Sunday, May 19, 2013

Aubergine Souffles

Souffles can be tricky business. It's such a delicate matter that I resort to tiptoeing and whispering around the oven. Nothing can disrupt the delicate climb! Upon undertaking a souffle, you have made the decision to impress people. Don't let them down.

The most important component of the souffle is the egg white. Despite its whiteness, you should beat it like the redheaded stepchild that it is.

The excitingly difficult part of recipes from LaRousse's Gastronomique is that a lot is expected of you. Instead of holding your hand through the steps and ingredients for making a bechamel, the paragraph of directions simply says (paraphrased) "Puree the eggplant flesh with an equal amount of bechamel sauce." It's exhilarating.

Handling the eggplant was a simpler matter. It simply needed to be roasted, halved, hollowed, and then refilled with the mixture of eggplant puree, bechamel, nutmeg, egg yolks, and meringue.

Then I simply popped them back into the oven for 10 - 12 minutes, until the filling had risen and browned at the top. Meanwhile, Andy cooked up the chicken shawarma.

And then we ate like kings!

Aubergine Souffles
Serves 4.

2 large eggplants
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs, white and yolks separated
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup parsley, minced (for garnish)

1. Preheat oven to 400. On a rimmed baking sheet, place eggplants. Roast for 20 minutes, until skin is tender. Let cool for 10 minutes. Keep oven at 400.
2. Meanwhile, make bechamel sauce by melting butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add flour, whisking in until all lumps are gone. Then slowly pour in milk, whisking vigorously to incorporate until smooth. Return to medium-high heat, bringing to a boil. Let boil for a couple of minutes, until thickened. Then remove from heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.
3. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
3. Halve eggplants lengthwise and scoop out flesh. Puree flesh in food processor, then add bechamel and process again. Next add egg yolks, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Process to combine.
4. Pour mixture into bowl with egg whites and use a rubber spatula to fold in egg whites.
5. Carefully spoon mixture into hollowed out eggplants. Top with grated parmesan. Butter the rimmed baking sheet and return the eggplants. Roast in oven for 10 - 12 minutes. For souffles, you want to be cautious around the oven. Definitely don't check it for the first 3/

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Roasted Duck with a Strawberry-Rhubarb Glaze over Polenta

My boyfriend will sometimes tease me for my desire to make things out of scratch. "There's really no reason to make homemade Cheez-Its," he'll insist. But it looks like so much fun!

I also enjoy the quality control that comes out of doing-it-yourself. That and the sense of ownership. "This sauce, this sauce isn't Ragu's," I can boast, possibly while planting a tiny flag in middle of the dish. "It. Is. Mine."

Sometimes, though, it simply comes down to availability. Whaddaya mean you don't carry squash blossoms because they're too delicate to ship? FINE, THEN. I'LL JUST GROW MY OWN SQUASH. (Look for an upcoming blog on tempura squash blossoms!)

With this recipe, I could not readily find the required demi-glace, so why not make it? Essentially it's reduced espagnole sauce combined with stock. Espagnole sauce is one of the five French mother sauces, and I love challenging myself to the complicated balance of French gastronomy.

The sauces weren't difficult. Just involved. I did not have veal stock for the demi-glace, so I went with beef. Forgivable, I hope! For the most part, the success of the sauces comes down to the simmer. They bring themselves to perfection.

Mirepoix. Isn't that a lovely term? It refers to a collection of aromatics--usually the above pictured celery, carrots, and onions--used to add flavor to stocks and sauces.

The cheesecloth for the bouquet garni does not absolutely need to be unrolled in a dramatic fashion. But it does add a certain something to the proceedings.

Before adding the sachet, I brought the sauce to a boil.

Then I added in my bouquet garni and let it simmer. So much fun! I don't know why I don't cheesecloth my sauces more often.

Once the espagnole was created, I added two cups of brown stock and let it boil and then simmer for another twenty minutes.

After which I strained out the mirepoix.

Once the duck was done roasting...

And the radicchio and chard were sauteed...

You can plate it all together!

And drizzle the finished sauce on top.

Much more direction below!

