Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Fool Proof" Lemon Chicken

This is the recipes I give to inexperienced cooks who are panicking about having to prepare food for a large number of people. If you follow the directions, it is fool proof!

I tend to make Lemon Chicken as a “back up’. During the summer we often entertain large groups of people Sometimes, I am not sure of exactly how many people are coming (I could be off by 5 or  maybe 10), so I find I might need to have extra food.  Also I am not sure of the culinary preferences of all of my guests and might find that I invited a “fish hater”, a “pork decliner” or a couple of “red meat refusers”.   So as a back up, I roast up a batch of Lemon Chicken in the oven and add it to the buffet table as an additional or alternative menu item.  

This recipe produces a chicken that is never dry. It is always moist and tasty but not spicy. It pleases the unadventurous while not looked upon too askance by the “foodies”. It can be eaten hot or at room temperature. Both the Lemon Chicken and the accompanying Roasted Vegetable dish can be cooked in the oven while everyone else is focused on what is happening on the grill.  These dishes have saved me from many potential disasters!

Lemon Chicken

Good quality organic, free range Chicken Pieces (D’Artagnan, Murray’s or Bell & Evans)
Lemon Juice (in the bottle is fine)
Peanut Oil
Salt & Pepper

Quantities are not important but spacing is! Make sure that you fill up the roasting pan with just enough chicken to make one row of pieces that do not touch each other and add just enough liquid to cover most of the chicken while marinating.

Prepare liquid marinade: ½ lemon juice and ½ peanut oil in a roasting pan. (It should come up about half way.) Salt & pepper the chicken pieces and place them in the marinade in the roasting pan. Turn them over so that all sides are basted with liquid and then leave skin side down. Marinate for at least 45 minutes or up to 4 hours.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

Pour out and discard most of the marinade (leaving the lower ¼ of each chicken piece to cook in the marinade). Turn them right side up so that skin side is showing. Only the parts of the chicken that is out of the marinade will brown. Place in oven and roast until the chicken is golden brown (usually 45-60 minutes). When you take the chicken out of the pan, drain on paper towel and place on serving platter with lemon slices and parsley sprigs as a garnish.

Oven Roasted Vegetables

The quantities are not important – neither are proportions.  You can have more than one layer, but make sure that each piece has been coated with the olive oil and seasoning.

An Assortment of Small New Potatoes (well washed and patted dry).
Sweet Potatoes or Yams (washed, peeled and cut into chunks a bit larger than the new potatoes). 
Pearl Onions  (peeled)
Baby Carrots  (washed)
Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a roasting pan with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place the potatoes, onions and carrots in the pan, rolling them until they are coated with the oil and seasoning. If needed add olive oil, salt, and pepper to top layer. Roast until golden brown and all cooked through. Timing will vary with quantities. – one layer will take 45 – 60 minutes, larger quantities may take as long as two hours.

Gerard’s Wine Suggestion
“I recommend a joyful wine full of spirit from Côtes de Provence - Château Montaud Rosé 2010.   The color is a lovely peachy-orange and it shows scents of ripe melons, citrus and ripe strawberries. The flavors are light and fruity with brisk acidity.  It is a nice “picnic wine” with a little Grenache spice and smoothness and priced under $10 at both Village Wine in Millbrook and Arlington Wine & Spirit in Pleasant Valley”.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Seven Secrets to Grilling Steaks!

Grilling is a high heat cooking method done directly over live flames, cooking food in a matter of minutes. A few tips will make your grilled steaks even more delicious!
1/. Preheat Grill – Make it very hot!
When using charcoal let it burn until it is covered with a thin coat of gray ash. Hold your hand about 6 inches above the grate, if after three seconds you are forced to pull your hand away – the fire is ready. The grill must be very hot to properly sear the meat creating a crusty surface texture and caramelizing the natural sugars to produce that steak flavor we love!
2/. Meat at Room Temperature
Take out of fridge an hour or two before cooking so it is no longer cold inside when you are ready to grill it. If not, the steak will toughen and still be cold in the middle when done on the outside, or just overcooked through and through!

3/. Lubricate the meat not the grill.
Lightly rub the steak(s) with olive oil and then liberally season both sides with salt and black pepper on both sides. The salt will bring some of the meat's juices to the surface and help to form the brown crust that is a sign of good grilling. 

4/. Use Tongs Not Forks
Do not use utensils that stab the meat and let the precious juices run out, but tongs that enable you to move and turn the meat without puncturing it.

