Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The “Soy Sauce Secret” for Succulent Crispy Roasted Chicken

One of our French Chef friends, Christian Delouvrier gave me his secret recipe, and I am about to share it with you. This produces moist delicious chicken on the inside, with dark crispy skin on the outside. It came about (as Christian explained to me) on one of his visits to Chinatown where he was astounded by the crispy skin the Chinese were able to obtain with their Peking ducks. He soon realized that the secret was in basting the duck with soy sauce during its cooking. He then tried it on chicken and perfected the recipe below.  I make this about once a week and we continue to love it. I have also tried it on duck and it worked there too- but we’ll save that for another column!

1 3lb chicken
You really need to start with an organic free range chicken raised with no antibiotics. My favorite is the “Cou Nu” from which is a French breed raised according the Red Label protocols – some of which I am told are raised right here in Columbia County! .I also like D’Artagnan and Murray’s.  Bell & Evans are also good. well as some of the locally organically grown chicken. The timings here are for a 3lb chicken. You will have to adjust accordingly for a bigger chicken. 

½ lb Butter
It must be left out to soften at room temperature. I love Plugra, which is an American butter made according to French methods. It is sold at Adams. But any decent butter will do for this.

The Basting Sauce
1 Cup of Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons of Butter
½ Cup of Water
Place the three ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Mix and take off the heat. Set aside.

This will require one hour of roasting in the oven and 20 minutes of resting before carving and serving. Preheat oven to 475F.
Salt the interior of the chicken and salt and pepper the outside. Smear both the inside and outside of the chicken with butter. All over! Put on more butter than you think you should, and then some more!
Place the chicken on its side and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken onto its other side and roast another 10 minutes. During the roasting, prepare the Basting Sauce mixture.
Turn the oven down to 425F. Turn the chicken breast side up and brush it all over with the basting sauce.
Roast another 10 minutes and re-baste. Continue roasting another 10 minutes.  Turn down heat to 350F and re-baste. After another 10 minutes baste again. When it has roasted 20 minutes at 475F, 20 minutes at 425F and 20 minutes at 350F, it is done. Take out of the oven, place a piece of aluminum foil loosely tented over the chicken and wait 20 minutes before carving and serving.

Serving Suggestions
Any combination of potatoes, vegetables and/or mixed salad goes well with roasted chicken, but I like a very simple recipe that one of my French girlfriends gave me decades ago that always seems to impress people. Wash medium size new potatoes (the light skin kind) and cut in half lengthwise. Place in the oven skin side down. When they are cooked, the non skin side will form a crispy layer that will rise slightly as it browns. This signals that the potato is cooked. . Timing is an issue because it changes with the size of the potato, but about 40 minutes at 350F is usually about right. Serve immediately because it will fall like a soufflé – in fact they are often call “soufflé potatoes”.

Gerard’s Wine Suggestion
The soy sauce brings an exotique note that suggests selecting a slightly spicy wine. I hesitated between a Pinot Noir, a Coteaux du Languedoc (Cabernet Sauvignon), an Anjou (Cabernet Franc) or a Beaujolais appellation Brouilly I decided on the latter when I found Château de La Chaize 2008 at Arlington Wines for only $14.99 This deep ruby wine is 100% Gamay. It unveils warm aromas of cherry jam ,spices and dark berries. Rich, round and supple it leaves a pleasant impression of softness, yet generous and gourmand. It will complement this roast chicken well. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Magical Evening with Lobster Paella!

Last week, Gerard and I were invited to dine with Domingo Zapata, a contemporary artist who was born in Spain, lives in Soho and is summering in Millbrook. Domingo prepared his Lobster Paella, which he claims is the “best in the world” and adds, “If you try it and don’t think it is the best – do not tell me about it!”  Well I tried it and have to admit that while I cannot vouch for the rest of the world, it was certainly the best I have ever eaten! Moreover, he let me come into the kitchen and watch him prepare it, so I can now relate to you – the secrets of Domingo’s paella!

