Shirley King’s Seafood Strudel

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Shirley was one of my favorite people. Outspoken, opinionated, strong willed, vulnerable, and honest as the day was long, she also happened to be a brilliant chef, and authored several books on fish. It was at a dinner party in her home that I first became friends with the Batterberrys of Food Arts Magazine, where I first saw the recipe. It was intended to be served in 1 inch slices as an appetizer on a bed of fried leeks, but I love it so much I serve it as the main course, accompanied by a salad. The incredibly light and crisp pastry wrapped around the creamy seafood filling is, quite simply, divine.

The first time I made the recipe, I was able to get the specified fresh phyllo (fillo) which made it much faster to prepare. But since I have a hearty dislike for the frozen variety, which usually goes through a few freeze-thaw experiences causing the thin sheets to stick together, I now make it with strudel dough. The recipe is in “The Pie and Pastry Bible” (you will need to double the recipe to make the two seafood rolls) and I am including a few step-by-step photos herewith. It is the most magical dough and an exhilarating experience to start with a ball of dough the size of your fist and then stretch it to around 48 inches.

Special Tip: phyllo and strudel work best in warm and humid conditions, making this an ideal recipe for summer.

If you’d like to see a video of pulling strudel click below.

Makes: 6 servings

·       85 grams 3 oz. unsalted butter

·       80 grams/10 1/2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour

·       1/3 cup dry white wine

·       116 grams/1/2 cup heavy cream

·       363 grams 1 1/2 cups whole milk

·       salt

·       black pepper, freshly ground

·       227 grams 1/2 lb. fresh bay or sea scallops, side muscle removed, diced

·       2 Tbsps. canola oil

·       227 grams 1/2 lb. med. shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into 1/2" pieces

·       454 grams/1 lb. fresh or pasteurized lump crabmeat, picked over twice for cartilage

·       1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

·       1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

·       pinch of cayenne

·       14 sheets packaged phyllo dough

·       73 grams/6 tablespoons clarified unsalted butter

1.     Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat; stir in flour until smooth; reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes (stir as needed.)

2.    Whisk in wine, cream and milk until thickened; simmer gently 5 minutes.

3.    Remove from heat; strain through fine sieve; season; reserve.

4.    Sauté scallops in the 2 Tbsps. oil over high heat 1 minute; add shrimp; sauté 2 minutes; transfer with slotted spoon to reserved sauce.

5.    Stir in crabmeat, dill, lemon juice and cayenne; cool.

6.    Unroll phyllo; stack 7 sheets—brush each with clarified butter before covering with next; cover with damp cloth; reserve.

7.    Repeat process with remaining 7 sheets.

8.    Spoon half of seafood mix onto 1 short end of first layered phyllo rectangle; roll; brush with clarified butter; refrigerate; repeat process with remaining seafood and phyllo rectangle; chill 30 minutes to 1 hour.

9.    Heat oven to 400˚ F/200˚C.

10.  Make 3 1 inch long steam vents into the top of each strudel. Transfer to baking sheet; bake until golden (about 20 to 30 minutes); remove from oven; cool 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Note: After about 15 minutes of baking, if the ends of the strudel roll start browning too quickly, tent them with aluminum foil.

A New York Squabble

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first published February 1995, for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I was reminded of this story when driving on route 80 last week and held up for about 40 minutes due to construction. It was so great to be able to text my friend whom I was meeting to tell him we would be late. There was a time I dreamed of such a possibility but it was long before cell phones. I am including at the very end, my letter to the editor responding to his queries. When I was growing up in New York City, a cab ride was considered an indulgence and a luxury reserved for special occasions. Since those early years, my attitude has shifted gradually from awe to concern as to whether a taxi would be available when I need it and ultimately to concern as to whether I would survive the ride.

Although I feel I've come close to collision on numerous occasions, it's actually happened only once. Of course the driver immediately assured me that it was the other cabby's fault for stopping short and of course, though I am well-acquainted with the rules of the road which unequivocally state that the driver whose car hits the other is at fault, I murmured something sympathetic and wisely said nothing.

When I'm at the wheel of our car and get anywhere near a cab, I am tensed to expect any variety of erratic moves. But what happened a few weeks ago on a cab ride to the Port Authority Bus Terminal was beyond my wildest expectations. When I described it to my brother Michael (who escaped to California over 20 years ago) expecting concern and sympathy, he laughed instead and said "that is so New York!" I hadn't even thought to look at it that way.

I had been on my way to catch a bus to New Jersey where my parents were waiting at the bus stop in the town, to pick me up and drive 20 minutes to our house where I was planning to prepare a sumptuous dinner of boned, stuffed squab. I was traveling light. The three squab were tucked into my portable freezer bag and the only other things being transported were my purse and the manuscript of my current cookbook. I had been planning to walk to the Port Authority but was running a little late so decided to grab a cab. From the very moment I closed the door and the driver lurched into gear I sensed trouble. The driver had an "attitude." His anger, aggression and desire to engage in conflict was palpable, both from his driving, the set of his head and even his sporadic breathing.

Only a few blocks later he proceeded to cut off another cabby who seized the bait by cutting us off at the very next opportunity. One block later my cabby stopped at a light, pulling up too close for comfort to the other cab. My eyes opened wide with astonishment as he opened the right window, leaned over, shook the bottle of soda he had been drinking, removed his large thumb from the opening and pointing it like a weapon at the other cabby's open window, sprayed him in the face. The light turned green, and now the other cabby made his move. He took some hard object, crashed it against our rear view mirror, breaking it to smithereens and then, taking advantage of the momentary shock of my cabby, accelerated rapidly, cutting in front of us and making a left turn into a side street. Without hesitation, my cabby followed him. "Let me out!" I pleaded desperately. "I'm going to miss my bus." "No!" he said in a reasonable but firm voice, "I have to get him, he broke my mirror." He was deaf to any further pleas as we grew further from the bus terminal I imagined myself missing the bus and my poor parents having no idea what to do. At the next light he left the cab, ran to the driver's window of the other cab, punched the driver in the face and raced back to our cab. The other driver left his cab and came up to us. He was very handsome and he smiled at me utterly without hostility before smashing in the back window.

My driver got out again to pursue the other one and, my adrenaline racing, I grabbed my purse, manuscript and squabs and took off like a shot, in silent gratitude for my stretch jeans and Reeboks. A drunk standing by observing the whole scene cheered me on with "baby, I don't blame you." I opened my mouth to thank him for the moral support and then decided to reserve all my energy for the flight. I never looked back but I'm sure my cabby wasn't interested in pursuing the fare. He was more involved in revenge. I was glad that neither of the cabbies had a gun. I was glad that I didn't worry my parents by missing the bus. And I was glad that I had something deliciously comforting and life affirming to cook for dinner.

Butter Roasted Squab with Bulgur Squab is my favorite fowl. Its fabulous rich meat is full-flavored, not at all gamy and stands up well to other intense flavors such as the wheaty bulgur and robust red wines. The joints of squab are very difficult to cut so the ideal way to serve squab is to bone them whole, leaving only the wings and leg and thigh bones intact. This is a luxury for the guests but a bit time-consuming effort for the cook. Squab is most delicious when the breast is still rosy. If you prefer a milder flavor, Cornish game hens can be substituted and do not require boning but should be cooked to well done 170°F. Serves: 4

Bulgur and Current Stuffing (Makes: 3.5 cups)

1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium cloves garlic, lightly smashed
1 1/2 cups medium bulgur
2 tablespoons dried currants
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup squab broth (see below)

In medium-size heavy saucepan, with tight fitting lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and bulgur and fry, stirring often, two to three minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add the currents. Sprinkle with the salt, sugar and pepper; add boiling water and simmer tightly covered 15 minutes.

Fluff the mixture with a fork and allow it to stand covered for at least five minutes.

4 squab about 1 pound each*
stock: 1 bay leaf, 3 peppercorns, a few sprigs of thyme, ½ small onion, unpeeled 2 large cloves garlic, cut in half and peeled 1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 3/4 teaspoon salt black pepper, freshly ground, to taste cayenne pepper, to taste

Equipment: A shallow roasting pan Raise oven rack so roasting pan will sit in the upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 425°F at least 30 minutes before roasting.

Remove necks, gizzards and livers from squab cavities and reserve. Rinse squab under cold running water, scraping out any internal organs, and pat dry with paper towels. To bone you will be turning each squab inside out as if it were a glove.
1. Cut wish bone out of breast with knife
2. Cut the joint that connects each wing to back with shears
3. Use fingers to separate breast from breast bone and reserve breast bone
4. Use fingers and small knife to separate skin from backbone
5. Turn squab inside out and cut thigh bones from back with shears
6. Peel away skin to tail, cut out backbone and reserve. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
7. Turn squab skin side out Rub squab all over with cut garlic and then the butter.

Cover and refrigerate. Make stock from neck, gizzard, breast and back by simmering about 30 minutes or til tender with bay leaf, peppercorns, a few branches of thyme and onion. Strain and reduce to 1/4 cup. (Eat or discard gizzards and necks along with breast bone and back.)

Stuff squab loosely with bulgar, without packing. Skewer opening. (Spoon remaining bulgar into small casserole. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup reserved broth, tossing lightly with a fork. Cover tightly and bake along with squab for the last 15 minutes of cooking.)

Sprinkle each squab with the remaining salt, pepper and a pinch or 2 of cayenne pepper. Fold back wing tips under back. Tie together only the legs. Place squab in oven and roast for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 400°F and continue roasting 10 minutes or til an instant read thermometer, inserted in thigh (not touching the bone) reads 155°F (145-150°F in breast). If necessary to continue cooking, baste with the pan drippings and roast another 5 to 10 minutes.

Understanding Squab is cooked directly on pan, rather than placing on rack, because solid metal conducts heat and cooks the backs. The short roasting time would not adequately cook the backs if on a rack. * available at specialty markets and by mail order from 1/800-Dartagnan. Query Response to the

Email to editor: Dear Jim, Re: "A New York Squabble" 1) what I meant by sporadic is a kind of jerky irregular gasping as opposed to smooth rythmic breathing. Would there be a better word? Spasmodic perhaps? 2) "I grabbed my squab" should be squabs as there were 3 (as mentioned in paragraph 2! Also a few sentences later--"I still had my squab" should be squabs. 3) water to cover by 2 inches or if the style requires a specific amount I would say about 2 cups. 4) no need to slice the onion. 5) since we are not boning the squab, there will be room for less stuffing so more of it will have to cook without benefit of the birds' moisture. Therefore, change reduce (for the broth) from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup. Then when it says "sprinkle with reserved" again should be 1/3 cup. 6) After "stuff squab...without packing" please add: "skewer closed the opening" (or if space allows: "Close the opening with a small metal skewer." 7) Do you think it might be necessary to specify that the squab should be breast side up after"arrange squab"? 8) The name 1/800/DARTAGNAN is correct as it is the name of the company. Actually, it is only necessary to use the DARTAGN but then people won't know the name of the company and that would be disconcerting. (i.e. This kills two squab with one stone!) Having the extra two letters will not result in an incorrect number. All the best,

The Most Transformative & Delicious Way to Cook Brussel Sprouts

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I first met Dana Jacobi many years ago when she and her mother came to my former cooking school to study baking. It was enjoyable having such sweet and attentive students. I didn't realize at the time that Dana was a fellow food professional. Since that time, I have followed with great interest Dana's evolving career as a cookbook writer of 14, now 15 books. I knew that this newest book, The Power Greens Cookbook, would be very special for two reasons:

  • Dana is an exceptionally creative and excellent writer
  • The photographs are by my wonderful friend and photographer of two of my books: Ben Fink

So it was no surprise that her method for cooking brussels sprouts is a game changer and it is the method I will use from here on. It is quite amazing how the taste and texture of brussels sprouts is affected by the cooking method. While this is true for all food, it is dramatically so with this vegetable. I've always cut off the base and made a little X to ensure that the steam would penetrate to the center to provide even cooking. I would stick a cake tester into them to determine when they were tender. And they were never quite the same texture throughout.

Dana's method is the soul of simplicity, and yields the most evenly cooked and more purely flavorful results. And no need to test for doneness--they steam to perfection in just 6 minutes. All you need to do is cut off the base and cut each in half. Then set them in a steaming basket with boiling water beneath. Lovely with a little butter, Dana's sauce of olive oil, parsley, garlic, shallots, and capers makes a fantastic dressing. The brussels sprouts are great served hot or room temperature. This book will not be retired to decorate my library--it will have a permanent place in my savory kitchen. There are 139 other recipes still to enjoy. The Power Greens Cookbook: 140 Delicious Superfood Recipes

Sublime Ketchup from Chef Michael Anthony

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I have been a lover of ketchup since I was a little girl and my grandmother served me spaghetti with ketchup and butter, thinking it was like the tomato sauce which she saw our Italian neighbors preparing. I never dreamed one could make real ketchup at home. But when I ordered the hamburger special at Gramercy Tavern, in New York City, it was served with the best ketchup I had ever tasted and I learned that it was the creation of executive chef Michael Anthony (one of my top favorite chefs). I immediately begged for the recipe. Chef Michael's ketchup is a world apart from even the best bottled store-bought variety. It is a brilliant blending of ingredients--less sweet, more vibrant, and far more complex. You will see why when you look at the ingredient list. It takes time, and attention, especially when cooking down the sauce so as not to scorch the reducing juices, and you'll need a food mill to achieve the classic silky consistency, but boy is it worth it! For me there is no going back.

I made one-quarter the recipe Michael sent which I am listing below, but do feel free to increase the recipe if desired. Makes: 400 grams/350 ml/1-/2 cups + Tomatoes and Vegetables

624 grams/22 ounces Roma tomatoes, cored and rough chopped (I used canned San Marzono)
114 grams/4 ounces white onion: medium dice
56 grams/2 ounces red bell pepper, charred, skinned, seeded, medium dice
3/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 medium clove garlic confit (see Note)
7 grams/1/2 tablespoon canola oil
Seasonings 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns 1/4 teaspoon cumin seed 1/4 stick of cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon whole coriander 1 small allspice 1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper salt, a large pinch

Gastrique 82 grams/1/4 cup corn syrup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Note: To confit the garlic, I added the oil to a very small pan and on the lowest possible heat cooked the garlic (cut in half the long way), turning it over from time to time until light golden. Then I used the oil to sauté the vegetables.
1. Heat oil in a saucepot (I used one with a non-stick lining); add onion and peppers, and sweat (sauté until translucent).
2. Add tomatoes garlic, and spices, all at one time; bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, prepare the gastrique:
3. Heat corn syrup in a small saucepan until it begins to caramelize. Separately, bring cider vinegar to a simmer (I heated it in the microwave). When the corn syrup is golden brown, slowly stir the cider vinegar into the syrup. It may seem to seize up once or twice, but will quickly melt and become smooth. Then stir in the red wine vinegar.
4. When the gastrique is smooth and fully incorporated, add to tomatoes and stir well. Cook uncovered, stirring often, for approximately 45 minutes, or until desired consistency is achieved.
5. Cool slighty, and run through the fine disc of a food mill.

A Man of Morels

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The Original Movado Museum Watch

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The Designer Nathan George Horwitt, a self-portrait

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The Designer Nathan George Horwitt, another self-portrait

first published May 1992, for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I was moved to retell and post this story when I noticed all the Movado holiday ads featuring their latest permutation of the famed museum watch and, coincidentally, fellow blogger David Brawley posted a photo of the original on Face Book, which reminded me how much more aesthetically pleasing it was. In fact, Uncle Nat mocked the fancier designs. He detested the wider triangular hands and what he referred to as a the "foolish little jeweled nipple" replacing the discretely flat bezel of his design.

Uncle Nat was a great inspiration to me. He made me feel that anything was possible--but I thought this applied uniquely to him. When the first cover for The Cake Bible arrived, shortly before his 90th birthday, I turned it into a birthday card for him. I drew a candle on the cake and wrote the following note below the cake: Happy 90th Birthday dear Uncle Nat. Little did your father the rabbi know that he would have a great granddaughter, named after his wife, who would write a bible. Two years later, shortly before he died, his last words to me were: Thank you for making the family proud. I felt as though I were given the blessing of Abraham. And I realized that a little of his magic just might have rubbed off on me.

