Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Braised Pork shanks with Blueberry Demi-glace

These were quite tasty. I have braised a lot of lamb shanks-not so many pork. It was well received and sold out of 18 orders in two hours last Friday. It was a straightforward braise to which I added some blueberries. To the demi-glace I added some port wine to slightly sweeten and deepen the sauce. For presentation I added more blueberries for garnish. Sweet potatoes are a no brainer accompaniment to pork for me. I made twice baked sweet potatoes to accampany this entre.

Monday, January 29, 2007

There is an emerging Latino neighborhood in St Louis. Along Cherokee Street several restaurants, bakeries, groceries, and one butcher shop have opened. I am writing a story to be published in April about the foods to be found, so I have made a couple trips gathering information. Today I ate at a Honduran restaurant. While it was similar to more mainstream Mexican food, there were nuances which make it a singular cuisine on its own. They make an unique slaw that is a bright magenta color (the chef told me it comes from a brick colored powder that he disolves in vinegar to make the slaw dressing-he gave me a sample to try at home) , some things were garnished with a tangy mustard sauce as well as sparkling fresh pico de gallo, fried plantains accompanied many dishes-the way french fries are used in this country-and of course lots of fresh lime juice and cilantro.

I sampled some empanadas, tostados, burritos, and a beef stew. The poor waitress had to get the chef because I was asking so many questions and she did not have a terrific command of the Queen's English-so to speak-nor I a command of the Queen's Spanish. I found the food to be bright and appealing. Unfortunately none of the tamales-and there were 3 or 4 to choose from-were available. The chef explained he only makes them on Wednesdays and often they sell out before the next wednesday. The food all had excellent flavors, the only disappointment was that the beef stew was a bit fatty, so as long as you don't mind "eating around" some fat it was delicious.

I came away with a new obsession with Latin sodas. I had a banana soda (tastes like Vess Creme soda) and orange soda with lunch, and later went to "Torito's Supermercado", located in an old Woolworth's store to purchase pineapple, lime, orange, and banana. They are very sweet, sort of like drinking fizzy Kool-Aid. Chalk it up to getting in touch with my "inner child".

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Rainbow Trout with Pancetta, Rosemary, and Fingerling potatoes

This is such an easy preparation for trout and has so much flavor from the pancetta and Rosemary. I dredged the fillets in panko for a bit of crunch to the bite, sauteed them in olive oil, topped it with a slice of pancetta and some Rosemary leaves and ran it under the broiler to slightly curl the pancetta. Pancetta is a non-smoked Italian bacon with a whimsical round form.
Squeezing fresh lemon juice over the dish brightens all the flavors.

I blanched the Fingerlings and then sauteed them with a bit of garlic, Rosemary and lemon juice.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Winter's Salad, Stilton, and Bogle Petit Sirah

It has been so cold and dreary, and we were expecting a snow day on Sunday which never really happened, we just holed up with lots of food and wine. I made one of my favorite salads with fennel, blood oranges, radish, and cilantro, dressed with just lemon juice and olive oil. Sort of makes you forget there is no sunshine or honest tomatoes to be had.

I don't usually make porterhouse steaks because they have two different muscles connected by the same bone, and the two muscles cook differently. Having said that, steaks with the bone attached are tastier, and this was the only bone-in steak at the grocery (I should have thought ahead and brought something from the restaurant) and it ended up being pretty decent. Of course being smeared with real Stilton didn't hurt. Stilton has one of those in-your-face personalities you either love or hate. There are few people in the middle with Stilton. Stilton is such a good winter cheese and it invites a wine with an equally sturdy personality. I found this Bogle Petite Sirah on sale so I thought I would give it a try.

The color was gorgeous deep garnet red, it had some fruit but was far from jammy, maybe some faint black licorice lingering in the finish. It was a very pleasant wine-not too complicated or complex but more than able to stand up to Stilton's sass.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Tomato Wars Kings Mahi Mahi for the Weekend

War might be an overstatement, but the restaurant GM is looking for ways to cut expenses, without compromising quality. Here's the dilemma for our red sauce we use an imported Italian San Marzano canned tomato. It is mostly used for a cavatelli side dish-not an entree-which is an option for most entrees so it's not a revenue generator. It is a quickly cooked sauce with olive oil, garlic slices, and fresh basil it is a light and delicious red sauce compared to the glop you usually get. But can it be made with a cheaper domestic canned tomato?

So in America's Test Kitchen style, we made two batches one with the San Marzano, one with a lesser canned tomato. We presented both dishes to the owner who is the ultimate "Decider" and he picked the San Marzano immeadiatly-so the quality product wins out. But the fact remains that it is only a side dish-how do you justifuy the expense? I don't want you to think I'm a spendthrift chef-last year's food cost averaged 30% for the entire year-but I do buy really expensive cheeses, meats, and fish-and canned tomatoes. I just don't think you can compromise in some areas.

