Those of you chefs who cater, especially for vegetarian clients, are probably thrilled that summer produce is finally here and simply begging us to turn it into irresistible meals.

That’s especially true of tomatoes. I plant several varieties of cherry tomatoes in my garden and already am harvesting them, little by little. Most of the time I can’t even wait to take them back into my kitchen. Instead I tend to munch on them  them while watering my garden. There’s really nothing like eating a sweet, sun-warmed, perfectly ripe tomato with one hand while holding a hose in the other.

There’s no point in even mentioning the many ways to enjoy tomatoes. I assume you and your clients have your favorites. But if you’ve never tried making a tomato tarte tatin, you both are missing out, especially if you’re catering a dinner party or brunch. It has a lot going for it–it’s pretty easy to make, requires few ingredients (some of which can be prepped in advance), it’s stunningly gorgeous to present to the table, and it has a sweet savory flavor that you can elevate even more depending on your ingredient choices. Me? I add kalamata olives to insert a little saltiness. I’ve also been known to top it off at the end with shredded burrata.

I made my first one years ago at the home of a friend. She has an abundance of tomatoes on her home’s grounds (yes, it’s that kind of home; it has “grounds.”). One year when she had a bumper crop, she invited a bunch of friends over to make sauce. And I made a tarte tatin. It all went well until I took the masterpiece out of the oven and placed it on the stove to cool. I got involved in something else–I can’t remember what exactly–but I needed to move the tart out of the way and unthinking just wrapped my hand around the skillet’s handle. And screamed.

It was a stainless steel pan that had just come out of a 425-degree oven. And so I ended up with a painful second-degree burn. Yikes.

I learned after that to pay special attention to the pan since then.

Recently when I made the tart I pulled out the only 9-inch skillet I had, a flameware skillet. If you haven’t heard of or used flameware, you’re missing out on a great cooking experience. This is a clay cookware that is specially created to be totally heat resistant, that cooks evenly even at high temperatures, and doesn’t get killer hot the way metal does. I bought mine online at a Minnesota shop cookbook author Paula Wolfert introduced me to, Clay Coyote.

I hadn’t made a tomato tarte tatin in a flameware skillet before but it worked out perfectly. And, significantly, the pan is so light it makes flipping it over onto a plate a breeze, much easier than stainless steel or cast iron, and with almost no sticking–certainly no more than any other metal skillet I’ve used.

The tart itself is a marvel of sweet and savory. There are several ways to make it in terms of ingredients. Sugar instead of honey, sherry vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. Whole tomatoes, cherry tomatoes. Whole or sliced tomatoes. Onions. No onions. Whatever. The fundamentals are tomatoes, some kind of caramelizing ingredients, and puff pastry. For me, I enjoy a lot of red onions, cooked down and caramelized in butter and a large pinch of brown sugar. Honey and vinegar. The kalamata olives I mentioned above. And, the star of the dish, whole organic multi-colored cherry tomatoes.

You’ll start by cooking down and caramelizing the onions in a large skillet. Put them aside and in the oven-safe, 9-inch skillet you’re going to make the tart in cook up the honey and water to a point at which it thickens, then add vinegar and swirl to combine the two. Remove the pan from the heat.

You’ll sprinkle the olives over the honey vinegar mixture and start building the tart. The tomatoes go in–whole–over the olives, along with finely minced fresh thyme. (Want to use basil instead? Go for it.) They should cover the entire bottom of the skillet. Then you’ll spoon the onions over the tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper.

The last step is rolling out the puff pastry sheet and creating a 10-inch round. Place it over the onions and tuck the excess around the tomato onion mixture. Cut some long vents into the pastry.


Before you put the tart into the oven, be sure to place it on a baking sheet covered with foil to catch the tomato juices so they don’t hit the bottom of your oven. Bake for 30 minutes until the crust is nice and puffy and golden brown. Then remove it from the oven and let it cool briefly before running a knife around the edges.