5/. Cook it fast and get it off the grill!
The real secret to a juicy steak is to get it cooked fast and to get it off the grill the second it's done. Letting a steak sit on a grill too long will dry out the meat. Generally a steak needs to be cooked 3 minutes on one side and then turned over for another 3 minutes. Flip and repeat process.

6/. Give it a rest
Let the grilled meat stand on the cutting board for about seven minutes to allow the juices which have been driven to the center of the meat during the cooking process to redistribute through out, producing a juicier tastier cut of meat. (The meat will continue to cook a bit during this process, so take it off of the grill at a little less done than how you want to serve it).

7/. Use the right cuts of meat
Large roasts cook better with indirect heating, but direct grilling is perfect with smaller cuts like steaks. Select steaks that are about one inch to an inch and a half thick. and well marbled to give you that juicy tasty flavor steak lovers crave. The best steaks for grilling are:. 

Rib Eye Steaks
Hand cut and trimmed from the heart of the prime rib. Traditionally a favorite among steak lovers, this tender and juicy steak is perfect for grilling on or off the bone. (This is my personal favorite.)
The New York Strip
A perfect balance between a high fat steak (Ribeye) and a very lean steak like a Sirloin or Filet (which do not do as well grilled). Good marbling very good for grilling.
T-Bone or Porterhouse
Two steaks in one! One side is a full New York Strip, and the other side is Filet. The Filet size on a T-Bone is smaller than the Porterhouse which has a large Filet portion.
Flank Steaks
This is a lean, flat cut that's fairly tender and extremely flavorful.  It can be grilled (pre-marinated or not) but don't cook past medium rare or it will become very tough.  Before serving, cut the steak into thin slices at a slant against the grain.

Grilling Side Dishes

Grilled Vidalia Onions
Cut Vidalia (or other large sweet onions) in large slices (about ¼” thick) and place each slice in aluminum foil with olive oil, salt and pepper on both sides of onion slice). Wrap and close foil. Grill until tender and slightly darkened.

Grilled “Baked Potatoes”
Take a piece of aluminum foil large enough for your potato. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil in the center. Season with salt and pepper. Place the potato on the oil, roll it around to coat with the oil and wrap it up. The oil will keep it moist and the seasonings will add flavor. Place them anywhere on the grill away from the high heat, like an upper rack or off to the side. Baked potatoes will take about 45 minutes to an hour to cook .You can tell they are done when a fork pierces to the center easily..

Grilling Corn in the Husk:
I prefer to grill the corn while still in its husk, silk and all. If the ears have many layers of husk on them, peel off  the first few only, leaving a few layers for protection.  Soak completely covered in cold water for 15 minutes. This will provide extra moisture for cooking and will steam the corn kernels inside the husks. Place the corn on the grill as soon as the initial flames from the charcoal die down and the coals are still red-hot. Take care not to crowd the grill, which would choke off too much air to the coals. Grill the corn, turning often, until the first layer of husk is completely charred. This should take from 5 to 10 minutes. To remove the corn from its husk, cut the stem end up to the bottom of the ear and peel back the husks and silk. Brush away any burnt silks. Dress the corn as with butter and salt.  

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Potatoes – Old and New!

One of the questions I get most often, is which type of potato should be used for which cooking method, so I thought I would clear that up this week. 

Old Potatoes: “Russets” or “Idaho” (if grown in Idahoare harvested when mature. Oblong with a rough, dark brown skin, they are low in moisture and high in starch so their white flesh does not keep its shape when cooked. They’re excellent for baking, mashing, whipping, and French fries

New Potatoes: is a term for any variety of potato that has been harvested before the sugar has converted to starch. They come to market in spring and summer, are thin skinned, very moist and have a waxy textured flesh. They keep their shape and are best for cooking whole, pan roasting, frying, sautéing, stewing, or boiling and used in potato salads. Most commonly found in our area are:

  • Long whites are light-skinned potatoes. They cook faster and are sweeter than Russets. To bake, wrap in foil and pierce both the foil and skin with a fork to release steam.
  • Yellows (Yukon Gold) have thin, yellowish or light brown skins, and buttery yellow flesh. They are low to medium in starch and have a moist, creamy, succulent texture with a buttery flavor.
  • Round whites are medium-sized, round with a light skin.  They are moist with low to medium starch. 
  • Reds are small to medium-sized with a rose to reddish-brown skin and a dense white flesh. They are low in starch and are sweeter tasting than whites.
  • Fingerlings are thumb-sized potatoes that are thin skinned. They are yellow fleshed with a rich, buttery texture, low in starch and hold together well after cooking. Varieties include ruby crescent, Russian banana, and long whites.
Try to buy potatoes where you can purchase them loose and inspect each one before selecting. Our farmers’ markets, produce stands and many local markets are have potatoes from local growers of good spuds (MacEnroes, Schroeders, Wigstons, and there are several good growers in Red Hook and Columbia County).  Look for potatoes that show no sprouts from the eyes, no cuts, dark spots or greenish tints. The green is often from being exposed to light for too long and can indicate a bitter taste or even harmful toxins. 

Potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator because the cold makes their starch turn to sugar. They thrive in the dark and are best kept in a burlap or paper bag. Quickly remove any potatoes that have sprouted or shriveled before they spoil the others. New potatoes are highly perishable and will only keep for a week or so. Do not freeze potatoes  – cooked or raw.

Wine Suggestions

Since wine is best paired with the protein in a meal, we are not giving any suggestions this week.  I am also not indicating amounts or timings because they vary according to size of potatoes and number of people you are serving.

Never Fail French Fries
Large russet or Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick sticks
Peanut Oil
Salt and pepper
Rinse cut potatoes in a large bowl with lots of cold running water until water becomes clear. Cover with water by 1-inch and cover with ice. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days. Heat oil (until some drops of water cause a splatter) over medium-low heat in a 5-quart pot making sure that you have at least 3 inches of space between the top of the oil and the top of the pan, as fries will bubble up when they are added.  Drain ice water from cut fries and thoroughly pat dry. Increase the heat to medium-high and add fries, a handful at a time, to the hot oil. Fry until potatoes are soft and limp and begin to turn a blond color (5-7 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove fries from the oil and drain on paper towels. Turn off heat.  Let rest for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours. When ready to serve the French fries,  reheat the oil and transfer the blanched potatoes to the hot oil and fry again, stirring frequently, until golden brown and puffed, about 1 minute. Transfer to paper lined platter. Pat dry with paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.

Roasted Potatoes
Any New Potatoes (washed and patted dry - peeling is optional). 
Small White or Pearl Onions (peeled)
Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a roasting pan with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place the potatoes and onions in the pan, rolling them until they are coated with the oil and seasoning. Roast until golden brown (about 40-45 minutes)

French Potato Salad (I usually get asked to bring this to picnics and BBQs)
Any New Potatoes (washed and patted dry). 
Shallots (chopped)
Fresh Parsley
1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard. (I prefer, Maille, sold at Marona’s)
1/3 Cup of Red Wine Vinegar (I like Dal Raccolta Old Chianti Vinegar which I buy it at Quattros)
1 Cup of Vegetable Oil (I use Peant Oil)
Salt And Fresh Ground Pepper
Place mustard at bottom of the salad bowl in which you will serve the potato salad. Add vinegar and season.with salt and pepper. Add 1/3 of oil. Whisk until thickens. Add 2nd third of oil. Whisk until thicker. Add last third of oil. Whisk again. Congratulations! You just made your own vinaigrette sauce! Add the chopped shallots. Boil potatoes in their skins until soft. Drain and peel while still warm. The skin comes off very easily when cooked, but you will need a paper towel to hold the hot potatoes. Cut potatoes in halves or quarters and place while still warm into the vinaigrette (they won’t absorb the sauce once cooled).  Add half the parsley, salt, pepper and stir.  Add the rest of the parsley, salt, pepper and let stand (do not refrigerate).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shrimp Tips & Recipes

Shrimp season is from May to October. There are over 300 species whose flavors and textures are influenced by the waters in which they lived, the foods they ate and their ability to swim freely or not. Here are some tips on how to select, store and cook shrimp.

Tip#1: Pre-cooked, Fresh or Frozen Shrimp?
For many years I served pre-cooked shrimp with cocktail sauce. Sometimes the shrimp were pretty good, sometimes it had that carton texture and little to no flavor.  So, I tried cooking it myself, and would never buy pre-cooked again.  Fresh shrimp, on the other hand, is highly perishable! Unless you can actually buy "truly fresh" shrimp and cook it within 24-36 hours, it is best to buy frozen shrimp.

