Friday, June 14, 2013

7 FOCUS FACTORS THAT TURN ORDINARY MEATLOAF INTO GOURMET MEATLOAF

Simple food which is made extraordinarily well can be considered, by minimal definition, gourmet. In detail, however, there are seven key factors that play into what makes something gourmet in every sense of the word. They are:

1. Taste [in most cases, the pleasantries of taste are relative to the taster] 
2. Smell [so closely related to taste, because without it there is very muted taste or no taste at all] 
3. Color and Appearance [what food looks like just prior to assembly and presentation] 
4. Presentation and Artistic Value [how food is assembled on the serving surface in relation to the level in which the beholder perceives it to be attractive] 
5. The Element of Surprise [something hidden; a pleasant surprise, whether it's an element hidden within presentation, taste, or both] 
6. Balance [how the varying tastes, smells, colors and appearances, etc. either compliment or contrast each other within a particular course and throughout the entire meal] 
7. Attention to Detail [the minute care taken by the creator of a meal that usually goes unnoticed yet makes all the difference in the quality of the meal]
By combining all of these factors into your meal, even the individual components of your meal, you will find that making ordinary foods into gourmet foods may be easier than you might think.

Of course, not everyone has the artistic eye for the way highly-trained chefs present their food on the plate, but there's also the factor that perhaps the food you serve is going be to served family-style. Suffice it to say that you won't have to worry about fancy presentation right now. We'll focus on that in a different blog post. Okay? But if you're confident in individual plate presentation, go for it!

Here's how Chef Brad makes gourmet Spinach, Mushroom, and Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf...

For the Meatloaf:
Combine two pounds of 93% lean ground beef, 2 eggs, 1 finely (I cannot stress that your cuts must be small, again finely...) diced bell pepper (or 1 half of a green bell pepper and 1 half of red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, finely diced), 1 small (here it is once more) finely diced yellow onion, 1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic, about 1/2 to 2/3 cup evaporated milk, about 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, about 2 tsp garlic powder and 2 tsp onion powder, 1 Tbsp kosher salt. [and NO bread crumbs... don't even let them come near the meat.]

Put it all in a large mixing bowl. Now, get your clean hands in there, and mix it all together. If done right, it's going to be a very wet mixture, but keep on kneading it --- kind of like bread dough. The same principle applies as the mixture will come together in about a minute or two of combining the ingredients with your hands. Once it's a nice tight mixture, put plastic wrap directly on the surface of the meat mixture, and let it chill in the fridge for a bit.

For the Cheese Stuffing:
Combine one 8 oz. block of softened (room temp) cream cheese, about 6 oz. of shredded mozzarella, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, about two large handfuls of roughly chopped spinach, about 6 thinly sliced mushrooms, about 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 2 tsp kosher salt.

Monday, June 10, 2013

NO-CHURN ICE CREAM

I recently made a pastry cream filling that was spread between two layers of cake. I made the normal yield for the recipe. So after using what I needed for the cake, I had some leftover. Not sure, just yet, what I wanted to use it for, I put it in the freezer. And a day later, I took it out just to check to make sure that no ice crystals formed on the surface... What I found was a smooth, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth ice cream! By a purist definition, it's really a hybrid between ice milk and custard. It has enough egg yolk in it for custard, but not enough milk fat. As ice milk, it has just the right amount of milk fat, but too much egg. But who cares? It's freaking delicious!

This is the recipe I used for the Pasty Cream:

In a large bowl, beat together 2 whole eggs and 5 egg yolks. [Save your egg whites and use them for breakfast the next day.] Add 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup corn starch, a Tbsp any flavor extract that you desire. [I happened to use lemon extract.]

In a large sauce pan, dissolve 1/2 cup of sugar in 1 quart of whole milk. Heat the milk until just below the boiling point. [Tiny bubbles will form around the edge of the pan. Heat no longer than this!] At this point, slowly pour a stream of hot milk into the bowl with the egg mixture while simultaneously whisking the eggs super fast so that they don't curdle. Only pour about a third to half of the milk into the eggs. Once the eggs are tempered, pour them back into the pan. Whisk the entire mixture on medium-high heat non-stop and the mixture will begin to thicken as it heats (about 2 to 3 minutes). Be sure to whisk all around the bottom of the pan so that the pastry cream doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan. Once it thickens to a pudding-like consistency, add 2 tsp. of butter and incorporate into the pastry cream. [At this point, I also added a bit of no-taste red food die, but only because I needed the pastry cream to be pink. This is not a necessary step.]

Using a fine meshed sieve or strainer as you pour, transfer the pastry cream into a clean stainless steel bowl that is sitting in an ice bath. With a rubber spatula, and while rotating the bowl with the other hand, scrape down the sides of the bowl and very lightly and carefully mix the pastry cream so that all of it runs along the sides of the cold bowl and quickly cools.

