Friday, January 29, 2010

Y'all come for Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Brie Crostini

The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, N.C., known as the University of North Carolina's living room, has much to recommend it. A place on the National Register of Historic Places, a AAA Four Diamond Award and membership in the Historic Hotels of America, for starters.

For cold winter nights and a ladle of comfort in the Carolina Crossroads Restaurant, Executive Chef Jimmy Reale has the perfect recipe.

Bet you'll think so too.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Brie Crostini
Ingredients for Soup:

1 Tbs. Vegetable Oil
8 lbs. Butternut Squash, peeled & medium chop (be sure to clean all seeds from cavity)
½ cup White Onion, medium chop
½ cup Carrots, peeled and medium chop
½ cup Celery, medium chop
1 gal. Chicken Stock
2 cups Apple Cider
½ cup Half & Half
1 tsp. Nutmeg, ground
2 tsp. Thyme, chopped
1 Tbs. Cider Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tsp. Rosemary-chopped

Ingredients for Crostini:
Small Baguette- cut into ¼ inch slices
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Small round of Brie Cheese

Method for Soup:
1. In a large pot, over medium heat, place oil.
2. Add Onions, Carrots and Celery and sauté for about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add Butternut Squash and season with salt and pepper, then sauté for additional 4-5 minutes.
4. Add Chicken Stock, Apple Cider, Nutmeg, Thyme, Rosemary and cook until Squash is soft.
5. Add Half & Half and cook for additional 10 minutes on low heat.
6. Take off heat and puree with hand blender or tabletop blender
7. Add Cider Vinegar and season with salt and pepper

Method for Crostini:
1. Place sliced Baguette on small sheet pan.
2. Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
3. Slice Brie into slices thick enough to cover Baguette.
4. Bake in 325 degree oven for 5 minutes or until bread is crunchy and Brie is soft.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Black cod a la Georgian Room

Chef de cuisine Daniel Zeal has had a five-starred career, going from the Culinary Institute of America to the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and now at the luxe Sea Island Resort's Georgian Room. 

We're thrilled he agreed to share this recipe. Black cod is a wonderful, deep water fish that rarely seems to find its way into haute cuisine preparations. Thanks to Chef Zeal for changing that. 

The next time I can lay my hands on some good black cod, I'll tackle this recipe. In the meantime, I may have to take a field trip up to the Georgian Room. Although no one part of the recipe seems that difficult, looking at the many steps and various elements involved reminds me why we save some dishes for evenings out.

Black Cod, “Creamed” Corn, Maitake, Bok Choy, Maple-Ginger Barbecue
Serves: 6
Black Cod:
6  4 oz. portions of Black Cod

¼ cup White Miso Paste
¼ cup Vermont or Canadian Maple Syrup
2 Scallions,
1 TBS Ginger, Chopped
1 tsp Garlic, Chopped

2 TBS Olive Oil

  1. Whisk together all of the marinade ingredients and marinate at least 8 hours.
  2. Remove the fish from the marinade, wipe off the excess marinade and pat dry with a paper towel before sautéing.  Preheat oven to 300° F.
  3. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, sear the fish in the olive oil on one side for 2-3 minutes.  Adjust the heat to a lower temp if necessary as to not over caramelize the sugars of the marinade.  Turn the fish over and glaze it with the maple-ginger barbecue sauce and place the fish into the oven at 300° F for approximately 5 minutes.  This fish becomes very delicate as it comes closer to being perfectly cooked so, at this point, you must be very careful when handling. 
  4. Remove the fish from the pan and place it atop the creamed corn. 

Creamed Corn:
8 ears of Sweet Corn, Shucked, with the tips cut off
1 cup Ham Stock or Chicken Stock
2 TBS Butter, Cold and Cubed
1 TBS Chives, finely sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Split the corn in half.  Place one half of cob into a fruit juicer and juice, reserve.  (*If you do not have a juicer you can place it into the blender on high for 30 seconds and strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve).
  2. Combine the other half of the corn with the ham stock in a small sauce-pot or sauté pan over medium heat.  Cook until the corn becomes slightly more cooked than al dente.  Then whisk in the corn juice.
  3. Continue stirring until the corn juice thickens the liquid.  If it is too thick then add a touch of stock. (*Each type of corn has a different amount of starch and will change each time you make this).  Cook until the raw corn juice flavor is gone and season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  Remove from the heat and keep warm.
  4. To finish stir in the cold butter and chives, and place a generous amount in the center of the plate.

