Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sweet Potato and Andouille Soup

Creamy sweet potato and smoky andouille give this soup an unexpected sweet and savory flavor combination. This soup also gains a wonderful texture from the addition heavy cream.


3 tablespoon of butter
1 medium onion diced
3 stalk of celery diced
3 cups of sweet potatoes diced
4 cups of vegetable broth or water
1 1/2 andouille sausage diced
1 cup of diced sweet potato
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon white pepper
2 cups of heavy cream
Salt to taste

Melt butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add onion and celery and fry for 3 minutes until soft stirring occasionally. Add 2 1/2 cups of the sweet potatoes to the onion mixture and cover. Cook over low heat for additional 5 minutes. Add the broth and simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Heat another large sauté pan over medium heat, add andouille sausage and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove Andouille sausage from the pan. Pour off all but 2 tbsp of oil, add the remaining 1/2 cup of sweet potatoes and continue cooking for 3 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent burning and ensure even browning. Remove sweet potato mixture from the pan to a plate lined with paper towels. Remove soup from pan and place in a blender or food processor in batches. Blend until smooth, return to the pan add the lemon juice, cinnamon, cayenne, white pepper and heavy cream. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Recheck the seasoning, ladle into bowls and garnish with the sausage and sweet potato mixture and serve.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jerk Fish with Grilled Ratatouille Salad

I was in the mood for the flavors of the Caribbean, notably I wanted some jerk. Jerking is a style of cooking native to Jamaica where meat is dry rubbed or marinated in a wet marinade made of a fiery mix of spices. The two main flavor profile that are present are allspice and scotch bonnet peppers. But I didn't feel like firing up my grill. So I grabbed my grill pan some of my jerk seasoning and got to work. To help balance out the meal I put it together with a Grilled Ratatouille Salad. I seasoned the salad with fresh garlic, herbs and balsamic dressing.

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

3/4 c. balsamic vinegar dressing
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 medium eggplant cut in half
2 large red peppers cut in half
2 medium-sized zucchini cut in half
2 medium-sized squash cut in half
1 medium red onion cut in half
3 plum tomatoes cut in half
1 whole jalapeno
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Sea salt

If you are using an outdoor grill allow for your grill to heat for about 10 minutes, if you are using a grill pan allow to heat up for 5-7 minutes. Place all the vegetables with the exception of the basil, sea salt and cracked pepper in a large bowl or shallow baking dish. Pour balsamic dressing and garlic over the vegetables and  allow to marinate for ten minutes before grilling. Start in batches by places vegetables on the grill pan or outdoor grill for 3 minutes at 45 degree angle. After the allotted time turn in the opposite direction for another 2 minutes. Flip the vegetable over and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. You don't want the vegetables to be soggy when you finish they should still have some bite to them. Remove and place grilled vegetables on a sheet pan, repeat the process until all the vegetables are cooked. Place the vegetables on a cutting board and cit into 1 inch by 1 inch pieces (1 by 1). Drizzle any extra marinade atop of the vegetables and season with salt and sprinkle with basil. Keep warm on the side.

Jerk Marinade

1/2 cup malt vinegar (or white vinegar)
2 Tbsp dark rum
2 Scotch bonnet peppers (or habaneros), with seeds, chopped
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 red onion, chopped
4 green onion tops, chopped
4 teaspoons of minced garlic
1 Tbsp dried thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 tsp ground allspice
4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp molasses
4 (4 oz) tilapia fillets or other firm white fish.
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
3-4 Tbsp canola oil

Pre-heat the oven to the broiler setting for about 5 minutes. Combine everything except the fish in a blender and process until smooth, pour into a resealable container and set aside for later use. Jerk marinade can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month. Heat a pan large oven-proof enough to accommodate all four pieces of the fish over medium high heat, season one side of the fish with sea salt and pepper. Pour oil into hot pan and immediately start cooking the fish, cook for approximately 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and brush on jerk marinade. Place the pan in the oven close to the heat source for about 2-3 minutes. The amount of time will depend on what type of fish you use. Remove fish from the oven it should flake easily when slightly pulled apart. Mound Grilled Ratatouille Salad in the center of the plate, top with the Jerk Fish and serve with any extra juices collected from the grilled salad as a finishing sauce.Search Amazon.com for Walkerswood

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Classic French Cooking Technique-Braisng

