Monday, October 31, 2011

Blueberry Balsamic Sauce over Chicken

Since I have been enrolled in cooking classes, I have become obsessed with sauces. I have always felt a lot of food was "dry" and wanted to add some taste to it. Sauces do just that; they turn the boring and the mundane into lush & beautiful. Where a gravy or a hollandaise sauce, they can add much to a dish.

Rachel had ordered a large box of frozen blueberries. They have taken up our freezer. Wanting to make a dish incorporating blueberries, I began to do some research. Balsamic vinegar makes a great dish even better. It also makes a fabulous reduction when boiled.

I did some research, checked out recipes, and incorporated knowledge from my class. It was a delicious sauce which I served over chicken and rice. Note: when making a balsamic reduction, please give others in your home fair warning so they can leave the premises. It is like throwing a can of tear gas in your home. On the plus side, if you need your sinuses cleared, this will work very effectively.

Blueberry Balsamic Sauce

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon tarragon (dried)
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour

1. In a pot, bring blueberries and chicken stock to a boil.

2. While stock in reducing, saute shallot, garlic and peppercorns until shallot is translucent.

3. Stir in balsamic vinegar and tarragon to shallot mixture and boil until vinegar is reduced to 1/2 cup; about 10 minutes.

4. In a separate saucepan, cook butter and flour until it forms a light blond roux.

5. Blend the vinegar reduction and the blueberry / stock mixture in a blender. Be careful, it's hot.

6. Strain the sauce and return to the pan.

7. Add the roux to the sauce; stir and simmer until sauce reaches a syrupy texture.

8 Serve over chicken and rice. Enjoy.

I hope that you enjoy this dish. I sure did.

Happy Eating.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Southern Food/Road Trip

Currently I am traveling through the states of Tennesse, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. Why you might ask? For a couple reasons. First, I love to travel and want to go to all 50 states. I have always wanted to go to this part of the country. Second, I want to eat some delicious southern food; especially BBQ. Memphis should have some great BBQ down on Beale Street. I am already eyeing the Blues City Cafe; Great BBQ and Live Music.

While traveling, I am compiling many great recipes and review. Please stay tuned for a review of it all. In the meantime, please enjoy a reprint of a previous post about food and Travel.

Happy Eating.





Sprague's Lobster Shack in Wiscasset Maine



I am a Dreamer and, as such, love to plan vacations to places that will fill my soul and leave me fully relaxed and ready to work tirelessly until the next vacation. Has it happened yet? Definitely. Vacations to the Deep South, Montreal, Oahu's North Shore, New Hampshire, Maine, Boston, and Cape Ann have all been extremely relaxing and soul filling. One getaway which left me feeling like a I needed another vacation upon arriving home was a week in Cape Cod. Something about that place sickens me. Maybe it was the endless highway of chain motels, bowling alleys, arcades, bad restaurants, and tour buses filled with old people at every stop. I must insert here that not all of Cape Cod is bad; Highway 6A (the original higway) is a beautiful drive with antique shops, stores, and old cemetaries (my wife's favorite).

What is it about some vacations that are wonderful and others which leave us unfulfilled? For some it's the people you travel with. My Brother said that when he and his wife travel, they get up earlier than normal and see everything on the list. They wonder why we won't travel with them:-). For others, where you stay is important. For me, as you can probably guess, it's how many great restaurants I patronize. Rachel and I plan very little as to what we are going to do. Somedays we do nothing but go out to breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a little relaxing in between. I would prefer to stay in a $49/night motel room and spend the majority of the travel budget on food. This leaves me fulfilled and gives me something to write about. It works great for us. 

Traveling, much like food, has turned into a passion for me. I love finding places to travel; where to stay and where to eat. My wife leaves the travel planning to me much like I leave home projects to her. She regularly answers "sounds great" to my question "should we go here?" Figuring out where to go can be summed up with this sentence: I don't know what I am looking for but will know it when I find it. It's very exciting for me.

Two weeks ago we planned a trip to Florida. Or I should say that we bought the plane tickets. My cousin invited us down for a week in January and I got very excited about.....................you guessed it, where to eat when we get there. After booking the tickets I started researching restaurants in the area. It was 3 days later that I remembered to let him know that we were coming. That was a little awkward on the phone as I was  hoping that he still had the week available and hadn't invited someone else to stay. No worries, he's looking forward to seeing us. I went there this past January but this time, Rachel, Ruby, and I will be going. My Cousin and I ate at Miller's Ale House in Ft. Myers, Harpoon Harry's at Fisherman's Village in Punta Gorda, Rum Bay Restaurant on Cape Haze - you need to take a water taxi to Cape Haze. Ruby will love this. 

Well I better get back to work so I can save up for retirement? home repairs? new car? Not a chance; I will be saving up for restaurant money on our trip to Florida. 

Happy Eating (and Traveling).  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Braising


A very full plate with all the Braising class creations.


Chef Todd Leonard taught a Braising class at Orson Gygi last Thursday. Previously, I discussed here about taking a Soup class from him. It was wonderful.

The concepts of braising include: combination cooking-dry heat (searing, carmelizing) at beginning, then add moisture; braising is usually for tougher meats which takes a lot of low & slow cooking to break them down; the secret is in the liquid-very flavorful liquid not only makes the meat delicious, it can make a wonderful finishing sauce; when braising, you cover the meat 3/4; you can braise any flavor you want.

The class menu included the following:

Louisiana Chicken
Braised Beef Tri-Tips
Rice Pilaf
Parsnip Puree
Braised Carrots and Parsnips
Chef Todd's Chicken Fricassee
Smoked Tomato Parmesan Risotto
Ratatouille
Jambalaya
Swiss Steak
Braised Ribs
Garlic Herbed Mashed Potatoes
Braised Botchoy and Brussel Sprouts

The class is much like the show "Chopped." It can feel like controlled chaos. I wanted to learn all the dishes but we were broken into groups. My team of three was in charge of Braised Beef Tri-Tips, Parsnip Puree and Braised Carrots and Parsnips. After the 8:00pm presentation of our dishes, we tried every dish. Very few times in my life have I consumed that much food.




Braised Parsnips and Carrots






Ratatouille

Here is the Beef Tri-Tip recipe:

Braised Beef Tri-Tips
Chef Todd Leonard CEC

2 each Tri-Tips top sirloin, cleaned, trimmed and cut into 12 portions. (You can use chuck; make sure it has great marbling).
1 1/2 cups a.p. flour, add pit seasoning to it and dredge the meat
2 tablespoons bbq pit seasoning
1 cup red wine, burgandy
1/2 gallon brown veal stock, enriched
1 large yellow onion, small diced
1 large carrot, small diced
2 ribs celery, small diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
1 sprig rosemary or thyme, broken into small pieces
1 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

After cleaning and trimming the tri-tips, and other parts of the recipe are prepped as specified, pre heat a brazier or Rondou (stove crock pot).

Dredge the tri-tips lightly in the seasoned flour and sear with a little fat in the pre-heated rondou.

After the Tips have been browned on all sides and you are feeling good, remove the tips from the pan and add the mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion) to the pan and sweat down and carmelize.

Add the garlic, shallots and any herbs you wish and stir for a second or 30.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine and reduce by half, add the brown stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the tips back into the sauce, season and taste.

Place in a 325 degree overn for about 3 hours; covered.

Stir a couple of times during the cooking process so you can see the love forming.

After the tips are tender and you feel proud of them, remove them from the over and the sauce; keep them in a warm place.

Strain the sauce as needed, season as needed and then reduce to thicken as needed.

Pour the finished sauce back over the tips or serve on the side.


Braised Beef Tri-Tips. I didn't take a picture while cooking. This is Chef Todd tasting our dish.


Chef Todd is wonderful. He says that recipes are guidelines. I love this idea and discussed it here in a previous blog post. He said that the best recipes come from your brain and your tongue. "Bakers follow recipes" he said.

Happy Eating


Monday, October 24, 2011

Garden Espresso Cafe

Last Friday a wonderful Title Rep took me to lunch. She recommended Garden Espresso Cafe in Murray. I have never heard of the place and wondered if it was a coffee shop serving a pre-packed sandwich. When I arrived at the Title office and got a tour of their new facilities, everyone was talking about the restaurant we were going to for lunch. I began to have some optimism.

As we arrived, it had a distinct French Cafe feel. Everyone was relaxed and in no hurry to leave. Another thing I noticed, was that along with myself, there were 3 other males in the place: another Rep. from the title company, a home warranty Rep. who came with us and the Cafe's Owner. They didn't throw us out however.

It was a soup & sandwich cafe with a smaller menu. The soup of the day was roasted garlic and tomato. Having attended a soup class two weeks ago, I instantly knew what I was going to order. I decided to have a sandwich with the soup; club sandwich on sourdough with a spicy mayo.

