Miso Butter Turkey

Filed under: Cooking Tips,Recipes , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , May 20, 2019

 

Compound butters are truly a gift to cooks looking to create something memorable with vegetables, or poultry, pork, beef, or seafood–and odds and ends of ingredients. Because they’re so versatile and can be made out what might seem like strange flavor partners, I thought I’d share this with you to try with your clients. This combination features miso on a roasted turkey thigh. My usual go to with miso is to make a marinade or glaze for an oily fish like salmon or black cod. But I thought miso could work with turkey and decided to pair it with butter.

And several other ingredients.

I riffled around my pantry and pulled out honey and rice vinegar. Back in the fridge I got out soy sauce. Garlic and ginger made sense–and I remembered my ginger garlic bombs in the freezer (a great hack from Bon Appétit) and got one out to defrost.

After I let the butter soften and the ginger garlic bomb defrost, I mashed the butter and miso and started adding the rest: a teaspoon each of honey and rice vinegar, half a teaspoon of soy sauce, and the ginger garlic bomb. It was divine: salty and sweet with a kick from the vinegar and a little spice from the garlic and ginger.

I smeared it over the large turkey thigh, but once I did that I still had some left over. I pulled out an eggplant from the refrigerator and cut some slices, then smeared the slices with the miso butter. They all went into the oven to roast and within about 10 minutes my entire house already smelled dreamy. (Imagine how much your clients will enjoy the aroma in their homes.)

Within 45 minutes I had a beautifully browned turkey thigh and perhaps the most delicious slices of eggplant I’d ever eaten. The miso butter had infused the eggplant with all those flavors and each slice melted  in my mouth.

This is one of those concoctions I’d make again in a heartbeat not just for the turkey and the eggplant, but to smear on fish or chicken or winter squash slices. I’d toss it in pasta or hot whole grains.


Miso Butter Turkey Thigh
Serves 1 or 2, depending on the size of the turkey thigh

Ingredients
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons miso
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon plain rice vinegar
1 ginger garlic bomb
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 large turkey thigh

Directions
Mash together all the ingredients except the turkey to make the compound butter.

Spread as much of the compound butter as you need all over the turkey thigh. If you have any left over, refrigerate it or spread over vegetables.

Preheat oven to 375°. Place the turkey thigh and any vegetables you plan to roast in a roasting pan and cook for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 170° and 175°. Remove from oven. Let rest about 10 minutes, then slice the turkey.

Do you make compound butters? What are your favorite go tos? 

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Moroccan Meatball Sandwich

Filed under: Cooking Tips,Recipes , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , April 22, 2019

When you have friends who are chefs you–okay, I–get the benefit of an astounding variety of interesting recipes. And as far as I’m concerned, the more components the better because then you can mix and match them with other dishes.

Take, for instance, this Moroccan Meatball Sandwich. It’s the signature dish of Moto Deli, an ambitious motorcycle-themed sandwich shop/deli in San Diego’s North County community of Leucadia. Chef Andy Halvorsen made me his meatball sandwich. I loved the play on the concept, which takes it from Italian American to Moroccan in a heartbeat. The meatball is made with ground lamb and veal, panko crumbs, and spices that include cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika. An extra bite of spice comes from chopped pickled chiles. They nestle into a toasted hoagie roll, surrounded by a unique harissa marinara, then topped with a couple of slices of melted muenster cheese and–get this–sprinkled with pieces of preserved lemon. It’s a marvelous mouthful, rich and spicy-and accompanied by their fab house-made potato chips (they’re lucky I didn’t walk off with the tall container filled with them) and spicy sweet house-made pickles.

I thought I’d share it with you because it’s a perfect dish for those of you who cater lunches around sports events or casual holidays like Memorial Day, the 4th of July, or Labor Day. And perhaps you can riff on it to create your own unusual sandwich.

Halvorson emphasized that the cornerstone of a good sandwich is the bread. Got a big juicy sandwich like this in mind? Be sure, he said, to toast the bread so that it won’t fall apart once you add sauce.

“What’s fun about sandwiches is that you can do what you want,” he said. “You can sneak all sorts of good things in them that may be unexpected or unconventional but really work.”

