Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Duck Wellington

This is a take on the classic Beef Wellington which is typically a preparation of filet steak coated with pate' and duxelles (finely minced mushrooms and herbs sautéed in butter and reduced to a paste) then wrapped in puff pastry and baked.  Some recipes include wrapping the coated meat in a crepe.

Since the term Wellington is sometimes used to describe other dishes where a protein is baked in puff pastry, for this one we used a Moulard Duck Magret breast baked in phyllo dough. 
Moulard Duck Magret Breast 16 oz
We coated the breast with a Country-style Dijon mustard and used Hen of the Woods for the duxelles.  In lieu of the crepe, we wrapped this in turkey bacon.  The entire prep was then wrapped in phyllo dough and brushed with an egg wash and baked in the oven.  Although the duck was well done, it was very moist and tasty.   

16 oz duck breast, skin removed, and cut into two 8-oz portions
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
10 oz wild mushrooms
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
6 slices turkey bacon
1/3 cup spicy/coarsely ground Country-style Dijon mustard
4-5 layers of phyllo dough
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter (for phyllo dough)
Egg wash (1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water)

Chop the mushrooms and pulse in a food processor to form a coarse texture.  Scrape the mixture into a hot, dry pan. Add fresh thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Cook to allow the water from the mushrooms to evaporate.  When dry, set mushrooms aside to cool.

Chopped Hen of the Woods
 Season duck breast with salt and pepper.  Cut into two portions.

Heat olive oil in a large pan.  Sear the duck, about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes each side. Remove and allow duck to cool.

Roll out plastic film and lay out 3 slices of turkey bacon, slightly overlapping each other. Spread half of the mushroom mixture evenly in a thin layer over the turkey bacon. Repeat for the second Wellington.

Brush both duck breasts with the Dijon mustard. Place each duck breast in the middle of each prepped turkey bacon/mushroom mixture.
Duck Breast Ready to Roll
Keeping a tight hold of the plastic film from the outside, roll the turkey bacon over duck breasts into a tight barrel shape and twist the ends to secure the plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Working quickly, prepare phyllo dough.  Brush each layer of dough with melted butter, then place another layer of dough on top; continue this to make about four-five layers of dough. Keep unused layers covered with a damp cloth to prevent dough from drying out.  Unwrap one of the duck logs from the plastic wrap and place it in the middle of the phyllo dough.  Fold over the dough to seal.  Place seam side down on a plate and brush egg wash over the top. Repeat the process for the second Wellington. Chill bundles again for approximately 20-30 minutes.
Wrapped Bundles Ready for the Oven
To Finish:
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. 

Remove Wellington bundles from fridge.  Brush with egg wash.

Line a roasting pan with parchment paper and then lightly butter it with unsalted butter.    Place bundles on pan seam side down and roast for about 25 minutes.   Let bundles set for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Mushroom and Rainbow Swiss Chard Lasagna

Rainbow Swiss Chard
This is doesn't have the heaviness of a typical tomato and cheese lasagna dish. 

I made a béchamel sauce using lower fat (2%) milk and used a low-fat cream cheese in lieu of the mascarpone cheese that is sometimes found in mushroom lasagna recipes. My farmers market had Portobello mushrooms, beautiful rainbow Swiss chard and freshly made ricotta cheese (I guess the lower-fat milk and low-fat cream cheese were canceled out by the home-made ricotta).  Nonetheless, it was all good.  I made the recipe in a 9x7" glass Pyrex dish versus the 9x13" version.  A spray/drizzle of white truffle oil as the lasagna was resting added an extra treat.

This is a perfect full meal for a meatless Monday...or any day...and could easily serve 4-6 people. The average food cost is about $5.99 per serving.


