An opinionated blog beginning with advice on how to create the ultimate French sauces
Why you should braise your chicken to form its sauce instead of making a sauce for it separately
When you top a chicken with a sauce that is made separately from the chicken, you just can't capture the depth of flavors that you would by braising it, and letting the sauce form as the added liquid(s) reduce around the breast. (All the chicken recipes in my book use the braising technique).
After you start making à la minute sauces (AKA pan sauces) for your chicken you will probably never return to making sauces separately.
Braising your way to Chicken Coq au Vin
1. On a medium heat, cook bacon pieces until they just begin to crisp, and remove them but leave the oil in the pan.
2. Add olive oil and increase the temperature to a high flame until the bacon fat and olive oil are almost smoking, and then add the chicken breasts and boneless legs (skin-side down and away from you).
3. Sear the breasts and legs until they are golden brown on both sides and then remove them.
4. In the same pan reduce the heat to medium and sear the mushroom caps and onions on both sides until the onions caramelize and the mushroom caps begin to soften.
Searing the mushroom caps and onions
5. Strain out the oil completely and place the chicken and bacon back in the pan.
6. Add the burgundy and demi glace, and place in a 350-degree oven until the chicken is done.
7. Remove your chicken and mushrooms and make your sauce. Do this by placing the pan on a high flame and add your baby carrots and thyme sprigs.
8. Let the sauce reduce (and simultaneously cook the carrots and capture the flavor of the thyme sprigs) until it is creamy in consistency. The sauce will be quite dark in color.
Reducing your sauce.
Chicken Coq au Vin
Braising- Method of sautéing a protein and then cooking it in its own juices along with added liquid(s).
Don't sweeten your yams: make them spicy for a more appealing flavor
As an American, I have grown fond of yams being served with holiday meals here in the U.S. However, I am not so crazy about our common practice of topping the yams with marshmallows. I figure that yams are already naturally sweet, so why top them with candy?
I suggest that instead of marshmallows, yams should be topped with a peppercorn crusted rib-eye steak. The peppercorns provide a little fruity spice that pleasantly contrasts the sweetness of the yams. Besides the benefit of nice flavors, you can serve your entrée right on the same plate as your starch which leaves more room at the table. (Of course you can serve the yams alone as a side if you wish!).
Note: Please make sure to get your yams started first before you cook your steaks because the yams will take longer in the oven.
Below I am posting the steps involved in making both the yams and steaks.
1) Toss the peeled and thickly sliced yams with the salt and olive oil.
2) Place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and cook them for forty minutes at 400 degrees.
3) Flip the yams over and rotate them so that the yams on the edges are moved toward the middle and vice versa, boost the temperature to 475 degrees, and place them back in the oven.
4) Cook them until they have a dark brown crust on top.
5) Leave them on the sheet pan and top them with the diced green onions and chopped parsley.
Yams taken from the oven and topped with onions and herbs.
Steak au Poivre
1) Chop the peppercorns and spread them evenly on one side of each steak.
2) Carefully place the rib-eyes (pepper-side down) and the mushroom caps in a heated pan with olive oil.
3) Sear the meat and mushroom caps on both sides and finish them in the oven. (Place the caps on top of the steaks so the caps don't burn).
4) Remove the meat and mushroom caps from the oven and set them aside while you finish the sauce with red wine and demi glace.
Rib eyes and mushrooms going in the oven.
Plating the Yams and Steaks
1) Stack the yam slices in the center of the plate.
2) Lean the steak on top of the yams.
3) Place the mushroom caps on top of the steak and ladle the sauce on top and around of everything.
Side of Yams.
Steak au Poivre over Yams.
Potatoes are ubiquitous in French cooking and are often served as a side dish or with an entrée.
An important thing to keep in mind when serving potatoes with an entrée, is that they often take longer to cook than the protein (chicken, fish, or meat) that they are served with. If this is the case, please make sure that you start the potatoes first!
Below I am posting the steps involved in making the sliced potatoes featured in my upcoming book.
Doubloon potatoes are russet potatoes that are peeled, sliced, baked, and then stacked up in a fashion that-I think-resembles a stack of gold coins looted by pirates from a Spanish galleon.
Step by step:
1. Toss the sliced potatoes in olive oil, salt, and paprika.
2. Spread them out on the parchment-papered sheet pan and place them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. They should be golden brown in color.
3. Give each piece a light shake when you take them off the pan to remove any excess oil.
4. Dust them with paprika and parsley as a garnish.
Doubloon Potatoes as a side.
Doubloon Potatoes served with an entrée.
Intro: Bananas Flambé is a simple-to-make dessert composed of caramelized sugar and bananas topped with vanilla ice-cream.
Preparing Bananas Flambé
1) Sauté butter and sugar until blended.
2) Add bananas and heat the mixture until the bananas are just mixed in.
3) Pull the pan off the stove, add the brandy, and carefully put the pan back on the flame.
Brandy is added
4) Cook until the sauce becomes thick, and the bananas soften. The sauce should be caramel colored and creamy in consistency.
5) Top with vanilla ice-cream and serve immediately.
As a young sauté cook working in a fancy kitchen, my biggest worry was that when I was making each entrée in the pan, and creating its accompanying sauce in the same pan, that my sauce would break and I would have to start everything over again. (As well as infuriate the chef!).
For example, I would beautifully sauté a filet of cod and then sweat bullets as I prepared its accompanying lemon-butter sauce in the same pan because lemon and butter are notoriously difficult to mix together without breakage.
Over time I have learned how to make flavorful and smooth sauces that don't easily break (without using unwanted ingredients like flour or cornstarch). For the above example, I have learned that adding a little fumet (reduced fish stock) to the lemon butter sauce at the end of the cooking process prevents breakage and also adds flavor.
Using Fumet to thicken your sauce
1) Fumet (center) is added to lemon butter sauce to both thicken and flavor it
2) After reducing sauce, flame is shut off and parsley is added for color
Fumet- thickened Lemon Butter Sauce is ladled on the fish filet
In my upcoming book I will walk you through all the steps involved in making delicious sauces in the same pan that you cooked your chicken, fish, or meat. Nothing beats the flavor and quality of a freshly made sauce!
Although most of the recipes in my upcoming book (Nov. 18th) call for the use of proteins (or animal related-products like butter and cream), there are still plenty of opportunities for the cook to feed vegans. ( I discuss this in more detail in the Menu Planning chapter).
Vegetable stock (above)is used for Carrot Soup (below) instead of chicken stock
Mixed fresh berries can be offered as dessert for your vegan guests.
Intro: I love the lamb shank because of the almost magical transformation that occurs as the shank, a cut of meat full of tough connective tissue, is slowly braised to tender perfection.
As the shank-along with herbs and vegetables-braises in the oven it creates a thin and flavorful sauce called Au Jus (literally "with juice" in French). The au jus provides a wonderful source of extra flavor for your guests to dip the lamb into.
The parmesan thickened polenta that the shrank sits on adds creaminess to the dish as well as adding little bit of a northern Italian accent to the shanks.
Steps to making Lamb Shanks
1) Sear your shanks. In almost smoking oil, sear the lamb shanks, two at a time, on all sides until golden brown and then remove and set them aside
2) Sauté your vegetables, strain out the oil, add your red wine and replace your shanks.
Searing your shanks, two at a time
3) Add chicken stock and the herbs and let the shanks braise in the oven for about two hours.
4) When the shank are done remove them and strain out the garlic, onions, carrots, and herbs. (You can tell when the shanks are done because the meat will loosen from the bone and be tender to the touch. Also the bone itself will start to become ivory-colored).
Shank pulls away from the bone: it is done
Braised Lamb Shank
Terms related to lamb shanks:
Au Jus- Braising liquid or juice.Braising- Method of sautéing a protein and then cooking it in its own juices along with added liquid(s).
Intro: Cheese Soufflé is a savory cake that uses egg whites to expand cheese into a velvety cloud. As with most soufflés, please make sure to serve it quickly form the oven before it loses volume.
Steps to making Cheese Soufflé
1) Make your roux and whisk in the milk.
2) Stir in the cheese. (I really like Emmental for this dish).
Making your roux
3) Fold egg yolks and cheese mixture into stiffly-beaten egg whites.
4) Pour into lightly greased ramekins and bake until the soufflés puff up and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cheese Soufflé garnished with paprika and herbs
Term related to Cheese Soufflé
Roux- A mixture of equal parts fat to flour that are cooked together.
Intro: The Frittatas is a classic Italian dish that incorporates eggs and cream (or milk) and other ingredients together to make what (I think) resembles an open-faced omelette. This dish is often served warm or at room temperature.
Being the Francophile that I am, I made two changes to the frittata to give it both an Italian and French theme.
First, eliminate the extra liquids from the eggs. I believe adding cream or milk robs the eggs of their rich flavor and color and keeps the eggs from rising to their potential height and puffiness.
Second, serve the dish right from the oven. Instead of serving at room temperature, serve the dish piping hot, so the eggs do not have a chance to deflate as the air leaves them.
The result: An enhanced frittata with more egg flavor, a golden color, and a soufflé-like texture.
Making the Frittata
1) Fry the filling. Fry the mushroom and/or vegetables together until they are cooked through.
2) Add your eggs and cook everything. On a low flame, add the eggs and slowly heat the egg mixture, and from time to time tilt the cooked part of the frittata away from the sides of the pan to ensure that the raw eggs slide to the sides and cook evenly. Use your spatula to keep the cooked eggs in place. (See picture below).
Tilting the eggs so that the frittata cooks evenly.
3) Finish in the oven. When the bottom of the omelette is cooked, flip it, top it with cheese, and finish cooking it in a 400 degree oven.
4) Serve your frittata. After the eggs puff up nicely, remove form the oven and serve immediately.
Cheese is added on top
Intro: Chicken Coq au Vin means "rooster in wine" so it gives the cook a great opportunity to show off their favorite wine when they make their main course. (I personally love French burgundy).
For this dish I serve one half chicken per guest: each guest gets an airline chicken breast with the bone in and a de-boned chicken leg. Because of the large chicken portions, I do not add a starch, but the chicken is accompanied by bacon, mushrooms, Cipollini onions and carrots.
Preparing Chicken Coq au Vin
1) On ah medium heat, cook the bacon until it just begins to crisp, and remove the strips but leave the oil in the pan.
2) Add the chicken breasts and boneless legs (skin-side down and away from you) and sear them. Remove them and sear your Cipollini onions and mushroom caps.
3) Drain the oil, and add return the chicken and bacon back to the pan.
4) Add the burgundy and demi glace and place the pan in the oven until the chicken is done.
Removing from the oven
5) When the chicken is done, remove the ingredients from each pan and make your sauce. Do this by placing the pan on a high flame and add your baby carrots and thyme sprigs.
6) Let the sauce reduce (and simultaneously cook the carrots and capture the flavor of the thyme sprigs) until it is creamy in consistency. The sauce will be quite dark in color.
Reducing your sauce
Chicken Coq au Vin