Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rack of Veal - An Impressive Meal

When Laurent Manrique (Chef & Owner of NY’s “Millisime” and San Francisco’s, Café de La Press) turned 40 he honored me with a request to cook his birthday meal and invited 5 of his chef friends for dinner at our home.  I made Rack of Veal with shallots confits, morel sauce and the traditional French dish of Boulangère potatoes. An expensive but impressive meal – but wonderful and rarely served! While I made it for 8 people, I will give you the recipe for 4. You can adjust weights and timings if you are more ambitious.

About veal: As veal is lower in fat than beef or pork, care must be taken in preparation to ensure that it does not become tough. (the reason for breading or coating with flour for scaloppini). For this roast we sear the juices in by browning the meat on all sides on top of the stove before roasting. Look for Milk Fed Veal if you can get it. It is far more tender and tastier than grain fed. Of course, no hormones, no antibiotics and humanely raised if you can find it!. If you only have one oven make the confit first and when finished bake the potato dish. When that is done cover potatoes with aluminum foil to keep as warm as possible. Return them to the oven to reheat when the roast is resting and you are making the sauce.

1 Rack of Veal with 4 chops (prepared by the butcher)
12 peeled shallots left whole
4 shallots peeled and chopped
8 tablespoons of grape seed oil
thyme (I branch)
7 tablespoons of butter
1½ pounds of potatoes (russets) peeled and cut into 1/8thick slices
1 onion (peeled and finely chopped)
1 leek (white only - finely chopped)
16oz of chicken stock
8oz of veal stock
flat Italian parsley (2 branches)
Fine salt
Fleur de sel
Ground or butcher’s pepper
(1 tablespoon of arrowroot if necessary)

Confit Shallots

Preheat oven to 350F.
Place 12 of the peeled shallots in an ovenproof dish with 6 spoons of grape seed oil and thyme. Add salt.(Roll the shallots in the oil so they are coated with it. Cover with aluminum foil. And bake in oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool when finished.

Potatoes Boulangères
Preheat oven to 350F.
Melt 2 teaspoons of butter and sauté the onions in it covered on a low flame for 5 minutes. Remove and reserve onions. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and once melted add the leeks covered on a low flame for 15 minutes.(they should not brown). In a large pan, sauté 2 tablespoons of the chopped shallots in one tablespoon of grape seed oil mixed with a tablespoon of butter. When translucent, add the sliced potatoes for about 10 minutes until they begin to get a golden color. In an ovenproof pan, spread the leeks and onions over the bottom and spread out the potatoes on top. Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper and allow to bake at 375F for 40 minutes. When finished cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature. You will reheat when the roast is done. (This dish gets its name from small villages where on Sundays housewives dropped their potatoes off at the local bakery to be cooked in their ovens while the family attended church and picked up along with their bread after services.)

Rack of Veal
Take meat out of the refrigerator an hour before roasting..
Preheat oven to 400F. Place the roasting pan on the stove top and melt the remaining butter and grape seed oil in it. Add the remaining chopped shallots. Brown each side of the meat with the shallots on the stove. When browned, add the shallots confits around the meat and place in the oven for 30 minutes at 400F.

When done (roast for about 20-25 minutes per pound) remove the meat and shallots and cover with tented aluminum foil on a carving board. (Reduce the oven to 300 and reheat the potatoes.) Place the roasting pan on the stove with a moderate flame. Add the veal stock scraping the bottom of the pan so the juices dissolve into the stock. Allow to boil (reduce) for 2 minutes. (if it does not thicken take a tablespoon of the juice and mix with one teaspoon of arrowroot and add to the pan. This will thicken the sauce).

Separate the chops and serve one to each person on preheated plates each with 3 confit shallots and some sauce. Serve the potatoes on the side. ENJOY!!!

Optional Morel Cream Sauce
1 ounce dried morel mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large chopped shallot
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Cover the morels with the boiling water and let soften for 30 minutes. Rub the morels in the liquid to remove grit. Transfer them to a bowl; cut any large ones in half. Reserve the liquid. In a saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the shallot and cook until translucent, about 1 minute. Stir in the morels and season with salt and pepper. Pour in the mushroom liquid, stopping before you reach the grit. Boil over high heat to reduce by half, about 6 minutes. Add the reduced pan juices from the roast and  the cream and thyme, then simmer over moderately high heat until reduced by a third, about 5 minutes.

