Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pheasant Braised with Apples & Bacon

Sitting on my deck soaking in autumn’s last rays of sun, I hear the shots of hunters seeking game and wonder how many of them actually know how to cook and enjoy eating the meat. As a cook who has cleaned, prepped, cooked and eaten many a game, I can tell you that I am thrilled when my husband brings home duck, woodcock, partridge, or other small birds – but pheasant was always a challenge for me. As much as he hates it when I say it - I always preferred a good chicken to a pheasant which is usually drier and often too subtle in flavor. Until my French mother-in-law showed me her favorite recipe for pheasant, and now I make it happily.
Last week, Gerard went hunting with Michel Jean (of Stissing House) and his brother Alain. They brought home a few pheasants (the prized hens which are far more tender than the cock) and I was charged with cooking them. (Alain plucked and cleaned then for me – thank you Alain!). And I followed Lou Lou’s recipe. Patricia Jean joined us for dinner and we all loved it - so I thought I would share it with you today.
Braised Pheasant
for 4-5 people
2 Pheasant Hens
12 slices of bacon (Preferably Apple Smoked)
1 cup of Calvados (Apple Brandy)
1 cup of Chicken Stock
5 Golden Delicious Apples
½ cup of Crème Fraiche (or Heavy Cream)
2 Tablespoon of Unsalted Butter
Salt & Pepper
Preheat oven to 350F.
Peel and core the apples. Slice each into 4-5 thick round slices.
Salt and pepper the interiors of the pheasants. Wrap them in the bacon and tie each of them with string so the bacon stays in place. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and brown all sides of the pheasants in the butter. Take them out and add the Calvados, scraping the bottom of the pan as the brandy reduces. Add the chicken stock and place the apples in the liquid with the pheasants on top of the apples. Cover and place in the oven for about one hour.
After they are cooked, turn off the oven and leave the pheasants in the casserole with the lid on until you are ready to serve.
When ready, check that the pheasants are still warm (if not reheat on top of the stove for a few minutes). Remove the pheasants and have someone cut them up and/or carve them while you work on the sauce.(If you have to do double duty it is possible but a bit hectic).  Reserve the bacon.  Place the pheasants on a preheated serving dish. Remove the apples with a slotted spoon so that the liquid drains back into the pot (squeeze it so all of the liquid comes out). Remove half of the juices and reduce the remaining juices on a high flame. It should thicken, but if it does not add a teaspoon of arrowroot mixed with a tablespoon of the juices to the boiling juice and it will thicken. Then slowly add back the juices you removed a bit at a time. Meanwhile, chop up the bacon and mix with the apples sauce and serve as an accompaniment.(This is delicious!!! Imagine apple sauce made with pheasant and apply brandy and bacon bits- what could be bad?) When sauce in the pot is sufficiently thick , add the cream and spoon some over the pheasant serving the rest in a gravy boat on the side.
New Potatoes
With this dish I prepared 3-4 small white new potatoes per person. In the afternoon I rinsed and boiled them until they were cooked. I let them cool off and easily removed their skins. I then browned them slowly in butter on a low flame with salt and pepper and sprinkled them with parsley just before serving. They were delicious - especially when dipped in the sauce.

The Wines We Drank
Definetly my recommendation with this dish is to choose a Rhone Valley wine – 100% syrah. For our dinner with the Jeans I opened a 2009 Crozes Hermitage Les Fees Brunes and a Cornas Terre Brulées from Jean Luc Colombo. Le Cornas, superbly rich and spicy was a bit too strong while the Crozes Hermitage enhanced the delicate savours of the pheasant. So I served the Crozes Hermitage first and saved the La Cornas for the cheese course. If your favorite wine shop does not have JL Colombo Crozes Hermitage (around $30)  select another Rhone Valley or Languedoc Syrah. Do  not take an Australian Shiraz which is usually much too bold and spicy with jammy fruit flavors that are too strong for this dish. Save them for venison or wild boar.

We love getting your feedback, please send comments to RonaBoyer@gmail.com.

