful Braising

Always delicious, often impressive and once you know the secrets – easy to prepare!

Braising transforms an inexpensive tough cut into a tender juicy dish with a rich flavorful sauce. All in one pot! Here’s what you do: After seasoning the meat with salt and pepper, brown it on  all four sides in a few tablespoons of butter mixed with oil on a  medium high flame. (Use a flameproof casserole with a tight fitting lid).  Remove meat to deglaze the pot by pouring in a glass of wine and scraping any pieces that are stuck to the bottom. This is what will give your sauce body. Replace the meat, add vegetables and stock until the liquid reaches half-way up the meat. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer until tender. Most recipes end there. However, I have learned from LouLou (my French mother-in-law) and a number of friends who happen to be French Chefs – that the following secrets will ensure great success! Be sure to make extra - people tend to take seconds of braised dishes, so be prepared. Also, leftovers warm up nicely and freeze well for a second feast!

Secret # 1 – Cook the day before to remove the fat.  Refrigerating overnight will cause the fat to rise to the surface. Once you have removed this top yellow layer, your dish will taste better, be easier to digest and above all – be much less fattening! 

Secret # 2 – Cook new vegetables. Good restaurants do not serve overcooked tired looking vegetables that were braised for hours with meat. Instead, they discard them and cook fresh ones in the braising liquid before adding them to the pot or to the platter prior to serving. Because braised poultry and Osso Bucco only require about an hour of braising, those vegetables will still be good and should be served!

Secret # 3 – Reduce the liquid to a beautiful sauce. Before serving, remove the meat and keep warm. Take out and reserve most of the liquid, leaving about one cup in the pot. Turn up the heat until it boils. Thicken by whisking a teaspoon of cornstarch* into the liquid until it thickens. Add remaining liquid a 1/2 cup at a time - continuously whisking until it is reduced to a nice thick sauce.
Return the meat and vegetables to the pot. Warm and serve directly from the casserole at the table or place the meat on serving dish surrounded by cooked vegetables. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve with additional sauce in a gravy boat on the side.
*Instead of the cornstarch you can make own roux. Mix a tablespoon of melted butter and another of flour, whisk the mixture into 1 cup of braising liquid until it thickens. Add remaining liquid as above.

Osso Bucco Recipe
4 Veal Shanks cut for Osso Bucco
( I bought at Marona’s- they were delicious!)
¼ cup of butter
1 onion sliced
1 carrot sliced
2 cups white wine
1 can of stewed tomatoes  (Del Monte’s Italian Style)
1 ½ cups of stock  (Kitchen Basic’s Veal Stock)
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 bay leaf
For Optional Garnish:
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
¼ cup of chopped parsley
grated rind of 1 lemon
Brown seasoned veal shanks on both sides in foaming butter in the flameproof casserole. Remove meat. Add carrots and onions. Brown for 2-3 minutes and remove.  Deglaze with one cup of wine. Return veggies and then place the meat on top of the vegetables. Add the rest of the wine and simmer for about 10 minutes until liquid is reduced by half. Add 1 cup of stock and garlic. Add tomatoes. Bay leaf and seasoning. Cover and simmer or bake in the oven at 350 F for about one hour and 15 minutes. (Every 20 minutes, ensure there is enough liquid so it never sticks to the bottom of the pot).  Remove meat. Reduce sauce. Combine garlic, parsley and lemon rind and sprinkle on top. Be sure to eat the bone marrow- it is heavenly!

Gerard’s Wine Suggestions:
We need a red wine that will not overpower the tender veal, but that can stand up to the tomato based sauce. Any of the following will work well :
- Cabernet Franc 2008 de Millbrook Winery, showing a pure fruit, earthiness, spice and soft structure - $16/bt
- Bordeaux rive droite, Château Coustaut La Grangeotte 2009, medium bodied, with a silky texture and clean acidity - $12/btl. 
- Barbera 2009 Colli Tortonesi from Piedmont, Italy. Round but not heavy, showing the fresh expression of young Barbera that sees no oak. Dark fruit up front, good depth with a fresh acidity. $15/btl.  Gerard’s favorite. Cheers!
These wines are available at Village Wine in Millbrook