Stuffed Rabbit Leg with Sauce Provencal

This is complicated.  It’s been a while since I posted a really complicated recipe, and I think for sheer entertainment value, if nothing else, it’s time.  This is the kind of recipe that daunts most restaurant chefs.  It requires every kind of skill, and a true mastery of the craft.  I’m not implying that I myself am a master, but this is my recipe, and this one I can do.

Complicated does not mean impossible.  Like anything else that’s complicated, you can break it down into a series of manageable steps.  Look at the final product as a series of recipes, or pieces.  The end product is highly complex, but each step is not.  You need to de-bone a rabbit leg.  Okay.  Tricky?  Yes.  But not impossible.  You need to make a filling.  Blanching sweetbreads, dicing, seasoning, reducing… so much work.  But really, you’re making a filling.  If you don’t like the idea of spending all day making a filling, then change it!  Make a filling with diced sourdough bread, dried cherries, orange zest and seared duck livers.  I have said it before and I will say it again.  This is my recipe.  But I am giving it to you.  Make it your own.  Make the food you want to make.  No one is paying you to make this, so make your self happy and cook.  Make your food.

But, of course, this is still my recipe.  So go along with me.  This is a chef’s recipe, a glimpse into real high end food.  So, be amused.  I do not expect you to make this, but I hope you will apply the ideas, thought process and technique to something of your own.  Like stuffed chicken legs.  Or veal saddle.  Or pork tenderloin.  Or anything else you love.

Rabbit.  A lot of people get squeamish when rabbit appears on a menu.  Who would ever want to eat that cute fluffy bunny?  Remember, like all other animals bred for consumption, we (chefs) do not kill the animals.  It is our duty and responsibility, however, to honor them.  They gave their lives for our craft.

Veal sweetbreads.  This is what’s known as offal, or organ meat.  When cooked correctly, it’s rich, buttery, flavorful and resembles in many ways chicken thighs.  Stuffed into rabbit, it’s amazing.

Sauce Provencal:  this sauce is a simply white wine based reduction with the additional of golden raisins and basil.  It takes a lot of flavor from the cooking of the stuffed rabbit, and is quite unique (and delicious) in the end.

Ingredients:

4 rabbit legs, bones removed without piercing the skin (youtube for lesson), Frenched at the tip
                                               http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7s6Jglc3f0
2 lb veal sweetbread
5 cups rich chicken stock
4 carrots, 2 rough chop, 2 small dice
3 onions, 2 rough chop, 1 small dice
3 ribs celery, 2 rough chop, 1 small dice
1 bulb fennel, sliced
1 cup whole button mushrooms
vegetable oil
1 bunch fresh thyme, 1/2 of the bunch fine chop
wondra flour (or pastry flour)
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1 stick whole unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
750 ml dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup golden raisins
caul fat, soaked overnight in salted water
1 cup basil, chiffonade

Method:

In a medium sized stock pot, add a touch of vegetable oil and begin sweating the rough chop vegetables, fennel, and mushrooms.  Add the white wine and reduce by half.  Cover with water, season with salt and pepper and add the thyme.  Bring to a simmer.  Place the sweetbread in the stock and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove and place between 2 pans with a weight on top.  Refrigerate until cool.  Using a sharp pairing knife, remove the membrane around the sweetbreads.  Cut the sweetbreads into brunoise (1/4 inch cubes).

Toss the cubed sweetbreads in the wondra flour with a little salt and pepper.  Begin sauteing the sweetbreads in a little butter.  Add the diced carrots, onion and celery with a little additional olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and add the remaining thyme.  When highly fragrant and slightly cooked, add 1 cup of the rich chicken broth and reduce until thick.  Remove from heat, swirl in about half of the butter and season one more time.  Transfer to a storage pan and let cool completely.  This is your filling.

Stuff the rabbit legs with the cold filling.  Tightly wrap the rabbit legs with the caul fat and truss with butchers twine.  
Heat an oven to 400 degrees.  In a heavy bottom straight edge saute pan, heat the remaining butter with a little olive oil.  Gently sear the rabbit legs on all sides until deep golden brown.  The caul fat should appear as though it’s melting into the rabbit.  Remove the rabbit from the pan and deglaze with the remaining white wine.  Reduce by 2/3 and add the remaining chicken stock.  Reintroduce the rabbit legs to the pan, season, and add the raisins.  Loosely cover the pan with foil and place in the oven for about 1 hour, turning every 1/2 hour.

