We’re two weeks out from Thanksgiving and while we tend to focus on our own family celebrations, some industrious personal chefs may also have picked up a Thanksgiving catering gig. Whether you’re expert at managing your own expansive meal or you usually bring a dish or two to someone else who’s hosting, it can be a little daunting to create this big, über meaningful holiday meal for a client. Not only do you have to meet their expectations, but also those of their guests, who come with life experiences and expectations of their own traditions.

But you have a distinct advantage. As a personal chef you are expert in preparation and organization. And who is the best at both? Our own executive director, Candy Wallace. We thought we’d share again some of her best tips for streamlining Thanksgiving so you can avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Let’s assume you’ve already done your client assessment, so you know what foods your client and their guests can eat or need to avoid before you planned your menu. And, let’s assume that if the meal needs to be vegetarian or vegan, you’ve got experience with creating delicious options that meet that criteria.

With that behind you, really, the biggest things to do are advanced planning and shopping along with mindful prep. And here’s where Candy can help, offering seven tips to make your Thanksgiving week easier:

  • Make turkey stock to be used in multiple dishes in advance of your event. Roast vegetables and purée in advance to have for a gravy base.
  • Measure and prepackage everything to be used in assembling your recipes. You’ve got that down, of course. Personal chefs are the experts in food packaging and meal storage for clients. But this time, use your skills to set up efficient and smooth assembly of components used to prepare the holiday meal your clients are looking forward to.
  • Are you baking cornbread? Then be sure to pre-measure all dry ingredients, then package and label them. Do the same with the wet ingredients.
  • If you’re making cranberry relish, again, pre-measure the berries, dried cherries, etc. and package and label them separately from the liquid components, which you’ll also package. Assemble the relish on the day of service.

  • Vegetables can take a lot of prep. So get that done ahead of time, including any blanching, shocking, and cooling so you can store them and make the recipes with little fuss on the day of the meal. Do the same with your herbs and spices–prep, measure, and store them. If you’re using the same herbs and spices for different dishes, separate them for each dish and mark them.
  • Clean and prep your bird ahead of time. If you’re dealing with a frozen turkey, be sure you give it enough time to thaw in the fridge. If you’re going to do a wet or dry brine, you’ll need to start that process within a couple of days of the holiday.
  • If space on the stove or in the oven is limited, identify the dishes that can be cooked in advance, frozen, and then reheated for the meal. Many pies–apple and pecan, for instance–can be made ahead of time, wrapped well, and frozen. So can stuffing and even mashed potatoes.

Working a day or even several days ahead will save you time, and keep you sane and strong on Thanksgiving and other holiday service. Hey, do it right and you will still be able to enjoy the day yourself!

Happy Thanksgiving!

What dishes are on your Thanksgiving menu for clients? What tips can you share to make holiday catering more manageable?

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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Passover is coming soon. In fact, it begins at sunset on April 19. If you’re cooking a seder for clients or meals for observant Jewish clients you know that there are some basic rules you have to follow. I’m not going to go through it all here, but send you off to a site that outlines what is “chametz” or leavened and what is “kitniyot” or food that traditionally Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, Jews don’t eat during Passover. Sephardic, or Middle Eastern, Jews have somewhat different Passover traditions, which you can learn about here
I thought I’d ask one of our longtime members, Shelbie Wassel for some recipes that might inspire you. She provided three that sound divine: Coffee Brisket, Gefilte Fish, and Passover Profiteroles. I’ll let Shelbie take over from here: 

Shelbie Wassel

As Passover is a sentimental holiday in many regards, my family and clients seem to navigate towards traditional recipes. I think the most requested recipe this time of the year, is the coffee brisket. I found this recipe many, many years ago published in the Baltimore Jewish Times. The “JT”, as we locals call it,  is a weekly magazine that provides local, national and international news pertaining to the Jewish community. One edition had locals submit their favorite brisket recipe and Mrs. Ribakoff”s recipe for coffee brisket was the editors choice. I’ve tweaked it a bit over the years, but I still love the veggie gravy that is created in a blender after cooking. As with any first cut brisket, the trick is to leave a good layer of fat on its bottom side during cooking. After it’s cooked, the fat can be easily removed and sliced cross wise into ( my preference) thin slices.