Two years later I wrote this obituary: Nathan George Horwitt, who died 2 years ago this June at the age of 92, at home, in his beloved Berkshires, was known by many as the designer of the Museum watch, the one with the dot that spawned a revolution of watches without numbers. Horwitt was also known as a witty raconteur, effective idealist, humanitarian and political activist, responsible for helping with the establishment of the state of Israel in the 1940s and for promoting "wave of wheat," designed to provide grain to India during the famine of 1951. I did not learn in detail about Horwitt's many activities and accomplishments until reading his obituaries, because though outspoken, he was innately modest. To me, he was known mainly as the most colorful, entertaining and magical member of our family: Uncle Nat. I was a child when he completed the design for the Movado watch but remember how he showed me the drawings, describing with pride the elegant simplicity of his design, the dot signifying both sun at high noon and moon at midnight. As an industrial designer, his work was grounded in original, philosophical concepts, though sometimes they were whimsical: On the wall before me is the hilarious self-caricature he drew on a brown paper bag to entertain me one day at lunch over 30 years ago: half man, half dog with a bone in its mouth. Nat was my grandmother's younger brother; a Peter Pan of a person with dark brown eyes sometimes stern with impatience, sometimes quizzical with irony, other times disarmingly warm with intelligence and love. Perhaps some saw Horwitt the dogmatist, but I experienced Uncle Nat the teacher. He was so entertaining, I learned from him without ever knowing it was a lesson. Driving along in a car he would suddenly screech to a halt, back up with terrifying speed, leap onto someone's lawn and pluck the mushroom he had spotted out of the corner of his eye. They know me here, he would explain. (One of Horwitt's sidelines was selling morel mushrooms to Lutèce in New York.) A walk in the forest was full of experiences: Taste this mushroom! Can you feel the pepper on your tongue? That's why it's called the pepper mushroom, or see this mushroom with spots? It's called Amanita Muscaria, the fly mushroom, because it draws flies. Don't eat it, it's poisonous. My favorite lesson was: Do you see anything among those dead leaves? His eagle eyes had spotted a prized morel mushroom and after showing me the first, he pointed out how others always grew nearby and I joyfully scurried to find them. He taught me not to eat too many wild mushrooms at one sitting by one year sending me 5 pounds of morels with a note: Don't eat them all at once! I thought he was kidding and ended up with the implied stomach ache.

Uncle Nat's final and most important lesson about morels was how to cook them. As simply as possible, he instructed. Here's how:

Serves: 4

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 pound morel mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter, preferably unsalted
1 large clove garlic, smashed with the broad side of a knife freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, stir together the salt and several cups of cold water. Add the mushrooms and allow them to soak for about 10 minutes. The salt draws out any live insects which may be lurking in the mushroom's cavities. Remove the mushrooms to a colander and rinse well under cold running water to remove any dirt. Cut off the stem bottoms and any of the stem that may be tough.

Slice each mushroom into 1/8-inch thick rounds or cut them into pieces, depending on the size of the mushroom. In a large, heavy frying pan with a lid, heat the butter over medium heat. When bubbling, add the smashed garlic clove and mushrooms. Cover and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms soften and become tender.

Continue cooking uncovered, over medium heat, for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until all liquid evaporates and the mushrooms begin to glaze lightly. Add the black pepper and taste to adjust the seasonings.

Caveat: do not pick wild mushrooms unless you have had expert training in their identification.

Thanksgiving Dinner 1992 & The Best CranRaspberry Sauce

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first published November 1992, for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for two reasons: I get to see a large part of my family, whom I love so much and don't get to see very often during the rest of the year due to distance and time constraints; and secondly, of all the year's celebrations, it is the traditional fare of Thanksgiving that I enjoy the most. I suspect that many people share this sentiment, and wouldn't be surprised to discover that the first big fight for most newlyweds occurs when they're faced with their first married Thanksgiving and have to decide which side of the family they'll spend it with.

My first married Thanksgiving presented problems of a different sort. My husband and I were far away from either home so I was to make Thanksgiving for the two of us. Unfortunately, I knew practically nothing about cooking.[Added note: and apparently not much more about baking!] People often assume that cookbook writers were born with a talent for cooking, or at the very least, grew up learning to cook at their mother's side. That was certainly not the case here. I was elated to discover that turkeys come in very small sizes, but, once home, I searched in vain for the giblets. I was anxious to find them because about the one dish I had perfected was a lump-free chicken-giblet gravy. After much peering and probing into the turkey's cavity I gave up the search as well as my plans to make giblet gravy.

Dessert was to be my first pumpkin pie. I had never eaten one and was, for some reason, convinced I wouldn't like it, but my New England husband adored it and I wanted to please and impress him. I did know how to make piecrust, as long as I started from a packaged mix so all I needed, or so I thought, was canned pumpkin.

Thanksgiving Day arrived and the house took on that glorious aroma of turkey roasting and piecrust baking. The turkey was a great success. The mystery of the missing giblets was revealed when I carved the bird and found the package of steamed giblets tucked into the neck cavity. We had a great laugh over that but I was the only one laughing when it came to the pumpkin pie. I took a taste and my mouth pursed in disgust. I proclaimed that I couldn't imagine how anyone in his right mind could eat pumpkin pie--it tasted like a barnyard smelled. To my surprise, my husband agreed and said that no one would find it good, that it was not, in fact, pumpkin pie at all. He wanted to know how I had made it. With canned pumpkin, I said. He asked what else I had added. Why nothing. What was I supposed to have added? He began to list spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and ingredients like brown sugar and egg and I began to feel like a complete idiot.

Nowadays, the holiday dinner is a lot easier. I know where to find the giblets and I can make several acceptable versions of pumpkin pie. Thanksgivings, however, are almost always at cousin Marion's and usually all I'm responsible for is the dessert. This year, however, I think I'll contribute something extra to the family feast: my Favorite Cranberry Sauce, to which I add an intense raspberry puree. It is so delicious that I can't imagine the Thanksgiving turkey without it.

CranRaspberry Sauce Makes: 5 cups
Raspberry Puree 1 12-ounce bag raspberries, frozen with no sugar added 1/4 cup + 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar Cranberry Sauce 2--12 ounce packages fresh cranberries (6-1/2 cups) 1 cup water 1-3/4 cups sugar 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest 3 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed) In a strainer suspended over a deep bowl thaw the raspberries completely. This will take several hours. (To speed thawing, place the berries in the strainer in an oven with a pilot light.) Press the berries to force out all the juice. There should be a scant 1/2 cup.

In a microwave* on high power, or a saucepan (preferably with a nonstick lining), boil the juice until it is reduced to 2 tablespoons. Pour it into a lightly oiled heatproof cup. Purée the raspberries and sieve them with a food mill fitted with the fine disc. Or use a fine strainer to remove all the seeds. You should have a scant 1/2 liquid cup of puree. Stir in the raspberry syrup and measure. You should have 9 tablespoons (4.5 fluid ounces). Add the 1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 teaspoon of sugar.** Stir until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate.

Wash the cranberries and drain them thoroughly. In a medium saucepan, combine the water with the 1 3/4 cups sugar and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the cranberries and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Cool to room temperature before stirring in the raspberry puree.

Keeps: 1 month or more refrigerated, several months frozen.

Pointers for Success: For finely grated zest, use a zester (a small implement with tiny scraping holes), a vegetable peeler or fine grater to remove the yellow portion only. The white pith beneath is bitter. If using the zester or peeler, finish by chopping the zest with a sharp knife. If a lemon is heated (about 10 seconds in a microwave oven on high power) and rolled around while pressing on it lightly, it will release a significantly greater quantity of juice.

* If using a microwave, place the juice in an oiled 4-cup heatproof glass measure or bowl to allow bubbling and stir every 30 seconds. ** If you have less raspberry, decrease the sugar, using 1 tablespoon for each fluid ounce of raspberry puree.

A WAY WITH LAMB OR, NO SHANK YOU

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first published January 1996, for The Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I've been selfish. Every lamb has 12 to 15 pounds of meat and only 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of it are shanks. Frankly, I've been afraid that if I sang their praises too loudly, there wouldn't be enough for me. Just today, I called my local supermarket to ask if there were any lamb shanks, to be told that not one was available before the relenting clerk admitted to possession of two. I reserved them on the spot.

