Sunday, April 29, 2012

Black Bean Cakes with Red Pepper Coulis and Roasted Corn Salsa

The last third of the program at The French Culinary Institute is working in the attached restaurant, L'Ecole. My time in L'Ecole, similarly to many of my fellow classmates, is my first stint in a restaurant kitchen. Up until that time I thought working in a professional kitchen would not be for me, but I've since discovered the thrill that can come from being on the line. The fast pace, the high energy, the occasional yelling, and the thrill of knowing that people are eating (and hopefully enjoying) the food you prepared just a few feet away is a great feeling.

One of my most beloved moments from school was the day I got to have my own dish served in the restaurant - MY OWN DISH!!! How, you ask? I didn't win some special prize - everyone in school actually gets the chance to do this. Each day a different student gets to decide what the vegetarian entree will be for that service. Uh oh... vegetarian? As in... no meat? Not exactly my forte. Then the idea hit me! I remembered the black bean burgers that I would sometimes eat back in college - it was one meal that I thoroughly enjoyed without even missing the meat. That was the springboard for this dish. I then started thinking about incorporating different textures, flavors and colors in order to make it as appealing as possible.

Presenting: Black bean cakes with red pepper coulis, cilantro-lime creme fraiche, roasted corn salsa, and frisee salad.

Once again I have no sort of measurements for the ingredients, but one of the most important things I've learned about cooking is that you need to taste as you go and make adjustments as you see fit in order to turn the meal into something that you will enjoy.
 

Black Beans:
  • black beans (duh!), you can either cook them yourself or get them from a can
  • onions, diced
  • garlic, minced
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chili powder
  • paprika
  • cumin
  • flour
  • oil
Sweat the onions in oil until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a couple minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Add to the cooked beans and season with the spices listed above. Mix and mash together with your hands. Taste and adjust until desired flavor is achieved. Form into cakes, dredge in flour seasoned with the same spice as those in the beans, and fry in oil 1-2 minutes per side.

Red Pepper Coulis:
  • red bell peppers, diced
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
Sweat the peppers very gently in olive oil until tender. You don't want them to achieve any color. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. You may need to add some water to achieve the proper consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Corn Salsa:
  • corn kernels
  • oil
  • red onion, diced
  • jalapeno, diced (keep the seeds if you want some extra heat)
  • lime, zested and juiced
  • orange, zested and juiced
  • oregano, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
Toss the corn kernels in oil on a sheet tray and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 450 degree oven until slightly charred. While still warm, toss with the onion, jalapeno, citrus zests and juices, oregano, salt and pepper; doing so while still warm helps the flavors meld together a little better and also makes it smell great!

Cilantro-Lime Creme Fraiche:
Combine creme fraiche with lime zest, lime juice, and chopped cilantro.

Frisee Salad with Citronette Dressing:
Frisee lettuce tossed in a simple dressing made with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Shout out to Jay for helping to make the best vegetarian plate that place has ever seen (in my opinion at least).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shrimp and Vegetables Sauteed with Butter and Garlic

Back in October (I've warned you before that it sometimes takes a while for me to post things...) I moved into a new apartment with a good friend from college. She moved to the city to start a new job, and I wanted to start budgeting for my then distant career in food because unfortunately a culinary career doesn't exactly pay the same as a finance one... Anywho, I believe this is the first meal we cooked together in our new home. We didn't really have much in our refrigerator yet as it was our first week living in the new abode, but thanks to some frozen shrimp and a number of random bodegas we made do. The result was really simple yet still really delicious. A great meal doesn't need to be extremely complex - a few simple ingredients can often lead to out of this world food experiences.


Ingredients:
  • asparagus, green bell peppers, and mushrooms (feel free to use whatever vegetables you want) cut into about one and a half inch pieces/strips
  • shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • minced garlic
Procedure:
  • Saute each of the vegetables separately in a equal mix of olive oil and butter and season with salt and pepper. It's easier to cook each on its own because of the the varying amounts of time the different foods will take to get to the same level of doneness, but go ahead and cook it all together if you're feeling brave (or just aren't concerned with such matters).
  • After each vegetable, pour the cooking liquid over the vegetables and set to the side before moving on to the next item.
  • Similarly, start sweating the minced garlic in a olive oil/butter combo - you don't want to brown it! After about a minute or so, add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. They're done once they become opaque, so be careful not to overcook them! Add to the vegetables and enjoy. A nice glass of white wine would go nicely with this meal.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hurricane Apple Pie

This post received its named because it was made back during the "great" hurricane of 2011. Although there was tons of damage done in other places across the east coast, NYC was mostly spared. In order to prepare for the worst, the city took all sorts of precautions, including forcing people to evacuate certain neighborhoods and such. My roommate at the time was out of town, so I invited a couple of my refugee friends over to wait out the storm with me. Equipped with all sorts of supplies, such as bottled water, flashlights, candles, alcohol, and canned food, we made the most out of the situation and turned lemons into lemonade - or in our case, into a sleepover and homemade apple pie.

