Sunday, August 26, 2012

ChezCindy: Pan-seared Utah Red Trout

Every winter my husband and a few of his friends travel to Utah to go skiing at Deer Valley.  This year will mark their 15th year doing so.  Most of the fellas are not too particular when it comes to the dinner options.  So, when they are out dining at a restaurant, he'll call me with his restaurant dinner update.   

A few years back, all of the guys were excited about the Utah Red Trout they had at a restaurant in Park City named Mustang.  Chef/Owner Bill Hufford presents this dish as one of his signature entrees which has received accolades such as "Utah's best fish dish".  Which led me to the challenge of researching the chef's recipe.  Below is my take on his recipe.  

The trout is quick sautéed, served with a lemon butter sauce with capers and diced Roma tomatoes.  If you want a quick dinner that cooks in 10 minutes or less, this is it. This recipe can also be made with tilapia in place of the trout.

Mustang Restaurant's Utah Red Trout
4 6-ounce trout fillets
Olive oil to sauté the trout
salt & pepper

1 stick unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced shallots
juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
4 tablespoons diced fresh Roma tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

Start by heating a large sauté pan over medium-high heat; add the olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Season the trout with salt and pepper.  When the oil is hot, add the fillets flesh side down and cook for 4 minutes.  Flip the fillets over and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove the fish from the pan; keep warm.
Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan; add the shallots, sauté for 1-2 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low; add the remaining butter a tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition.  Once all of the butter has been whisked in, add in the capers and the diced tomatoes.  Turn off the heat.  Swirl to combine the capers and tomatoes with the brown butter and shallots.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary. 

Carefully remove the trout skin (it should remove easily by pinching one end with tongs and gently pulling backward).  Place a trout fillet on each plate, spoon the sauce over the trout.  Garnish with the chopped chives. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

ChezCindy: Fear of Cooking Fish

It is no wonder people are hesitant to cook fish at home if they are uncertain about where and how to buy good fresh fish.  If you start with smelly old fish, what you are cooking is going to result in an awful, finished product, no matter how good of a cook you are.  Knowing where to obtain quality goods is key to making great food.  Pictured above is golden trout from my neighborhood fish purveyor.  I am fortunate to have Carol as manager of the local market where I buy fish.  Carol manages her fish counter with the proper turnover of the fish and knowing the correct amounts to order, so that her customers can rely on fresh product with each purchase.  If you can find a good fishmonger like Carol, you are halfway there to cooking great fish at home.

Here are a few tips to consider when buying fish:
  • As you approach the fish counter, it should not smell "fishy".  Fresh fish smells like the sea, the ocean or the stream from where the fish came.  If the area smells "fishy" the fish could be old and not well kept. 
  • Looking at the fish display case, it should be well-iced and clean.  Same with the working area behind the fish display.  If there is fish sitting out on a back work counter with no one attending to it, the fish is losing its freshness and breaking down as the temperature of the fish is rising to dangerous numbers.  Fresh fish needs to stay on ice to maintain its quality.  Same goes for when you bring it home.  Keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
  • Ask when the fish came into the store.  It should no more than a few days old.  Do they receive it as a whole fish or already cut into portions?  If they are receiving whole fish or entire sides of filleted fish, it will be fresher for you.  Less handling is better.  You want fish that came directly from the water, to the boat, to the store.  Of course, if you are not fortunate enough to live near the shore, the fish is express over-night shipped from the docks to the store.  Living in the mid-west, we can't get much fresher than that. 
  • Buy fish that is abundant and in season.  Just like produce, some fish are seasonal.  Not only will you have a better price, but you will also have a fish at its peak of goodness. 
  • Frozen fish can be good but know what you are buying.  The fish in the display case should tell you whether it was previously frozen or is fresh.  If not, ask the fishmonger.  If the fish appears dull and ragged, don't buy it.  The fish should almost glisten, have clean edges and the flesh should be smooth.  And it shouldn't smell fishy!  Frozen fish in the vacuum packaging can usually be relied on.  It is caught, filleted, frozen within minutes of coming off the boat and shipped as a frozen product.  This fish can be fresher than what is sometimes found in the display cases. 
Tonight, I will be cooking this beautiful trout in a Mediterranean style recipe.  It is quick seared in olive oil, with shallots, capers, and lemon juice, finished with diced red Roma tomatoes.  Click here for the recipe

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ChezCindy: Traveling Through Food Memories - Tomato soup

Tomato Soup with Puff Pastry

One of my favorite joys of traveling are the food memories created while visiting a special get-away location.  For us, it's all about the food in a beautiful new setting.  We plan out where we will eat, which restaurants to dine at, much like others plan which site-seeing spots they'll visit.   Fortunately, we are both food-obsessed.  Oh yeah, we fit in some hiking, walking, and visit scenic non-food sites too.  We need to have something to do before the next meal! 

I used to challenge myself to try to create a dish from my "taste memory".  But I have since learned that sometimes all you have to do is ask the chef for the recipe.  Often times, you can find the recipe on-line with a quick internet search.  So many restaurants and chefs have their own cookbooks now, it is much easier to find the actual recipe, that I no longer need to rely on trial and error.  The results being much more successful now.  And it is so much fun to relive the experience of traveling through your taste buds.   

Today's recipe is from a French restaurant in Yountville, California,  Bistro Jeanty.  Chef Philippe Jeanty, born in the Champagne region of France, has owned and operated his restaurant in Napa Valley since 1998.  I highly recommend dining at Bistro Jeanty if you can make it out to California.  Chef Jeanty has the most amazing tomato soup with an equally stunning presentation.  He serves the soup in an oven-proof bowl, with puff pastry baked on the top exterior of the bowl, puffed up like a dome.  It is not only beautiful, it is incredibly delicious. 

Now I didn't say the soup was low-calorie or healthy.  This is French cooking.  It has more butter and cream than you would ever imagine being included in tomato soup.  But it is delicious.  I have provided the original Bistro Jeanty recipe (full butter & cream amounts listed), but I have also noted my substitutions for reductions in the amounts of butter and cream. 

Bistro Jeanty Tomato Soup
Creme de Tomate en Croute

2 1/2 pounds tomatoes - ripe, cored & quartered
1/2 cup unsalted butter (my reduction: use only 4 tablespoons)
1/2 pound yellow onion, sliced
6 garlic cloves
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup water - use only if tomatoes are not ripe & juicy
4 cups heavy cream (my reduction: use only 1/2 cup cream)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (my reduction, optional)
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 pound puff pastry
1 egg - beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a large stockpot over medium-low heat.  Add the onions, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.  Do not let the onion color.  Add the tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme and water if needed.  Simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the tomatoes and onions are very soft.  Remove the bay leaf.  Puree in a blender (working in batches) or use a hand-held immersion blender; strain*.  Return the soup to the pot.  Add the cream, salt, white pepper and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.  Bring soup back to a boil. 

Let the soup cool for 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  Divide the soup among six 8-ounce bowls (oven-proof).  Roll out the puff pastry to 1/4 inch.  Cut 6 rounds slightly larger than the bowls.  Paint the dough with the egg wash and turn the circles egg-wash side down over the tops of the bowls, pulling lightly on the sides to make the dough tight like a drum. 
Lightly paint the top of the dough rounds with egg wash without pushing the dough down.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.  Do not open the oven door in the first few minutes or the dough will fall.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

You can make the soup without the puff pastry for a less eventful dinner, as it is quite delicious without.  Or you can bake the puff pastry, cut into squares, on a sheet tray and then place on top of the soup as a large crouton.  This is also great with fresh baked cheddar scones.  See my recipe from another post, click here Cheddar Scones

*Note: straining the soup results in a very refined, silky texture.  I do not strain mine for a more rustic version.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

ChezCindy: Roasted Heirloom Tomato Tart

Earlier this week, I like many "foodies" across America, acknowledged what would have been the 100th birthday of Julia Child.  Julia served as an inspiration to many home cooks and professional chefs, and still does.  Breaking barriers and declaring that cooking should be enjoyed and celebrated in our homes, shared with family and friends.   This being the idea behind my blog site, sharing a collection of what I am cooking.  I hope my recipes inspire you to do the same.

In honor of Julia, I made 2 of my favorite recipes, Bacon-Leek Quiche and Riene de Saba, affectionately known in our house as "chocolate booze cake".  Both were fun and delicious.  I made homemade crust for the quiche and had extra crust left-over.  Once again being the frugal person that I am, I wanted to be sure I used the remaining crust.  On the counter were gorgeous heirloom tomatoes reaching the peak of their ripeness.  I decided to make a Roasted Heirloom Tomato Tart.

Roasting tomatoes intensifies and accentuates the true tomato goodness of any tomato.  Even when using mid-winter grocery store tomatoes, roasting will bring you closer to summer tomatoes than eating them raw.  The water dries-out, concentrating the tomato flavors; bringing forward the natural sugar.  It is a simple process that can then be used when making a tomato tart, or adding to pasta, fish or topping a salad.

Roast Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place a sheet of parchment paper in the bottom of a baking tray with sides.  Slice ripe tomatoes into thick slices.  Place the tomatoes on the tray in a single layer.  Add thinly sliced garlic and sprigs of thyme, scattered over the tomatoes.  Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 20-25 minutes.  

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Tart
1 pastry pie dough for 9-inch tart pan - homemade or store bought
1 pound tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
5-6 sprigs of thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 ounces ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt
ground black pepper

Press the pastry pie dough into a tart pan with removable bottom.  Dock the dough by pricking it with a fork.  "Blind" bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.  Remove from oven; set aside to cool.

Roast the tomatoes as described above.  Set aside to cool.

Arrange the roasted sliced tomatoes in the bottom of the baked tart crust.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the tomatoes, place dollops of ricotta cheese over the tomatoes.  Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in the preheated oven for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown.  Cool before serving.

My favorite savory pie crust recipe and the quiche recipe are found by way of this link.
 Quiche and Savory Pie Crust Recipes

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

ChezCindy: Corn Cakes with Bacon-Honey Butter

Corn Cakes with Bacon-Honey Butter

Corn.  Quite possibly America's favorite vegetable.  Ask any child what vegetables they like to eat, and certainly corn is most requested.  Fresh picked corn-on-the-cob, boiled for just a few minutes, slathered with butter and salt is our house favorite way to eat corn.  In the past few years, I created a simple corn dish that soon became known as "Mistee's favorite corn", a niece in the family.  I cut the corn off of the cob.  Added it to a large skillet, cooked it for about 3-5 minutes over medium-high heat with butter and salt.  You would have thought it was magic, the way that corn disappeared once served to the cousins.  It is basically the same as corn-on-the-cob, but a bit easier to eat!  Mistee's corn is now a standard with the Thanksgiving dinner. 

To remove corn kernels from the cob:  Hold the corn vertically resting on one end, standing upright in a deep bowl.  Slide a sharp knife down the length of the corn, just removing the kernels, and not cutting too deep into the cob.  The cut corn can be frozen in a zipper plastic bag for 3-4 months.  Or for several days in the refrigerator. 

Today I made Corn Cakes with Bacon-Honey Butter. The history on corn cakes is a rich part of America. Most commonly thought to have been taught to the early settlers from the Native American Indians. Early corn cakes were mostly made of ground corn and water, fried as a flat bread over an open fire. Although, recipes for corn cakes vary, from rustic with fresh corn added to a corn batter, to a refined cake similar to a pancake. Corn cakes are also versatile in that they can be served as a sweet breakfast item, or as a savory appetizer with sour cream and smoked salmon. 

Corn Cakes with Bacon-Honey Butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of white pepper
1 1/4 cups fresh corn kernels cut form cobs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted melted butter
1 large egg

Working in a medium bowl, add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt & pepper; whisk to combine.  Add the corn kernels, buttermilk, butter, and egg to a blender; process until pureed.  Add the pureed corn mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until combined. 
Heat a non-stick griddle to 375 degrees or medium-high heat.  Ladle 1-2 ounces of batter onto the hot griddle, slightly spreading outward with the back of your ladle.  Cook until the tops have lost their shine, and are covered with bubbles, about 2-3 minutes.  Carefully turn the corn cakes over, cook for another 1 minute.  Remove from the griddle.

Bacon-Honey Butter
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons honey
3 teaspoons Hormel Bacon Bits

Place the softened butter in a small bowl, stir until smooth.  Add in the honey, stirring to combine.  Stir in the bacon bits. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

ChezCindy: Yellow Tomato Corn Salsa

Most everyone is familiar with traditional chips and salsa.  This yellow version focuses on using only yellow ingredients.  Yellow tomatoes, yellow peppers (hot and mild), and yellow corn.  The outcome is delicious, with the yellow tomatoes being less acidic than the red, and the sweet corn and yellow peppers adding great balance, with a bit of smokiness from ground cumin. This salsa may win first place against any standard red salsa, unless of course challenged by my brother-in-law's salsa.  His red salsa is the best.  It is my favorite red salsa.  But this is yellow. I can do yellow.    

