Last week, Christine Robinson wrote about creating a dish for a themed party. Well, we’re on a roll with this topic because I recently got an email newsletter from APPCA member Nancy Cordi of Mediterrania Personal Chef Services showing off her “Sandals & Sangria”party that she organized for the VeriDiva Business Group. The newsletter so intrigued me, with it’s beautiful food photos and interesting description that I asked Nancy if she could explain to members how to create these kinds of themed parties for clients. Here’s what she created for us. I hope it inspires you!

So it wasn’t long ago that I recently joined a local women’s club, Veridiva, a networking group in support of female entrepreneurs, in the Temecula area.  I was chosen as a member as well as their personal chef to represent the group. Rather than just showing up and being one’s personal chef, I decided to get even more creative and create themed parties and to really enjoy building fun and exciting menus around each theme.
Recently I hosted a “Sandals and Sangria” party which was the theme chosen to showcase one of our newest member’s products that she sells. At this party, it was very tropical and beachy so I decorated in bright floral prints using fabric I purchased on sale and used this material as my tablecloth, used real coconuts and pineapple for table décor, and broke out my tropical straws with various fruit on top which decorated each wine glass that would soon be filled with my homemade sangria. With great excitement, I created a tapas menu which consisted of bright, fresh flavors both savory and sweet, using fresh herbs mixed with fresh fruit topped on my open-faced empanadas with crab and chicken, cauliflower pancakes with fresh mint topped with a Saffron cream sauce and sweet and chewy Mejdool dates stuffed with Stilton blue cheese wrapped in smoked bacon.
And to swish all of this authentic Spanish food all down, I made a juicy fruity sangria which consisted of rose wines, Prosecco, peach brandy and a little bit of Grand Marnier that marinated overnight with chunky pieces of pineapple, strawberries, slices of orange and lime. Adding to that, I made beautiful mango and fresh raspberry purée ice cubes that beautifully enhanced and complimented my sangria in both flavor and presentation. And what ends a nice evening of savory tapas and juicy sangria? My creamy coconut flan topped with buttery caramelized pineapple.
Prior to this themed party, another that recently comes to mind is “Cocktails at Tiffany’s.” For this party, I also did finger foods which consisted of mint chicken and curry satay with a thai peanut sauce, garden fresh tomato, avocado and basil bruschetta on garlic crostini but the big hit of the party were my white and dark chocolate mousse and vanilla cake Tiffany cocktail desserts, each layer representing the classic Tiffany colors of black, Tiffany blue and white with edible silver pearls, and a black fondant bow on top.
And one of my MOST exciting events was my “A Journey to the Mediterranean.” This was my grand showcasing at my first themed part as a Veridiva member. I walked my guests through a culinary journey beginning with palate cleanser of a Moroccan black tea spritzed with orange blossom water. The guests then feasts on various dips, starting with Lebneh, a creamy, soft cheese made my draining the water from Greek yogurt over night, topped with excellent olive oil and fresh herbs, as well as made-from-scratch classic hummus with toasted pine nuts and roasted red pepper hummus. Then, they moved along the journey reaching for fragrant basmati rice made with cumin and cinnamon and fresh herbs which will soon be topped with braised beef and apricots, a succulent lamb meatball slider topped with a creamy whipped feta spread on a toasted brioche bun and a nice cooling side of fresh, citrusy taboulleh.

After they were done feasting on the savory food, I ended their journey with two authentic and decadent desserts, one from Italy, one from Greece and the Middle East. I wowed the guests with my lemon panna cota topped with chopped pistachios and pistachio oil and layers-deep of buttery baklava drizzled with chocolate ganache. I complimented these desserts with a strong Middle Eastern espresso with freshly grated cinnamon on top and even a hit of freshly grated black pepper.  This culinary journey through the Mediterranean was filled with many tantalizing surprises.

Doing themed parties is very exciting and it takes being a personal chef to a whole new level. It is so much fun to create a menu around a themed party as it is based on your inspiration and allows you to be as creative as you want with both food and decorations. It’s more than just showing-up and cooking. You get to experience the fun that you give your guests as well. I would suggest encouraging your client to do a themed party for the person they are celebrating or as a group to make the time and the culinary experience that much more memorable. You can increase your cost per person when doing this as you will provide fun, beautiful table décor and many other creative surprises, which you can provide at a very low cost to you.  Many of the items you can use for themed parties can be purchased at a grocery, fabric, thrift, or hobby store. Gather these party decorations and keep them to use over and over again for similar-themed parties.

When promoting these themed parties, aside from the promotion that comes from my women’s group, I also do email blasts through my website builder such as godaddy.com as well as share the events and details of each event via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I take many photos of each event, including the people enjoying themselves, décor, and especially the food, and promote them across as many social media outlets as possible. The response to these themed parties is so positive and people just love the experiences they see that I am providing my clients and want to know more about what I can do for them!

My Delicious Juicy Sangria
Serves 12-15
from Nancy Cordi
(please use quality wines)
2 bottles of good rose wine
1 bottle Dolce Vita Prosecco
1 750ml bottle of Christian Brothers peach brandy
1/2 cup of Grand Marnier
2 cups cubed fresh pineapple
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
2 limes cut into thin slices
2 oranges cut into thin slices
Add all ingredients to large container or glass pitchers with lids and let sit overnight (at least 12 hours).  Serve with mango and raspberry ice cubes.
Mango and Raspberry Puree Ice Cubes
from Nancy Cordi
1 cup of fresh raspberries
1 cup of cubed mangos
1/2 cup of blackberries
3 cups water
1 cup of cane sugar
1 tspn of lemon zest
1 tspn of lime zest
4 silicone ice cube trays
2 baking/cookie sheets
In two sauce pots, separate the mangos and raspberries.  In the pot with the mangos, add lemon zest and the pot with the raspberries, add the lime zest.  Now add 1 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 cup sugar to each pot.  Stir separately on medium heat for about 10 minutes until mangos become soft and water turns yellow and until raspberries break apart and sauce becomes thick and red. Remove from heat and let cool.  Once cooled, for the raspberries, pour through strainer and press puree through with a spatula into another pot, removing all seeds. Now, add blackberries and stir.  In separate silicone ice cube trays placed on baking sheets, pour the mango and raspberry puree into each tray almost to the top of each block.  Carefully slide baking sheets into freezer and allow the puree to freeze for at least 6 hours.  Once cubes are frozen, twist ice cube trays and place in stainless steel ice cube bucket and serve with sangria!

Have you had requests from clients to create a themed party? How did you go about it?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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We hope you enjoy and are inspired by this post by APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor in Boston, Massachusetts. Christine, who owns the business with partner Dennis Nosko, posted a picture of the cake on Facebook so I had to ask her for the recipe and the backstory. She, of course, provided both.