Tip#2: What to avoid
Avoid shrimp that smells of anything other than salt water. An ammonia odor is a sign of shrimp way past its prime. Truly fresh shrimp will have almost translucent flesh. Do not buy raw shrimp that is already pink or frozen shrimp that has been peeled and deveined before freezing (this robs the shrimp of flavor, changes the texture and limits the cooking possibilities)

Tip #3: Defrosting Frozen Shrimp
Defrost shrimp either in the refrigerator or in ice cold water. Never defrost in a warm place or microwave.

Tip # 4: How To De-vein Shrimp
The black "vein" that runs along the back of the shrimp is its digestive tract which is technically edible; but shrimp look and taste very better when de-veined!.
 Shrimp cook well in or out of their shells, but are easier to de-vein before cooking. Remove shell and run a de-veiner or the tip of a small knife down the back of the shrimp cutting in just enough to enable you to remove the vein.

Tip # 5: How To Freeze Shrimp
Freeze fresh shrimp raw in their shells with heads removed.

Tip # 6: How To Boil Shrimp:
Shrimp’s sweet delicate flavors are easily be ruined by overcooking. Place a pound of shrimp in a quart of rapidly boiling water with three tablespoons of salt.
Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and return to a boil. Let simmer until the flesh has lost its glossy appearance and is opaque in center (cut one to test). Timing varies so keep checking the appearance. Jumbo shrimp take 5 to 7 minutes, large shrimp take from 4 to 6 minutes, and medium size can be done in 2 to 3 minutes. Drain quickly when ready. Do not let shrimp cool in their cooking liquid or they will continue to cook and get tough. (My preferred recipe for shrimp cocktail is below.)

Tip # 5: How To Grill Shrimp:  Once the grill is hot, place the large shrimp (or skewered small shrimp) on the grill, leaving room between shrimp (or skewers). Brush with a little olive oil and then sprinkle them with salt, and pepper. Grill for 2 minutes and turn, grill for another minute or two or until they are pink. Remove from the heat and serve.

Gerard’s Wine Suggestions
 Preferably choose a dry white wine, on the fruit and relatively simple.
Pinot Grigio Era 2009 from Veneto – 100% Pinot Grigio Hints of apples, gentle citrus notes and a long smooth finish. Easy to drink. $15 @ Village Wine in Millbrook
Pouilly Fumé Les Charmes Chatelain 2009 from the Loire Valley – 100% Sauvignon Blanc Very discreet, aroma of young Sauvignon, flinty with toast and vanilla flavors. $18 @ Village Wine in Millbrook.
Riesling Zind-Humbrecht 2008 from Alsace – 100% Riesling
A well-cut Riesling, offering a salty mineral note and laserlike acidity that defines the quince, yellow peach and floral notes. $23.99 @ Arlington Wine in Poughkeepsie.

Best Shrimp Cocktail
The day before (or at least 6 hours prior to) serving fresh shrimp, take them out of their shells. Wash and place shells in water with a bit of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer shells for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, de-vein shrimp, keeping at room temperature. Discard the shells. Bring the liquid back to a boil.  Place medium size shrimp in boiling water for 1 minute and thirty seconds, or large and jumbo shrimp for 2-3 minutes. Drain. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours.

Dipping Sauce
Small bottle of Cocktail Sauce
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon
Dijon mustard
Salt & Pepper
1 cup peanut oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

At the bottom of small bowl, place mustard and egg yolk. Whisk. Add salt & pepper. Slowly drizzle a little peanut oil into egg yolk mixture whisking briskly. As the sauce thickens and lightens it is emulsifying. Continue to whisk as you slowly drizzle the rest of peanut oil into the mixture. It should become thick and fluffy holding its own shape. Whisk in vinegar. Congratulations! You just made your own mayonnaise, and I am willing to bet that it is better than anything you can find in a jar! Mix with a ratio of 3 parts mayo and one part cccktail sauce.  Serve with the shrimp

Shrimp & Rice with Shallots (This is the recipe that is requested most often by my guests)
serves 4-6

24 unshelled cleaned (deveined) jumbo shrimp
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1 cup dry white wine
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves
3-4 cups of warm cooked rice (follow package directions)

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan over high heat. Add shrimp, season with salt & pepper and cook until pink (for 2-3 minutes) stirring from time to time. Transfer shrimp to a warm platter. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan with shallots and the wine. Boil until liquid has thickened and reduced to about half. Add cream and mustard and cook for another 2 minutes. Take off the heat and add shrimp to the sauce. Stir. Add remaining butter, sprinkle parsley and serve immediately over rice. 

 If you have tried any of my recipes, please let me know how it went at RonaBoyer@gmail.com