Roasted Duck with a Strawberry-Rhubarb Glaze over Polenta

1 3 - 5 lb. duck, fat removed
1 cup strawberry rhubarb jam (recipe here)
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, punctured several times
4 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup carrots, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons unbleached flour
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups stock
1/8 cup tomato puree
Bouquet garni: 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs thyme, 3 - 4 parsley stems

2 cups brown stock

3 bunches rainbow chard, chopped
1 large head of radicchio, chopped into 1-inch wedges
1 small onion, cut into 3/4-inch wedges
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 cup cornmeal
3 cups water
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 375. In a small saucepan, melt the jam until it is syrupy. Rub the duck with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Remove innards and replace with punctured lemon and four sprigs of thyme. Put duck in rack of large roasting pan and baste with melted jam. Roast in oven for one hour (basting several times throughout).
2. Meanwhile, melt two tablespoons butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery) and saute a few minutes until lightly browned. Stir in flour until roux is formed. Lower heat and cook for 4 - 5 minutes until roux is turning golden.
3. Whisk in stock and tomato puree. Pour slowly but whisk vigorously! Eradicate the lumps!
4. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and add the bouquet garni. Simmer for about 45 - 50 minutes. It's probably best to start the espagnole sauce a little before you put the duck in the oven--bringing it to a simmer about fifteen minutes before you start roasting the bird--to get the timing exact.
5. Once the sauce is reduced to a third of its original volume, remove from heat and take out the sachet. Add in two more cups of brown stock and return to heat, bringing to a boil and then simmering again for twenty minutes.
[Now you're changing your just-produced espagnole sauce into a demi-glace! Pat yourself on the back! While pouring yourself a drink! If you can do all this, I'm sure you're capable of growing hands at will.]
6. Heat three cups water in a medium saucepan over high, bringing to a boil. Stir in cornmeal and lower to a simmer. Stirring frequently, cook for twenty minutes, until all water is absorbed. Add in parmesan, stirring to combine.
6. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add in onions and garlic and sautee until starting to brown.
7. Working in batches, add in bunches of chard and radicchio, cooking until wilted. Once all is wilted, remove from heat and stir in red wine vinegar.
8. Stir in demi-glace to remaining melted jam. Bring to a boil and let thicken for five minutes, then remove from heat.
8. By now, your duck should be done and rested for fifteen minutes. Carve the duck. Then serve over polenta surrounded by a ring of chard and radicchio. Ladle sauce over duck. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Zucchini "Pasta" with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

So excited about this. My grandmother always serves zucchini with tomato sauce, and it's one of my favorite iterations. After selecting zucchini as this week's seasonal item, I wanted to keep those flavors in play while branching out on my own.

I saw online a suggestion to turn the zucchini into quasi-noodles, slicing them into wide, thin ribbons. Pasta without the carbs! So choice.

I just cooked it down a little in a large saucepan with some olive oil, seasoning it with citrus pepper.

Then I whipped up a fairly traditional pesto, and a creamy lemon sauce that was warped a little by my lack of cream, white wine, or broth, but finally brought into the realm of deliciousness. Especially after we pinata-ed open the can of smoked paprika and added it into the mix.

Mixed in both sauces with the "noodles," then topped with slow-roasted tomatoes and a sprig of parsley. Fun new way to serve zucchini!

Zucchini "Pasta" with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 2-3.

2 zucchini, sliced into thin, wide ribbons (I used my mandoline!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons citrus pepper seasoning

6 vine-ripe tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 oz. pine nuts
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
Juice from one lemon
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon dry vermouth
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon butter

Parsley sprigs, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 300. Spread quartered tomatoes over a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, then drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette. Roast for one hour, or until the skin is wrinkled.
2. In large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini spices and stir in citrus pepper. Cook until tender and starting to brown.
3. In food processor, combine pine nuts, basil, oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, parmesan, and parsley. Process until fully combined. Add more olive oil if needed.
4. Now in a small saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add diced onion and cook until golden. Then add in lemon juice, milk, and vermouth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium. Stir in garlic powder and smoked paprika. Cook for five minutes. Then remove from heat and add butter, stirring until melted.
5. In a large bowl, mix zucchini, pesto, and lemon sauce. Top with roasted tomatoes and a sprig of parsley.
6. When eating, I recommend crushing up the tomatoes until the pasta. Enjoy!