Nothing sets the tone of a theme party more than an original creation made for a specific crowd…Designing a dessert just for your client is appreciated and remembered.

Cocktail theme-based desserts allow you flavor layers and combinations you may not have thought about. Dissect the components and you can come up with a unique ice cream, cake, mousse, or sauce.

We were lucky enough to get a request from a woman wanting to celebrate her husband and his 30th birthday with an “End Of The 20’s,” party, with theme dress and décor. Her husband’s family happens to own a vacation home in a town on the North Shore of Massachusetts, chock full of period furniture, antique Spode china, etched crystal goblets, sterling service, and flutes that go back several generations. The hosts and guests showed up in tuxedos and evening gowns. They sipped cocktails and champagne and listened to music from the Gilded Age.

After I got her email requesting the theme, I had to plunge into Google searches for food of the Roaring Twenties and what was popular. There were a few references to The Great Gatsby so I narrowed the search and two themes came up:

Lemon Poundcake/Tea Cakes

Mint Juleps

In Fitzgerald’s classic, Nick Carraway had hosted a tea for Gatsby and Daisy, for which he served 12 lemon cakes. Daisy Buchanan, being from Louisville, loved a mint julep. How to tie the two together?

The dessert we created was a lemon zest and buttermilk pound cake, served with lemon curd mascarpone cream, a mint julep and honey syrup with Knob Creek bourbon, and fresh whipped cream, topped with candied lemon peel.

I started with a classic lemon pound cake recipe from Martha Stewart and tweaked it slightly to add more lemon and more salt, with salted butter.

We call this Jay’s Gatsby….
Lemon Pound Cake
Yield: Each cake serves six

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
Zest of 3 lemons, finely grated
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs

Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Butter and flour three 4 1/2-by-8-inch (6-cup) loaf pans.
    2. In a small bowl (or liquid measuring cup), combine buttermilk with lemon zest and juice. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
    3. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    4. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three parts alternately with the buttermilk mixture in two, beginning and ending with flour; beat just until smooth
    5. Divide batter evenly between pans; smooth tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes (tent with foil if browning too quickly). Cool 15 minutes in pan. Turn out cakes onto a rack; cool completely.

Note: The cakes can be frozen to serve later.

Lemon Curd Mascarpone Cream

1 cup fresh lemon curd
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Blend well with a hand mixer until fully incorporated and chill until dessert assembly.

Mint Julep Syrup With Lemon & Knob Creek

2 cups water
1 cup bourbon (we used Knob Creek)
½ cup unbleached cane sugar
½ cup dark raw honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Handful of mint leaves, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons whole butter
1 large bunch of mint leaves, finely chopped

  1. In a large sauce pan, add the first 6 ingredients over medium heat and reduce to half. Strain out mint leaves and return to low burner. Add more lemon or honey to taste.
  2. Whisk in the butter and chopped mint into the sauce. Keep warm, not hot.

Assembly:

  1. Cut the cake with a serrated knife into slices about ¾-1 inch thick.
  2. On a dessert plate, fill the recessed area with mint julep syrup. The cake will absorb most of the liquid.
  3. Place the cake one side down in the syrup.
  4. Top the cake with 2 T of the lemon curd mascarpone, spreading it evenly.
  5. Add syrup to the bottom of the plate.
  6. Top with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
  7. Garnish with fresh mint and/or candied lemon peel.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, the dinner we served included Baby Crab Cakes with Cajun Remoulade and a Small Cheese Plate to start. We made a Chilled Fresh Pea Soup with Rosemary Cream, followed by Swordfish with Fresh Herbs, Lemon, and Garlic accompanied by Roast Baby Potatoes and Sautéed Spinach with Fresh Tomatoes and Roasted Corn.

Have you had to create a theme-based menu for catering a client party? How did you go about it?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Tempeh fish tacos

When we talk about proteins, it’s not surprising if what immediately comes to mind is meat and seafood. Or dairy. Or eggs. In other words, animal proteins.

But here’s what else is protein: legumes, like beans, peas, peanuts, and lentils; other nuts; and soy. Yes, plant proteins. And they can create just as hearty a meal as any steak or pork chop. And can be just as rich as cream or custard.

If you’re looking for meat mimics, the trifecta is tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Most people are familiar with the soybean product tofu, but tempeh and seitan are still unusual food products in the typical U.S. household. They’ve been growing increasingly popular, however, as more folks than just vegetarians or vegans turn to plant proteins to round out their diet. And while all three are Asian in origin, you can go way beyond Asian flavors to create a great dish.

Tempeh is a traditional fermented soy product that was originally developed around the 19th century in Indonesia. The culturing can be complicated, which makes it difficult for home cooks to make from scratch.  But it’s easy to find in markets like Whole Foods.

This dense spongy product that can be cut into pieces and brined or marinated before pan frying. It can be crumbled into pieces for chili, stir frys, soups, and stews. It can be grated and substituted for ground beef. You can feature it in tacos, using a blackening seasoning that is pressed into tempeh slices, which are then seared. Add a chipotle sauce made with Vegenaise, an eggless mayo, as well as salsa, guacamole, and shredded cabbage.

Seitan is a very different product—made of wheat gluten. It’s believed to have first appeared during the 6th century in China as a noodle ingredient, but has long been popular throughout China, Japan, and other East and Southeast Asian countries. The term itself was coined in the ‘60s in Japan.

Seitan is for the person who is a meat eater—who likes steak. In the U.S. it’s usually sold in blocks, strips, and cubes by brands like Upton and WestSoy. In its natural form, it’s a perfect blank canvas for flavors, so it’s not uncommon to find a number of packaged flavor variations—even bacon. It’s also pretty easy to make. Home cooks can create loaves of it using vital wheat flour, nutritional yeast flakes, and other ingredients. Like tempeh, it can be refrigerated or frozen to keep longer. Use it to make sausages and lunchmeat or add it to sauces. You can even cook it like a roast.

Because it so readily absorbs flavors, you can take the flavors in a typical meaty dish, like meatballs or even a pastrami sandwich, and transfer them to seitan.

Now tofu is not a stranger to most of us, but let’s go beyond stir frying and other traditional savory applications you’re used to. How about dessert? My friend chef Marguerite Grifka sometimes use tofu to make desserts.

“I make a cheesecake using tofu as well as mousse,” she said. “It’s a good substitute for eggs.”