Remove the bowl of pastry cream from the ice bath and cover with plastic wrap so that the wrap is directly on top of the surface of the pastry cream to ensure that no air is touching the surface of the pastry cream.

[Now here's the easy part.] Place the pastry cream in your freezer for 12 - 14 hours and just like that... scoop and enjoy!

I added blackberries and basil for that gourmet twist :)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

SHRIMP & GRITS

Simply the epitome of comfort food...

I was first introduced to Shrimp and Grits while in North Carolina. At first bite, I was instantly hooked, and it wasn't long afterwards until I developed my own version of this Southern classic. Since then, it's become a highly requested fan favorite in my home.

For the Shrimp:
On medium heat, sweat about a Tbsp of minced garlic in rendered bacon fat and butter for 1 to 2 minutes. Increase heat and saute 1 lb. of raw, peeled and deveined shrimp and about 6 to 8 quartered mushrooms until shrimp just becomes pink. Add a splash of white wine. Reduce heat and simmer for a few of minutes, stirring occasionally. Let the liquid reduce by half. Toss in halved grape tomatoes and chopped scallions at the very end. Season with sea salt, to taste, and give everything a final toss.

For the Grits:
Bring 1 quart of seafood stock to a light boil.  Add 1 cup of quick grits, reduce heat to medium and wisk for a couple of minutes until grits thicken and become creamy in texture. Add a little bit of milk to slightly thin out mixture. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in shredded sharp cheddar, a little bit at a time until melted and then continue adding more, up to 8 oz. Continue stirring until grits become desired consistency. Season and incorporate sea salt, black pepper, powdered garlic and cayenne pepper, to taste. Add crispy fresh bacon bits, if desired.

- Treasure Valley Chef

Friday, June 7, 2013

FRIED CHICKEN STRIPS, SCALLION-CORN OAT PANCAKES, MAPLE GRAVY

Inspired by chicken and waffles, adding a gourmet twist.

For the pancake:
Make any pancake recipe you desire (mine use an oat flour, but use whatever flour you wish), except cut 3/4 cups of the liquid (usually milk) away from the recipe. Add one 15.25 oz can of whole kernel corn with juices, 1/2 cup chopped green onions (scallions), and season with kosher salt, garlic powder, and a couple dashes of smoked paprika. If needed, thin the batter out with milk, adding back in about 2 Tbsp. Batter should be chunky, spread slightly, but not be runny. Put batter down 1/4 cup at a time on a preheated 375-degree F flat griddle. Cook as you would a regular pancake.

For the chicken:
Make any style of boneless/skinless fried chicken you want. I recommend using 4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut in half, lengthwise. To coat the chicken, I go with a dry-wet-dry application (coat with seasoned flour [shake off any excess], then coat in a wet batter [eggs, flour, milk, seasonings], and finish by going back into the seasoned flour). Cook chicken thoroughly in a deep frier. Once chicken is done, let it rest on a paper towel for 5 minutes before cutting (This eliminates any excess oil, allows it to finish cooking properly, and redistributes the juices so that every bite is moist.)

For the gravy:
Super easy. Combine 1 can of cream of chicken (or from scratch [roux + milk + chicken stock]) + about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of milk + about 1/2 cup pure maple syrup + pinch of kosher salt. Stir with a whisk over medium heat until it just begins to bubble. Remove from heat.

- Treasure Valley Chef

Sunday, June 2, 2013

NAAN RECIPE AND WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFTOVERS (if there's any left)

Chef Brad's Naan

INGREDIENTS
.25 oz package of quick acting yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp whole milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp kosher salt
3 cups AP flour + 1 1/2 cups whole wheat unbleached flour
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
About 1 cup melted butter

DIRECTIONS
1. Combine yeast and warm water in a small bowl. Wait until yeast becomes foamy.
2. Meanwhile, sift together all-purpose and unbleached wheat flour in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl mix egg, milk, salt, and sugar.
4. Add all of the wet ingredients to the flour and work it in until it becomes doughy and all of the flour is incorporated.
5. Knead the dough on a well-floured surface for a minute or two. Form into a round dome shape.
6. Coat a large stainless steel bowl with half of the olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and coat the top of the dough with olive oil.
7. Cover the top of the bowl with a cloth towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.
8. Near the end of the rising time, pre-heat a flat griddle to its highest setting (usually 400-degrees F)
9. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into handful-sized balls on a well-floured surface roll or press-out the dough to about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick.
10. Once made to the desired shape and thickness, use fingertips to tap the surface of the dough all over to create nooks and crannies.
11. Place the naan on a hot griddle. Cook until golden brown (maybe a little darker) and flip to other side for about 2 minutes.
12. Brush surface with melted butter. Serve hot!

LEFTOVER NAAN (if there's any left): Cut into wedges. Deep-fry until slightly crispy. Toss in cinnamon, granulated sugar, and honey. Serve hot!

- Treasure Valley Chef