Sophisticated Savories

Sophisticated Savories

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Stuffed Heart of Palm

Let us try this one on for size, shall we?

Stuffed heart of palm cylinder with pork belly, chick peas, arugula and whipped goat cheese with rendered pork belly essence.

First of all... hearts of palm. Love. Many individuals are not familiar with the tubular root vegetables; however, not only do they have a distinct and luxurious flavor, they also can be plated in a whimsical manner, due largely in part to their size/shape/aesthetic. Hearts of palm are essentially palm tree core/buds and are harvested from only certain types of palm trees. They are generally canned in order to soften the cores and make more palatable. The "inner core" of the cylinder is very soft and tender. I will often remove the delicate inner core (carefully!) which allows the outer cylinder to remain in tact (still very fragile).

A brilliant stuffing for the heart of palm? First, cut a small slab of pork belly into small slices and place on a medium-warm sauté pan. Allow the fat to render and pieces to crisp. Since they are cut small, they will cook quickly. Once crispy, remove the pork belly pieces with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel in order to "dry" and remain crisp. Reserve the rendered fat (aka, "gold").

In a separate sauté pan, add a touch of almond oil, as well as 1 tsp of the rendered pork belly fat. Add 1 cup of cooked chick peas and season with smoked sea salt, smokey paprika and pepper. Sprinkle with the juice of 1/2 lemon. Since the chick peas are already cooked, the purpose of the saute is to crispy the chick peas slightly, as well as absorb the pork belly fat/almond oil. Add a handful of arugula and remove from the heat (the arugula will cook and wilt from the carry-over heat).

In a small bowl, mix the crispy pork belly pieces with the sautéed chick pea mixture, then carefully stuff into the hollow heart of palm cylinder (I use a small spoon).
A perfect compliment to the stuffed heart of palm? Place 6 ounces of goat cheese in a small bowl and whisk energetically. Add a few teaspoons of the rendered pork belly fat. This will allow the goat cheese to become easier to work with (the consistency will become slightly more viscous), as well as absorb a hint of the pork belly essence. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then place in a pastry bag.

When plating, I made a small trail of crispy pork belly pieces on a white plate, then set the stuffed heart of palm cylinder atop the trail (garnished with fresh arugula). To the side of the heart of palm, I used the piping bag to make a thin trail of the goat cheese.


A few other dishes to compliment the appetizer? Poached lobster pieces/roasted calamari salad with frisée and blood orange vinaigrette. The bitterness of the frisée is balanced with the sweet lobster and citrus from the blood orange. Fantastic flavor profile and a very simple, yet elegant dish.

Red snapper has always been a favorite of mine to cook, due to its vibrant red color, as well as firm and durable texture. I will often sauté in walnut oil, in order to enhance the "nutty" flavor profile of the fish. Pair red snapper with roasted root vegetables (artichoke hearts, parsnips, rutabaga, etc.). A touch of fresh basil is the prefect fresh herb to brighten the seafood dish.

Last, but certainly not least, a roasted golden beet salad with kalamata olives, pickled mango/papaya and Greek yogurt.

Experiment, create, inspire, work with passion and love life.

"In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine" - Ralph Waldo Emerson



Luxurious Left-overs


Bad rapport, eh? Truth of the matter... when you dine in a restaurant, you are essentially eating warmed-up left-overs (sans to-order cooked proteins). I know, way to burst your bubble.

However, when working with gourmet products (think lobster, crab, filet mignon, caviar, etc.), is it criminal to discard the luxurious nourriture. I had a few lose odds and ends of lobster pieces from a recent dinner party. Ergo, create a dish with the sweet and aromatic seafood.

Lobster tail ceviche.

1 cup lobster (uncooked) pieces
1 small roma tomato - deseed and dice
1 small orange - juice and 1 tsp zest
1 small lemon - juice and 1 tsp zest
1 small lime - juice and 1 tsp zest
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1/2 small jalapeño pepper - deseed and dice small
1 small shallot - diced
1/4 avocado - dice
1 cup of EVOO
Salt and pepper, to taste

A true ceviche uses the citrus juices to marinade and cook the fish. However, I prefer blanching the lobster in warmed EVOO in order to enhance the lavish flavors of the seafood. Simply warm a small sauce pan of olive oil (about 1 cup) and add the lobster pieces. Allow to gently poach for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat. The small lobster pieces should turn from translucent into a light pink color... not fully cooked, but a gentle poach.

