Thursday, January 30, 2014

Steak au Poivre and Lessons Learned from a Broken Sauce

Steak au Poivre




Recently, I picked up some tri tip steaks on a trip to the supermarket. I wasn't sure how I was going to prepare them so an internet search yielded steak au poivre. The dish is French for a peppered steak with a pan sauce. I learned that a filet is commonly used but almost any cut of beef would work. The dish is also commonly flambéed with brandy or cognac. Normally, I'd be the first one to attempt a technique I've yet to try but I didn't want to take the risk of needing to make a claim against my renter's insurance policy. I found Anthony Bourdain's version which didn't require it so I took the out.

The Challenge

First, allow me to take you through the recipe and then I'll describe some issues I had.

The Source

I followed the version on delish.com but it appeared originally on page 130 to 131 of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain with José de Meirelles and Philippe Lajaunie.

Ingredients

4 8-ounce steaks
2 ounces olive oil
2 ounces freshly cracked peppercorns, crushed
4 ounces sweet butter
1 ounce Cognac
4 ounces beef stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
French fries, for serving
1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped (for garnish)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit. Dabble a minute amount of olive oil on each side, then dredge each steak through the crush peppercorns. Heat the remaining oil in a large oven-proof skillet over high heat. Once hot, add half the butter, then sear the steaks in the skillet on both sides, approximately 5 minutes per side but adjusting the heat so the steaks don't burn.




2. Place the skillet in the oven until desired doneness is achieved: approximately 5 to 7 minutes for rare, 10 minutes for medium-rare, etc. Once complete, remove the steaks from the pan and set aside to allow for carryover cooking while the pan sauce is prepared.


3. For the sauce, deglaze the hot pan off heat with the cognac, loosening the fond with a wooden spoon. Return to the stovetop burner and reduce the cognac by half. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the beef stock. Simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in the remaining butter, then season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the steak, serve with French fries and garnish with chives.


Successful?

Obviously not.

Part of the issue I have with this version is Chef Bourdain's units of measure of his ingredients because they are rather ambiguous. 2 ounces olive oil? Would that be 1/4 cup (i.e. fluid ounces)? I especially have this problem with the butter. 4 ounces is 1 stick. After I completed the dish, I did a little research and found an entry by Emma of the kitchn on possible causes a sauce breaks in addition to methods to fix a broken sauce. In this particular case, I believe the addition of butter caused it to separate because I prepared the dish again using ribeye steaks about a week later (picture below) but added small amounts of butter (1 teaspoon at a time; 1 1/3 tablespoons total) and it still separated. I advise to omit it all together.



Sunday, January 26, 2014

Beer Braised Szechuan Chicken Wings for a Game Day Entertaining #SundaySupper with Gallo Family Vineyards

Beer Braised Szechuan Chicken Wings




I alluded to my love for football about a year ago with a quick pasta dish. I will further specify that I grew up a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, so I laughed when I read the theme for this week's #SundaySupper event with Gallo Family Vineyards, Game Day Entertaining and Pairings, because fans of my team used to have a reputation of being soft (i.e. the wine and cheese crowd) which contrasted with the fans of the other team across the San Francisco Bay. (On a side note, I was relieved when San Francisco lost to Seattle because I don't think Kaepernick would have been able to keep up with Manning, but that's an entirely different discussion.)

If you're unfamiliar with Gallo Family Vineyards, they have a store locator where you can find their wines, and can be found on facebook, twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. They also have a fun crest creator which you can customize. I did one myself you can see below. In the interest of full disclosure, compensation was provided by Gallo Family Vineyards via Sunday Supper, LLC. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Gallo Family Vineyards.



GFV also sponsored a previous #SundaySupper event last month. During the twitter chat that week, a portion of the discussion centered around Moscato, which I had never tried. I was intrigued so when I was selected to participate in this week's event, I selected their white Moscato to use for my dish, however I hadn't realized it was a sweet wine when I did. I prefer dry wines such as chardonnays and cabernets because I usually pair them with savory dishes if I'm enjoying a glass with dinner or cook with them. I'm not really a dessert guy and can't appreciate sweet cocktails so I did a google search for wine pairings and one suggestion for Moscato was Chinese food. Many spicy dishes in their cuisine pair well with the sweet wine.

The Challenge

Pair a sweet wine with a spicy appetizer.

The Source

I adapted a chicken wings dish on Cooking Channel's website I thought would make for great game day entertaining.

Ingredients

2 pounds chicken wings, wing tips removed, then cut at the joint
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, dry toasted until fragrant
5 dried red chiles, crushed
1 bunch scallion greens, cut in 2-inch pieces
1 star anise
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 12-fluid ounce bottles ale beer
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup corn starch
1 cup all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 teaspoon chives, chopped fine (for garnish)

Method

1. Marinate the wings: Combine the wings, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, five-spice, Szechuan peppercorns, dried chiles, scallion greens and star anise in a resealable bag and toss until the chicken is coated in the marinade. Refrigerate overnight.