Pie Ingredients:
  • one pie crust (such as the pate sucree recipe featured here)
  • 8 (or so) apples (A combo of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious works well, but any firm apple will do - I'd stay away from Red Delicious, which aren't well suited for cooking.)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tbsp flour
Oatmeal Topping:
  • 1 stick of butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
Procedure:
  • Peel and slice the apples.
  • Toss with the lemon juice, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar. At this point, you can give it a little taste to see if you want to add more sugar depending on the sweetness of your apples. 
  • After the sugar content has been adjusted to your liking, toss the apples with the flour. 
  • Separately, combine all of the ingredients for the topping together (your hands work well for this).
  • Line your pie dish with the pie crust and fill with the apple mixture.
  • Cover the pie with the oatmeal topping and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes. You want the crust and topping to turn a nice golden brown. If it starts to get too dark (as mine did a little bit...) then cover with foil for the remainder of the cooking time. 
  • We ended up with a few too many apples to fill the pie with, so another good dessert idea is to put the fruit in ramekins, cover with the topping, and bake. These take a lot less time since they're so petite.
  • Allow to cool before serving.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spicy Marinated Shrimp Tacos

I'm not sure if I've shared this fact with you yet, but I unfortunately have a fish allergy... This is why you don't see many seafood dishes featured here. In my mind, this is the one main impediment to my becoming a great all-around chef. :/ I'm okay with cooking seafood (for the most part), but I never truly know how it tastes. I rely on what I've learned in school and other sources whenever I need to prepare an ingredient from under the sea. Luckily, my impediment doesn't apply to shellfish so I can eat all the oysters, scallops, and shrimp I want without fear for my life - woohoo!!! (Don't worry, I won't actually die if I eat the other stuff.) Many with a seafood allergy are the opposite of me and are fine with salmon, tuna, etc., but can't touch a lobster with a ten foot pole. I've been told by those without my culinary handicap that I got the good end of the deal between the two, so I take on the glass half full mindset when it comes to this.

Ingredients:
  • shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • paprika
  • cumin
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • garlic powder
  • neutral oil (i.e. canola, corn, or vegetable)
  • corn
  • butter
  • cheddar cheese
  • lettuce
  • corn tortillas
Procedure:
  • Season the shrimp with the spices listed above, toss in enough oil to coat, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Check the seasoning by sauteing off one of the shrimp, give it a taste, and adjust as necessary. 
  • Once the seasoning has been perfected, continue cooking off the rest of the crustaceans.
  • Separately, I took some frozen corn and cooked it in a little bit of butter and then seasoned with salt and pepper.
  • Assemble your tacos by placing a few shrimp (be sure to remove the tails!), some corn, lettuce and cheese on your warmed corn tortillas.
Enjoy!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dark Chocolate Tart plus a GIVEAWAY


This past Sunday I decided to make a FEAST for Easter. My roommate, her boyfriend and I enjoyed a delicious entree of cheddar mashed potatoes with lamb stew and an impromptu peach and apple sangria. No truly amazing meal can ever be complete without at least a little something sweet to finish it off. By now I'm sure most of you are aware that I'm not that big of a dessert person, but I do have my cravings every once in a while, which is where this recipe comes into play.

One of the things that I've found interesting about culinary school is that the measurements for most recipes are by weight (pounds, ounces, grams, etc.) as opposed to the more standard volume units (cups mostly) that the common cook is used to. What I've taken away from this is that weight measurements are much more precise and useful when it comes to baking. For example, a cup of sifted flour is quite different than the same volume when unsifted. Enter the usefulness (and some might even say necessity) of a food scale! (See below for details on the giveaway.)


Let's start with a great pastry dough that I learned in school. Its called pate sucree, and is a slightly sweet dough that is good as your standard pie or tart crust. Another great thing I've discovered is that it freezes wonderfully!

Pate Sucree Ingredients:
  • 200 grams flour
  • 30 grams sugar
  • pinch (~5 grams) salt
  • 100 grams cold, cubed butter
  • 1 egg
  • cold water (if needed)
Procedure:
  • Cut the butter into the dry ingredients. You can do this by hand or use a food processor. You should keep going until the largest pieces are no bigger than a pea.
  • Incorporate the egg until dough just begins to come together. If too dry, then add a few drops of cold water to the dough. 
  • You can then use a fancy technique called fraisage to bring everything together, or you can just keep mixing until you see it forming a ball in the machine. Be careful to work it to much.
  • Form the dough into a disc and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to rest. (Resting is important when working with doughs.)

Ingredients:
  • 1 pie shell crust (from above or store bought)
  • 1 lb of dried beans (any bean will do)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs (separated)
  • 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups milk
  • pinch of salt
  • powdered sugar
Procedure:
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and begin rolling out your pastry dough. Place in your tart mold and place in the refrigerator to rest for 15-20 minutes. 
  • Use the beans to fill the tart shell (be sure to put a layer of parchment paper or plastic wrap underneath so you can remove them later) and bake for 20 minutes. This technique is called blind baking (since the filling isn't in yet) - it is good for dishes that won't be cooked very long or for those with very wet fillings.
  • Remove from the oven and take out the beans. (FYI - You can't really use these beans for anything else anymore besides tasks such as this.) Allow to cool and now it's time to start on the filling.
  • Beat 3/4 cup of sugar with the egg yolks until they turn a pale yellow.
  • Separately, begin whipping the egg whites and slowly add the other 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. (You're gonna need a lot of bowls for this recipe.)
  • Heat the milk in a saucepan and then pour over the chocolate chips to melt. Stir together and add in the pinch of salt.
  • Combine the egg yolks and chocolate. Then fold in the egg whites. Pour into the tart shell (there will be excess filling, so this recipe should probably be scaled down a bit...) and bake for about 30 minutes. The dessert is done when there is little-to-no more jiggle left (i.e. shake the tart pan to see the looseness of the filling).
  • Allow to cool, dust with powdered sugar and serve.


