Sunday, December 28, 2008


The GW Bavarian Sausage Co. is located about a mile from my back door. It is a marvelous old time German Meat market. It is a tiny store located on a hard to reach street behind a lot of car dealerships. They do a brisk business. It usually takes 1/2 hour to 45 minutes to get in and out-especially on peak days like Saturday. In addition to all kinds of sausages-including some Italian and Polish as well, they have real Black Forest Ham and all sorts of wursts. I chose this weisswurst for breakfast this Sunday. White and delicate, supposed to be veal and pork flavored with cardamom and parsley. It is an already cooked sausage-not smoked. To heat you steep the sausage in hot water-do not boil or you will burst the casing, when the sausage is hot peel the casing off and serve with a sweet mustard. Since it was breakfast, I had to add grits and some sauteed peppers-not an especially traditional German accompaniment-I think they eat them with pretzels.

Complimentary beers are always available while shopping at GW's, so I suggest making it a sort of happy hour shopping excursion-enjoy a beer while checking out all the intriguing meat products they make.

Christmas Duck with Apple and Dried Plum Stuffing

I have a conflict with the word prune. It simply has no sex appeal what so ever. Not that I demand an endless parade of sensuous and constantly tantalizing dishes, but I just can't say "I'm eating duck with prunes for Christmas!"-and be happy with that bland, dreary description. It lands with an unlovely clunk on my ears. But if I change prunes to dried plums, it has instant charisma, it sounds more chic and turns that clunker into a sexy jazz chord. In other words, "a plum is a plum is not a prune"-with apologies to Gertrude Stein. All semantics aside this really is a tasty and classic dish (usually done with goose rather than duck). This stuffing recipe is based on a recipe that my friend Richard Perry makes every year at Thanksgiving for turkey. I've added some apples and a duck. Thanks Richard!

3 cups dried bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced celery
1 apple, diced
1/2 cup dried plums, soaked over night in cognac and coarsely diced
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, minced
1Teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Chicken stock-as needed

Saute the vegetables, fruits, and seasonings in the butter over low heat for about 10 minutes until they are sweated and translucent-do not brown.

Add the bread cubes and toss gently, add some chicken stock to moisten the stuffing and stir gently.

This stuffed the duck nicely, but the recipe would probably have to be increased for a larger fowl.

I wanted to use my Geaorge Foreman counter top rotisserie, so I stuffed the duck and sewed up the duck really well and trussed it pretty tightly before putting it on the spit. I roasted it for about 2 hours, and it turned out beautifully, I had to empty the drip pan a couple of times, reserving all that delicious duck fat of course.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve Warm Tea Smoked Lobster Salad with Gold and Red Beets

The combination of lobster, lightly smoked over burning brown sugar and tea leaves (my adaptation of the ancient technique of Chinese tea smoking), and roasted beets may seem odd, but I promise you they are delicious together. The Lobster is smoked ahead of time and just barely warmed before serving. The beets are best roasted the day before serving and left to sit in a dressing of fresh lemon juice and olive oil overnight to fully develop their sweet nutty flavor.

Just before serving, I put the beets and lobster in a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes to warm. To serve, arrange the beets on a platter with the lobster on top and bathe the entire salad in tarragon buerre blanc.

To Roast the beets:
2 medium sized golden beets
2 medium sized red beets
1/4 Tablespoon of olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the beets and trim the top and root, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.
Roast in a preheated 350 degree oven until they are easily pierced with a knife, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. When the beets are cool enough to handle simply slip off the skin with your fingers, or pare them with a knife. Slice the beets and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little bit of fresh lemon juice and EVO over them, season and chill-best if made a day ahead.

To Smoke the Lobster:
2 Lobsters
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons fragrant black tea-I used Jasmine

Perform the "Coup de Grace" by severing the lobsters heads between the eyes. Steam the lobsters for 8 minutes, crack the shells slightly so that the smoke can more easily penetrate the lobster flesh. I use a small electic smoker. Place a disposable aluminum cake pan in the bottom of the smoker, and spread out the brown sugar, sprinkle the tea leaves over the sugar and turn on the smoker. Place the lobsters on a rack over the sugar and tea and cover. The brown sugar disolves and burns the tea, creating a delicious smoke. When the smoke is evident, turn off the smoker and let the lobster sit in the smoky environment for 10 minutes. No longer than 10 min utes because you do not want to overwhelm the delicate lobster with too much smoke. Let the lobsters cool and then pick the meat from the shells and cut into bite sized chunks. Can be made ahead and refrigerated until needed.

Tarragon Buerre Blanc:
2 Tablespoons minced shallot
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into small pieces
Salt to taste and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoons of minced fresh Tarragon

Combine the shallot, wine and vinegar in a non-aluminum saute pan and reduce until the mixture is a syrupy glaze. Turn off the heat and add the butter, bit by bit and shake the pan to incorporate it-resist the temptation to stir or whisk as you get a fuller volume sauce by shaking the pan. Season the sauce with the salt, pepper, and Tarragon. This sauce does not hold well and should be made close to serving time.

