Monday, November 30, 2009

Peanut Brittle

This is the time of the year where one of my favorite snacks starts to appear on coffee tables across the country. Peanut Brittle is extremely easy to prepare and makes a great gift for those multiple secret Santa gift exchanges. I made this recipe tonight for a component of our "amuse bouche" (a small bite to excite the palate, courtesy of the chef). The peanut brittle is broken into smaller pieces and topped with a pepper crusted goat cheese truffle. Here is the recipe for peanut brittle in case you want to take a shot at it.
2 cups Granulated Sugar
1 cup Light Corn Syrup
1/2 cup Water
2 cups Peanuts (crushed)
2 Tbl Unsalted Butter
2 tsp Baking Soda
Procedure: Mix the sugar, syrup, and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Add the peanuts and cook the syrup on high heat until 300 degrees (use a candy thermometer). Remove the pot from the heat and add the butter/baking soda. Mix until smooth and all the butter is melted. Pour the mixture onto a greased sheet pan or a silpat and spread thin with a spatula. Allow to cool before breaking into pieces.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bacon Pizzette

I found a use today for the bacon powder and everyone was blown away with the flavors of the meal. I made some pizzettes and decided to spread bacon jam, truffle ricotta cheese, and caramelized onions on the dough. I baked the pizzettes and garnished with some frisee lettuce, watercress, Parmesan, and bacon powder. The different bacon components really made these small bites exciting and full of "wow" factor. As you bit into the crunchy crust, the bacon jam gave a sweet accent, and then salty finish. The greens were refreshing with the creaminess of truffle infused cheese. The bacon powder was a great touch because it dissolved on your tongue releasing tons of bacon flavor in each bite. I think we have found a replacement for grated Parmesan on pizza and it's bacon powder.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brine Your Turkey Please!!!!!

There are always so many people that ask me each year how to properly roast a whole turkey for their Thanksgiving feast and my immediate response is usually "do you brine the bird"? A brine is extremely important because it has multiple benefits before the cooking process even begins. A brine is simply a salt water solution that allows the salt water to flow through cell walls of the protein and also carry in flavor by osmosis. Once the process is complete, the extra moisture and seasonings stay inside the bird creating a more flavorful and juicy turkey, which we all want for Thanksgiving. A brine is simple to do and will build your confidence when cooking for the family during the holidays. Here is a basic recipe for an average sized turkey that I've used over the last couple years to impress family members and make them wonder what secret I have as a chef when cooking turkey. Please feel free to be adventurous and add some other flavor components like chipotle, molasses, orange juice, ginger, cloves, etc.... Remember, this is a basic brine that will work as a base or simply by itself.

1# Kosher Salt

1# Brown Sugar

1 1/2 Gallons Water

1 Tbl Black Peppercorns

5# Ice

12# Turkey

Procedure: Place the salt, sugar, peppercorns, and water in a large pot; bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before chilling completely. Add the chilled liquid to a large bucket, cooler, or pot (large enough to submerge your turkey with the liquid), add the ice. Place the turkey (head first) into the liquid and completely submerge (use a few plates to keep the bird under the brine). Allow the bird to soak overnight or at least 8 hours in a cold place like the refrigerator. Remove the bird from the brine and rinse it off completely. Dry thoroughly before trussing the bird with butchers twine (it is extremely important to truss the bird for even cooking and presentation purposes) Check the following for a good video on trussing a turkey: Season with a dry rub or infused butter underneath the skin and inside the cavity. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and roast for 3-4 hours, I usually check for 155 degrees with a calibrated thermometer in the thickest part of the bird (between the leg and thigh). Remove from oven and allow the bird to rest for at least 30 minutes, this process will redistribute the juices in the bird and also continue cooking to 165 degrees. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and good luck, feel free to contact me if you have any questions

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bacon Powder

Now here is another form of bacon that I'm working on incorporating somehow into a dish, ideas are always welcome. I had some bacon fat leftover from brunch today and decided to mix it with some Tapioca Maltodextrin (about 60% fat and 40% tapioca maltodextrin) and create a "Bacon Powder". Tapioca Maltodextrin is a modified food starch that stabilizes foods with high fat content. When mixed with any oils it will create a powder form and dissolve when in contact of moisture, such as the tongue. I haven't decided where to use this in the restaurant, but I like the idea of having it around for specialty functions. The best part of playing with this technique was teaching the staff and watching their reaction to bacon powder dissolving on their tongues while turning back into a liquid again.

Trout Skin

One of the biggest challenges of cooking "skin on" fish is getting that crispy texture evenly across the fillet. I put a new dish on the menu that consists of Ruby Red Trout with Bacon Jam and Tamarind Honey. The dish is great, but I've noticed that the cooks struggle with the crispy skin technique during busy periods. I figured that it was a problem that needed to be resolved and started working on a solution. I remembered a technique that involved removing duck skin and baking it until crispy to be served as a garnish with duck breast. First, I carefully removed the skin from the trout and placed each side by side between 2 silpats. I put 5 sheet pans on top of the silpats and 1 underneath to keep the skin flat while it baked 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. After cooling the results were above and beyond my expectations. The skin was translucent and really crispy with a salty taste, it reminded me of all the fish chips I enjoyed growing up in San Francisco by Chinatown. After the fish was cooked, I glazed it with the tamarind honey and bacon jam. Right before the dish goes out to the guest, it is garnished with the crispy trout skin. I think that it's important to continue questioning techniques and searching for better alternatives. My wife told me last night that I'm the type of person that always thinks there is an answer for everything and I just have to find it. I never realized how extremely true she was. I think the reasoning is I enjoy learning and continuing my education while pushing others around me to do the same. Good luck on searching for your next alternative and cherish the journey...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Components of a "Panzanella"

Earlier this year, a good friend and chef named Bob Zappatelli made a phenomenal Panzanella Salad with me at a VIP client function in Texas. This version is a tribute to his passing and will hopefully be chosen as the first course for an upcoming charity event. The panzanella is literally a bread salad that is tossed with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, anchovies, garlic, capers, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. I've literally taken each component and stacked them in a tower with showing off the colors of the salad. The layers are as follows starting from the bottom: tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, olive tapenade, toasted breadcrumbs. I've drizzled some white trufflle oil, basil oil, and aged balsamic around the plate. When you break into the tower, the toasted breadcrumbs mix into the other components creating the flavors of a traditional panzanella. I'm very proud of this salad and wish that he was here to taste it....

Rest In Peace Bob Zappatelli