Place the poached lobster pieces in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

When plating, build volume by stacking the ingredients in the middle of a white plate. Top with micro-greens and a drizzle of EVOO. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

A few additional dishes to compliment the lobster ceviche?

Red and White quinoa with red onions, red/yellow/orange bell pepper, cilantro vinaigrette. Quinoa is a brilliant side dish, as it is a versatile pseudo-grain: it can be paired with both meat and seafood. Quinoa can also be used to thicken soups (in place of roux), as well as incorporated into salads, tossed with sautéed vegetables and even synthesized into crab cakes.

Scallops with portabella mushrooms, cauliflower puree and reduced balsamic vinaigrette. Even "less than perfect" scallops can be utilized via sauté. Sure, they may not resemble perfect circular mollusks if blemished; however, they taste is still present. If cooking torn scallops, simply be creative in presentation. For example, scallops pair well with a plethora of sautéed vegetables. I happened to have portabella mushrooms (as well as a cauliflower puree). I had two "perfect" scallops and one that was... well, the "black sheep," if you will. After sautéing the scallops to create a light golden crust, I simply used my plating techniques to "hide" the blemished scallop. A clean swipe of cauliflower puree on the bottom of the plate, then scallops in a non-uniform pattern. The sautéed portabella mushrooms were then added... to the side of the perfect scallops and simply atop the ripped scallop. Quick drizzle of reduced balsamic vinaigrette, micro greens and a touch of love. Good to go.

Shrimp taco in a lettuce wrap with sweet/spicy bell peppers, corn, cilantro and red onions. Rather than re-warming previously cooked shrimp (this will only cook them further and turn them into rubber, gummy unpleasant bites), simply create an easy and healthy shrimp taco. Sauté red/orange/yellow bell peppers in EVOO as well as a few onions. As the vegetables begin to caramelize, their natural sugars will be released, creating their own natural sweet sauce. A drizzle of lemon juice, as well as salt and pinch of cayenne pepper will do the trick. Once tender, remove from heat and add pre-blanched corn, fresh cilantro and a few raw red onions - sliced thin. Mix in the shrimp and wrap in large lettuce-head leaves. The crunch of the lettuce will be a nice compliment to the sweet/spicy peppers. Top with Greek yogurt and more fresh cilantro.

You are familiar with the old adage, "one man's trash is another man's treasure."

In terms of leftovers... allow your inner-chef to be innovative and create treasure.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Winter Lobster Love

Snowflakes. Winter Wonderland. Snow angels.

Just because winter is emerging and the holidays are right around the corner, one does not have to deviate from fresh produce, healthy options or throw their hard-earned bikini-body into cahoots.

For example. Lobster. Root vegetables. Fresh fruits. Spinach and artichoke dip. Ready to create some delicious magic?

Game face.

Commence light and fresh...
1 medium fennel bulb
1 medium grapefruit - segment and cut into supremes, then squeeze and reserve the juices
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Basil leaves - chop fine (chiffonade cut)
1/4 avocado - slice into thin slivers
Drizzle of olive oil (solid quality)
Coarse sea salt and fresh pepper

Using a mandolin, carefully slice fennel bulb into thin slices. Combine with supremes of grapefruit, avocado, lemon and grapefruit juices, drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of coarse sea salt and pepper.
When plating, remember to build volume... essentially, carefully stack the mixture in order to build a tower of flavors. Top with chiffonade of basil.

That was easy.

Lobster tail. Pair with flavors that will enhance the tail... not overwhelm or compete with the sweet seafood. Let's study two lobster dishes: one sweet, one savory.

Sweet: warmed artichoke/spinach dip with lobster tail, whole-grain mustard kiwi reduction, frisée and sliced picked kiwi (yes, kiwi).

Warmed Artichoke/Spinach Dip:
Usually I am not an advocate of canned vegetables; however, canned artichoke hearts can be used to create a brilliant dip.

1 cup artichoke hearts - chop fine
2 cups fresh spinach
1 shallot - fine dice
1 garlic clove - smash and mince
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp smoked paprika
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese - grated
6 oz whipped cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Almond oil

Sweat the diced shallot and garlic in almond oil until no longer crunchy (about 5 minutes). Add the lemon juice, rosemary, paprika and cayenne pepper. Add the chopped artichoke hearts and spinach... allow to cook until tender and wilted (about 7 minutes). Remove from the heat.

