Tuesday, 19 March 2013

French-Week 10: Seared duck breasts!

This week was our final French cooking class. According to the recipes in the class notes, we were supposed to make Caneton Roti au Confit d' Airelles Rouge (roasted whole duck). Our chef decided to teach us a bit extra. He roasted one whole duck as the recipe says and for the second duck, he took the breasts and legs off and cooked them separately.  The breasts were pan-seared and served with a cranberry/apple sauce, the legs were made into duck confit. For the duck that I got, I wanted to practice both ways of making the breasts and legs. The seared duck breast was very delicious, however I can't say the same about the duck confit. I accidentally neglected it for too long on the stove, it needs optimization next time. So for now, I will just cover the breast recipe. 

2 duck breasts (marinated overnight with salt/pepper/a splash of Brandy)

For the sauce:
360 g cranberries, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tsp lemon, rind
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup diced apple
1 cup diced celery

1. take the marinated breasts, dry the surface
2. heat up a pan, add oil, pan-sear the skin side of the duck breasts first
3. turn the breasts and pan-sear the other side of the breasts 
 * the breasts should be 80% cooked from the skin side, and the rest 20% should be completed  from the other side
4. transfer the breasts to the oven, bake at 375F for 10min for Medium 

5. for the sauce, heat up a different pan, add a bit of water, add sugar and cranberries, lemon zest
6. bring the liquid in the sauce to a boil, then simmer for for 1hr to reduce the volume 
7. add in the diced apple right before the sauce is ready

* on the duck, I added a bit of warm fig jam which turned out to be a great addition!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Northern Italian-Week 1: Gnocchi!!!

Ever since my trip to Italy last summer, I have always wanted to relive the incredible gastronomic experience at home. Here I am, taking both the Northern and Southern Italian cooking classes. Each class lasts for 6 weeks, with the first class being demo-only. 

In Week 1-Northern Italian, our chef showed us 4 things, gnocchi di patate, sugo di pomodoro (basic tomato sauce), finissima di branzino marinata (marinated sea bass with Italian salad), and panna cotta (creamy dessert). Gnocchi was definitely my favourite by a large margin! One of the most memorable meals that I had in Italy was a gnocchi dish with smoked salmon in a creamy tomato sauce in Murano, a small island near Venice. To recreate that dish, I tried once, using the gnocchi that you can find in a groceries store and it usually comes in an air-tight bag. It turned out to be a bad, BAD idea. I think because of the packaging, preservatives were added and they make the gnocchi taste "off". You could almost taste the assembly line! I guess gnocchi could look a bit intimidating to make, but really, it's a lot easier than I anticipated. This is my first time to make those lovely potato dumplings, and they are way beyond my expectations! 

1000g baking potatoes
300g all purpose flour
3 eggs
60g Parmesan cheese, grated
salt/pepper/nutmeg to taste

1. boil a large pot of water
2. put potatoes (with skin on) into the boiling water, cook until done
3. peel the skins off the potatoes, press them through a potato ricer
4. add eggs, flour, cheese and salt/pepper/nutmeg, combine everything to make a dough
5. kneed the dough for 5min or so (when you pinch, the dough should spring back slowly)
6. take a small piece of the dough and throw it into the water as a tester. If the dough holds together for 3-4min, the dough is good. If the piece falls apart, you need more "binding" agents in the dough. Add an egg and try again.)
7. don't rest the dough and work fast with it. Roll it out to small logs and cut it into bite size. Lay them out on a floured tray. (you can freeze them at this point)
8. throw the gnocchi into heavily salted boiling water. They are done as soon as they float to the surface of the water. Then take them out. 
9. heat a pan, add olive oil, saute smoked salmon quickly. Then add tomato sauce, and gnocchi, toss them up until they are coated with the sauce. 
10. grate parmesan cheese on top when you serve it, garnish with parsley

Until next time, my friends, buona sera!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

French-Week 9: Seafood pie!

This week we made Fruits de Mer en Croûte Nantua, which is one of my favourite dishes that we have covered in class so far. I have always been a big fan of seafood, and I find that seafood is probably the easiest thing to cook because of its inherently good taste. As long as you remember not to overcook it, you will probably get a nice dish even with little practice. Here's a great recipe for a gourmet dish that can be easily made on a busy weekday night!