Now comes the moment of truth: Select a plate/platter larger than 9 inches. Place it upside down over the pastry. Be sure to use oven mitts or a thick towel and carefully flip the skillet and plate over, place it on the counter and gently lift the skillet. If all goes well–and why wouldn’t it–you’ll have a beautiful, rainbow of glossy tomatoes staring back at you, encased in a crunchy crust. That’s perfectly good enough as it is, but you can also decorate it with a scattering of basil leaves.

 

Tomato Tarte Tatin
4 to 6 servings

Ingredients
1, 14-ounce package all-butter puff pastry
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
Pinch of brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of brown sugar and sauté until onions are caramelized. If you’re using a pan in which there’s some sticking, at the end of sautéing add a couple of tablespoons water and let it cook off, scraping brown bits from bottom of pan.

Transfer onions and brown bits to a bowl.

Combine honey and 3 tablespoons water in an ovenproof 9-inch skillet. Cook over medium heat, swirling pan gently until honey bubbles and thickens, 5 to 6 minutes. Add vinegar and swirl gently for another 2 to 3 minutes until combined. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle olives over honey mixture. Scatter tomatoes and thyme over olives, then spoon onions on top.  Season with salt and pepper.

Unfold puff pastry sheet and roll out into a 10-inch round. Place on top of onions  and tuck edges around the mixture. Cut several long vents on the pastry.

Place tart on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until crust is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around pastry to loosen it from pan, place a large plate upside down over the skillet, and, using oven mitts, flip the skillet upside down, place the plate on the counter, then carefully remove the skillet.

What is your favorite summer dish to prepare for yourself or 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!

Glazed Duck Breast

Filed under: Catering,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , June 12, 2018

Hey, chefs, are you catering dinner parties? If so, I came across a divine dish you’ll want to incorporate into your offerings. This Glazed Duck Breast is being made by the young chef of a San Diego restaurant called Cloak & Petal (a place you’ll want to visit next time you visit). For this dish chef Dominic Valenzuela created a yuzu marmalade for the glaze, and sits it in a swirl of potato puree, accompanied by confit turnips. Feel free to substitute the puree with a seasonal vegetable puree.

The first thing you’ll do is brine the two skinned and boned duck breasts in one quart of water mixed with a tablespoon each of salt and sugar. Valenzuela pointed out that this simple brine works just as well for chicken and pork. Note that the duck breast is skinned but still has a nice layer of fat on it. You’ll trim the excess fat–but, Valenzuela suggested, keep the excess to render and then cook scrambled eggs or sauté vegetables. Score the fat and place the breasts in the brine. You can brine it for a couple of hours or up to overnight.

Once the duck breasts have been brined, pre-heat the oven to 500° and score the breasts to help render the fat for crispness. Heat a skillet, preferably aluminum, cast iron, or stainless steel–not non-stick, and once it’s smoking hot, add a little melted butter or ghee or even vegetable oil to the pan.

Lay the duck breasts fat side down on the skillet and cook for about a minute and a half. Sprinkle some ground black pepper onto the breasts before turning them and cooking for another minute. Then flip them again and place the skillet into the oven for 7 to 8 minutes for medium rare (think of duck as meat, not poultry). Add or subtract cooking time in 2-minute increments for rare or for medium to well done. Remove the skillet from the oven and let the breasts rest for 3 to 5 minutes, tented with foil.To make the puree, dice and boil the potatoes until tender. Remove from heat and drain. Place in a blender with 2 teaspoons of salt and about 1 1 /4 cup of heavy cream. Puree, then pour into a bowl with a sieve to remove any lumps and make impeccably smooth. It reminded me of the texture of mayonnaise. Valenzuela explained that the puree can be made in advance and reheated in a pan with a little butter.


Valenzuela then sautéed mizuna, a Japanese green (you can substitute with other favorite greens), in butter, adding a splash of sake and lemon juice for flavor. He also placed his yuzu marmalade in a pan and added ponzu and unsalted butter to create the glaze, swirling it around to warm it until it reach a boil, at which point he took it off the heat.

Now comes time to plate. First place a mound of puree on the plate and using the back of a large spoon, push it into a swirl. Place the greens in the center. Then slice each duck breast and (tip) place on a paper towel first to drain the released liquid before placing on the puree, crispy side up on each plate, fanned out. Finally, spoon the glaze over the duck. Valenzuela then garnished the dish with cilantro oil and edible flowers.