Pan Roasted Veal Chops

About Pan Roasting
A popular technique with restaurant chefs, pan roasting is easy to do at home. This two-level method produces food with a flavorful browned exterior and a tender, juicy interior. It also provides plenty of pan juices for creating a delicious sauce. First, the meat, poultry or seafood is quickly seared in a small amount of oil in a heavy ovenproof (cast iron is ideal) fry pan. This creates a flavorful light browning on the outer surface. Then the pan is transferred to a moderate to hot oven, where the food roasts until it has finished cooking. The food is removed from the pan to a platter or carving board, then the pan juices can be deglazed and made into a sauce. This method works best for chops, steaks and other relatively thin cuts of meat, poultry cuts like chicken and duck breasts, and fish fillets. If these cuts were roasted without an initial searing, they would never develop sufficient surface browning before they finished cooking and would be less flavorful. The method saves time and most importantly sears in the juices before roasting.
Veal Chops
Ingredients (serves 2)2 thick veal chops  2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons peanut oil½ cup of veal stock  ¼ cup wineSalt and Pepper  Optional: Pat of butter or 1 tablespoon of heavy cream (or crème fraiche)
 Remove chops from the refrigerator about an hour before cooking to let them come up to room temperature. Pat them dry. Preheat your oven to 350F.  Preheat the pan over medium-high to high heat. Once the pan is very hot, add enough peanut oil to coat the bottom. Wait a minute or two for the oil to get hot, season your meat with salt and pepper, and place it in the pan. Do not crowd the chops or they will steam.  Sear all sides. Then place the pan with the meat in the oven to let it finish cooking. Remove while the meat is still pink inside (130F). It will continue to cook outside the oven.  Allow the meat to rest (loosely covered with aluminum foil) while making the sauce. De glaze with a bit of wine scraping the bottom of the pan and then add1/2 cup of veal stock.  Reduce, check for seasonings and finish the sauce with a pat of butter or a splash of cream
Sautéed Mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter½ tablespoon olive oil (Not extra virgin)  1 garlic clove (minced)
½ cup of shallots (optional) 
½ lb sliced mushrooms
Salt and pepper
If you try to sauté mushrooms that are too wet, you'll end up with a soggy stew. For this reason it's best to just wipe mushrooms down with a damp cloth and not rinse them. However, if they are freshly picked and very gritty, you will want to rinse them off and pat them dry. In a large skillet over medium heat, add oil and melt butter. Spread the fat around by moving the pan. Add minced garlic (and shallots) and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are hot and have turned a darker brown color. Move them around with a wooden spatula once one side seems done. This usually takes around 5 minutes. Do not to overcook!  Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. With too many mushrooms and they will just stew in their own juices resulting in a soggy sauté with less flavor. If you have a lot of mushrooms to cook, do them in several small batches instead of one big batch. Salt will draw out moisture while cooking so add seasoning only when they are finished cooking.

Baked Potatoes
1 large russet potato per person

Oil to coat (peanut or canola)

Kosher salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees and position racks in top and bottom thirds. Wash potato (or potatoes) thoroughly with a stiff brush and cold running water. Dry, then using a standard fork poke 8 to 12 deep holes all over the spud so that moisture can escape during cooking. Place in a bowl and coat lightly with oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and place potato directly on rack in middle of oven. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drippings. Bake 1 hour or until skin feels crisp but flesh beneath feels soft. Serve by creating a dotted line from end to end with a sharp knife, then crack the spud open by squeezing the ends towards one another. Place butter in the slit and serve
NOTE: If you're cooking more than 4 potatoes, you'll need to extend the cooking time by up to 15 minutes.

Gerard’s Wine Suggestions
The ideal wine for the rich and tasty meal would be a Pinot Noir Volnay Premier Cru availoable at Pine Plains Fine Wine a $49 per bottle, but since our policy is to recommend wines at under $25 per bottle, I would suggest the excellent Pinot Noir 2009 from Louis Jadot. This is a classic expression of Burgundy Pinot Noir, with a refined, aromatic nose of ripe red berries and toasty, earthy nuances leading into an elegant palate of delicately structured tannins and clean finish. $19.99 at Pine Plains Fine Wine. If you want to drink local wine I recommend the Pinot Noir from Millbrook Winery also at Pine Plains Fine Wine.

We love getting your feedback, please send comments to RonaBoyer@gmail.com.


Many cooks are intimidated by sauces and salad dressings.  I just don’t understand why. Bottled dressings/sauces are often loaded with sodium, sugar, colorants, artificial flavorings and preservatives – Why bother? When many of these sauces are really quite easy and quick to make yourself!

Au jus
My first Sunday lunch at the Boyers, my then future mother in law,  LouLou served a roast beef with “au jus” (the natural meat juices).  My favorite way to eat it. But I could not understand how she got a full gravy boat of natural juices. When asked she just laughed and said it was “simple”. No further explanation. So simple that not one of my 200+ French cookbooks explain how to make Au Jus. Well it may be too simple for them to explain, but once I became a Boyer - I got her to show me.. And here it is – really very simple! 