2. Braise the wings: Empty the contents of the resealable bag into a large Dutch oven. Add to it the ale and rice vinegar. Bring the oven to a boil on the stovetop then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the wings are tender and the meat is almost falling off the bone, approximately 1 hour. Remove the wings onto a platter in a single layer and refrigerate until cold, reserving the braising fluid.



3. Fry the wings: Place enough vegetable oil in a large pot to reach a depth of at least 1 1/2 inches and heat to 375° Fahrenheit. Combine the corn starch and flour, then dredge each wing into the mixture and shake off any excess. Deep-fry the chicken, in batches if necessary, in the oil until deep brown and crisp, approximately 3 minutes, taking care to not overcrowd the pot. Remove the wings with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.


4. Finish the dish: While the wings are frying, place the braising fluid over medium heat and reduce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain out and discard the solids, then return the braising fluid to the heat and whisk in the butter. Pour the fluid into the bowl with the chicken and toss until well coated. Serve immediately garnished with the chives and accompanied by Moscato.


Successful?

I need to confess that I didn't have time to marinate the wings overnight so the spicy flavors were muted, which suits me well since I dislike strong spicy dishes. The spice was just enough to complement the sweet flavor of Gallo Family Vineyards Moscato. Mrs. Stuntman also enjoyed this dish so much that these wings might make an encore appearance on Super Bowl Sunday.

Other Sunday Supper Participants

And finally, please check out this week's other Sunday Supper contributors:

Sunday Supper Movement


Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET.  Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Arroz con Pollo

Arroz con Pollo




The fact that bone-in skin-on chicken thighs appeal to me is no secret. So one day a couple of weeks ago, I had some defrosting in the refrigerator and was looking for a different way to prepare them.

The Source

I adapted this dish from the recipe I found on Food & Wine.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 chicken thighs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces smoked ham, sliced into 1/4-inch dice
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 teaspoon fresh chives, minced

Method

1. Sear the chicken: In a large skillet, heat the oil until smoking. Season the chicken with salt and pepper then place in the hot oil over medium-high, in batches if necessary, until browned on both sides, adjusting heat if necessary to prevent burning, approximately 8 minutes per batch. Once browned, remove from pan and set aside, then discard all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat.


2. Season the dish: Reduce heat to medium-low. Sweat the ham, onion, and garlic to the pan until the onion starts to soften, approximately 2 minutes. Add both bell peppers and sweat, stirring occasionally until they soften, approximately an additional 3 minutes.


3: Cook the rice, blend the flavors and finish the dish: To the mirepoix, add the tomatoes, tomato paste and stock, then season with salt and pepper. Stir in the rice, add the chicken back to the pan (skin side up), and cover. Simmer it until the chicken and rice are cooked through, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Garnish with chives and serve.

Successful?

As I looked around, I noticed it is common for this dish to be photographed while still in the pan, but I wanted to take a shot of an individual plate. In retrospect, I regret the decision. While not my most aesthetically pleasing dish, the flavors definitely were and I'll be preparing this dish again.

In other news, I must ask for your pardon for my short absence. I was pretty busy, partially because Mrs. Stuntman celebrated a birthday last week. She wanted to go to Chef Michael Mina's Arcadia in San Jose. I don't do restaurant reviews but I did want to share the dishes we ordered.

Appetizer: Duck Spring Rolls, Ginger Dipping Sauce, Butter Lettuce, Mint


My Entreé: Buzzards Bay Scallops, Pork Belly, Meyer Lemon, Onion Soubise


Mrs. Stuntman's Entreé: Phyllo-Dusted Sole, Dungeness Crab Brandade, Hericot Verts, Dijon


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Presenting: Sautéed Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce plus Arugula, Radicchio and Escarole Salad as #SundaySupper Turns Two

Sautéed Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce plus Arugula, Radicchio and Escarole Salad


I was originally going to publish this dish separately primarily because it had made an appearance on my old website in the fall of 2010. If you're not familiar with my Presenting: series, it's where the challenge is either improve photography and/or plate presentation, however when I saw that the #SundaySupper Movement is celebrating it's second birthday this week I thought that it might be perfect considering how much the group has evolved since the very first #SundaySupper. I've only been involved with the group for about a year, but over that time, I've had several memorable moments but I'd have to say that my favorite occurred this past October when I had dinner with Isabel, the founder of #SundaySupper and Anne of Webicurean. I published a picture Mrs. Stuntman took that evening a couple of weeks later.