First, he started with his paella pan – a large round pan with handles which is first used on top of the stove, then in the oven and finally brought to the table to serve the magnificent paella.  He placed the pan on a medium high heat to make his “sofrito” by first adding the olive oil, then chopped onion and green pepper and fried all of this for about 5 minutes. He then added the chopped tomato and continued to fry gently. Next were 3 cups of rice, which he stirred in well so that all of the rice was coated with the “Sofrito”.  On the side, he prepared a mixture of garlic, saffron, chopped parsley and a pinch of salt. He added the water and the mixture to the pan and brought the liquid to a boil. He seasoned with coarse salt and two beef bouillon cubes. Covering the pan with a lid, he turned down the heat and allowed it to simmer for 10 minutes. He then added the lobster pieces to the dish, covered and simmered for another 10 minutes. After checking that there was enough liquid (if it looks like it is getting dry, more water should be added at this point.), he placed the pan uncovered in the oven (preheated to 350F), and allowed the rice to absorb all of the liquid and flavorings while the lobster cooked through for about 40 minutes.

During this time we drank a bottle of Rose on the terrace and snacked on some guacamole! It was one of those “magical starry nights” with the air clear and comfortable. Neither muggy; nor chilly. Coyotes howling in the distance and even the mosquitoes seemed to be somewhere else.

The lobster paella was a beautiful site, but it was the aromas that accompanied that pan to the table that told me I was about to taste “the best paella in the world”!.... and I think I did!

2 lobsters in their shells cut into pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 green or yellow pepper, finely chopped
½ red pepper, finely chopped
2 medium-sized tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
3 cups of rice
a pinch of saffron strands 
a sprig of parsley, finely chopped
olive oil
6 cups of water or stock
2 beef bouillon cubes

Meat & Seafood
Many different protein products can go into a paella. Chicken, rabbit, chorizo, lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams, etc are all excellent paella ingredients, and any mixture thereof is acceptable. (I am told even snails can be added- but I have never actually seen that!) Fresh shellfish is always better, but you can use frozen lobster tails and/or frozen shrimp in which case they must be completely thawed, still in their shells and I would use Seafood Stock instead of water to increase the flavor.
The liquid in which the paella cooks should be rich and flavorful. Domingo used water with beef bouillon cubes; others use fish, seafood or chicken stock.
Use a firm and absorbent rice. Spaniards always use short-grained rice, such as” “Bomba”, “Valenciano”, Calasparra or Goya’s medium grain riceiwhich absorb the richness of the broth while each grain remains  distinct.
Use real Spanish saffron. In harder times, Spaniards substituted "colorante" a yellow artificial coloring with a turmeric base – but it is not as good.. It will not have the deep aroma and flavor. I found a decent Spanish saffron at Marona’s!

This is the occasion to discover a nice Spanish wine, Abando 2007, a striking white Rioja made from Viura grapes. Its beautiful light golden yellow and aromatic complexity highlights the nuances of tropical fruit, balsamic and mint, jointly with the aromas of vanilla and toasted oak. The palate is creamy, with superb acidity, structure and flavor, leaving a long and tasty souvenir. $19.99.  Or, a lovely pairing and a great buy from Jean Luc Colombo’s Cote Bleue Rose 2010 A light, slightly crisp rose, showing brisk cherry pit and watermelon rind notes and a dry, mineral finish. $19.99 a magnum ! Both at Cascade Wine & Spirits in Amenia.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Secrets to Soufflés

