Escargot in a Pesto Beurre Blanc

Another Night of, “What’s On The Shelf?”

Hand nothing planned for dinner, so I was forced to take inventory. Inventory of the shelves, cabinets and freezer. I did not search the back of the refrigerator as I figured anything that was hidden back there would be good for another 6 month.

The inventory process serves multiple functions. First you figure out what you’re going to eat, it forces you to be creative and it clears the shelf of stuff you’ll actually use before the expiration date.

PestoIn the freezer were 3 half-pints ball jars if of pesto that I put up in early September. I think this was one of the best batches I’ve made. We have sometimes made a dinner of Pesto on gluten free crackers along with 2 tins of smoked oysters. Wash it down with a nice Prosecco.

This night I knew I would use the pesto. I had some corn and quinoa elbow pasta that had been opened and needed to be used. Although pasta with pesto is pleasing is pedestrian, it’s short of a meal.

Then I saw them, peaking out from behind a large bag of non GMO blue corn chips, 2 cans of escargot. Quick, check the date. Had 7 months to go. Hey, if you are squeamish about eating snails, the recipe that follows will work great with chicken or shrimp.

I’ll try to recreate what I did in this post but I can’t be 100% sure. No cameras were rolling as wasn’t planning anything.

Put a pot of water on to boil. When the water comes to a boil go ahead and cook whatever pasta you’re going to use according to the package directions. Strain the pasta but reserve the pasta liquid. This is when it’s nice to have one of those pasta cookers, tall pot with a colander that fits into the pot. Pull the pasta out and the liquid is left in tact.

While waiting for the water to boil start preparing your sauce.

I finely chopped a medium onion and sautéed them until sweet and golden brown in a sauté pan. With the burner now on high add a ½ cup of dry white wine. I used vermouth. It boiled away and was absorbed quickly. Turning the burner down to medium low I threw in a pad of butter mixing that into the onions. When it was gone I added another Tablespoon. It was taking on the consistency of a beurre blanc. Of course with a beurre blanc you would use shallots. Alas, there was none on the shelf.

EscargotEscargot cry out for garlic butter but there wasn’t an un-sprouted garlic clove in the house. This use to be major faux pas, one does not run out of onions or garlic. But now I’ve discovered garlic powder. Not garlic salt or granulated garlic, this is a fine powder that floats into your sauces and dissolves into any warm liquid or fat. The best I’ve found is the 365 Brand from Whole Foods. Ingredients: organic garlic.

As the butter is slowly being absorbed I sprinkle on of the garlic powder and stir the pan. Then another pad of butter and two cans of escargot. You could easily use one depending on how many snails you want per person.   Cook everything on a medium low heat for about 10 minutes. During this time you can add a ¼ cup of the pasta water to the pan stirring that in. Then add some more butter and a little more pasta water. I did this as I played with the consistency. I had me a pretty nice emulsified sauce going here and it smelled divine.

Careful not to add too much I sprinkled in a small amount of salt. It should taste like, “It needs a little more salt.” But before adding any more salt, I added two heaping tablespoons of the pesto and folded it in with all the ingredients. The aroma was immense. Now you can taste and adjust if it still, “needs a little salt.” I added the pesto last as the parmesan cheese in the pesto will burn on the bottom of the pan.

Now fold in the cooked drained pasta coating it with the sauce. If you have any freshly grated parmesan put it in a ramekin and pass it at the table.

That’s it a gourmet meal from stuff I found laying around.

National Guacamole Day

This delectable dish is so good it’s got 2 Days on the food calendar. 

Chef/Humorist makes Guacamole

Simple fresh ingredients – National Guacamole Day; September 16 & November 14

Guacamole has its roots in Aztec culture as early as 500 B.C., when the native peoples would mash the avocados which were everywhere with a mortal and pestle called a molcajete. They would add tomatoes and salt to make a food accompaniment.

Of course in the last 2500 years or so there have been some variations on this recipe,  there are a million different recipes on line 90% the same some trying to be different for the sake of being different, making it hot for the sake of making it hot. Most of the stuff you add masks the subtle flavor of the avocado. Of course in the south they will use mayonnaise to add fat the fruit that has the most fat of any other. What’s up with that?


The guacamole I’m going to make has simple fresh ingredients inside and a few more on the outside that people can use to customize their experience.