To Assemble the Salad:
Gently reheat the lobster and beets in a preheated 325 degree oven, just to warm them slightly-do not let them get too hot. Arrange the beets on a serving platter and top with the lobster, drizzle the Buerre Blanc over the beets and lobster.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rye Bread and Short Ribs Braised in Borscht

I think bread and a hearty soup make one of the best winter meals I know. Last night-Temperature 8 degrees-after a stressful afternoon at The Galleria doing gift buying, I came home to this soup and bread. In the morning, first thing I prepped the soup and placed it in a 250 degree oven right before I left for shopping. Second thing I mixed up the bread dough for a long first rise. When I returned home, I punched down the bread dough and made loaves, letting it rise again for a bout 1 hour. I took the soup outside to quick chill. When the bread went into the oven, I retrieved the soup to de-fat the top and slowly reheat. It was a really satisfying supper, especially considering my alternative of eating at the dreaded food court.

Rye Bread (makes two loaves)

3 1/2 cup bread flour

3 1/2 cup rye flour

1/4 cup cocoa

1 Tablespoon salt

2 Tablespoons of wheat gluten

2 cups milk

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup molasses

2 Tablespoons of butter

1/4 cup golden raisins

4 Tableespoons dry yeast

Mix the flours, cocoa, salt, and gluten in a mixing bowl.

Heat the milk, honey, molasses, butter, and raisins, stir until the honey, molasses, and butter are melted. Let the mixture cool to body temperature (stick your finger in the mixture, and it should feel neither cold nor hot)

Add the yeast to the milk mixture and let proof for 5 to 10 minutes, if the yeast is good it should be bubbly and foamy.

Stir the milk-yeast mixture into the flour mixture and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. I use my kitchen aid mixer with the dough attachment. Let the dough rise in a warm place for a couple of hours. Rye flour doughs rise more slowly than wheat flour doughs.

After the dough has doubled in bulk, punch down and knead again slightly, before forming into two loaves, let rise again-the dough should be warm from the first rise and will rise more quickly on the second go around.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until the loaves are browned and sound hollow when thumped.

Short Ribs Braised in Borsht

I used to eat a soup like this when I lived in Chicago at a restaurant called Mel Markon's located somewhere North of the Gold Coast, but South of Diversey and East of Clark-it may have been in the old Beldon-Stratford Hotel, but I'm nor sure. It's really good when it's cold outside.

4 cups of sliced cabbage

4 cups of tomato juice

1 small onion, sliced

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper

2 pounds of beef short ribs

1/4 cup flour, salt,and pepper

2 Tablespoon of vegetable oil

In a dutch oven, combine the cabbage, tomato juice, onion, lemon, sugar, and season with salt and pepper, bring to a simmer over gentle heat.

Dust the short ribs with the flour seasoned with salt and pepper.

Get the oil hot in a saute pan and brown the ribs.

Place the ribs on top of the borsht, cover with the lid and braise in a very slow oven (250 degree oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Chill the soup and defat before reheating and serving the soup.

Best served with crusty brown bread.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Arroz con Pollo

This comforting Spanish dish probably has as many variations as there are Hispanic countries. Spaniards, of course make it, but they also make it in Cuba, Peru, Puerto Rico, and on and on. Some recipes call for bell pepper, some for olives, all sorts of add ins. I didn't add bell pepper or olives, but I did add peas and a few threads of saffron. Usually I add some Chorizo, but I didn't have any on hand for this one. I usually use chicken thighs because they are so flavorful, but all parts of the chicken are welcome.
6 chicken thighs
2 cups of rice (short grains like arborio are best, but I used long grain)
1/4 cup each of diced carrot, celery, and onion
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of Saffron threads
1 to 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, as needed
Salt and pepper
1 cup frozen peas

In a Dutch Oven or 12 " iron skillet, brown the chicken, skin side down, over high heat until the skin is browned and some schmaltz has accumulated.

Remove the chicken from the skillet and hold on a platter. Lower the heat to medium low and add the rice and stir to coat with the schmaltz and cook slightly until the rice becomes opaque, as for risotto.

Add the vegetables and seasonings to the rice and stir to combine. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Place the thighs, browned skin up on top of the rice, and add any accumulated juices.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1/2 hour, add extra stock, if the rice becomes too dry.

5 minutes before serving, stir in the peas and return to the oven.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Mozzarella and Proscuitto Stuffed Veal Chop with Pepperonata

For the chops:

4 eight ounce veal loin chops

4 thin slices of mozzarella cheese

4 thin slices of proscuitto

olive oil for brushing the chops

Salt and pepper

Cut a slit into the side of the loin portion of the chop.

Wrap a slice of the mozzarella with a slice of the proscuitto, and stuff into the slit in the side of the chop.

Brush the chop on bothe sides with the oil and season.

Grill to desired doneness, about 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium rare.

Serve with some Pepperonata spooned across the top.

