Saturday, February 16, 2008

Roasted salmon

This is so quick. Season a fillet of salmon (five minutes tops). Put it in the oven (twelve minutes tops). While it's cooking make a sauce, a vegetable, a starter, a dessert, or a phone call. And it comes out really moist and tender.

This is my favorite entree for a big buffet or pot luck. It's possible to make twice or three times this amount in almost the same time. People just dig in.

There are a thousand seasonings and sauce possible, but here's my standard.

Serves 4-6 as a main course, 10-12 as a starter or buffet item.
  • 1 fillet of salmon (1.5 to 1.75 pounds)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de province
  • Cajun seasoning (or ground cayenne)
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • [optional: capers and sliced lemon]
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 (375 for 1.75 pounds or larger)
  2. Dust a cookie sheet with sea salt and place the fish on it skin side down.
  3. Using a garlic press, crush the garlic onto the fish and rub it in (hands are good here)
  4. Using a pastry brush, coat the fish with mustard.
  5. Dust with herbs and seasonings.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes.
  7. Sauce (see below) or simply garnish with capers and lemon slices
I like a a warm vinaigrette made by combining 1-2 cloves minced garlic with 4 tablespoons olive oil and lemon juice (salt and pepper), then heating until it the garlic is fragrant (don't burn it!). But there are an infinite number of sauces possible.

with tapenade
with aioli (right)
olive oil, garlic, and lemon

with asparagus
with green beans
with zucchini sliced thinly (right)
with shaved Brussels sprouts (right)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Blancs de poulet a la crème et aux champignons

I love this recipe from Julia. It's so tender, melt in your mouth. And so so fast--as long as the breast pieces are a reasonable size. In these Tyson days, two breasts will feed four people. (Chicken is sold by the pound but bought by the piece, which means they make the damned chickens as big as possible.)

The big 10 ounce US chicken breasts need to be cut into fifths, to produce 10 two-ounce pieces--and nothing over one and 1/2 inches or they won't cook through properly. I put them into my fait-tout along with the wine, stock, lemon juice, and butter, covered them with waxed paper, and they cook fast enough on medium.

Use creme fraiche or heavy cream. The no-fat sour cream produces a weak sauce, but OK for dieting.

One pound boneless chicken breasts cut into pieces no more than 1 and 1/2 inches thick (about two large breasts)
1 tablespoon butter
1 lemon
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon chicken stock or beef stock (or gravy from a chicken or beef stew)
2 tablespoons white wine or dry vermouth
2 tablespoons chopped scallion or 1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 cup  heavy cream
(waxed paper)
  1. Heat a covered fait-tout on high (thaw the stock in the microwave on high if necessary)
  2. Grate some lemon rind onto the breast pieces, about 1 teaspoon. Squeeze lemon juice on them. Salt and paper lightly, and toss.
  3. In the fait-tout, add butter, stock, scallions, mushrooms, wine, and breast pieces.
  4. Cover with waxed paper and reduce heat to medium.
  5. Cover the fait-tout and simmer for 5 minutes, shaking occasionally or turning once if necessary.They are done when they are slightly springy to the touch (poke and peek at the biggest one to check). Do not overcook. They will cook a bit more when removed from the pan.
  6. Raise the heat to high and remove the chicken to a warming oven or or platter, covered by the waxed paper.
  7. Add the cream and stir till blended, boiling down the sauce until very slightly thickened. Check seasoning.
  8. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with chopped scallion greens or herbs.
  • Substitute champagne, cognac, scotch, bourbon, or Pernod for the wine.
  • Add asparagus tips with the chicken, instead of the mushrooms.
  • Add very thin green beans, broccoli, or cauliflower in the first step.
  • Add a teaspoon of curry powder and use brandy instead of wine.
Joyce really liked them. But to me they don't have that perfect consistency of the oven poeled ones Julia does.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Boeuf a la Mode: Braised Beef with Balsamic Wine Sauce

For my brother-in-law's birthday, on a Sunday night, this Sunday roast is fun. It also leaves the morning free for Mass and the Sunday Times.

It also makes a good stock to freeze and use for steaks and so on. And good good leftovers (see below)

5 minutes. Serves 6-12. [MAFC I 309]

3-4 lb beef roast, such as boneless chuck
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup red wine
1 packet dry onion soup mix
  1. Spray crock-pot with cooking spray.
  2. Place roast on bottom and sprinkle with soup mix.
  3. Pour balsamic vinegar and wine over roast.
  4. OPTIONAL: parsnips, turnips, and/or carrots peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
  5. Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours.
For a more elegant sauce (another 5 minutes)
  1. Strain the sauce through a seive into a saucepan
  2. Mix 4 tablespoons Wondra with two tablespoons brandy and two tablespoons port.
  3. Stir it into the sauce and stir over high heat until thickened and smooth. Strain into a sauce boat
  4. Turn the roast (and vegetables) out onto a serving plate, and pour some of the sauce over it. Garnish with parsley.
For a less elegant sauce
  1. Take the leftover beef, add some leftover vegetables, and some Dijon mustard or mayonnaise. Heat or not.
  2. Enjoy in a sunny corner.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

3 mousses au chocolat: légère, Julia's & 5-minute

Here is chocolate mousse three ways. I made it for Valentine's day yesterday, and I realized I can make Julia's version in 10 minutes, with some fancy footwork. And I even do a 5-minute version sometimes that feeds a crowd very fast. But my favorite is a light one that was inspired by Julia's. I give all three here.

