Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Using an Easter Leftover to Cater to Friends and Family

So Easter has come and gone. The chocolate bunnies have been consumed from the ears to the feet and the kids are no longer running circles around the house. The beautifully colored eggs were long ago cracked and turned into deviled eggs. Speaking of which... Why are DEVIL-ed eggs a mainstay on most Easter menus? Ironic... but I digress. So what to do with the one thing left from the Easter celebration? And no I'm not talking about the black jelly beans. You can send those to me by the way. My Father and I are the only people on Earth that actually enjoy eating them. But, I further digress. No I'm referring to the ubiquitous, spiral-sliced ham half wrapped in it's red foil jacket, mocking you from the back corner of the refrigerator. The kids have long since tired of ham and cheese on white and breakfast of ham & eggs for dinner just won't cut it. So what to do with the rest of that $50-60 ham?

Have you ever noticed after the first of the year, that favorite diner of yours down on the corner next to the pharmacy runs a special of Turkey Croquettes? Well... here are a couple of recipes you can pull out of your hat, a.k.a. freezer, for a future dinner party or family get together. And before you say it, no, we buy to order. We're quite different from your favorite diner and have no "Blue Plate Special"! Now, back to the recipes.

We have one for your friends and one for your family and they are both quite easy. The first is Jambon, Champignon, et Fromage en Croute. Sound fancy? Allow me to translate: Ham, Mushroom, and Cheese in Puff Pastry. Simple but quite good , impressive for your friends, and stores quite nicely in the freezer for up to a month.

JCF en Croute
Serves 10

1 box (2 sheets) Puff Pastry
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
2 cups mushrooms, diced
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup Brandy
1 cup Easter ham, diced small
1 cup your favorite cheese, shredded (I suggest Gruyere, Fontina, or Goat)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced (you can also add your favorite fresh herbs)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1 egg yolk + 1 Tbsp water

Sprinkle pastry sheets with flour and roll with rolling pin until 1 1/2 the original size. Set aside.

Melt butter in saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallot. Saute for one minute. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt. Cook until mushrooms release their liquid. Add brandy and cook until liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature in a mixing bowl.

Add ham, cheese, and fresh herbs to bowl and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mix egg yolk and water well. Brush the edges of the pastry with the eggwash and place half of the mixture down the middle of the pastry lengthwise. Fold each side of the pastry over the filling and press to seal. Place on a sheet pan seam side down. Cut 3 vents across the top and brush with the eggwash. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry. At this point you may bake at 425° until golden brown, let cool to room temperature, slice, and serve or place sheet pan in the freezer until thoroughly frozen. Double wrap in plastic wrap then foil and keep in freezer for up to a month. Remove from freezer and bake as before.

I'll post my second recipe shortly so check back. Oh! Almost forgot! Happy Cooking and Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Recipes that Cater to Brunch Fans!

These next two recipes are from the Tucson Iron Chef competition we took part in. Lynda came up with these and they are quite tasty! They would make very nice brunch items for entertaining friends or, as we used them, for an aperitif and dessert. Here you go!

Guava Sangria

Serves 4

1 750 ml Bottle Riesling white wine

1 cup Goya Guava Nectar

1 green apple, medium, peeled and diced

1 orange, medium, peeled, juiced

1 Tbsp sugar

¼ cup Bourbon or Brandy

8 oz club soda

Mix apple and orange juice with pulp with sugar and set aside. In another bowl combine guava nectar, wine, and brandy. Let stand 30 minutes then combine fruit with the guava mixture and let stand for an additional 15 minutes. Just before serving, add crushed ice to chilled glasses. Fill glasses 2/3 full with the nectar/wine base and add 1/3 club soda.

French Toast with Guava Syrup

Serves 4

8 slices cinnamon raisin bread

2 eggs

1 cup half & half

1 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp Goya Guava Concentrate

1 Tbsp sugar

4 Tbsp butter

¼ cup heavy cream

8 oz Goya Guava Jelly

¼ cup Riesling

Mix egg, half & half, cinnamon, guava concentrate, and sugar. Dredge cinnamon raisin toast in egg mixture. Set bread aside to soak up the liquid. Heat butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add soaked bread to pan. Cook until brown on both sides. Wipe out pan and add jelly and wine. Heat until jelly melts and stir to break up any lumps. Serve warm syrup with French toast. Whip heavy cream and place a dollop on top.

These are some yummy items! Try them on your special someone for a brunch in bed or invite over a group and eat 'til your hearts content! Bon Appetit!

Catering to Caribbean Palates with a Southern Flair

Once a year a bunch of chefs/entrepreneurs get together in a different city and compare notes, teach each other new concepts both for cooking and running businesses, and of course eating food and drinking wine and other spirits. Food people are notorious for enjoying life and getting 300+ together at once can be a daunting task. The food has to be good and it's generally a good idea not to hold the gathering in a "dry" county, if you catch my drift. The first one I attended was held in Pigeon Forge, TN 10 years ago. Pigeon Forge didn't have the restaurants they have now and yes it's a dry county. Wow! Talk about 300 grousing, grumpy foodies. The planners were from California and booked the property sight unseen. Needless to say, the next year these details were a major part of the planning.

Fast forward to July of 2008. Location: Tucson, Arizona. And yes, I did say Tucson... in July! It was a beautiful resort, The Marriott Starpass. If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it. They have a glass wall on the back of the main lobby that literally opens onto a veranda and an incredible view of the city and the surrounding dessert. That was the first time I had seen a cactus that wasn't in a window box! The planning committee did a great job. I, in my infinite wisdom, agreed to teach a class, took the ServSafe Sanitation Certification Test, AND took part in the Iron Chef Competition. Let's just say it was busy. The class I taught was on smoking foods which I'll talk more about soon. I LOVE smoked foods, but I digress. The ServSafe Sanitation Certification Test was every bit as fun as it sounds... which is to say not at all. Luckily I also have a degree in Chemistry and took extensive classes in Microbiology which gives me a leg up on the competition when it comes to remembering the names of all the bad stuff to watch out for in kitchens. I didn't really have a blast taking the exam, so I know you can't be that thrilled to read about it. I'll move along to the fun stuff.

The Iron Chef competition was really a lot of fun, but when you get six chefs together we tend to get a bit competitive. To make it more interesting, the other team was from Canada and they wanted to stick it to Team USA. Just like on TV, we had an official sponsor for the event. We were trying to figure out what the ingredient would be... cactus? chilis? coyote??? None of the above, but it was something we hadn't really worked with before -- guava sponsored by Goya. We had guava nectar, guava paste, guava juice, fresh guava. You name it, we had it.

I'm just hitting a couple of the highlighted menu items -- the ones our team made! I started things off with Guava Barbecued Shrimp with Sweet Potato Hash. Here's the recipe (it looks like a lot, but it's really not that bad):

Guava BBQ’d Shrimp with Sweet Potato Hash

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 med onion – julienne

½ tsp sugar

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

½ cup Bourbon

½ cup Goya Guava Nectar +(½ cup Guava concentrate)

1 cup ketchup

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp cumin

Salt & pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar. Cook over medium heat until onion is camrelized, stirring often. Do not brown. Deglaze with bourbon and add Guava. Reduce until thick. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer briefly and remove from heat.

3 strips bacon - diced

1 Tbsp butter

½ cup red onion – fine dice

½ cup green bell pepper – fine dice

¼ cup red bell pepper – fine dice

1 cup sweet potato – brunoise

1 tsp jalapeno pepper – fine dice

1 clove garlic – minced

¼ cup Riesling

1 cup Goya Guava Nectar (or ½ cup Guava Concentrate)

1 Tbsp Guava paste (optional)

2 Tbsp Italian parsley – chopped

Salt & pepper, to taste

Render bacon in a saute pan. Add butter, onion and bell pepper to pan. Sweat until onion is translucent and bell pepper is soft. Turn heat to high. Add sweet potato and saute 1-2 minutes. Add jalapeno and garlic. Saute briefly. Deglaze with Riesling and add guava nectar (or concentrate). Add guave paste for extra punch if desired. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt & pepper.

1 Tbsp butter (or olive oil)

Salt & pepper, to taste

6 ea U-15 or U-8 shrimp (peeled & deveined)

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ tsp cumin

Juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed

Melt butter in pan over medium-high heat. Season shrimp with salt & pepper. Add shrimp and sear first on one side then the other. Add garlic and cumin. Finish with lemon juice.


Zest of 1 lemon mixed with 1 Tbsp chopped parsley

To plate:

Place a mound of the Sweet Potato Hash in the middle of a medium plate. Arrange the shrimp around the edges of the hash. Drizzle shrimp liberally with BBQ sauce and garnish with the zest-parsley mixture.

**Note: For a truly decadent dish, wrap shrimp in oven blanched bacon and char-grill, brushing with the BBQ sauce on both sides.

Give it a shot! The judges really liked it and got into a pretty heated argument over which team should win. They ultimately gave it to our friends from the Great White North. We did a full menu including drinks and they did 2 entrees. The challenge was to do 2 entrees so I think we lost a point for not following directions! Our selections were more in keeping with the Iron Chef concept, but "Oh Well!" It was fun anyway.

The dessert and drink recipes will follow. Give them a shot as well -- Caribbean beach and hammock not required, but highly recommended!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Case Against Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. They are also a good source of Thiamin, Riboflavin, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and Manganese. That being said...

They are the one food that I just can't get past. I'd rather eat a box of roasted grasshoppers, a bowl of monkey brains, or a plate of deep-fried pig testicles than take one bite of Brussels sprouts! I remember many a standoff with my parents over taking 3 bites of Brussels sprouts. I was a pretty stubborn kid. Unfortunately, I got it from my parents and they were bigger and paid the bills so they always won. I was the only kid in the family that enjoyed eating liver and onions. I tried to fake not liking it because my brother and sister didn't like it, but it was no use. My favorite vegetable growing up was beets. How many kids like beets (or adults for that matter)? Put a little cider vinegar on spinach and I'd eat it in a heartbeat. So why was it that my parents had to kick up their heals over these little, bitter pills to swallow? And I say swallow because I actually tried to swallow one once... whole. That didn't have a pretty ending!

Nowadays, I'm grown up and can choose what I want to eat and I choose not to eat Brussels sprouts. My wife says they are just little cabbages and I like cabbage so I should like Brussels sprouts. To me they are extremely bitter and I truly do like cabbage so why shouldn't I just eat cabbage? It's good for me too! The family gets together for birthday dinners. For my 32nd birthday we got together at our house for dinner. Lynda was planning a lamb stew for dinner. I like lamb so I thought that was a good idea. What I didn't know was the recipe called for Brussels sprouts. She took my dislike for Brussels sprouts as a challenge! So she put one in my bowl and I did eat it, but I will remember that birthday for the rest of my life! Admittedly in a pot cooked with lamb (which I love), vegetables, and wine it wasn't that bad -- BUT she hasn't done it since and I haven't eaten one since. I don't think I would even like them deep-fried and here in the South everything is better when fried!

No, I think I'll stick with my grasshoppers, brains, and mountain oysters. You can keep the Brussels sprouts, thank you very much!