For the Pepperonata:

2 red peppers, cut into large dice

1 medium onion, cut into large dice

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup capers

1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoon of minced parsley

Salt and pepper

Saute the peppers, onion, garlic, and pepper flakes in the olive oil over low heat until they are slightly caramelised, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the vinegar and sugar and cook one more minute to incorporate.

Off the heat add the herbs, salt and pepper, and taste.

Delicious served warm or cold

Sunday, November 30, 2008


"They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;"

One of my favorite stanzas from "The Owl and The Pussycat" that nonsensical and delightrful poem.

Quirky shaped, but with an intoxicating fragrance, quinces are a real challenge to work with, they are all but impossible peel and core. A little roasting time helps to bring the little stinkers into submission.

2 pounds of quince about 8)
1 cup golden raisins
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large clove of gfarlic, minced
1/4 cup minced frsh ginger
2 Tablespoons of mustard seed
1 Tablespoon of coriander seeds
1 Tablespoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 cup of rice wine vinegar
1 cup sugar

Roast the quince in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour, let them slightly before continuing.

Quarter the quinces and cut the core out.

Add the quince and the rest of the ingredients in a heavy bottomed kettle and cook until soft and syrupy, 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.
Really good with roasted fowl such as duck and goose. I plan to use it with rack of lamb for a holiday dinner.

Brussel Sprouts

I took this idea for Brussel Sprouts from Open Source Food. I couldn't find the original post on that site, so this is an approximation, I know the original recipe also included peas, which I deleted. I found it to be a delicious winter vegetable dish.

1 pound brussel sprouts, trimmed and blanched

2 Tablespoons of butter

1/4 cup diced ham

1/2 cup sliced carrots

1/4 cup sliced shallot

salt and pepper

Saute the ham, carrot slices, and shallot over medium heat until the vegetables are browned and caramelised, about 5 minutes.

Add the brussel sprouts and lower the heat, continue cooking until the brussel sprouts are tender.

Season, taste and serve.

Open Source Food is group of food bloggers that I belong to, and if you love beautiful food you must visit it. A truly international group of bloggers. There are lots of Asians, with stunning photographs and recipes. Many Spanish, Eastern Europeans, and Americans are also represented.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Family Dinner-Italian Beef

Staff meal in many restaurants is often called called "family dinner". And if you've ever worked in a small business you know how the personal dynamics of the employees can be more like a family than a business or corporation. There are of course both good and bad aspects of this situation, but one of the good ones at Gallagher's is Mrs."s Gallaghers Sunday dinner. On Sundays Susie Gallagher, the owner and my boss, makes dinner for her family as well as the restaurant staff, various cousins, friends or other gypsies that end up at the back door of the restaurant.

This is one of my personal favorites, Italian beef. Of course Chicago is famous for their Italian beef sandwiches, and I think this is a variation that has traveled South.

1 rump roast (about 5 pounds)

1 package Italian salad dressing mix

1 jar pepperoncini

1 bottle of beer

Combine all of the ingredients in a slow cooker or crock pot and cook until the meat easily shreds. Serve with soft rolls and provel cheese.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Veal chops with Proscuitto and Preserved Lemon Buerre Blanc

Here is the centerpiece of my next cooking class at Kitchen Conservatory, next Tuesday. I am crazy for preserved lemons these days. Soon I'll write a post about them They provide such a mellow lemon nuance to things.

4 fourteen ounce veal chops

4 large slices of proscuitto

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 clove of garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Rub the chops with the crushed garlic, and season with the sea salt and pepper.

Wrap the chop with the proscuitto and press firmly so that it adheres to the chop.

In a saute pan, heat the oil over a medium hot flame. Place the proscuitto side down and saute for 3 to 4 minutes-lower the heat if necessary. The proscuitto caramelises and forms a deliciously salty crust. Turn the chop and continue cooking until desired donenes-another 3 to 4 minutes for medium rare. Serve with preserver lemon buerre blanc.

Preserved Lemon Buerre Blanc

2 Tablespoons of minced shallot

1 cup white wine

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

12 Tablespoons of chilled butter, cut into cubes

2 Tablespoons of chopped preserved lemon peel

salt and pepper to taste

Combine the shallots, white wine, and lemon juice in a saute pan over high heat and reduce to 2 tablespoons. Turn off the heat and begin adding the butter cubes one at a time, continually shaking and swirling the pan until the butter is incorporated and makes a rich creamy sauce. Add the preserved lemon peel and season with salt and pepper. Can be stored in a thermos for a short time, but does not hold well.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Chocolate Pear Upsidedown Cake

For the bottom of the pan:

1/2 cup of butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

4 pears, peeled, cored, quartered, and poached in syrup. Optional to reserve 1/2 pear and cut into a fan for the center of the cake.

In a heavy 10" iron skillet, melt the butter, add the brown sugar and make caramel. Add the poached pears and simmer over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes until the caramel is bubbly and syrupy. Arrange the pears in a circular pattern with the fan in the center. Ladle out and reserve 1/4 cup of the caramel.

