Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Three Yankee Chefs

I am stopped so many times and asked about my father(the second Yankee Chef, Jack Bailey) and my grandfather(the second Yankee Chef, Samuel Bailey) and always asking me "Are you as good a cook as your Dad? Or grandfather? My anwer is, and always will be, emphatically NO! Although I have great confidence in my skills, it takes much more to be a great chef. Attitude, decisiveness, compassion, understanding and a graceful disposition are but a few attributes that separates the good and great chefs. I like to think I do possess those qualities but not nearly to the extent 50-60 years of sweating in the kitchen brought to them.
The second most often asked question is what were their favorite main course, not only to eat but to prepare. Dad's favorite was au Poivre, especially Pork Chops Au Poivre. Grampy's favorite food was Golden Onion and Fontina Stuffed Chicken. So I give you both.

Pork Chops au Poivre

Steak au Poivre , French for 'with pepper', Classically, this steak is seared very quickly in a hot skillet so that the outside layer of peppercorns form a great tasting crust while the inside stays about medium-rare.My father told me that he chose sour cream over the traditional heavy cream in the sauce because of the pungent kick it gives, more so than mustard, which is also generally used.

2 t. cracked black pepper
1/2 t. salt, divided
Four 4-oz. boneless pork chops, 1/2-inch thick, trimmed*
1/4 c. flour
3 T. olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 c. brandy
1/2 c. sour cream

Combine pepper and 1/4 t. salt in a small bowl. Pat the mixture onto both sides of each pork chop. Place flour in a shallow dish; dredge each chop in the flour, shaking off any excess.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chops, reduce heat to medium and cook until browned and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Add shallot to the pan and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add brandy and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve the pork chops with the sauce.

Chicken Stuffed with Golden Onions & Fontina

Grampy Sam like the aged Fontina because it had a sharper taste and firmer texture than ordinary Fontina. He was indeed a true Yankee, the sharper the flavor of his cheese, the darker the coffee, and the stronger the rum, the happier he was.

4 t. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 c. thinly sliced red onion
2 t. minced fresh rosemary, divided(or 1 t. dried)
1/8 t. salt
Black pepper, to taste
2/3 c. shredded Fontina cheese, preferably aged
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1 pound
1/2 c. white wine
1 c. chicken broth
4 t. flour

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and 1 teaspoon rosemary; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool; stir in Fontina.
Meanwhile, cut a horizontal slit along the thin, long edge of each chicken breast half, nearly through to the opposite side. Stuff each breast with 1/4 cup of the onion-cheese mixture.
Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add wine and the remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Whisk broth and flour in a bowl until smooth; add to the pan, reduce heat to low and whisk until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Return the chicken to the pan and coat with the sauce. Cook, covered, until the chicken is just cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve the chicken topped with the sauce.

My favorite entree? You have no idea how hard this is! Anything lobster or crab I would say would be my first choice, just plain steamed. Dull huh? Alright then, how about my favorite breakfast treat?

Raspberry-Swirled Sweet Rolls

1 c. milk
2/3 c. sugar
2 T. active dry yeast
1 stick butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 t. grated lemon zest
1/2 t. salt
4 1/4 c. flour, plus more for dusting
1 10-ounce package frozen raspberries, not thawed
1/4 c. plus 2 T. sugar
1 t. cornstarch
1 c. powdered sugar
3 T. butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 T. heavy cream

In a small saucepan, warm the milk over moderately low heat until it is warm. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook and stir in the sugar and yeast. Let stand until the yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the softened butter, eggs, grated lemon zest and salt. Add the flour and beat at medium speed until a soft dough forms, about 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 10 minutes longer.
Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands 2 or 3 times. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly buttered bowl. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.
Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to extend up the short sides. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll it into a 10-by-24-inch rectangle.
In a medium bowl, toss the frozen raspberries with the sugar and cornstarch. Spread the raspberry filling evenly over the dough. Tightly roll up the dough to form a 24-inch-long log. Working quickly, cut the log into quarters. Cut each quarter into 4 slices and arrange them in the baking pan, cut sides up. Scrape any berries and juice from the work surface into the baking pan between the rolls. Cover the rolls and let them rise in a warm place until they are puffy and have filled the baking pan, about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425°. Bake the rolls for about 25 minutes, until they are golden and the berries are bubbling. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugar with the butter and heavy cream until the glaze is thick and spreadable.
Invert the rolls onto the rack and peel off the parchment paper. Invert the rolls onto a platter. Dollop glaze over each roll and spread with an offset spatula. Serve warm or at room temperature.