Moto Deli Moroccan Meatball Sandwich
Recipe from Andrew Halvorsen of Moto Deli
Yield: 5 sandwiches
For each sandwich:
1 6- to 8-inch French or hoagie roll
3 meatballs
1/4 cup harissa marina sauce (can vary amount depending on your preference)
2 slices muenster cheese
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon (optional)

Moroccan Lamb Meatballs
From Andrew Halvorsen of Moto Deli
Yield: 16 meatballs

Ingredients
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound Ground Veal
¾ cup  panko bread crumbs
¾ cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon toasted, ground cumin
1 tablespoon toasted, ground coriander
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
¼ cup chopped, pickled chilies

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Soak bread crumbs with milk for at least 20 minutes. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Form 2-inch meatballs and place on a well-oiled baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until browned and cooked through.

Harissa Marinara 
From Andrew Halvorsen of Moto Deli
Yield: 6 cups

Ingredients
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
About 5 medium red peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded (or 1, 16-ounce jar)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup garlic, minced
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon coriander, ground
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon caraway seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon Salt
¼ cup parsley, chopped

Directions
Place roasted peppers in a blender and puree. Add ¼ cup of water if necessary to help blending. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium/high heat, add oil and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes or until garlic is aromatic and just begins to brown.

Add dry spices and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant.

Add tomatoes, peppers and parsley. Mix well and ensure that there aren’t any spices or garlic stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Lower heat and simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

To make sandwich:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Halve the meatballs and warm them in the sauce.

Lightly toast a sliced roll. Fill the roll with warmed meatballs and sauce. Top with the muenster cheese. Place in oven until cheese is melted. Sprinkle the top of the sandwich with chopped parsley and chopped preserved lemon.

Chefs, do you have a special, sandwich–unique to you–that you make for clients? 

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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Getting ready for Easter catering gigs? Need some inspiration? Who better to call on for a delicious recipe and stunning photos than our Carol Borchardt? She’s given us her twist on Deviled Eggs + a primer for successfully hard-boiling the eggs. Your clients will swoon and you’ll have a foolproof method for a technique many struggle with. 

Deviled eggs are essential for any Easter brunch.  However, this Easter favorite has a downside—peeling lots of hard-boiled eggs.

Peeling hard-boiled eggs used to be a real chore and I tried every tip and trick.  Nothing worked well until I began using a method from Cook’s Illustrated and now it’s my go-to method:

  • Get a saucepan full of water to a good, gentle boil over medium-high heat.
  • Prepare an ice bath.
  • Carefully lower cold eggs just out of the refrigerator into the water with a slotted spoon. Cook 10 minutes maintaining the gentle boil.
  • Transfer the eggs to the ice bath and let cool 5 minutes. Do not let the eggs sit in the water or they’ll become hard to peel.
  • Gently crack the eggs all over. Peel the eggs starting at the wide end where there’s an air pocket.  Refrigerate if not using right away.

Cook’s Illustrated explains that when the cold eggs hit the boiling water, the thin membrane between the white and the shell separates from the white and adheres to the shell.

Once you have perfectly peeled hard-cooked eggs, there are myriad ways to fill them.  These Southern-style Jalapeno Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs are my new favorite and will be on my Easter table!

Before moving to the South from Wisconsin almost 24 years ago, I had not experienced Southern food at all.  Where I lived, food was about brats, fish fries and cheese curds.

One of the first Southern specialties I experienced was pimento cheese.  The combination of cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and diced pimentos is a Southern staple and every Southern cook worth their grits has their own version.

To make the jalapeno pimento cheese, start with a good prepared pimento cheese then simply kick it up with fresh jalapeno.  If you want to make your own pimento cheese, here’s my basic recipe:

BASIC PIMENTO CHEESE

1 ½ cups mayonnaise
1 jar (4-ounce) diced pimentos, drained
1 tablespoon finely grated yellow onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 block (8-ounce) yellow extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 block (8-ounce) yellow sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Combine mayonnaise, pimentos, onion, Worcestershire and cayenne in a bowl.  Stir in cheese.  Store up to one week in refrigerator.

