Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Galloping Gourmet, TV Cooking Lessons and Coquiles St. Jacques, Seafood Comfort Food 101.

When I was very young I can remember watching a number of programs which were pivotal in my early education about food and cooking. First of course was the French Chef with Julia Child. And secondly was Graham Kerr the Galloping Gourmet!

Food TV back in those days was anything but the slick prefab, over produced shows one finds on today's Food Network. In fact they were really do it yourself slap together shows which operated mostly on the prose or personality of the person in front of the camera.

No one was more of a personality than Graham Kerr. He was loved by many fans and hated by many in the food industry for exactly the same reason. His outlandish antics, on camera drinking, and his cavalier approach to fine cuisine got him raved or reviled. Whether you liked him or not you had to admit that he was a showman. Many critics pointed to the lack of culinary depth or even his rather casual approach to dishes they deemed as sacred cows in the cooking arena. If there was a use for clarified butter he would find it that was for sure! His connecting places, particularly one's he had traveled to, with dishes he would showcase was both cutting edge and clever. He was the original food network cooking and travel show. He granted his American audience a peek into the culinary traditions  from the European continent to South America and beyond.

A few years ago as the the fledgling Cooking Channel was launched I again got to enjoy a brief period of reruns of the Galloping Gourmet on television. It reinforced all my memories about this show. It was such a time piece in terms of set, production, decor and clothing. The design elements alone were so period. The colors and wallpaper used in the set, the furniture,  and even the suits he wore all evoked faded memories from my early childhood. I remembered adults dressing and places and homes looking  like the set and costuming of the show. However it was the show's content that talked mostly about where we are as a culture now compared to those " good ole days" broadcasts.

Today as Americans are bombarded in the media by endless slick, over produced, formula driven shows or publications one forgets the simpler past. Today's shows, tried out in market test groups or tied to cyclical trends, are crafted to create a buzz and evoke interest amongst a population now well exposed to cuisines from every nook and cranny of the globe

Back then Graham Kerr did not have that media advantage. In fact if anything he relied upon his charm, wit, foreign background and culinary knowledge to inform and expose cuisines new to the once insular US. population. A nation informed mostly by regional and immigrant cuisine exposure. A nation which after the second world was finally accepting and embracing international identity and was hungry for broader knowledge of the world they now felt connected to.

That's what made the Galloping gourmet such a great show for folks back then. It took them places they had never been and opened their minds to new things. Just as shows today continue to try and find the newest food trends and most interesting chefs dishes.

So one of the recipes that I love from the original Galloping Gourmet show is Mr. Kerr's version of Coquiles St. Jacques, a French scallop dish, which I have had many times in it's more traditional form. He adds potatoes to this dish which is traditionally made with just scallops and a sauce.

Now I grew up with my Mother's recipe for this dish from the "The Sunset for Entertaining Cookbook" printed in 1968. Yes, Surprise! I love old recipes from old cook books as well as the new ones from today's cookbooks. When I was growing up my Grandmother or my Mother would occasionally make these for a dinner party and less occasionally for a family meal. They used scallop baking shells which look like large flat shells but take the place of using a ramekin of small baking dish. They always looked so elegant and amazing I thought as a small boy. Bubbly with seafood, wine, cream, mushrooms and cheese. Hot right from the oven and sprinkled with chopped parsley and ready to bring to the table.

When I found Mr. Kerr's recipe I loved it because it takes these little babies and pushes them right through the roof with the addition of a velvety mashed potato blanket for the scallops. It sort of takes this dish and turns it into perfect cold weather comfort food, well more than sort of. With the addition of the potatoes it is sort of like a scallops shepherds pie. Which is a little English twist on a very French dish! Way to go Mr. Kerr!! So here is the recipe. Give it a try next time you want to make some winter comfort food. Yum!
Enjoy Ya'll!

4 to 5 good sized yukon gold potatoes cut ( about 2 lbs.)
2 tablespoons cream
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 pound sea scallops ( large )
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 pound sliced white mushrooms
2 tablespoon chopped shallot or white onion
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 cup grated cheese ( parmesan or Gruyere any strong hard cheese

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and while warm mash with the cream butter and salt and pepper. Stir in the herbs and the paprika. Hold warm on the side.

In a large frying pan heat the stock and the wine till almost boiling, add the scallops and cook for about 3 to 5 mins depending on the size don't over cook or the scallops will be rubbery. Remove and hold on the side.

In a pot melt the butter add the flour and cook about 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly add the poaching liquid stirring in the add the milk and then bring to a boil, reduce heat and and simmer till the sauce thickens about 10 to 15 mins.

In the frying pan add the onions and cook till soft, add the mushrooms lemon juice and paprika and cook till soft then add the mixture to the sauce.

In 4 individual gratin dishes (or in a medium casserole dish if you don't have small dishes)  divide the scallops and the divide the sauce over them. Cover each with the potatoes and then top with the cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake in the oven at 350 for 8 mins then turn on the broiler and broil till the tops are browned and golden. Serve immediately!  


