Monday, June 25, 2012

How to make a Bisque


I've always been a lover of seafood.  Shellfish is definitely one of my favorite things to eat.  Andy and I do a seafood boil every now and then.  We boil all of the seafood in a pot and then lay everything out on a sheet pan.  Then we go at it like some ravage beasts.  It's a messy sight.  But in my opinion, the ONLY way to eat a seafood boil is with your hands and to get messy.

From these seafood boils, we usually end up with a bunch of shrimp shells.  Most people might throw them away, but they're like seafood gold.  And one of my favorite things to make with them is a good old fashioned bisque.

A bisque is traditionally a shellfish soup thickened up with cooked rice.  However, in today's sense, most bisques are thickened with a roux for better stability and consistency.  Follow the following steps and you'll have the perfect bisque every time.

#1. Caramelize your mirepoix (carrots, onion, celery) and shellfish shells (you can use any shellfish, but I find shrimp the most practical and inexpensive).

#2. Add a tomato product (usually paste) and deglaze the pan with wine (usually white).


#3. Add fish/seafood stock or a fish veloute (remember veloute is just a fancy word for gravy!) - it's also a good time to add a sachet of herbs too (mine had thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves).


#4. Incorporate a roux (equal parts flour and fat, by weight) if needed - you can easily make a beurre manie by combining equal part soft butter with flour and forming small balls, then stirring them into the mixture


#5. Simmer, skimming occasionally.
#6. Puree the mixture (shells and all) and return to a simmer.
#7. When you've achieved your desired flavor, strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or chinois.
#8. Return the soup back to the heat and bring to a simmer.  Finish with cream, if desired.

As amateur as it may be... I kind of like my reflection in the spoon =)

And now you've got yourself a bisque!  Garnish with whatever shellfish you used in the broth and some fresh herbs.  Soups don't get any better than this!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Caramelized Onion & Portobello Grilled Cheese

I've only got a few more days of freedom before school starts on Monday and I've been working A TON!  It seems like I'm going non-stop even when I'm not at work!  I had the day off yesterday, so i decided to take it easy.

Sometimes a little grilled cheese is all you need to keep it casual.  And of course, we can't just have any normal grilled cheese!  I was checking out BS' in the Kitchen and saw this Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Brie Grilled Cheese and totally had a craving for it right away!  I always have onions on hand, and I happened to have mushrooms too.  So I was practically set.  While I love brie cheese (we make an awesome Brie Salad at work), my butt wasn't about to leave the house to get some - I was feeling particularly lazy.  However, I did have some pepperjack leftover from some burgers we grilled and I figured why not?!  So here's my little twist on that grilled cheese!

Adapted from BS' in the Kitchen's Recipe

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus a little extra for spreading on bread
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup portobello mushrooms
1 sprig of thyme
 salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon flour
1-2 slices of pepperjack cheese
2 slices of bread (I used normal white sandwich bread)

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet under medium heat.  Add onions and stir occasionally, until they are nice and caramelized.  The thinner your onions, the faster this will be.

Once your onions are nicely browned and caramelized, add in your mushroom, garlic, and thyme.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Stir in flour until a slight paste forms and then start adding in your beef broth.  Reduce until mixture is thickened and liquid is nearly evaporated.

Get a new skillet under medium heat.  Butter one side of both pieces of bread.  Sandwich the pepperjack and onion & mushroom mix in between the bread and place on skillet.  I'm sure I don't have to explain how to make a grilled cheese =)

Cook until both sides are golden brown and cheese is melted.

And enjoy the cheesy, onion-y goodness!

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Perfect Broth

Before we get to today's post - just wanted to let everybody know that I have a guest post over at Jeff's Plate so make sure you check it out!  Jeff is an awesome dude who is currently taking some time off to finish wedding planning of his own!


Before I knew better, I always assumed that broths and stocks were the same thing.  While, they are similar in their way of preparation (i.e. simmering flavorings ingredients in liquid for a long period of time), they differ in 2 distinct ways.

#1. Broths are made with meat, as opposed to stocks being made with just bones.
#2. Broths can be served as is, unlike stocks which are usually used to prepare other items.

So now you've learned something new (hopefully - if you already knew the difference, then bravo to you!)

The guidelines to preparing any broth - whether it be beef, chicken, fish, etc. - are quite simple.

#1. Truss or cut the main ingredient (trim any excess fat away - I usually save all of my meat trimmings and throw them in the freezer, and when I have a good pile, I'll make some broth - same with bones, when I get enough bones - I'll make stock)


#2. Brown the meat (the caramelizing/browning of the meat is where the flavor is at!); brown or sweat the mirepoix (onion, celery, carrot)



#3. Place the main ingredient & mirepoix in stockpot and fill with enough cold water to cover.  (Normally you'd want enough meat to cover the surface of the water - I didn't quite have enough, so my broth is sort of light, but that's okay - the flavor is still there!) Add sachet of spices (I added peppercorns, thyme, and rosemary), if desired.


#4. Bring liquid slowly to a boil; reduce to simmer and cook, skimming for impurities, until the flavor is fully developed (about 2 hours).
#5. Strain broth carefully.
#6. Cool and store  (After it's cooled you can easily skim off any rendered fat that has solidified on the top!) or use as is.