JALAPEÑO PIMENTO CHEESE DEVILED EGGS
24 servings

1 dozen eggs, cooked, peeled and halved
3/4 cup prepared pimento cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon or yellow mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded if desired, finely chopped
Jalapeno slices, for garnish

Remove yolks to a bowl and mash.  Add pimento cheese, mayonnaise, mustard and salt and black pepper and stir until well blended.  Alternately, combine in a food processor and process until smooth.

Stir in chopped jalapeno.

Refill eggs with pimento cheese combination.  Garnish with jalapeno slices.

SERVING SUGGESTION:  Because every guest may not like the intense heat of fresh jalapeno slices, garnish every other egg and leave some slices off to the side.

Chefs, what are your favorite (or your clients’) Easter dishes? How do you make deviled eggs?

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!

Photos by Carol Borchardt

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Chefs, how do you transport recipes to your cook dates? Do you bring a cookbook/notebook with your recipes? Do you keep them on a digital device or in the cloud to download to a device and bring that with you? Or are they all in your head (to which I say you are amazing)?

I asked our members on our Facebook APPCA group page about this. Here’s what I posted: How many of you use paper/book recipes at client cook dates? How many of you use a laptop/pad/cell phone? If the latter, how do you protect the device and more specifically the screens? How do you feel about hearing voice directions via Alexa or Siri?

I got some interesting responses I thought you’d find helpful:

Christina Hamilton Snow: “I make a binder to keep at my clients house and one at mine. If it’s a new recipe I’m trying I’m usually getting it on my phone. If the client likes the recipe I add it to each binder. That way my clients can review recipes and decide what they want me to cook.”

Javier Fuertes: “When I first started I had a binder I would carry with me. Each printed sheet was laminated.
That was 16 years ago. Today….. I cook from the top of my head. I know the recipes or basically….the ingredients, and just cook with passion PER customer. Remember, we customize. Whenever its a new recipe or so…. I literally will just print out for the day and bring it with me. I’m ok with it getting dirty. I’ll just toss out when I’m done. If its on digital form, I make sure to have the links on my phone ready to go. Basically…. I don’t fret over this anymore like I used to.”

Carol Borchardt: “I’ve tried techie ways of doing it but stick with Mastercook and print out the recipes for each cookdate on paper. 9 times out of 10 I never even look at the recipe and just cook on the fly. However, if I want to make a change to the recipe, all I need to do is jot it down and make the change in Mastercook. I like to keep my recipes up-to-date in the event I want to put it on my blog. Also, with Mastercook, they have an app now where you can sync recipes on all your devices so you always have them. If you do use a tablet and want to protect it, a big Ziploc bag will work.”

Suzy Dannette Hegglin-Brown: “I do both but mainly now I switched to That Clean Life. I just log on and it’s there you go.”

For those of you who would like to bring a tablet or laptop but need a connection to get online (and don’t want to ask your client for their WiFi password), a couple of people noted that you can use your cell phone as a hotspot. As Carol Borchardt helpfully explained, “If you have an iPhone, click on Settings and look for “Personal Hotspot.” You’ll need to enter that password on your tablet just like you would a wifi password. Doing that, however, will drain the battery on your phone very quickly.”

Chefs, how do you transport recipes to a cook date? Paper? Device? Something else?

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 don’t know about you, but I’ve been air fryer curious for awhile. What’s prevented me from buying one when I scoped them out at Target awhile back was their sheer size. They’re huge and can take up a lot of counter real estate.

But I came across this article in The Kitchn and both it revived my desire and helped me focus on some options. Now there was no way I was going to spend $350 on one so I’d have to go for second best for about $100. This was the NuWave Brio 6-Quart Healthy Digital Air Fryer.

I always go big since even though I live alone, I want to have the flexibility to cook for a crowd. But my fears panned out. I couldn’t put it on my counter. It had to go on my glass-top stove. And I didn’t like it at all. It was hard for me to figure out how to use it, took way too long for the food–sweet potato fries (of course) and a chicken thigh–to cook separately. But I’d have put in more time to figure it out had my entire house not reeked of burning plastic.

