Monday, January 23, 2012

What I have been reading lately...

I mentioned this book a few weeks ago.  As promised here is my quick take on the book.  "French Classics Made Easy" is the title.

Loved it.

From the idea for the Poached Chicken and Tarragon I blogged a couple of weeks ago to actual recipes such as the 10 minute souffle that I intend to make it was a very useful book.  I even learned a few new bits of trivia from this book.  Things such as Potatoes Dauphinoise is named after the Dauphine region of France (think their Alps) where it originated.

It is very well written in simple easy to follow numerated steps.  Each recipe has notes on variations or unusual ingredients or why a step was taken.  Too easy to not screw it up which makes his simplified, lower in calorie recipes so much easier to do than the originals.

Although I can't reprint recipes from the book direct, if I get an inspiration for a flavor profile or a new technique I'll certainly point you back to this book.  I'm funny that way...I get robbed enough of copyrighted material I certainly won't do it to someone buy the book already.

The book also has a useful chart for converting metric to our English measurements.  Included on that chart page is conversion from F to C to "gas mark" that the brits use. He even implores you to take the time and actually just buy a scale to help you with more accurate measurements for the "science of baking".

This book is well worth the $20 I paid for it at Surfas.  I wish they had the book available for purchase online, but they don't so use it as an excuse to pop in on them at their store in Culver City. Their street addy is: 8777 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Costco find that brings the taste of summer grilling

I bought this a while back at Costco and absolutely love the stuff.  It is their house label "Sweet Mesquite Seasoning".  It does just what it says it does.  It brings a marvelous sweet mesquite flavor to whatever you use it on.  It is a blend of salt, pepper, dried chiles, onion, garlic and a few other spices that you simply sprinkle on as a dry rub and let it marinate a few minutes before you grill pan it, bake it or whatever.

This stuff is seriously good and completely justifies one cost of Costco membership.

I've used this often on Salmon steaks as it brings out a pretty terrific flavor to them.  I either use the grill pan with them or micro-roast depending on how much time I have to fuss with dinner on a given day.  Either way you wind up with a nicely "grilled tasting" mesquite flavor without the hassle of breaking out the barbecue, especially nice to have around in winter when raining makes real grilling not an option.  Unless of course you are some sort of masochist that loves standing in a cold rain with an umbrella hoping for the authentic taste.

Another great use is with thick cut pork chops that you start on the grill pan and finish up in the oven to make sure the center is cooked to a lovely medium.  (I'm old school pork here and just can't quite stomach it at rare or even med-rare).  You start with thick cut pork chops, I prefer boneless.  Sprinkle on the "Sweet Mesquite Seasoning" on both sides and let set for 30 minutes. To do it on the grill pan all you have to do is cook one side on med-high for 4-5 minutes, turn over then toss in a 350F oven for 20 minutes to finish them off.  You get perfectly cooked and still moist pork chops with no worry about it being too rare.

I also have a great cocktail party appetizer I make with this seasoning that I call a Salmon Mousse.  Take 1 salmon steak cooked with the "Sweet Mesquite Seasoning" and using a fork flake it until it is all nice and fluffy.  Take 2 8oz packages of room temp Cream Cheese and 1/2 cup sour cream.  Whip until fluffy, fold in the flaked salmon and 2 teaspoons of the "Sweet Mesquite Seasoning".  Serve with crackers or french bread rounds.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Poached Chicken and Tarragon

I'm reading the most interesting cook book right now and it was the inspiration for this recipe.  Inspiration in that I took the basics and changed it up to make it my own.  (When done with it will do a quick review here and scan the cover etc., so you can track it down for your own use).

For starters, and I've said it before, I'm not the biggest fan of this domesticated bird, mostly because it lacks any real flavor of its own and bad experiences with it while at KFC back in High School.   The fam however loves the stuff.  I've figured how how to keep the breasts moist while cooking it up, I've even figured out that it really is just a flavor delivery device that loves to be sauced.

A couple of things with this recipe.  At the end its really important that you cook the residual poaching liquid down to a few tablespoons before adding the heavy cream.  Not doing so will leave you with a runny sauce.  And yes, this is calling for heavy cream to finish up the sauce as this is a French inspired recipe.  Sometimes its fun to be indulgent and sauce up with the heavy cream.  Not something one should do every day, but once a month or so its good for the soul to do it with little harm to ones overall diet.

For the wine in the poaching liquid I used a dry white we had left over from the night before.  It was a Chardonnay.  I've heard and learned over the years one should use a wine you'd drink instead of the "cooking" wines you buy at the grocery stores.  The flavor really is so much better and its not sullied with extra salt etc.,.

Poached Chicken and Tarragon

  • 4 large chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 C dry white wine
  • 1 T dried tarragon
  • 2 t onion salt
  • 1 t fresh ground pepper
  • 1 c heavy cream

In large covered skillet add the chicken breasts.   Sprinkle on onion salt, pepper and tarragon.  Pour in wine.  Add cover.  Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.  Turn chicken once during the poaching. Don't worry that the poaching liquid doesn't completely immerse the chicken.

Remove chicken from pan and set aside.  Increase heat and boil down the poaching liquid until reduced to a few tablespoons.  Add heavy cream and whisk in.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes uncovered to thicken.  Return breasts to the sauce and heat through.  

Serve over rice with some sauce spooned over the chicken.