When the rabbit legs are very tender, remove the foil from the pan, add the cream and cook, uncovered for an additional 30 minutes.  The sauce should now be thick and highly seasoned.  Remove the legs from the pan, let rest 10 minutes.  During this time, reduce the sauce until it coats the back of a spoon (nape).  When it’s ready, add the basil.  Remove the twine, slice the rabbit and spoon the sauce on top.

Serve right away.

This is best with truffled braised salsify, melted brussel sprouts and a micro blend salad.

Enjoy

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Blondies with butterscotch, white chocolate and almonds

In my opinion, blondies are like a cross between a brownie and a cookie.  But, in their own right, more delicious than both. They are not quite as dense and rich as a brownie, not much larger and more dynamic than a cookie.  I have never met anyone who didn’t go wild over these things, and as a great benefit, they’re easy to make.

Easier than brownies.

Easier than cookies:

They’re like a chef’s secret.  And you can do so much with them.  I love the white chocolate/butterscotch/almond combination, but by all means, put what you love into them.  Dried fruit like apricots works, dark chocolate nibs, white chocolate, milk chocolate, M&Ms, mini-marshmellows, coconut shavings, and so on.  Add a little cinnamon and nutmeg and add a few tbsp of pumpkin pie filling.  They all work.  All are delicious and unique.

The batter is like a one-pot-wonder.  Throw everything in one mixing bowl, mix well, fold in your dry ingredients, sit back, and let it finish in the oven.  You can make this, start to finish within 5 minutes.  I’ll list 10 minute prep time because you’ve never made this exact recipe before, but you’ll see, it’s a quick one.

Consider this the next time you need to bring a little something to a party, want an easy yet homemade dessert, or just feel like having a fun time baking with your family on a cold Sunday (or by yourself).  Remember, this is one of the easiest baking recipes I can offer.  And everybody loves them!

Butterscotch, white chocolate and almond Blondies

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 1 10×12 try

Ingredients:

1 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 large organic egg, room temp
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
8 tbsp (1 stick) organic unsalted butter, gently melted
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch kosher salt
1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
4 oz butterscotch nibs
3 oz white chocolate nips
3 oz slivered almonds

Method:

Preheat oven to 375.  Grease a 10×12 baking can LIBERALLY with cooking spray.  Dust with the granulated sugar.  Make sure the sugar sticks to all surfaces.  If it doesn’t, spray again and add more sugar.  Tap the bottom of the pan to remove any excess sugar.

Sift together all the dry ingredients and reserve.

In a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and melted butter.  Whisk vigorously until very smooth.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and continue to whisk until very smooth.  Add all the dry ingredients and GENTLY fold with a spatula until incorporated.  A few lumps are okay.  The important thing is to not over work.  Add the butterscotch and white chocolate and continue to fold.  The batter will be thick.

Pour the batter into the greased pan, tapping the sides to make sure it’s even.  Sprinkle the almonds on top and bake until golden brown on top and set in the middle (toothpick test).  Remove from pan while still hot, let cool slightly, cut into brownie sized pieces and serve while still warm.

Best served with hot chocolate.

Enjoy

Glutens: The good, the Bad and the Ugly. And a barley salad

Glutens.  Oh, here it is, grab your bags and jump on the bandwagon.  First and foremost, many people do have legitimate and serious gluten allergies.  Celiac disease can cause an incredible amount of damage, gluten sensitivity can make someone sick or very uncomfortable for the rest of the day.  If you truly have a physiological problem digesting and processing glutens, then my heart goes out to you, and we can be happy that there are so many gluten free choices today.

Then there’s the rest of us.

This blog is in response to the ever-popular ‘gluten free’ trend that seems to be dominating southern California, and the rest of the country right now.