Gerard’s Wine Suggestion
This dish deserves a vigorous but elegant red wine. While many expensive wines would be perfect, we were looking for one under $20. I chose Chateau Greysac 2007, a Bordeaux from the left bank. It is mostly Merlot with a bit of Petit Verdot blended in. Chateau Greysac has developed immensely in the last thirty years. Its wines are a faithful reflection of this great terroir - delicate, aromatic and ample, as well as elegant and complex. The color of this wine is a deep ruby-garnet. The bouquet is of fresh red berries, mingled with notes of cedar and spice. On the palate are lovely red fruits, with full rich flavors balanced by silky tannins. $16.99 at Arlington Wines and Spirits.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Favorite Apple Desserts

Next to the beautiful colors of the autumn leaves, the best thing about fall in Dutchess County is the huge variety of delicious apples available. While we tend to eat them raw everyday, we also enjoy apple desserts. Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Apple Soufflé
(for 6 people)
5 eggs (separated)
2/3 cup of sugar
1 cup of milk
2 pounds of apples (each peeled and sliced into 12 half moon shaped sections)
3 tablespoons of flour
2 Tablespoons of Butter
Preheat oven to 350F. Melt butter in a skillet. Sauté the apple segments in the butter on a low flame until they are soft inside and a bit golden on the outside. Beat the egg yolks, sugar and flour together. Add the milk and mix. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff and gently fold into the egg yolk mixture. Pour into the skillet over the apples and cook as you would an omelet, gently picking up the sides and allowing the egg mixture to fill in the spaces. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Serve warm!

No Sugar-No Spice Apple Sauce
6 apples (preferably two each of three different varieties)
1 pear
Peel and cut up fruit and place in a saucepan with 1 cup of water. Cook on medium flame, making sure that there is always a bit of liquid in the pot. (add more if necessary). When the fruit is cooked, mash with a masher. Serve warm or cold, as a snack, side dish or dessert. (The pear adds extra sweetness to the apples m
aking sugar unnecessary).

French Apple Tart
1 refrigerated pie dough (I use Pillsbury)
2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced with a paring knife
2 pats of butter, sliced very thinly.
¼ cup sugar
½ cup apricot jam
2 tablespoon of cognac (or brandy or bourbon)
Preheat oven to 425°.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface; roll into a 12-inch circle. Fit into a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Place butter on the dough and sprinkle sugar over it. Arrange apple slices spoke like on top of dough, working from outside edge of dough to the center. Sprinkle apple slices with remaining sugar mixture. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes. While in the oven, combine the jam and cognac in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Strain. Five minute before the tart is ready, brush the apricot jam over the apples and crust to give it a golden glaze.,

Apple Bundt Cake
3 cups sifted unbleached flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
21/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds apples (peeled, cored and diced)
4 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup apple juice
½ chopped walnuts
½ cup raisins
2 tablespoons Confectioners sugar
½ cup fine bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter the bundt pan and dust with fine bread crumbs. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Ina small bowl mix ½ cup of sugar with the three spices. Beat the eggs and add oil, vanilla, juice, and the 2 remaining cups of sugar. On low speed add the sifted dry ingredients and mix only until smooth. Pour half of the batter into the buttered bundt pan. Sprinkle over it half of the walnuts, half of the raisins, half of the apples and half of the spiced sugar. Repeat with the remaining batter, nuts, fruits and spices. Cover the top of the pan with aluminum foil and fold down the sides to make it airtight. Bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil. Bake an hour uncovered and cover loosely with aluminum foil to bake for another 15-20 minutes. (Total bake time is one hour and 45-50 minutes). Let cool for 20 minutes. Cover with a wide flat plate and turn upside down. Tap with a spoon on the top and sides and remove the pan. Let cool completely and then sprinkle the confectioner’s sugar over it.

Gerard’s Suggestions
Instead of wine Gerard recommends serving a Calvados – an apple brandy from Normandy!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fixing Mistakes!