For the cake batter:

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 teapsoon of baking soda

1/4 teaspoon of baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup butter

1 cup 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour boiling water over the cocoa in a mixing bowl and stir until smooth, cool before using.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt-set aside

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, beat in the eggs one at a time, add the vanilla.

Alternately add the cocoa and flour mixture to the batter.

Spread the batter over the pears in the skillet and bake 30 to 45 minutes until done.

Let the cake cool a couple of minutes befor unmolding.

Brush the top with the reserved caramel, serve with whipped cream.

Carved Pumpkins

The kids carved pumpkins again this year. Some of the pictures didn't turn out, but here is Carlie fixing her "Big Mac". Cody's "pumpkin dungeon", Angie's Sarah Pailin-I think it really does look like Sarah, and Rick's McCain Pailin. I think we have alot of young Republicans working for us.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tortilla Soup and Shrimp and Avocado Salad

I roasted a turkey last week, so I had this carcass and left over turkey meat waiting in the freezer and I decided to use my tortilla soup recipe (usually I make it with chicken) with the turkey. It turned out delicious. It was a rich broth with the perfect balance of spicy hot peppers-I used bird's eye instead of the jalapeno because I had them growning outside-tart fresh lime juice, and the pungence of cilantro. All cooked together with some tomatoes, corn, celery, and onion. The garnishes were crisp fried flour tortillas, lime wedges, and queso fresco. Very comforting on chilly night.

Since it was my day off I wanted to make it a bit more special than a soup supper, so I made a crab and avocado salad to eat with crackers and poured myself a glass of prosecco. I purchased some "Annie's Natural" salad dressing (papaya poppyseed) to dress the avocado-sort of disappointing, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper would have been much better.

Friday, October 17, 2008

More Classes

Earlier this week I taught at the Dierberg's School of Cooking. Dierberg's is a local grocery chain, with really terrific produce and meats. In several of their stores they also have a demonstration kitchen, and I teach in several of them when my restaurant schedule permits. They really are a nice facility with a beautiful lay-out and centerpiece visibility. This week I presented my Argentinean steak Chimichurri, shrimp empanadas, arugula, avocado, and papaya salad, and lime tequila tarts. Here is the chimichurri recipe.

1/4 cup minced garlic

1/4 cup minced shallot

1 cup chopped frsh parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes

1 cup of olive oil (extra virgin)

1/4 cup of red wine vinegar

1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice

1 small carrot, grated

Pulse all of the ingredients, except the carrot, in a food processor. The sauce should not be pureed, but should remain chunky. Fold in the carrot. Spoon the sauce over grilled steaks.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stuffed Breast of Veal

I found this small breast of veal in the freezer at Schnuck's last week. It was an unusual cut to find without special ordering it. Veal breast can be tough and fatty, but after a long braise they can also turn into a luscious and tender vittle. I stuffed it with traditional Thanksgiving style bread stuffing and braised it with some stock and wine. Along side I put in some turnips and carrots. I flavored it with some rosemary and popped it into a 300 degree oven for about 2 1/2 hours. It was very tasty and welcome with the change in temperature and weather this week.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sea Scallops with Succotash

Corn and shellfish have this ability to amplify one another's charms. This time of year the corn hereabouts is so plentiful good that it's hard to eat anything else-either simply boiled or grilled-but eventually corn ennui sets in and I must begin tweaking it. Adding shellfish is an easy trick-shrimp. crab, lobster, and here scallops. Succotash is one of those dishes I gew up with, my mom made it often with corn and lima beans, I love it to this day! Here I scraped the corn from 3 ears and combined it with fresh fava beans, sauteed it with some garlic, onion, and peppers, and used it as a base for huge plump sea scallops which had been briefly grilled and spritzed with some fresh lime juice.

Fresh corn-scraped from 3 large ears of fresh corn

2 cups of fresh shelled, and blanched fava beans

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/4 cup diced red pepper

1/4 cup diced sweet onion

salt and pepper to your liking

sliced scallions for garnish

2 tablespoon of butter

Melt the butter in a saute pan and saute the peppers, onion, and garlic for one minute, add the corn and fava beans and continue to saute

Add 1/2 cup water, and continue to cook until the water is evaporated and the beans are soft

Season with the salt and pepper

Top with the scallions and grilled scallops

For the scallops:

Allow 2 U10 scallops per person (U10 refers to the size and indicates that there are under 10 scallops of this size in one pound)

Brush the scallops on each side with a olive oil, and grill briefly on each side. Sprinkle with salt as they grill, and squeeze fresh lime juice on them once they are removed from the grill

Serve on the succotash

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sweet Corn Grits with Shrimp

I spend most of my Sunday mornings watching the political shows on tv and making breakfast. Grits are often on the menu, and these grits with a spicy shrimp gravy are delicious. It has a Spanish influence, with the sherry, smoked paprika, and chorizo. Spanish Chorizo is different from the Mexican Chorizo. It is a cured smoked hard sausage. It adds a smoldering depth of flavor.