From a health-benefit perspective, there is nothing wrong with glutens.  Glutens are simply the protein chains that help bind starches; wheat, barley and rye to be specific.  They are formed by mixing wheat and liquid together, and agitating.  That’s it.  Gluten strands are born, developed, and gives our bread the wonderful chewy and stretchy properties we love.  Are they bad for us?  No.  The question is, is bread bad for us?  Depends on many things, and each person’s health and opinion is different.  However, gluten free products are not better for us, per se.

Gluten free products can, in fact, be worse.  To mimic the texture, taste and consistency of gluten, many manufacturers will add addition chemicals, sugars and fats (such as added xanthum, agar agar, sorghum and so on).  They aren’t bad, but they dilute what is a traditionally a very simple product, and add additional calories, many of which are refined, to your diet.  In my opinion, anything that unnecessarily adds empty calories, fat and sugar to your diet should be avoided.  So, back to the basics:  be careful and knowledgeable about what you put in your body.  Gluten free does not mean healthier.

Going gluten free will also severely hinder your dietary selection.  Think of all the wonderful and diverse things we make with wheat, barley and rye.  Now remove every one of them from your diet.  Not so fun.  Not a choice I willingly make.

Glutens are not refined carbs.  Keep that in mind.  Whole grain barley salads, wheat berry tabouleh, farroh pilaf… these are nutrient and protein rich foods, complex carbs, whole grains superfoods, all of which contain gluten.  All of which are recommended eating, for every good reason.  Keep your health in mind, and make choices for the right reasons.

Barley Salad with kale, dried cranberries, grape tomatoes and spiced walnuts

Prep time:  20 min
Cook time: 30 min
Inactive cook time: 45 min
Yield:  6 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups pearl barley
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 6oz package grape tomatoes, washed
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
juice of 2 lemons
few leaves of fresh basil, chiffonade cut
1/2 red onion, small dice
2 leaves kale, fine chiffonade
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vegetable oil
dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin

Method:

Put the barley in a sauce pot and add 4 cups cold water.  Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to low, cover tightly and cook for 15 minutes.  Turn heat off and let steam for 20 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and let cool to room temp, keeping covered.

While the barley is cooking, prepare the walnuts.  Place the walnuts in a small, heavy bottom sauce pot with the sugar and water.  Cook, over high heat until all the water is gone, and the mixture is thick.  Don’t make caramel.  Turn the walnuts out into a mixing bowl and toss with the veg oil, cinnamon, cayenne, cumin and a pinch of salt.  Keep tossing in the bowl to keep them from sticking.  When slightly cool, place them on parchment paper and let cool to room temp.

Cut the tomatoes in half.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, including the spiced walnuts.  Add enough olive oil to give it a slight shine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve right away.

Enjoy.

Russian Deviled Eggs

Russian deviled eggs.  What a name.  This is, of course, finger food.  It’s also a whimsical little play on classic deviled eggs.  But the name, and what it implies, adds a whole new dimension, a new appeal, and a elegance.  Deviled eggs?  Good, classic, always a crowd pleaser!  Russian eggs?  Intriguing, something new, something different.

What makes them Russian?  Easy, it’s the addition of stereotypical ‘Russian’ foods.  Cured and smoked fish, caviar, sour cream and dill.  And, of course, all these ingredients match perfectly with each other.  Stuff them into a deviled egg mix:  something wonderful emerges.

As this is a ‘Chef’s’ blog, my two cents on enhancing the elegance and refinement of the dish:  Make the filling per the recipe below, and stuff the filling in a piping bag (cake decorating bag).  Fit the bag with a star tip, and carefully pipe the filling back into the egg.  Garnish the egg carefully, being sure to keep it simple and elegant.

Russian Eggs

Prep time: 1 hour minutes
Yield: 24 each 1/2 eggs

Ingredients:

12 extra large organic eggs, hard boiled and peeled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp paprika
juice of 1 lemon
kosher salt
ground black pepper
1/4 bunch fresh dill, with a few fronds reserved, medium chop
1/4 lb smoked salmon (as little salt as possible) Scottish locks is best, chopped
1 oz inexpensive domestic caviar

Method:

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and scoop out the yolks.  Gently wash the inside of the eggs and place them cut side down over paper towel, to let drain and dry.  Keep cold.