Another Passover favorite for Seder and then served as either an appetizer or lunch dish is Gefilte fish…  Yes, it’s definitely an acquired taste. Many believe you must grow up with the concept of a fish meatball covered by gel and a monster sized carrot slice. The term “gefilte” is translated from the Yiddish word for “stuffed”. Originally, the ground mixture was stuffed into fish skins. Can’t say I’m sorry that the practice of “ fish skin stuffing” was abandoned somewhere down the pike. (fish pun intended). Now, gefilte fish is stuffed into jars with labels like Rokeach and Manischewitz. Passable in a pinch, the jarred variety is far more filler than fish.
I have concocted a homemade recipe that is less time consuming and less labor intensive than what our grandmothers made. I have also been able to reduce the cost of the fresh fish by shopping at H Mart, the Korean grocery store. Otherwise, the fresh fish can cost a mortgage payment.
Lastly, I am including one non-traditional Passover recipe for dessert. I’ll go on record saying that I loathe many of the traditional Passover desserts. They often use 12 eggs and create a cake that is never meant to leave the pan. ( Passover trifles were created just for this reason.) The other choice is Passover cake meal, which as a derivative of matzoh meal, is the reason stewed prunes became a Passover regular. While I generally do not mix dairy with meat during the Passover Seder, my profiteroles can be made with Almond milk and nondairy chocolate chips to create a parve dessert. These  chocolate profiteroles ( IMHO) are fabulous! Made with potato starch, the custard is rich and creamy… And, the profiterole shell could be used for other ideas.

Mrs. Ribakow’s Brisket
Serves 6

Ingredients
3 ½ – 4 pounds brisket, first cut
2 medium onions cut into chunks
1 bunch of celery, leafy tops only, sliced
1 large bay leaf
1/3-cup ketchup
½ cup black coffee
Salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the bottom of a roasting pan. Place brisket in the pan and sprinkle top of brisket lightly with more salt and pepper.

Arrange onions and celery around and on top of the brisket.

Drizzle with the ketchup.

Roast meat, uncovered, for 15 minutes to sear.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees.

Add the bay leaf, coffee, and cover tightly with foil.

Continue cooking for approx 2 ½ hours longer. Meat should feel tender when fork is inserted in the thickest part.

Cool before slicing. Refrigerate gravy and veggies. Skim off fat.

To serve: Puree gravy and veggies in a blender. Pour over sliced brisket and heat through.

Shelbie’s Gefilte Fish

Yield: 12 to 13 pieces
Ingredients
4 pounds, non-oily white fish fillets…let’s mix a few (snapper, haddock, cod) preferably on sale.
2 cartons fish stock, available next to the boxed chicken stock
3 large carrots, plus 2 additional large carrots, cut into diagonal slices for garnish
A bunch of celery
One large onion
3 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup matzo meal
Several cups of water
A little bit of bland veggie oil
About 1 ½ – 2T salt
Freshly ground pepper
1T sugar, optional

Directions
In a large stockpot, empty the contents of both cartons of fish stock. Add 1 roughly chopped carrot, a stick of celery, and ¼ of the onion. Bring to a gentle simmer while preparing the fish mixture.

In your food processor, grind about 2 carrots, 3 sticks of celery and ¾ large onion. Scrape the bowl and place the ground veggies in a large prep bowl. Cut the fish fillets into large chunks and add to the food processor. Give a few good swirls in the processor until the fish is nicely ground.
Add the ground fish to the veggies and mix well. Add the matzo meal, eggs, and about one tablespoon of oil. Mix well. Add freshly ground pepper and salt (sugar, if using)
Chill the fish mixture for a few minutes in the fridge to make handling easier.
Remove veggies from the stock and discard. Shape the fish into ovals and gently place into the simmering stock. Once all of the fish ovals have been placed in the pot, add enough water to cover the fish. Cover with a lid and keep at a simmer for about an hour.
 Towards the last 20 minutes, add the carrot slices to the stock. Strain the fish pieces and top with a carrot slice. Pour a little stock over the fish and allow to cool.
Serve with horseradish.

Shelbie’s Passover Profiteroles (Dairy)
Yield: At least one dozen

Choux Pastry
Ingredients
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine
1-cup water
1cup matzo cake meal
Pinch of kosher salt
4 large eggs

Directions
Place butter, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the matzo cake meal all at once and stir vigorously.

Cook, until mixture forma a ball. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Using a large spoon, drop about 2 T of batter, roughly 2 inches apart. With wet fingers, lightly create a rounded mound.

Bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 15 minutes longer or until lightly browned.

Remove with spatula and allow cooling on racks.

Pastry Cream
Ingredients
1/3-cup sugar
3-½ T potato starch
6 lightly beaten egg yolks
2 cups milk or unsweetened almond milk
1 t vanilla

Directions
Mix sugar, potato starch and egg yolks in a saucepan. In another saucepan, heat the milk until bubbles form along the edges. Cool the milk for a minute or so. Slowly, pour the milk over the egg yolk mixture, stirring rapidly with a whisk.

Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is thick and smooth. Cool and add vanilla. Chill in refrigerator until very cold.

Chocolate Glaze
Ingredients
1-cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2T unsalted butter or margarine
2-3 T milk or almond milk
1 t vanilla or 1 T instant coffee granules

Directions
Combine in small saucepan over double boiler. Mix gently until combined.