I returned it.

But I couldn’t let go and a month or so later I went back to The Kitchn article and thought I’d scale down and give this much smaller Dash air fryer a try. Dash has the fryers in multiple cool coolers with a small compact footprint, and both manual and digital displays.

Here’s mine (and no, I don’t get any payment from either Dash or Amazon):

I used it for the first time on, what else, the shishito peppers. Normally, I would toss them in a little oil and let them blister in a hot cast iron skillet. It’s not a big undertaking, unless the temperature is soaring in the summer. But cooking them up in the air fryer–essentially using convection heat–was even better because I didn’t have to hover over the skillet and deal with peppers so twisted they wouldn’t stay where you turned them.

With the air fryer all I had to do was toss them in a little vegetable oil and place them in a single layer in the crisper  basket, which rests in the crisper drawer. The downside? Because it’s a small unit I had to do two batches, but it wasn’t a big deal since the cooking time is a mere five minutes. This particular air fryer is very intuitive so you press the power button and it immediately shows the temperature, which I turned up from its default 360° to 390° with the + button.

Then you press the timer/temperature button, which displays the default time of 10 minutes and move it to 5 minutes using the – button. Press the start arrow button and it takes care of the rest. In fact, the temperature and timer alternate on the display so you know exactly what is going on as it counts down. And once it hits the one-minute mark, it counts down in seconds.

Midway, pull out the basket and shake, then put it back into the machine. When the timer beeper goes off, check and make sure your shishitos are sufficiently blistered. If so, pull out the basket and use tongs to pull out the shishitos (excess oil may have collected in the bottom of the crisper drawer below the basket so you don’t want to risk burning yourself by flipping it over).

Now how do you season your shishitos? If you’re like most people you salt the shishitos, then squeeze lemon juice over them. And that’s perfectly wonderful. I’m fond of ponzu sauce on them as well. But with this batch I sprinkled coarse sea salt and shichimi togarashi, which is a traditional Japanese seasoning mix.

It has a bite, thanks to chili pepper and szechuan pepper. But it also contains black and white sesame seeds, orange peel, and dried basil. So it offers plenty of zesty flavor, too, and pairs beautifully with the blistered shishitos.

Now do I think you’ll use an air fryer for clients? I don’t know. But if you can think of it as a mobile convection oven you might think of some uses for it when cooking for clients who only have a conventional oven. I’ve made chicken thighs with this little one and they cook up nicely and faster than if I put them in the oven. You can create “fried” foods for clients who can’t have all that oil. In other words, it’s another tool to add to your cooking arsenal. And, hey, it’s something to have at home to get a meal for yourself made with less hassle.

Have you tried using an air fryer yet? What do you think?

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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Shirataki Noodles

Filed under: Cooking Tips , Tags: , , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , January 21, 2019

Chefs, if you have clients who have issues with carbs–perhaps they have diabetes or weight issues—or they have wheat allergies, there’s another option for pasta that you may not be aware of and that can complement vegetable noodles: shirataki noodles.

Shirataki noodles originate in Japan. Slick and slippery, packaged in bulging plastic bags of water, they’re not what you expect in pasta. According to Serious Eats, they are made with glucomannan starch extracted from devil’s tongue yams. Essentially, it’s an indigestible dietary fiber so it goes in and out barely leaving a trace, so you end up with no net calories or carbs. For those who are gluten free, they’re perfect for those clients, too. They’re also keto friendly.


The best place to find shirataki noodles is at your local Japanese market, although some American markets carry them (look near where the tofu is stocked). Not only are there several brands with several choices of shirataki noodles, but there’s a whole other choice you can make–tofu shirataki, made with tofu and water with a little yam flour. And these, made by a company called House Foods, are going the extra distance with varieties in shapes like spaghetti, angel hair, macaroni, and fettuccine. Crazy! They also have no cholesterol, 0.5 grams of fat per serving, are extremely low in sodium, and are all of 20 calories per serving. And additional good news–if you don’t have a Japanese market in your community they’re available on Amazon.com.