For the grits:

Corn scraped from the cob of one large ear of sweet corn

2 cups milk

6 tablespoons of grits

pinch of slat

1/4 cup shredded cheese (whatever you like, Jack, parmesan, cheddar, etc)

Bring the milk, corn, and salt to the boiling point

Whisk in the grits, and continue to cook and whisk until the grits are tender, smooth, and creamy-4 to 5 minutes

Keep the grits warm until the shrimp are ready

For the shrimp:

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon of Spanish smoked paprika

1/4 cup julienned peppers (red, green)

4 ounces of Spanish Chorizo, Julienned (Spanish Chorizo is not the same as Mexican Chorizo)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 pound of shrimp, peeled, deveined, and rough chopped

1/4 cup dry sherry

Briefly saute the paprika in the butter

Add the vegetables and the chorizo and continue to saute until the vegetables are softened, but with a little bite left in them

Add the shrimp and sherry and cook just until the sherry bubbles and the shrimp are cooked through

Serve over the grits

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fennel Confit

The latest issue of Gourmet is themed Paris. One of the articles is about a restaurant named Le Baratin, owned by an Argentinean woman chef, Raquel Carena. I am enamored with Chef Carena's menu, one dish is photographed and includes the recipe. I rarely follow someone else's recipes, but this one just seemed perfect-and so it is.

Fenouil Confit Aux Amandes, Raisins Secs, et Safran

1 pound fresh fennel, sliced lengthwise

1/2 cup almonds (the recipes specifies Marcona if you can find them-I used what was in the pantry)

1/4 cup evo

10 cloved of garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup raisins, I used golden because that's what was in the pantry

2 teaspoons of whole coriander seeds

zest and juice of one orange

pinch of saffron

chopped cilantro

Saute the fennel and garlic in the evo until crisp tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the zest, juice, raisins, saffron, and coriander, contiue to sautee two more minutes.

Serve at room temperature, stirring in the cilantro just before serving.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Peach Salad

The local peaches are spectacular this year. They are huge and juicy. I made this savory salad with them. I sliced the peaches and placed them on arugula, then I topped the peaches with spoonfuls of St Andre triple creme cheese and dressed the salad with lime dressing.

Lime dressing

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon of honey

1/4 cup diced red onion

salt and pepper to your liking
chopped fresh parsley and chives

3/4 cup walnut oil
Combine all of the ingredients in a glass jar and shake well.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tenderloin with Roasted Garlic Parmesan Butter

Roast a couple heads of garlic by drizzling them with olive oil and wrapping tightly in foil. Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 1/2 hour. The cloves of garlic become soft and sweet. When the heads of garlic are roasted, gently squeeze the cloves out of the skins, being careful to try and keep the cloves whole. Stew the roasted and peeled cloves of garlic in 1 cup of butter for about 5 minutes over very low heat.

Grill your steaks to desired doneness and spoon the garlic butter with a few cloves of garlic over the steaks and spoon some freshly grated parmesan over the top. Really simple and delicious. Needless to say this garlic butter is delicious on all sorts of other dishes such as steamed green beans or asparagus or fish fillets. I probably wouldn't use the parmesan cheese on any fish preparations.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Happy Birthday Julia Child

Julia was born August 15, 1912. Lisa at Champaign Taste hosts an annual tribute to Julia. All the bloggers contribute and her influence and importance is hard to underestimate. I chose to showcase chicken crepes with hollandaise. We make these almost every Wednesday for dinner special, and they are always well received. At first they seem sort of old-fashioned and frumpy, but they are actually sort of homey and a bit elegant at the same time. I should also tell you that Wednesdays we discount every wine on the list by $10. The chicken and rich hollandaise sauce really call for wine I think. The recipes for her crepes and hollandaise appear in Mastering the Art volume 1. I didn't use a recipe for the filling just sauteed some chicken breast with some diced onion and fresh spinach.

Visit Lisa's blog to see all the tributes to Julia.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Watermelon Granita

Granitas are so easy to assemble, and are so refreshing this time of year. Here is a recipe that I am using in a class I'm teaching tomorrow at the Kitchen Conservatory. Kitchen Conservatory is such a beautiful facility with a kitchen that is so easy to demonstrate in. I always enjoy teaching there.

1/2 cup water

1 cup sugar

juice of two limes

6 cups of cubed watermelon

1/4 cup vodka

Make a syrup of the water and sugar-let cool

Puree the watermelon, mix with the syrup, lime juice, and vodka

Place the mixture in a flat container to freeze

Stir the granita with a fork as it freezes

Fluff the granita with a fork before serving

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jerked Tenderloin with Mango Salsa

This Jamaican dry rub of spices is usually used on chicken and pork, but it works wonderfully with beef. I used a combination of cayenne and pepper flakes, the traditional pepper is Habanero, but I couldn't find them this week and they would probably be too hot to sell at the restaurant anyway. There is a long list of ingredients, but it makes for such a complex smokey, sweet, and spicy flavor. And it is especially good with something cool next to it such as mango and avocado salsa. I added some yam frites to the plate. Again fried plantains would be a more traditional side, but the yam frites are more appealing to my palate.