Cut cooled pastry in half. Fill with cream and drizzle chocolate on top.

 

Chefs, do you have favorite Passover recipes you create 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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Celebrating Norooz

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes , Tags: , , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 11, 2019

This year Norooz, the Persian New Year, begins on March 21. Celebrating Norooz, which means “new day,” is a very old celebration that has nothing to do with religion. It marks the transition from winter to spring and is filled with feasting.

In fact, the holiday, celebrating the vernal equinox, has been a part of the culture of the people of Iran and Mesopotamia since antiquity and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian, the religion of ancient Persia before Islam. Weeks before, people will put seeds of grass or lentils or wheat or mung beans in water in a decorative pot so that they will sprout by the first day of Norooz—bringing to life the concept of growth and the arrival of spring. Then the house gets a thorough spring cleaning.

Norooz is celebrated for 12 days, but my friend Mahin Mofazeli, who owns a Persian restaurant in San Diego called Soltan Banoo, explained that on the 13th day, Sizdeh Bedar is celebrated. In Iran, she said, the tradition was to leave the city and go for a picnic to “get rid of the thirteenth.” They’d bring the sabzeh that had grown tall in the pot and tie knots in the young growth, then make wishes on the knots. Then they’d leave them behind, throwing them in the river, before returning to the city because after that, having the sabzeh would be bad luck.

So, what foods are made for the new years?

The first thing to know about Persian food is that everything starts with basmati rice. Know how to make this well and you have the foundation for numerous dishes. The rice requires rinsing a couple of times to remove the starch and then soaking to reduce cooking time. When you’re ready to cook it, you’ll drain the water and transfer the rice to a large pot of boiling water containing a little olive oil where it will cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Perhaps the most traditional Norooz dish is Sabzi Polo, or Rice with Fresh Herbs. The herbs usually include cilantro and parsley, but could also include dill weed and fenugreek. At the bottom of the pot is really the best part—the tahdig, a crunchy layer formed by rice or bread or sliced potatoes, or even tortillas. Mofazeli prefers potatoes. She slices russets with the skin on and makes a single layer on the bottom of the pot, which already has a little olive oil and saffron water (she always has a mixture of that in her kitchen), then starts layering with rice, then herbs, then more rice, then more herbs until she’s used all the ingredients. She’ll add a little saffron water, then put it on the stovetop over fairly high heat to cook uncovered for about five minutes. Then she puts on the lid, lowers the heat, and lets it cook for about 30 minutes. The dish is traditionally served with Mahi, or fish, since it represents abundance. In Persia, it’s white fish from the Caspian Sea.

For a true feast,Sabzi Polo can be accompanied by dolmehs, or stuffed grape leaves; kookoo sabzi, an herbaceous omelet-like dish; Baghali Ghatogh, lima beans with egg and dill; and pastries like honey-soaked baklavah.

Norooz Pirooz! Wishing you a prosperous New Year!

Sabzi Polo (Rice with Fresh Herbs)
Serves 6

Ingredients:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups water
½ teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water
1 large russet potato, sliced
3 cups cooked basmati rice, prepared using the four steps
1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
3 whole cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 whole cloves garlic or green garlic
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Whisk together 4 tablespoons oil, ½ cup water and 1 tablespoon saffron water. Spread the mixture on the bottom of a large non-stick pot. Place a layer of sliced potatoes on the bottom of the pot.
  2. Cover potatoes with a layer of rice. Combine the herbs and then add a layer of the herbs and the crushed and whole garlic over the rice. Repeat the layering of the rice and herbs, adding a sprinkling of cinnamon between the layers.
  3. Pour a mixture of 4 tablespoons oil and 1 cup of water over the top of the rice and add the remaining saffron water.
  4. Place pot on medium high heat for five minutes, uncovered. Then cover the pot, reduce the heat and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. To serve, spoon out the rice onto a platter. Garnish with the potato tahdig and serve with fish.

Do you celebrate Norooz? Have you ever made any Persian dishes?

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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No doubt over the last few weeks you’ve been binging on holiday cookies–or at least recipes for them. I studiously avoided adding to the glut. But here it is a week from New Year’s Eve and all I can think about are the beautiful snowball cookies I grew up with.

You may have seen variations on these. I’ve seen them called alternately Mexican Wedding Cookies and Russian Tea Cookies. In our home, they were snowballs–and why not, what with the double dipping of these spheres into powdered sugar.

These cookies are addictive, mostly because they’re not overly sweet. Yes, they’re coated in powder sugar, but in the cookie dough itself, there’s a mere tablespoon of sugar. The rest is butter, flour, vanilla, a pinch of salt, and toasted nuts (preferably toasted chopped pecans). It’s that very classic combination of vanilla, butter, and nuts that is so compelling.