I made a mistake in one of my columns that provoked a huge argument with my husband. It was the recipe for what I claimed to be the “Original Salad Niçoise ”. Gerard was appalled to see that I had suggested string beans and potatoes in this salad. He claimed that they did not belong in the traditional Niçoise . I have eaten Salad Niçoise at least 50 times in the South of France, Paris or French restaurants here in the States, and there were always these two ingredients. I had confirmed my recipe before going to print with many cookbooks and proudly showed him the one from Julia Child (the master, herself!), which of course had the two ingredients in question.  She is not from Nice, I do not think”, he countered. So I went to the real expert and checked “Ma Cuisine Provençale” by “La Mere Bresson” who had a wonderful small restaurant in Nice and later in Cannes and was revered as the “Queen of Provençale Cooking”. Low and behold right there in my old yellowed book, I found the “original recipe”. No string beans! Not a single potato! Instead a green pepper and a stalk of celery were included. I had to admit he was right and that I was wrong (two separate admissions). I had to apologize, but I did not have to eat crow! “I stand corrected”, I said to him and now to you - “Mine is not the “Original Salad Niçoise recipe - but it is the much improved and most popular recipe for the famous Niçoise !”

The subject of mistakes got me to thinking about some mistakes I‘ve made in the kitchen and how I have learned to correct them. Below, I have listed a number of them. Many years ago, when I lived in Italy (Milan) and first started cooking I invited 14 Italian colleagues for an American Dinner at my house. (I was tired of them thinking that all we could make were hamburgers, hot dogs and bad pizza). I did a proper roast and veggies and redeemed our reputation. For dessert, I used a recipe of chocolate cake I found in the Joy of Cooking. Irma Rombauer’s recipe is excellent but not written for novices. She seemed to assume that the reader already knew how to bake a cake and just required the recipe for this particular one. This was not my case. This was my first cake! Elated with the lovely aroma wafting from my oven, I took it out when finished baking and immediately turned it upside down on the cake platter. Much to my horror, it literally poured out to become a mountain of fluffy chocolate crumbs. (So if you ever wondered why you are supposed to let the cake cool before taking it out of the mold - now you know why!). It was too late to make another dessert. I tasted a crumb and found it perfectly delicious.  I then placed the crumbs in my most beautiful crystal bowl and whipped up some cream which I served in another lovely bowl. When dessert time came I served it up announcing that this was a traditional American dish called “A BOWL OF CAKE”. To this day, I think there are 14 Italians who believe that we eat this crazy dessert! First Fix-it Hint: if it is not what it was meant to be, but still tastes good- just dress it up and call it something else!

Eggs: Too Old? If you are not sure your eggs are fresh, place them gently into a bowl of water. Rotten eggs will float, and the fresh ones will stay fully submerged. The fresher they are, the more quickly they will sink. Hard to peel hard boiled eggs?  Crack the eggs and place in a bowl of cool water for 5 minutes.  The water will seep into the cracks and help loosen the shell from the egg. Egg whites won’t whip? Add a bit of baking soda or salt. Separating eggs? If a bit of yolk gets into the white, take a piece of egg shell to scoop out the yolk (works better than using a spoon or your fingers).

Vegetables Overcooked? If veggies have been cooked to a mush, purée them with your favorite herbs and a bit of butter and serve as a gourmet side dish “Carrot Puree”, “Broccoli Puree”, “Cauliflower Puree”, etc. Too salty? Pour the water out, rinse them off, and return them to the stove in new boiling water for at least a minute or until they are done.
Sauces: Too thin?  One tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with two tablespoons of the liquid and then whisked back in the pot will thicken the sauce. . Too thick, too reduced or starting to curdle?  Beat in two tablespoons of boiling water. Broken hollandaise?  Take 1 egg yolk and whisk it over a water bath until it is thick and pale, the slowly add the broken hollandaise to the yolk, whisking vigorously as you go.  This will bring your sauce back together. Broken cream sauce? Take half cup of heavy cream and reduce it down to 1/3 of its original volume.  Slowly drizzle in the curdled sauce while whisking vigorously.  This should bring the sauce right back to its creamy, silky consistency. 

Stale Bread:  Sprinkle day old bread with water, wrap in foil and bake it in a 300 degree oven until warm.