In a separate bowl, add the whipped cream cheese and whisk. Add the cooked artichoke/spinach mixture, as well as grated Parmesan cheese. Mix with spatula. Season with salt and pepper.

Pickled Kiwi:
Bring 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 water to a boil, then remove from the heat. Add 1 tsp cider vinegar, 5 black peppercorns and 3 kiwis (peeled and sliced thin). Allow to marinate for at least one hour.

Whole-grain mustard/kiwi reduction:
In a Vitamix, add 1 cup of pickled kiwis and 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard. Pour into a sauce pan, then add 1 cup of boiling cream. Allow to reduce and thicken to a creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Plating - Spoon the warmed artichoke/spinach dip in the middle of the plate, then top with a poached lobster tail (I poach mine in butter). Top with frisée, then drizzle with reduced whole-grain mustard kiwi reduction. Add a few of the pickled kiwi slices around the edge of the plate.

A more savory lobster dish? Try pairing lobster claw with roasted artichoke hearts, portabella mushroom and sunchokes. Smokey paprika will bring an essential "earthiness" to the dish. When plating, place the ingredients into an "organized chaotic" pattern... building volume by stacking, yet respecting the cooked nourishment.

Lastly... an extra side... roasted root vegetables with edamame, tomato foam and Greek yogurt... simple, yet elegant.

"Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify" - Henry David Thoreau


Potato Pancake Hors D'oeuvres

Thanksgiving. Mashed potatoes is a staple... but what to do with the unused spuds? I mean, let's face it... generally they just stay at the bottom of the pantry and grow creepy eyes... so let us actually turn these 'black sheep' left-over potatoes into an elegant pass-around hors d'oeuvre, shall we?

Easy recipe... not only can these be used as hors d'oeuvres, but a simple breakfast as well. Bonus.

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes - peel and grate fine
1 leek - chop fine - only the white stalk (discard the green)
1 shallot - small dice
1 garlic clove - mince fine
1 Tbsp herbs de Provence
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
Walnut oil

Place bacon on a medium-heat in a sauté pan. Allow to the fat to render and bacon to cook. Once crisp, remove the bacon from the pan and place on a paper towel in order to absorb the grease and remain dry/crispy.

On a medium heat, sauté shallot, leek and garlic together until tender in rendered bacon fat/walnut oil. To prevent from burning, keep the heat on medium and stir occasionally. This should take about 10 minutes until the mixture is tender and the aroma begin to permeate the kitchen. Once tender, remove from the heat. The smells that are created when cooking are just one of the many delights of cooking... especially when they force people into the kitchen in order to investigate what is creating the mouth-watering fragrance.

In a large bowl, combine the grated potatoes, shallot/garlic/leek mixture and parmesan cheese thoroughly. Shape into small pancakes (about 2 minutes in diameter and 1/2 inch thick). In a clean sauté pan, heat walnut oil on a medium heat and gently drop each of the potato pancakes. Allow to cook through (about 4 minutes each side). Each side will develop a golden, crispy crust. Brilliant play on texture... crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Party for the taste buds? You better believe it!

A unique topping to enhance the potato pancakes? Not just hummus... not just guacamole... but rather, guacamole hummus.

1 can cooked chickpeas - rinse well (to remove the "tinny-taste") and dry
1 medium avocado
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Walnut oil (to thin the mixture)
1 jalapeño - seeded and chopped fine
1 small clove garlic - smash and mince fine
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor/Vitamix and blend until smooth. Drizzle the walnut oil until the mixture forms a smooth consistency (yet firm enough to hold its shape... too thin and it will slide off of the pancakes). Season with salt and pepper.

When plating, place a small dollop of the guacamole hummus atop the potato pancake, then top with a sliver of the crisp bacon and a few cherry tomato halves (will provide a beautiful red color). Sprinkle with freshly-cut cilantro.

In order to enjoy the pancakes as more of a meal (think breakfast), simply shape into larger pancakes when forming initially. After cooking, top with crumbled blue cheese and toasted pine nuts... the blue cheese will melt into the pancakes and the toasted pine nuts will provide a hint of crunch in order to play with the texture of the pancakes.

Not too shabby, eh?

I recently created the composed potato pancake as an amuse bouche for a four-course meal.

Second-in line was a chicken consume with fresh basil, roasted cherry tomatoes, lavender, drizzle of truffle oil and dollop of Greek yogurt.

Third-course was a brilliant filet mignon with mashed potatoes (hence why I had additional potatoes left and ultimately used for the potato pancake... ah ha, creativity!), sautéed calamari and drizzle of jus.

To top off the meal, a shortbread cookie with white chocolate and raspberry coulis. Fresh mint and edible flowers provided a spark of freshness, as well as necessary color to compliment the humble cookie.

Be creative. Be inspired. If you have an idea, trust your intuition. Sometimes you will succeed. Other times you will fail. But you will never know until you try...

"Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE" - Josh Wheldon


Friday, November 22, 2013

Sweet and Savory

Sweet and Savory.

"But I thought that 'sweet' was dessert and 'savory' was for dinner?"

In the culinary world, the old adage, "opposites attract" is often true. Discernment is definitely still needed; however, opening up your mind to the possibilities of combining "unlike" flavors can often lead to innovative dishes and flavors.

Just be sure to write down ingredients and measurements. I have been known to create some delicious meals, but unable to recreate because I failed in noting the ingredients/amounts used.


What can I say... when I cook, it is from the heart. I may use a recipe for an idea; however, I cannot help but put my own spin on anything that I serve. It is not 'just food...' it is my avocation and true passion.

A few sweet/savory dishes...

Duck breast with butternut squash puree and white-wine poached pear. Why does this dish work? When cooking the duck, it is essential to allow the duck breast to render the fat and allow the skin to become nice and crispy. I will often cook my duck breast skin-side down on a medium heat. Why? Because duck is a fatty-cut of meat, it does not need oil or butter to cook. Rather, the melted rendered fat from the breast will allow the protein to literally cook itself. I will generally cook duck breast about 80% on the skin, then flip and place in the oven in order to "finish" cooking. This will allow the skin to dry slightly and remain crunchy, as opposed to becoming soggy whilst cooking.

Pairing the crispy-skinned duck breast with a white-wine poached pear and butternut squash puree creates a myriad of flavors that are pleasing to the palate. Since duck is a "gamey" meat, it is strong enough to retain it's own flavor when combined with the sweetness of the white-wine poached pear. In the butternut squash puree, I added a touch of "liquid smoke" when reminds me of fall in Ohio. The subtle smoke aids in tying the entire dish together.

It's the little things in life.

Herb-crusted lamb with Brussels sprouts, onions, shiitake purée and roasted fig compote.

I know... I mention "Brussels sprouts" and how many noses immediately turn away? My friends, there is a far-cry of difference between frozen-microwaved Brussels sprouts and fresh, roasted Brussels sprouts. Trust me... two completely different entities. One of my favorite preparations of Brussels sprouts:

Cut sprouts in half, then season with almond oil, smoked sea salt, juice of 1 lemon, herbs de Provence and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Toss to coat all sides well. Place on an aluminum-foil lined baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400 degrees F. The time to roast is dependant on your preference... the sprouts are finished when tender to a knife cut; however, I will often extend the cooking time in order to allow the sprouts to caramelize and crisp. I love the faux "burned" crisp that releases the natural sugars and gives the Brussels sprouts more of a textured crunch.

The shiitake mushroom puree and roasted fig compote represent another sweet/savory combination to enhance the lamb. Again, lamb is a "strong enough" protein to handle a plethora of paired flavors. Since the shiitake mushroom puree is more of an "earthy" flavor, the sweetness of the roasted fig compote aid in balancing the plate.

See... there is so much more than "just cooking" when one is a chef.


Faux "veggie pasta" with sunny-side up egg and shiitake purée/cilantro oil. You may wonder why chefs always stress the importance of "saving rendered duck fat." Reason being? It is a brilliant oil to be added to enrich a meal... be it veggies, purees, soups, etc. I cut zucchini, carrot and granny smith apples into julienne-strips (we shall go into French cut-techniques another day!), then cooked the carrots and zucchini in rendered duck fat. Once soft, I combined with the granny smith apples (I did not cook the apples, but left raw... keeping a bright "crunch" of sweetness. Shittake mushroom puree and drizzle of cilantro-oil created the "earthy," mild flavors on the plate. A soft, sunny-side up egg provided the perfect "sauce" to marry the dish, as the yolk gently engulfed the veggies/fruit once broken with a fork. An experience in and of itself.

So, ladies and gentlemen... if you have an idea, write it down! Then execute! Dining at restaurants also helps spark whims of inspiration when creating meals... though ultimately YOU are the composer. If a flavor profile does not work, guess what... you learned what not to do. And all too often, it is those "failures" that produce true masterpieces.

"Strength is built by one's failures, not by one's successes." - Coco Chanel


Balance of Textures, Flavors and Seasonings

Learning how to balance textures, flavor profiles and seasonings is a skill that is not integrated into one's life overnight. No, no. Rather, years of experience in both dining, as well as cooking aid in teaching the technicalities of a composed dish... not to mention an entire harmonious meal. All too often, I find myself experimenting in the kitchen... remaining cool, calm and collected to bystanders, yet having an internal dialogue of, "well... I hope this works!"

The point being: as a chef, it is essential to step out of your comfort zone and experiment. Now, I am not a proponent of experimenting during a scheduled dinner party; but rather, use "free" moments to step outside of the box and educated yourself hands-on with textures, spices, herbs and new produce.

Lighter Dinner...

First Course: Fresh arugula, shaved fennel and asparagus, blood orange supremes with roasted pistachios and balsamic reduction

Pistachios - roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees F for 5-7 minutes; turning the baking sheet while roasting, to prevent the pistachios from burning.

Shaved fennel and asparagus - using a mandolin and/or peeler, carefully shave thin slices of both the fennel and asparagus. Since these two root veggies will not be cooked, the intention is to be sliced thin enough that they remain crunchy, though easy to chew. If the pieces are too thick, then the diner, regardless of how sophisticated he or she is, will resemble a cow trying to chew past the "woodsy" root veggie.

Not exactly what we are going for here, folks.

Blood orange supremes - I shall do a blog teaching you how to segment an orange in order to retrieve the supremes.

In a small bowl, combine the shaved fennel, asparagus, arugula, blood orange supremes and pistachios. Drizzle with pistachio oil, juice of 1/2 lemon, sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Presentation - In the middle of a white plate, carefully stack the salad mixture. Place a few of the orange supreme segments around the salad, then drizzle with reduced balsamic vinaigrette.

Second Course: Stuffed Dover sole with caramelized onions, spinach/kale, blood orange reduction and chickpea purée

Chickpea puree - Rinse canned chickpeas and dry with paper towel. Saute in walnut oil with smoky paprika, herbs de Provence and salt/pepper. Place in Vitamix/blender with juice of 1/2 lemon and blend until smooth.

Blood orange reduction - simply squeeze juice from 1 large blood orange and juice of 1/2 lemon. Place in saute pan and allow to reduce on the stove until a thick consistency.

Caramelized onions, spinach and kale - Saute on stove top with extra virgin olive oil, salt and touch of cayenne pepper. Once caramelized, add a mixture of spinach and kale (these will cook quickly, as they simply need to "wilt" and will retain the seasonings from the caramelized onions.

Dover Sole - a very delicate fish... I simply seasoned with salt, pepper and a touch of lemon juice, then sauteed on the stove with walnut oil (only 1 minute each side, as it is a thin and delicate fish). Since I had "left-over" lobster stuffing from the amuse bouche (posted yesterday,) I simply spread that in the middle of the cooked fillet, then gently rolled the flaky fish into a delicate cylinder.

Presentation - Spoon a large dollop of the chickpea puree on the bottom the plate, then add the caramelized onion/spinach/kale mixture. Place the stuffed Dover sole atop the greens, then add micro greens to top off the fish and build volume. Drizzle the plate with the blood orange reduction.

"True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist" - Albert Einstein


Fusion of Food


Nuclear fusion? Fusion power? Jazz fusion?

How about... fusion of food.

As a chef, there are two pathways that one can undertake in order to further his or her culinary career: remain at a restaurant and work from the bottom of the totum-pole: commis to executive chef, or work at a plethora of different restaurants in order to learn and gain an understanding about different types of cuisines. I chose the latter with the purpose of furthering my culinary knowledge, honing my skills and learning from seasoned chefs.

Thus sparked my passion for fusion food... a marrying and blending of different cultures via the medium of food. I recently executed a private dinner with the following three-course menu:

1) Roasted beet salad with chive buds and nori dried seaweed
2) Yellowtail Hamachi with edamame puree, pickled mango and nori dried seaweed
3) Chicken medallions with edamame/cilantro puree, hearts of palm, micro greens and demi-glaze

Three-courses. Asian/American with French-inspired techniques.

Oh, the possibilities!

First course.
Roasted golden beets. No, not canned. In order to roast beets, simply scrub purchased beets to remove the dirt. Toss beets with olive oil, salt and pepper, then place on baking sheet and cover with foil. Allow to roast at 400 degrees F until tender with a knife (beets generally take longer than one would think to roast... the smaller the beet, the faster the cook speed). Small/medium beets will take about 30 minutes to roast properly.

When tender to the knife cut, remove from oven and allow to cool briefly. While the beets are still warm, carefully remove and discard the skin (easier to remove when warm, as opposed to cooled completely). Slice beets into shapes/slices/chunks (depending on how you chose to present the beet on the final plating). Place cut beets in a clean bowl and drizzle with sesame seed oil, salt, touch of cayenne pepper, sprinkle of lemon juice and sesame seeds. Allow the beets to marinate in the sesame seed oil for about 10 minutes. Before serving, place chive buds in the marinade as well in order to season the garnish. The dried seaweed nori can be cut with scissors into thin strips.

Presentation... place the beets and chive buds in the center of a white plate. Allow the chive buds to interweave between the beets, creating a nest of buds. In order to increase the volume, carefully stack a few of the beets/buds atop one another. Add thin slices of dried nori in "random," but appropriate openings. As the chef, you are an artist... be creative, yet also discerning when to stop adding to a plate. Simple, clean lines are encouraged.

Second course.
Remember that nori dried seaweed? This ingredient from the first course will be carried into the second course. This will aid in "connecting" the dishes into a composed meal, as opposed to singular courses.

Edamame puree - place 2 cups of frozen edamame (shelled) into salted water. Bring to a boil, then allow to cook for about 5 minutes. Drain, then place edamame in Vitamix/blender and allow to puree. Drizzle sesame seed oil (about 1/4 cup) while the edamame are in the blender - this will help to "thin" the puree, as well as to incorporate the subtle sesame seed flavor. To finish, add 1 tsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp heavy cream, pinch of cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Final consistency should be relatively thick, but not too chunky.

Pickled mango - Bring 1 cup water, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 Tbsp white vinegar, juice of 1/2 lemon and 2 tsp sea salt to boil. Dice mango, then place into clean bowl/jar. When water boils, carefully pour over mango. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Yellowtail Hamachi - sushi grade... slice thin!

Presentation - dollop a spoonful of edamame puree on a white plate, then run the back of the spoon through the puree, across the plate. Place a trail of the pickled mango on the plate, then carefully stack the raw Hamachi atop the mango. Dust the Hamachi with the dried nori and place a few edamame beans and microgreens around the plate.

Third course.
Chicken medallions with edamame/cilantro puree, hearts of palm, micro greens and demi-glaze

The third course also uses the edamame puree; however, I added fresh cilantro leaves to the puree in order to add a subtle change of flavor.

Chicken breast medallions - flatten the chicken breast with a meat-pounder (can use a pastry rolling-pin). Spoon a small amount of the edamame/cilantro puree into the center of the flattened chicken breast, then wrap tightly into a tight roll. Use culinary string to keep chicken breast rolls together. Season the outside of the chicken rolls with salt and pepper, then sear atop the stove on a saute pan with almond or walnut oil (the nut oils provide another element of flavor to enhance the chicken). Place in 400 degree F oven and cook for about 8 -10 minutes (for smaller breast rolls). The rolls will cook quickly because not only were they flattened to be thinner, but they were already seared on the stove. They will be ready when no longer pink from within. When cooled slightly, carefully cut into medallions... the edamame/cilantro puree will shine in the middle of the medallion.

Hearts of palm - marinate with sesame seed oil, salt and pepper.

Presentation - Dollop a small amount of edamame/cilantro puree on a white plate, then use the back of the spoon to run through the dollop and create a line. Place the chicken breast medallions close to the line of the edamame/cilantro puree, then top with marinated hearts of palm, and micro greens. Finish with a quick drizzle of demi-glaze.

Et, voila. Three courses, fused together with complimentary ingredients from around the world.

Not too shabby.

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be." - Abraham Maslo


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Amuse Bouche - Lobster-stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Let's face it... dining can be intimidating when one is not versed in Français or a seasoned gourmand.

Roll play, shall we?

Valet opens your car door and you gracefully enter though opulent doors of a reputable restaurant in your favorite city. Greeted by the handsome host, you follow his/her lead as all eyes gaze upon your entrance. ...

{walk slowly, gracefully... do not fall... do not fall...}

Charmingly bid the host a subtle "thank you" as your Victorian-chair is pulled for you to enjoy the forthcoming evening. A dazzling candle-lit atmosphere cascade gentle shadows on the billowing curtains.

Gently open the grandiose menu and begin to peruse the delicacies offered...

Amuse Bouche.

Excuse me?

"In America we speak American. Shake and Bake."

Mood-killer. I know... I was doing so well until that Ricky Bobby reference.

Back to the Amuse Bouche. Literally "to tickle to palate."

To those who do not deem themselves as a "foodie," fret not. Just because you do not necessarily dine as a "hobby," your taste buds will always enjoy a tasty morsel of nourriture. The purpose of an amuse bouche is to prepare your taste buds for the upcoming meal... a foreshadowing of flavors wrapped into one small bite, if you will.

An amuse bouche can literally be anything that your little heart desires. Remember to marry the themes of your courses when serving a multi-course dinner. For example, if mushrooms are being served for one course, perhaps use mushrooms in your amuse bouche. If rosemary is a star herb for the multi-course meal, then use rosemary in the amuse bouche. Again, the purpose is to "kick-start" the meal with a "hint" of what is to be expected.

One example... Lobster stuffed portabella mushrooms with creme fraiche, caviar and cheritaki sauce.

Cheritaki sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp rice wine
8 large Bing cherries - pitted
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp minced ginger
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of cayenne pepper

Combine ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved...then blend on high in Vitamix (or blender) in order to incorporate the cherries into the sauce.

Portabella Mushrooms
Do not run mushrooms under water when cleaning, as they will absorb too much water in the process. However, be sure to thoroughly clean the baby bellas with a paper towel or a soft brush; otherwise, the dirt will ruin the entire meal. Simply toss with extra virgin olive oil, pinch of cayenne pepper, squeeze of lemon juice, sprinkle of Herbs de Provence and dash of smoked sea salt. Allow to roast in the oven at 400 degrees F until tender with a fork (cooking time will vary, as mushroom sizes vary - the smaller the mushroom, the less time needed to roast).

Caramelized onions... Caramelizing onions, by slowly cooking them in a little olive oil until they are richly browned, is a wonderful way to pull flavor out of the simplest of ingredients. Slice off the stem ends of the onion (I generally use white onions) and place them cut side down on the cutting board. Peel the onion, then cut into thin slices. Coat the bottom of a non-stick saute pan with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (may add butter, if desired. Heat the pan on medium high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally. As soon as the onions start sticking to the pan, let them stick a little and brown, but then stir them before they burn... should take about 15-20 minutes. Add chicken/vegetable stock or water if the onions stick too much. Season with salt and pepper.

Once the onions have caramelized, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Beurre monté... An extraordinary culinary vehicle that infuses butter into meats and fish (in our case, lobster). Essentially, poaching the lobster tail in butter. In a saucepan, bring 1 tablespoon of water to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low and begin adding the chunks of butter (a little at a time) whisking constantly to emulsify. Once the emulsion is started, more butter may be whisked in (1/2 cup total). Hold the temperature of the beurre monté between 160 and 190 degrees F for poaching... IMPORTANT - Do NOT allow the mixture to boil... otherwise, it will "break" and no longer be of use.

Such a shame.

Ergo, place the raw lobster (raw, sliced into small chunks) into the prepared beurre monté and allow to poach... the lobster will turn a brilliant orange color and be warmed through (no longer translucent).

Once cooked, combine with caramelized onions and stuff into the roasted baby bellas.

Finishing touches and plating. My favorite part!

Since the multi-course meal incorporated a fusion of flavors from around the world, I paired the Cheritaki sauce as a garnish on the bottom of the plate, to enhance the buttery richness of the lobster. Simply spoon a dollop of sauce on a white plate, then use the back of a spoon to drag across the plate, creating an "artistic" line. Place the lobster-stuffed portabella near the sauce, then top with creme fraiche and caviar; this elevates a simple mushroom from 'earthy' to 'sophisticated.'


Finally, lightly sprinkle the plate with crushed fried kale... gives a needed "pop" or green color to the final plate.

And love, of course.

"The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection" - Michelangelo

Love from OHIO!