Put the yolks in a mixing bowl with the mayonnaise, sour cream, dijon mustard, lemon juice, paprika, chopped dill and a little salt and pepper.  Remember the salmon and caviar are both salty, so initially under-seasoning is a good idea.   Mix with a whisk until smooth.  Add the salmon and mix.  The salmon will add a little extra salt.  Taste and re-season if necessary.

Place the mix in a piping bag fitting with a small star tip.  Pipe the mix back into the egg white until generously fill.  The filling should clear the top of the egg by about 1/4 inch.  Carefully garnish each egg with a touch of caviar and a tiny frond of dill.

Serve within a few hours.

Enjoy.

Crisp Duck Breast with Truffle Celery Puree

There are so many variations of classic dishes made from duck.  The most famous?  Hard to say, but Peking duck and Duck a l’orange are clearly outstanding.  There’s Long Island duck, duck confit, duck foie gras, and so on.  Duck is prepared uniquely worldwide, and looking at each region’s specific preparation is a great way to summarize the region’s culinary history.  It’s just one of those things.  It’s like a spokesperson for the area’s food.  Chinese make Peking duck, 100% in their style.  French do duck a l’orange.  Again, 100% French.  And so on.

Duck is also one of those rare delicacies that no ones seems to make at home.  Why is that?  Too fatty?  Always turns out greasy?   Don’t know how to prepare it?  Intimidating?  Not worth the effort?  Who wants to eat duck when chicken is much easier?

All good points.  I agree with each one.

It is a lot of effort, and if done even slightly wrong, will be too fatty.  Chicken is easier.  Who is going to make duck a l’orange or Peking duck at home for dinner?

Do I cook duck on a regular basis at home?  No way.

But, I also don’t eat prime rib roast at home all the time either.  Prime rib roast is also delicious, requires a tremendous amount of work and skill, and is almost always saved for a special occasion.  So why not duck? Once in a while, when the motivation is there, it’s a great change of pace.

Duck breast is not all that hard to cook.  There are three golden rules:

1.  Score the skin.  This allows seasoning to permeate into the meat, and the fat layer to render out.

2.  Start the duck in a cold, un-oiled pan.  With all the natural fat you will render, there is no need for extra.  Beginning in a cold pan gives the fat a chance to completely render before the skin browns and crisps.

3.  Make sure the skin is crisp and completely rendered before you remove it from the pan.  This is accomplished by keeping the breast in the pan, skin side down, for the majority of the cooking time.

Duck is, of course, considered a game bird, and with most game meats, there is no reason or benefit of cooking it well done.  Aside from the skin, the meat itself is dark and lean.  Cooking it well done will leave it tough and dry.  Medium is the ideal temp.

Crisp Duck Breast with Truffle Celery Puree

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Inactive cooking time: 2 hours
Yield: 4 small portions

Ingredients:

2 duck breasts, skin on, trimmed of excess fat
2 medium sized celery roots, washed
3 tbsp white truffle oil
2 tbsp chopped black truffles (canned, they are cheap)
chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
4 tbsp whole unsalted butter, reserve 2
few sprigs fresh thyme
2 shallots, sliced
kosher salt
cracked black pepper

Scored Duck Breast

Method:

Using a very sharp small knife, gently score the skin of the duck breast into an x pattern, making sure not to cut all the way to the meat.  Place in a refrigerator for a couple of hours UNCOVERED.  This dries the skin a little, giving it a better sear later on.

Just prior to cooking the duck breast, you will want to make the puree.  Using a knife, peel the celery root, roughly dice into 1 inch cubes, and place in a medium sized heavy bottom sauce pot.  Add the shallot and cream.  Cover with chicken chicken, add the 2 tbsp butter and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, and simmer, gently, until very tender.  Using a ladle or slotted spoon, remove the celery root from the pot and place in a bar blender.  Ladle a little of the cooking liquid into the blender and puree.  You will need to turn the machine off several times and force the celery root down with the ladle as you do this.  Add more liquid per necessity.  Your final consistency should be that of loose mashed potatoes.  The puree should not be viscous; it should be thick.  Add the butter and, truffle oil and chopped truffles.  Season one more time with salt and pepper.  Keep covered in a warm place.

