Friday, February 26, 2010

Salmon Cakes with lemon-dill sauce, Parm Crisp, Grilled Caesar Salad

The desire to grill is starting to itch, coinciding with a recently acquired loathe of the winter weather. In a normal winter, Chicago would have about 29.6" of snow. This year 52.3" has come down, making it the 7th snowiest in the last 125 years. 22.4" of those in February, which makes it the 3rd snowiest February in the last 125 years. Hey March, get your ass here quick!

I've never been a fan of hot lettuce, probably scorned from all those half eaten burgers with the lettuce and tomato trapped under the bun, microwaved into hot death. I was therefore hesitant to actually grill lettuce, yet romaine can hold up quite well. You could of course stick with the original Caesar, chopped romaine, close to the original as was done by some guy named Caesar in Mexico. Except the dude forgot the anchovies.

There are certain things that just taste better when homemade- stock, croutons, mayonnaise, breads. Caesar dressing has just been added. Unless you're prego, have a compromised immune system, or live in a third-world country, don't worry about the raw egg. The chances of becoming sick are akin to winning the lottery, and that ain't gonna happen, but you still play every now and then.

Salmon Cakes with lemon-dill sauce, Parm Crisp, Grilled Caesar Salad

12-14 oz. canned salmon, undrained and flaked
1 slice of white bread shredded, or 1/3 C bread crumbs
2 TB onion, diced
1 TB green bell pepper, diced
1 TB fresh dill, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, diced
1 TB AP flour
2 egg yolks
1/2 ts old bay or essence seasoning
1/2 ts kosher
freshly cracked black pepper
3 TB veggie oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a large bowl, gently form patties.

In a large skillet over high heat, add the oil and fry on each side for about 4 minutes, rotating if necessary until nice and browned.

Caesar Salad Dressing
(enough for 3-4 heads, serves same)

2 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 anchovy fillets, your preference
2 egg yolks
2 ts good Dijon mustard
3 TB fresh lemon juice
1 TB plus 1 ts cold water
1/3 C good EVOO
1/4 C quality parm-reg, plus some curls
fresh black pepper
croutons, or slice up a baguette, slather with EVOO, grill or toast and chop into hunks

Combine garlic through EVOO, zap with a stick blender to incorporate. Or, combine all but the oil, then briskly whisk in to emulsify.

Rinse and thoroughly dry heads of romaine, then cut in half, coat with EVOO and salt and freshly cracked black pepper. I'd like to start using FCBP for that, like EVOO, just don't know how to pronounce it.
Grill over high heat for about one minute on each side. Drain any water before dressing. Dress, add croutons and parm-reg curls.

Lemon-dill sauce-

2 TB sour cream
1 TB fresh dill, chopped
1 ts lemon juice

Parm Crisp-

Slice off a couple long pieces of parm-reg from your little piece of the wheel, one of the greatest things on this planet. You need to always have some real deal parm-reg on hand, a perfect example of letting the quality of simple ingredients speak for themselves. Fry in a non-stick skillet for a couple minutes on each side, turning over half way through. This will bring a tasty different depth to the undisputed king of all cheeses, parmigiano-reggiano.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake, Mint Drizzzle

I haven't manufactured that many cheesecakes, yet I have tasted plenty. I prefer the New York style- soft, light texture, maybe with a fruit topping of some sort if I'm feeling adventurous. So chocolate is certainly an unusual twist, dark chocolate at that. I had to dial it down somewhat, however, by not using chocolate wafers as the recipe suggested. The addition of mint was much welcomed too. Mint chocolate chips would have worked, I used Andes candies. Tasty. You only need a sliver of this cheesecake, otherwise you're crazy.

Even when not using a topping, cracking in the cake is not a big deal to me, you just start cutting your first piece from there. If you really want no cracks, then you'll have to use a water bath to better regulate the temp and stop the baking a bit short, opening the door and allowing to cool in the oven. Too much hassle.

We certainly don't celebrate much of Valentine's Day, except maybe to think about what happened some years back in Lincoln Park by a Mr. Capone. One of the many reasons why prohibition was a dumb idea, do you think that helped organized crime?

Although the menu was inspired by his and her treats, not gangsters and tommyguns.

The Valentine Degustation-

Kumamoto Oyster

Boiled Atlantic Lobster, Roasted Garlic Butter

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake, Mint Drizzzle

can be made ahead up to 3, serve at room temp

9 oz nilla wafer cookies, or graham cracker
1 TB sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

10 oz bar good quality bittersweet cocoa, 65-70%, chopped
32 oz philly cream cheese, room temp
1 1/4 C plus 2 TB sugar
1/4 C good unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs, room temp

3/4 C heavy whipping cream
6 oz good quality bittersweet cocoa, 65-70%, chopped
1 TB sugar

1/3 C mint chips or a handful of Andes or Frango

Fire up the hotbox to tree fitty. Pulse the wafers in a food pro until fine, add sugar and pulse to mix. Blend in the melted butter. Butter a 9" springform pan, and press the crumbs onto the bottom of the pan, pressing evenly. Bake for 4-5 minutes to set, then cool.
Stirring constantly, melt the chocolate in a double boiler-a bowl on top of a sauce pan with simmering water. Cool slightly. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder, blend until smooth. On low speed, add the eggs one at a time, then the melted chocolate. Once mixed, pour over crust and evenly smooth the top. Place on the middle-lower rack of oven and bake for about 55 minutes, the center should be just barely set. Remove from oven and run a knife around the the sides to loosen, then park it in the fridge, covered with al foil, overnight.
In a medium saucepan over lot heat, stir the cream, chocolate and sugar until smooth. Cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour over cheesecake, spreading to about 1/2" from edge. Chill until set, about one hour.
Melt the mint choco in a double boiler, drizzle.

After slicing, enjoy.

Mr. Pinchy, are you winking for the camera?

Waving the proverbial bright red flag, done and done.

If you feel bad about where you might stay on the food chain while doing this, throw your crustacean in the freezer for 20 minutes to numb the little guy. It's not screaming, it's air inside the carapace. They don't have vocal cords, for f's sake! Anyway, whether they feel pain or not is a debate, and unless the dead lobsters start talking I'm not sure we'll know. Do you feel bad for the little piggy while you're dragging the sausage through the pancake gravy? I didn't think so. There are many more Mr. Pinchys out there. Mrs. too, which are better for the roe. Which is a fancy way of saying reproductive parts. Mmmm, yummy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sage, Apple, Onion Soup, Cheddar Bacon Crouton

A different flavor profile to a familiar format. 7 days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, so it's time to fire up a few soup recipes that have been in the queue. Could this be the year?

I highly encourage you to make your own chicken stock. It is very very simple and the depth of flavor it adds to dishes such as soups and risottos, absolutely worth it. Yes, you could get away with canned broth. But you could also have something much tastier. You could also take the butchers word for it, or you could...damn I always get that backward. Never mind.

Sage, Apple, Onion Soup, Cheddar Bacon Crouton

1 TB unsalted butter
2 medium onions, sliced thin
2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4" slices
kosher salt
4 C chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 C canned low-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
freshly ground black pepper
4 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly grated
1/2 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
2.5 ts, fresh sage, finely chopped
1/2 French baguette , cut on the bias into 6-8 3/4" thick slices

Get your big-ass dutch oven over medium-low heat on the cooktop, add the butter, a pinch of kosher and then slowly caramelize the onion and apple for about 45 minutes to an hour or so. The lower, the slower, the better. Open wine and assemble all other ingredients.

Once properly caramelized, add the red wine and using a wooden spatula, scrape up the tasty bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. That there is flavor. Add the chicken and beef stock, then the bay leaf and bring to a quick boil. Immediately after boil, simmer over low heat, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or so to blend flavors. Add black pepper and then taste and adjust with salt if needed.

Fire up your broiler on high, arrange a rack about 6-8" below. Combine the shredded cheddar and bacon in a small bowl. Place two baguette slices on each crock, then the bacon cheese mixture. Place on a heavy-duty cookie sheet (I use two) and under the salamander for 4-5 minutes, rotating often, until golden brown and delicious. Yes, delicious. And golden brown.

Pairs well with a light, fruity red such as our good friend Pinot Noir, or a Cotes du Rhone. Also goes well as a snow day snack with 5-7" freshie on top of the 3-4 that is already down. Damn you Chicago for not having any hills.

No, you should not walk away and check the laundry or something once under the broiler. Keep close to ensure this doesn't burn, that would not be tasty.