Peach Cobbler

Summer peaches are such a treat, that why would we ever consider doing anything with them except eat

them the way nature intended?  It’s a good question, and I think the answer is that someone came up with the idea of peach cobbler.  Who ever this person is, is clearly a genius, and should have probably been given a noble prize.  The great thing about a peach cobbler, is that it doesn’t hide the natural flavor of peaches, it accentuates them.  And then add a ‘biscuit’ topping.  And then sets the whole thing in a naturally flavored vanilla and peach syrup.  It could be one of the best summer desserts, and that’s saying a lot.

Peach cobbler is an easy dish to make, but does, unfortunately, required a bit of work.  You can’t take shortcuts on this, it won’t turn out right.  And don’t even think of using frozen or canned peaches.  The time consuming portion is the process of blanching, peeling and slicing the peaches.  It’s necessary to remove the skins.  But trust me, the results are worth every minute of work.

The biscuit is a simple recipe, and you can of course substitute my recipe for your own.  Some call for buttermilk biscuits.  I love buttermilk in most baking applications, but in this case, because the biscuits are cooking in the peach (and peach syrup), they don’t need ‘extra’ flavor.  Being very simple works in their favor.  They need to absorb and compliment the peach flavor.

It’s a southern classic, and classics are classic for a reason.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Peach cobbler

Prep time:  30 minutes
Cook time:  25 minutes
Yield:  6-8 portions

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp light brown sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, kept very cold
2/3 cup whole milk
8 ripe summer peaches
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Have an ice bath ready.  Using a pairing knife, score an x on the bottom of each peach.  Drop the peaches into the water and cook for about 30 seconds, or until the peals begin to loosen.  Using a slotted spoon or chinese spider, remove the peaches from the water and submerge them into the ice bath.  When cool, peel and slice the peaches.

Place the sliced peaches in a medium sized sauce pot and add the cup of granulated sugar.  Add about 1 cup of water and the vanilla extract and cook over medium to medium low heat for 10 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Using your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until pea sized clumps emerge.  Add the milk and stir until incorporated, but not smooth.  Do not over work.

Heat your oven to 425.  Grease a shallow baking dish.  Pour the sliced peaches and their syrup into the dish.  Spoon the dough over the top.  Evenly sprinkle the top with the cinnamon.  Bake until golden brown on top, about 20 minutes.

Best served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Enjoy.

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Turkey Burgers

I absolutely love turkey burgers.  Nine times out of ten, I will choose a turkey burger over a beef burger, and

I cannot begin to describe my disappointment when a turkey burger is poorly made.  Poorly made would be dry and under seasoned.  The two cardinal burger sins.  And let’s face it, a good turkey burger is tough to make.  Turkey meat is a very lean meat, and has a tendency to quickly dry out.  If you simply form a patty out of turkey meat, season it and cook it, you’re going to have a dry burger.

To produce a great turkey burger, you need to add fat to the meat and find a way to retain it there through the cooking process.  You choose the fat.  You choose the seasoning.  You have to add something, but the control is in your hands.  The richer the fat, the better the flavor.  Of course, it only needs a little fat.  The key is adding a ton of flavor and enough of a binder to hold the fat.  As long as the fat is held, you only need a little.

Following my recipe will not only give you the best turkey burger I’ve ever had, but will also give you the guidelines to customize your own.  Maybe you prefer more spice?  Maybe you’d like to add some fresh herbs?  Maybe you just want a great turkey burger.  It’s all I want.  Try this recipe.

Turkey Burgers

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield:  4 large burgers

Ingredients:

2 lb ground turkey meat
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp kosher salt
dash of siracha
1/4 yellow onion, grated or fine chop
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

Method:

Place everything in a mixing bowl except the bread crumbs.  Mix extremely well using your hands.  Make sure to work the pieces of butter into the mix.  At the breadcrumbs a little at a time.  The mix should be wet, but still holds together when you form patties.

Lay down a sheet of plastic wrap and place a ball of mix in the center.  Form the ball into a rough patty and loosely wrap with the plastic.  Using the plastic as a tool, gently work the mix into a circular flat patty.

In a saute pan, slowly cook the burgers in a little vegetable oil until evenly and slightly dark brown on one side.  Flip and continue to cook until both sides are evenly browned.  Remove from the pan and let rest for 1 minute.  Serve.

Best with a summer tomato salad, or on grilled bread or rolls with whole grain mustard or saffron aioli.

Enjoy.

The quest for the perfect roast chicken. Spanish Chicken with White Bean and Chorizo Stuffing.