I’m gonna use ripe avocado, some minced onion, some seeded and chopped tomatoes. Since I like a smoky flavor I’m just going to add a couple dashes of chipotle pepper, a dash of smoked paprika and about a tsp of adobo. Sprinkle some fresh coarsely chopped cilantro on top and turn altogether. I don’t like to mush everything, I want to see my ingredients. What you see you can taste.

A lot of recipes call for lime. Lime does help stabilize the color but again it can mask the flavor. If my avocado is not fully ripe I will add some lime as a harder avocado doesn’t have the same flavor. If you’re going to let the sauce sit, and I like to give the flavors a chance to meld, cover with cling wrap pressing the wrap onto the surface of the guac. This keeps the air out. It’s the oxidation that turns the avocado brown. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before you eat it. Remove the wrap and If anything turns brown it’s just going to be the top layer so gently stir the pot and no one will be the wiser.

One variation I do when I need to stretch the product is to incorporated roasted sweet red and green peppers. You can’t use hot peppers to increase volume cause a little bit goes a long way.

Serve the sauce with organic, gluten free non GMO chips and sides of, lime, your favorite hot sauce, and additional salt and finely chopped cilantro. Enjoy with a margarita.

Ciao For Now

Jalapeño Poppers

chef humorist Vinny Verelli

Peppers seeded and deveined

The jalapeños are popping up more than our sweet peppers so it was time to make some poppers. Back in the 70’s and 80’s I don’t know of any place in New York that stuffed jalapeño peppers with cheeses and bacon, bread them twice and deep fry them. This time of year in Georgia, you can’t go anywhere without seeing them on the menu.
If you go to a pot-luck in the mountains 2 or 3 people will bring poppers. Sissy Reed made the best ones I ever had, the perfect cheese blend stuffed in a pepper and wrapped with bacon, then grilled.

In the past two weeks I tried 3 different recipes as I experimented with the prolific peppers. I didn’t want to fry or bread the poppers and wanted to control the amount of bacon used. The first batch were made with cream cheese, smoked gouda and some cooked bacon (drained and dried) and some spices. If the peppers aren’t deep enough the cheese when melted runs out. It was messy but delicious.
PoppersHalf

The next batch were prepared by coring out the center of the pepper and leaving it whole. You stuff the cheese mixture into the pepper and then place in a special tray to keep the peppers upright. This time I substituted smoked salmon for the bacon. Ate these too quickly to get a photo.

For the last batch I had no bacon or smoked salmon. So I took a can of smoked salmon, drained and added a tablespoon of mayo before adding 4oz cream cheese and 4 oz of smoked gouda along with ½ teaspoon of liquid smoke and some smoked paprika. This mixture was stuffed into the halved peppers. But to keep the melted cheese from running all over the place, I wrapped the stuffed peppers in some phyllo pastry that was getting past it’s prime. I don’t have any photos of them coming out of the oven but I do have a photo of the peppers the next morning after being browned up in a frying pan and served with scrambled eggs.
PopperBreakfastNOTE: I wasn’t sure how if the peppers would cook enough when wrapped in the phyllo so I roasted the stuffed jalapeño halves for about 15 minutes at 350. Let them cool and transferred the mostly cooked peppers onto the phyllo and wrapped them up. I really don’t like working with phyllo dough as you have to keep it moist or it dries out and is impossible to work with. Plus it takes a lot of melted butter.  

Refrigerate any leftover poppers and heat them in a frying pan when you’re ready to eat. No need to add any oil to the pan. Start the heat low and butter will start to flow from the dough and you can cook to a crispy brown.

 

Fried Frog Legs with Prosciutto Red-Eyed Gravy

A Fusion Experiment

Today on Cooking with Vinny we’re going to do a sort of Southern, French, Italian fusion dish. I’m going to make Chicken Fried Frog Legs with a Prosciutto Red-eyed gravy. I may have lost some of you at Frog Legs but this recipe can be used for anything you want to fry, chicken, steak or zucchini.

Charred frog leg bones were found at an archaeological site in the Czech Republic dating from about 2900 B.C – So why do we think of the French when it comes to eating frog legs? I read this account in several articles on the internet so it must be true. From the Guardian.