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nordic Caesar Salad with Paprika Dusted Croutons and a Sardine and Sartori Cheese Dressing

So I love food TV. Surprise!! Yes food porn is one of my favorite things. But lately I am growing a little bored with the offerings. Just like I am a little bored with all the coast centric foods and ethnic offerings most food television seems to focus on. Not that there's anything wrong with that, please I love Asian inspired Californian cuisine or Italian pasta dishes with a modern twist as much as anyone. I even feel like the South and Southwest even gets it's due on TV.  But what about the other part of the country? You know the big part. You know the square states, the middle. What about them? That's why I am glad to see in this Summer's Savour Magazine a focus on the Midwest. And also Chef Amy Fielding's show on Cooking Channel, Heartland Table. Her caesar is one of the inspirations for this recipe.

I have a Midwestern Heritage myself actually you see. As much a part of my family background as the South is, because my family is tied there and I grew up there, I also have roots through my Mother's family in the Midwest as well. Her Norwegian  roots are well planted in Chicago Illinois. And I am well aware of my family's history and background from the fiords of Norway to Chicago and Brooklyn.. The foods of that heritage melding in Chicago with the Polish, German and Eastern Euro cultures, who brought hearty comfort foods to the American heartlands in a major way. Providing the background, in fact, of what most of us would consider "American" food. Hearty meat and potatoes meals that for a century were the hallmark of a growing new nation.

What's interesting is that Food Television seems to have recognize this lull interest amongst viewers in only chef driven shows. They have departed from their standard programing grasping out at what would appear to be family values. Now homes and Mom's, Farm foods, ethnic foods and exotic hosts, as well as story telling about family traditions, Grandparents, and hearth and home all seem to be on the forefront of Food Television's new offerings. In this trend they have also recently acknowledged through programing choices the fact that between the coasts, where much of the country is, is a vast wealth of American food history and food identity. I mean where did they think steak dinners came from anyway? New York city?

So enter the Midwesterners with their farms, ranches and sensibilities. Square states are suddenly sexy and so is the food that they call their regional cuisine.A vast array of states with ethnic backgrounds rooted in the immigrant migrations of the late 1800 and early 1900's. American food, solid, hearty and unpretentious. In short the food we grew up with and the foods we still love.

So what has this to do with Nordic Caesar salad, well only this. Caesar salad which originated in California is a staple today on many American tables. Years ago I traveled to Monterey, California and went to the Aquarium there. Very nice place indeed. At that time I had a Caesar salad at a restaurant called the Sardine Factory ( because that was what it was in it's former life).  They of course made their Caesar with what else, sardines!  Ms. Fielding reminded me of this when I saw her show. So I thought that bringing in a Nordic twist  like this, because Sardines are so Nordic, gives it a little flair. I think using a different fish from anchovies actually gives this dish an amazing new and different zing. Deep rich smoked slightly fishy flavor, different from the anchovies we all are accustomed to. Plus the change of cheese coming from the Midwest and not Italian Parmesan ( Wisconsin thank you) brings an interesting texture and flavor as well. It's creamy with a different flavor but still salty delicious. Bacon and scallions make it better, and the paprika croutons give it delicious color and texture. So give this a try and I hope you like it as much as I did. Enjoy, Ya'll!!

Nordic Caesar Salad with Paprika Croutons and a Sardine and Sartori Cheese Dressing

2 teaspoons of minced garlic from the jar
2 smoked Sardines ( I used Rolands Golden Smoked Sardines amazing )
1/2 cup Mayonaise
1 1/2 cups grated Sartori Bellavitano Cheese aged 5 years
4 tablespoons lemon juice ( I used the green bottle did not have lemons on hand)
5 to 7 tablespoons olive oil
Maldon Sea Salt and Freshly ground Pepper
1/2 loaf country bread or rolls pulled by hand into pieces
Sweet paprika for dusting
2 tablespoons melted butter and 4 tablespoons olive oil heated and combined
Salt and pepper
3 scallions diced
2 strips of bacon crumbled
2 tablespoons capers
2 heads of romaine lettuce roughly chopped or hand torn ( hand tearing is classic for a caesar but chopping is easier. I actually chop)
Lemon Wedges for garnish ( optional)

For the dressing:

In a mixing bowl add the sardines pull out the backbone and mash.
Add the garlic and mayo and lemon juice and mix well.
Add half the cheese and mix.
Drizzle in the olive oil a bit at a time while whisking till the dressing comes together.

For the croutons:

Line a baking tray with foil
Heat oven to 350 degrees
Place the bread on the tray and bake for 7 mins
Pull out and test to see if croutons are dried out. They should be.
Sprinkle the croutons with the melted butter and oil and toss to coat.
Dust with the paprika and toss to coat.
Place back in the oven for another 8 to 10 mins till golden and done.
Cool and Reserve.