The food was delicious. Roasted garlic and tomato soup is a wonderful creation. The minced garlic was flavorful but not overpowering. There must have been a lot of butter (which I am in no way against) that really fnished off the soup with a creamy, rich flavor. The atmosphere was very welcoming and relaxing. I could see why people were in no hurry to leave.

Tucked just off Vine Street, east of 900 E. you may never know this was here unless you were looking for it. If you are in the area, don't just drive on by. Stop, get a sandwich, cup of soup and bring a book. Stay a while. Next time I will be sure to do the same.

Garden Espresso Cafe
917 Vine Street
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84121
(801) 266-0997


Happy Eating.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Indian Cooking; among other delicious things

Eggplant and Tomato Dish

My wife Rachel works with a fabulous home chef/foodie. She has been cooking for many years and first learned in Italy. Having heard so much about her and food she has brought in to work, I was excited to finally meet her at a 4th of July BBQ. She brought a pork tenderloin marinated in garlic, olive oil, sage and butter. As I was the self-appointed Grillmaster for the evening, she asked me to grill the tenderloins. I was a little nervous. What if I disappointed her? This was a lot to live up to.

That evening we enjoyed burgers, brats, wings, her fabulous pork tenderloin and a wonderful fireworks show. She must have seem my enthusiasm for cooking as the next week she told Rachel that we should all get together soon for a balsamic flank steak on the grill. I immediately e-mailed her and set up a time. Last month we went to her home and enjoyed the balsamic flank, grilled tomatoes, and her son's "hot hot habanero wings." As soon as we arrived she said, "Come on Jeff, we are headed to the grill."

That evening must have also gone well since in her reply to my "thank you" e-mail, she said that we should get together soon for indian cooking. I immediately offered our home and set up a time. This past Saturday we got together and cooked. The dishes included:

Eggplant and Tomato
Chicken Coriander
Spicy Basmati
Cucumber Raita
Lentils


Chicken Coriander

It was delicious and I am sure the neighbors can still smell the garlic and spice aroma flowing out of our home.

In my "thank you" e-mail to her yesterday she said that we need to get together again soon to cook "tarragon chicken fricassee that is great with braised vegetables." I have already sent her our open dates for the next 2 months.

This has been a fabulous experience and I look forward to learning much more from her. She is wonderful.

Happy Eating.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mulligatawny & Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipes

In one of last week's posts, I shared about the "Hearty Fall Soups" Class at Orson Gygi which I attended. Fabulous class with delicious food. I have had requests for a couple of the recipes; the Mulligatawny Soup and the Cream of Mushroom. Both are wonderful; especially this time of year. These recipes came from restaurants and yield 12 & 20 servings respectively. Please adjust accordingly.



Mulligatawny Soup:
Chef Ken Morlino, CEC

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
36 ounces mirepoix (mixture of 50% onions, 25% carrots, 25% celery)
6 tablespoons flour
6 teaspoons curry powder
3 quarts chicken stock
1 1/2 cups chicken meat, cooked, diced
3/4 cups green apple, diced
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
12 fluid ounces milk, warm
salt and pepper, to taste




In a saucepot, heat the butter over medium heat, brown the chicken.

Remove chicken, add the mirepoix and saute for 5 minutes.

Add the flour and curry powder and cook to form a blond roux.

Add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the chicken, apple and mushrooms and cook for 15 more minutes.

Finish with the warm milk and season with salt and white pepper.

Garnish with a puff pastry and carmelized apples.

This recipe yields 3 Quarts/12 Servings









Cream of Mushroom Soup:
Chef Todd Leonard CEC

1/4 pound whole butter                                                            
1 each medium yellow onions, peeled and small diced
1 1/2 cups celery, cleaned and small diced
1/2 tablespoon dry thyme
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon shallots, minced
2 1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
1/4 gallon vegetable stock
1/8 cup cooking sherry, cream sherry
2 ounces butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 quarts heavy cream
1 1/4 quarts whole milk
1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon tabasco sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot add the mushrooms, thyme and vegetable stock to create and essance of mushrooms and simmer for about 1/2 hour

In a large stock pot sweat the onions, celery, garlic, and shallots together with the butter.

Add the flour to make a roux and stir well to combine.

Deglaze with the sherry and reduce a bit to soak up.

Add the mushroom essance and stir in well to create a veloute, simmer for about 10 minutes.

Temper the cream and milk with some of the hot soup and then add the cream and milk in to the soup and stir well.

Bring to a simmer and season with remaining ingredients and simmer as needed to develop the flavors.

Yields 1 1/4 gallons/20 servings.


Of course since it was taught by a Chef there was a lot of tasting, adding more of this, less of that. As Chef Todd shared with the class, "A recipe is a guide, but the best adjustments are made with your head and mouth."

I look forward to many more wonderful classes at Orson Gygi; including one this week. Enjoy these recipes.

Happy Eating.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Paris

Have you ever been to Paris? Beautiful place isn't it? The lights, scenery, neighborhood, food, people. You noticed that "neighborhood" in my previous sentence is singular? That is because I am not referring to the city of Paris in France. I am referring to the restaurant in Salt Lake's 15th & 15th Neighborhood. The first time Rachel and I went here was for our 5th anniversary back in 2008. I have been twice since and am always looking for the next chance to go.

As fate would have it, I got to go to The Paris Bistro last Saturday evening. My Aunt & Uncle from Scottsdale were in town for the ASU vs. Utah football game. I had originally told Rachel that I was going to relax at home and watch some football. She was going to run errands with her sister and then meet the rest of her family for dinner in Draper. Just before she left the house my uncle called to remind me of the thumping his Sun Devils put on the Utes. Since they are also Foodies I asked if they had plans for dinner. They said that they would love to meet and he mentioned The Paris. I called and got reservations for 6:30pm. Apparently some of Rachel's sisters asked why I was at The Paris while she was at Rumbi's.

At 6:30pm I met my Aunt & Uncle. We didn't leave until almost 9:00pm. This is what I love about going to dinner with them; it is always a relaxing, delicious meal where we are in no hurry to get somewhere. The relaxed ambiance, multiple courses, great conversation. I could do this every night; except that I have a 21 month old daughter.

For an appetizer I got the Caprese Salad. It was loaded with Utah heirloom tomatoes (only in season for another week), mozzarella, basil, olive oil and balsamic. I could eat this every day.





My entree was Pan Seared Duck Breast in Blueberry Sauce with Potatoes Au Gratin and Watercress. The duck was breaded with a perfect crunch on the outside and seared to medium-rare perfection on the inside. The blueberry sauce was the ideal mixture of bitter & sweet. The creamy potatoes were a great compliment.




My Aunt & Uncle equally enjoyed their meal. Here is my Uncle's Tuna Salad. Not the tuna salad you buy at the supermarket deli.



For dessert I had the Warm Molten Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Gelato and Candied Orange. The chocolate was rich and the candied orange had a sharpness to it. Overall it was very good.

We were very full and I began to think about the coming bill. Soda: $2.50, Caprese Salad: $12.95, Duck: $32.95, Chocolate Cake: $8.95 + Taxes + Tip = Heartburn. My wonderful Aunt (she is wonderful for more than the reason I am about to share) grabbed the check and said that since ASU won, she was in a good mood and the meal was on her. I said, "Okay, I will let you have it then."

The Paris Bistro may be a place for birthdays, anniversaries, or when great relatives come into town. But please put it on your list. Stay all evening and whatever you order will be delicious.

Happy Eating.

The Paris on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cooking Classes


 In a previous post I mentioned that I have taken cooking classes at Orson Gygi. They are fabulous, hands-on, classes for a great price. This past Thursday I took a "Hearty Fall Soups" class at Orson Gygi taught by Chef Todd Leonard. He is a great Chef and has many years experience cooking at The Garden, The Roof and the Nauvoo Cafe. Currently he is a Chef Instructor at the UVU Culinary School. The man is so energetic that you can't help getting excited about his next class.

There were 6 soups on the menu. I thought that we were going to have the opportunity to cook all of them. Instead he said that we were to pair up at a station, get assigned a soup, and present at 8:00pm. I felt like we were on an episode of Chopped.

The soups:

Pumpkin Soup
Texas Chili and Beans
California Bouillabaisse
Mulligatawny Soup
Cream of Mushroom
Roasted Tomato Bisque

I was working with a fabulous home chef and we were assigned the Mulligatawny Soup which is a curry flavored soup and literally means "pepper water." What an intense scene it was as we were chopping, boiling, and tasting our soup until it was perfect. Time went by fast and at 8:00pm we had to have our dish ready for presentation. I have never cooked this soup before and must say that it was delicious. The curry gives it a bite and the apples add a sweetness to it. It recevied great reviews.