So in restored respect for our humble red, I sauced the Mahi Mahi with it for a beautiful weekend special. The Mahi is in season right now and was actually very reasonable. I simply sauteed the Mahi fillet and swished some pesto across the top to punch it up a bit. I should have saved some of the Basil for garnish, but it all went into the pesto. The Mahi was fantastic, but in retrospect I would have preferred to grill it, but our grill man is hit so hard on Saturdays I try to throw specials to saute.

Spare Ribs and Kraut or Choucroute Garnie-German or French?

I don't know if this is German or French, but who really cares anyway? It is a marvelous cold weather meal and so easy. I just rinsed a bag of kraut, then mixed it with a sliced onion, a couple quartered red potatoes, one large apple, 1 cup chicken stock, and 1 cup white wine.

I layed a slab of ribs across the kraut mixture, sprinkled the top with some sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and popped it into the oven at 300 degrees for 2 hours. I increased the temperature to 375 degrees, removed the lid (to let the ribs brown on top and some of the liquid evaporate), and returned it to the oven for about 20 minutes more roasting, it was ready to serve. I guess it is really just a casserole.

1 slab of pork spare ribs (about 2 pounds) brined in salt water for two hours
1 pound bag of kraut-rinsed
1 large onion sliced
1 large apple sliced
3 or four red "B" potatoes, quartered
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dutch Baby

Reading some of my favorite blogs last week I found two of them baking Dutch Babies and one making a soup from one of the "Dairy Hollow Inn" cookbooks. I stayed at the Dairy Hollow Inn one weekend. It is located in enchanting Eureka Springs Arkansas. The charms of Eureka Springs are many. It is home to several artists and writers, it is almost as hilly as SanFrancisco, the architecture of the cottages is whimsical and delightful, it has a small opera company, and it has Thorn Crown Chapel-a much studied example of last century's modern architecture. It has been over 20 years since I last visited Eureka Springs, but it has a haunting quality that keeps it fresh in my memories.

So after reading about the soup from Dairy Hollow Inn, I remembered the breakfast they served, and it was Dutch Baby with blueberries. So that 's the connection. I decided to make my own for a late Sunday breakfast, with sauteed pears. They are simple to make and they look delicious.
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter
Whip the eggs with salt and milki
Gradulally stir in the flour
Add the melted butter
Pour into a 9" cast iron skillet and bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes
Reduce the oven temperature to 350, dock the bottom of the pancake and continu to bake for 10 minutes longer.
When the pancake is finished baking sift powdered sugar over it and spritz it with fresh lemon juice.
I topped mine with fresh pear slices sauteed with some butter, sugar, cinnamon, and a splash of champagne.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Yesterday the photographer from the St Louis Post Dispatch was at the restaurant photographing our Strawberry Applesauce Bread. She arrived at 3 PM and because it was in the middle of the lunch and dinner I was able to spend quite a lot of time with her. She took lots and lots of pictures. Some of whole loaves, some of slices, some with whole loaves and slices, some with slices buttered, some with slices stacked, some with slices fanned. Some photographed from the top-looking down, some from across to get a side view. Some with a tablescape, but mostly she kept a tight focus on the bread. There were some roses, a coffee cup, a bread basket, some whole strawberries and cinnamon sticks that she played with as props.

I am not a very good photographer-as you can tell from some of my pictures. I think I learned alot from the photographer. Whether or not I am ever able to take beautiful pictures remains to be seen. She was an interesting young lady Her name is Katherine Bish. She photographs alot for the Post Dispatch as well as St Louis magazine-which has alot of beautiful glossy pictures. She just finished potographing a cookbook based on the Greek and German cuisines of Chicago and Milwaukee. You can visit her web site to view her work by clicking www.bishculinaire.com

Richard, if you're reading this, there is a picture of you shaking Wolfgang Puck's hand. Katherine did a big photo spread for L'Ecole Culinaire when Chef Puck paid a visit. Puck operates the catering operations for the art museum, the science center, and the new modern art gallery in St Louis. I think it's kind of embarrassing that St Louis feels it needs an out of town chef celebrity to fill its high profile catering needs. There are several excellent top tier caterers here who handled the job before he blew into town-but that is another topic.

Katherine's photos and the recipe for our Strawberry Applesauce Bread will run in the February 14th edition of the paper in the "Let's Eat" section. This bread recipe has been around a long time. I first made it at Richard Perry Restaurant in the 1980's. It probably showed up at Orchids and the DeLuxe in Cincinatti. I know it was also served at Lindel Terrace, and probably for a while at the WS Hotel. And now I make it at Gallagher's in Waterloo. I have to admit it is not one of my favorite recipes because it can be fickle to work with. There is alot of sugar, so it will burn easily, and the crumb structure is delicate so that if it is disturbed in the oven before it sets it will collapse in the center, but people love this bread. Often people ask to buy a whole loaf to take home.
6 cups applesauce
2 cups strawberry preserves
10 eggs
8 cups sugar
10 3/4 cups cake flour
3 1/2 cups raisins
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup melted butter
3 tablespoons baking powder
3 tablespoons baking soda
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and stir with the paddle until all ingredients are combined-do not overmix.
Spray bread pans with release spray, line with parchment paper. Spray again and flour lightly.
Fill the pans to a little over half full and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the bread tests done.
Makes eight 9 by 3 inch loaves