Glazed Duck Breast
from Dominic Valenzuela of Clock & Petal
Serves 2

Ingredients
For duck
1 quart water
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 duck breasts, skinned and boned
1 tablespoon melted butter, ghee, or vegetable oil

For potato puree
2 russet potatoes, peeled
Ground pepper to taste
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 heavy cream

For greens
1 tablespoon butter or oil
2 cups mizuna or other greens
Sake
Lemon juice

For glaze
1/4 cup marmalade
1 ounce ponzu
2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Mix together water, salt, and sugar. Score the fat on the duck breasts and add them to the brine, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one to two hours or as long as overnight.

Do a large dice of the potatoes and add to a pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain and add potatoes to a blender bowl. Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Puree.

Place a sieve over a bowl and pour the potato puree onto the sieve. Press through into the bowl. Set aside the puree.

Pre-heat oven to 500°. Remove the duck breasts from the brine. Heat a skillet until it’s smoking. Add melted butter and lay each breast fat side down and away from you onto the pan. Sprinkle some ground pepper on each breast and let cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Turn over and leave for another minute. Flip again and place in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes for medium rare. Add or subtract cooking time in 2-minute increments for rare or for medium to well done. Remove the skillet from the oven and let the breasts rest for 3 to 5 minutes, tented with foil.

While the breasts rest, sauté the greens in a tablespoon of butter or oil. Add a splash of sake and lemon juice. Once the greens have cooked, remove from heat.

Make the glaze by adding 1/4 cup of marmalade, an ounce of ponzu, and 2 tablespoons butter to a warm pan. Swirl around to keep the butter from breaking. Once it reaches a boil, remove from heat.

To plate, place a mound of puree on a plate and, using the back of a large spoon, swirl it around. Place the cooked greens in the center. Slice the duck and place on a paper towel to drain the liquid, then fan the slices of each breast onto each plate. Spoon the glaze over the duck.

Do you cook with duck for clients? What’s your favorite duck dish?

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!

Phyllo rolls

Are you launching a catering service under your personal chef business umbrella? If so, you may be looking to build your appetizer recipe repertoire. We have just the pass-around app for you for this season: Savory Ricotta + Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls!

I got this recipe years ago from Atlanta chef Alisa Barry when she was visiting our region and teaching at Rancho La Puerta’s La Cocina Que Canta. Her Savory Ricotta + Wilted Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls was so straightforward and so divine I knew I’d be making them for parties. And I have, twice. Plus, I made them with the kids when I taught at Olivewood Gardens.

So, what is it that makes this such a winning recipe? I love the crunch of baked phyllo combined with the lusciousness of ricotta and wilted Swiss chard. The touch of nutmeg adds a spicy note. But, what’s truly great about this recipe is how versatile it is. Add tiny pieces of preserved lemon. Add toasted walnuts or pine nuts. Or, as I did the last time, add scallions, marash pepper for some subtle heat, and plump raisins soaked in Grand Marnier for sweetness.

rolling up

The other change I made to Alisa’s recipe was to the assembly part. Alisa calls for folding one sheet of phyllo dough twice. That’s fine, but yesterday I decided to make the rolls a little thinner so I sliced the sheet in half lengthwise and folded it just once. Since you roll the filled dough like a cigar, it’s still plenty thick. But, I leave that choice to you.

Savory Ricotta + Wilted Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls
Adapted from Alisa Barry

1, 1 pound box frozen phyllo (or filo) dough (follow the directions on the box for thawing)

Filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups mixed winter greens (Swiss chard, kale, arugula, for example)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 large scallions (green onions), sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Marash pepper or other red pepper flakes
3/4 cup raisins, marinated for at least two hours in Grand Marnier
1 container (15 ounces) of ricotta
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For Assembly:
Olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray baking sheet/s with olive oil (or use parchment paper.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat oil and add garlic, greens, scallions, and salt. Cook until wilted. Strain excess liquid and add to a medium-sized mixing bowl.