Jerk Seasoning

1 tablespoon of allspice

1 teaspoon of cinnamon, ground

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, ground

1/4 teaspoon of cloves, ground
1 tablespoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of cayenne

2 tablespoons of dried red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon of smoked paprika

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoon of minced garlic

2 tablespoons of minced fresh ginger

Mix all of the ingredients

Lightly coat the tenderloin with the rub, and grill over medium low heat. You need a slow smoldering cooking process to bring out all the spices. Grill 20 to 25 minutes, the steak should remain medium rare if your fire is at a low enough temperature.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Firecracker Shrimp for Independence Day

Since fireworks are such a big part of today's celebration, I thought that this particular dish seemed appropriate. They are actually an asian dish and named becaused they resemble firecrackers. Since fireworks were also invented in China, I think firecracker shrimp can be just as American as fireworks on the Fourth of July. These shrimp are quite simple to put together and are really tasty with the three dipping sauces-strawberry, apricot, and wasabi. The part that takes the most time is making the three dipping sauces. At the restaurant I have these three sauces on hand all the time for different menu items, so it was pretty easy.

1 package egg roll wrappers, cut on the bias to create triangles of pastry.

50 shrimp, peeled and deveined with the tail still on.

1/2 cup sweet Thai chili sauce

1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Combine the shrimp with the chili sauce, ginger, garlic, soy, and cornstarch, and let marinate at least 1/2 hour or up to two hours.

Drain and dry the shrimp before proceeding. Nik the shrimp a couple of times on the inside curl-do not cut too deeply-just enough to prevent the shrimp from curling.

Roll the shrimp up in the won ton wrapper, sealing the edges with a slurry of water and corn starch.

Deep fry until golden and serve with dipping sauces.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Blackberry Rhubarb Pie

Cook Sister! is hosting a blogging event "Waiter there's something in my berries" which has prompted me to make this pie. You often see strawberry rhubarb pie, but not so much the blackberry rhubarb combination. To my eyes the colors are more complimentary to each other. The pie juices run a gorgeous shade of magenta with streaks of aubergine. I usually make pie dough with half butter and half lard, but since lard isn't one of the staples I keep on hand reugulaly, I tried a new recipe with butter and shortening-I did not like the results, so I won't be giving the recipe. Also, since I didn't like the way the pastry looked on the pastry board I decided to top the pie with a crumble topping instead of lattice pastry.

You will need 1 prepared pie shell.

For the filing:

5 cups sliced rhubarb


3 tablespoons of cornstarch

zest of one orange

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups blackberries

Combine the rhubarb, cornstarch, and sugar;let sit 1/2 hour to draw the juices.

In a heavy bottomed pan, over very low heat "melt" the rhubarb, stirring often until the rhubarb is softened-about five minutes-cool before proceeding.

Stir in the orange zest and cinnamon, and carefully fold in the blackberries, being careful not to smash the berries.

Pour into prepared pie shell, and top with crumble topping (recipe follows). Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350 and bake another 45 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and thick and the crumbs are browned.

For the topping:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/3 cup of butter

Combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in the butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. This makes enough for two pies or one large crumble, you can freeze any extra.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cajun Sugar Mignons

Lisa, the marvelous writer who created Champaign Taste is hosting a blogging event titled "Novel Cuisine". It requires writing a blog post about a piece of literature and some culinary fantasy inspired by said piece of literature. I'm usually too busy to participate in these events, but this one just seemed to write itself.

I came upon this steak idea one day while surfing the net and rereading "Evangeline, a Tale of Acadie" by Henry Wadsworth. I think I first read the poem in high school and it created a curiosity about the Acadians that remains fascinating to me to this day. This epic poem tells the tale of Evangeline Bellefontaine and her betrothed Gabriel Le Jeunesse set against the backdrop of the British expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia.

I think the poem remains relevant today with its themes of religious and ethnic intolerance (The British against the French Catholic) and the fact that religious cults have been around for along time-the Acadians were an isolated and unpopular sect of the Catholice church.

The poem is a bit melodramatic for current tastes in literature, but the prose is so compelling, the language so gorgeous, and the topic so current (thinking of the State of Texas raiding the LDS enclave in Texas) that it really does make it relevant.

"All was ended now, the hope, and the fear, and the sorrow,
All the aching of heart,the restless, unsatisfied longing,

All the dull, deep pain, and the constant anguish of patience!

And, as she pressed once more the lifeless head to her bosom,

Meekly she bowed her own and murmured, Father, I thank Thee!"

Wadsworth kept Evangeline in the Northeast, but the largest group of Acadians migrated to Lousiana, where they became the Cajuns. The Lousiana Cajuns claim the Evangeline tale as part of their own culture and struggle for freedom.