And, they have a classic aura of elegance. They can be dressed up on a pretty plate and be a perfect accompaniment to New Year’s Eve champagne. As a thank you to clients who enjoy a good cookie, you can’t beat these–and they’re easy to make. You just need a whole lot of powdered sugar! And the willpower to not eat them all yourself. FYI, they freeze wonderfully!

I’ve always referred to these as my Nana Tillie’s cookies. Back in the day after I had graduated from UCLA and moved to New York, she regularly packaged them in a shoebox and sent them to me with her unusual chocolate bit cookies (chocolate chip squares topped with meringue and walnuts), rugelach, and mandelbread (a recipe I’m not allowed to give out to anyone outside of our family). I lived for their delivery and I always became everybody’s best friend at my job on the 33rd floor at The William Morris Agency when they arrived. I have Tillie’s handwritten recipe for the snowballs and at the top of the page she attributes it to my cousins’ grandmother Ida. But, my mother insists that she actually gave Nana the recipe. So, these are now Evie’s Snowball Cookies. Whoever came up with them, all I can say is thank you. They remain my favorite and I hope become yours and your clients’.

Happy New Year!

Evie’s Snowball Cookies
Yield: About 40 cookies

Ingredients
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon powder sugar
2 generous tablespoons vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup chopped, toasted nuts (I prefer pecans but you can also use walnuts)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups powder sugar

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream butter. Add the rest of the ingredients up to the 2 cups of powder sugar. Mix well.
3. Form balls about the size of ping pong balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 30 minutes until just brown.
4. Add the 2 cups of powder sugar to a medium-size bowl. When the cookies come out of the oven, start dunking and rolling in the powder sugar. You’ll do this twice. The first round, while they’re still hot, is to get the sugar into the cookie. The second roll is for decoration.

Note: Cookies can be frozen before or after baking.

What are your treasured family cookies? How do you thank clients at the end of the year?

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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Holiday Brunch Blintzes

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 17, 2018

Are you going to be catering holiday brunches? Have you considered making blintzes for guests? They’re easy enough for a kid to make (I’ve been making them since I was a child) but sophisticated enough to impress. Plus, you can make them in advance and freeze them, meaning all you have to do the day of is fry up the defrosted blintzes to serve. You can even make the fruit compote ahead and freeze that. What’s not to love?

Unfamiliar with blintzes? Okay, you don’t want to miss these. They’re thin pancakes that are crepes-like (but with more eggs and no milk), cooked only on one side, then stuffed with a filling (traditionally cheese or fruit compote to be a dairy dish, but they can also be savory and have a meat filling). Once filled, they’re pan fried. The sweet, dairy blintzes are traditionally topped with sour cream or a fruit sauce. Think Eastern European Jewish breakfast burrito.

Earlier this fall I had a cook date with a chef friend who actually asked me if she could come over and make them with me. She had a craving and figured this Jewish girl could help fill it. And this Irish-American introduced me to a slightly different approach to the cheese filling that totally won me over. Instead of the traditional eggs and ricotta and cinnamon sugar my Nana Tillie taught me, my friend Maeve Rochford blends goat cheese and ricotta with melted butter and sugar. So the filling remains creamy and full bodied, with a slight tang.

One thing I love about making blintzes is how forgiving the batter is. Eggs, water, sugar, flour, and vegetable oil come together in a mostly smooth, just slightly thickened texture. Whisk it together well to get as many lumps as possible out–but don’t worry if some remain. Heat a non-stick pan and add just a bit of oil. Using a ladle drop a couple of ounces into the center, swirling the batter around until you get a nice large circle. Let it sit until the edges curl up. You won’t be flipping it. Instead slide it onto a plate and then start the next one.

At this point, if you aren’t ready to actually make the blintzes, you can just refrigerate the crepes for a few hours or overnight. You can also prep the blintzes, which involves dropping a dollop of the filling onto a blintz crepe and folding it up like a burrito. Wrap them well to freeze them until you’re ready to defrost them and then pan fry them in butter. So, yes, they’re very versatile.

And we haven’t even discussed the compote, which is divine. Maeve and I collaborated on this. Here’s our blueprint, but feel free to riff on it with flavors you enjoy. We used citrus liqueur, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice with the fresh blueberries. Simmer and stir it over heat until the blueberries begin to burst. You could just as easily, with just as marvelous a result, use sugar and cinnamon, and no liqueur.

You can also go seasonal and make an apple compote or applesauce. Or come up with other toppings for the season: jams, a sweet compound butter, even maple syrup or chocolate sauce.

(But make the compote. It’s really good!)