I invented the light version for a dinner party my daughter gave for five of her teenage friends, years ago. She wanted me to make chocolate mousse. And I remembered back 35 years ago when I first made it from Julia. I loved the orange flavor (MAFC I p. 604). And it was this recipe (and TV episode) that taught me to beat and fold in egg whites. I had few of the ingredients and no time. So I made a light version for the girls.

I serve this in little 3-ounce cordial glasses. A fun treat rather than a big chocolate dig-in. Nobody complains except kids. And you can haul out the leftovers and let them fight over them.

Chocolate is always an issue in a small town. The other day, I picked up a bar of Hershey's Special Dark chocolate in the baking chocolate section, then noticed the same bar in the candy section (conveniently placed next to the express lane at Fareway) for almost exactly half the price. It worked fine. Of course you can buy the fanciest chocolate you can. If time is money, then this recipe is a bargain no matter how expensive the chocolate is.

The 5-minute version is heavier because you don't take time to beat the egg whites. But hey, it tastes really good. And it's not all that heavy. The guys at the shelter love it. So here they are: light, Julia's shortened, and 5-minute. (By the way, the Valentine's day menu yesterday was Caviar deviled eggs with Parmesan crisps, rib-eye steaks fry-broiled, roasted winter vegetables (potatoes, parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts), Maytag blue cheese with olive oil and pepper)

Mousse au chocolat légère

Serves 4-6

8 ounces excellent semi-sweet or milk chocolate
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
4 egg whites
  1. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a clean metal mixing bowl and reserving the yolks for another use (they freeze fine).
  2. Break the chocolate into pieces in a microwave safe plastic bowl. Add the orange liqueur and microwave on medium for about 35 seconds, or until just melted.
  3. With a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks (MAFC I pp. 159-160).
  4. With a spatula, stir 1/4 of the whites into the chocolate. Then turn the chocolate mixture into the egg white bowl and carefully fold the whites and the chocolate together (MAFC I pp. 160-161)

VARIATION: Mousseline au chocolat; Mayonaise au chocolat; Fondant au chocolat

This is the original recipe from MAFC1 p. 604 speeded up. The ingredients from Julia's recipe are the same. A fast operator can have this ready to chill in 10 minutes, and two hours later, about dessert time, it's ready.

Serves 6-8

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or baking chocolate broken into bits with a kinfe
1/3 cup powdered sugar
4 Tb strong coffee
1/4 cup orange liqueur
6 ounces unsalted butter (one and one half sticks)
4 eggs
optional: 1/4 cup finely diced, glazed orange peel (candied)
1 can compressed whipped cream
  1. Run warm water in a large bowl or sink while you separate the eggs, putting the whites in a clean mixing bowl. Float it on the warm water.
  2. Put the coffee and orange liqueur in the microwave on high for one minute, until very hot but not boiling
  3. Place the chocolate and sugar in a blender and blend on high for 15 seconds.
  4. Add the hot liquid and blend 15 seconds or until smooth.
  5. Add the butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices, and the egg yolks. Blend on high for 15 seconds.
  6. Using a hand mixer, beat the yolks with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form.
  7. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg whites and fold the c
  8. Pour into elegant serving bowls, wine glasses, flutes, or ramekins and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
  9. Garnish with the whipped cream and optional candied orange peel or chocolates.

VARIATION: Blender chocolate mousse in 5 minutes
Serves 8-10

Here's the one I did for the Emergency Residence Project on 1/14/11. I made it in 5 minutes, with time to chop the pistachios.

1 (12 ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips (Hershey's Special Dark is good)
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup hot cream (160 degrees F/71 degrees C)
1/4 cup strong coffee, heated
1/4 cup orange liqueur
[optional] whipped cream pressurized, pistachios
  1. Open the cream carton and put it in the microwave on high for one minute.
  2. Put the chocolate chips and the sugar in a blender and blend on high for 10 seconds.
  3. Add the hot milk, hot coffee, and orange liqueur and blend on high for two minutes.
  4. As it is blending, add the eggs one at a time through the top hole.
  5. Pour into a glass serving bowl, individual glasses, bowls, or ramekins, and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
  6. Garnish with whipped cream and/or chopped pistachios

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Eggs cocotte in 5 flat

This is a super fast version (5 minutes flat) of a French (and Julia) classic: eggs baked in a ramekin (MAFC I p. 123). This is capable of infinite variations, and a great way to use bits of elegant leftovers. And you can also save those last few tablespoons of some great sauce and substitute it for the cream. The best is an idea I took from The Café here in town: Green Eggs and Ham.