The Finished Product

All 6 teams presented at the appropriate time. We even added a puff pastry, carmelized apples and some cream on top for garnish. I thought that a winner would be crowned. It didn't happen; turned out to be socialism after all. However, we all did get to eat 6 delicious soups. It was hard to go to sleep that night with an overly full stomach.

If you like cooking, don't hesitate to refine your skills at a cooking class. And if you are are going to take a cooking class, check out Orson Gygi. You will not be disappointed. I never am.



The Presentation

Happy Eating.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Peach Salsa

This is some of the most delicious salsa I have ever eaten.



1 large fresh Utah tomato
1 large peach
1 medium red onion
1 pepper (green chili for mild, jalapeno for hot)
3 cloves garlic
1/2-1 bunch cilantro
1 tsp honey
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Dice tomatoes, peach, red onion and pepper. Crush garlic. Chop cilantro. Add honey and apple cider vinegar. Stir well. Chill for one hour.

There is something wonderful about fresh food. The sharp, fresh bite from this salsa is wonderful. It has enough kick that you don't even need to add salt. It was great with tortilla chips but would also go well over grilled chicken or seafood. We got this recipe and fixn's from our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Borski Farms... but they are their own blog post for another day.

Happy Eating.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Burger Bar - Roy, Utah

For most of my life I have lived in the Salt Lake area. This had led to countless trip north on Interstate 15 for work, play, or vacation. In all that time I cannot recall ever getting off at the Roy exit in Davis County. Maybe I went to the Hill Air Force Base Museum as a kid, or showed a home in that area, but I don't remember.

Last week we were heading to Bear Lake and had previously decided to make a stop in Roy, Utah. Why you might ask? For the best reason possible: Food.

The Burger Bar has been a Roy institution since 1956. I am sure that it was on a small country road back then. With it's location at a busy intersection and close proximity to I-15, it has exploded in popularity. Places like this create a cult-like following. Add to this the fact that Burger Bar was featured on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. It has the 50's style outdoor walk-up counter. Can we say Americana? There are some concrete benches out front where you can sit down to eat. The other option is to take it to-go.



I ordered a Big Cheese Ben burger with fries and a large Dr. Pepper (that has the great crunchy ice). Rachel got the same except for onion rings instead of fries. It was all delicious. Most places that have been on Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives are. First, the burgers are HUGE. You can tell that they use good quality meat. The buns must be home-made as they are soft (it reminds you of Hires' buns) and the burgers are nice and juicy with a big dollop of home-made fry sauce on them. The fries are twice-fried. They have a crunch and are overall delicious. The onion rings are also amazing; crunchy with true batter, not the bread crumbs, this makes a thin breading, not too greasy.



There was a third of my burger and half the fries remaining and I was stuffed. We got there at 10:45am (it opens at 10:00am for true Foodies) and by 11:15am the place was getting busy. I didn't eat again until about 6:30pm that evening.

For anyone traveling north or south on I-15 through Davis County, don't hesitate to stop at the Burger Bar in Roy. Your only disappointment will be trying to find the northbound freeway entrance after you eat.

Burger Bar
5291 South 1900 West
Roy, Utah
801-825-8961

Happy Eating.

Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hometown Slop Sandwich

So really, where did the name, Hometown Slop, come from? Let me tell you. Every Sunday morning I like to make a breakfast sandwich. Over time it has become very sloppy and very delicious (if I may say so myself). There have been numerous variations until the most recent one. This one has stuck. Like many of the dishes I make, I don't follow a recipe. It was a lot of "some of this, some of that, I think I put this in last time."

Here it is: Hometown Slop Sandwich:



2 pieces sourdough bread
2 large eggs
2 pieces honey ham
4 leaves fresh basil
Dash of salt
Dash of fresh ground pepper
Dash of paprika

Directions: Toast the bread. Cook the eggs over easy (very important); dash with salt & pepper while cooking. Fry the ham. Place eggs & ham on bread with basil and paprika.

Be sure to not lift sandwich far from the plate when you take a bite. The over easy eggs will run onto the plate. This becomes your dip for the rest of the sandwich. Remember: dry food is terrible food. Dip, bite, and enjoy. Your spouse will be disgusted with you but let's face it, they probably are already.

So the "sloppy" sandwich gave rise to the name. After I repeatedly made the sandwich, I asked Rachel what a good name for a diner would be. What do you think? Would you eat at a diner named Hometown Slop? It just might happen one day.

Happy Eating.
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