For the Béchamel Sauce:
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup AP flour
1 1⁄2 cups low-fat (2%) milk
1 cup vegetable broth, preferably home made
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

For the Filling:
6 Tablespoons olive oil 
1 1⁄2 cups yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 small leeks, white parts only (about 1 cup), thinly sliced
1/4 cup minced garlic
4 sprigs thyme
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
6 cups thinly sliced rainbow Swiss chard leaves
2 1/2 pounds baby Portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1⁄3 cup low fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
8 lasagna noodles, cooked (according to directions on package)
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (to coat glass Pyrex dish)
16 oz. ricotta cheese, preferably home made
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
White truffle oil/spray (optional) for drizzling on top while lasagna is resting


For the Béchamel Sauce:
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes; don't let the mixture brown. In another saucepan, warm the low-fat milk.  Slowly add the milk to the pan containing the butter and AP flour, while whisking.  Then add the vegetable broth, continuing whisking until smooth. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is smooth and resembles a thick cream, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; add the nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Cover the surface of the béchamel with waxed paper to prevent a skin from forming.

For the Filling:
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the leeks, garlic, and thyme sprigs and cook, stirring often, until the leeks are soft, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Remove the thyme sprigs. Stir in the rainbow Swiss chard and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Pulse several times until finely chopped, and then transfer to a large bowl. In another large skillet, heat enough olive oil to coat pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, add one-third of the mushrooms (do not crowd mushrooms) and cook, stirring often and seasoning with salt and pepper after mushrooms are half-way cooked, until they are well browned, about 10 minutes. When cooked, put mushrooms in a large bowl and continue to repeat cooking the rest of the mushrooms.

After all of the mushrooms are cooked, place them in a food processor and pulse several times.  They should still have some texture.  When done, transfer the pulsed mushrooms to the bowl with the onion mixture. Add the béchamel sauce, softened cream cheese, and the vinegars and stir until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper.

To Finish:
Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bring 4-6 quarts of water to a boil and add salt to taste.  Add the lasagna noodles and cook until tender. Drain.  Add a touch of olive oil to noodles to prevent from sticking.

Butter a 9x7 inch (versus the 9-by-13-inch) glass baking dish. Lay two noodles in the bottom of the dish. Trim to fit, if necessary. Top with one-third of the mushroom filling, one-third of the ricotta, and one-third of the grated cheese. Repeat with the remaining noodles, mushroom filling, ricotta, and grated cheese (there isn't a layer of noodles on the top). Bake the lasagna until the center is very hot and the top is lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and lightly drizzle/spray truffle oil (optional) on top.  Let rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Entrance at Pier 57 Chelsea NYC
The International Chefs Congress, sponsored by, was held this year at a new space at Pier 57 in NYC.  Also, for the first time, there was a SMOKE Barbecue Competition that was presented by Chung Jung One the night prior to the conference.  

The Congress was fun, again.  The best part(s) was that I met Steven Raichlen, who I consider the best BBQ chef on the planet (a la Planet Barbecue).  Also, I met David Burke and Brian Voltaggio, both chefs who recently competed on Top Chef Masters.  According to David, he got screwed on the ketchup deal and Brian was again the number-two guy.  Both were extremely nice and pleasant to talk to.  A few photos follow.

View of NYC from the pier

Judges at the SMOKE BBQ Competition

Steven Raichlen, Primal Grill, Miami, FL

Andy Husbands, Tremont 647, Boston, MA

Chef David Burke, David Burke Group, NYC

Chef Johnny Iuzzini, Sugar Fueled Inc

Keegan Gerhard, D Bar Desserts, Emcee of Pastry Competition

Chef David Burke and me

Chef Michel Richard

Chef Brian Voltaggio

Travis, Spike and Mike of Top Chef Seasons

Jeffrey Steingarten, Food Critic of Vogue, NYC

Chef Vaughn Trannon of Trannon Culinary

Chef Brian Voltaggio and me

Shaving Truffles

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Spaghetti Primavera
After my jaunt to the Farmers Market the other day and having an abundance of leftover zucchini, squash, carrots and fresh ears of corn, I decided to make a vegetable and pasta--or spaghetti--dish

As always, or once in a while, an "old faithful" popped into mind:  Pasta Primavera--or Spaghetti Primavera, as it was called back in the day.

Spaghetti Primavera is one of those recipes that is synonymous with Sirio Maccioni and his flagship place, Le Cirque. It was popularized in the late 1970s and touted by then New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne and his partner Pierre Franey.  Back then, it was one of the most talked-about dishes in the City.  For a dish of different vegetables, cooked separately, then added to cream and butter and served over pasta, it became a battle between French and Italian cuisines. The dish was so controversial in a formal French restaurant in 1977 that it was served only on request.