Tonight's dinner was so utterly delicious that I am revealing my secret immediately afterwards, while I'm still feeling sated and generous and before I can change my mind. Not only are lamb shanks one of the cheapest cuts of lamb, they also happen to be the most deliciously succulent. Of course you have to like the flavor of lamb. The lamb council told me two years ago that they were breeding lamb with less flavor because Americans don't like lamb that tastes lamby. (Could this be an oxymoron in the making?)

If they are successful, lamb may even risk resembling the way our pork now tastes, which is to say: not at all. If you, like me, don't agree with this catastrophic trend, you will be delighted to learn that it is close to impossible to breed the flavor out of the shanks. (Lamb council: do not take this on as a challenge!) I have a sort of Newtonian gravitational theory that whatever is closest to the ground, and still edible, seems to acquire the most flavor. That includes lamb shanks, drum sticks of all birds, and even "pieds des cochons" (pigs feet). At the risk of sounding gluttonously carnivorous, the muscles in the lower leg also happen to offer the most moist and luscious texture, and the gelatinous cartilage of the foot is perhaps the most succulent of all.

This preparation for lamb shanks is one of my favorite Winter family dinners. It also is suitable for good friends but perhaps not for formal dining as it's hard to resist the temptation of eating the lamb right from the bone not to mention sucking out the marrow! The garlic slivers, inserted deeply into the meat, melt into the lamb. The creamy richness of the lamb blends perfectly with the wheaty crunch of the bulgur, which is punctuated with sweet little bursts of current. A simple steamed green vegetable, such as Italian green beans, is the perfect accompaniment as is an assertive red wine such as a Cotes du Rhone or a California syrah.

LAMB SHANKS AND BULGUR Serves four

4 lamb shanks, cracked in half
2 large cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon rosemary, preferably fresh
pepper to taste
1-1/3 cups bulgur
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dried currants
2 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°F.
With the tip of a sharp knife, make small, deep slashes in lamb and insert slivers of garlic and rosemary. Set aside remaining garlic. Sprinkle shanks with freshly ground black pepper and place in a heavy pan which has a tight fitting lid. (A 10" cast iron skillet with glass top is ideal as low sides are preferable.) Roast shanks uncovered for one hour for 3/4 pound shanks an additional 15 minutes for larger ones.) Meat will have pulled away slightly from bone. Remove skillet from oven; remove lamb, and drain out all the fat. (Enough will remain coating the pan to flavor the bulgur.)

Place pan on burner over low heat. Mince reserved garlic and add to pan, stirring for about 1 minute or til cooked but not brown. Add bulgur and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and fry, stirring for about a minute to toast grains. Sprinkle in currants and add the boiling water. Sprinkle lamb on both sides with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and return lamb to pan. Cover at once and return to oven for 15 minutes or til all water is absorbed. Do not stir. Remove from oven and allow to sit covered for 5 minutes up to 1/2 hour. Fluff bulgur with fork and serve.

Poblano Cream Sauce for the Chimichangas

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We adapted this slightly spicy cream sauce recipe from the LA Times where it was recommended as a sauce for pork chops. Now we never make chimis without it. In response to requests for the recipe to accompany the posting which is on the blog here is the recipe. When making a pork or chicken filling for the chimichangas, there are enough juices for the Reserved Juices. I will spoon a few tablespoons of the Poblano Cream Sauce over or along side of each chimichanga. Chicken stock is listed first, incase you are just making the sauce for a dish other than the chimis.

1 medium Poblano pepper 100 grams
1/2 cup unsalted butter 14 grams
1 tablespoon 1 yellow onion (small), finely diced 43 grams 1/3 cup
1 garlic clove (medium), 5 grams 2 teaspoons finely grated
chicken stock 183 grams 3/4 cup (177 ml), divided OR Reserved Juices heavy cream 232 grams 1 cup (236 ml)
cornstarch 12 grams 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Roast and Chop the Poblano Pepper Set an oven rack near the top of the oven. Set the oven to the broil. Remove the stem from the pepper. Set a small sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet, and place the pepper on it. Broil the pepper on all sides until its skin blisters and blackens. Remove the pepper and place it in a plastic or paper bag and then seal the bag for 5 to 10 minutes. Place the pepper on a cutting board. Remove the skin, cut the pepper in half, and remove the seeds and ribs. Coarsely dice the pepper.

Saute the Onion and Garlic In a medium size pan, preferably cast iron, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and saute for several minutes until tender. Add the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes.

Make the Cream Sauce Stir in all but around 31 grams/2 tablespoon (30 ml) of the chicken stock (or Reserved Juices) and the heavy cream. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for several minutes until the mixture slightly thickens. Stir in the diced poblano pepper and simmer for 1 minute. Scrape the mixture into a food processor and puree the mixture into a sauce. (At this point, the sauce can be refrigerated for 3 days, or frozen for 1 month.)

Complete the Cream Sauce Just before deep-frying the chimichangas, return the pureed sauce to the pan. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and the remaining chicken stock (or Reserved Juices) to make a thickened mixture. Heat the sauce on medium heat until almost boiling. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring the sauce to a low boil. Continue to whisk until it thickens to a slightly thickened, heavy cream consistency. Reduce the heat to keep the Poblano Cream Sauce warm and cover the pan. When ready to serve, whisk in salt and pepper to taste. (If the sauce thickens too much, whisk in some water to thin it.)

Store: Airtight: 3 days, refrigerated; 1 month, frozen.

A Return to Troisgros

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It has been 19 years since I visited and wrote about Claude Troisgros's restaurant CT when it was in New York City (the review and recipe is at the end of this posting). And it has been 44 years since I visited his family's renowned restaurant Les Frères Troisgros in Roanne, France. Claude and his Brazilian wife moved to Rio, where he is now owner of five restaurants. He is considered to be the top chef in Brazil and, of course, I was determined to visit at least one of his restaurants during our recent trip to Rio for the Paralympics. Claude was on vacation in Sicily, so sadly we were not able to see him, but he alerted the restaurant of our impending arrival at CT Boucherie in the Barra Design Center, which was the closest one of his restaurants to where we were staying near the olympic stadium. Chef/manager Didier Labbe and chef Jessica orchestrated a fantastic array of the restaurant's specialities. As there were eight of us family members (from both coasts of the US) enjoying the experience, and four preferred white wine, we were able to order one bottle of white and one of the house recommended Salentein Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza, Argentina 2012, which I thoroughly enjoyed. We began with two delectable appetizers.

MINI PORK, HAM AND ONION SAUSAGES, HONEY MUSTARD

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HEART OF PALM AND TENDERLOIN "PASTEL"

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RIB EYE STEAK WITH A SEEMINGLY ENDLESS STREAM OF ACCOMPANIMENTS AND SAUCES

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AN EXQUISITELY LIGHT AND CREAMY GUAVA CHEESECAKE

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MOLTEN DULCE DE LECHE

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SERVER WEARING THE TRADITIONAL BUTCHER'S APRON

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A MOUNTAIN OF FABULOUS CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

Written for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate A food and wine lover never forgets her first pilgrimage to France. Mine was in 1972 and it served to crystallize in me the determination to devote my life to the pursuit of flavor. The expedition was shared by a friend, Elaine Kohut. We rented a typically powerless small car and tooled our way from Paris to Provence, enjoying many adventures, some of which included revelatory meals. But only one dining experience actually brought me to tears of joy at its conclusion and this was at Troisgros in Roanne. I had read in awe about the degustation menu starting with lark's liver paté with an intriguingly bitter edge from the larks' diet of juniper berries, the velvety texture of which resulted from the gentle technique of heating the terrines and then removing them from the oven and wrapping them in heavy blankets to cook overnight by indirect heat. I anticipated that food so lovingly prepared would be extraordinary beyond anything I had ever experienced. But nothing had prepared me for thrilling intensity of the signature dish Saumon à l'Oseille (Salmon with Sorrel). The moist, rich salmon, cloaked in a fish stock embued cream sauce was magically lightened and enhanced by the most exciting counter balance of acidity I had ever tasted--flecks of bright green sorrel (also known as sour grass). It made me more than gasp in astonishment, I was so overcome with pleasure I actually dropped my fork with a loud clang right into the sauce. Within moments, the waiter appeared with both a large plate containing a clean fork and an amused if somewhat supercilious smile, charmingly informing me that there was no need for concern because there were many more forks in the kitchen. He seemed decidedly less amused however when I proceeded to subject the second fork to the same fate experienced by the first. I managed to hold onto the third fork long enough to polish off every last morsel of the fish and used an ideally flat sauce spoon designed by Jean-Baptiste Troisgros, the founder of the restaurant, to consume every bit of the sauce. Over the years, I have occasionally reencountered salmon with sorrel in other restaurants and wondered if it had been the newness of the experience that had made it so memorable because no subsequent version ever caused me to come close to losing my grip on the fork. But when Jean-Baptiste's grandson Claude opened his restaurant, CT, in New York, I finally had the opportunity to rediscover and understand the dish, not only as it had been but side-by-side with Claude's up-dated lighter and even more brightly flavored version. When asked how this wondrous balance of flavors had been conceived originally, Claude explained that the Troisgros family has a particular passion for acidity. This was fascinating to me because I realized that often I find something missing from an otherwise well-conceived recipe and that it is most probably the enlivening acid component. I brought Claude my cherished signed menu from Troisgros and we both laughed with disbelief when we saw the price of the six course degustation menu from 23 years ago: 65 francs (about $13). Claude said: "It's gone up a bit since then."