Now are either version truly like wheat noodles in terms of flavor and texture? No. Let’s not make them into something they’re not. But if your clients have been craving traditional pasta and simply can’t have it this is not a bad substitute. In fact, your clients can enjoy them on their own terms. Because they have no flavor they are the perfect delivery system for any sauce you create. And their slick, jelly-like texture is kind of fun to chew. You can add them to soup (don’t cook them in the soup); mix them up with vegetables, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese; make mac and cheese; or, as I have with a package of “macaroni,” add them to turkey chile. Or create a chilled salad.

The noodles do have a distinct odor to them, acknowledged in the package’s preparation directions. But all you need to do is rinse them under water, put them in a bowl, and heat them in the microwave for–get this–a minute. The smell goes away and you have warm noodles with a bit of chew to them and a neutral flavor. Ready for pretty much anything for which you’d use regular pasta.

What options do you create for a “pasta” treat for clients? 

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 do you and your clients feel about garlic? I’m an admitted fanatic. I just love the stuff. I also love ginger. Several years ago I wrote about grating and freezing ginger so it would always be on hand and I wouldn’t have shriveled roots that would inevitably be tossed. It’s been a great kitchen short cut as well as a waste reducer. Then I came across a piece in Bon Appétit extolling garlic season. Test kitchen manager Brad Leone offered up a wonderful garlic and ginger paste that combines the two with olive oil. He puts the paste in ice cube trays to freeze and then stores them in plastic freezer bags. Well, I was on it. Only instead of the ice cube trays, I used a small cookie scoop and froze the little flavor bombs on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, then popped them into a freezer bag. They’re remarkably versatile and so handy. You can use them to do a stir fry, make a vinaigrette, or add to soup or stew.


I happened to have bought a Cornish game hen, which I defrosted. Initially I was just going to roast it with garlic salt, smoked paprika, lemon juice, and olive oil. It’s sort of a lazy go-to for me for poultry. Then I recalled my ginger-garlic flavor bombs. Eureka! I took out half a dozen of them to let thaw and considered what else would work. I remembered the most marvelous chicken recipe in Deborah Schneider’s book, Baja! Cooking on the Edge. Her marinade of garlic, chipotles in adobo, salt, and oil is a classic in my cooking repertoire. So, I modeled a very different sauce on the concept. This one is made up of ginger, garlic, shichimi togarashi (a vibrant Japanese seasoning containing chili pepper, black and white sesame seeds, orange peel, basil, and Szechuan pepper), lime zest and juice, salt, and olive oil. It’s just a bit chunky, even pureed. Slather it all over the hens and let it penetrate the birds for at least a couple of hours but up to overnight.


In the past I’ve grilled Deb’s garlic chipotle birds and you can do that with this recipe, of course. But on this Sunday night I chose to roast the hen in my oven. I enjoyed it with small red, purple, and white potatoes rubbed in olive oil and garlic salt, with the hen resting on a pile of fresh baby spinach, dressed with its juices and a good squeeze of lime. The hen burst with bright ginger and citrus flavors and each bite ended with a bit of a kick of heat from the togarashi. After marinating for five hours, the flesh was moist, but the skin was perfectly crisp. And with the leftover marinade I gave a punch of flavor to a salmon fillet.

Ginger-Garlic Flavor Bomb Cornish Game Hens
Serves 2

Ingredients
6 ginger-garlic flavor bombs (directions on Bon Appétit), thawed
1/4 teaspoon shichimi togarashi
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of half a lime
Pinch of kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Cornish game hens, trimmed and halved or quartered

Directions
In a small prep food processor or a blender, combine the first six ingredients and puree. You should have about a half a cup of marinade.

Slather ginger-garlic mixture all over Cornish game hen halves. Place in sealable plastic bag and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to overnight.

You can grill the hens or roast them in the oven. To roast, pre-heat oven to 375˚. Roast hens skin side up for an hour or until the skin is brown and juices flow clear.

What is your go-to marinade? What are your favorite flavor combinations?

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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Given that I have diabetes, macaroni and cheese isn’t on my list of dishes to make. I love it–who doesn’t–but like pizza it’s the poster dish for all I shouldn’t eat. But when my neighbors decided to have a potluck alley party I was in need of a dish that both adults and kids would love. What better than mac ‘n cheese?

