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.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Rosemary Red Eye Gravy

Red eye gravy wasn't something I remember growing up with-I don't think my mom ever made it. I first encountered it here in St Louis when I was cooking at the Richard Perry Restaurant. So that is how I learned it. It is traditionally a quick pan sauce made with strong coffee, usually served with ham steak. After some reading I discovered some cooks make red eye gravy with beef steaks. It seemed worth trying. I also added some Rosemary to the mix which seems untraditional but adds an interesting twist.

I first made a dry rub of finely ground coffee-I had some Starbucks dark roast in the freezer so I used that-and added some brown sugar, salt, and pepper.

for four 14 ounce steaks-rib eye, strip, or 8 ounce tenderloins

1/4 cup finely ground coffee

1/4 cup brown sugar

Freshly ground pepper

2 Tablespoons sea salt

I rubbed the mixture into the steaks and let them sit for 1/2 hour

I got out my favorite Griswold iron skillet and got it pretty hot and seared the steaks-lots of smoke. I removed the steaks to finish cooking in the oven.

While the steaks finished in the oven, I made the red eye gravy. Add brown sugar to the hot skillet and let it melt and caramelize slightly-this takes place almost instantly as the pan is so hot. Deglaze the pan with a bit of red wine, I then added a couple sprigs of fresh Rosemary-then add strongly brewed coffee. Scrape up all the drippings and let the mixture bubble a couple minutes. It makes a very thin but flavorful sauce similar to a jus.

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup red wine

1 1/2 cup strongly brewed black coffee

2 sprigs of fresh Rosemary

Pour the gravy over the steaks and serve with spoon bread on the side.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Back to Barramundi

I ordered in more Barramundi. It is such a delicious fish, similar to sea bass but a little denser. Very mild sweet flavor and it is a sustainable fish unlike the sea bass. I was going to prepare Florence Fabricant's recipe printed in the New York Times this past week. She brushed the fillet (she used Halibut, but I figured it would work well with Barramundi as well) with molasses and seared it and served it with mushrooms. She created the recipe to pair with some Pinot Noirs they were reviewing. The dish did not work for me, so I reverted to my old stand by of grilling served with ginger vinaigrette plus some wasabi and pickled ginger. The asertive vinaigrette is mellowed with sesame oil and really brings out the sweetness of the fish.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Second Platinum Chef Competition

Last year a group of eight Monroe County high schools formed a conference for culinary competition. This year, the group grew to 10 schools. Some of the schools don't even have a culinary program, but only an after school club, where they cook with and learn from an advisor.

I was asked to be one of the judges again this year
It is so much fun to observe these kids. Teams consist of 5 members and two dish washers. They are judged on several levels, including sanitary and safety, knife skills, creative use of ingredients, presentation, teamwork, and taste. Outstanding individuals are recognised as well.

Ten schools was a bit daunting to get through. In the end the judges (there were five of us) were all pressed for time in analysizing all the different categories. I also had less time to take photos.
The competition took place on the gym floor, where 10 individual staging kitchens were set up. So the equipment wasn't the best, but the kids really made the best of what they had. The bleachers were full of students and family members observing and taking pictures.
One of the smaller schools without the formal culinary program won. Their passion for what they were doing showed and won them the trophy.