All this is a rather long introduction to Cajun Sugar Mignons, a recipe I came upon while visiting A Cajun Homepage which is written by Andrew Guidroz II in Opelouses, Lousiana. Everyone knows the Cajuns are famous for their cooking, but you'll have to visit Andrew's site to get his whole story. I basically used Andrew's recipe combined with my own steak seasoning.

Cajun Sugar Mignons

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of sugar

2 tablespoons of steak seasonings (I make my own)

4 eight ounce fillet mignon steaks

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Brush the tops and bottoms of the steaks with the olive oil and sprinkle with the steak seasoning and sugar.

Heat a black iron skillet with the vegetable oil until it almost smokes, place the steaks in the hot skillet and turn the heat down slightly.

After 4 minutes flip the steaks and continue to cook another 4 minutes for a beautiful rare steak.

It makes a beautiful, black crunchy crust with a juicy interior. I served it with another cajun favorite "Maque Chou", which is an early example of fusion cooking with Native American and Cajun combinations.

So I recommend you pick up a couple of steaks, grab a copy of Evangeline, open a bottle of wine and contemplate the tragedies of yesteryear, the tragedies of today as articulated through the art of Henry Wadsworth.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Wasabi Pea and Potato Crusted Salmon with Sushi Garnishes

The folks at Marx Foods are sponsoring a salmon recipe contest to win some fresh salmon over the summer. Visist them to see some amazing salmon recipes or enter your own and join the fun.

Over the years I've collected several tasty salmon recipes, but I chose this one because it is so simple, and has alot of eye appeal. The flavors are vibrant and intense, I just love it. I hope the judges at Marx agree and send me some of their outstanding salmon.

1/2 cup of wasabi peas

1/2 cup instant potato flakes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 eight ounce salmon fillets

4 tablespoons of olive oil

For Garnish:soy sauce, wasabi paste, pickled ginger, and Viet Namese fish sauce.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Coarsely grind the peas in a processor-leave chunky.

Mix the ground peas, potato flakes, and salt.

Brush the tops of the fish with two tablespoon of the oil, and press the pea mixture into the surface.

Place the fillets on a non-stick baking sheet, and drizzle them with the two remaining tablespoons of oil, and bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes for medium rare.

Serve with sushi garnishes:pickled ginger, soy sauce, wasabi paste, and Viet Namese fish sauce.

First Tomatoes of the Season

I got these tomatoes from one of my local farmer suppliers. They came from Southern Illinois. They were pretty tasty, but not as good as the local ones will be in a few days. I simply sliced them and squeezed lemon juice on them with a couple tablespoons of fruity olive oil. I scattered sea salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh parsley and oregano with some crumbled feta across the tomato salad.

I also made a Spanish potato tortilla, which is a simple openfaced omlet. I caramelised some onions with leftover fingerling potatoes from last night. When the vegetables were crusty and brown I poured 4 lightly beaten eggs over them. As the eggs set, lift the edges gently and let the raw eggs run to the sides until the entire tortilla is set. I sprinkled some fresh chives on top and slipped it onto a serving platter.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I read about this cocktail in a recent New York Times article, and I enjoyed the story, so I gave the recipe to our bartender Crystal, and she made one for me, then we used it as a drink special last weekend. It is served in the Star Lounge in the Hotel Chelsea in NYC. The Chelsea is famous for the celebs who resided there-Edie Sedgewick and Jimi Hendrix to name two. When I was a student living in NYC and studying at the New School's restaurant program I couldn't really afford places like the Chelsea, so I would just have to fantasize about what it would be like to rub shoulders with the jet set. But we don't have to fantasize about the Startini, because we have the recipe and can make our own. And it is delicious.

1 1/2 part Vodka

1 part Cointreau

1/2 part Creme de Peche (we used peach schnapps)

1 part sour mix

splash of cranberry juice

Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker.

Shake and strain into a martini glass

Garnish with a slice of Starfruit

Jicama Orange Salad with Cilantro

This salad is so refreshing. Jicama is crunchy and slightly sweet. It also sort of absorbs flavors easily. And the orange/cilantro flavor combination is one of those perfect tastes like tomato/basil, just not as well known. I dressed the salad with some lemon juice, sea salt, and olive oil.

It was perfect along side some shrimp tacos, unfortunately those photos didn't turn out.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Grilled Eggplant Salad

I really enjoy cooking with eggplant. It is a vegetable that can facilitate and absorb many flavors. Everyone knows the American Italian dish "Eggplant Parmesan" when it pairs beautifully with tomato and cheese. It is also beautiful in stir fry with sesame and ginger. The French pair it with squash, peppers, and tomato for Ratatouille. The Middle East has Baba Ganoush where eggplant is blended with tahini and lemon. So you can see its versatility. So you can begin to see why I find eggplant so irresistable.
I'm not sure the provenance of this salad, alot Greek I suppose. The greeks widespread combination of lemon and oregano is always refreshing, plus sour pungent feta cheese.
1 medium eggplant, sliced, salted, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 cloved of garlic, minced
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup fruity olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
Brush the eggplant slices with some of the oil and grill over hot coals until the flesh begins to soften, but not mushy
Combine the oregano, mint, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and the remaining oil to create a "lemonette".
Toss the eggplant slices, while still warm from the grill, with the lemonette.
To serve, top the eggplant salad with crumbled Feta cheese and more chopped fresh herbs.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Maple Glazed Grilled Quail

I love cooking little birds. They are so festive. I prepared these quail for a weekend special last weekend. I used a partially boned quail-the breast is deboned, but the wing, leg, and thigh, bones are intact for a nicer presentation. Often I will stuff them and serve them with a sauce, but for these, I marinated and grilled them and served them with a maple vinaigrette.