Mr. Maccioni invented the dish and it was the only one at Le Cirque that the chefs were forbidden to touch.  The popularity it gained at Le Cirque helped move American cooks beyond spaghetti and meatballs; and as the dish thrived, it was soon offered on the menu of virtually every Italian restaurant.  However, the authentic is Le Cirque's version.

So with the veggies in the fridge, peas in the freezer, San Marzano tomatoes in the cabinet, along with spaghetti in the dry goods storage, all I needed was fresh mushrooms, heavy cream, and broccoli spears.  Although the authentic Spaghetti Primavera recipe calls for fresh asparagus tips, at $4.99 per rubber-band wrapped pack and weighing less than a pound, I opted to omit the asparagus.  Besides, I had the fresh carrots and corn in lieu of the costly green.  Sorry, Sirio, it's not the "authentic Spaghetti Primavera" from Le Cirque of the 70's, but pretty close.

Here take on Spaghetti Primavara, viva Le Cirque.

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups plum tomatoes, chopped, peeled, and seeded (or whole canned San Marzano tomatoes (28 oz), chopped, seeded, and drained)
4 cloves garlic, minced and divided, about 2 Tablespoons
Kosher Salt
2 cups porcini mushrooms, roughly chopped
Black Pepper
Vegetables:  Each should be blanched, separately, in boiling water (time varies), shocked in an ice-water bath, drained, patted dry and set aside:
  1 cup broccoli florets (2 minutes)
  1 medium zucchini, quartered, cut into 1-inch lengths (2 minutes)
  1 medium yellow squash, quartered, cut into 1-inch lengths (2 minutes)
  1 1/2 cups carrots, halved and cut into 1" lengths (4-6 minutes)
  2 cups corn kernels from fresh ears of corn (1 minute)
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed in boiling salted water.  Drained and set aside
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound spaghetti
2 Tablespoons basil, cut into chiffonade

Prep all vegetables and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over high heat. Add tomatoes, half of the garlic, and a pinch of salt and cook until tomatoes have rendered their juice and have begun to color, stirring or tossing occasionally, about 4 to 8 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sauté pan over high heat and sauté the mushrooms with half of the remaining garlic and a pinch of salt until they have given off most of their water and are browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside.  Season to taste and keep warm.

Heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan.  Add remaining garlic and the blanched vegetables and cook the blanched vegetables until they've taken on a little color but are still firm, about 5 minutes. Set aside.  Season to taste and keep warm.

Meanwhile, reduce the cream by half in a pan large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti.  Stir in the Parmesan and butter and turn the heat to low.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the spaghetti. When the spaghetti is almost al dente, drain and transfer it to the pan with the reduced cream to finish cooking.

To Finish:
First, fold in the reserved tomato sauce into the pan containing the spaghetti and cream.  Then, add the mushrooms;  and, finally, the sautéed vegetables.  Let set for about one minute, then plate each dish and garnish with basil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Toasted pine nuts could also be added as a garnish.  Serves 4.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Ratatouille or Confit Byaldi
After a visit to my local Farmers Market, I couldn't resist and purchased a bunch of various vegetables.  The first dish that came to mind was Ratatouille, or Confit Byaldi.  

Veggies From Market
While the "original" ratatouille recipes tell us to fry the vegetables before baking, the Confit Byaldi version does not fry them. The vegetables are baked slowly in the oven for several hours to steam.  Sauces, cheese or vinaigrettes could be then added to the final baked/steamed vegetables.

Many recipes for Ratatouille are featured on the Net, including Chef Thomas Keller's version of Byaldi which was published in his 1999 cookbook, The French Laundry Cookbook.  In Chef Keller's recipe, he added two sauces.  One is a tomato and pepper sauce called piperade, which is made of reduced and finely chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and herbs, then spread thinly at the bottom of the vegetable bed.  The other is an herbed balsamic vinaigrette that is served atop the vegetables.  
The first time I made this dish was in 2007, not long after the movie, Ratatioulle, was released.  I admit it.  I did go to the movies to see it back then, only after I learned that Chef Keller served as a food consultant for the Pixar film and allowed its producer to intern at his restaurant.  It was a really good movie.  And a good recipe, nonetheless.
Circa 2007
So I revisited the recipe (and watched the movie) again.  And after several hours of prep, below is my adaption of Chef Keller's version of Byaldi, or Ratatioulle, using  all of the vegetables that I purchased at the Market.

For Piperade:
1/2 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1 lime green pepper, seeds removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
3 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely diced, juices reserved
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt

For Vegetables:
1 zucchini sliced in 1/16-inch rounds
1/2 Italian eggplant sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
1/2 white eggplant sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
1 yellow squash sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves, fresh
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Piperade:
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place pepper halves on a foil-lined sheet, cut side down. Roast until skin loosens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Peel and chop finely.

Cut an X on the bottom of each tomato.  Add tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for about 45 seconds to one minute.  Remove tomatoes and quickly submerge into an ice water bath.  This will loosen the skins and make it easier to peel the tomatoes.  When cooled, remove tomatoes from ice water.  Peel, remove seeds and dice tomatoes while reserving as much juice as possible.  Strain tomato juice through a very fine sieve to extract seeds.  Set juice aside.

Diced Tomatoes
Combine oil, garlic, and onion in medium skillet over low heat until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, their juices, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat until very soft. Add peppers and simmer to soften them.  

Tomato and Pepper Mixture
Season to taste with salt.  Discard herbs. Reserve a tablespoon of mixture. Spread the remaining piperade mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch skillet.

For Vegetables:
Heat oven to 275 degrees. Down center of pan, arrange a strip of 8 alternating slices of vegetables over piperade, overlapping so that 1/4 inch of each slice is exposed. Repeat until pan is filled.

Mix garlic, oil, and thyme leaves in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over vegetables. Cover pan with lid (alternatively, use parchment paper or foil crimping edges to seal well).  Bake until vegetables are tender about 2 hours.  When done, remove from oven.

For Vinaigrette:
Combine reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.

To Serve:
Spoon vegetables onto individual serving plates. Cheese, such as parmesan, feta, or mozzarella, may be added to the roasted vegetables.  Then Drizzle vinaigrette around plate. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Epigrams de Sole
This is another favorite recipe of mine from Chef Michel Roux Jnr of the two-star Michelin restaurant Le Gavroche in London.  Chef Roux demonstrated this on the Master Chef UK series.  He said that it is such an intricate dish that his "Chefs hate it when it is on the menu at the restaurant."  Of course, I had to give it a try.  It is simply sole fillets stuffed with a lobster and tarragon mixture, then covered in a pane', and sautéed in plenty of butter and oil.  Not a dish for every day but once in a while a nice treat.  Chef Roux garnishes the dish with the lobster head and tail and adds baby carrots and baby turnips.  A very nice presentation.   Although my lobster head fell apart, everything else was perfect for the first time making it.  However, I did "cheat" and purchased fillets--not a whole fish.  As with several of Chef Roux's other dishes, this was fun and not as challenging as the show portrays.

For the Stuffed Sole:
2 Fillets of soul, about 3-4 ounce portions each
1 1-1/4 # lobster; cooked; lobster meat removed; shells reserved for sauce
1/2 cup fresh tarragon, chopped
1 cup AP flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup bread crumbs, unflavored
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 oz unsalted butter

For the Sauce:
Reserved lobster body
1/2 cup chopped shallots

1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/3 cup chopped celery
4 oz unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup Brandy
1/2 cup White Wine
1 Roma tomato chopped; about 4 ounces
1 cup fish stock

Lobster Stock
To Make the Sauce:
Add shallots, carrots and celery to pan.  Add lobster shells and butter. Break lobster shells while stirring.  Add bay leaf, garlic and tomato paste.  Stir to cook paste slightly for about one minute.  Add brandy then add and the white wine.  Let alcohol reduce for about 2-3 minutes.  Then add the fish stock.  Simmer until stock is intensified and reduced by half, about 35-40 minutes. When done, pass sauce into a sieve.  Set sauce aside.

To Make the Stuffed Sole:
For the Filling:
Mix the chopped lobster meat with the tarragon.  Set aside.

Lobster/Tarragon Mixture
For the Sole:
On a flat surface, score fillets with a knife.  Then pound between film (clear plastic wrap) concentrating on the thickest part of the fillets to make them uniform in thickness (sort of like pounding on a chicken breast to make it uniform).  Remove film.  Place lobster/tarragon mixture on the lower portion of the fillet and fold the top portion of fillet over.  Trim sides and bottom of fillets to form a "triangle".  (Set scraps aside for another use.)  Press on folded fillet (epigram) to seal.  Dip epigrams in flour, and then dredge in egg yolk mixture, then coat in the unflavored bread crumbs.  Chill in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes so the epigram will seal and not fall apart during cooking.

To Finish:
Heat a sauté' pan with a combination of butter and oil mixture--not too hot.  Sauté' epigrams in pan and continue to spoon the mixture over fish while they are cooking.  When one side turns brown, turn epigrams over and continue to spoon the butter over the other side.  When epigrams turn golden, remove from pan and set on a plate lined with paper towels.  Let epigrams drain, then plate.

Add a dollop of the leftover lobster/tarragon mixture on top to garnish.  Serves 2.



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Squid Stuffed With Wild Rice, or Calamars Farcis aux Riz Sauvage

This is my interpretation of Chef Michel Roux Jnr's Calamars Farcis aux Riz Sauvage, or Squid Stuffed with Wild Rice.  I've never made or eaten squid stuffed with rice--let alone a wild rice--so it was an interesting dish to try and replicate, sans written instructions.  The accompaniment is mussels that are first cooked in white wine, then shocked in an ice water bath and later warmed in butter, garlic and parsley.  Although it looked complicated on the BBC's Master Chef Professionals episode, it wasn't.  However, I did "cheat" and purchased squid bodies that were already cleaned by my fish monger.  I opted not to make the fried tentacles that were a part of Chef Roux's dish; but, nonetheless, it was very good and the flavours were prominent.. All in all...a very good dish and one that I would definitely recreate again...and again...and again.  Chef Roux Jnr would be proud.  I hope. 

For the Squid and Wild Rice Stuffing:
4 oz. white onions, chopped
6 oz. red pepper, chopped
pinch saffron threads, or 0.25 grams
4 oz wild rice
1 quart of lobster stock (32 Volume ounces), preferably home-made
2 egg yolks
3 squid bodies, cleaned
For the Mussels:
12-15 mussels, PEI of course
1 1/2 cups White Wine (I always use Mondavi Chardonnay)
1/2 quart lobster stock (or 16 Volume ounces)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons sliced garlic
3 Tablespoons chopped parsley

For the Squid/Wild Rice Stuffing:
First, we make the wild rice--like a pilaf, according to Chef Roux.  Rinse the wild rice, then drain.  Take the chopped onions and red peppers and sweat them for about 5 minutes.  Add to this, the saffron, the rinsed wild rice and the lobster stock..  Let the mixture cook, covered, in the oven at 350 degrees.  Check every 1/2 hour. It does require at least 1 1/2 hours.  When the rice is done, remove from oven and add the egg yolks. Stir.  Now the stuffing is ready.

Fill the squid bodies with stuffing.  Then secure each with a bamboo or stainless steel toothpick. 

For the Mussels:
Steam mussels in the white wine with some garlic (about 1 Tablespoon). After mussels open, remove mussels from pan and purge them into an ice water bath to stop them from cooking.  When cool enough to handle, remove mussel meat from their shells.  Set aside. Add the lobster stock to the pan containing the broth that the mussels were steamed in.  This is now the mixture to steam the stuffed calamari.
To Finish:
For the calamari:  Add stuffed calamari to the mussel/lobster broth combination and let cook for about ten minutes, or until the calamari is soft and the egg in the stuffing mixture is cooked through.   After stuffed calamari is cooked, remove from pan and let rest for a few minutes (about 3-5); then slice the stuffed calamari into 1/2 inch thickness.

For the mussels:  Warm the melted butter, garlic and parsley mixture.  Add the mussel meat to this and warm through.  This is the added garnish to the dish.

To Plate:  Slice the cooked/stuffed calamari..  Add a dollop of mussel mixture and that's it.