A classic cooking technique, by definition braising is technique where food is browned in and then simmered in a small amount of liquid over a long period of time.
This method of cooking is exactly what tougher cuts of meat like chuck roasts and briskets also the more fibrous vegetables such as celery, carrots and leeks are all candidates for the braise.
Braising is often thought of as a winter preparation due to the colder temperatures and the need food to provide sustenance. Also the addition of extra heat in the kitchen in the dead of winter is also a welcome surprise. It may have also been born out of necessity. Winter harvest includes such staples as carrot, onions, leeks and corn which in some cases provide the base of the braising liquid. And meals definitely had to have that "Stick to Ribs" factor.
But with the advent of greater transportation and freezing development along with farming techniques these formerly winter staples can be bought fresh or frozen. Now I don't prescribe to the notion that food should only be braised in the dead of winter, when I feel like I want short ribs I want short ribs. I don't need to wait until the weather changes. And now day’s tougher cuts of meat are back in fashion in many restaurants. So I say crank up the air conditioner and bring out the casserole and braise.
The process of conduction (the transfer of heat from a liquid) and convection (the transfer of heat from the air to the food), braising is a moist heat cooking method that can be thought of as a combination method of preparing tougher cuts of meat. The meat is first browned (sautéed) in fat to develop some character and a crust to lock in juices and flavor of the meat. It is then transferred to a casserole or a large pot with a tight fitting lid to prevent the evaporation and stop steam from escaping.
Liquid is added to a depth of 1-2 inches depending on the casserole and the meat being prepared. At this point aromatics are added to the pot. It can be cooked on the stove top over medium heat low heat or in a medium oven set to 325- 350 degrees. Braising in the oven offers a more consistent heat control than the stove top, which only heats from the bottom while oven cooking provides heat all over. Heat from the oven can also be maintained easier, with less attention than on the stove top.
Classic French braising calls for the vegetables to be added for there aromatic qualities they impart on the meat but are not served with the final product. Fresh vegetables are added close to the end of the cooking time to maintain there flavor and texture.
In most cases the cooking liquid is used as the finishing sauce for the meal. The vegetables are strained off and in some case thickened with a roux, cream or even butter. The simple art of braising can be further broken down into more subcategories and more methods. Brown braising or sautéing food prior to the braising where the food is browned beforehand and dark ingredients such as brown stock or other red meat, or red wine are used. Or white braising where the food is blanched refreshed and cooked in a white liquid such as white stock. Choice of aromatics, herbs or vegetables, even braising liquids has changed little. The basic preparation and method is the same, despite various options.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fish à la Meunière

Sometimes a recipe can be referred to as timeless or a classic. Those recipes are the ones that can stand the test of time and remain relevant in an ever changing world of culinary gymnastics and gastronomy overload. Few recipes speak to that notion like Fish à la Meuniére a standard in a French culinary kitchens, it is usually prepared with flounder here in the states. A true and authentic European Meunière is made with Dover sole and the whole fish is prepared and sautéed tableside and de-boned by the waiter. But since my wife won’t let me buy a portable Waring Pro SB30 1300 watt portable single burner to bring that French experience to our home I guess I will have to make due with the stove. You know you can also flambé in those things, can you imagine going to a soccer game for your kids and whipping out your Waring Pro SB30 1300 watt portable single burner and hooking up some Crepe Suzette……..have you ever had Crepe Suzette! Oh the humanity, but I shall soldier on I suppose. I guess burning down the house and destroying all of our personal possessions out weighs the option of transforming our kitchen into a French/ Persian Bistro. As we all know the Waring Pro SB30 1300 watt portable single burner is powerful!
The sauce consists of a few simple ingredients butter, lemon and parsley but for my version I am doing mine Creole style.
4 (6oz) portions of fish any firm white fish (tilapia, cod, haddock or flounder)
1/2 cup flour for dredging
½ cup butter separated
½ cups of stock (preferably. fish stock)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoon Worcestshire sauce
1 lemon juiced
Few dashes of Tabasco
¼ cup fresh parsley chopped

Place flour in a large pan or shallow baking dish, season fish lightly with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat until the butter in frothy. Add the fillets to your pan and cook for approximately 5 minutes per side until golden brown. Remove the fillets from the pan and reserve on plate, cook the remaining fillets adding more butter if necessary. Keep the pan set to medium high heat and add the remaining ingredients except the butter to the pan and whisk or shake the pan to combine ingredients. Once those are added start adding the butter a little at a time and continue to whisk to prevent the butter from breaking (separating) in the sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning and serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Collard Green Wontons