The idea behind this is a basic salsa recipe, but with focus on using only yellow ingredients.  Quite easy to do with all of the fresh ingredients available at the local farm stands.  Look for yellow banana peppers, that range from mild to hot.  Add in a variety of fresh yellow tomatoes, and yellow bell peppers, yellow onions, and golden maize corn.  I do not use any fresh herbs in this.  Normally I would use fresh cilantro in my standard salsa.  Using ground cumin in place of fresh herbs brings out the best of these ingredients.

Yellow Tomato Corn Salsa
1 1/2 pounds yellow tomatoes, any variety
1/2 yellow bell pepper
2 small banana peppers
1/4 cup diced yellow onions
2 large or 3 medium ears of corn, cut from the cob
1 small clove garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Working with a food processor, cut the peppers, onions and garlic into pieces; place in the bowl of the food processor; pulse 3-4 times to combine.  Add the salt, pepper, and cumin.  Cut the tomatoes into large pieces; add to the pepper-onion mixture.  Run the food processor for 30 seconds to 1 minute, to create a salsa-like texture.  Remove the salsa from the food processor bowl to a medium mixing bowl.  Cut the corn from the cobs; add to the tomato salsa mixture.  Stir to combine.  Adjust salt as necessary.  Serve with tortilla chips. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

ChezCindy: Summer Tomato Recipes

Sliced Summer Tomatoes with Shaved Parmesan Cheese

Local tomatoes are amazing.  Get them from the farmers market, the stand at the side of the road or your neighbor's back yard.  But get them. They are incredibly delicious. 

The tomatoes I have found at my local farmers market have been so wonderful, they don't need much adornment.  A simple tomato salad or a tomato sandwich with your favorite dressing is enough.  It's a perfect time to make a BLT; tomato-basil-mozzarella salad; or tomato bruschetta.  The time is ripe for any recipe where the tomato is the star.

I use my homemade vinaigrette for a tomato panzanella salad, which is fresh tomatoes and toasted bread croutons.  Panzanella is a great main dish when served with roasted chicken added to the salad, or a rustic side dish that pairs well with grilled steak. 

Tomato Panzanella Salad
2 cups fresh prepared bread croutons
Variety of heirloom tomatoes or fresh yellow, orange & red farm tomatoes
Parmesan cheese curls

To make the croutons:  Cut a loaf of Italian bread or a baguette into 1-inch cubes.  Place the bread cubes onto a large rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with salt & cracked pepper.  Using your hands, toss well to coat evenly.  Place the bread cubes into a hot oven, set at 400 degrees.  Toast in the oven until evenly browned, about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Cooled croutons can be stored in an air-tight container for 5 days. 

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil

To make the vinaigrette:  Place the Dijon mustard, honey, salt & pepper in a small bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add the vinegar; whisk to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking vigorously while doing so.

To make the Panzanella Salad:  Place the warm croutons in a large bowl.  Cut the tomatoes into large 1-inch pieces to yield about 3 cups.  Add to the croutons.  Drizzle 4-5 tablespoons of vinaigrette (amount is to your preference) over the croutons and tomatoes.  Gently toss to combine.  Allow the tomatoes & bread to soak in the vinaigrette and tomato juices for at least 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes.  Garnish with curls of Parmesan cheese, fresh leaves of basil, or arugula salad greens. 

I recommend you not refrigerate your tomatoes.  Refrigeration can turn the flesh pulpy and reduces the great tomato flavor.  Store them at room temperature on your counter. 

When cutting tomatoes, a serrated knife makes slicing through the skin easy without mashing the shape.  If you are using a straight edge knife, just make sure it is very sharp.  You will have beautiful slices every time.   

Tomato Bruschetta
Toast or grill slices of bread.  Once cool enough to handle, rub a clove of garlic over the toasted bread.  Drizzle olive oil over the bread; top with fresh tomatoes, basil and grated cheese.  Serve warm.