Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo

Anybody else drink a hurricane last night in celebration of Fat Tuesday?

Festivities are underway in New Orleans and everyone is craving the distinctive blend of flavors in Creole cooking. Mix Spanish with a little French and African American and there you have it. If you are a Top Chef junkie like me (season finale is tonight!) then you have seen gumbo dishes pop up quite a bit. That's because this year's finale is being hosting in the Big Easy by Mr. Emeril himself.

Now, locals of New Orleans are very passionate about their gumbo. God forbid that you serve it over grits. Rice only folks. And your roux must be very dark. No woosie stuff. Lastly, this recipe has a hundred variations. Feel free to add your own personal touch.

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 small cup onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small green bell pepper, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/4 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 1/2 pound fresh okra, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups cooked white rice
  • Hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
  • About 2 teaspoons filé powder

In 4-quart heavy stock pot over moderately high heat, heat oil. Reduce heat to moderately low and whisk in flour. Cook, stirring frequently with wooden spoon or heatproof silicone spatula, until mixture becomes dark brown and has intensely nutty aroma, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in onion, pepper, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in stock. Raise heat to moderate and bring to simmer, then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until mixture has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add bay leaves, shrimp, sausage, and okra and simmer, uncovered, until okra is tender, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and stir in salt, cayenne, and black pepper.

Divide rice among 4 large bowls. Ladle gumbo over, and serve with hot sauce and filé powder for sprinkling on top.


Friday, February 20, 2009


Ever wonder who loves Miner Family Tempranillo as much as you do? Looking for the latest and greatest Oregon Pinot? Check out Bottlenotes, an online wine community where novice to advanced wine enthusiasts can go to learn about, share, explore and buy boutique and estate wines from around the world, hand-picked by Bottlenotes wine experts and tailored to individuals’ personal tastes.

Last night we attended (with about 500 other winos) Bottlenote's Around the World in 80 Sips event at Crushpad. It featured regions and grape varieties from Lebanon to Spain to South Africa. Culinary partners at the event included Artisanal, Just Desserts, Fatted Calf and more. You really can't go wrong with cheese, chocolate, charcuterie and wine. I just wish there was more of it. By 7 pm this place was packed which made it difficult to get a taste, spark a conversation with the winery rep or grab a small bite. But the event was a great success and the crowd was young. Yes, young!

Check out Bottlenotes for yourself or follow them on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jacques Pepin's Scallop Ceviche with Guacamole

Sharp knife? Check. Fresh scallops? Check. A craving for guacamole? Always!

I really hope that I don't have to introduce you to the culinary genius of Chef Pepin. What started as an extra hand in his parents' restaurant outside of Lyon, France became an empire. Countless cookbooks, television shows, restaurants, products and prestigious awards later, Pepin is arguably the most prominent chef alive. Not to mention that he is the Dean of Special Programs at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. Basically, I would faint if our paths ever crossed.

It's no secret that my cooking style is heavily rooted in French cuisine. What I love about Chef Pepin and his wildly successful cookbook and TV series, Fast Food My Way, is that he gracefully applies French technique to all cuisines and does it very, very well.

With avocados in season, I can't resist but to post this delicious recipe that requires little work at all. Living on the west coast has its perks, especially access to fresh diver scallops. Arranging the thin scallop slices around a heaping spoonful of guacamole makes for a mouthwatering presentation.

4 very large sea scallops (diver scallops; 7 to 8 ounces total)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 ripe avocados (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup whole, unpeeled, tomato, in 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons minced poblano chili pepper (or another chili pepper of your choice)
3 tablespoons finely minced scallion
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco green pepper sauce (or more, if you like)

For serving:
About 3 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
About 12 spicy tortilla chips

For the Seviche:
Cut each of the scallops crosswise into 6 slices, each 1/2-inch thick. You should have about 24 slices. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon salt and the 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the bottom of a shallow baking dish or on a platter, and arrange the slices of scallop on top in a single layer. Sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper. Cover lightly with plastic wrap applied directly to the surface of the scallops, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but as long as overnight.

For the Guacamole:
Cut around each avocado, penetrating the skin and flesh, then twist to separate the avocados into halves. Remove the pit from each, and using a spoon, scoop the flesh into a glass bowl large enough to easily hold the remaining ingredients. Crush coarsely with a fork. (You should have about 1 1/4 cups of crushed avocado.)

Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, applying it directly to the surface of the guacamole. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

At serving time, arrange 6 scallop slices around the circumference of each dinner plate, and spoon about 1/2 cup of guacamole in the center, Sprinkle the scallops on each plate with about 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and crumble a few tortilla chips on top of the guacamole. Serve immediately.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Alice Waters' Roast Chicken

If I had to choose one last dish to eat before I died, it would be safe to say that I would choose roast chicken. Something about its rustic simplicity appeals to me and my taste buds. I've tried a bunch of recipes, including Julia Child's and Donna Hay's, but no recipe comes close to Alice Waters.

Alice is a culinary institution. Arguably, she created what is now known as California cuisine and is a giant force in the slow food movement. You may of heard of her little Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse? Yeah, I thought that would get your attention.

This recipe is unreal and it is by far the recipe that I share most with folks looking to make a tasty dinner at home. One chicken can feed up to 4 people but 3 people more comfortably. As Alice says below in an excerpt from her book, The Art of Simple Food, seasoning the bird as soon as you can (and up to 2 days) is key. This helps lock in all the juiciness and give the skin some crunch. Also, I like a ton of garlic with mine so I'll throw in about 30 cloves around the pan in the cavity. Slicing fingerlings lengthwise and roasting them in the pan is also one of my favorite treats.

Click here for Alice's recipe and more!


Friday, February 13, 2009

Three-Cheese Fondue with Champagne

When I think of romance, I think of melted cheese. Don't you?

Regardless if you agree or disagree there is something romantic about fondue. This Valentine's Day, you may want to consider staying home or making a reservation at a fondue restaurant. Spots like Geja's Cafe in Chicago or even the Melting Pot chain nationwide cater specifically to couples and the 'romantic' experience. Invest 35 dollars and you can make the meal at home. What's not to like about gooey cheese over a sliced baguette and Granny Smith apples. Or how about fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate? Sign me up.

A word of the wise: if you go oil fondue to cook proteins (which does taste great) beware of the lingering smell. It's just like frying in your own kitchen and the smell is there to stay. My rule of thumb is to order fried foods when you go out and avoid making them at home. However, if you have a backyard, fry away.

Three-Cheese Fondue with Champagne
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups dry (brut) Champagne
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 7 ounces)
  • 1 1/3 cups coarsely grated Emmenthal cheese (about 5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup diced rindless Brie or Camembert cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • Generous pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground white pepper
  • 1 French-bread baguette, crust left on, bread cut into 1-inch cubes

Stir cornstarch and lemon juice in small bowl until cornstarch dissolves; set aside. Combine Champagne and shallot in fondue pot or heavy medium saucepan; simmer over medium heat 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat. Add all cheeses and stir to combine. Stir in cornstarch mixture. Return fondue pot to medium heat and stir until cheeses are melted and smooth and fondue thickens and boils, about 12 minutes. Season fondue with nutmeg and white pepper. Place over candle or canned heat burner to keep warm. Serve with bread cubes.



Monday, February 9, 2009

Meatloaf with Homemade Ketchup

Mealoaf is making a big comeback and I am not talking about the singer.

I know, I know...meatloaf. What a terrible name with an even worse stigma of tv dinners and the 1950's. But the truth is that it's pretty tasty and can feed a small army for cheap. My sister made this dish for her mother-in-law's birthday and it was down right delicious.

Do not let the picture above fool you. My sister did all the leg work. I just took it out of the oven and her husband snapped a photo. The pot above the meatloaf was her homemade ketchup that was rockstar. Quite frankly, it made the dish so don't attempt the recipe without making the ketchup, too. You will be very disappointed.

Homemade Ketchup

1 Tblspoon Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic
3 Anchovy Fillets (Optional)
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
T Teaspoon dry mustard
T Teaspoon Celery Seed
2 Teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 Cans (28 Oz/875 g each) whole plum Roma Tomatoes, Coarsely Chopped with Juice
1 Cup Light Corn Syrup
3 Bay Leaves
Kosher Salt or Coarse Sea Salt tot Taste
2 Tablespoons Sugar (Optional)

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and the anchovies, if using, mashing and stirring until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the ginger, mustard, and celery seed and heat until fragrant. Add the Worcestershire sauce and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the pan bottom. Cook until almost fully evaporated.