My mother is what I would like think of as a southern belle; well at least she is my southern belle. My meals were mostly based and steeped in southern tradition, fried chicken, greens and black eyed peas are a part of my fondest memories of my mother. She prepared all the meals from scratch, I can still smell her homemade biscuits and the gravy she made from flour and oil and drippings (a roux for the novices out there). Now I think of myself as a capable and rather good cook, but I could never duplicate her greens. Try as I have I could never do it, until one day when my (I hate cooking) wife made a pot of joy. I was overwhelmed with emotions ranging from anger for holding out to joy for throwing down like my mother. With the first bite I closed my eyes and was back at home sitting in the kitchen sopping up the pot liquor with some biscuits or cornbread (let me say from SCRATCH no box mixes here). But I digress I wanted a recipe that could only be compared to some soul in a tiny package resembling a triangle to bring me back to simpler time in my life. OK well not exactly........look here is the recipe!

Oil for frying
5 tbsp oil
1 medium sweet potato peeled and diced
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
3 slices of turkey bacon diced
1 medium onion diced(about a half a cup)
1 tbsp minced garlic
pinch crushed red peppers
8 oz frozen collard greens(thawed and excessive water squeezed out)
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tsp hot sauce
1/2 cup cooked chicken diced(leftover chicken is fine)
corn starch for dusting
25 won ton wrappers/skins
oil for frying

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large sauce pan on medium high heat add about 2 tablespoon of oil. Immediately add the sweet potatoes and sauté for approx 4-5 minutes stirring constantly, add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the skillet in the oven to roast for an additional 10 minutes. Heat another skillet over medium high heat; add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the bacon and sauté until crisp about 2 to 5 minutes. Add the onions and continue to sauté for an additional 3 minutes until the onions are translucent. Place the garlic and the crushed red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant. At this point if needed you can add more oil if necessary, add the collard greens to the skillet and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the broth and the hot sauce and allow the collards to soak up the broth. The mixture should be relatively dry when complete. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and allow cooling completely. Mix the chicken and the sweet potatoes in with the collards and allow cooling on a plate or a serving tray. Either use a sheet pan or large and flat serving tray covered with wax paper or parchment. Dust it with corn starch to prevent the won-tons from sticking to the tray. Work with no more than 4 to 5 won-ton wrappers at a time to prevent the rest from drying out, cover them with a damp kitchen cloth. Place the won-ton sheets on a cutting board with the point facing you, take a half of a teaspoon full and place in the center of the won-ton. Using either your finger or a small pastry brush wet one half of the won-ton starting at the top and to each side with water. Pickup the won-ton and fold it over to make a triangle, make sure to seal and press out all the air bubbles. Dust the sheet pan with corn starch and place the completed won-tons on the tray and repeat with remaining won-tons. Place oil in a large frying pan and heat to medium heat, when the oil is at temperature add the won-tons. They should take about a minutes per side flip them to ensure even cooking. They should be golden brown. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Honey, Soy and Garlic Broiled Tilapia

I would like to think I eat healthy every single day but that is a pipe dream that I will save for another time. My hope in creating and developing this recipe was a very easy and quick preparation of fish with some Asian flavors that I love. Now my desire would be to create healthy food done fast, but sometimes my focus can lead down the path of fast food right now! Hey I never said I was perfect.

2 cloves of garlic minced
2 scallions (green onions) sliced
1 tsp crushed red peppers
2 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp honey
1 lb of Tilapia or any other firm white fish
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro for garnish

Pre-heat the broiler, arrange the rack to be 4-5 inches from the broiler element (for stoves with the broiler at waist level). Place the tilapia in a Ziploc bag or ceramic dish large enough to accommodate all the fish in a single layer. Combine all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk until well combined. Add half the mixture to the fish and marinate for an hour, reserve the rest for later. Line a sheet pan with tin foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Remove the fish from the marinade and place on the sheet pan skin side down. Broil in the oven for 6-10 minutes until the fish flakes easily. Remove form the oven drizzle with the remaining sauce and top with cilantro and serve.
This dish took about an hour and half from start to finish due to the fact that it had to marinate for an hour. I served it with noodles and mixed vegetables to round out the meal. That is four servings at $1.75 per serving.