Because I’m not an old hand with a favorite dish, I consulted various people in my circle and was told that a chef friend of mine had made a stunning one recently. I texted her, asking what her key ingredients were. Her answer? Heavy whipping cream, sharp white cheddar and manchego cheese. Oh, and bacon.

I was with her up till the bacon. I love bacon but I felt it was just one ingredient too many for what I wanted to do, especially if kids were going to eat it. After all, they were likely fans of the blue box. I went shopping for ingredients and found that heavy whipping cream–at least at Trader Joe’s–was ridiculously expensive. Since most people use milk for mac ‘n cheese, I compromised with half and half.

Then there was the actual how-to. I’m curious, chefs, about how you create or adapt a recipe for a favorite dish about which people have so many strong opinions. Do you turn to the dish you grew up with and modernize it via technique or better ingredients? (For instance, my grandmother made beautiful pies and taught me how to make them–but as an adult I rejected her margarine in favor of butter. No doubt margarine was cheaper and made more sense for her Depression mentality, but today I want the real deal.) If  you live in another region from where you grew up, do you look at the ingredients in a traditional recipe and adjust it for your new locale to be able to incorporate its fresh, local ingredients? Do you adjust for dietary restrictions? How about techniques that make the process go faster? Say, instead of mashing soft cooked ingredients through a chinois to create a sauce, just pureeing it all in a blender? Please write and let us know your strategy for recipe creation!

But back to the macaroni and cheese. You’d be surprised at how many different techniques there are for making it. Yes, I know, your mom or grandma’s is the best, but, whoa, there are a lot of contenders out there. After spending perhaps too much time looking through cookbooks and online to get a better sense of what’s involved I was drawn to two approaches by two big names: Alton Brown and Martha Stewart. By then it was easy enough to sort out the basics and create my own version using the best of what I found. A little less cooking of the pasta here, the spice combo there, tempering eggs, adding a panko topping.

Well, it all came together in a bubbling, rich, creamy casserole with a crusty top and lots of flavor. And, friends, I had very little left over to take home. I’ll remember it fondly when I munch on a green salad.

Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 12 to 16

Ingredients

1 pound elbow macaroni

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

6 cups half and half

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup yellow onion, finely diced

1 bay leaf

2 large eggs, beaten

12 ounces sharp white cheddar, shredded

12 ounces manchego cheese, shredded

Topping

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup panko bread crumbs

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish and set aside.

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook 2 to 3 minutes less than the package directions. (The pasta will finish cooking while it bakes.) Transfer to a colander, rinse under cold water, and drain well. Set aside while making the sauce.

While the pasta is cooking, in another pot, melt the butter. When it bubbles, whisk in the flour and stir for 1 minute. Stir in half and half, salt, nutmeg, ground pepper, cayenne pepper, onion, and bay leaf. Temper in the eggs by stirring in a little of the milk mixture to the eggs and then adding that mixture to the sauce. Slowly stir in ¾ of the cheese. Whisk constantly until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Remove from heat and remove bay leaves.

Stir the macaroni into the sauce. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Mix together the remaining cheeses and sprinkle evenly over the mixture.

Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter for the topping in a sauté pan and add the panko crumbs. Stir until coated. Top the cheese-covered macaroni with the bread crumbs.

Bake for 45 minutes uncovered or until brown on top. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

What was your most successful reinvention of a favorite recipe? How did you go about changing it up?

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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Peach Tomato Panzanella

Filed under: Cooking Tips,Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , July 30, 2018

I don’t know what kind of steamy swampy weather you’re enduring right now, but in San Diego, where Candy, Dennis, and I live, it’s been pretty hot and humid. Just the thought of standing over a stove or turning on the oven makes me sink onto my couch in front of a blasting fan. It’s forced me into a chill–salads and summer soups and smoothies. If you feel the same way–along with your clients–here’s a dish you’ll love and that you can make for clients and their special events. And the only heat involved comes from toasting bread.

I’m talking about panzanella. But not your traditional panzanella. This one marries peaches and tomatoes.