Under and around the roasting meat, place chopped shallots. As the juices drip from the meat, the shallots caramelize. Before they blacken and burn, add a cup of water. As the liquid evaporates  keep adding a little water at a time. When the roast is done, just whisk the water and meat drippings. That is Au Jus! Très simple!

Mustard Vinaigrette  (2 minutes!!)
At the bottom of the salad bowl, place 1 tspn of Dijon mustard. (I prefer, Maille, sold at Marona’s and Adam’s). Add 1Tbspn of red wine vinegar ( My choice is Dal Raccolta, I buy it at Quattros). Season. before you add the oil, because salt does not mix with oil). Add one tbspn of peanut oil. Whisk until thickens. Add 2nd tbspn of peanut oil. Whisk until thicker. Add 3rd tbspn of peanut oil. Whisk again. VOILA! French Salad Dressing! For green salads, chop up shallots or Vidalia Onions and marinate in the dressing (for a few minutes to a few hours). Place washed, spun dry salad greens on top. Wait until serving time to toss. Simple enough!

Garlic Vinaigrette  (2 minutes!!)
At the bottom of the salad bowl, place 1 tbspn of red wine vinegar, add one or two cloves of crushed garlic. Season. Whisk. Add one tablespoon of olive oil (cold first press). Whisk until thick. Add second tablespoon of olive oil. Whisk. Add third tablespoon of olive oil. Whisk. VOILA! 

Mayonnaise   (3 minutes!)
At the bottom of small bowl, place 1 tspn of Dijon mustard and the yellow of one raw egg. 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. At that point you can whisk less strenously as you slowly drizzle the rest of one cup of peanut oil into the mixture. It should be thick and fluffy holding its shape by itself. Whisk in 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar and serve! (Do not refrigerate - do not save any old mayonaise. No preservatives so it does not hold up well. Next time you want some, take another three minutes to make some more!

Bechamel Sauce (12 minutes)
In a saucepan over low heat, melt 2 tbspns of butter and whisk in 2 tbspns of flour. While constantly whisking, slowly add (¼ cup at a time) two cups of milk (I use skim ). It will thicken.. Remove from heat. Add salt, pepper and a touch of nutmeg. The French usually use this very simple white sauce in baked recipes instead of cream.

Mornay Sauce (13 minutes)
Add ½ cup of grated cheese (gruyere or cheddar) to a Bechamel Sauce.

Mushroom Saucec (14 minutes)
Add sauteed mushrooms to a Bechamel Sauce.

Alfredo Sauce (7 minutes)
Melt ¼ cup of butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add 1 cup cream and simmer for 5 minutes, then add 1 clove crushed garlic and 1½cups parmesan cheese and whisk quickly, heating through. Stir in ¼ cup chopped parsley and serve.

Mustard Cream Sauce (5 minutes)
Boil and reduce the ¼ cup of light cream in a small saucepan for 4 to 5 minutes over low heat. Add 3 tablespoons of grainy mustard and 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Pepper slightly and serve.

Reduction Sauce ( 8-10 minutes).
Before serving any meat or poultry braised in liquid, remove the meat and keep warm. Take out and reserve all but one cup of the liquid. Turn up the heat until it boils. Thicken by adding a tablespoon of cornstarch. Whisk the boiling liquid until it thickens add remaining liquid a 1/2 cup at a time - continuously whisking and reducing liquid to a nice thick sauce. Spoon on to coat meat and serve the rest in a gravy boat!

Red Wine Sauce (15 minutes)
In a sauce pan place 2 cups of Pinot Noir or Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 3 chopped shallots, 1 teaspoon of sugar, salt and pepper. Put on medium high flame and reduce to less than half. (Add 1 tspn of arrowroot to 1 tablespoon of hot wine sauce and then put into the casserole if it does not thicken by itself). Add 1 cup of veal stock, bring to a boil and filter before serving hot with red meat or game.

We love getting your feedback, please send comments to RonaBoyer@gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

All You Need to Know About Leeks

Leeks are far more popular in France than here in the States. They are part of the onion family and, in fact, look like a giant version of scallions or green onions. However, leeks have a more delicate and milder flavor than other onions and add a subtle touch to recipes without overpowering the other flavors that are present. They are an important ingredient in pot-au-feu and I often use them in stews and braised dishes (look for both my pot-au-feu and my braised guinea fowl recipes in upcoming columns). Today’s recipes concentrate on leeks as the main event!