Cooking the duck breasts properly is remarkably simply.  Remove the duck from the refrigerator, and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.  Place in a COLD, dry, heavy bottom saute pan skin side down.  Put on high heat, and let the duck begin rendering.  As the duck fat renders, turn the heat down to medium.  When the skin becomes golden brown, flip, and sear the other side.  If too much fat accumulates in the pan, you may discard about half.  Continue flipping the breast until both sides are deeply  golden brown.  You will find that you will spend about 75% of the cooking time with the skin side down.  You want the skin to be crisp and fully rendered out.  The temp of the meat, ideally, should be medium.  Remember, duck is a game bird, not chicken.  The breast does not, and should not be cooked well done.

Let the duck rest 5 minutes.  Slice thinly.  Place a large spoonful of the puree on the bottom of a place and fan the duck breast on the very top, in the center.  Serve right away.

This goes best with many sauces, the classic being gastrique.  Bitter cherries, lingonberries, or even red wine sauce go wonderfully with the duck.  The duck itself takes spices well.  The Moroccan spice blend is a great compliment: (http://chefnotebook.blogspot.com/2012/08/moroccan-spice-mix.html).  Sauteed brussel sprouts, glazed carrots, wilted winter greens, pomegranate seeds, and so on all work well with this.

Garnish with either micro celery or a few celery leaves.

Enjoy.

Coronation Chicken

Coronation chicken.  A fancy name for a simple dish.  Originally, it was dish made for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and is a simple mix of cubed cold chicken set in a creamy curry sauce.  Like a wonderful play on curry chicken salad.

Personally, I think it’s delicious and a refreshing change of pace.  This is not ordinary mayonnaise based chicken salad.  Lots of dry spices and raisins give it incredible depth of flavor, almonds give it more personality, and mascarpone cheese adds more creaminess than just mayonnaise alone.  It’s a remarkable dish.

The best mode of consumption, in my opinion, is as a finger sandwich, served on cinnamon raisin bread.  It’s rich and highly seasoned, and not appropriate for an entire sandwich.  As an appetizer or tea sandwich, it’s perfect, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Coronation Chicken

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Inactive cook time:  1 hour
Yield: 3 cups prepared salad

Ingredients:

2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
creole or cajun seasoning
kosher salt
2 slices cinnamon raisin bread
vegetable oil
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp tumeric
1 tbsp curry powder
1/8 cup raisins
2 tbsp toasted slivered almonds
ground black pepper

Method:

Prepare a gas grill.  Make sure the heat is high, grates are clean and well oiled.  Lightly toss the chicken with the vegetable oil, cajun seasoning and kosher salt.  Grill, lightly blackening on each side, until cooked through.  Let cool completely.  Dice chicken into 1/3 in cubes.  Dice the bread into 1/4 in cubes.  Put everything in a large mixing bowl and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add a little more mayonnaise if mix is too dry.  Serve on toasted slices of cinnamon raisin bread, in the fashion of finger sandwiches.

Enjoy.

Turkey Leftovers: Turkey a la King

This is something my mother used to make, and I think we enjoyed it more than Thanksgiving dinner itself.  It answers a great question:  What do you do with all the leftovers?  Typically, I think we either make Thanksgiving dinner part 2, make turkey soup and throw everything in there, try to pawn off as much as you can to anyone you can, or sort of work the leftovers into your dinners over the next few days.  As much as I love turkey soup and the idea of having Thanksgiving two days in a row, my personal favorite is to work the leftovers into your dinners for the next couple days.

Turkey a la King is the best.  I look forward to this all year.

Again, my mother used to make this, and probably still does once in a while.  Primarily, it’s perfect for utilizing the leftover turkey bits, but you can also incorporate some vegetables, and even some starch in there. It’s savory, wholesome, easy to make and completely satisfying.

Some people like to like to turn this into turkey pot pie by stuffing it between sheets of puff pastry, some like to serve over rice, and some like to add a lot of other things in there, like carrots, sour cream, green beans, and so on.  You are the one making this, using your leftovers, so please, improvise and make it your own.  My recipe is very basic, relying on only the fundamentals, done right, to make it delicious:.  Turkey, peas, mushrooms, and a creamy sauce; the basics.