During one of those all too frequent periods when monks were deemed to be growing too fat, the church authorities apparently ordered them not to eat meat on a certain number of days a year. Cunningly, the monks got frogs qualified as fish, which didn’t count as meat. Religiously observant but hungry French peasants duly followed their example, and a national delicacy was born.
Read the full article:

New Orleans was settled by the French and it’s no surprise that Louisianna is the largest producer and consumer of frog legs in the US. But I’m sure that given the swamps around New Orleans the people would have gotten around to eating them soon enough.

Frog gigging is popular in the swamps and creeks in the South but I’d put money on the fact that no one goes frog gigging in any of the 5 boroughs of New York, because if they did, it would be a reality TV show.

When I first moved to the South I made the mistate of putting sugar on my grits because it looked like cream of wheat to me. I’d never, as my Cousin Vinny said, “seen a grit,” let alone eat one. If looks could kill. So when I saw Chicken Fried Steak on a menu, I was not about to order it. Was it chicken? Was it steak? I figured it was fried, but didn’t want to look stupid… again.

Turns out it is steak (usually a cheap cut that has had the crap pounded out of it to make it more tender) then breaded and fried like chicken.

Some say it’s because the steak is fried in the same grease that chicken was fried in. And that may have been at one time but why not call it Green Tomato Fried Steak or Catfish Fired Steak. In a restaurant with a fryer, anything thing fried goes into it the same grease. Animal or vegetable, it doesn’t matter. Food these days is what you call it. You can make anything and call it anything. Just like any drink served in a cocktail glass is a martini. Don’t get me started. Or read my post on National Dry Martini Day.

Traditionally Chicken Fried Steak or Country Fried Steak is served with some type of gravy. I like to use a red-eye gravy. Again you’ll see YouTube video where coffee is added to the pan drippings and that’s it. If it splashes it’s not gravy, it’s juice. The South did not invent gravy they just put in on everything. Gravy needs to at least coat a spoon. So the Red-eyed gravy I make is a little more complex and tastes a lot better than ham fat and coffee.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED. (serves 4)

For the Gravy
1 cup chopped prosciutto
5 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons of flour
1 small onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 cup half and half or milk
1 cup brewed strong coffee
1 cup beef broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Frog Legs
8-10 pairs of frog legs depending on their size.
2 ½ cups Flour
1 cup Fine Corn Meal
2 Large eggs beaten
Salt
Pepper
Smoked Paprika (optional)
Oil for frying

Start by making the red-eyed gravy.

Prosciutto is leaner than bacon or even country ham, the pork of choice in the South. So I place the chopped prosciutto in a fry pan with a couple of tablespoons of butter and cook for about 10 minutes over a medium heat. Remove the prosciutto and set aside. Add butter into the pan to bring the amount of fat up to 3 Tablespoons. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent.

Add the 3 tablespoons of flour to the pan and stir to make a roux. Cook until a golden brown. Now add the coffee and the half and half. Stir to blend all the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring often. Return the cooked prosciutto to the pan, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Using half and half and cooking this long is going to make a very thick gravy. I used a cup of beef broth to thin it somewhat. It was still thick. Using milk instead of 1/2 and 1/2 and cooking less time will make a thinner sauce. Give the gravy a taste and add additional salt of pepper if needed. Remember the Prosciutto is very salty so don’t add salt before after cooking the gravy.

While the sauce is simmering you can prepare the frog legs. The Legs will usually come in pairs so separate them and pat dry with paper towel. Set out 3 pans or bowels. One for 1 cup of plain flour, one for the 2 beaten eggs, and one for the rest of the flour mixed with the cornmeal and seasoned with salt, pepper and smoked paprika.

Roll the Frog legs in the plain flour then dip into the beaten egg … let the excess drip off then dredge them in the seasoned flour and corn meal and place on a rack to dry. Depending on how much of the seasoned flour coats the legs you may notice that they look moist. You can double dip if you like. In the South people like to double dip, double batter anything that’s fried. You end up with more breading than meat. Of course this is one way to stretch your meal as flour and corn meal is cheaper than meat.

Put about 2 inches of cooking oil in a cast iron skillet and heat to a temperature of 350. Put the Frog Legs into the grease and cook about 6 minutes turning occasionally making sure not to burn them.

Transfer the cooked legs to a rack while you finish cooking the rest of the legs.

Allow 4 legs (2 pair) per person.

NOTE: A cast iron skillet is the best for frying. Oil temperature is best between 350 – 370 degrees. If the oil is not hot enough the breading will absorb too much grease and if it’s too hot you’ll have nice crispy coating with under cooked meat underneath. Also do not crowd the frying pan, this too will make for a soggy coating. How do you know when the oil is hot enough? I’ll place a wooden skewer or wooden chopstick in the oil. If the oil is hot enough bubbles will show up around the wood and rise to the surface. If the wood burns it’s too hot, if the bubbles aren’t rising it’s not hot enough. I’ve also heard that putting in a kernel of popcorn into the oil. When the temperature is 350 degrees the kernel will pop.

CAUTION: I can’t stress enough not to look into the skillet or even stand close to it as HOT oil will fly out of the pan when the kernel pops. This is also true when frying the frog legs. Sometimes moisture is released from the meat and the water will create a pop and a splatter.

Note: A really fancy way to make fried frog legs (but wasteful) is “Frenching the Legs.” No really, that’s what they call it. Check out this video. How to French a Frog leg: 

Ciao For Now

National Coquilles St. Jacques Day

A Classic French Recipe

Today is May 16 and I’m making a classic French dish, Coquilles St. Jacques, pronounced:  Co-KEE saahn ZHAHK. This is a gratin of scallops and mushrooms in a velouté dusted with breadcrumbs and topped with Gruyère cheese.  For a great effect serve up the scallops in actual scallop shells which you can get at specialty foods stores or at Amazon.  Broil the Coquilles St. Jacques until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is a golden brown.

I decided to make this classic in to commemorate this auspicious day.  I’m gonna tell you up front that I did not like the way these turned out. First of all Ingles didn’t have scallops in their “fresh” fish case. And by fresh it just means the fish has already been thawed out. When you live in the mountains, fish is not going to be fresh.  I had to get scallops from the Frozen Shelf. These scallops literally had no taste what so ever. Not going to say the name as they may someday they’ll want spokesperson.

So I tried to over compensate with the sauce. There was nothing subtle about this sauce. Too much vermouth, too much lemon, too much salt. Use the amounts that come up on the screen they’ve been adjusted. I should have put extra seasoned breadcrumbs and loaded the shells up with extra cheese.

The Classic recipe calls for egg yolks yet I found a lot of recipes that didn’t use them. Whenever there’s any indecision about what to do in the kitchen, you have to ask yourself, “WWJD, What would Julia do?” Well Julia uses egg yolks and also butter, milk, heavy cream  and of course the whole thing is topped with Cheese.  Is she trying to kill us?

Although  the bay scallop is an easy size to work with when you’re going to put the dish in an actually scallop shell, sea Scallop has more flavor. Whatever size you get, you’ll want to trim them to small enough pieces to make room for some mushroom in the sauce on your fork.

INGREDIENTS: 
• 1 3/4 cups water
•  3/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
•  1 medium shallot minced
•  1 clove garlic minced
•  2- springs parsley
•  2 springs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
•  2 bay leaves
•  1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• 1 pound very fresh scallops – See my note below about frozen scallops.
• 8 ounces mushrooms, washed and chopped
• 6 tablespoons butter
• 4 tablespoons flour
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• Bread crumbs
•  Grated Swiss or Gruyère cheese

I like to use a Bouquet garni. I wrap the  parsley, bay leaves,  thyme and tarragon in some cheesecloth, tied into a neat bundle. This way I don’t have small bits of herbs floating in the sauce that will make caught between my teeth.

1. Bring water, wine, shallot, garlic, bouquet garni, and lemon juice to a boil in a saucepan.  Cook the liquid for a couple of minutes to flavor the poaching liquid. Add the scallops and simmer on low heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Check one scallop to make sure it’s cooked.  Remove the scallops with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add the mushrooms to the scallop poaching liquid and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Strain, discarding the bouquet garni and reserving the liquid and mushrooms separately. Some recipes say to poach the scallops and the mushrooms together. I don’t do this as I don’t want to over cook the scallops.

3. Cut the scallops into 1/2-inch-thick slices. If you’re using jumbo scallops you may want to cut the slices horizontally. But if you have beautiful fresh jumbo scallops, why drown them in sauce and cover them with cheese.

4. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook over low heat for about 2 minutes. Do not let the flour brown.  Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of the scallop liquid into the flour mixture until blended. Now add the blended flour mixture back into the poaching liquid.  Add the cream and simmer and stir until blended and thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Return the scallops and mushrooms to the velouté and mix all together.

5. Fill 6 scallop shells or shallow 6-inch ramekins almost to the top with the scallop mixture. Dust the top lightly with breadcrumbs and sprinkle with the grated cheese. (If you’re not ready to serve the scallops, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

6. Broil the scallops until the mixture bubbles and the cheese melts and turns golden brown.

Coquilles St. Jacques are great for a first course or fish course served with a chilled white Burgundy or my preference, a Prosecco.

NOTE ON FISH:
If you like to cook fish you should get to know the person behind the fish case and get them to tell you how long the fish has been siting there. Some markets in land-locked areas say, “We fly our fish in daily.” I don’t care if you fly it in daily, you still have to fly it in.

Fresh fish is fish off the boat that is still alive. Fresh fish is fish YOU caught cleaned and cooked that night. After that? “Fresh” is relative.

I’ve gotten large scallops at Costco that have been as good as you can get inland. It arrives to the store frozen and is thawed out in small amounts and sold. Costco is up front with you and doesn’t try to sell you the scallops as fresh. But these scallops have not been processed in a big plant and do have a lot of flavor.

 

What Chefs Cook For Chefs

American Academy of Chefs Gala Dinner: Part 2

As a follow up to my post of May 6 here are some photos and descriptions of the food served at the Daniel Islands Club on Monday, April 28, 2014 for the American Academy of Chef’s Gala Dinner.

FriedOyster.sm Duck.sm

settingAfter 8 appetizers from She Crab Soup to Caviar, from Smoked Duck with Port Cherries, to Southern Fried Oysters. Not to mention Alabama Crab Cakes, Blackened Shrimp and Pork Rillette with Peach Confit, we were ushered into the dining room. The place setting spoke volumes as what awaited us. Not since my meal at the James Beard House in New York had I savored as delectable and decadent a meal.

 

 

salmon mousseBig flavor in a tiny package. The banquet began with Smoked Salmon Mousse with BBQ potato chip and chive oil. The chips were bursting with flavor and would have overpowered the delicate mousse  had I eaten then together.  I savored tiny tastes of the salmon’s followed by the crispy chips. Served with a Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Vally 2012

 

henNext came Guinea Hen on a Foie Gras, Celery Root & Wild Mushroom Duxelle. I was thinking I could make an entire meal of this, but we were just getting started.

Served with a Wild Horse Pino Noir, Central Coast 2012

 

 

 

scallopsThe Fish course was a cast iron seared jumbo scallops with a lump crab fava bean succotash.

Served with a Clos D Bois “Calcaire” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2010

 

 

lambThe main course was a domestic lamb sous vide with a Merlot Demi with smoked Yukon potato au gratin and Lavender Heirloom Carrot. I meant to ask how long the lamb bathed before it was seared to perfection, but my mouth was full.

Served with a Hoge “Genesis” Merlot, Columbia Valley 2011

 

saladIn traditional Continental fashion the salad was served after the main course to aid with digestion. It was an Arugula Salad with Fried Green Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, Black Eye Pea Vinaigrette.
No wine was served with the salad.

 

 

desertFor dessert, Dulcey Mousse, Roasted Vanilla Bean Biscuit, Rasberry & Cocoa Nib. In addition a tray of petifores was passed.

Served with a Rober Mondavi Moscato D’Oro, Napa Valley 2012

 

 

A big thank you to all the chefs and staff of the Daniel Islands Club in Charleston, SC for this amazing culinary experience.

 

Salmon Pinwheels with Scallop Mousse

First Course for Christmas Dinner

What? You made salmon for Christmas? What kind of Jamook makes salmon for Christmas? Relax, I used the dish as the salad course served cold with an herb mayo on a bed of baby spinach. Yum!  I made roast duck for the main course.

In many cultures salmon IS the traditional meal for the holidays. Look up Christmas Salmon and you get between 13-22 million results.  Use “quotes” and the results are down to 8,510. But really, over 8,000 results for “Christmas Salmon.” So I’m not totally pazzesco.  Besides, a cold salmon appetizer is just the thing for Spring.

The complete recipe is coming soon. Can’t find my notes and have to get ready for the American Culinary Federation, Southeastern Conference this weekend in Charleston. Hope to post from the conference. I’m not promising anything.

Cia For Now
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