3. Add Marash pepper, ricotta, drained raisins, and nutmeg to greens and mix well.

4. To assemble, lay out one sheet of phyllo dough* and slice in half lengthwise. Brush both pieces lightly with olive oil. Fold in half lengthwise. Spoon two teaspoons of the filling mix at the short end of the dough and roll up like a cigar. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling, placing each roll on the baking sheet. Brush the rolls with olive oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

baking

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until brown. Depending on the quality of the phyllo and how many usable sheets you get, you should have about 3 dozen rolls.

*Note: When working with phyllo, be sure to keep the sheets from drying out. Dampen a dish towel and lay it over the stacked dough, removing it only to remove a sheet of dough and then placing it back over the stacked dough.

Just out of the oven

Are you developing new appetizer recipes for new catering gigs? What will be on your menu?

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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Charles Schulman has been in the culinary industry for more than 30 years. He came to the personal chef profession in 2008 after years of working in the hospitality industry–think hotels–and corporate world–think corporate dining rooms, hospitals, and private schools, as well as restaurants and fine dining establishments like country clubs. Based in the Baltimore area, Schulman’s last full-time gig before becoming a personal chef was as a chef for a private school.

At that point he was ready for something new and his wife suggested he look into becoming a personal chef. Years before a co-worker had talked to him about it as a career and pointed him to the APPCA. Schulman finally attended a seminar in Washington, D.C. and liked what he heard. And so he launched his business, Savor Each Flavor.

horsdouerve

Since then he’s had a range of clients and also works part-time for a caterer and sometimes for a fine dining restaurant in Owings Mills. “I’ve learned from every one,” he says. His catering umbrella is broad. He offers dinner parties and receptions, romantic dinners and barbecues, cooking lessons and Hors d’oeuvre parties, and chef/sommelier parties. Much of his clientele comes from client referrals, although he says he’s also experimented with Groupon and Living Social.

buffet

Schulman has shared 10 tips about catering that he’s gleaned from his experience:

    1. Offer a lot of variety in terms of food. Create innovative combinations, especially for brunch.
    2. With bridal showers and baby showers, you get a lot more guests interested in healthy dishes. Be sure to offer egg substitutes or egg whites for omelets.
    3. Make your omelets in front of your guests. You’re creating a show and are entertaining guests, which they enjoy.
    4. Be flexible and know your guests in terms of the kind of food they prefer. Do they tend to prefer lighter, healthier dishes? Do they want you to make their mom’s recipe? Be open to their requests instead of strictly sticking to your menu.
    5. Cater to your client. They’re the ones paying you. They’re the ones eating the food. They’re the ones who will rehire you or give you a great referral.
    6. When hiring wait staff make sure you have good people who you know around you. They’re the first line of defense. Make sure you’re all on the same page. I have meetings before the event to review plate presentation, platter presentation, menu, clients’ rules. At the event, review every single detail before the event starts.
    7. Consider partnering with a wine consultant for an event. And for events for guests numbering more than 15, consider hiring a second chef to assist.
    8. If you’re using fresh herbs, dry them in the oven to preserve them—and you don’t have to toss leftover herbs. Instead you can put them in the freezer. With other leftover produce, you can roast them or otherwise cook them and freeze them.
    9. Have a good strategy for prepping so you don’t spend all your time in the kitchen cooking. Jot down menu items with recipe with a section that accounts for equipment you need and special issues like guest or client allergies to ingredients.
    10. Email clients with confirmation when you’ll be there, the menu, and to make sure that the dishwasher, sink, countertops, stove cleared off. If you come into a clean kitchen and clean house, you leave it the same as you found it.Clean as you go. Clean while guests are eating.

brunchsetup

Schulman also emphasizes the importance of annual planning. From Christmas to New Years, you can find him at his computer going over the goals he has for himself and his business for the new year. And he anticipates a busy January. “I usually have a range of clients then of people who want to change their diets, who decide they don’t want to cook for themselves, or want a chef to come in and cook healthy meals for their families,” he says.

What are some of your best catering tips? What concerns do you have about branching out into catering?

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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