5 oz scallop
5 oz lobster
5 oz salad shrimps (the tiny cooked ones)
1 shallot, chopped
some stems of parsley
2 oz or 60 mL Brandy
4 oz Béchamel (roughly 2 spoons)
1 sheet of Puff pastry
1 egg
salt/pepper, butter, olive oil

1. heat up a pan, melt some butter to sweat the shallot, then put the shallot aside
2. add olive oil in the pan, sear the scallops quickly using high heat
3. if you have an open flame, add a splash of Brandy and flambé it. If not, just add the Brandy and let it reduce a bit
4. separate the cooked scallops and the juice by straining them, set the scallops and juice separately aside
5. repeat Step 2-4 twice for lobster meat and shrimps, separately
6. combine all the seafood, stir in some chopped parsley and Béchamel, toss them around
7. whisk the egg to make an eggwash
8. take a sheet of Puff pastry, cut it into half, place the seafood on one
9. brush the edge of the pastry with eggwash, cover it up with another half of the pastry, brush the pie surface with eggwash
10. bake at 400F until golden brown (takes about 20-25min)  

*side dish: Ratatouille "Provençale", a French vegetable stew

I had some pastry leftover. So I decided to use it up by turning them into some ham/cheese pastry rolls. Use a strip of Puff pastry, lay a layer of ham, then a layer of Jarlsberg cheese, and roll it up. (Make sure that you use a type of soft cheese so that they will melt when heated) Brush the surface with eggwash, bake at 375F for 20min. 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

French-Week 8: Pork Wellington!

When I saw this week's recipe Fielt de Porc Wellington in class, the first thing jumped into my mind was, Oxford! I still remember the first time that I had beef Wellington. It was in the summer of 1999, when I attended a summer school in Oxford, England to study English. School usually finished around 3pm on weekdays, and after that my friends and I would spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around on High Street, shopping, taking pictures, and of course, snacking on local food like Fish and Chips, pastries, and Wellington before heading back to our host families for the real dinner. So as you can imagine, I was pretty excited to recreate the food from my memories this week! If you are like me and wondering why a traditional British dish showing up in a French cooking class, you would find this inconclusive explanation on wiki:

"Some theories suggest beef Wellington is named after Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington; other theories go a step further and suggest this was due to his love of a dish of beef, truffles, mushrooms, Madeira wine, and pâté cooked in pastry, but with a noted lack of evidence to support this. Other accounts simply credit the name to a patriotic chef wanting to give an English name to a variation on the French filet de bœuf en croûte during the Napoleonic War."

British or French, the important thing is, Wellington tastes great!! And it takes a lot less work than I thought it would. Here's how:

1 pork tenderloin
300g Puff pastry
half onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1.5 lb of mushrooms (about 2 boxes), pureed by food processor
1 egg
butter, salt/pepper

1. remove the silver skin/fat from the tenderloin
2. rub salt and pepper onto the surface of the meat
3. add butter into a pan, brown both sides of meat, and let it sit aside

4. in a second pan, add olive oil, sweat the onions
5. add chopped garlic
6. use a food processor to make a mushroom paste, and transfer the paste to the pan with onion/garlic
7. sweat the mushroom paste, and evaporate off the liquid that comes out of the mushrooms
8. adjust seasoning with salt and pepper
9. let the mixture sit aside and cool down

10. take Puff pastry out of the freezer right before use (it's hard to work with when it gets warm)
11. lay a layer of mushroom stuffing
12. place the browned tenderloin on top of the stuffing
13. roll the pastry and fillings into a log. 
14. brush the pastry on the edges with eggwash so that they will seal up. Cut off extra pastry. 
15. Brush the surface of the log with eggwash. Bake at 375F for 40min. 

* make sure you let the log rest for a few minutes before you cut it up, or the pastry will collapse. 

Pork Wellington

Because I had some leftover mushroom stuffing and extra button mushrooms, I decided to make them into stuffed mushroom caps and served them on the side. 

Stuffed mushroom 
1. add oil in a pan, sweat 1/4 of chopped onion
2. add the mushroom stuff to pan, mix with onion (if you don't have the pureed mushroom from the Wellington, you can chop up the mushroom stems and use them instead)
3. let the mixture cool off for a bit, then add them into 1/2 cup of grated mozzarella cheese, mix well
4. stuff the mushroom caps with the mixture, grate parmesan cheese on top
5. bake at 375F for 20min
6. garnish with curly parsley