Saumon à l'Oseille CT

Serves: 4
Decor: 4 scallions 4 medium potatoes (preferably purple) boiled in lightly salted water with skins on, then peeled and sliced

Sauce: 1/2 cup dry white wine 1/2 cup water 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped 1 medium onion, quartered 2 cloves garlic bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, sage, tied together or wrapped in cheesecloth) 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) softened butter, preferably unsalted 2 teaspoons tomato paste 2 cups fresh sorrel, washed, stemmed, center veins removed, then torn into 1-inch pieces 2 salmon steaks, about 2 pounds, cut 1-1/2 inches thick, bones removed sliced in halves olive oil fresh coarsely ground black pepper salt.

Trim the roots and most of the green from the scallions. Use a sharp knife to make several long cuts to within a half inch from the green end. Drop the scallions into ice water until shortly before serving.

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, water, carrot, onion, garlic, bouquet garni, celery and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Sieve, pressing well to release all the juices. Discard the solids and return the liquid to the saucepan. There should be about one-half cup.

Over very low heat, gradually whisk in the softened butter until incorporated. Season to taste, remove from the heat and keep warm.

Salt and pepper the salmon. Brush a little olive oil on skin sides. On medium heat, preferably using a Teflon pan, cook 5 to 6 minutes per side for rare, 6 to 8 minutes for medium. (Claude & I both prefer slightly translucent rare in the center to opaque as the texture of the salmon is more moist.)

Place each piece of salmon on a plate. With the tip of a knife, make a small hole in the center of the skin side to insert the scallion. The curled white section will have the appearance of streamers. Arrange the potato slices alongside the salmon and spoon the sauce over the potatoes and around the plate.

A Lesson in Pasteles with Maria

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Maria Bonawits visited our booth at the Monroe Farmers' Market in Stroudsburg, PA two summers ago as part of our book tour "The Baking Bible." She brought several of my books for me to sign and also to get the newest one. I was enchanted by her exceptionally vibrant and charming essence. Since that day, we have become dear friends. When we did a demonstration and book-signing event at the Buck Hill resort last month, Maria and friends came to see us. Over dinner, we made plans to stop by her house the next morning to see her and her husband, Malcolm. Maria is originally from Puerto Rico so when the subject of pasteles, one of my favorite Puerto Rican specialties came up she offered to teach us how to make it. Maria told us that it normally takes her three days to make but that with three of us working we should be able to accomplish the task in one day. We picked a day for Maria to come to my home and kitchen and she offered to make the pork shoulder filling ahead to speed up the process. This dish is traditionally a seasoned pork shoulder, cubed and mixed with ham, garbanzo beans, onions, garlic, peppers cilantro, olives, capers, and raisins which are encased in a dough made of taro root, green bananas (and plantain, and in her version also potato and pumpkin), which is then wrapped in banana leaves and finally in parchment paper which is tied with string as individual servings. The packets are then placed in a pot of boiling water to cook for 45 minutes. It could be considered as a relative of the tamale--a meat filling encased in a masa harina dough, wrapped in a corn husk, and steamed. This version of pasteles is an old family recipe which Maria had been preparing since childhood, when she and her sister helped her aunt make dozens upon dozens of them, using a hand grater instead of a food processor. After Maria arrived and was given a quick tour of the kitchen, she set up two stations for making, assembling, and cooking the pasteles. Maria explained to Woody what to purchase for banana leaves which are readily available under the Goya brand at his local Shoprite. Woody was given the task of boiling, drying, and cutting the banana leaves into individual servings. Maria and I took the task of preparing the dough. With vegetable peelers, knives, food processor, and many stories to share, we made the paste like dough. Maria did a couple of tests on the dough, frying up small spoonfuls in oil before she was convinced it had the balance of flavors she remembered. At first Maria thought the banana was too predominant but when more meat juices were added it turned out to be perfect. She explained that the dough has to be extremely soft because it firms up on boiling.

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After a speedy cranberry scone lunch on the porch, it was back downstairs for the assembling phase. The three of us each assembled individual pasteles, perfecting our newly learned technique. A 13 by 9 inch sheet parchment with a rectangular piece of banana leaf was then smeared with an oval of the dough and topped with a heaping spoonful of the filling. The banana leaf and parchment are then folded over lengthwise and then each end folded over to form an encased packet. Two pasteles are then tied together with string. (We took a short break to see a Daisy Martinez video to see how she tied the string.) We next enjoyed a short needed break for the three of us with Elliott to take a tour of the Hope area, as Maria had never been to this part of New Jersey. The final task was boiling enough pasteles to have for dinner. Maria also brought ingredients for a salad of leaf lettuce with slices of avocado, Vidalia onion, and fresh local tomato. On the porch the four of toasted with margaritas for our enjoyable bonding day of making pasteles. The folded open banana leaf served as a surface for the pasteles and salad. The banana leaf lent an intriguing flavor to the filling. Maria commented that for many, pasteles is an acquired taste. Any of her doubts disappeared as Woody and I were splitting a third one. She explained to us that this is a traditional Christmas entree which, due to its lengthy preparation, assembling, and cooking, is frequently made as a family participation event. Since they freeze well for months, we made 24 to enjoy in the future while many families make dozens and share them amongst the many participants. Hopefully, more future "family participation events" will be in the kitchen for us with my dear friend Maria.

Woody's Homemade Flour Tortillas for Chimichangas and Burritos

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Woody is not only a gifted baker, he is also a great cook. My favorite meal he has made for us is what we affectionately refer to as Chimis. A chimichanga is basically a deep-fried burrito. Homemade flour tortillas rolled paper-thin make the perfect wrap for the chimichangas' filling. We have found that most tortillas bought in stores are too thick and have a cardboard-like texture and taste. Upon deep-frying, these homemade tortilla casings become light, crispy, and flakey. Our favorite filling is braised, shredded pork shoulder with black beans, roasted pablano peppers, sautéed onions, Monterey Jack cheese, and cilantro. Chicken and refried beans with seasonings and cheese is another great filling. We also like to serve the chimis with Pablano Cream Sauce spooned on top. The tortillas are also excellent for deep-frying for nachos and flautas. You can also roll the tortilla dough slightly thicker for burritos, wraps, or quesadillas, all which are not deep-fried.

Special Equipment: A frying pan or griddle (preferably nonstick) 12 inches or more in diameter across its bottom; A 15 by 12 inch baking sheet; A large Dutch oven (10 inches in diameter); Eight 12 inch lengths of cord for four chimichangas Flour Tortillas Makes: Four 12 inch round tortillas : 106 grams each (Six 9 inch round tortillas : 70 grams each)

Gold Medal or King Arthur bread flour: 260 grams/2 cups (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off)

Baking powder: 3/4 teaspoon

Salt: 1/2 teaspoon

Shortening or solid clarified butter, room temperature (see Notes): 50 grams/5-1/2 tablespoons

Water, warm (see Notes) : 118 grams/1/2 cup (118 ml)

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Make the Tortilla Dough In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Detach the flat beater and add the shortening. Use the beater to cut the shortening into the flour mixture. Reattach the beater and mix on low speed until the flour mixture is crumbly. With the mixer on low speed, gradually drizzle in the warm water, until the dough sticks together and clears the sides of the bowl. There usually will be some water left over (around 1 to 2 teaspoons).