Now you may wonder why peaches and tomatoes? But they actually pair beautifully together. And peaches are perfectly lovely in a savory dish. Is it authentic panzanella? Well, consider this, the “pan” is panzanella means bread. Food experts, including one of my heroes, J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats, put it this way: “Panzanella is not a tomato salad with bread; it’s a bread salad flavored with vegetables.” I’m going to extend that to fruit. I doubt he’d mind.

There are a couple of tricks to making this salad that I picked up from López-Alt. First is that instead of letting the bread sit out to get stale, try drying it in the oven, tossed with olive oil. What you’ll have are magnificent large croutons that will soak up the vinaigrette and vegetable/fruit juices, yet still remain crispy. It makes for a great bite.

The other is to chop your tomatoes (if you use them), toss them with salt, then drain the juices into a bowl with a colander. This will increase your juice yield, which you’ll want when you make the vinaigrette.

Everything else is easy peasy. While the bread is toasting, make your vinaigrette, chop the peaches and basil. Once the toasted bread has cooled it’s time to put it all together. Then let it rest for half an hour so the vinaigrette can penetrate the bread and the flavors come together.

One other thing I learned–on my own. It doesn’t make for great leftovers unless you’re fond of soggy bread. The next day, facing leftovers, I just picked around the bread and ate the tomatoes and peaches. My suggestion? Add just enough of the croutons for the servings you plan to eat at that meal and save the rest for possible leftovers and add them at that point.

Peach Tomato Panzanella
Adapted from J. Kenji López-Alt’s Classic Panzanella Salad
Serves 2 to 3

Ingredients
1 pound tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ pound rustic bread, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 cups bread cubes)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (2 tablespoons for the bread)
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large ripe peaches, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

Directions
Place tomatoes in a colander over a bowl and toss with kosher salt. Place on counter at room temperature to drain for at least 15 minutes. Toss periodically during that time.

To toast the bread, pre-heat oven to 350°.  Place rack in center position in oven. You can also do this in a toaster oven. Toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and firm but before they brown—about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Remove colander from the bowl with tomato juice. Place the colander with the tomatoes into the sink so it won’t drip on the counter. Add the shallot, garlic, mustard, and vinegar to the bowl with the juice and mix. Gradually whisk in the remaining olive oil until it emulsifies. Season vinaigrette with sea salt and pepper to taste.

In a serving bowl mix together the toasted bread, tomatoes, peaches, capers, and basil. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat all the ingredients. Season again with sea salt and pepper. Let rest 30 minutes before serving, tossing occasionally until dressing is completely absorbed by the bread.

What’s your go-to hot weather dish? 

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Looking for a no-cook option for creating a brunch for clients? Then you’ll want to make gravlax. It’s easy to make, a rich and briny alternative to lox or smoked salmon, and perfect for these hot summer days when you don’t want to get near an oven.

First let’s tackle the difference between lox and smoked salmon. Lox is cured salmon, preserved with salt. But back in the day in places where salt was a scarce resource, the fish was smoked. According to Jewish food historian Gil Marks in his “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” during early 1930s America cured salmon fillet became known to Eastern European Jewish transplants as lox. This is the Americanized spelling of the Yiddish word laks, or salmon, itself from the German lachs–and the Swedish gravlax. See where I’m going with this?

Skip ahead past the ways shipping and refrigeration technologies evolved and made intense brining to preserve the fish unnecessary and you have a lightly salted preservation method, which resulted in a smoother, milder tasting fish. What evolved for lox was a method that could include light brining or dry curing in salt and perhaps brown sugar before then cold-smoking it. This method doesn’t cook the fish the way warm-smoking does. The result is a delicate slice instead of flaky flesh.

While we’re here, let’s also address the difference between lox and Nova. Lox became known as the curing style that was wet-brined with no additional smoking or cooking. Nova, with its origins in salmon from Nova Scotia, became known as the method discussed above: mild brining in salt, water, and perhaps brown sugar, then lightly cold-smoked for up to 24 hours. Lox, as anyone who tastes it knows, is the saltier of the two. And, as Marks notes, it’s less expensive because it’s easier to prepare. Today, the terms are largely interchangeable since most of the lox sold today is actually prepared Nova style with cold smoking.

