Monday, September 30, 2013

A Meal for the Beginning of Fall

Here I am, just finished with school, and I've posted only three times on here in the last six months. So much for good intentions. Apparently I'm not terribly eager to go write about cooking after reading about cooking and actually cooking all day long at school. Perhaps that will change one day, but since I'm about to start a full-time job, I'm not sure I see that ever happening. Who knows. But don't stop checking back occasionally, just in case I've posted something.

Speaking of that full-time job, I've been hired as assistant to the banquet chef at a place called Sassi, a four-star Italian restaurant at the base of Pinnacle Peak in North Scottsdale. The pictures on the website don't do it justice, but take a look anyway. I've never seen a more beautifully situated or designed restaurant, I've never had better tasting food in my life, all the staff are incredibly friendly and I've so enjoyed working with each one of them so far. I don't think I could have found a more perfect place for me, and getting this job completely validates my decision to go to culinary school and pursue a career in the food industry. So I'm pretty thrilled.

Anyway, on to the good stuff. Last week I had to create a menu for a fine-dining five-course meal for four and write recipes to go along with it for a final school project, and I was so happy with the results, I decided I should share it with all of you. So here ya go, as a reward for waiting so patiently for so long, 9 recipes for the price of 1!

AMUSE BOUCHE (French--"mouth amuser": a bite or two at the beginning of the meal to pique the appetite)

Portobello Mushroom Empanadas with Spicy Fig Compote

  • 1 T. clarified butter
  • 1 tsp. shallots, minced
  • 1 portobello mushroom, minced (gills removed)
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 T. white wine
  • lemon juice to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 T. mascarpone cheese
  • 1 T. grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten

Heat butter in a a saute pan. Sweat shallots. Add mushrooms and saute till tender. Add thyme, white wine, and lemon. Reduce au sec (till dry). Remove thyme sprig. Cool mushrooms and mix in mascarpone and parmesan cheeses. Adjust seasoning.

With a large round cutter, cut 8 pieces from the puff pastry. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the mushroom mixture in the middle of four of the pastry circles. Brush edges with water, place remaining pastry circles on top, and press to seal edges. Brush tops of empanadas with egg wash and bake at 375° till golden brown, 15-20 minutes.

  • 1/2 c. black figs, rough chopped
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 pinch allspice
  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • salt to taste

Place figs in a small sauce pan and cover with water. Add sugar, red pepper, and allspice. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, till water has evaporated. Deglaze with apple cider vinegar. Reduce au sec. Season to taste with salt. Cool completely and serve with portobello mushroom empanadas.


Apple & Blue Cheese Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 c. fresh raspberries
  • 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2/3 - 1 c. salad oil

To make the dressing, combine raspberries, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, and cayenne pepper in a small sauce pan. Cook until liquid is reduced by half, stirring to smash the raspberries. Adjust seasoning. Strain into a blender. While blending, slowly drizzle in oil to create an emulsion. Add more salt if necessary. Cool before serving.

  • 4 c. mixed greens
  • 1 red delicious apple, cored, sliced in thin rounds
  • 20 pecans, toasted
  • 1/4 good quality blue cheese, crumbled

To assemble salads, toss greens in a small amount of dressing and pile in the middle of four plates. top each with 1-2 slices of apple, 4-5 pecans, and a sprinkle of blue cheese. Drizzle a little more dressing on top.


Purée of Potato Soup

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 1/2 small onion, small diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh sage
  • 1 c. chicken stock
  • water as needed
  • 1 large russet potato, large diced
  • 3/4 c. heavy cream, warmed
  • salt & white pepper to taste
  • cheddar cheese sauce to garnish
  • chopped chives to garnish

Render bacon in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Remove bacon and reserve. Sweat onion and garlic in bacon grease. Deglaze with chicken stock. Add rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper, Add potatoes and enough water to cover them. Cook potatoes till fork tender.

Remove rosemary and sage sprigs. Puree soup with an immersion blender till completely smooth. Finish with cream and adjust seasoning. To serve, ladle 6-8 ounces into four wide, shallow bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of cheese sauce, reserved crispy bacon, and chives.


Lamb Chops Persillade with Glazed Butternut Squash, Roasted Asparagus, & Citrus Beurre Blanc

  • 1 8-bone frenched rack of lamb, cut into 4 2-bone portions
  • 1/4 c. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. garlic, minced
  • 2 T. fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 T. fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 T. fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Season lamb chops with salt and pepper. Sear all sides in vegetable oil over high heat. Remove from pan and brush with dijon mustard. Mix together bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Coat all sides of lamb chops with bread crumb mixture. Finish lamb chops in a 400° oven to medium-rare.

  • 2 T. whole butter
  • 2 c. butternut squash, large diced
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cloves
  • salt & pepper to taste

Heat butter in a saute pan. Add squash and saute till 3/4 of the way cooked. Add water, brown sugar, and spices. Continue to cook till glaze is reduced and of a syrupy consistency, and squash is tender and slightly caramelized. Adjust seasoning and serve.

  • 20 asparagus spears
  • extra virgin olive oil as needed
  • coarse sea salt to taste
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Toss asparagus in enough olive oil to lightly coat them. Place in a single layer on a sheet pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook in a 400° oven for 12-18 minutes, depending on thickness.

  • 2 T. white wine
  • 1 T. orange juice
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. shallots, minced
  • 4 oz. whole butter, cubed, cold
  • salt & white pepper to taste

Combine wine, citrus juice and zest, and shallots in a saute pan and reduce 75%. Turn heat to low and rapidly whisk or swirl in butter, one cube at a time, to emulsify. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.


Chocolate Soufflé with Caramel Sauce, Vanilla Ice Cream, and Fresh Strawberries

  • 4 oz. dark chocolate, melted
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 T. orange juice
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 pinch cream of tartar
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 4 oz. caramel sauce
  • 4 strawberries

Lightly butter four 6-oz ramekins, then dust with sugar. Combine egg white and cream of tartar, whip to soft peaks. Add half the sugar and continue whipping to firm peaks. Mix together egg yolks, salt, and other half of sugar. Mix egg yolks into warm chocolate. Fold the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

Pour souffle mixture into ramekins (fill only 2/3 of the way up to the the top). Bake at 375° for 10-15 minutes, until almost doubled in size (do not open oven door during cooking time.) Serve immediately accompanied by vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and fresh strawberries.

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