Knead and Shape the Dough Discs On an unfloured countertop, briefly knead the dough to form a smooth ball (no more than 10 kneads and for less than 1 minute). Loosely wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 2 hours at room temperature (or overnight in the refrigerator). The dough ball should weigh around 424 grams. Divide the dough into 4 pieces (106 grams each), or 6 pieces for 6 tortillas (70 grams each). Form each piece into a ball. Cup each ball with both of your hands and use your fingers to form a 'mushroom cap' shaped disc, about 4 inches in diameter. Cover each disc with plastic wrap. Let the discs rest for 30 minutes.

Roll the Dough Discs Have ready 5 sheets of plastic wrap at least 12 inches square. Lightly flour (preferably with Wondra) a countertop or doughmat and place a dough disc on it. (You want your surface to have just enough flour to let the dough roll out, without the disc sliding on the surface.) The dough needs to be rolled very thin (1/16 inch or less). Roll the dough into a roughly 12 inch or larger disc. At the beginning, roll the dough from the center to the edges and side to side to keep a roughly round shape. Lift the dough from time to time and flip it over, adding just enough flour as necessary to keep it from sticking. To roll the tortilla to its final size, lightly hold down the dough with one hand, while rolling away from your hand with the other. Leave the tortilla untrimmed around the edges. It will be almost translucent. If the dough softens and is difficult to roll, slip it onto a baking sheet, cover and refrigerate it for a few minutes until it firms. Place the tortilla on one of the sheets of plastic wrap and cover it with another sheet of plastic wrap. Repeat with the other dough discs.

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Cook the Tortillas Have ready a cloth dish towel at least 12 by 12 inches in size set on the baking sheet placed near the cooktop. Heat the large frying pan on medium-high heat until drops of water dance on its surface. Lightly wipe the bottom with oil or shortening. Place one of the tortillas onto the frying pan. With a pancake turner, maneuver the tortilla to be centered on the pan. Cook the tortilla for about 20 seconds. It should begin to blister in several places. Flip the tortilla over and cook on its other side for 15 to 20 seconds. (If large air pockets occur, prick them and gently flatten the tortilla to expel the air.) Remove the tortilla and place it on the towel. The tortilla should look like it is under cooked, as it will become fully cooked when it is deep-fried. Cook the next tortilla. Just before it is finished cooking, place one of the plastic wrap sheets over the first tortilla. Place the second tortilla on top. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Cover the top tortilla with a sheet of plastic wrap. At this point, the tortillas can cool to room temperature, and then be placed in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours or frozen for 2 months. If storing them for more than a couple of hours, slip them into a large freezer weight bag before storing.

Make and have ready your heated chimichanga filling, side dishes, and sauces.

Filling and Deep-frying the Chimichangas Fill the Dutch oven with vegetable oil to a depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil to between 360° and 375°F/153° and 190°C. Place several folded paper towels alongside the cook top. Place two of the strings about 6 inches apart, parallel to each other, with their ends facing you on the countertop. If the tortillas were refrigerated, heat one of the tortillas for 20 to 30 seconds in a microwave until it is warm, soft, and can be rolled up easily. Center the tortilla over the strings. Mound 190 grams/1 cup or more of the chimichanga filling onto its center, leaving a 3 inch border of bare tortilla. If desired, top with a couple of tablespoons of the Optional: Monterey Jack cheese. Carefully fold the bottom side of the tortilla (facing you) over the filling, tucking its edge under the filling to form a cylinder. Fold both ends over the first side. Holding the three sides in place, fold the top side over the other sides to make a cylinder-shaped chimichanga, 7 to 8 inches long by about 2 inches round. Wrap the strings around the folded flaps of the tortilla and tie them to secure the chimichanga from unraveling. If the tortilla tears to expose the filling, use more string to tie and close the area. If the tear is large, it is best to start with a new tortilla. (Alternatively, you can try patching the tear with a piece of tortilla and then securing it with more string.) Any tears will allow the frying oil to leak into the chimichanga filling, causing the oil to froth and the chimichanga filling to leak out and taint the oil. Repeat softening, filling, and shaping the remaining chimichangas. Place one chimichanga on the metal skimmer and submerge it into the hot oil. Use the tongs to hold the chimichanga in place, and to keep it from possibly unraveling. Fry for 30 seconds. Turn the chimichanga over and fry for another 30 seconds, or until the tortilla is lightly brown and crispy on all sides. Using the tongs and skimmer to lift the chimichanga above the oil, allowing the oil to drain back into the Dutch oven. Then place the fried chimichanga onto the paper towels. After several seconds, use the tongs to roll the chimichanga to remove more of the oil from the tortilla. (If the tortilla should happen to open up while frying, rotate the chimichanga for the exposed area to be facing upwards to help minimize the oil from frothing.) Repeat with the remaining chimichangas.

To Serve Snip the strings with a kitchen scissors and discard. Place the chimichangas on plates. Spoon a few tablespoons of your favorite sauce over them or along side of each chimichanga. Garnish with the Optional: fresh cilantro.

Notes Clarified butter will add a distinctive butter note to the chimichanga, which we like with chimis filled with chicken, or refried beans and cheese. If you use room temperature water, the dough will become too crumbly and not uniform in consistency, necessitating a substantial amount of kneading.

Papa Bernachon--An Unforgettable Man and Chocolatier Extraordinaire

images.jpgThis is a special story which I wrote years ago for the LA Times Syndicate. Because someone on Face Book this week wrote about his visit to Bernachon in Lyon, France, I was inspired to share this story with him and with all of you. It starts out with a special technique I discovered for roasting duck but my favorite part is about Maurice Bernachon and the lunch we shared at one of the finest restaurants in the world--Chapel. And only now--this very moment, after all these years--as I write the name Chapel, do I realize how fitting was Alain Chapel's name, for eating at his restaurant was truly a religious experience. Perfect Crisp Roasted Duck (a revolutionary technique for the fairest of all fowl) Duck, with its rich moist flesh and flavorful crispy skin, can be the most delicious of all poultry. However, when not cooked properly it is greasy with fat, the flesh over-cooked and dry and the skin soft and uninteresting. Because I love duck so much and even in restaurants have more often than not been disappointed, I set out years ago to find a way to roast duck which would eliminate the maximum amount of fat while maintaining the juiciness. The solution turned out to be extraordinarily simple: boiling water is poured over the skin to tighten it, then the duck is air dried (which can be accomplished overnight in the refrigerator). The most important part is that during roasting, the skin of the duck is pricked, the oven temperature is very high to release the fat and boiling water is poured directly on the duck to keep it moist and to prevent the fat from splattering. The resulting duck is virtually fat-free, moist with crisp skin and, as an added benefit, it cooks in under an hour. I have never prepared duck another way for 15 years since this technique evolved. But I do have a memory of quite a different duck that was more delicious still at an unforgettable lunch in the south of France. I was in Lyon, working with the Bernachons on the translation of their book: Bernachon.jpg The book is no longer in print but is still available for a song at some bookstores and Amazon, where it received a 5 star review. Papa Bernachon invited me to lunch to celebrate its completion and asked me to choose between Bocuse and Chapel. I was torn. Both were brilliant chefs but Chapel, with his near military precision and passionate perfection was the chef of my heart and soul and his was my favorite restaurant in all the world. Despite this, and after some hesitation, I chose Bocuse because I knew that Maurice Bernachon's son Jean Jacques is married to Paul Bocuse's daughter. Politesse won out over passion--not to mention the fact that I knew we would eat magnificently at either place. And I comforted myself with the promise that someday soon I would return to Chapel. The day of the luncheon arrived. We folded our aprons, changed out of our whites, and drove off to what turned out, to my joyful astonishment, to be Chapel. The greeting Bernachon received from the Maitre d' was worthy of a king. But then, of course, he is considered the king of chocolatiers in France and his neighbors in the food establishment are very proud of him. But with his silver mane of hair and courtly gallant manners, I felt as if I were dining with the long fantasized French grandfather of my dreams. Chapel came out to greet us and serious discussion ensued (as only seems to happen in France) about our culinary fate (choice of food). I was so overjoyed I could have cried with pleasure. The first coarse arrived and from then on the meal seemed never to end. We ate for four hours, but so slowly I had the illusion of never being too full. (Afterwards, though, I went to my hotel and slept for 5 hours. And when I awoke, I was not hungry for dinner!) I remember best the splendid regional Vacherin Mt. d'Or, which was at its peak, the glorious burgundy that was the best I ever tasted and seemed like a musical note to rise at the end of each sip, and the canneton à la vapeur which was the best duck I ever tasted. (Canneton is a young duck which he poached in a flavorful broth and then roasted the legs to have the contrast of the crisp skin.) When Bernachon mentioned my appreciation to Chapel, as we were enjoying our digestif brandy on the porch, his answer was approvingly emphatic: "she is right. I asked my purveyor to find the best duck in France and it turned out they come from Alsace." I felt as if I had passed an exam. At some point, during the course of the meal, I mentioned to Bernachon how much I enjoyed the French facial expressions known as les moeux--how you could see in their faces exactly what they are thinking. To my surprise his response was: "You also have a face like that." And finally I knew how it was we ended up at Chapel instead of Bocuse! And a good thing too as it turned out to be the last time. My beloved Chapel died soon after. Herewith, my best recipe for duck. It will make even the ordinary varieties taste like something special.

One 4 1/2-5 pound Long Island duckling

salt and pepper to taste

1 apple, quartered (for flavor) & garlic

A broiler pan with slotted rack (this keeps the fat from splattering the oven) Day ahead: Remove all loose fat from duck* and pour boiling water over skin. Sprinkle lightly inside and out with salt and pepper. Place on a rack suspended over a pan to catch any drippings and refrigerate 24 hours. Preheat oven to 450°F. Wrap foil around wings to protect from burning. Rub duck with the garlic and place it in the duck's cavity along with the apple. Prick duck all over with a fork, being careful not to go deeper than the fat layer. Pour 1/4 cup boiling water on top of duck and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, prick and add water again and return to oven. Repeat every 15 minutes until duck has spent at least 45 minutes in oven.** Test for doneness by tipping duck tailward. Juices should run almost clear. Allow to sit 10 minutes before carving. If desired, place back under broiler for a few minutes to crisp skin. *Note: For a totally fat free duck, make a small incision in either side of the duck's cavity, approximately between were the leg and thigh joints are located and remove the long strip of fat that wraps itself around the top of the leg. **Note: If broiler pan is shallow, it may be necessary to drain accumulatedfat half way through the cooking.

A Fabulously Flavorful Winter Side Dish

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Elizabeth Karmel, dear friend, chef/owner of Carolina Cue to Go, and author of Taming the Flame, created this marvelous recipe for Thanksgiving several years ago. She serves it as a side dish and even as a pie. Elizabeth and I love the garnet yams for their beautiful color. This inspired me to add little flecks of Aleppo pepper which is not only colorful but also mildly spicy and flavorful. Here is my adaptation:

Chipotle Sweet Potato and Maple Syrup Puree Serves: 6 to 8

sweet potatoes/yams preferably garnet: 2.2 kg/5 pounds (10 medium or 5 large)
maple syrup: 382 grams/1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
sour cream: 242 grams/1 cup
unsalted butter, softened: 113 grams/1 stick/8 tablespoons
2 to 3 canned chipotles in adobo sauce
ground cinnamon: 2-1/2 teaspoons
Fine sea salt to taste
Optional: Aleppo pepper

Choose medium-size potatoes, about 5 inches long and feeling very heavy for their size. Clean off any dirt and bad spots with a rough brush or veggie cleaner. Dry well. Prick the tops with a fork about three times. Set the potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and turn the oven (unpreheated) to 425°F. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (1 hour if the potatoes are large and 1-1/4 hours if very large. Turn off the heat and let sit in the oven for 1 hour. The insides will be meltingly soft. Meanwhile combine maple syrup, sour cream, butter, chipotles in adobo, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Cut the potatoes in lengthwise halves. Scoop the hot insides into the blender or food processor. Process until silky smooth, stirring down the sides as needed. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. If desired, sprinkle with Aleppo pepper.

Kimchi Fried Rice

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This is the terrific recipe I blogged about after visiting Toronto this past summer for the Parapan Olympics and enjoyed it for lunch at The Chef's House. Chef Oliver Li emailed the recipe and I have now tried it with both the fabulous MamaO's kimchi paste and their kimchi. The kimchi paste is faster and coats the rice more evenly but my first choice is the chopped kimchi as it adds a lovely crispness as well as flavor. This is now a permanent recipe in my repertoire. from The Chef's House, Oliver Li CCC, Chef de Cuisine, Toronto Serves: 2 to 3 for lunch, 4 to 6 as a side dish

Vegetable oil: 2 tablespoons
4 bacon strips/120 grams, cut cross-wise into 1/4 inch slices
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
183 grams/1 cup chopped kimchi or 1 tablespoon kimchi paste
2 cups cooked the day before rice, I prefer basmati (100 grams/1/2 cup raw)
2 scallions, sliced thin on the diagonal salt and pepper to taste

Over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok, preferably non-stick. Add the bacon, onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften and just begins to brown--about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to high if using the chopped kimchi, add the second tablespoon of oil, and stir it for 2 to 3 minutes. If using the paste, leave the heat on medium and stir it in until combined. Add the rice and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring. Then add the scallions and cook, stirring for 1 minute more.

Note: basmati is the only rice that when cooked grows longer and also increases by 4 times. With other varieties the usual increase is X3.

Tribute to Chef Paul Prudhomme

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I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of my favorite people in the food world. I first met Paul Prudhomme over 20 years ago during an International Association of Culinary Professionals regional meeting in New Orleans. I had stood in line for over an hour with some of my colleagues to eat at his famed restaurant K-Paul. During the long wait one of the people in line told us about chef Paul's "Cajun martini." I made sure to order one and it was the first and only time that alcohol cured my sinus headache instead of making it worse! Here's how it is made: Take a bottle of gin and insert a Jalapeno pepper. Fill the neck with vermouth. Close the bottle and let it sit for several days depending on how much "heat" you desire. The amazing results are ice cold gin with a surrounding blast of hot pepper. Chef Paul gave a lecture the following day and I was so moved by his sincere eloquence that I stood in line once again but this time to talk to him. After telling him my thoughts about his lecture he put out his arms to hug me. It was the warmest hug I've ever received, not just because of this 500 pounds filling every nook and cranny, but because of the sentiment behind it. Chef Paul was scheduled to visit New York a few months later to give a demo on making Cajun popcorn shrimp. I made the most delicious dessert in my repertoire to bring to him: a Galette des Rois (King's Cake, made with puff pastry filled with frangipane). A few weeks later, I was lying in bed reading next to my husband when the phone rang. A beautiful deep voice said: "This is Paul Prudhomme." My New York sarcastic response was "Yeah right! Who is this?" "It's Paul! I'm calling to thank you for that incredible pastry. But please never do that again--I ate the whole thing by myself!" We were friends ever since. Several years later Paul's weight made it difficult for him to stand or walk so he used an electric scooter. At various food events, he would drive down the aisle to my booth, beaming with the joie de vivre that was so much a part of his being, for another of his incomparable hugs. Here is the feature that I wrote about him in 1994 for my former column at the LA Times Syndicate, along with the recipe that propelled him into the public eye, which had a stunning effect on our appreciation of Cajun cooking, and the population of redfish.

THE MAGIC OF CHEF PAUL PRUDHOMME I first met chef Paul Prudhomme in New Orleans, over 10 years ago, at a lecture/demonstration he was giving on his unique style of Cajun cooking. The audience was utterly mesmerized by this great chef's passion and understanding of the interaction of ingredients and flavors. And I was also moved by the eloquence with which he expressed his cooking philosophy which clearly seemed to reflect his values regarding people and life. It was at this demonstration that I tasted, for the first time, what was to become such a major national craze that it seriously threatened the survival of an entire fish species: blackened red-fish. This technique of searing a butter and herb coated fish fillet in a white hot cast iron pan produces an exceptionally flavorful and moist fish. It also produces billows of smoke and therefore can only be performed safely outdoors or with a cook top graced by an industrial strength hood. It has been my goal ever since to possess a hood of this variety!