Grifka pointed out that the tofu used in dessert applications—as well as sauces, smoothies, chowders, and mock sour cream—is silken tofu. Unlike regular tofu, which can be grainy and crumbly, silken tofu has a smooth, creamy texture. Like regular tofu, you can find it in soft, firm, and extra firm. She uses firm or extra firm silken tofu for her Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse with Tofu.

One of the challenges of making a sweet tofu dish is the tofu aftertaste. Grifka discovered that adding salted caramel to the chocolate cut the aftertaste, resulting in a rich, satisfying sweet and creamy dessert.

The recipe takes all of about 10 minutes to make. First you create the caramel by melting sugar and adding coconut milk. Then you add chocolate chips and whisk until they melt. That cools and in a blender you combine that mixture with the tofu, salt, and vanilla. Then you just have to decide whether you’re serving it in small dishes, spooning it out of a large bowl, or perhaps piping it out from a pastry bag. Chill and then you can top it with berries or shaved chocolate—or a tofu cream topping that can serve as whipped cream.

Here’s the recipe:

Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse with Tofu
From Marguerite Grifka

1, 12-ounce package silken organic firm tofu (Mori-Nu brand or other in shelf stable/aseptic package)
4 ounces 60% shaved semi-sweet chocolate (or substitute ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons organic sugar
½ cup organic coconut milk
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt (or substitute with kosher salt)
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

Have all ingredients measured ready to go before you start, this comes together quickly.

To create the caramel, sprinkle sugar on the bottom of sauce pan. Heat over medium heat. Have the coconut milk close by. Sugar will melt and then quickly turn light brown (caramelize). As soon as you see it turn a light caramel color remove from heat and add coconut milk. It will sputter so be careful.

Return to heat, simmer, and whisk until caramel is dissolved.

Add chocolate chips and whisk until melted, remove from heat.

Put tofu block in blender or chop into a few pieces to fit in food processor. Add the coconut/chocolate mixture, salt, and vanilla. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

Pour into serving dishes or into a bowl to chill. You can place in a pastry bag and pipe through a star tip if you want to be extra fancy.

Chill 1 hour or more.

Top with dairy-free whipped cream or tofu topping (see recipe below), berries, shaved chocolate, chopped toasted almonds or hazelnuts.

Tofu Cream Topping

1, 12-ounce package silken organic extra firm tofu (Mori-Nu brand or other in shelf stable/aseptic package)
¼ cup real maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt

Blend until combined. Chill until cold.

Are you cooking non-animal proteins for clients? Share a tip with us for how you use it.

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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The Case for Bison

Filed under: Culinary Trends,Recipes , Tags: , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , July 24, 2017

I’m no vegetarian but I don’t eat nearly as much meat as I used to. I doubt many of us do anymore. And, we’re all looking for ways to make those selections a bit healthier.

Enter the shaggy American buffalo. Known scientifically as bison to distinguish it as a bovine more related to domestic cattle than to Asian and African Cape buffalo, our American buffalo has become a beef alternative.

According to the USDA, there are about 150,000 bison raised on public and private lands in the U.S. They’re huge — a bison bull is the largest animal indigenous to North America. A bull can be taller than six feet at the hump and weigh more than a ton. They’re free ranging for most of their lives, eating hay or grass until the last 90 to 120 days of their lives, when they’re fed grain — not unlike a lot of domestic cattle. Even with the grain diet before slaughter, there’s little marbling, which is why bison meat appears to have a deeper red color than beef before cooking. Neither hormones nor antibiotics are given to bison.

Because bison meat is very lean, it will cook faster than traditional grain-fed beef and more like grass-fed beef, so bear that in mind if you’re grilling a bison steak or a burger.

I tried the bison sold at Whole Foods recently. I picked up both a New York steak and a package of ground meat. The bison are are raised in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado, and processed at 30 months of age after spending 14 days in the feed lot.

I broiled the steak, seasoning it just with salt and pepper. To accompany it, I made a tomato relish of chopped heirloom tomatoes and red onion, julienned basil, diced jalapeño, minced garlic, and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

The steak cooked quickly; just a few minutes on each side left it medium rare. It was more tender than I expected and had a lovely sweet flavor.

The following week, I pulled out my pound package of ground bison (packaged as “ground buffalo”) and let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator. I used half to make burgers, which I gently mixed with salt, pepper and fresh jalapeños, then stuffed with about a tablespoon of Purple Haze goat cheese before putting them on the grill.

The rest of the ground bison went into a tomato and red pepper pasta sauce I had made. I’ll be honest; the sauce was just okay so I had frozen what I hadn’t eaten to give me time to figure out what to do with it. With the ground bison, I figured I’d defrost it and make a ragu. The flavors were tremendous. I wanted to dive into the bowl once the pappardelle was gone and lick up every last bit of the sauce. The meat gave it a richness and sweetness that the vegetables alone just couldn’t produce.

Bison comes in most of the same cuts as beef. I saw tri-tips, rib-eyes, and filet mignon at Whole Foods. But it is pricey at around $20+ a pound. The New York steak was about half that. The ground bison is pretty reasonable.

Are you substituting conventional beef with bison? What are you making?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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How are your pasta-making skills? Do you default to dry or refrigerated fresh found in the grocery store? Here’s a tip from Evan Kleiman, the host of KCRW’s Good Food radio show and the woman behind the great Caffe Angeli on Melrose in LA (which I adored when I lived there). She wrote about why shoppers should not buy supermarket “fresh” pasta.

“If imported Italian dry pasta were choice A and fresh pasta were choice B and I could only choose one to eat for the rest of my life, there would be no contest. I’d choose A, dry pasta. Many home cooks, bamboozled by the glut of fresh pasta in restaurants, have come to believe that if it’s the chef’s choice, then it’s the better product. It is not.”

Now while she acknowledges her story is about her love of dry durum wheat pasta, she also readily acknowledges that fresh pasta made well and served with appropriate sauces is a great dining experience.

Making really good fresh pasta demands quality ingredients and skill–and it’s something that with practice home cooks can do for themselves. Back in the 80s, the idea was to make it, then hang it on “pasta racks” or broom sticks to dry and then cook later. Today, of course, we recognize that you can put a big pot of water on the stove to heat and make your pasta while the water is coming to the boil.

I’m lucky in that I get to spend a lot of time with chefs in their kitchens, learning their techniques, getting their recipes. And I’ve been hanging out with several recently who have taught me how to make pasta. Each has their own technique but I thought I’d share what a young man, Daniel Wolinsky, showed me. He’s the Chef de Cuisine at cucina SORELLA in the Kensington neighborhood of San Diego. Wolinsky, who teaches pasta-making classes at the restaurant, made a simple Tagliarni with Hot Sausage and Clams. Like many of us who cook at home, he created a “what’s in the fridge” style dish. Initially he was thinking of a corn pesto, which intrigued me. But, there was no corn around that day. But clams and other seafood were. So we were going to go in a seafood and tomato pasta direction. Until he noticed his house-made sausage. Scratch the seafood. Instead it evolved into just clams with the sausage, along with garlic, and even green garlic (it was then spring), lemon juice, and white wine. Actually, there was fresh minced basil, too, which you can certainly add, although Wolinsky didn’t include it in the recipe below.