My favorite other sweet indulgence?

Blueberry Drop Cookies

3/4 c. butter or margarine, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 t. grated lemon rind
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. milk
1 c. fresh blueberries (or frozen, thawed and drained)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease an cookie sheet. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy texture.Add eggs, lemon rind, and vanilla; beat until combined.
In another bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir to combine. Beat flour mixture into creamed mixture alternately with milk. Fold in the berries. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Makes approximately 2 1/2 dozen.

Allow me to give you some of my other favorites. Told you it was hard to naeil it down.

Crunchy Chicken Nuggets with Blackberry Mustard

1 c. fresh blackberries or raspberries, chopped fine
1 1/2 T. whole-grain mustard
1 T. honey
1 lb. chicken tenders, cut in half crosswise
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 c. cornmeal
1 T. olive oil

Mash blackberries (or raspberries), mustard and honey in a small bowl until it looks like a chunky sauce. Sprinkle chicken tenders with salt and pepper. Place cornmeal in a medium bowl, add the chicken and toss to coat (discard any leftover cornmeal).
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook the chicken, turning once or twice, until browned and just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes total (thinner nuggets will cook faster than thicker ones). Serve the chicken nuggets with the berry mustard

Salmon with Pepita-Lemon Butter

2 T. unsalted pepitas(Spanish for pumpkin seed)
2 T. butter or margarine
1 t. grated lemon zest
3 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. chili powder
1 lb. skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 portions
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper

Toast pepitas by putting them over medium-high heat and shaking the pan for about 5 mintues or until turning color. Place in a small bowl with butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and chili powder.
Generously coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper, add to the pan and cook until browned and just cooked through in the center, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the salmon to a plate. Add the butter-lemon mixture to the hot pan; stir until the butter is melted. Serve the salmon topped with the sauce.

Cod with Tomato Cream Sauce

1-1 1/4 lbs. cod or tilapia fillets, cut into 4 pieces
1 T. plus 1/2 t. chopped fresh thyme, divided
3/4 t. salt, divided
1/4 t. black pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c. white wine
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
1/4 c. heavy cream or half-and-half
1/2 t. cornstarch

Season fish with 1 t. thyme, 1/4 t. salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic and 1 t. thyme; cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add wine, tomatoes and the fish to the pan; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the fish is cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the fish to a large plate; keep warm.
Whisk cream and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to the pan, along with the remaining 1 1/2 t. thyme and 1/2 t. salt. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Divide the fish and sauce among 4 shallow bowls.

Want something fantastic tasting over ice cream or pound cake?

Blueberry Syrup

1 pt. berries, no juice
1/2 c. juice
1 1/2 t. cornstarch
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. cloves
1/8 t. salt

Combine all ingredients and cook, stirring until thick. Serve warm.

Tangy Blueberry Sauce

1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1/4 t. each cinnamon & nutmeg
2 t. cornstarch
2/3 c. water
Pinch of salt
1 pt. (1 lb.) blueberries, washed & picked over
1/2 lemon, juiced
Lemon zest, grated

Place sugar, spices and salt in a heavy saucepan. Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water and add to saucepan. Heat to boiling, reduce to simmer and stir to smooth. Add blueberries and cook over moderate heat until smooth and thick, 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Add lemon juice only to taste; you may not want to use all of it. Add zest to taste. Serve warm or cold.

HINT: Lemon zest is the bright yellow top layer of the skin. When grating, try to avoid the bitter pulp that lies beneath the zest.

Now let's not forget breakfast this coming cold season. If you haven't tried flavored syrups yet, you won't turn back to that store bought stuff, unless of course it's real Maple Syrup.

Maple Blueberry Syrup

1 c. maple Syrup
1 c. fresh blueberries
Combine ingredients in small saucepan. Crush berries with back of spoon. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot.