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During the summer we don’t like to spend to much time in the kitchen because of the heat. But I still crave comfort food. This dish fits the category of comfort food and is luxurious. The egg and olive oil create a rich sauce for the grilled asparagus. The prosciutto is buttery and the croutons are heavenly. The finished salad is surprisingly filling. This recipe comes from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home cookbook (p. 156) and serves 6.

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 bunches pencil thin asparagus
  • Canola oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 2 cups Torn Croutons
    • 1 loaf country bread
    • Garlic Oil
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Aged balsamic vinegar
  • Fleur de sel

To make the torn croutons:

Cut the crusts off the loaf of bread. Tear the bread into irregular pieces no larger than 2 inches. You need about 2 cups of croutons; reserve any remaining bread for another use.

If you don’t have garlic oil on hand, pour 1/8 inch of canola oil into a saute pan, add 5 crushed, peeled garlic cloves, and heat over low heat until the garlic cloves are golden brown, flipping the cloves from time to time. Remove the garlic cloves and use the oil for the croutons.

Pour 1/8 inch of the garlic oil into a large saute pan and heat over medium heat until hot. Spread the bread in a single layer in the pan (if your pan is not large enough, these can be cooked in two smaller pans). Add the butter. The oil and the butter should be bubbling, but if you hear sizzling, the heat is too high. Adjust heat as necessary, and stir the croutons often as they cook. Cook until the croutons are crisp and a rich golden brown color on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes.

To poach the eggs:

Bring 6 to 8 inches of water to a boil in a large deep saucepan. Prepare an ice bath. Add the white wine vinegar to the boiling water and reduce the heat to a simmer. Crack 1 egg into a small cup or ramekin. Using a wooden spoon, stir the water at the edges of the pan twice in a circular motion to get the water moving, then add the egg to the center of the pan and simmer gently for 1 1/2 minutes, or until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the egg to the ice bath. Skim and discard any foam that has risen to the top of the wate, and cook the remaining eggs one at a time. (The eggs can be poached several hours ahead and stored in ice water in the refrigerator.)

To make the asparagus:

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for cooking over medium heat, or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat when you are ready to cook the asparagus. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Hold an asparagus spear and bend it to break off the less tender bottom end. trim all of the asparagus to the same length. If using medium of large asparagus, peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler. Spread the asparagus out on the parchment-lined pan, generously coat with canola oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the asparagus on the grill, or cook in batches in the grill pan. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side, flipping with a palette knife or narrow spatula, until tender. Arrange the asparagus on a platter.

To finish:

Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. With a small pair of scissors, trim any uneven edges from the poached eggs. Lower the eggs into the simmering water for about 30 seconds, just to reheat. Remove the eggs with a skimmer or a slotted spoon and blot the bottoms with paper towels. Season the eggs with salt and pepper and arrange around the asparagus. Arrange the prosciutto and croutons on the platter. Drizzle the salad with olive oil and balsamic, and sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper.






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Packed with great flavor, Sixteen-Spice Chicken with Smoked Red Pepper Sauce is super easy to make and requires little effort in the kitchen. This recipe comes from the Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook (p. 140). The spice rub has become a favorite in our house and we also like to use it on shrimp and fish.

Smoked Red Pepper Sauce (makes 2 1/2 cups):

  • 4 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chile puree
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Spice Rub (makes 2 cups):

  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 3 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 3 table spoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon chile de arbol
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Chicken:

  • Four 8-ounce bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

To make the Sixteen-Spice Rub

In a food processor combine all of the ingredients. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

To make the Smoked Red Pepper Sauce

Empty the contents of a can of chipoltes in adobo sauce into a food processor and process until smooth. Chipolte puree will last up to a month in the refrigerator. Combine the chopped roasted red bell  peppers, onion, garlic, vinegar, honey, mustard, and chipolte puree in a blender, season with salt and pepper, and blend until smooth. With motor running, slowly add the oil and blend until emulsified. Strain the sauce into a bowl. This sauce can be made 1 day in advance and refrigerated.

To make the chicken

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rub each breast with 2 tablespoons of the spice rub. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in an ovenproof saute pan over medium high heat until almost smoking. Saute the breasts, skin side down, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the breasts over and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake the chicken until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with the smoked red pepper sauce.

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This season of Top Chef Masters has been great and I have really enjoyed watching Susan Feniger dominate several of the challenges. Last week she won the Quick Fire with Cumin-Cilantro Chicken and the Tailgating challenge with Skirt Steak Tacos. Feniger is one half of the chef partnership called the “Two Hot Tamales.” They specialize in Latin American and Spanish cuisine. On our last trip to Las Vegas my husband took me to their Border Grill for lunch. I highly recommend trying their restaurant. It’s May 22nd and we have had snow flurries on and off for two days. I wasn’t prepared for this sudden drop in temperature. Inspired by Feniger’s recent victories on Top Chef Masters, I decided to ask my husband to make one of my favorite comfort foods, Red Roasted Chicken. This recipe comes from the “Cooking With Two Hot Tamales” cookbook (p. 100). It is a fabulous alternative to roasted chicken, forming a tomato stew sauce we love to serve over rice. Red Roasted Chicken serves 4 to 6 people.