He started by making the pasta. He already had a batch of dough mixed that one of his line chefs had been turning into ravioli. This dough, rich in eggs, is a house specialty and Wolinsky felt it might be too difficult for those not all that experienced in making pasta to get right. Instead, our recipe below is a little more user friendly with fewer eggs (three whole eggs instead of nine yolks) and your success that much more guaranteed.

The noodles Wolinsky prefers for a seafood pasta like this are thin. He explained that they cook quickly in water and in the broth of the seafood component they better absorb the flavors.

When running the pasta through the machine, you’ll want to get it as thin as possible. When Wolinsky did his final roll, you could actually see the grain of the wood counter through the sheet.

The long flat pasta stretched about three feet along the counter so Wolinsky cut it into several pieces. Then sprinkled them lightly with flour so when he folded each up there’d be no sticking.

Then he sliced through the folded piece of pasta to create long, thin noodles of tagliarini.

With the pasta made we went into the kitchen to create the sauce. It was ridiculously quick. So first put a pot of water to the boil. Then grab a pan and add the sliced sausage. Sauté the coins until just golden brown on both side. If they don’t give off enough fat, add a little extra virgin olive oil, and then add the garlic. Just before the garlic starts to brown add the clams and quickly cook together before pouring the wine into the pan. Cover the the pan so the clams will steam open–it’ll take just a couple of minutes. Once the clams open, add the pasta to the boiling water and the green garlic to the pan. The pasta should be cooked in less than a minute. Pull it out of the water and drop into the pan and toss, adding the fresh lemon juice. Taste and add salt if necessary. If the dish is too dry for you, add a little of the pasta water to the pan.

At that point, it’ll be ready to plate. Pour the pasta mixture into a bowl and top with the bread crumbs. Because you can make the dough in advance, this is perfect for an impressive dinner party for clients.

Tagliarini with Hot Sausage and Clams
from Daniel Wolinsky of cucina SORELLA
Feeds about 4 people

Ingredients
1 pound fresh tagliarini (Any long noodle will work but he recommends fresh long noodles; recipe below.)
8 ounces or 2 spicy Italian sausage links pre-cooked and sliced into coins 1/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped1 pound Little Neck clams (Manilla also work.)
3/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon green garlic (or minced garlic cloves)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh toasted bread crumbs

Directions
1. Put on a 8-quart pot of water to boil and season heavily with salt.
2. In a large sauté pan over medium/high heat sear the sausage till golden brown on both sides.
3. Add the garlic and right before it starts to color add the clams and toss together. Cook for 30 seconds.
4. Carefully pour the white wine into the pan and cover to steam the clams open, about 2 to 3 minutes.
5. When the clams open drop the pasta to cook and add the green garlic to the pan.
6. Toss in the pasta and squeeze in the fresh lemon juice. Season the dish to taste with salt. If you like the dish more brothy, add a few tablespoons of pasta water.
7. Plate and top the pasta with a healthy portion of bread crumbs. Enjoy!

Fresh Pasta Recipe

Ingredients
3 whole eggs
300 grams 00 flour
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions
1. In a Kitchen Aid stand mixer add the flour and on a low speed with a dough hook slowly pour in the eggs and olive oil.
2. Mix for about 10 minutes (Note you may need to add a touch of water if it’s too dry.). After the dough has formed wrap tightly in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
3. Roll the dough using a pasta rolling machine to the desired thickness and shape. He recommends longer,  thinner noodles.

Do you make your own pasta for clients? What’s your specialty?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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As a gardener I’m a great grocery shopper. I come from a long line of excellent gardeners, yet whether it’s my lack of absolute dedication or the ever-compacting clay soil in my little pocket garden, I have yet to attain the success of my mother or her mother in growing a sustainable harvest even just for myself.

My Nana had a victory garden of at least an acre in East Los Angeles during the Depression and going into the privation of World War II. My mom recalls her using fish bones from the fish monger to fertilize the soil and growing every vegetable you can imagine, as well as berries and tons of flowers. My mom inherited this talent. All the years she had a garden she was like a plant whisperer. They responded to her with magnificent offerings–Meyer lemon trees weighted down with golden fruit, basil plants bursting with clean wide anise-scented leaves, zucchini and tomatoes enough to make Italians weep with delight.

Me? I compost and compost and the soil still seizes up. I get white fly on my Meyer lemon trees that never quite goes away. And some little varmints are stealing my ripe harvest.

And yet. There I am year after year tending to this lovely little space, and despite my shortcomings and that of the soil, I usually get a small if regular crop.

All this is to say if I can do it, so can you.

This isn’t a gardening blog, but many personal chefs and home cooks love to grow their own food. I’m no different. There’s such joy in picking a cucumber or pepper or handful of tiny cherry tomatoes that I grew from seed or seedling. It makes cooking and eating them that much more satisfying. My year-round edible garden includes Mexican tarragon, Greek oregano, English thyme, garlic chives, Italian parsley, Meyer lemons, limes, Thai chilis, sorrel, and a basil bush that produces year round. Then there are the seasonal plantings. In late spring, I planted three types of cherry tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, zucchini, string beans, basil, more chiles, plus some strawberries. Some are in pots; some in the soil. All seem to be thriving so far.

So, given my tendency to growing failure, I thought I’d offer up some suggestions for what does work and, hopefully, give inspiration to the soil challenged.

Let’s start with my annual favorite: Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. I grow these in a large pot on the sun-drenched part of my patio. In the 16 years I’ve lived in my house I think I’ve only had one year of failure. This variety is easy to grow and you may find that the only reason you have nothing to bring into your kitchen is because you’ve munched on all the ripe ones while hand watering. They’re like eating candy. But if you do have enough ripe at one time to make a meal, halve them and serve with fresh ricotta and a drizzle of olive oil on toasted sourdough bread. Or toss with pasta and pesto. Or mix with watermelon chunks, feta, and basil leaves as a salad, drizzled with olive oil and thick balsamic vinegar.

Japanese eggplant: I’ve always grown this successfully in a pot but after working my garden soil decided to try planting it in the ground this summer. And, woo hoo, I’ve got gorgeous fruit coming in. I only have one plant so my harvest will be limited, but when the first little guy is ripe, it’ll probably be sliced lengthwise, pierced in a few places, then layered first with a thick coating of minced garlic and olive oil, followed by a layer of grated parmesan before heading under the broiler for a few minutes. Of course, you can also stir fry or grill these slender eggplants, or even pickle them.

String beans: This was an experiment last year and they did so well, I got another couple of plants this year and, as you can see, they’re popping out! These bush beans are pretty easy to manage and I love the sweet crunch they give when fully ready for picking. If I can keep from just snacking on them, I like to blanch them and include them in a summer salad with sliced radishes and cucumbers, tossed with a light vinaigrette.

Zucchini: This black zucchini variety–like almost any zucchini variety–has a mind of its own and its mind says “Be fruitful and multiply!” I can never decide whether to pick the gorgeous blossoms and stuff them or wait for the fruit. Currently I’m waiting for the first fruit to mature. Once I’ve had my fill, the blossoms will be snatched for stuffing with creamy cheeses before being dunked in a light beer batter and fried–or simply chopped and added to a quesadilla or omelet. I love having choices!

Peppers: No matter how bad things get in the garden, which includes stealing by varmints, peppers are my salvation. The local thieves don’t seem interested in them. I’ve had one Thai chili plant for years and it keeps popping out the hot stuff every summer. Last year I planted a Hungarian pepper plant that produced beautiful round fruit. I never pulled it and once again it’s heavy with green balls that will eventually turn a vibrant red. The same with my bell pepper plant in a big pot on the patio. It just keeps giving and giving so long as I water, feed, and weed it. I also have new serrano and jalapeño plants, both full of fruit, planted in the ground. It’s so cool to make a salsa and just go out the door with a little clipper to harvest what I need.

This morning I did one of my favorite garden chores–I fed the plants with fish emulsion, a byproduct of fish waste. This stinky source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is fabulous for photosynthesis, flowering, and fruit development. And, with its potent odor, it’s the rare plant food that makes you feel like something’s happening from the moment it hits the soil. When I feed them fish emulsion I feel like I’ve really done something wonderful for all my little garden babies.

You don’t need me to share the plentiful variety of gardening resources out there, whether online or at the bookstore (although I will give a shout out to my high school friend Nan Sterman, who has a terrific KPBS show called A Growing Passion). All I can emphasize is that you should buy organic seeds or seedlings from reputable resources, use lots of compost to both amend your soil and protect it from the heat, and water as needed. I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping a pail in my shower to collect water since in California we’re still technically in a drought. That helps. So does composting. And to keep nasty bugs at bay, use natural pest control–whether it’s planting flowers that attract insects that will eat your critters or spraying with non-toxic, natural pesticides. Soon you’ll also start seeing bees and hummingbirds. That’s when you know you’ve created a magical little ecosystem.

What else? Oh, how about have fun!

Are you a gardener? What’s in your garden this summer?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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Think about the last time you cooked fish for a client. Was it a salmon filet or steak? Perhaps a piece of swordfish or tuna? When you bought it was it already wrapped in plastic on a Styrofoam tray accompanied by a sad little lemon slice?

If that’s the case, wow, are you and your clients are missing out because cooking a whole fish—or cooking a fish whole—can lead to richer flavors and, let’s face it, less waste.

Now no one’s expecting you to purchase a whole tuna or swordfish. In fact, when it comes to sustainability, buying the smaller fish species is actually a better idea since there are usually just more of them. We’re talking anything from sardines and sand dabs to trout and rockfish and snapper.

Cooking a whole fish can be as easy as stuffing it with aromatics, then encasing and baking it in salt. It makes for a fun meal for dinner parties, allowing clients to dig out the juicy pieces and enjoy parts of the fish that have great flavor, like the cheeks and collars.

It’s also less expensive per pound because you, not the store, are the labor. And, importantly, it’s a sustainable way to eat because you’re utilizing all of the fish.

It’s certainly how I grew up eating. One of my dad’s favorite meals to prepare was rainbow trout, which he would clean, dredge in flour, and then sauté until the skin was crispy and the flesh an opaque white. He taught my siblings and me how to filet the fish and remove the skeleton so we wouldn’t choke. His other favorite fish dish, still a treat, is preparing sand dabs, which are tiny delicate flatfish that he cleaned, then also pan fried. At those meals, eating was more than just cutting up food and popping bites in the mouth. It was an adventure and required both patience and some skill. It made the otherwise routine family dinner fun!

My friend and San Diego chef Andrew Spurgin takes cooking a whole fish up a few notches. His salt-encrusted fish is easy to make and creates a presentation worthy of a dinner party. Basically, you need a couple of boxes of kosher salt as well as egg whites, which are gently beaten and spread on the fish to allow the salt to adhere to it. Depending on the flavor profile you’re after, you need herbs, citrus, and spices for stuffing the cavity. And you’ll want to make a dipping sauce for the fish once it’s emerged from the salt. And that fish, released from its salt coffin, will be some of the moistest, most flavorful fish you’ve ever enjoyed.

That’s cooking a fish whole. But you can also cook a whole fish and break it down yourself, then cook up individual pieces. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, especially if your fishmonger does the cleaning for you. It’s also a hugely sustainable approach to utilizing seafood.

These are the four basic steps:

  1. Lift the pectoral fin (just below the head) and, using a flexible filet knife, cut across the shoulder. Turn the fish spine toward you and slice down the spine. Cut across the bottom of the fish, just above the tail. Then turn the fish belly toward you and slice from the shoulder cut down to the anal cavity. Then angle the knife parallel to the body and slice evenly down to the tail to create a filet. Flip the fish over and repeat. This is the main event—meat you can bake, grill, or fry. On some fish, like hiramasa, you’ll also have a section of ribs. Cut along the blood line, then remove and cut into rib sections. Gomes says they’re terrific dipped in a panko batter and deep fried.
  2. Cut the triangular section just under the head and below the fins. That’s the collar. The meat is full of fat and flavor. Save that to bake, grill, or fry. Gomes calls these “the chicken wings of the sea.”
  3. Cut off the rest of the head and split it to open flat. Get rid of the gills and then grill or bake the head to enjoy the sweet cheek meat.
  4. What’s left is the carcass. Don’t toss it. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and little lemon juice and put it on the grill or sauté it. Use a fork to scrape off the meat and enjoy.

Since we’re just easing our way into summer, grilling whole fish is a great weekend entertaining treat for client dinner parties. All you need is a flat grilling surface, like a plancha, and your favorite seasonings—or just salt, pepper, and lemon juice. The result will be sweet and beautifully moist meat guests will fight over.