Monday, January 08, 2007

Chicken and Noodles for "Waiter there's something in my stew"

I have been wanting to write down our family's favorite "granny dish" and it is chicken and noodles. So in honor of my grandmother, who just celebrated her 93rd birthday on January 2, and to participate in Andrew's "Waiter There's Something in my Soup", I will write about her chicken and noodles and make a pot of them. Her chicken and noodles and her cream (banana, coconut, and chocolate) pies were her best dishes. She also made beef and noodles, but the chicken were always my favorite. While she is still with us, she no longer cooks. To view all the blogger's stews from around the world visit the round-up at www.spittoonextra.biz

I started with 1 large stewing hen, it was a bit over 6 pounds. I added 1 onion, 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, a bay leaf, and covered them with water. Simmer the hen about 1 1/2 hours and let it cool. Pick the chicken meat from the bones, and reserve. Return the bones back to the stock and continue to simmer for a couple of hours to further enrich and strengthen the stock. Pull the chicken into large shreds, this is better than cutting the chicken into chunks with a knife, and reserve.

I made noodles using 5 large eggs with 2 1/2 cups flour, and a teaspoon of salt. I placed all the flour in a large mixing bowl and made a well in the center. I cracked the 5 eggs into the well and added the salt to the eggs. With a wooden spoon, I began stirring the eggs, gradually incorporating the flour until a soft ball forms. Knead slightly and let the dough rest under a tea towel for a couple of minutes to relax the gluten. Divide the dough into two or threee easily managed pieces and roll them out into sheets. Dust the sheets with flour and roll up each sheet jelly-roll style and slice into noodles. Let the noodles dry for a couple of hours while the stock continues to cook.

When the stock has simmered a couple of hours, strain it, discarding the vegetables and bones, return the stock back to the pot. Bring the liquid back to the boil and add the noodles, stirring once so they don't stick together. The excess flour dusting the noodles will thicken the broth as the noodles cook. Stir in the reserved chicken, add salt and pepper, and serve over mashed potatoes.

I know that must seem like starch overload, but that is always the way we ate them. I sometimes add some mushrooms, minced parsly, and thyme to liven up the dish, but Grandma never did. They were so delicious, mine are so inadequate by comparison.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Chicken Huli Huli

This is just Hawaiian style Bbq. I would prefer to do chicken thighs still on the bone for this dish, but compared to boneless skinless chicken breasts, they don't sell all that well. The problem being with boneless skinless chicken breast is there is no flavor-they over cook in an instant and become dry-they ae boring and insipid. So why do we cook boneless skinless chicken breasts so often? Because alot of people like them for some reason. The only two reasons I can think to eat them is that they are low fat and easy to eat-no embarrassing and messy eating maneuvers required for the clumsy and socially insecure. On the plus side they are cheap and easy to produce and they are adaptable to alot of simple sauces.

I first marinated these breasts in pineapple juice flavored with garlic, scallion, and soy. For the bbq sauce I used pineapple, garlic, scallion, soy, honey, rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and hot chinese chili paste. It becomes delicious because of the sauce, but otherwise it just tastes like boneless, skinless chicken.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Day

It has been so busy that I pretty much gave up on trying to keep this blog current. The restaurant was literally non-stop the last couple of weeks before Christmas. It has been lovely. We sold a boatload of seafood (please forgive the pun), lots of steaks and Prime Rib Roasts, over the top sauces, glazes, and garnishes, spreads, dips, and appetizers-ENOUGH ALREADY! And still today I could not control myself and made just a couple of things to nosh on while I tried in vain to connect my new Sirius Satelite Radio.

Black Eyed peas of course. I pickle them like Helen Corbett recommends. Helen Corbett was an influential foodie in the 1950's. She was cooking at a country club in Houston and was faced with the Southern tradition of serving the peas on New Year's day, when she did not care for them at all. She came up with the idea of pickling them and making a salad of them and I think I prefer them prepared this way as well. She went on to even greater fame as the creator of the Zodiac Room and menus for the Neiman Marcus Corporation.

Oysters with two toppings one bacon, leek, and hot sauce, and a second of my nephew's Mother-in-law's home preserved green tomato relish. We call them Oysters Lalette after the lady herself. It is also delicious as part of a cheese tray.

And last I made a lobster curry. I think I'll experiment with alot of Indian food in the new year. I got an antique apothecary mortar and pestle as a gift and it is perfect for grinding the spices and herbs to make curry pastes. I just split the tails and threw everything in the wok with some coconut milk, some vegetables, and diced pears. It was fantastic, but difficult to eat. Even with the shells split, the lobster meat was difficult to extract.