Cheese Blintzes with Blueberry Compote
Yield: 12 blintzes

Ingredients
Crepes:
5 eggs, beaten slightly
2 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Filling:
Maeve’s version
2 cups ricotta cheese
12 ounces goat cheese
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup sugar

OR

Nana Tillie’s version
2 eggs
1 pound ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar or to taste

Blueberry Compote:
¼ cup water
¼ cup citrus liqueur, like Cointreau (or substitute with more water)
½ cup honey
Lemon zest from half a lemon
10 ounces (2 cups) fresh blueberries
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions
Make the crepes by beating the 5 eggs slightly. Add the water and sugar and beat together. Slowly beat in the flour until smooth. A few lumps are okay.

Set out a plate covered with wax paper. Heat a skillet and brush it lightly with vegetable oil. Using a 2-ounce ladle, scoop in some batter and pour it onto the skillet. Tilt the pan all around so the batter forms a circle around 9 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about perfection. This is a homey dish.

Return the skillet to the heat and let the crepe cook until the edges curl up slightly and the surface is cooked entirely–you won’t be flipping them to cook on the other side. Use a spatula to help you turn out the crepe onto the wax paper on the plate. Then brush the pan again and repeat until you use up all the batter. You should have a dozen crepes. You can make these a day ahead. Just cover the crepes and store in the refrigerator.

To make the blueberry compote, bring to the boil compote ingredients. Simmer, stirring periodically, 3 to 5 minutes until the blueberries begin to burst. Remove from heat. Set aside.

To make the filling, blend together the ingredients from either of the choices above.

Make the blintzes by placing 2 to 3 tablespoons of the filling in the center of the crepe. Fold the bottom half over the filling. Then fold the sides in. Then fold the top down over the center. Refrigerate until ready to fry.

Heat a sauté pan and add butter. Once the butter has melted add three to four (or five, depending on the size of the pan) and fry at medium heat until the first side browns, then flip the blintzes and brown on the other side. Serve with the blueberry compote.

The blintzes can be frozen before or after frying. The compote can also be frozen.

Are you catering holiday brunches this year? What are your go-to dishes?

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’re now three days out from Thanksgiving. For some of us deciding what to make isn’t an issue. Our recipes seem to be etched in stone and family members will simply not abide any variation. Tradition, my friends, tradition.

But for those of us who like to change things up a bit–even if it means just switching out evaporated milk for cream cheese in our pumpkin pie–perhaps a little inspiration is in order. It could be a different twist on a favorite dish or an altogether new one that could establish a new traditional favorite.

In that spirit, here are some Thanksgiving dishes we’ve featured over the years and a new suggestion:

Turkey Stuffing Muffins and Cranberry Chutney: Just when you thought you couldn’t come up with a new way to approach stuffing someone turns it into muffins. What a cool idea! You could certainly do with your own favorite, traditional stuffing, but take a look at this recipe from the Art Institute of California-San Diego. And pair it with this divine cranberry chutney!

Everything Sourdough Popovers: I just wrote about these popovers, but if you missed it, take a look. Who doesn’t adore airy popovers? Along with the intriguing sourdough flavor these have, I’ve added something a little extra: everything topping–you know, the topping you find on bagels. If you or your clients are not a fan, no worries. You can leave them naked and dunk into a gravy or sauce. You can make them a little sweet by topping them in cinnamon sugar. You could also top them with finely chopped toasted nuts with or without sugar. Be bold! Or not if you or your clients are purists.

 

How to Spatchcock a Turkey (and why you should): Turkeys can be a challenge. You want the skin crisp but if only the breast if facing the heat, the skin on the thighs below tends to get greasy and unpleasant. You want moist white meat but it can get overcooked while waiting for the dark meat to reach the right temperature. Bottom line? Roasting a turkey can be an aggravating guessing game. So, I’m going to make it easy for you. Spatchcock your bird and roast it at high heat. Spatchcocking is a way of breaking down the bird so it will rest flat in a roasting pan and cook evenly. You avoid the age-old problem of having the white meat dry out while the dark meat continues to cook below. Instead, you have moist meat from the drumstick to the breast. And because it roasts at high heat, the turkey cooks quickly and the skin all over the turkey is fully exposed, making it all nice and crisp.

Macaroni and Cheese for Kids and Adults: Is mac and cheese really a Thanksgiving dish? Heck, yeah, and who doesn’t love every cheesy, comfort food bite? 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.

 

Apple Pie: What about dessert? My sense is there are people who love to bake pies and those who are terrified of the idea of making a crust. I get it. I was taught by my grandmother when I was a teenager–but for years it was always an iffy proposition as to whether or not the crust would come out. So I set off several years ago to hit up all my pastry chef friends to learn their techniques. They were all different. Some used butter only. Some butter and lard or butter and Crisco. Despite the variations, I gained confidence. And I make pies with gusto and delight. So, to those of you savory chefs who steer away from THE CRUST, I offer my go-to pie recipe from my friend Michele Coulon. Her way is the traditional French way. It’s simple and straightforward, relies on just a few quality ingredients, and sticking to formula. Bake one up and serve it to clients or your family. You–and they–will be hooked!

