Seared Foie Gras

Foie Gras is without a doubt one of my favorite foods. The first time I had Foie Gras was at this little French Bistro in Chicago called The Red Rooster. Located on the corner of Halsted and Armitage in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, The Red Rooster was steps away from legendary Charlie Trotter’s and Alinea. The quaint bistro has since closed, but I have fond memories that my taste buds thank me for! 

Perfectly seared Foie Gras should be crisp and well brown, and seared to a medium well. The texture is smooth and almost custard like. A common pairing for Foie Gras are figs. Their sweet jammy quality cuts through the richness, and provides a mouthwatering sensation. Any fruit compote is delicious. I used my homemade strawberry vanilla jam. 

Foie gras is grown on only three farms in the United States. American Foie Gras ducks are amongst the most well-treated farm animals in the country. Choose grade “A” lobes from Bella Bella Gourmet, who sells Foie produced by La Belle Farms, a small-scale poultry farm in Ferndale, New York. 

There is no technical reason to score your Foie Gras. Unlike Duck skin, Foie Gras will not curl when heated up. Most Chefs score their Foie Gras for appearance. 

Make sure your pan is sizzling before you add your piece of Foie. It is normal for smoke to appear as soon as you add your Foie to the pan. Each side of Foie Gras should take no more than 30 seconds to cook. 

Don’t forget to let it rest. 

#athomesoigne 

Fideuà! 

Friday’s during Lent have always been a challenge for me. I’m a huge meat eater, and my days blur together so much, it’s often hard for me to remember when Friday even is. 

For a culinary and hospitality professional this should be a delightful challenge! Well, Lent 2017 is when I decided to embrace my faith (even more) and indulge in Lenten Friday’s. After all, fasting is all about sacrifice. Lent is precisely the time when we should not let go of ourselves or our standards. 

Truly one of the over looked glories of Catalan cuisine is the poor cousin of paella. Assembled from noodles and seafood, Fideuà has been sustaining Valencian fishermen, (and upper east side enthusiasts) for generations. 

Like paella, fideuà should be cooked in a big paella pan. The recipe below works in a normal frying pan yielding no more than three people. It’s remarkably quick and so delicious. 

Ingredients 

1 Tsp Olive oil 

2 C Fideo pasta 

1 squid, chopped 

10 Clams 

10 Shrimp, peeled 

2 Garlic cloves 

2 Bell peppers; red, green or yellow. 

1 Spanish onion 

1 Tomato, finely chopped

1 tsp Saffron 

1 tsp Salt, or to taste 

1 tsp Fish stock or a cube 

 1) Heat about one-third of the olive oil in a wide frying pan over a medium heat. Add the dried pasta and fry for about 5 minutes, or until it turns golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2) Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan, increase the heat and add the squid, shrimp and salt. Squid can be very temperamental as it releases a lot of water when you start cooking it, so it tends to explode in the pan. I recommend you hold a lid over the pan so the steam can still escape – and stand back. Give it a quick stir, half cover with the lid and leave to cook for a couple more minutes. Don’t scrape the bottom of the pan, as that sticky layer on the bottom is essential for making a rich stock.

3) Add the clams, garlic, peppers, onion and cook for another 5 minutes or until clam shells open. That will happen fairly quickly because of the high heat.  Add the chopped tomato, saffron and stir constantly to dissolve the sticky bits on the bottom. This should take no longer than 2 minutes.

4) Add the fish stock or cube and 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and let it simmer for about 10 minutes before adding the fried pasta. You need to use your judgement here – you need just enough water left in the pan for the pasta to cook and absorb all the remaining liquid. A good thin fideo pasta should cook in about 3 minutes. Stir in the pasta, cover the pan and cook until the liquid has been absorbed.

Eggs En Cocotte 

Yes, it’s March and in New York we had a little taste of Spring. But, the blizzard storm Stella gave me the perfect excuse to coupe up, and turn my oven on. 

What is known as a popular hangover dish is actually one of my favorite breakfast pleasures – without the hangover. I needed to use my tomatoes and I had arugula that was on the brink. My fridge is always full of at least four kinds of cheese, (I am a proud cheese head) so, I decided to make myself one of my favorite treats for my adult snow day! 

It helps if you have a cocotte pan, but a cast iron pan will work, too. 

Ingredients 

2 tomatoes 

2 eggs 

1 T of olive oil 

1 C arugula 

1 C mozzarella (or any other cheese on hand – perhaps Parmesan) 

1 small garlic clove 

1 tsp red pepper flakes 

Salt and Pepper to taste 

Set oven to 350 degrees F. Dice one tomato, garlic clove, and add it to a sauce pan with olive oil, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes. Let cook until tomatoes begin to bubble. 

While ingredients are cooking, slice the remaining tomato. Layer the bottom of you cocotte pan with slice tomatoes, top with arugula and add shredded mozzarella. 

Once your tomato sauce is bubbled, taste it and make sure it’s delicious. Once perfected, add a bit – not all – on top of mozzarella. Layer again with sliced tomatoes, arugula and mozzarella. Add remaining tomato sauce. Continue procedure until sliced tomatoes and sauce is used up. Crack two eggs on top of tomato mixture. ​ 

Place into oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The baking time does depend on how well you want your eggs cooked. How to do it tip watch the cooking time of your egg whites. The less translucent your egg whites become, the closer to being done they are. I prefer my eggs over easy so I can mix everything together. Either way you prefer,  enjoy! 

#athomesoigné 

Banana Bread

Banana bread is a treat that will either overwhelm or underwhelm. But, why shouldn’t banana bread be simply delicious? It can be! With soigné ingredients. 

At Home Soigné is elegantly maintaining life’s simple luxuries. Like banana bread! 

What makes the below recipe so special is the at home butter, and the at home vanilla extract used in the process of creating. Butter is an ingredient every at home chef should make – at least once. Though making butter is time consuming, making something like butter offers a sense of fulfillment. It provides the at home chef control of flavors and taste, it also makes the at home chef fiscally chic if you really break down your costs. 

Making any baking extracts is so easy to do, too. It’s almost tragic if the at home chef doesn’t have their own inventory on hand. I simply have vanilla beans floating in Armagnac. That’s it! 

The best bananas to use for banana bread are the bananas that are over ripe and browning. I added almonds to my bread for an extra crunch. Of course, they can be substituted or omitted. The recipe below yields one loaf. For an easy clean up, simply mix everything in one bowl! 

Ingredients 

  • 2 or 3 over ripe bananas
  • 1/3 C butter at room temperature 
  • 1tsp Baking soda 
  • 1 1/2 C flour 
  • 1 C almonds
  • 1tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 egg 
  • Salt to taste 

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a 4×8-inch loaf pan.

2 In a mixing bowl, mash the ripe bananas with a fork until completely smooth. Stir room temperature butter into the mashed bananas.

3 Mix in the baking soda and salt. Stir in the beaten egg and vanilla extract. Mix in the flour.

4 Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Bake for 20 minutes to 1 hour at 350°F or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

5 Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack. Remove the banana bread from the pan. Slice and serve. (A bread knife helps to make slices that aren’t crumbly.)

#athomesoigné 

Holiday Soirée ideas to entice fellowship! 

December is a busy month for the at home hostess! With so many friends and acquaintances from different pockets of life, it is easy to include every one who has made your year special. Hosting a holiday Soirée may seem more daunting than festive, however. Will your Michelin starred Chef friend get along with your Yoga buddy? Will your Yoga buddy have anything to talk about with your Flute instructor? 

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to collaborate with Nicole Osibodu, the clever genius of Pink Pineapple Event Designs.

 For Affinité magazine, Nicole and I came up with ice breaker Soirée ideas to make any party merrier and bright, while bringing all your friends together. 

Enjoy! 

Marshmallows 

           It has been an eventful week. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and New York is finally decorated and ready for Christmas!

Lately, I have been sorting through my iCloud. While doing so, I have been discovering photos, recipes and all sorts of treasures from my past. One gem I found was a marshmallow recipe from when I was a Pastry Sous Chef at a restaurant called Quay in Chicago. The dessert was an elegant version of a s’more (I know, so trite, but this was almost six years ago).

I have no idea what has become of the restaurant, but long live my marshmallow recipe.  May you enjoy now too!

17 oz Sugar
1.5 oz Glucose
Water as needed
4 oz Egg Whites

13 gelatin sheets (these can be found at specialty stores and Whole Foods).

Cornstarch as needed mixed with Powdered sugar as needed.

Cook sugar, glucose and water to 275 degrees. What professionals call firm ball. 

Bloom the gelatin sheets by placing them into cold water.

Slowly incorporate into whipping egg whites. The mixture will be warm. Once the mixture cools, add bloomed gelatin. It is important that no access water is added to the mixture.

Line a pan with parchment paper and generously dust with cornstarch and powdered sugar mixture.

Whip egg white mixture until cool and stiff peak, or till the mixture is thick and holding independently.

Pour into lined and dusted pan. Let it sit and dry out. Do not refrigerate!

#athomesoigné

White Truffles!

While strolling the city, I’ve noticed the colors of the leaves are changing . Autumn has arrived! One of the world’s most rare ingredients has arrived too; the white truffle. These are not the black truffles of Burgundy, France seen on menus all over the world.  The Alba white truffle is one of the most expensive foods in the world. It grows wild and it can not be cultivated. The Alba white truffle is a true piece of gastronomic luxury.

Starting in early to mid  September through December truffle hunters along with their dogs prowl the Piedmont in search for what some call the diamond of the culinary world.

Once brought to surface, the truffles are sold to purveyors around the world. These precious fungi contain an aroma that is very earthy and can compare to mildew, or sweat, but trust me, it is strangely becoming and very intoxicating. You can smell a truffle from a few feet away but once shaven, the aroma fully exposed floats in the air. The truffle purveyors save their largest truffles for the best Chefs and restaurants and they eventually end up on your plate; garnishing buttered pasta, risotto, pizza, steaks, burgers, and even eggs. img_3126

I wish you a happy truffle season. Bon appetite!