Now to gravlax. Here’s a brined salmon dish that anyone can make with just a few key ingredients. This Scandinavian cured salmon is primarily different from Eastern European lox thanks to the inclusion of dill. Look up recipes for gravlax and you’ll find all sorts of intriguing variations. But what doesn’t change is the salmon belly, salt, and dill. Lots and lots of dill. And time–48 hours in the refrigerator.

You can sweeten it a bit with sugar. You can add vodka to the brine. You can add pepper. You can also add complementary spices. I add fennel seeds and grains of paradise, a cool variation on peppercorns, with a floral scent and flavor.

Here’s how making gravlax works:

Buy the freshest 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of salmon belly you can. Most recipes will call for it to be skin on. I accidentally found myself with a big piece that was supposed to be skin on but wasn’t. It turned out fine.

Make sure you or your fishmonger pulls out all the pin bones in the fish. Then in a bowl mix up your cure: salt, sugar, spices. Mine is a mixture of lightly toasted, then crushed fennel seeds and grains of paradise along with sea salt, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. And have on hand bunches of dill. I also had Absolute Citron vodka to add a distinctly citrusy Scandinavian flavor.

Place half of the dill fronds in a baking dish just large enough to hold the fish. Then sprinkle half of the cure on the dill and place the fish on top and press down gently. Sprinkle the vodka over the top of the fish and then the rest of the cure and the rest of the dill. Cover the fish with plastic wrap.

Now you have to weight it down so the curing mixture will penetrate into the fish. So place another, slightly smaller, baking dish on top of the wrapped fish and a couple of cans into that dish. Refrigerate overnight. After 24 hours, remove the weights and flip the fish over so the cure will penetrate the fish evenly. Put the weights back on the fish and everything back into the refrigerator.

Once the 48 hours has passed you can remove the fish from the refrigerator, remove the weights and unwrap the fish from the plastic. Don’t worry about any liquid that’s accumulated. That’s exactly what you want. Discard the dill and rinse the fish with cold water, removing the salt, sugar, and spices. Pat dry.

Now comes the fun part. You’ll need a knife with as sharp an edge as possible because you’re going to slice the gravlax very thinly at a sharp diagonal. If you have skin on the fish, slice away and off the skin. You can plate the slices in straight lines or as rings. Sliced lemon goes nicely with it, as does diced red onion and capers.

And then we return to our initial conversation. Bagels and cream cheese? Sure, it’s grav”lax” after all. But, how about some marscarpone cheese and black bread for a change?

Gravlax
Serves 8 or more, depending on how many other dishes are served

Ingredients
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon grains of paradise (you can substitute with black peppercorns)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup sea salt
2 bunches of dill
2 tablespoons Absolut Citron vodka (or regular vodka)
1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon belly, pin bones removed

Preparation
Lightly toast fennel seeds and grains of paradise. When cool, crush them together in a mortar and pestle.

In a bowl mix together the fennel seeds, grains of paradise, both sugars and salt.

Place half of the dill fronds in a pile the size of the salmon in a baking dish just large enough to hold the salmon. Sprinkle half of the curing mixture on the dill. Then set the fish on top. Sprinkle the vodka over the salmon and then press in the rest of the cure. Top with the remaining dill fronds to cover the fish.

Cover the fish with plastic wrap. Place another, smaller baking dish on the fish and put a brick or two cans into that dish.

Refrigerate for 24 hours, then remove the weights and turn the fish. Put the weights back on the fish and refrigerate another 24 hours.

When you’re ready to serve, remove the fish from the refrigerator, remove the weights, and remove the plastic wrap. Discard the dill and rinse the fish under cold water, then pat dry.

Using a very sharp knife, slice the gravlax as thinly as you can at a diagonal. If the salmon still has skin on it, slice away from the skin and discard the skin once the salmon is sliced.

Serve with lemon, diced red onion, capers–and a whipped cheese–on brown bread, pumpernickel, crackers, or a bagel.

What’s your favorite hot weather dish for catering brunch? 

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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