Michele Coulon’s Apple Pie

Yield: 1 Pie

1 Southern Pie Pastry (see below)
1 pound, 5 ounces apples (weigh after peeling and coring)
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ounce butter
1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup cream
1 egg

Pre-heat conventional oven to 450°.

Make pastry and set aside.

Peel and core apples, placing in a big bowl. Sift dry ingredients together and add to apples, mixing well. Add 3 tablespoons cream and mix with apples. Set aside.

Place one pastry disk on a floured surface and roll out to just larger than your pie plate or tin so that the edges will hang over. Use the rolling pin to place the dough in the pie plate, then refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll out the second disc and you can either leave it whole for the top crust or slice into 1-inch strips to make a lattice. Refrigerate.

Fill the bottom pie crust with the apple mixture. Dot apples with butter. Put lattice or intact top crust over the apples. To make the lattice, Michele just lays half of the strips in one direction, then lays the other half across them. If you’re using the intact top crust, center it over the apples, then make a 1-inch hole in the center to release steam and use a fork to gently poke holes around the top. Once the lattice or intact crust is set, roll the top and bottom edges together and under the bottom crust edge. Using a fork, gently pinch edges together but do not go all the way through the dough.

Mix together 1/2 cup cream and the egg. Brush egg wash onto lattice or top crust and any dough decorations.

Put on a parchment paper-lined tray (to catch drips) and put in the oven for 10 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 350° and bake until apples are cooked — 30 minutes at first, then probably another 15 minutes. Use the tip of a sharp knife to check. If the tip goes into apple slices easily, they’re done cooking. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Southern Pastry from Michele Coulon

Yield: 2 pie crusts, top and bottom. Cut recipe in half for 1 pie.

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound cold European-style butter, cut into 1-inch chunky pieces
Ice water

Mix ingredients by hand using two knives in a bowl or in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Then add 12 tablespoons or 160 grams of ice water. Mix until just blended. It should be rough with striations of butter.

When making the full recipe, divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a disk about 4 to 5 inches in diameter. At this point you can start to bake with them, wrap the disks and refrigerate overnight, or freeze them until you want to use them (defrost in the refrigerator). It’s one of those great do-ahead options.

What dishes will you be making for Thanksgiving? What is the one that makes it Thanksgiving for you and your family?

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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Consider this post another chapter in my quest to identify ways to use excess sourdough starter when I do my weekly feeding. I’ve made cake, crackers, and biscuits so far. Unlike fresh starter, the pre-fed starter doesn’t contribute much to rise. Its role instead is flavor.

Thinking about Thanksgiving, I recently made popovers and thought I’d share the results with you so you could put them on your clients’ Thanksgiving menus. Who doesn’t adore airy popovers? Along with the intriguing sourdough flavor these have, I’ve added something a little extra: everything topping–you know, the topping you find on bagels. You can find everything seasoning online at King Arthur Flour and locally at Trader Joe’s. If you’re not a fan, no worries. You can leave them naked and dunk into a gravy or sauce. You can make them a little sweet by topping them in cinnamon sugar. You could also top them with finely chopped toasted nuts with or without sugar. Be bold! Or not if you or your clients are purists.

The other delightful aspect of these popovers is how ridiculously easy they are to make. You’ll heat up milk until it’s just warm–not hot! Then you’ll combine the milk with eggs, the sourdough starter, and a little salt.

Whisk in the flour–but don’t over mix. Even a few lumps are just fine. This batter is very forgiving. Notice I used the word batter, not dough. This mixture is very loose–like heavy cream. Don’t worry. It’ll work just fine.

It’ll start baking in a very hot oven. After 15 minutes you’ll turn down the heat and continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes. Try as hard as you can to time this with when you want to serve the popovers because these guys are best eaten right away. But, get this, I froze what I couldn’t eat immediately. When I wanted one, I pulled it out of the freezer and let it defrost, then heated it up in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes. It was still delicious.

If you are going to add a topping, melt butter in a wide little bowl just before the popovers come out of the oven. Then pull them out of the cups, dip, and roll.

Everything Sourdough Popovers
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 6 popovers

Ingredients
8 ounces milk
3 large eggs
4 ounces sourdough starter, fed or discard
¾ teaspoon salt
4 ¼ ounces all-purpose flour
¼ cup melted unsalted butter
¼ cup everything topping (available from Trader Joe’s or King Arthur Flour)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450° and add muffin or popover pan.

Warm milk in the microwave or a small saucepan until it’s just warm to the touch.

Combine warm milk with eggs, sourdough starter, and salt. Gradually whisk in flour until it just comes together. Don’t worry about eliminating all lumps.
The batter will be loose, about the consistency of heavy cream.

Remove hot pan from the oven and spray it thoroughly with non-stick pan spray or brush generously with oil or melted unsalted butter.

Pour batter into the popover cups about ¾ of the way up. If you’re using a muffin tin, fill all the way to the top. Space the popovers around so each one is surrounded by empty cups to allow the popovers to expand while they bake.

Bake popovers for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 375° and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove the popovers from the oven. Dip the top into a small bowl of melted butter and roll in everything mixture. Serve immediately or cool and freeze. To reheat, defrost and place in oven at 350° for about 15 minutes.

Will you be making a baked side for Thanksgiving? What is your go-to recipe?

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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Passover is coming up at the end of this week. With Passover it’s all about the Seder, right? Complete with a plate of matzoh, a Seder plate holding traditional symbolic foods, and a Haggadah at every plate to read the account of the Jews’ experience in Egypt and their liberation from the bonds of slavery.

Well, yes, Passover is focused on the Seder. But what happens after that when there’s an entire week in which observant Jews are expected to refrain from eating leavened breads along with a variety of grains? Fortunately, Passover coincides with the beginning of spring and with spring comes spring produce—asparagus, strawberries, artichokes, fava beans, and the like. So, why not create a Passover brunch for Jewish clients that celebrates a new season?

Growing up, my parents would treat us kids—and themselves, of course—to matzoh brei, or fried matzoh. My orientation is toward the savory so I have always loved the plump, crispy pieces of matzoh that emerge from the pan sprinkled with salt. To be honest, it doesn’t look like much and there’s just no dressing it up, but trust me, it’s delicious. And this is what I’ve long liked to serve for my Passover brunches with cold poached asparagus and horseradish sauce. And lots and lots of brilliant red juicy strawberries.

Now I’ve seen a lot of versions of matzoh brei that tend to be more of a matzoh omelet than what I make. Not my thing. Fortunately, it’s simply a matter of changing the ratio of eggs to matzoh. I like the matzoh pieces simply coated with egg so the ratio I use is one egg to two pieces of matzoh. All you do is break up the matzoh into bite-sized pieces, put them in a large bowl, and cover with hot water. Let the matzoh pieces soak in the water for a few minutes to soften and before they get too soggy, drain the water. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the matzoh, then gently stir the mixture together so each piece of matzo is coated with egg. Heat a large skillet (cast iron skillets are great for this), add vegetable oil to about ¼ of an inch and when a little piece of the mixture sizzles when it’s added to the oil, pour the rest of the mixture in. Stir and break up the pieces as they cook. The matzoh brei is ready when the individual pieces of matzoh puff up and are golden and crispy.

Then comes some decision making. Do you serve the matzoh brei with sugar and/or applesauce or salt and pepper and/or sour cream? It’s the classic Jewish conundrum (think potato pancakes at Chanukah). Resolve it according to taste or be a mensch and put it all out for your guests.

Here’s a different option for the menu: Sweet Matzo Fritters.

These fritters, created by Chef Jeff Rossman of San Diego restaurant Terra, were a fun surprise. I hadn’t used matzoh like this before. Let it soak and soak and the matzoh collapses into a dough-like substance. The recipe calls for raisins but I didn’t have a bag of raisins. I did have a Trader Joe’s medley of raisins, dried cranberries, and blueberries, and they worked just as well. Once I made them and had made up some whipped cream for strawberries, I tried them together and oh my…

Sweet Matzo Fritters
Jeff Rossman, Terra

Yield: 30 fritters, depending on the size you make them

4 ½ standard sized matzot, plain, whole wheat, or gluten free
3 large eggs separated
¾ cup finely chopped almonds or your favorite nut
1 cup raisins or currants
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons matzo cake meal
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Vegetable oil for frying

Topping:
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix sugar and cinnamon together for topping.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, break up the matzot into small pieces and cover with water. Let them soak until soft, about 15 minutes. Use your hands to squeeze the matzot dry of all excess water. Press the matzot with your fingers or with a fork and completely crush them. With a fork, mix in the egg yolks, almonds, raisins, oil, cinnamon, lemon juice, zest and cake meal.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating the whites until they form stiff white peaks. Fold the whites in the matzo mixture.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat enough frying oil so it comes up about ¼ to ½ inch up the sides. Drop generous spoonfuls of the batter into the oil. Fry the fritters until they are lightly browned on all sides, turning them once. Drain them on paper towels. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar and serve with creme fraiche or whipped cream.

Now, I know I’ve neglected Easter, but this week I plan to focus on lots of Easter recipes on our Facebook page, so go to the page, “like” it, and you’ll get a full stream of dishes to inspire you.

What kinds of dishes do your clients ask you to prepare for Passover?

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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Sublime Chicken Liver Mousse

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 26, 2018

If one of your umbrella businesses is catering–whether large gatherings or intimate dinner parties–you’re probably always on the hunt for dish inspiration, especially for appetizers.