The secondary reason I wanted to republish this dish is because I have lost the recipe recently. It was from a magazine Mrs. Stuntman brought home from the supermarket one day, but I lost it about a year ago. I had prepared it once every few months (break it down and it's simply a seared protein with a pan sauce) because I had uploaded it to en petit chef but they deleted my post after they figured out that my original blog doesn't exist anymore. It is only recently that I added the salad.

The Challenge

Improve plate presentation

The Source

I remember the chicken recipe appeared in Cuisine at Home magazine but I couldn't tell you from what issue. The salad is from Williams-Sonoma.

Ingredients

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
1 cup arugula leaves
1/2 head radicchio, cut into bite-size pieces
1 head escarole, pale yellow inner leaves only, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
1 8-ounce package sliced white mushrooms
4 ounces bacon cut into batons
1 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Method

1. Prepare the salad: Whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil with the red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and kosher salt (to taste) in the bottom of a salad bowl. Add the arugula, radicchio, escarole and parsley, but do not toss yet. Set aside in the refrigerator while the chicken is prepared.

2. Sear the chicken: In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Once the oil starts to smoke, add the chicken to the pan and brown on both sides, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

3. Prepare the sauce and finish the dish: Add the bacon and mushrooms to the pan and cook until the bacon is almost crisp and the mushrooms have reduced, then add the white wine, heavy cream and chicken let it simmer for approximately 8 minutes to blend the flavors, scraping up any fond, and ensuring the chicken cooks through. Just before serving, add the tarragon, cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad with it's dressing. Serve on warmed plates using the classic plating technique of starch at 10 o'clock, protein at 2 o'clock (with sauce underneath) and vegetables (i.e. salad) at 6 o'clock.

Successful?

For me, this recipe is tried and true so I knew the flavors work well with each other. From a plate presentation standpoint, will you agree with me that the picture above is better than the one previously published? It follows:


Other Sunday Supper Participants

And finally, please check out this week's other Sunday Supper contributors:

Sunday Supper Movement

Brilliant Breads and Breakfast Fare:
Amazing Appetizers and Cocktails:
Spectacular Soups and Salads:
Enticing Entrees:
Decadent Desserts:
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy! You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Burning Down the Kitchen at Cravings of a Lunatic



No, I didn't get a facelift. I could never be this good looking...

Just after Labor Day of 2012, you might remember I wrote a guest post for Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic. As I've noted in the past, Kim sets herself apart from my other food blogger friends because of her wit and humor. I can say that I am genuinely entertained when I read her words.

One series she does at Cravings is called Burning Down The Kitchen where she features a fellow food blogger, interviews them and replicates a recipe that appears on the featured blogger's website. Today, she has bestowed this honor upon me. So last month, she emailed me a questionnaire that I completed but the dish she chooses to recreate is classified even to me until it's published. I'll be fascinated to see if my written instructions are easily followed.

One other thing Kim does that makes her amazing is that she writes and manages two food blogs. I honestly don't know how she finds the time. Her grilling site is Kiss My Smoke. I highly recommend catching this lady wherever you can, such as on Facebook, G+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, and of course twitter. Please also check out her Kiss My Smoke Facebook and Pinterest pages.

To see my feature, please click here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pan Roasted New York Steak, Sautéed Mushrooms and Spinach Salad with Raspberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Pan Roasted New York Steak, Sautéed Mushrooms and Spinach Salad with Raspberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette


Call this a recipe redux. It was almost three years ago that I decided to publish a mushroom side dish but the mushrooms in the picture I used were almost unrecognizable, so I wanted to redeem myself. Since they are intended to be a side dish, I decided to use them in that manner: complementing a protein. In addition, one thing I'd like to do this year is to eat more salads. I discovered last year that they photograph well and they're obviously healthy, so why not?

The Challenge

Redeem my picture by placing it in context while practicing a fundamental cooking technique.

The Source

For the New York steak, I adapted a recipe that is on page 41 of Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio (Chef Colicchio uses a sirloin in his example) but the recipe itself is incomplete without his discussion of roasting as a cooking technique that can be found on pages 30 to 36. Interestingly, his principles apply to both pan-roasting and oven-roasting.

For the mushrooms, I've adapted the recipe on page 186 (with a picture of the dish on page 187) of Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking by Michael Chiarello with Janet Fletcher.

I adapted a salad recipe I found on foodnetwork.com. It uses a store-bought balsamic vinaigrette as an ingredient however when I first read the recipe I thought it said vinegar (not vinaigrette), so I used the vinaigrette I had previously with the other New York steak dish last year.

Ingredients

1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
3/4 teaspoon sugar
8 cups baby spinach
1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh raspberries (I forgot to include them)
1 cup cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon plus 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 New York steaks, about 3/4-pound each
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 8-ounce package white button mushrooms, cut in half if large
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup dry white wine

Method

1. Prepare the salad: Combine the balsamic vinaigrette, 1/2 cup fresh raspberries and sugar in a blender. Blend until all ingredients are a homogeneous mixture. In a separate large bowl, combine the spinach, red onion, raspberries and cucumber. Set both aside separately while preparing the steak and mushrooms.