How to Select Leeks
Leeks should be firm and straight with dark green leaves and white necks. Good quality leeks will not be yellowed or wilted, nor have bulbs that have cracks or bruises. Since overly large leeks are generally more fibrous in texture, it is best to purchase those that have a diameter of one and one-half inches or less. Try to purchase leeks that are of similar size so as to ensure more consistent cooking.

How to Store Leeks
Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for a week or two. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture. Cooked leeks are highly perishable, and even when kept in the refrigerator, will only stay fresh for about two days. Leeks may be frozen after being blanched for two to three minutes, although they will lose some of their desirable taste and texture qualities. Leeks will keep in the freezer for about three months.

How to Clean Leeks
Leeks have to be washed very carefully because sandy grit is often found between the many layers inside.
In these recipes you are going to cut the leaks into rings or small strips so cleaning is easy. First cut off the really dark green top leaves and discard. They are very tough and cannot be used. Cut off root and cut leeks in half lengthwise. Fan out the leeks and rinse well under running water, leaving them intact.  Then paper towel dry and place on cutting board. Cut into rings or half circles and then put them in a bowl of cool water, rinse again and use a salad spinner to dry. 

Leek Season
Although leeks are available throughout the year they are best when in season from the fall through the early part of spring. So now is a good time to start cooking with them!. The first recipe I owe to my French niece Sophie who made this for us on a visit to our home years ago. It has become a staple of out fall and winter recipes.

Leek & Bacon Pie
¾ lb of the whites of washed fresh leeks
5 tablespoons of butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups + 1 teaspoon of boiled milk (hot or cooled)
¼ lb of diced bacon (or petites “lardons” cut from a slab of fat trimmed bacon)
1 Pillsbury pie crust (or home made if you prefer)
Pepper, salt and nutmeg
Roll out the dough and fit into a pie pan. (I like the metal ones in which the sides come off and leave the base for serving). With a fork poke holes in at least 5-6 places. Freeze until we are ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cut the cleaned leek whites in circles or half circles. Blanch the bacon in boiling water for one minute (This reduces the fat and the greasy taste). In a large pan melt half of the butter and add the blanched and diced bacon. When they start to color add the leeks. On a small flame let them soften for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, but do not allow to brown! Add the flour and stir. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Gently add the milk a bit at a time, continue to stir from time to time and not allowing to brown. Add pepper, salt and a bit of nutmeg. Bring to a boil, and while stirring and take off the high heat to put on a very small flame, allowing to cook very slowly for another 20 minutes.
Take the pie crust out of the freezer and place pieces of the rest of the butter on the crust. Pour the cooked leeks and bacon mixture into the pie crust and quickly place in the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Place your protected hand on the bottom of the pan, slip the sides off and place the tart on a serving dish.  Serve immediately because it will fall in a few minutes and look much less impressive (but will still taste just as good!).

Leek & Potato Soup
4 servings
½ lb of washed leek whites cut in pieces
1lb of russet or Idaho potatoes peeled and quartered
1 zucchini, washed, peeled and cut into large pieces
salt, pepper
3 tablespoons of cream fraiche or heavy cream
1 tablespoon of butter
Optional: Shredded cheese (cheddar or Swiss)
Melt butter into soup casserole and add the leeks on low flame. Let them “sweat” until limp. Add the potatoes and zucchini and cover with water (water should be about one inch higher than the vegetables). Bring to a rolling boil and reduce flame to medium. Allow to cook for about 12 minutes or until the potatoes mash easily. Mash all cooked ingredients. Add seasoning and cream. (If too thick add milk). Serve with optional cheese.

Leek Omelet
(For each individual omelet)
2 small leek whites chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 eggs (cage-free, vegetable-fed, antibiotics-free).
salt and pepper
Melt half of the butter in an anti-adhesive low-edge pan on high heat. Once it starts bubbling add the leeks. Stir with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and slowly cook until the leeks are transparent and soft. Season with salt and pepper. Beat eggs vigorously with a fork. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and add two tablespoons of water. The more the eggs are beaten, the lighter the omelet. Turn up the heat and add remainder of the butter. Once the pan is very hot, pour the eggs and tilt the pan to spread them evenly over the leeks. Then wait a minute or two. Fold the omelet in half. Tilt the pan to spread the remaining liquid eggs on the entire pan. Then fold this newly formed disk on the half-moon omelet. Remove from the heat while the omelet is still runny ("baveuse") inside yet solid outside. Or if you prefer well done, you can cook it through and through by flipping the omelet.