So it is because of Chef Paul that my recent kitchen renovation evolved around the hood. I chose a 42" Ventahood 900 CFM fan (6" wider than my cooktop to ensure collection of all potential smoke) and had the motor mounted on the roof to diminish its powerful roar. When the renovation was complete, my contractor Andrew Badding took off for a much deserved vacation at Cape Hatteras. On his return, I found a package of frozen Mahi-Mahi fillets, from a large fish he had caught, tucked into my freezer. Along with the fillets came a warning that the fish had a strong flavor and firm texture similar to swordfish and a recommendation of the Paul Prudhomme blackening technique which Badding had perfected on his outdoor grill. I saw this, however, as the perfect opportunity to test my new hood.

I defrosted the fish and soaked it in milk for several hours to tame the flavor. When cooking time came, I preheated my favorite seasoned cast iron skillet for 15 minutes, until I saw a white cast on the bottom of the pan, and then dropped in the first herbed fillet. Instantly smoke rose and curled around the left side of the hood. I quickly moved the pan to the center burner of my 6 burner cooktop and watched as all the smoke was collected by the hood. The fish for the two of us cooked in 4 minutes and when it was done, no smoke or burned-fishy odor remained in the kitchen!

With the fish I served steamed fresh baby brussel sprouts, lightly seasoned with salt (15 minutes) and buttered couscous (10 minutes). The slightly sweet-nutty flavor of the couscous nicely complemented the assertive flavor of the fish and the bright cabbagey crunch of the brussel sprouts added further balance. It was probably the simplest and quickest dinner I've ever cooked and one of the most pleasing. Now I'll have to reseason the skillet, but it was worth it.

Serves: 4

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, preferably unsalted
Blackened Redfish Magic™ to taste
4 firm-fleshed fish fillets, (redfish, red snapper, pompano, Mahi-Mahi*, salmon, tile fish, grouper) about 1/2" thick (not more than 3/4") 8 to 10 ounces

Preheat cast iron pan for at least 10 minutes on high heat or until a white haze appears on the bottom. Heat serving plates in a 250°F. oven

Melt the butter in a skillet or pan at least the length of the longest fillet. Pat fillets dry with paper towels and dip the fillets in melted butter to coat both sides. Sprinkle evenly on both sides with the herbs, patting in well with hands.

Place 1 or 2 fillets in the hot cast iron skillet and pour 1 teaspoon of the melted butter on top. Cook, uncovered, over high heat about 2 minutes or until underside looks charred. Turn the fish over and pour on another teaspoon melted butter on top. Cook 2 minutes more or til underside is charred. Cook only two fillets at a time.

Note: *If using Mahi-Mahi, be sure to soak it in milk (covered tightly and refrigerated) for 2 to 4 hours.

To make your own "magic" seasoning here's the recipe from "Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen", William Morrow & Co., Inc. 1984 :

1 tablespoon sweet paprika 2 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon onion powder 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne) 3/4 teaspoon white pepper 3/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the seasoning. Store any leftover in a jar with tight fitting lid.

Caveats: It is essential to use a cast iron pan for this cooking method. It is essential to have an industrial strength hood directly above cooktop. Alternatively you may use an outdoor grill. Have a large pot cover ready as a precaution against flare-ups. Should they occur, clamp the cover on top of the pan for a few seconds until the flames subside. Be sure to use the dry herbs as fresh herbs will burn and taste bitter.

O My Mama O's

KIMCHI.jpgI just love the discovery of a terrific new taste sensation and Mama O's Premium Kimchi is IT! It was introduced to me by Denise Mickelsen. I first met Denise when she was editing my story on lemon icebox cake for Fine Cooking Magazine and became reacquainted with her a few months ago in her role of acquiring editor at Craftsy (the wonderful on line series of "how to" classes in which I will happily soon be participating). Denise is married to a chef (lucky her!) and both Denise and her husband Bill came up with some great ways to use this paste which consists of lime, garlic, ginger, chili pepper, and other ingredients. She suggested rubbing it into shrimp before sautéeing, warning me that a little goes a long way. It was a perfect synergy with the shrimp, not overwhelming but rather accentuating the shrimpy flavor. She also mentioned that she uses the paste as a umami packed condiment for dipping vegetables by adding a smidgen of the paste to mayonnaise and also uses the mayonnaise on sandwiches. I just tried it with cold sliced chicken breast. Yes! I searched for the paste on Amazon and they have several other varieties from Mama O but not the paste so click on the Mama O link above and you will find it and may well wonder as I do how you ever lived without it.

The Absolute Best Baby Back Ribs Ever

I've been grilling ribs for years now on a charcoal grill with indirect heat but I have recently discovered a far better way to make them and my ribs will never be the same. I have adapted the recipe from Food-52 "Genius Recipes." In the original recipe, the ribs are first baked in the oven for 2 hours until they are falling off the bone. We like our meat with a bit of bite and still clinging well to the bone so I halved the baking time. They were also cut into servings of 4 ribs each and wrapped in aluminum foil. I cut the rack(s) in half, place them in a roasting pan and cover the entire pan with foil. They suggest that grilling the baked ribs is optional but I much prefer them crispy with a gilding of barbecue sauce of your favorite barbecue sauce.

The beauty of this technique is that by baking the ribs with a little water, tightly covered, almost all the fat is removed but the ribs stay incredibly juicy. Also, it works perfectly to bake the ribs a day ahead, refrigerate them, and in under 10 minutes they grill to perfection. For the short amount of grilling time I now use my gas grill as the preheating time is so much shorter.

Note: baby back ribs come anywhere from 1 pound to 2 pounds. I prefer the less fatty 1 pound racks. 1 pound of ribs per person makes a generous serving.

Several hours ahead make a spice rub and rub it into both sides of the rack(s) for every 2 pounds of ribs combine: 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon chipotle or cayenne pepper 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder 1/4 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked) Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C.

If necessary, cut each rack in half and set the racks in a roasting pan. For each rack add 1 tablespoon of water. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1-1/2 hours (or longer if you prefer). Carefully open the foil to allow the steam to escape and lift out the racks. (Pour off the juices and, if desired, cool and refrigerate them for adding to rice or stock. The fat that rises to the top can be used for frying or discarded.)

Grill the ribs or allow them to cool and refrigerate them until shortly before you are ready to grill and serve them. Preheat the grill as per manufacturer's directions. Grill the racks on high heat for 2 minutes a side or until browned. If desired, brush the ribs side with barbecue sauce and return the racks to the grill, ribs side up, but turn off the center burners or move them away from the coals as the sauce burns quickly. Continue grilling for another 2 minutes to set the sauce. Then flip the racks and repeat with the meaty side. Enjoy!

Hector's Special Peruvian Onion Dish

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When Woody and I visited Hector Wong in Hawaii, a year ago December, we discovered what a great savory cook he is as well as a baker. One of the many dishes that he made for us from his Peruvian roots I knew I would have to replicate on our return home. It is called salsa criolla, and is served as a condiment for every dish, akin to kimchee for Koreans or ketchup for Americans. It also works well as a salad. Hector says that he also calls the recipe cáscara which means skin of a fruit or egg. This is no doubt because the onions are so thinly sliced and on marination become so delightfully crisp. Although my intention was to make it right away, somehow time got away from me but it was not forgotten. Here is the recipe for you to enjoy as well. I've named it Oinyums!

1 large onion 1 tablespoon sea salt (More salt is fine. It will accelerate the wilt and any excess is washed off.) 1 lemon, well scrubbed Optional one small hot pepper of your desired heat!

Slice the onion into rings, as thinly as possible. Set the onion rings into a glass bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Toss to mix well and and let them sit for 1 hour til wilted. Drain and discard the liquid. Squeeze the lemon, saving the empty lemon shells and refrigerate the juice. Rinse the onions well under running water. Return them to the bowl. Add cold water to cover and the empty lemon shells. Allow them to soak for 1 hour or longer. Squeeze the lemon shells to release their oil from the lemon peel into the water. Thinly slice the hot pepper into the onions. Drain and stir in the lemon juice.

Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour until serving to blend the flavors. The onions stay crunchy for several days.