Stir in the tomatoes and their juice, the corn syrup, and the bay leaves. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low so the mixture simmers gently. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and shiny, about 1 hour. Season with salt, and sweeten with sugar, if desired. Remove from the heat and let cool.


1 tablespoon olive oil
6 green onions, including tender green tops, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt or coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup milk
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 egg, beaten
1.5 lbs ground pork
1.5 lbs ground beef

To make the meatloaf, in a small frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the green onions until soft, about 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper and stir to distribute evenly. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Put the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat and heat until small bubbles appear at the edge of the pan. Pour the hot milk into a large bowl and stir in the rolled oats and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Let stand until the liquid is absorbed about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add the egg, sauteed green onions and 1 cup of the homemade ketchup to the rolled oats and stir to incorporate. Fold in the ground meats and mix gently with your hands just until the liquids are evenly distributed. Do not overmix, or the meatloaf will be tough and crumbly. Sear a small patty of the mixture in a hot frying pan until cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Pack the meat mixture into an 8.5" x 4.5" loaf pan, mounding it nicely on top. Place in a baking pan to collect any overflowing juices. Bake the meat loaf for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and pour off the fat. Return to the oven until the juices run clear when the meatloaf is pierced in the center with a sharp knife or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest park registers 165 degrees, 30-45 minutes longer. If the top of the meatloaf is browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Just before the meatloaf is ready, reheat the remaining ketchup. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Then cut into slices of desired thickness. Pour some of the ketchup on the slices and pass the rest of it at that table.



Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pear, Apple and Cranberry Crisp

I worship the show Barefoot Contessa but sometimes watching it can really be torture. First of all, they never tape on a gray day in the Hamptons. Instead, it's always bright and sunny and all of her guests are tan stricken and J. Crew clad. She makes every recipe look effortless and can put together a gorgeous table in two seconds using the bounty of her insane garden just steps from her kitchen. Now that's the life!

I've never met anyone who didn't like a crisp so when I saw Ina make it on last week's show I bumped it up in my recipe box. Some recipes call for sauteing the fruit over stove top in butter and sugar before putting it in the pan. Ina's recipe just mixes the fruit with citrus, spices and sugar at room temp so the fruit starts to cook in the oven instead of stove top and doesn't break down into a gooey mess. I much prefer this method.

The prep on this is time consuming but can be outsourced. Anyone can peal and apple. Also, never serve a crisp without ice cream. I typically serve my crisps with Vanilla Bean. And watch out, they are piping hot when they come out of the oven.

Ina, if you're out there, happy belated birthday and thanks for all the great recipes.

Pear, Apple and Cranberry Crisp
  • 2 pounds ripe Bosc pears (4 pears)
  • 2 pounds firm Macoun apples (6 apples)
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel and core the pears and apples and cut them into large chunks. Place the fruit in a large bowl and toss with the cranberries, zests, juices, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish.

Combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mixture is in large crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.

Place the baking dish on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm.



Monday, February 2, 2009

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Cider Sauce

I have really been in the mood for pork with apples. It's a classic combo that's very affordable and easy to pull together. Serve this dish with mashed potatoes or warm focaccia bread.

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Cider Sauce
  • 2 (3/4-pound) pork tenderloins
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 2 (1/2-pound) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and each cut into 16 wedges
  • 1 cup low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup unfiltered apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon arrowroot
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Pat tenderloins dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown tenderloins on all sides, turning with tongs, about 5 minutes total. (If the handle of your skillet is not ovenproof, wrap handle in a triple layer of foil, shiny side out.) Transfer skillet to upper third of oven and roast until a thermometer inserted diagonally into center of meat registers 155°F, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 15 minutes before slicing.

While meat is standing, heat butter in same skillet (handle will be hot) over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Add apple wedges and sauté, turning occasionally, until tender and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer apples to a plate, then add chicken broth and cider to skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat and meanwhile whisk together arrowroot and water in a small bowl. Whisk arrowroot mixture into sauce and boil until thickened and reduced to about 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, measured salt and pepper, and any juices that have accumulated on platter.

Cut meat into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve topped with apples and sauce.