  • 1 (3-pound) chicken
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup Spanish olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped, finely chopped
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, cored, chopped (or use canned)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 bunch Italian parsley, leaves only, roughly chopped, for garnish

Rinse the chicken, remove any excess fat, and pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl mix together the garlic, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, and the vinegar. Rub the vinegar mixture all over the chicken, including the cavity. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Shake the chicken to drain the excess vinegar. Using kitchen tongs and a large wooden spoon to stead the bird, brown it on all sides in the hot oil. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Melt the butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onions, with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the water and set the chicken on top of the vegetables. Roast 1 hour, until the leg moves easily when twisted (cook until the thigh reaches 165 degrees). Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover with aluminum foil.

Tip the casserole to one side and spoon off the excess fat. Carve the chicken into serving pieces, and arrange on a platter with the vegetables and juices from the pan. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Croque-Madame

I failed at making my first Brioche. I think my yeast is old and the dough did not rise as much as it was supposed to. As a result I shaped the dough into buns and decided to use the buns for Croque-Madame. This is classic bistro food – a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, topped with a fried egg and creamy Mornay sauce. The Brioche makes the sandwich extra rich and heavenly. This recipe comes from the Bouchon cookbook (p. 101), makes 4 servings, and can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

For the Sandwich:

  • Eight 1/2- inch-thick slices of Brioche, or other egg bread
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced boiled ham
  • 8 slices (about 1/2 ounce each) Swiss cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup Mornay sauce (see below), warmed
  • Freshly Ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped Italian parsley

For the Mornay sauce (makes two cups):

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) yellow union
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream, or as needed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Comte or Emmentaler cheese

To make the Mornay sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for three minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk so the roux doesn’t burn or color. Add the milk and cream and whisk constantly until fully incorporated. Bring to a simmer, whisking, then add the bay leaf, peppercorns, and cloves. Reduce the heat to low so you avoid scorching the sauce and bring it to a gentle simmer. Continue to whisk for another 30 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and season to taste with salt, a grating of nutmeg, and a pinch of white pepper. Strain the sauce to remove the bay leaf, peppercorns, and cloves. Add the cheese and whisk to melt.  Set aside and keep warm.

To make the sandwich:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay out the bread slices on a baking pan. Divide the ham among them, making sure it doesn’t extend over the edges of the bread. Place the cheese over the ham. Transfer the pan to the oven for 2 to 3 minutes to melt the cheese. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large ovenproof skillet and fry the eggs. Cook the eggs until the bottoms are set, then place the skillet in the oven for a minute to set the top of the whites. When the cheese is melted, remove the sandwiches from the oven and put each sandwich on a serving plate. Place an egg on top of each sandwich. Pour about 1/4 cup of the Mornay sauce over the white of each egg. Grind black pepper over each egg and garnish the eggs with chopped parsley if desired.

I have to say this is my favorite Thomas Keller recipe. It comes from The French Laundry Cookbook. We make it every New Years and on many other special occasions. The ravioli is sweet and delicate. The sauce is divine. I make ravioli instead of agnolotti because it is easier.

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For the Sweet Potato Filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of sweet potatoes
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2 slices bacon, frozen and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Pinch of allspice and nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Sage Cream:

  • 1/3 cup sage leaves (from about 4 bunches; use the smaller leaves for the fried sage leaf garnish)
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1cup Beurre Monte

To finish:

  • Canola oil for deep-frying
  • 48 tiny sage leaves (reserved from above)
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
  • 4 thin slices of prosciutto, cut crosswise into fine julienne

To make the Beurre Monte:

Thomas Keller describes Beurre Monte sauce as a workhorse sauce and many of his recipes include it. Whether you emulsify 4 tablespoons  or 1 pound of butter, just a tablespoon of water will do. Any amount of Beurre Monte can be made using the following method.

Bring the tablespoon of water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and begin whisking the chunks of butter into the water, bit by bit, to emulsify. Once you have established the emulsion, you can continue to add pieces of butter until you have the quantity of beurre monte that you need (1 cup). It is important to keep the level of heat gentle and consistent in order to maintain the emulsification. Make Beurre Monte close to the time it will be used and keep it in a warm place.

To make the Sweet Potato filling:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the ends off the potatoes and wrap the potatoes individually in aluminum foil, dividing 4 tablespoons of butter evenly among them. Bake until they are soft, 1 to 2 hours (the time will vary, depending on the size of the potatoes). Unwrap the cooked potatoes and cut a slit lengthwise in the skin of each. Pull the skin away from the potato and discard. Push the potatoes through a potato ricer while they are hot and place in a saucepan.