Maitake Mushrooms (*also known as Hen of the Woods):
1 cup Fresh Maitake Mushroom Petals (you may substitute oyster mushrooms if you wish)
1 TBS Olive Oil
1 Clove of Garlic, Smashed
2 Sprigs Thyme
¼ cup Ham Stock or Chicken Stock
1 TBS Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. In a medium Saute Pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and garlic to the pan.  Gently toast the garlic until aromatic, then add the mushrooms immediately.
  2. Saute for 1 minute, add a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper, then add the fresh thyme sprigs and sauté for 1 more minute.
  3. Deglaze with the Ham Stock and reduce until almost dry.  Remove from the heat and stir in the butter to glaze the mushrooms in the reduced stock and butter.  Season to taste and add to the plate.

Bok Choy:
18 small bok choy leaves (it is likely you will not be able to find baby bok choy; you may use  
     larger bok choy leaves, 1-2 ,finely sliced on a slight bias)
1 tsp olive oil
¼ cup Ham Stock
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Heat your sauté pan over medium-high heat until pan is very hot; add the oil and then add the Bok Choy, season with salt and pepper and toss in the pan for 30 seconds.  Then add the ham stock and cook until the liquid dries around the bok choy. 
  2. Adjust, if necessary, the salt and pepper and place either  3 leaves each for the fish, or a small amount of the sliced larger bok choy around the fish on the plate.

Maple-Ginger Barbecue:
½ cup Smoked Slab Bacon, cut into cubes ½” thick
6 ea Scallions, Sliced
½ cup Ginger, Peeled and Roughly Chopped
8 ea Garlic Cloves, Roughly Chopped
1 tsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Peppercorns
2 cups Sake
2 cups Veal Stock (*Beef Stock will work, but you will need to make a cornstarch slurry to
thicken this to a glaze consistency after reduction)
1 cup Vermont or Canadian Maple Syrup
¼ cup Rice Wine Vinegar

  1. In a medium sauce-pot, over medium heat, add the oil, smoked bacon, and peppercorns.  Saute for 4-5 minutes until the bacon begins to brown slightly. 
  2. Once the peppercorns and bacon are aromatic, add the garlic, ginger, and scallion.  Saute 1 minute until very aromatic and slighty tender. 
  3. Deglaze the pot with the Sake and reduce by half.
  4. Add the Veal Stock and Maple Syrup. Reduce by half to two thirds until it begins to coat the back of a spoon.  Add the rice vinegar and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  5. Strain the sauce and reduce again if you desire a thicker sauce. This sauce is fairly strong and you will not need a large amount for this dish, just enough to glaze the fish and a drizzle for the plate.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Grapefruit PIE?

My thoughts exactly when Katy Martin sent in the recipe for it. She lives in the heart of Central Florida's citrus belt so when she raved about the Grapefruit Pie from Florida Cafe at Lang Sun Country Groves, I figured she ought to know and whipped one up.

To be fair, I warned her I wasn't a great fan of grapefruit. Katy told me she didn't like any citrus but "this pie is amazing."

It is good and guessing what's in it will stump a lot of people. The gelatin/cornstarch mixture gets a bit gummy after a day or two and don't substitute plain grapefruit for red; it doesn't work as well.

Here it is for you to try.

Florida Cafe at Lang Sun Country Groves' Famous Grapefruit Pie

Yield: 8 servings
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Refrigerate: 2 to 3 hours

1 (6-ounce) graham-cracker crust or 1 recipe Graham-Cracker Crust
2 large or 3 medium red grapefruit, sectioned
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ cups water
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry-flavored gelatin
1 (8 ounce) container frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed (or better, if your diet allows, real whipped cream)

Arrange grapefruit sections in graham-cracker crust. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add water and cook over medium heat until thick and clear. Add gelatin and stir to dissolve. Let cool slightly.
Pour gelatin over grapefruit sections in crust. Refrigerate until firm.

If you can't go there in person - the Lang's grove is in Lake Alfred, FL (near Haines City) - go to their website,, click on Florida Cafe and you'll find lots of other citrus-centered recipes that sound divine.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Notes on Chiles en Nogada

I'm going to make a confession: Not every recipe here has been tested in my kitchen. Between travel and writing and normally cooking for one, I haven't had time. Usually, I've already cooked something similar so I go over the ingredients and instructions then ask the chefs to clarify anything that seems off or confusing.

So, whenever I go back and actually try a recipe unlike anything I've ever done before, I'll add notes if it seems helpful.

Such is the case for Bugumbilia Chiles en Nogada [see 10/23/09 posting], one of the best dishes I had in Mexico. Having grown up in Florida and Georgia and having lived in New England, the Northwest and Turkey, poblano chiles had never entered my kitchen. Having friends for lunch changed that, so here are my notes on Mercedes Arteaga Tovar's family recipe.

1. Chiles. Start way ahead of time. If you don't have a gas range, the recipe's method of boiling the chiles in hot oil works well to get the skins off. Don't waste time peeling off of the tops; you'll cut those away in removing the seed pods. As a newcomer to chiles I started three days ahead, marinated them overnight then stored the skinned chiles in a covered dish in the 'fridge. Worked fine.

2. The filling. I only needed chiles for four but I made the recipe for eight a day ahead. The filling was even better left over and I froze what I didn't use for later. It makes a lot - given the size of poblanos in the stores here I probably could have fed 10 or even 12. However, it smells and tastes so good you're likely to nibble away at least one portion during cooking. I hadn't noticed in transcribing the recipe that although sugar isn't listed in the ingredients for the filling, the directions mention putting the sugar in last and don't say how much. I sprinkled in a tablespoon which added a nice, caramelized flavor. I never did find "sweet peppercorns," but it's hard to tell what if any difference that made. Tasted pretty darned good to me.

3. Assembly. At Bugumbilia in San Miguel de Allende the chiles come out in one neat piece, the meat filling tidily stuffed through a single slit. My chiles needed plastic surgery. I assembled the stuffed poblanos the night before and refrigerated them in a covered oven-proof dish. An hour before lunch I put them in a 200-degree oven and they came out evenly warmed.

4. The sauce. I cut the amounts in half and still had enough for eight servings. But then my guests - women - all said, "Don't give me very much sauce." The pomegranate seeds I had frozen around Christmas when the fruit was plentiful and that worked fine.

Taken in stages like this, the dish was as easy and convenient as it was delicious. I now have poblano chiles in the vegetable crisper. Can't wait to experiment with them.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chocolate - a fab finale

Before I rave about the decadence, richness and satisfaction of good chocolate, let me thank the medical researchers who have discovered that it is good for us.

I'm not sure they would endorse this chocolate creation of Brian Feirstein, executive chef at Eddie V's, as healthy exactly, but I would bet caviar to hot dogs there wouldn't be a smidgen of it left on their plates.

Thanks to Lindsey Bridges and Chef Brian for sharing this yummy finale from SC Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Chocolate Godiva Cake
Yield - 4 cakes

1/2 lb. dark Godiva chocolate
5 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 oz. sugar
3 oz. butter
1 tsp. Godiva liqueur

Melt chocolate and butter. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and sugar, then add vanilla.
Slowly add eggs to chocolate.
Divide batter into 4 lightly buttered and floured 8-oz. ramekins and bake at 375 degrees approximately 18 minutes.
Turn out each ramekin into a soup bowl and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Then add an hour to tomorrow's workout routine.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cool comfort food

Not all comfort food is full of carbs. Some, like Chef Michael Somer's signature gravlax from the Rock Hall Bed & Breakfast in Connecticut's Litchfield Hills is almost good for you.

Michael, a Wall Streeter-turned-chef, and his wife, Stella, designer of knitwear, interiors and fine jewelry, run the Addison Mizner-designed B & B.

Michael's Signature Rock Hall Gravlax

Half a side of salmon - skin on fillet, about 2 1/2 lbs, from the large end
 [Chef says organic farm raised yields neater slices with the best texture]
1 oz cognac
1/2 cup salt
5/8 cup  sugar
1 TBS cracked black pepper
1 1/2 TBS ground coriander seeds
Large bunch of dill

Place the salmon, skin side down, on a large sheet of plastic wrap and check for small bones.
Drizzle cognac over the flesh. 
Combine salt, sugar, cracked black pepper and seeds in a small bowl and spread mixture evenly over fillet.
Chop a large bunch of dill - stems and leaves -  and coat the entire fillet with the chopped dill.
Wrap the plastic wrap tightly around the salmon, weigh down with a brick and refrigerate 48 hours.
Unwrap, rinse with cold water and slice on the diagonal; discard skin.
Serve with soft goat cheese, creme fraiche or cream cheese along with lemon wedges, mustard sauce or a touch of good vinegar.

If there's any left, consider ...

Rock Hall's Signature Gravlax Sandwich

Ciabatta style roll, sliced lengthwise
4 - 5 slices Michael's gravlax
2 TBS tomato chutney or thinly sliced cucumber and thinly sliced radish
2 oz creamy goat cheese (Chef loves Monterey Chevre's thyme and olive oil) or cream cheese
1/2 tsp minced fresh chives
1/2 tsp freshly snipped dill
1 tbsp EVOO olive oil
salt and pepper

Assemble and season to taste.