Want to take a bite?


OXO Food Scale Giveaway!
Enter here (competition is now closed) for your chance to win a 5lb food scale from OXO and The Hungry Hutch. One entry per person by using the online form. You can earn an additional entry into the sweepstakes by following me on Twitter and tweeting the following message: "Enter for a chance to win a food scale from @thehungryhutch and @OXO here: http://www.thehungryhutch.com/2012/04/dark-chocolate-tart-plus-giveaway.html", and then leave a comment on this post with a link to your twitter post. The drawing closes April 30, 2012 at midnight EST.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Port-Poached Apples with Goat Cheese Mousse and an Oatmeal Crisp

For your viewing pleasure, I now present the fourth and final course of my menu project (hold the applause). I was inspired by a dish I actually made last summer when a few of my best friends from college came to visit me in NYC. I have tons of fond memories with this crew including, but not limited to, thinking our trip to the Wal-Mart in Cancun would cost 5000 pesos for food, "white water rafting" during the last week of senior year, and New Year's 2010, just to name a few. (I have TONS of hilarious tales, so maybe I'll share a few of the PG-rated ones at some point.) There are countless wonderful qualities they possess which make me grateful to have them in my life, but two I will highlight for this post are that they all enjoy a good meal and have encouraged me to follow my passions from the start. So in this vein I would like to dedicate this to you. Bon appetit!

 


































 Poached Apples:
  • 8 honey crisp apples
  • 4 cups tawny port
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
Goat Cheese Mousse:
  • 8 oz goat cheese
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
Oatmeal Crisp: 
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


Procedure:
  1. Peel and slice the apples. Place in a saucepan with the port, sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon sticks. Add enough water so that the fruit is covered by about an inch of liquid. Set on a medium-low flame and gently cook until tender.
  2. Remove the apples from the poaching liquid and reduce until the sauce thickens and becomes what the French refer to as nappant (coats the back of a spoon). Discard the cinnamon sticks.
  3. Blend the goat cheese and sugar together in a food processor. Add in the heavy cream a little at a time until the desired consistency is achieved. Refrigerate until needed.
  4. For the crisps, combine all of the ingredients together. Form into discs about an inch and a half in diameter and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 oven for about 10-12 minutes until golden.
  5. For service, place the warm apples in a dish and pour in some of the port reduction. Top with the goat cheese mousse and an oatmeal crisp.


Yield: 8 servings. (And now you can let the applause rip.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pulled Pork Tacos with an Apple Slaw


Here is the third course of my menu project for school. I love cooking big pieces of meat and thus it was only natural for me to incorporate one into the menu. For some reason I always feel so accomplished whenever I successfully tackle a gargantuan food item. I like to think it means that I would be more able to survive if trapped in the wilderness and had to hunt down some wild animal for food. This recipe is only a slight variation of a previous post. I top it with a nice apple slaw to add some crunch and help cut through the fattiness of the pork. And even if you don't like cole slaw, I urge you to give this combination a try. A couple of my taste-testers mentioned that they didn't normally like the stuff on its own, but it worked really well with the pork.


Spice Rub:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/8 cup each of chili powder, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper, ground ginger, garlic powder, and Hungarian paprika
Pork:
  • 8 lb bone in pork shoulder
  • 2 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • corn tortillas
Apple Slaw:
  • 1/2 savoy cabbage
  • 1 medium sized carrot
  • 3 granny smith apples
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp celery seeds
  • 2 tbsp sugar


Procedure:
  1. Trim the pork shoulder of any excess fat (if not already). Combine the ingredients for the spice rub. Place the shoulder in a roasting pan and coat all sides with the spice mixture. (Reserve any excess spice rub for later.)
  2. Set the pork fat side up and add the orange juice to the roasting pan. Seal tightly with foil and place in a 300 degree oven for five and a half hours. Remove the foil, raise the temperature to 450 degrees and continue to cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Shred the cabbage and carrot. Julienne the apples. Combine the vegetables and apples with the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper, celery seeds and sugar to make the slaw. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight.
  4. Remove the pork from the pan and let rest for 30 minutes before shredding. Pour the liquid from the roasting pan into a saucepan and reduce by two-thirds. Skim and degrease. Stir in the honey. Give it a taste and the flavor can be adjusted by adding more orange juice, spice rub, and/or honey.
  5. Toss the pork with the sauce. Serve on warmed corn tortillas topped with the slaw.
Yield: 8 servings