2 persons

2 large eggs
cooking spray or butter
crème fraîche OR cream OR sour cream OR no-fat sour cream
salt and fresh ground pepper

  1. Spray (or butter) two four-ounce ramekins.
  2. Put a tablespoon of cream (etc.) and/or other goodies in each.
  3. Carefully break an egg in each.
  4. With a pin or the point of a sharp knife, delicately pierce the yellow without spilling the yolk.
  5. Add a tiny pinch of salt and pepper to each.
  6. Microwave 35 seconds on high power for one, 1 minute for two, 2 minutes for four. Times vary with the microwave and the ramekins. The egg white should be white, but the yolk runny. Shaking the ramekin will give a good hint. Don't overcook or the whites can be rubbery.
  • Green eggs and ham: A tablespoon of diced ham on the bottom. a tablespoon of pesto on top.
  • Aux fines herbes: Add one half teaspoon of mixed fresh herbs to the cream, and a sprinkling as garnish.
  • A la russe: a tablespoon of sour cream on the bottom; a teaspoon of caviar (or red lumpfish roe) and very finely chopped red onion on top after cooking
  • Provencal: a tablespoon of tapenade on the bottom; a tablespoon of aioli on top, and a sprinkling of herbs.
  • Ecosse: Sour cream and smoked salmon in the bottom. Dill to garnish.
  • Home grown tomato slice on the bottom

Ramequins fondants au chocolat

I always wanted to find an elegant 10 minute chocolate dessert for romantic evenings (Valentine's Day) or big dinner parties when I am too busy with other things to bake one of Julia's French cakes. This is it. The most popular recipe on the most popular French recipe site, And very popular with my Valentine (the chocolates Right are from her, the homemade card from our sweet Maddie).

They are a lot like lava cake, which my daughter buys in a mix for her 'bring your own lobster' parties (because as a student she worked in a Boston fish house where they served little lava cakes--where and learned to kill, cook and dismember one with skill and grace, which she justly loves to show off).

These can be served hot or warm or cold, molded or unmolded (they have to cool about 10 minutes before they are stable enough to unmold). After they've been baked they can be reheated in a microwave to restore that melty goodness. And the batter can be made ahead or even frozen so you are never without a chocolate dessert.

I used to just use a bar of Hershey's Special Dark, which is much cheaper ($1.19) than the same chocolate in the baking section. It's divided into 16 pieces, so I use 12 for the batter and four (each broken in two) for the chocolate centers). It's not the best chocolate but full of value for money. But now I think what the hell, buy the best on the shelf, which at Fareway turns out to be Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar.

5 minutes prep. 12 minutes baking [MAFC I 677]

6 ounces dark chocolate, bitter-sweet (the better the chocolate the better the dish)
3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 ounce (1/8 stick) butter
1 tablespoon flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 410.
  2. Over low heat, melt the butter and four ounces of the chocolate, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick and smooth. (Or microwave on 'defrost' for 3 minutes)
  3. In a mixing bowl, with a wire whip, beat the eggs, the sugar, and the flour until well combined and slightly frothy, about one minute.
  4. Mix in the chocolate.
  5. Pour 1/3 of the batter into individual ramekins. Place one half of a one-ounce chocolate square in each. Then add the rest of the batter.
  6. Bake the ramekins for 12 minutes, NO MORE!
  7. OPTIONAL: Carefully unmold and dust them with powdered sugar and/or garnish with berries or toasted nuts OR place on a bed of custard or whipped cream. Ice cream is also good.

Reasonable wines with this are semi-dry Bergerac or Monbazillac.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Aioli light--sauce, dip, garnish, whatever

This is an all-purpose sauce and dip. It has almost no calories. It tastes like it will make you fat. It's not the real thing, which has of course real mayonnaise and that deep down fat slip on the tongue (see MAFC I 92). This is a different food, really. But still loaded with garlic--which can be halved or doubled or tripled or whatever your tongue and stomach can stand. I use it all the time.

I use it mostly as a dip for crudites or shrimp, and keep the ingredients for it always in the pantry. If I'm asked to bring appetizers, I'll just pick up some cut vegetables and pre-cooked shrimp, and do this in 5 minutes flat.

But it has many uses because it's so colorful and flavorful (and keeps for weeks). I put it in a squeeze bottle and use it for decorating plates (like baked salmon). I dilute it with stock or drippings or wine to make sauces.

At party we had here recently for one of my wife's colleagues who was retiring, the guest of honor raved about the dip and ate bunches. When she asked me about it and learned it was light, she asked for the recipe.

5 minutes

5 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 4-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
2 cups no-fat mayonnaise

  1. Peel the garlic cloves (see below) and, in a blender, puree them for about 5 seconds.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined.