Friday, February 25, 2011

Celtic Women

Just a little heads up to everyone:

Went to see Celtic Women last night at the fox theatre featuring world-renowned bagpiper Anthony Byrne. First of all, entire show was fantastic. The singing was great....good mix of irish classics, contemporary, fast, and slow.

The real star of the show was "Amazing Grace" played on the pipes by Mr. Byrne while walking up the aisles to the stage. Amazing. Definitely the highlight of the show....well either that, or the Gaelic love song about seaweed.

Anyway, if you get a chance to go, DO IT

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just a quick little note for all those desiring some good karma....

Check out the site www.freekibble.com

They have a daily trivia question, but if you go on and answer it (right or not), they donate food to shelter cats and dogs. There is advertising all over the page, which I guess is how they pay for the food, but you don't have to sign up for anything, or even look at it.

Not a bad way to start your day by helping some needy furry friends.....I could use all the good Karma I can get!!!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Since everyone seems to be coming down with the plague

Ok, so not only has my entire office taken it upon themselves to test the limits of my immune system by showing up to work in various states of sickness, ranging from the "I'm going to annoyingly sneeze every four minutes stage" to the "is there a priest in the building" stage, but I spoke to my sister last night. She usually has a beautiful voice, soft, melodic, with a hint of the irish brogue. However, last night, she sounded like a bullfrog with a hangover, so I am going to help all of you out. First off, DONT go to work like this.....it just makes everyone sick.

Second, make this brew. It will relieve swelling, congestion, sore throat, and general achy feelings.

1/2 lemon
3 tblsp honey
1 tsp SEA salt
1 english or irish breakfast teabag
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp fresh chopped chiles, like jalapeno, or if fresh is unavailable, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1)Place all ingredients in LARGE tea/coffee mug.
2)Cover with 10-12 oz boiling water.
3)Steep for 8-10 minutes
4)Drink while hot.

DISCLAIMER********* I am not claiming this is the most delicious thing you will ever drink. The honey does help sort of mask some of the more potent other flavors however, and it WILL make you feel better, I promise.

So, make this "tea", call in sick, rent the entire 2 season of Twin Peaks (plus Twin Peaks "Fire walk with me" if you like), and call me in the morning.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

MOTHER SAUCES - Part un

Ok, there are some very basic recipes in cooking that one must learn. Key among these are the "5 mother sauces", as defined by larousse (french bible modern cookery....modern being loosely defined). From these 5 sauces, 10 million sauces can be made or "derived", hence all the other sauces being called "derivative sauces". Learning these basic five recipes/techniques, and then letting your imagination run with how to flavor them will mean that you can create a great sauce for any dish. While there is some debate over the 5th sauce (some include vinaigrette, instead of tomato), I will stick with the more traditional 5 (and besides, I've already given you the best vinaigrette recipe ever, see blog named such) and they are as follows:

1)BECHAMEL - a white, milk and roux based sauce....think alfredo, or the best mac n' cheese you've ever made
2)VELOUTE - a light stock based sauce that is thickened with roux, and becomes "sauce supreme when either heavy cream, or less commonly, craime fraiche is added
3)ESPAGNOLE - a rich sauce made with dark stock, usually beef or chicken, combined with a dark roux, herbs, and for some (though not me) tomato paste. I only add the tomato paste when making a derivative sauce if needed, otherwise, I like to keep it a little cleaner tasting
4)HOLLANDAISE - probably the most famous of the 5. A warm emulsion of egg yolks, fat, acid, and flavorings, known most famously for eggs benedict, or its' most famous derivative, bearnaise....mmmmmmmmmmmm.
5)TOMAT - think of a frenchified version of italian tomato sauce with a roux added. Nowadays, in culinary school, they teach one to use canned tomatoes, no roux, and tomato paste, but to me that isn't the sauce that escoffier made, it's more akin to a bastardized marinara, so for these purposes, I actually prefer the old-school one.

Today we'll start with one of the easiest and also one of my favorites

SAUCE TOMAT:

3 oz salt pork, this is an unsmoked pork product, which is best, but you could sub bacon if you must
1/8 c carrots, peeled and diced small
1/4 c onion, diced small
2 oz ap flour
2 oz whole butter, unsalted
5 lbs fresh tomatoes, quartered
1 qt white chicken or veal stock (sub veggie if you must)
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

1)Place salt pork in stock pot. Add 1/8 cup water, cover, put on medium heat and cook for 5-7 minutes. This will allow the fat to render without burning
2)Add butter, carrots and onions and saute for 5 minutes
3)Sprinkle on the flour, and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes (basically making a blond roux with the fat, butter, and veggies
4)Add tomatoes and garlic, and saute until tomatoes start to release their liquid
5)Add stock, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour, stirring semi-frequently (every ten minutes or so)
6)Use a stick blender to puree your sauce, then pass through a chinois or fine strainer. If you want a VERY smooth sauce, sub a stand up blender for the stick one
7)Season to taste with sugar, salt, and pepper


Derivative Sauces
Nantua -
Saute some onions and celery till soft, add some crawfish, and diced tomatoes, then deglaze with 3 oz cognac. Whisk this into your finished sauce tomat. Great for Grilled Fish such as swordfish or marlin

Portuguese - Saute onions till lightly caramelized, add chopped tomatoes, and sliced garlic, then add some reduced beef stock (demi glace). Whisk this into your finished sauce tomat and finish with chopped parsley. Also, great on grilled fish, but works very nicely on grilled pork as well.

Provencal - Saute onions and mushrooms (usually just buttons) in butter till soft, add white wine and garlic. Whisk this into your finished sauce tomat and finish with chopped parsley. Great on fish, chicken, pasta, or veggies.

Like I said, there are literally thousands of derivatives for each sauce. Play around with it, odds are it'll come out well....actually, that might be optimistic, but this sauce is a great base for adding flavors. You can even add reduced heavy cream, and it becomes a great sauce for seafood pastas.

"In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport."

"The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon app├ętit."

Both of these somewhat contradictory quotes about French cooking are attributable to Julia Child, an unfailing champion of classical french cookery.


Coming next.......Bechamel. We'll do Hollandaise a little later, after we've had some success with the mother sauces, as the first time making that finicky sauce might be enough to discourage the faint of heart.

Good luck my future sauciers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!