Pacific Salt-Crusted Fish with Ginger Scallion Sauce

From Andrew Spurgin

Serves three to four

3-4 pound whole fish such as snapper, grouper or sea bass, scaled and cleaned, fins and gills removed by your fishmonger
1 fresh kaffir lime, sliced (replace with key lime if unavailable)
3 kumquats, sliced
4 kaffir lime leaves, slightly crushed before use
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced on bias
8 sprigs cilantro
2 garlic cloves, smashed
¼ cup wakame seaweed, crushed (eliminate if you want to)
4 egg whites
1 ½ 3-pound boxes Kosher salt
Water

For sauce:
½ cup scallions, whites and green, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh young ginger (different from typical ginger), very finely minced
½ teaspoon citrus flavored soy sauce (kinko ponzu shoyu)
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
½ teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon fish sauce
Sea salt, such as Maldon

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 375ºf.

Fill the belly and mouth cavity with the kaffir lime, kaffir lime leaves, kumquats, lemongrass, four sprigs of cilantro and the garlic

In a large bowl mix whip the egg whites until softly peaked, fold in the kosher salt and wakame seaweed. Add a little water to get to the consistency of a snowball. Too wet and salt will crack when baked.

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil for easier cleanup.

Lay down approximately ¾” layer of kosher salt, place the fish on top. Cover the entire fish with the salt mixture, approximately ¾” thick; basically you’re making a salt oven.

Bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes.

To make the sauce, mix together the scallions, young ginger, yuzu-soy sauce, sesame oil, grapeseed oil, and fish sauce. Sprinkle with sea salt. Taste and adjust if needed. Set aside.

Remove fish from oven and, with a heavy kitchen knife, lightly tap around the bottom edge of the salt crust (near the sheet pan) until cracked all the way around. Carefully lift off the salt crust, it will pull away from the fish. Lightly brush off any remaining salt flakes from the fish with a pastry brush.

Slice down the dorsal side of fish and just behind the head, slice the filet just before the tail. Carefully slice the fish lengthwise to split the top filets in half. Gently lift out the two filets, check for pin bones, and place on a warmed serving platter.

Carefully pull out the backbone, from tail end. All, or most, of the other bones will come with it. Lift out the lower filets as you did with the upper ones

Top with Maldon sea salt, if needed. Serve the scallion ginger sauce on the side. Garnish with remaining cilantro sprigs. Serve immediately.

Serving suggestion:

Serve with simple cucumber salad with Thai basil, mint, bean shoots and shredded cabbage. Toss in a vinaigrette with rice wine vinegar, nước mắm, sugar and chilies. Flash fried wontons on the side.

Great with a dry Riesling wine or Champagne!

Alternative filling:

Parsley, thyme, basil, bay leaf, lemon and garlic. Serve with slowly roasted cherry tomatoes ON the vine. Roast tomatoes with sliced shallots, garlic, thyme sprig, sea salt, pepper and olive oil. Serve warm on the side with torn fresh opal and green basil. Squeeze lemon on fish and drizzle with good olive oil

How do you prepare whole fish? We’d love to hear from you!

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Chefs, now that summer is here again and the temps inside and out make us dread turning on the stove, how about a break? Inside of turning up the heat, turn on the blender and make your clients (or yourself) some easy, refreshing chilled soups.

This is something I’ve been doing for years–and it’s been made so much easier with a powerful Vitamix. Some of my summer soups are savory, filled with veggies and garlic and herbs–to which chilled seafood, like shrimp or crab, can be added.

Others soups are more of a dessert treat. Melons and berries are terrific for them. Great a little good dark chocolate over the top or dunk a nice sandy shortbread into it and you’ll have a satisfying meal ender.

So, what have we got? The first is my most recent creation: Chilled Spinach and Green Onion Soup. I had a bit of a gardening episode and landed myself with a huge pile of green onions. So, soup! This recipe is easy and so satisfying on its own. The only thing I add is a hunk of sourdough baguette and homemade cultured butter.

Chilled Spinach and Green Onion Soup
Serves 4

2 cups spinach, tightly packed
1 cup green onions, sliced (set aside a couple of tablespoons for garnish)
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup ice cubes
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup low-fat or “light” sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces panko crumbs

1. Place all of the ingredients until the butter in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
2. Chill the soup for at least an hour.
3. In a skillet, melt the butter and then add the panko crumbs. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds until the crumbs become slightly brown and crisp. Drain on a paper towel.
4. To serve, divide the soup between bowls. Garnish with the set aside slices of green onions and a sprinkling of the panko crumbs.

Another chilled savory soup I’ve loved for years is gazpacho. As many of my friends know, this chunky gazpacho is something my mom has made for years and I adopted as my own. It’s a powerhouse of nutrients and the more nutrients, the better the flavor. This soup is packed with it. It starts with the tomatoes, but adds cucumbers, corn, onions, garlic, bell peppers, chilies, cilantro, and lime juice–and I’m just getting started! Just be sure to chop each vegetable individually–unless you want a puree. Make your own tortillas to accompany this!

Evie’s Chunky Gazpacho
Serves 8 to 10

5 – 8 large tomatoes, quartered
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
½ English cucumber, roughly chopped
1 or 2 red peppers, roughly chopped
6 – 8 scallions, roughly chopped
6 – 8 radishes, roughly chopped
½ medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
½ bunch parsley with major stems removed and/or 1 bunch cilantro
2 tbls lime juice
2-6 tbls red wine vinegar
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 regular-sized can beef broth
1 can low-salt V-8 juice
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned – if fresh is unavailable, I like the frozen roasted corn kernels from Trader Joe’s)
1 pound pre-cooked bay shrimp, lump crab or cooked chunks of chicken or pork
Sour cream or Mexican crema

Pull out the food processor and a very large bowl. Process each of the vegetables until the pieces are small — but before they’re pureed — and add to the bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the proteins and dairy, which I keep on the table separately for guests to add as they wish. Refrigerate until cold and then adjust seasonings to taste. Top when serving with sour cream or Mexican crema. Serve with fresh tortillas or even hearty sourdough bread.

To make the flowered corn tortillas, simply prepare the masa according to the directions on the package (water, masa, and salt). Roll the dough into golf-ball sized balls. On your tortilla press, lay an edible flower (we’ve used nasturtiums, pansies, society garlic, and the flowers of herbs that bolted) right side down. Then put the dough ball on top of the flower and press.

Place the uncooked tortilla flower side up on a hot skillet. When the edges curl, flip it over and cook just a minute or so more. That’s it.

Now for the sweet soups. Let’s start with this Chilled Honeydew Coconut Milk Soup. Chilled melons may be the most refreshing of summer eats. Combine the melon–and an über sweet honeydew at that–with fresh ginger, coconut milk, lime juice, and a smidge of kaffir lime powder and you have a dish that will serve as virtual armor against the dastardly rays of the summer sun.

Chilled Honeydew Coconut Milk Soup
Yield: 2 cups

1/2 honeydew melon (about 2 cups), seeded and cut into chunks
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1 teaspoon ginger, minced or grated
1 pinch kaffir lime leaf powder (available at spice shops)
Juice from one lime
Drizzle of honey

Combine all the ingredients. Puree in a blender until smooth. Chill for an hour before serving. Grate a little lime zest over the soup as garnish.

Finally, here’s my Chilled Melon Blueberry Soup. When the heat is on I love this combination of melon with blueberries and potent herbs like tarragon and basil. Thanks to the yogurt, it has a welcome creaminess and tang.

Chilled Melon Blueberry Soup
Yield: 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups melon
1/2 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons basil leaves, minced
1 teaspoon Mexican tarragon, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup plain yogurt
Pinch kosher salt

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Puree. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate for two hours before serving.

What’s your favorite go-to summer soup? Feel free to share the recipe!

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We’ve written here before–many times, in fact–about the importance of marketing your business via social media. Clearly, more of you are doing this. So, how’s it going?

As social media platform user numbers grow, it admittedly can get harder to get eyes on your page. Let’s talk specifically about Facebook. As of March 2017, they had 1.28 billion active daily users on average. These numbers along make it feel like everyone’s playing in someone else’s sandbox. On top of that, it seems we’re always griping about how Facebook is constantly changing their news feed algorithms in ways that make our likes and views drop. Now we can add to that the scales weighing more toward advertising as opposed to organic views.

You couldn’t be faulted for wanting to throw up your hands and giving up. Don’t. Instead be smarter and be more strategic.

Here’s what you need to know to form that strategy. Let’s start with content, since the media you can include has expanded. According to Sprout Social, these are the options:

  • Status: The simplest form of communication can sometimes be the most powerful. With new features like larger text for shorter messages and the option to put your text on a colored background, you can get your essential message out in a more vibrant and eye-catching way.
  • Images: Posts with images drive 2.3 times more engagement, so being visual helps. But don’t rely on images to do all the work–put effort into high-quality photos and awe your audience. If your product is considered “boring,” use beautiful images to highlight your brand’s creative side. Inspire users with virtual reality features or 360-degree content.
  • Videos: Video is in high demand and 43% of users would like to see even more from marketers. However, only 15% of Facebook videosare watched with sound. Video should be accessible, easy to digest and always have captions. Create videos that catch a user’s attention and provides something worthwhile.
  • Links: Links are perfect for sharing industry news and your own blog content. Find your most engaged content and continue to share it on Facebook. It’s not easy doing so organically, but it shouldn’t stop you from posting your best content.
  • Facebook Live: Live content drives three times more engagementon Facebook. With in-the-moment content growing in popularity, see how your brand can give sneak peeks into industry or office events, product launches and other behind the scenes content. Go Live, wow your audience and engage.
  • Facebook Stories: New to 2017, Facebook Stories are in-the-moment content clips. This was based off Instagram Stories, which ultimately were from Snapchat Stories–seeing a trend here? Brands have tested their efforts on Snapchat for a few years now. But with the newest release, you can attempt this style of content with one of your biggest networks.

You’re chefs, so the best way for you to share on Facebook is through visuals of your food. That means really good images. Dark, drab, out-of-focus photos are going to turn potential clients off. If they don’t look mouth watering, don’t post them. Period. So, get better at photography, even if it’s phone photography. And don’t be afraid to take short videos and post them. Or, post live video. You can do this. It’s fun!

So, let’s get into some strategic tips:

  1. Put together a basic approach with goals and how to meet them. What are you trying to accomplish on Facebook? Getting more business? Raising your professional profile? Networking? Any and all are valid–just have those goals in mind as you post.
  2. Understand your demographics. Click on “Insights” on your Facebook business page and study the numbers. That includes page view, likes, reach, and post engagements. Click on People to learn about how the numbers break down. You’ll learn what’s popular and what’s been a dud, if you’re growing your audience, and where they come from.
  3. Bring in more views through tagging. Did you just put on a great catering event? Did you take fab photos of the food and the space? Post them and tag your client if he or she’s on Facebook. Their friends will likely get that post in their news feed. That may get you some extra attention–and possibly inquiries about your services.
  4. Post just enough–and at the right time. You don’t want to spam people with your self-promoting photos but you don’t want to be forgotten. Look at those Insights on your page to learn when your posts get the most attention and schedule posts for that time and day.
  5. Experiment with content and form. Instead of posting a bunch of photos together in a static collage, try using the slideshow tool. Those same photos have movement and attract more eyes.
  6. Consider ads if your goal is to drive business. Start small and see how it goes with results. But remember, ads only spread content–so you have to be sure you are creating great content.

Finally, as we always say, social media is not so much about promoting as it is about engagement. Share your friends’ and clients’ great news and achievements. Post comments. Invite comments. Ask questions. Join groups, including our own APPCA group for members, to network and increase your visibility. And, if you’re on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, cross post. Instagram, for instance (owned by Facebook), has tools that facilitate posting simultaneously on Facebook and Twitter.

How’s your Facebook experience going? Any tips or tricks you can share with your colleagues here?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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I’m a huge sausage lover. I grew up on Hebrew National salami and grilled Dodger dogs in LA, continued with Sabrett and Nathan’s street hot dogs in New York, and eventually graduated to Italian soppressata, coppa, and other salumi.

But would I make them at home? Well, I’ve pretty much decided to forego making cured sausages, although there are many home cooks who do it successfully thanks to various classes and terrific instructional books like those by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, Rytek Kutas, and Bruce Aidells.

But fresh sausage? Absolutely. Especially after a couple of sessions with San Diego chef Joe Magnanelli. Magnanelli is himself self-taught with cured sausages. He is thoroughly grounded in technique plus he’s got great equipment to help ensure that the curing process results in both delicious and safe salumi.

Knowing that I wanted to learn how to make a fresh sausage, Magnanelli, demonstrated how a home cook or personal chef could do it—and it’s pretty easy. You could buy equipment to help you case the sausage but you don’t have to. In fact, here we have recipes for sausage patties for a delightful eggy breakfast sandwich and for a pasta dish. And once you’ve mastered the basic sausage recipe, you can create all sorts of unique dishes for clients.

Let’s start with what you will need: a meat grinder. And if you have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, you can easily buy a grinder attachment. You also need access to a freezer—yeah, of course you have that. You’ll want to briefly freeze the pork (or turkey or chicken or fatty fish) after prepping it before running it through the grinder. The chill keeps the protein and fat from sticking to the grinder blades and smearing.