Herbs : Don’t have the fresh herbs required and want to substitute the dried version? Use one third of the amount of because dry herbs are concentrated and have about three times the flavor as fresh herbs.
Underdone Cake: If it's too late to slide it back into the oven, scoop out the gooey middle and before serving fill the hole with fruit, ice cream or whipped cream.
Pie Crusts
Pie dough torn? If your pastry tears, roll a patch of dough to the same thickness and flatten the edges. Brush some lightly beaten egg white on the contact points and lightly press it onto the main shell. The whites will act as an adhesive so filling won't seep out.
Pie dough burning before pie is ready? Cover edge with aluminum foil.

Gerard’s Suggestion for Bad Wine
If the wine is bad do not serve it! Do not use it for cooking (it could ruin your dish). Don’t even use it for vinegar. Just throw it out and get a better bottle!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fresh Ahi Tuna

Pan Seared Ahi Tuna

I love serving seared raw ahi tuna as an appetizer. Known for its buttery texture, mild flavor and rich color, ahi (or yellowfin) tuna is seared to surround its raw center with a tasty caramelized crust and is served with some interesting side to dish to contrast its mild flavor. At lunch today with my scrabble / bridge / mah jong group, I served it along with the three side dishes mentioned below and asked them which one I should include in this week’s column.  They all said all of them – so here they are! (My favorite is the mango-avocado salsa!)
Buying Ahi Tuna
To make seared ahi, you need to start with very fresh, sushi-grade ahi, as you will only be lightly searing the outside, leaving the inside raw. Not even rare, but raw. The freshness and the quality of the fish make a huge difference with this dish, so don't even attempt it with a lower grade of fish. Purchase fresh, sushi-or sashimi grade ahi. Look for firm, ruby red flesh with a clean smell of the sea. There should not be a "fishy" odor.  One tuna steak is enough for rwo people. We were seven and I served three steaks- nothing was left over!

Searing Ahi Tuna
Sprinkle salt and fresh ground pepper onto both sides of the tuna steak (optional: soak for about 10 minutes in a marinade such as a mixture of orange juice, teriyaki sauce, and sesame seeds.). Heat a non-stick heavy-bottomed skillet (frying pan). Use high heat if searing a steak 1/2-inch thick or less and medium-high for thicker pieces. Add 1½ teaspoons of olive oil (or sesame oil for more flavor) to the pan. (Using too much will lead to a greasy tuna steak).  Place the fish in the pan once the oil begins to smoke. Turn the fish after about 1 – 2 minutes and sear for another minute on the other side. It will be cooked only on the outside but remain beautifully raw on the inside. Remove from heat.

Serving Ahi Tuna
Slice and serve with any or all of the following accompaniments.

Israeli or Pearl Couscous
Cook as per package instructions. Allow to cool and then mix in minced garlic, cranberries and chopped basil.

Shaved Fennel Salad Recipe (serves 5-6)
Slice two fennel bulbs paper thin (use a mandolin if you have one)  and combine in a bowl with 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, ¼ Tspn of chopped fresh thyme leaves, 1 Tbsp chopped flat-leafed parsley and 2 Tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese.

Mango-Avocado Salsa
Dice into small cubes:
·         2 ripe avocados (skinned and pitted)
·         6 Komatsu or 12 Cherry or grape tomatoes.
·         1½ large ripe mangos
Toss gently in a bowl with
·         1/4 cup diced red or Vidalia onion
·         3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
·         salt and freshly ground black pepper


The challenge in selecting a wine for this recipe is that the wine needs to go well with the delicate flesh of the tuna and yet resist to the festival of flavors of the salsa  and other side dishes. So I would recommend a Riesling or a white Bordeaux. Trimbach Riesling 2008 – There’s a pleasant salty tanginess to this wine, underscoring flavors of Gala apple, grapefruit and stone, with a hint of petrol. Clean and well-defined by the firm acidity, yet well-meshed and elegant overall, with a mouthwatering finish. 90 points Wine Spectator - $15.99 at Arlington Wine & Liquor. Chateau Tanesse Bordeaux Blanc Sec 2009 – When you get a “Great” winemaker like Denis De Bourdieu to make the wine, the bells and whistles immediately sound ! This deftly crafted white is a blend of 65% Sauvignon Blanc and 35% Semillon. Hints of melon and honey in the nose, it’s crisp, lively, and surprising depth and length of flavor, along with good acidity make this enjoyable from first to last swallow. $13.99 at Arlington Wine & Liquor.