This is not my mother’s recipe.  It’s a touch more refined, but result is the same:  a great way to use leftovers and make a great late fall meal.

Turkey a la King

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield:  4 portions

Ingredients:

All left over turkey meat, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (or shredded); you want about 2 cups of meat
2 cups sliced button or mixed mushrooms (crimini, shitake, oysters, and so on)
1/2 bag frozen peas
1/2 yellow onion, small dice
2 cups milk
1 cup half and half
1 stick organic unsalted butter
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup flour
1 bag Pennsylvania Dutch wide egg noodles
kosher salt
1/2 bunch parsley, rough chop
cracked black pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Method:

In a small heavy bottom sauce pot, gently melt the butter with the onion.  Add the flour, stirring continuously, until all the butter is absorbed and a paste (roux) is formed.   Cook the roux, stirring continuously, for about 2 minutes.  Slowly add the milk, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring after each addition.  As the roux loosens, you may add more milk in greater quantities.  You will want to switch to a light whisk, and begin whisking the sauce.  Add all the milk and half and half, season liberally with salt and pepper, add the nutmeg, and slowly bring to a simmer (high heat will scorch the pot).  It should be thick.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, check the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary, and remove from heat.  This is a bechamel sauce.  Keep warm.

Cook the egg noodles, and drain.  Do not rinse.  Keep warm.

In a large straight side saute pan, saute the mushrooms in the veg oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  When the mushrooms are golden brown, add the turkey meat and peas.  Gently saute until hot.  Pour the bechamel into the pan, lower heat to low, and gently stir everything to incorporate. Make sure it’s hot.  Check and re-season if necessary.

In a large mixing bowl, pour the turkey mix over the egg noodles and mix well.  Add the parsley, and serve right away.

This is best served in front of a roaring fire with your family and friends.

Enjoy

  

Sticky Lemon Chicken with Gremolata

Chicken, lemon, olive oil… what great ingredients!  Capers, lemon, parsley, shallots… another classic mix.  Put the two together, and fireworks in the pan!  This recipe is savory, sweet, a little crispy, and 100% delicious.  The first step takes a few minutes and requires a little patience, but if you’re willing to invest the time (all of 45 minutes), the reward is well worth the wait!

One of the biggest keys to making this successful is ensuring the lemon is cooked through, and ABSOLUTELY no pith (white layer under lemon zest) is incorporated into the dish.  This has a deeply bitter flavor that will permeate and ultimately ruin your dish.  I finish with a gremolata, which is traditionally used to finish deep meat braises (osso busso is the classic).  This adds a bright, piquante and citrus finish, contrasting perfectly with the aromatic and sweet lemon chicken.  It cuts it, adding the wonderful and coveted balance we always need in complex dishes.  

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total cook time: 1 1/2 hours
Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients:

5 lemons plus 1 reserved
2 tbsp capers, drained and rough chop
1 large shallot, fine chop
1/2 bunch parsley, rough chop
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
extra virgin olive oil
vegetable oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup homemade chicken stock
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp corn starch
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1 whole chicken, 16 (chinese style) pieces, or ‘picnic’ style store bough chicken (smaller the pieces, the better)

Method:

Using a zester or sharp vegetable peeler, remove all zest from the lemons, being careful to leave the pith (white part).  Fine chop the zest.  Place all the lemon zest in a small sauce pot with cold water and bring to a boil.  Strain, refresh the zest under cold water, and repeat the blanching process.  Do this three time.  Place the triple blanched zest back in the pot, add the sugar and 1 cup of water.  Bring to a simmer, and simmer until tender, about 1/2 hour.  Let cool to room temp and reserve.

Zest the reserved lemon with a micro-plane and chop until very finely chopped.  Mix the parsley, capers and shallot with the lemon zest.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper and a about 1 tsp of olive oil.  This is a gremolata, and will be used to finish the chicken.

Season the chicken with paprika, salt, pepper, corn starch and a little olive oil.  In a heavy bottomed saute pan, gently brown all sides of the chicken in vegetable oil.  Remove the chicken from the pan and let drain on paper towels.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any baked on bits.  Let the wine evaporate almost completely.  Add the stock and reduce by half.  There should be only a small amount of liquid left in the pan now.  Put the chicken back in the pan and about 1/3 of the reserved lemon zest and syrup.  Squeeze a small amount of fresh lemon juice into the pan to add brightness.  Let cook until sticky and slightly caramelized.  Turn heat off, add 1/2 of the caper mix (gremolata), toss well to incorporate, and place chicken on a platter.  Drizzle a little more candied lemon over the top along with the rest of the caper mix.

Serve right away.

I love this chicken with sauteed mushrooms, grilled vegetables, and steamed rice pilaf.

Enjoy

Cranberry Sauce

It’s time to begin some Thanksgiving posts.  Turkey, stuffing… some of these great things have already been covered, and I will compile them all by the end.  But one that seems to get ‘lost’ is always the cranberry sauce.  How easy is it to open an Oceanspray can of cranberry jelly and move on?  And how delicious is that?  I love Oceanspray cranberry jelly. Cranberries are incredible.  Tart, sweet, New England through and through, tough to cook, but sooo good when done right.

It is my opinion that when cranberries are cooked, they can be extremely tart, overly sweet, and have either the consistency of mush or sort of a sloppy chutney.  I will be the first to admit, they’re tough to cook.  So rule 1:  Keep it Simple!!!  Do not try to mix in nuts, apples, all kinds of spices, seasonings, puree them, strain them, blanch them, and so on.  In fact, with the exception of a few critical steps, less is better.

This is my version of cranberry sauce, and it’s more like a cranberry compote.  It’s thick, robust, well balanced, and has the consistency of chunky apple sauce.

Cranberry sauce

Prep time: 1 minute
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

1 package fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 large navel orange
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch kosher salt

Method:

Place all the cranberries in the bowl of a food processor.  Process as fine as possible.  Put the cranberries in a small heavy bottom sauce pot and add sugar and cinnamon stick.  Cut the orange in half and squeeze all the juice into the pot.  Add water until almost covered, but not quite.  Add the salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, and cook until very thick.

Let cool slightly and serve right away.

A little apple cider will also work well in this.  The key is to cook slowly, making sure not to burn the bottom.

Enjoy

Streusel and Walnut Stuffed Baked Apples

For me, a baked apple is a cross between apple streusel and apple pie.  Succulent, highly fragrant, sweet, and completely focused on the apple.  Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves… all things perfect with apples.

What makes mine different than others?  I incorporate a buttery crumbly struesel stuffing in the cavity where the core was.  When roasted, the juice from the apple mixes with the filling, and the sweet buttery filling mixes with the apple.  It’s absolutely delicious.  Add a few walnuts and you have the perfect dessert.  I also bake the apples with a little bit of cider to add extra flavor and a moist cooking method at the base.

Your choice of apples is easy.  Local apples, grown for baking are best.  McIntosh, jonamac, rome, and so on are best.  Stay away from very crunchy or excessively tart apples.  Would want something with higher sugar content, and keep the apples small.  They cook faster and minimize the ‘rubbery’ texture overcooking will do to the skin.

This recipe is perfect for any dinner party, gathering, or just to have.  You can prepare these a day in advance, they only take a few minutes each, and will leave everyone feeling good!

Streusel and Walnut Stuffed Baked Apples

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients:

4 small cortland, rome, McIntosh or other good baking apple
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
dash of ground clove
dash of ground allspice
1 tbsp water
2 sticks organic unsalted butter, room temp
2 lemons, cut in half
2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
4 tsp butter, reserved

Method:

Mix the sugar, flour, dry spices, water and softened butter together until crumbly.  Gently work in the walnuts.  Let cool slightly in the fridge.

Heat an oven to 350.

Using an apple corer, remove the core from the apples.  Gently pierce the inside of each apple with a pairing knife multiple times.  This lets the juice run into the middle, and seasoning to permeate into the apple.  Rub the inside of each with lemon, slightly squeezing to lightly coat with juice.  Tightly pack the middle of each apple with the filling.  Place them on a greased baking sheet and top each one with 1 tsp of the reserved butter.   Pour the cider in the pan around the apples.

Roast until soft in the middle and lightly browned on top, about 45 minutes.  Let cool slightly and serve right away.

Of course this is best with vanilla French style ice cream.

Enjoy.