If you’re making a pork sausage, the best cut to use is pork shoulder, Magnanelli said. That’s because it already has a good amount of fat in it. For his saucisson sec, the recipe calls for 20 percent pork fat and 80 percent meat.

The first time I met with Magnanelli, he made his saucisson sec, a traditional French salami, flavored with roasted garlic, salt, finely ground black pepper, and white wine. The second time, it was with minced garlic, red chili flakes, dried Sicilian oregano, kosher salt, toasted crushed fennel seed (crushed in a mortar and pestle), and a splash of white wine. The fennel, he said, gives the sausage a distinctive Italian quality. Both approaches will yield a delicious sausage. In fact, the beauty of sausage making is that you can add whatever seasonings appeal to you.

So, here’s how the process works: Cut the pork shoulder into one-inch pieces or what will fit into your grinder. Be sure as you cut that you trim off and discard the sinew and silver skin. Then put the pieces on a try and into the freezer until they are firm. Then mix the pork meat with the seasonings quickly so the pork stays cold. Grind the meat and flavorings together. If you don’t have a plunger for the grinder, Magnanelli suggests using the bottom of a whisk handle to help push the meat through the grinder.

Once you have your ground mixture in a bowl, season with kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, along with a touch of white wine. Mix it together by hand. That’s it!

If you are going to case the sausage, Magnanelli said hog casings (scrubbed, salted pig intestines) are the best. You can ask a butcher. If you are in the market for a stuffer, you can buy a five-pound sausage stuffer from a company called Northern Tool for about $100. There are lots of videos online that demonstrate sausage stuffing technique.

If you’re not going to case the sausage, you can use this ground mixture in many ways. You can make the best meatloaf or meatballs ever. You can make sausage patties. You can sauté the mixture, breaking it up into chunks, to serve with pasta. You can add it to a tomato sauce, soup, or stew. You can use it as a pizza topping or a calzone or sandwich filling. It’s that versatile. And what you don’t use right away you can freeze for later.

For Magnanelli’s Sausage Breakfast Sandwich, he buttered one side of two slices of New York rye bread and toasted them buttered side up until golden brown. Then, on the other side of the bread, he spread mayonnaise mixed with sriracha sauce. In a pan, he added a small amount of olive oil and then some of the sausage mixture. In a second pan, he added butter and olive oil, then an egg, which he fried. Just before the egg was ready, Magnanelli topped it with a slice of smoked cheddar cheese. He placed some cooked sausage on one slice of bread, then topped it with the egg and cheese and placed the second slice of bread over it to make the sandwich.

Magnanelli’s Spaghetti with Italian Sausage also included plump yellow chanterelle mushrooms (you can use any mushrooms you prefer), cipollini onions that he had already roasted, cherry tomatoes, white wine, and fresh minced basil. The process is simple. In a large pot you’ll cook your pasta in salted, boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, heat a skillet and add olive oil. Then add the sausage. Break it up but leave it a little chunky. Brown the sausage then add the onions and mushrooms. Sauté for a minute or so before adding the tomatoes and basil. Add a splash of wine and stir. Then add a splash of the pasta water before adding the cooked, drained pasta. If you like, you can grate parmesan cheese over it and stir it together while it cooks for another 30 seconds to let the flavors come together.

Once you plate the dish you can drizzle extra virgin olive oil over it and sprinkle more minced basil and grated cheese.

Basic Sausage Recipe

Serves 6

5 pounds pork shoulder
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seed
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
¼ cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean and dice pork shoulder to 1-inch pieces, or small enough to fit through a Kitchen Aid grinder attachment. Place pieces on a flat plate or tray and put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to make very cold, but not frozen.

Slightly grind up the fennel seed with the chili flake. You can do this in a mortar and pestle or use the back of a sauté pan.

When the pork is ready, mix with fennel seed, chili flake, and garlic. Slowly add the mixture into the top of the grinder and grind into the bowl of your mixer. Season with salt and pepper and red wine. You can mix the ingredients by hand or on the low speed of your mixer using the paddle attachment. To check for seasoning, take a small piece and flatten to a small disk. Heat a sauté pan and heat a small amount of oil. Cook on both sides until cooked through, about 1 minute on each side. Taste and re-season the rest of the pork mixture if necessary.

At this point the sausage is ready to use in various recipes. It can also be frozen to use later.

Sausage and egg breakfast sandwich

For 1 sandwich

2 ounces raw sausage mixture (see recipe above)
2 tablespoons butter
2 slices New York rye bread or other sliced bread
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sriracha or other chili sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 farm egg
2 slices smoked cheddar cheese

Start by forming sausage into a disk like shape and keep refrigerated.

Spread 1 tablespoon of butter on each slice of bread on 1 side, then toast in a toaster oven butter-side up. While the bread is toasting, mix the mayonnaise and sriracha in a small bowl. When the bread is done toasting, spread the mayonnaise evenly on both slices.

Use the other tablespoon of butter and olive oil to fry the farm egg sunny side up. While the egg is cooking fry the sausage patty in another pan for about 1 minute on each side or until fully cooked in the middle. You want each side to brown slightly.

When the egg is ready, place the slices of cheese on top of the egg to melt.

To assemble, place the sausage patty on the bread, topped with the egg, and top with the other side of toast.

Spaghetti with Sausage, Cippolini, Chanterelle, and Cherry Tomato

Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
10 cippolini onions
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
6 ounces sausage mixture (see recipe above)
½ pound chanterelle mushrooms (or any other mushroom), sliced in bite-sized pieces
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
5 leaves fresh basil
8 ounces fresh spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and heat an oven-ready sauté pan. Toss onions in a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place them on the hot sauté pan and put the pan in the oven for 10 minutes. At about 5 minutes, pull out the pan and carefully flip each onion over to cook on the other side. Remove the onions from the pan and let cool. Cut them in half and set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While water is heating up, in a large sauté pan, heat remaining tablespoon of oil and cook sausage, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces. When the sausage is almost done, add cippolinis and chanterelle mushrooms. Cook for about 2 minutes more. Add cherry tomatoes and basil.

Cook the fresh spaghetti in the boiling water for about 30 to 40 seconds or until al dente (fresh pasta cooks very quickly); drain spaghetti and add it to the pan with the sausage mixture, along with a splash of the pasta cooking water. Toss all ingredients together and finish with butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Place pasta in a bowl and drizzle with a nice extra virgin olive oil and enjoy!

 

Have you ever made homemade sausage for clients? What did you make and how did they turn out?

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