Well, have I got something special for you! A luscious chicken liver mousse. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a good mousse. I grew up eating the very unluscious chopped liver, which I still love but it’s one of those things you have to have grown up with to enjoy. As I became an adult and was introduced to pâtés and mousses, my palate changed and I craved this rich food. And like anyone who has some sense I limited my consumption to special occasions.

A number of restaurants in San Diego have chicken liver mousse on the menu. I decided I wanted to learn how to make the one at a young eatery called Trust. Chef/owner Brad Wise’s is a silky buttery spread with a hint of herbs and sweet liqueurs, delivered via a slice of grilled sourdough levain and accompanied by a tangy mostarda and sliced radishes. Wise’s passion is for rustic contemporary American.

“It may not look great on a plate, but it’s what I really like to prepare. I’m a wintertime type of guy,” he said.

That, of course, explains his Chicken Liver Mousse, which has refined flavors but he serves in a very rustic style. The process for making it is very simple. And pretty quick, which is great for catering. But you have to build in the time to prep the ingredients. You’ve got to soak the chicken livers in milk overnight. You’ll need to slice shallots, stem and mince herbs, zest a few lemons, and cube a lot of butter. But once you do that, then the cooking process takes about 10 minutes. Oh, and then you need to let the creamy mixture sit in the fridge for at least five hours to reach the right consistency. Then before serving, take it out and let it sit at room temperature to soften.

The directions are straightforward, but I have a couple of tips from Wise. A key one comes while you’re sautéing the livers and shallots. You want the livers to be thoroughly cooked but not overcooked–think medium rare in a steak with a pink, not raw, center. You accomplish this by slicing into the larger livers as soon as you think they’re almost done. If they’re still on the red and mushy side, keep cooking–but remove the small ones so they won’t overcook. Keep testing until they reach that sweet spot.

The next tip has to do with seasoning. Wise adds a good amount of salt to this dish. Consider what you’ll be serving the mousse with. Ideally, you’ll include a sweet/tart preserve, perhaps whole-grain mustard, and gherkins or cornichons–and the mousse will be served on a hearty bread or cracker. They all function as a way to add flavor, yes, but also cut the intensity of the fat. With that in mind, you’ll want to punch up the mousse with more salt than you might otherwise think is appropriate. I found, as he salted, stirred, tasted, and added more, that early in the seasoning exercise the mousse seemed too salty. Then he actually added more, stirred and gave me a taste, and somehow the saltiness gave way to a more full-bodied flavor.

Finally, this is a dish you can prepared days in advance. Wise’s trick here is to prepare it, then melt some more butter and pour it over the finished mousse in its container or serving dish. Refrigerate and then before serving, remove the congealed butter lid from the top and toss it. The cold butter will seal the mousse.

As for serving it, you’ll smooth the mousse over the grilled levain and slice it, then strategically spoon on mostarda or a jam and place thin radish slices and chervil on top. Then finish it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

You can also pour the mousse into a concave serving dish and place little bowls of preserves, mustard, and pickles nearby. Slice up a sourdough baguette or levain and let it sit out all day to get just a little stale (another Wise tip) and serve that with the mousse.

Trust’s Chicken Liver Mousse 
From Chef Brad Wise
Yield: 4 cups

Ingredients
1 pound chicken livers
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 ounces shallots, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, minced
2 tablespoons cognac
2 tablespoons madeira
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¾ cup heavy cream
Zest from 3 lemons
2 pounds unsalted butter, cubed

Directions
1. Soak chicken livers overnight in milk. Place in colander over a bowl and drain. Put napkin on top of livers to soak up additional moisture.
2. Place a large skillet over medium high heat and add oil. Sauté shallots until they just start to brown. Stir in herbs. Add livers and cook until the middle is pink but not raw—medium rare. To check on doneness, cut through the thickest part of the livers.
3. About halfway through the cooking process, deglaze the skillet with the liquor. Reduce the heat as the livers absorb the liquor. Add the salt and stir well.
4. Once the livers are cooked, turn off the heat and let sit about 20 seconds.
5. Using a heavy-weight blender, like a Vitamix, add the liver mixture, scrapping the skillet clean to get all the bits included. Add the cream and the lemon zest. Blend until smooth.
6. Take off the top and slowly add the butter while at medium/high speed. Add a pinch more salt while mixing.
7. If you want, you can strain the mousse mixture through a sieve. Stir the mixture and add more salt until it’s just a bit saltier than you think you’d like, taking into account what you’ll be serving the mousse with, such as whole grain mustard and jam.
8. Pour the mousse into a concave serving dish and refrigerate at least five hours to let it firm. You can make this several days in advance. To keep it fresh, melt butter and pour over the top to seal it and refrigerate. Before serving, lift up the congealed butter top and discard.

Do you have a favorite go-to recipe for appetizers? Please share it with us!

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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