Place the diced bacon in a skillet. Cook until it is lightly browned and the fat has been rendered. Transfer the bacon pieces to paper towels to drain briefly, then add them to the potatoes.

Stir the potatoes over low heat, seasoning to taste with the squab spice and salt and pepper. Mix in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. You will have about 1 2/3 cups filling (enough to fill 35 – 40 ravioli). Refrigerate the filling until chilled, or for up to 2 days, before filling the ravioli.

To make the pasta:

Make fresh pasta. Divide the pasta dough into three pieces. Set the rollers of the pasta machine at the widest setting. Take one third of the finished pasta dough, almost 5 ounces, and cut it in half. Run the dough through the pasta machine. Fold the dough in half, end to end, turn it a quarter turn, and run it through the same setting again. Repeat this procedure two more times. Set the openings of the rollers down one notch and run the pasta through. Decrease the opening another notch and run the dough through again. Continue this process until the second to last setting. Repeat with the remaining 5 sections of pasta dough.

Dust a wooden work surface with flour. I use a large ravioli press to make my ravioli. If you don’t have a press follow these instructions. Place a sheet of pasta dough on a lightly floured surface. Brush the surface of the dough with egg wash. Mark (don’t cut) 12 circles  in the dough with the dull side of a 2-inch round cutter, leaving at least 1/2 inch between them. Center 1 tablespoon of the sweet potato filling in a mound on each circle. Line up one end of a second sheet of dough along one end of the dough and carefully drape the pasta sheet over the filling, pressing down between the mounds of filling. Run you fingers around each mound of the filling to press out any air bubbles. Using a 2 1/4 – inch round cutter, cut out the 12 ravioli. Using a fork, carefully press the edges of the rounds together to secure the filling inside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly dust it with flour, and place the finished ravioli on it. Repeat this process with the remaining pasta sheets. If the ravioli are to be used within a few hours cover the baking sheet lightly and refrigerate.

To make the sage cream:

Blanch the 1/3 cup of sage leaves in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, cool in cold water, and drain again. Squeeze the leaves dry. Heat the creme fraiche, beurre monte, and salt over low heat until hot; do not boil. Place the sage in a blender to chop it. With the motor running, pour the hot cream mixture through the top of the blender and blend thoroughly. Strain the cream into a large skillet, season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

To complete:

In  a small sauce pan, heat oil for deep-frying to 275 degrees. Fry the sage leaves briefly, just until they are crisp (their color should not change), and drain on paper towels. Place the butter in a skillet over medium heat and cook to a nutty brown color; reduce the heat and keep warm.

Meanwhile cook the ravioli in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the cooked ravioli and mix them gently with the sage cream. Divide the ravioli among 6 serving dishes and drizzle with browned butter. Scatter some prosciutto over each serving and garnish with the fried sage leaves.

For under $20, you’d be hard pressed to find an American syrah that is better.  Blackberry on the palate. Fruity (juicy, not jammy) with a little meatiness, this paired nicely with sausage pizza.   Copain is choosing to pick earlier and this bottle proves that you can reduce alcohol levels without sacrificing flavor.   By the way, is your pizza stone old and a little dirty?  Use parchment paper on top of the  stone, great crust and none of the mess.

This gnocchi recipe is from the Williams Sonoma “Complete Pasta Cookbook” and makes 6 servings. Gnocchi goes well with a large variety of sauces. The brown butter, sage and walnut sauce is easy to make and it also is a great sauce for ravioli.

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For the gnocchi:

  • 2 lbs of russet potatoes
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 qt water

For the sauce:

  • 40  sage leaves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup canola oil for deep-frying

To make the gnocchi:

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Using a fork, puncture the potatoes in several places and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Cool until easy to handle.

Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks, place in a bowl and mash or rice them. Add the egg yolks and 2 teaspoons of the salt. Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing just until the dough is smooth but still just slightly sticky (some potatoes will take more flour than others). Divide the dough into pieces the size of a tennis ball.

On a floured surface, form each piece of dough into a rope about 3/4 inch thick. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Place one piece at a time on the inside curve of a fork. With the tip of the index finger pointing directly perpendicular to the fork, press the pieces of dough against the prongs, toward the fork handle. Let it roll off and drop to the work surface.

In a large pot over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons salt and the gnocchi in batches. When they float to the surface, cook for an additional 15 seconds.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large warmed bowl.

To make the brown butter, sage and walnut sauce:

To toast the walnuts, preheat an oven 325 degrees. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, stirring once, until they just begin to change color, 5- 10 minutes.

To make the brown butter, in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, melt the 6 tablespoons of the butter, skimming off and discarding any foam that forms on the top. Continue until the butter is a deep golden brown. Remove from heat.

To prepare the sage, in  a small sauce pan, heat oil for deep-frying to 275 degrees. Fry the sage leaves briefly, just until they are crisp (their color should not change), and drain on paper towels.

Combine the walnuts and fried sage to the brown butter. Add the brown butter, sage and walnut sauce to the gnocchi and toss gently.