1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons of maple sugar (substitute brown if maple is unavailable)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup sherry wine

2 tablespoons minced scallions

Marinate the birds for at least 1/2 hour before grilling


1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon minced shallot

salt to taste (optional)

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup vegetable oil

minced scallion for garnish

Combine the first five ingredients and let the flavors marry for a couple of hours, whisk in the oil.

Grill the quail over medium hot coals for about 4 minutes per side-they cook pretty quickly.

Spoon a little vinaigrette over the birds and sprinkle with minced scallion to serve.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Orange Roughy en Croute

On Saturday night I had one of the cooks make some fish fillets in pastry. This was one of the first times this cook had worked with puff pastry. He had a great time with them, carving decorations into the pastry and all. He plans on atending culinary school this fall, so I plan to keep giving him some challenging tasks this summer. We served the fish with ginger hallandaise.

New Super Food Combinations
I was reading about some of the super foods, and blueberries and oatmeal were both mentioned. I combined them in a couple ways this week. First a blueberry oatmeal pancakes. I pulled a recipe off the web and served them with maple syrup. They made a delicious and tender pancake. I can't find the recipe I used for them now, but there are alot of recipes out there for them. Second was putting fresh blueberries in oatmeal cookies-I used the recipe from the top of the oatmeal box lid. They turned out really well too.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Soft shell crab and egg for breakfast

Soft shell crab season is just beginning-so how could I resist a big box of them suggested by the fish house? Over Friday and Saturday night we sold the entire case except one. Since they perish pretty quickly, I had no choice but to bring it home and eat it for Sunday morning breakfast.

At the restaurant I served the crabs dusted with seasoned flour and fried with creole hollandaise sauce, which is a combination of hollandaise and creole sauces.

At home I used the same hollandaise only added a layer of fingerling potato and zuchinni hash topped with a fried egg topped with the crab.

I will include pictures of the crab before he died, one of the crab at the restaurant and the crab for breakfast. I will spare you all the details of dispatching the crabs and cleaning them-it was pretty gruesome and my macho staff refused to do it, which is ok because it was one of those days I felt like killing someone anyway and way better the crab than those I was angry at.
I got the idea for the creole hollandaise at the New Orleans Cuisine blog at

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tenderloin Caprese

It's a cold Spring, but I am working on Summer dishes anyway. I know this salad will be marvelous when the tomatoes are ripe, but for now I bought a store bought tomato labeled "Ugly Ripe"-it is apparently an heirloon variety of tomato. It tasted a little better than the tennis balls that pass for tomatoes in the store right now, but not much. Sometimes I have to cook things out of season in order to have the menus and recipes thought out well enough to implement new dishes when the ingredients comes into season.
1 eight ounce fillet mignon steak

1 ball of fresh mozzarella cheese

1 large tomato

salad greens

fresh Basil for garnish

Balsamic vinaigrette
In a hot skillet sear the steak and cook briefly, about 4 minutes on each side, the steak will still be rare.

Let the steaks rest for at least ten minutes while assembling the salad ingredients.

Cut the cheese into 6 slices.

Cut the tomato into 6 slices.

Cut the steak into 6 slices.

Line two dinner plates with salad greens, place alternating slices of tomato, cheese, and steak accross the salad greens.

Garnish the salad with fresh basil, and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

Rhubarb Strawberry Muffins Formerly Known as Touch of Spring

I found the original recipe for these at the "Taste of Home" web page where they are titled "Touch of Spring". The muffins turned out very nicely, however I had to tweak the recipe a bit by adding orange zest, orange juice, orange flower water, and sanding sugar as well as changing some of the directions. They are delightful and will be part of my Mother's Day bread basket.

Rhubarb Strawberry Muffins

2 cups of all purpose flour

3/4 cup sliced rhubarb

1/2 cup sliced strawberries

3/4 cup sugar-divided

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

zest and juice of 1 orange

1 tablespoon orange flower water


12 strawberry slices

12 rhubarb slices

2 tablespoons sanding sugar


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In one bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. In another bowl beat the eggs with 1/2 cup sugar, salt, milk, oil, zest, juice, and orange flower water. Toss the rhubarb and strawberry slices with 1/4 cup sugar. Combine the flour mixture, the egg mixture, and fruit and mix until moistened. Fill greased or paper lined muffin tins 3/4 full, top each muffin with a slice of strawberry and rhubarb, sprinkle with the sanding sugar and bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.