To assemble the salad:

Place the scallions, capers and bacon in the bottom of a large salad bowl.
Add half the dressing.
Add lettuce on top add half the croutons add 1/2 of remaining shredded cheese.
Add more dressing cheese and croutons till the salad is dressed to your liking.
( note: Caesar Salad should be thickly dressed but not over dressed)

Serve with lemon wedges and extra dressing and cheese on the side if there is any.

Enjoy Ya'll!!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Roastest with the Mostest, Forrest's Standing Rib Roast Recipe for Winter and the Holidays

It's winter in NYC. No it's WINTER! I mean it's the coldest it's been in 100 years that's cold. So when it's this cold out all I want is comfort food. You know the kinds of dishes that make you feel warm inside. Well I am not only talking carb laden dishes with cheesy undertones and thick sauces. No I am talking about some serious meat dishes. Roasting meats till they hit their browned and glorious peak juicy and medium rare is a beautiful thing in the Wintertime and so I thought I would share a bit about my latest roasting recipes.

My fascination with the roast probably started in my Mother and Grandmother's kitchen. Having three generations in the house growing up made for some lovely mealtimes both from a cooking perspective as well as the dialog that ensued during the meals. There was chatter about school, work and friends, church meetings, politics, senior citizen outings, youth group retreats and the latest gossip from the street.

The meals were a rotating menu of dishes that would be planned out a month in advance by both my Mother and Grandmother. The reason for this was simple. My Mother shopped at the beginning of each month for the things we would eat all month. This was the "Big" shop. Of course perishable items were bought as they were needed but all the meat, potatoes, noodles, rice, beans, canned foods and staples were purchased during the big shop.

This started in Hawaii because transportation and traffic was such a beast. But it continued even when we returned to the mainland because the commissary was not near the house. In any event these meals were planned out in detail and a list made and groceries procured. We would often help with this task running through the Aisles on some task to retrieve something from my Mother or Grandmother and the return to the grocery cart. My brother and I often played at being spacemen. Fancying that we were flying out on some mission and then returning to the mother ship with our cargo in tow.

Such was the life of military brats food shopping on a budget. Oh yes, I neglected to say that managing the household finances was my Mother's job and she would have that list budgeted down to the penny. My friend Liz totally got this when I was first telling her this. She said growing up in Florida her family was about the same. Living paycheck to paycheck, with every penny accounted for. She told a story about how once she ate all the push pops in the freezer. And upon discovering this her Mother explained that those were supposed to have lasted the whole family the rest of the month. So she made here break open her piggy bank and walk to the store and replace them. She said she ran all the way home fearing that the Florida heat would melt the pop-cicles, but she made it her package in tow and in fine condition.

At the homestead the roasted meats that were on the menu took the form of flank steaks and chuck or pot roasts, brisket and certainly whole chickens, pork chops, roasts and loins and legs of lamb. I can remember from my early childhood loving the smells of the pan as it can out of the oven all bubbling and rich with fat juices sizzling away. This smell combined with  charred edges and corners of the roasted meat. These provides me the taste and tactile memories of gorgeous fatty burned tasty bits that were cut off as scraps and handed over to my brother and myself in a small effort to ward off hunger pains and delay complaints till dinner was ready. But they were the best those crispy bits!

Having grown up, I am now called upon to be cooking dinners for my Mother. Now I continue the tradition of roasting the "Roast Beast" in our house during the holidays by preparing a standing rib roast every year. I have over the past 10 years perfected what I think is a perfect method for giving the roast the most amazing flavor and tasty crust that we have ever had on our holiday table. It's inspiration is simple, dijon, garlic and rosemary, all classic flavorings some together to host a party on the roast and create an amazing flavor profile. It starts with the idea that getting the flavor into the roast by slathering it with a very garlic and mustard based marinade. Then it roasts in the oven to perfection. This mustard marinade is good on any roast I have ever done. Beef, Pork or Chicken. The key is allowing the marinade to penetrate the meat even overnight for some cuts ( filet)  and for large roasts like a standing rib roast roasting it at high heat to get that crust then finishing it at a lower heat. So if you are roasting this winter season for comfort and joy, try this out and let me know what you think. It's a winner!! Enjoy Ya'll

Forrest's Rib Roast with Mustard and Rosemary Crust

1 6 to 7 pound rib roast ( 3 to 4 bones ) trimmed and tied by butcher ( feeds 6 to 8 people)
Salt and Pepper ( for rub )
1/2 cup dijon Mustard
3 teaspoons garlic paste
3 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
7 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Let roast stand for at least an hour then liberally slather with salt and pepper
Then return uncovered to the fridge and let sit overnight
Remove roast the next day when ready 4 hours before you plan to roast

Combine the 6 ingredients in a small bowl and slather the Roast

Let stand for 4 hours then bake for 45 mins in a 475 degree oven
Reduce heat to 350 and roast for another 1 hour and 10 mins or until a themometer reads 120 to 130 degrees
Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let sit for about 30 more mins.
Uncover and let sit another 15 mins.

Slice as thickly as you want per person and serve with horseradish sauce on the side. ( recipe to follow )