As some of you may know, for the last 10 yrs, I have been on the quest for the perfectly roasted chicken.  I

can’t even begin to tell you how many birds I’ve cooked during this time, many to prove as failures.  But, similar to many great achievements over history, a failure is a lesson learned, not the end of the game.  The quest for perfection is a noble endeavor, and it implies one certain thing:  You will never achieve perfection.  It doesn’t exist.  But we try, and thus is the quest.  The pursuit to better oneself or in this case, one’s achievement.  This is a very deep and introverted monologue, especially in lieu of that fact that this blog is about a roast chicken.  Comical.  But it pertains to the greater scheme of things, and in cooking, especially high end restaurant cooking, or home cooking where a lot of passion resides, it’s important to keep yourself aligned.  Never loose faith in what you’re doing, and never give up.  Perfection does not exist.  But the journey is worth more than its weight in gold.

Back to topic.  Roast chicken.  I’ve always been under the impression that a ‘roast’ chicken needs to be roasted.  Obvious?  Roasting is a technique.  It’s a dry heat cooking technique.  Dry heat implies zero or as little liquid as possible.  Liquid plus heat equals steam.  Steaming.  A different technique altogether.  Okay, I think we’re on to something now.  So every time I’ve roasted a chicken, I’ve trying to minimize the liquid content.  Or produce some sort of barrier.  Like butter.  I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts to dry the chicken thoroughly.  Ensure to not add a lot of vegetables or citrus that will in turn produce steam.  Rub butter under the skin to create a barrier.  And I must say, I’ve made some excellent roast chickens over the years.

But let’s re-cap on what we want.  What is our desire?  What should the final product be like?  You can’t reach a goal if you can’t define a goal.  So in short, I want the chicken to be juicy, flavorful, cooked perfectly, tender, and I want the skin to be dark, crisp, and slightly salty.  It’s a tall order, but it’s what I want.

I have recently tried a ‘new’ method of roasting the chicken, which is really more like steaming, or ‘braising’ that absolutely blew my mind.  It’s hands down the best roast chicken I have ever made, and it’s simple!  Ten years and probably thousands of chickens and the answer was right in front of me all the time.  Spanish chicken… Yes.  Check out this recipe, and if you don’t produce the best roast chicken you’ve ever had, then I want your recipe!

Spanish Roast Chicken with White Bean Stuffing

Prep time:  30 min
Cook time:  2 hours
Inactive Cook time:  20 min
Yield:  4 small portions

Ingredients:

For the stuffing:

1 can white beans, drained
2 links cooked/smoked Spanish chorizo sausage, thin cut into disks
1/2 yellow onion, small dice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup prepared chicken stock
1/4 cup half and half
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only, rough chop
1 egg
1 tbsp spanish paprika
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
ground black pepper

For the Chicken:

1 4-6lb chicken, patted dry inside and out
1 yellow onion, sliced
kosher salt
ground black pepper
2 tbsp spanish paprika
extra virgin olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only, rough chop
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup prepared chicken stock

Method:

For the stuffing:

In a medium sized straight side saute pan, begin sauteing the chorizo in the olive oil.  As the chorizo renders and begins to color, add the onion and saute until translucent.  Add the beans and white wine and bring to a boil.  Cook until most of the wine is evaporated and the beans are thick.  Add the chicken stock, paprika and thyme.  Cook again until thick.  Add the half and half and cook until thick.  Remove from heat and transfer the mix to a mixing bowl.  Let cool slightly.  Add the egg and work in until completely mixed.  Your stuffing is ready.

For the chicken:

Heat your oven to 400.  Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.  Stuff it and truss it tightly.  If you are not comfortable with this, just tie the legs together with twine as tight as possible, to keep the stuffing inside.  Now rub the chicken on all sides with the olive oil.  Liberally salt, pepper and sprinkle the chicken with paprika.  Sprinkle the top with the thyme.  Place the sliced onions in a large straight side saute pan or small roasting pan.  Place the chicken on top of the onions and pour the wine and chicken stock into the pan.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and cook in the over for 1 hour.  Remove the foil, turn the oven down to 350 and cook for one more hour.  Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest.  Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes on a cutting board so you can reduce the pan jus.  Carve the chicken, remove the stuffing, and spoon the sauce (jus) over the top.  Serve right away.

Enjoy.

American Chop Suey

This is a lovely, feel-good, easy to make, crowd pleaser of a meal.  American chop suey is basically pasta,

normally elbows, cooked in a thick tomato based sauce with peppers, onions and beef.  I love to substitute the elbows with cavatappi, which is more like a spiral tube pasta with ridges on the sides.  The shape and texture work so well, and really stand out with dishes like American chop suey.  Other that that, my version is about as classic as you can get.  Why change a classic?  But what makes mine ‘special’?  I’ve found that cooking the sauce with tomato soup instead of stewed or diced tomatoes lends a better, heartier flavor.  Otherwise the difference is in the details.  Make sure to brown the beef until almost crisp.  Slightly reduce the sauce until its perfect.  Make sure the pasta is in fact al dente.

This recipe is truly a trip into classic American cuisine.  It’s wonderful.  We, as professional chefs, absolutely love it.  We love anything that’s so easy, fast to make and yet pleases so many people.  We, like the rest of the country, love American chop suey.

American Chop Suey

Prep time:  5 minutes
Cook time:  15 minutes
Yield:  4-5 portions

Ingredients:

2 lb Cavatappi (or elbow macaroni)
2 lb ground chuck (85%)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small green pepper, small dice
1 small red pepper, small dice
1 small yellow onion, small dice
1 bunch green onion, thin cut
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups prepared tomato soup (campbells is best)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp italian seasoning
1 tbsp chili powder
kosher salt
black pepper

Method:

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain well.  In a large heavy bottom saute pan, begin browning the ground beef in the oil.  Take the time to thoroughly brown, breaking it up as it cooks.  Carefully drain the excess fat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the onion and peppers and continue to sauce until the vegetables become tender and translucent.  Turn the heat down to medium and add the tomato paste and dry spices.  Mix well.  Add the tomato soup mix well.  Let thicken, which will happen quickly, and reseason with salt and pepper.  Add the cooked cavatappi, green onions and parmesan cheese.  Serve piping hot.

Enjoy.

French Yogurt Cake with Lemon and Blueberries

What goes well together?  What works?  How do we decide?  Classic pairings:  classic for a reason.  Nature tells us a lot- it is grows together, it

goes together… seasons giving us their best.  But we also have pairings that work simply because they’re delicious.  One of these classic pairings is blueberries and lemon.  Oh, what a combination!  Fresh summer Maine blueberries mixed with a little lemon zest has massive natural flavor.  It’s food synergy.  It’s magic. Once again I feel like I’m in New England in the summer time.  Going to Maine on vacation, picking up fresh lobsters and corn for dinner, sun drenched blueberries right from the farm, peaches, strawberries… These foods are perfect just the way they are.  They need very little manipulation.  A lot of people love to take summer produce at its peak of perfection, and preserve them, to enjoy them all year.  Making a beautiful and simple cake works.  Jams, jellies, preserves, tomato sauces… the same idea, but the idea is to capture the essence of these ingredients.  This cake holds the flavor of blueberries, surrounded by a lovely lemony delicate filling.  It’s perfect.

However-

This recipe is not mine.  I did not invent it, and only take credit for the addition of blueberries, which I think ‘make the dish’.  I found this recipe in a magazine, gave it a try, and loved it right away.  This is a wonderful play on classic French loaf cake, or pound cake.  A couple of things make this cake unique and uniquely delicious.  First, obviously, it incorporates the great combination of blueberries and lemon.  Second, we use Greek yogurt instead of milk or buttermilk.  When I bake, I love utilizing and accentuating natural flavors, and using cultured ingredients, like buttermilk or yogurt, add such wonderful flavors.  It really puts the dish over the top.

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook time:  1 hour
Yield:  8 servings

Ingredients:

Pan spray
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour + 1 tbsp for dusting
2 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 tbsp finely chopped lemon zest
3/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large organic eggs
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Heat an oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a standard loaf pan (8 1/2 x 4 1/2) with the pan spray.  Dust the loaf pan with flour, making sure to lightly coat all sides.  Invert and gently tap out excess flour.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In another large bowl, mix the sugar and lemon zest together with your finger.  Make sure to rub the sugar into the lemon.  The sugar should become slightly moist.  Whisk the yogurt, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract into the lemon sugar.  Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Do not overwork.   Gently fold in the blueberries.  Pour the batter into the load pan, smooth the top and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the toothpick test comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then turn on to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely.

Slice and serve with fresh whipped cream.

Enjoy.

Easy Spanish Chicken Marinade

Spanish food is wonderful.  Incredible little tapas, fresh seafood grilled with olive oil, bean stews, and just

wonderful simple dishes.  Tapas have been the rage for a while, and for good reason.  Currently, some of the best food in the world is coming from Spain.  And, in my opinion, the reason is two-fold:  First, their culinary traditions and flavors are phenomenal, and second, the products indigenous to Spain are excellent.  We love their flavors.  Deep and sweet paprikas, fresh seafood, olives, Mediterranean cured pork… the list goes on.

This marinade, like so many Spanish dishes, is easy.  It relies on natural flavors and ingredients combined correctly.  And most importantly, every can be found at any grocery store, and production takes less than 5 minutes.  Skill level:  easy.  Flavor level:  off the charts.

Easy Spanish Chicken Marinade

Prep time: 3 Minutes
Yield:  1/2 cup

Ingredients:

1 tbsp dijon style mustard
2 tbsp sweet Spanish paprika
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp mixed herbs (fresh chopped or dry)
2 tbsp Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tbsp honey

Method:

Mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.  Add your chicken and work the marinade into the meat.  Let sit, covered, at room temperature for about 1 hour.  Salt lightly with kosher salt and grill.

Enjoy