2. Roast the steaks: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels, then season them with salt and pepper. Once the oil shimmers, put the steaks in the pan and reduce heat slightly. Brown the steaks on the first side, approximately 3 minutes. Turn the steaks, and brown on the second side, an additional 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons butter with the thyme sprigs to the pan, then continually baste the steaks with the browning butter until the desired doneness is reached. Remove from pan and set aside to allow for any carryover cooking while the mushrooms are prepared.


3. Sauté the mushrooms: In the same skillet used for the steaks, turn up the heat to high and add the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil. Once hot, add the mushrooms in a single layer. Without stirring, let the mushrooms caramelize on the bottom, approximately 2 minutes. Then toss the mushrooms and continue to cook over high heat. Remove the mushrooms from the pan using a slotted spoon and discard the oil, then return the mushrooms back to the skillet with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Continue to cook until the mushrooms are browned, approximately 2 minutes. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and add the garlic. Once the garlic is lightly browned, add the minced thyme and lemon juice and cook until the fluid evaporates. Add the wine and simmer until the mushrooms are glazed with the sauce, reducing heat.


4. Finish the dish: Toss the salad ingredients with the vinaigrette, then garnish with pecans and feta cheese. Place the steak off to one side of a warmed plate, then spoon some mushrooms over the steak and towards the center. Then spoon the salad next to the steak and serve.

Successful?

From a flavor profile standpoint, the sweetness of the vinaigrette contrasted the spinach well with the feta and pecans providing a texture contrast to the rest of the dish. The mushrooms and the steak together weren't very colorful, but they complemented each other well. I was also able to find the picture I took when I first published the dish:


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lamb Shanks Roasted “a la Matignon”

Lamb Shanks Roasted “a la Matignon”


Happy 2014!

Before I proceed, I must first apologize for my extended absence last month. It wasn't planned but I found myself too busy to prepare a presentation-worthy dish. One issue I have been wrestling with over the course of the last few months is one of evolution. I'm still inspired by unusual cooking techniques, but I'm becoming confident in my execution. I've also discovered in this past year that pairing food and achieving balance of flavors has inspired me which takes time to plan my dishes.

I learned of this dish back in September when Chef Thomas Keller prepared it for Williams Sonoma during a live Google+ event. I was fascinated by it because I have never roasted lamb shanks and wanted to see for myself if the meat will break down enough to become tender. Also, the sauce intrigued me because I imagined it was extremely flavorful given the size of the mirepoix.

The Challenge

Successfully execute a cooking method I had never attempted.

The Source

The recipe for this dish can be found on the Williams-Sonoma website.

Ingredients

4 lamb shanks, approximately 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 pounds
Kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 large yellow onions, diced
4 large carrots, diced
2 large leeks, cleaned well and diced
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
6 thyme sprigs, 6 parsley stems and 2 bay leaves tied together to form a bouquet garni
1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chives, chopped fine
Cooked polenta for serving

Method

1. Finish the mise en place: Preheat the oven to 275° Fahrenheit. Rinse the lamb shanks with cold water, then pat them dry and let them come up to room temperature, approximately 30 minutes.

2. Brown the shanks: Season the shanks with kosher salt. In a large sauté pan, heat 1/2 cup oil over high heat and, once hot, sear the shanks, on all sides and in batches of two until brown. Adjust the heat to prevent burning, if necessary. Once browned, remove the shanks and discard the oil.


3. Sweat the mirepoix and roast the shanks: Return the pan to medium-high heat and deglaze it with chicken stock, loosening any fond from the bottom with a wooden spoon. When the stock has almost evaporated, add the onions, carrots, leeks, garlic, bouquet garni and the remaining tablespoon oil, stirring frequently. Season the vegetables with kosher salt. Once the vegetables have softened but before they have browned, add the red wine and bring to a boil. Add the shanks back into the pan and cover it. Once the fluid starts to simmer, transfer the pan to the oven. Roast the shanks until the lamb is tender and the meat is almost falling off the bone, about 3 hours.


4. Finish the dish: Once the lamb has roasted, remove from the oven and let it rest to allow for any carryover cooking, approximately 30 minutes. Turn the temperature down to its lowest temperature and remove the lamb shanks to a serving platter, cover with aluminum foil, then put in the oven to keep warm. Strain the vegetables into a fat separator, and once separated, pour back into the original sauté pan. Add the red wine vinegar, then bring to a boil. Taste the sauce for desired consistency and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve with polenta and garnish with chives.


Successful?

I shouldn't have been surprised but the sauce yielded incredible depth of flavor and balanced the lamb well. Despite my skepticism, the lamb was very tender and cook all the way through. My only criticism? The portion size is a little too big.

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