I always imagined soufflés to be very difficult and shied away from trying to make one. Last year, convinced this was a test of a real cook, I finally tried and triumphed! So, I thought I might share my soufflé secrets – the biggest of which is that it is not as hard as it looks!  I prefer making soufflés in individual ramekins instead of a larger dish. I find it easier to control and more impressive at the table. But if you want one big one, follow the recipes and add 8-12 minutes in baking time.  
You may prep your soufflés hours in advance and leave them covered in the fridge on the metal baking pan to be used for baking. This way they are quickly and easily transported from fridge to oven and from oven to table. When you’re ready to bake put it straight in the pre-heated oven.
Eggs must be at room temperature and not “farm fresh” which will not hold air as well as those that are at least a week old.
Use a very clean glass or metal bowl. (Traces of grease will stop the egg whites from rising).
Be certain your mixture is cooled to room temperature before folding into the egg whites.  Always fold one cup of your whites into your mixture first to loosen it up, before folding in the rest of the whites.
Many recipes suggest adding a collar to your soufflé. Instead, I fill my soufflé dishes to half an inch below the brim giving it space to fluff up.
Do not use convection option on your oven. Your soufflé will start out looking great, but then will deflate after a few minutes. Do not open the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking time and when you be quick about it and shut the door softly.
To test for doneness, insert a skewer or knife into the center of one and make sure it comes out clean, with no wet batter clinging on.

The Cheese Soufflé (serves 4)

You will need four 16 oz oven-safe ramekins and a mixer
½ cup butter
1½ cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup flour
8 extra large egg yolks
10 extra large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fine grated parmesan cheese
2 cups milk         
1/2 teaspoon paprika    
dash cayenne
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and position rack in lower third of oven.  Generously butter soufflé dishes and dust with parmesan cheese on sides and bottom.  Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour, salt, cayenne, paprika, stirring well. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly, cook until thick. Add the cheese and stir until melted and very smooth. Remove from heat. Beat the egg yolk with a whisk until light. Gradually pour into cheese mixture and stir until well mixed. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until very stiff, but not dry. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Fold about 1 cup of egg whites into the cheese mixture. Using a wide rubber spatula, very slowly, in a gentle stream pour the mixture into the egg whites. Gently fold the two together-going deep to make sure of even distribution. Pour into ramekins.  Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees and bake about 15-20 minutes longer. When it is risen and all golden brown it is ready. Serve immediately!


The Chocolate Soufflé  serves 4
You will need four 8-10oz ramekins, one double boiler, one mixer
7 ounces finely chopped semisweet chocolate 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus for preparing the molds
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons warm water
½ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
8 large egg whites, room temperature
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Confectioners' sugar for garnish

Brush four (8-10 ounce) ramekins with soft butter, then coat with sugar. Put the prepared ramekins in the freezer. Set an oven rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 450F degrees. Fill bottom of double boiler with one inch of water and bring to a very slow simmer. Melt chocolate and butter in the top pan over, but not touching, the water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Set aside. Combine egg yolks and warm water in a large metal or glass bowl and beat until frothy.  Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar, and continue beating until ribbons form, about 5 minutes. Very lightly fold the yolks into the chocolate mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature. Remove prepared ramekins from freezer. Put the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer and add the lemon juice. Beat on medium until frothy; then gradually add the remaining ½ cup of sugar and increase speed to high. Beat until the whites hold a stiff but not dry peak.
Working quickly, fold about one third of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten; then fold in remaining whites until blended. Gently ladle the soufflé mixture into the ramekins, and place on a baking sheet. Immediately bake until the soufflés rise about 1½” above the ramekins about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, dust with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately with whipped or heavy cream.
Gerard’s Wine Suggestion
With the delicate light texture of a soufflé we must pair very light but flavorful wines. For the cheese soufflé I found a Cote du Rhone Belleruche 2009 from Michel Chapoutier. A lovely balance of grenache and syrah. Served cool, the cherry aromas with hints of licorice and pepper will compliment the cheese. Arlington wine & spirit - $ 9.99.   For the chocolate, nothing would be better than a Banyuls, but I could not find one locally, so I chose a port wine - Sandman Founders Reserve. It has an intense ruby color, and brilliant powerful flavors. $18.99 at Arlington Wine & Spirit.