Follow those 6 steps and you'll have a broth in no time, no matter what meat you use!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Salmon w/ Lemon Cream Beurre Blanc & Sauteed Vegetables

The traditional beurre blanc we made the other day was a very temperature sensitive sauce.  A lot of us don't have the time or patience to hover over something to make sure it doesn't break.  Am I right?  Well, a cream beurre blanc is a more stable version of a beurre blanc.  It allows the emulsification to become more stable. 

So today I've got a beautiful salmon dish, topped with the beurre blanc.  Easy. Simple. Delicious. 


Lemon Cream Beurre Blanc:

1/2 tablespoon shallot, minced
1 teaspoons olive oil
3 oz. white wine
4 oz. heavy whipping cream
4 oz. butter, cut into 1 oz. portions and chilled
juice from 1 lemon
3 sprigs thyme
salt and pepper, to taste


2 6 oz. salmon fillets
1/2 cup flour, for dredging
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 lb. haricot vert (French green beans)
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
salt and pepper, to taste

Start by making your beurre blanc.  Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and saute shallots until translucent.  Add wine, lemon juice, and thyme and reduce mixture by half.

Add the cream and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce by two-thirds.

Remove from the heat, but keep warm.  Whisk in the butter, an ounce at a time, moving back to the heat if necessary.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Strain mixture and hold warm.

Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper on both sides.  Dredge salmon in flour, patting off any excess.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan and add salmon, skin-side down (or presentation side if you've removed the skin).  Cook to desired temperature and set aside.

Season your vegetables and saute under medium high heat (you can use the same pan as the salmon, if you'd like - make sure to wipe out any excess grease).

To plate, place a mound of vegetables in the center of the plate.  Top with salmon fillet and beurre blanc.

This was a meal we enjoyed out on our back deck.  It was such a lovely summertime meal.  Hope you guys are having a great week so far!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Citrus-Thyme Beurre Blanc

Happy Wednesday ya'll!

I already feel so accomplished today.  I've worked out (went for a grueling hot 3 mile run!), gone grocery shopping, and mailed off some bills!  And now I'm even doing a blog post!  I'll have to use up my free time as much as I can, because after next week, it's back to school I go!

Anyway, I've been on a sauce kick lately (can't you tell?!) and I want to share another one of my favorite sauces.  A beurre blanc - translated to "white butter".  It's basically an emulsion of white wine/white wine vinegar and butter.  Throw in some herbs, citrus, or pretty much anything, and your possibilities are endless!  Today I'll be doing a Citrus-thyme beurre blanc because those are the flavors I have on hand, but feel free to play with the combinations of flavors!

One important thing to remember with beurre blancs, unless used right away, you need to keep them warm.  However, they can't get too hot (over 136F), or the emulsion will break, releasing the butter fat.  This can be fixed though if you allow the mixture to cool to about 110-120F and then rewhisk the emulsion.  The beurre blanc also can't get too cold.  If the temperature gets below 85F, then the butter fat will solidify.  Reheating it will separate the mixture into butter fat and water.  No rewhisking in the world can save it after that.  You could, however, use it as a softened flavored butter, just not a beurre blanc.  Anyway, let's get to it!


1/4 oz. champagne/white wine vinegar (I used an orange champagne vinegar from Trader Joe's)
1 oz. white wine, like a chardonnay
juice from 1 lemon
salt and pepper (white, if you have it), to taste
1/4 oz. shallot, minced
1 sprig of thyme
4 oz. butter, cut into 1 oz. portions, chilled

In a small saucepan, combine the white wine, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, thyme, and shallot under medium to medium high heat.  Reduce the mixture to about 2 tablespoons of liquid.  If too much liquid is left, your sauce will be too thin.  Remove the thyme from the mixture (it'll just get in the way when you start whisking)

Turn the heat down to low and whisk in the butter, one portion at a time.  Only add the next piece of butter when the last one is almost melted in.


Once all the butter is incorporated, remove saucepan from heat.  Strain the mixture and hold the sauce at a temperature between 100F and 130F or use right away.

A beurre blanc is perfect for topping seafood, chicken, or even beef!  Another versatile sauce that has many different flavors and applications.  Keep these babies in your arsenal when you want to impress - and stay tuned to what I end up doing with my beurre blanc!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Steak Allemande


How was everyone's weekend?

Ours was pretty fun!  I had to work Saturday night, but I had Sunday off.  We spend the day at a cookout for a friend's birthday.  We played volleyball for the majority of the afternoon - which was extremely fun, but also extremely exhausting!  We definitely weren't ready for it to be Monday though!

So we made allemande sauce last Friday.  Like I said, it is one of my favorite sauces and it goes very well with steak or chicken.  We had ourselves a fancy little steak dinner on Friday night (so much cheaper than going out!) and this is how we put it together! 


2 NY Strip Steaks (or cut of your choice!)
Allemande Sauce, warmed
1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, halved
1/2 lb. red potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for rubbing steaks
salt and pepper, to taste

Light a grill under medium high heat and preheat your oven to 425 F.

In a large bowl, combine the brussels sprouts and potatoes with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spread the vegetables on a baking sheet and roast for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Rub olive oil on both sides of steaks.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.  Grill the steaks to desired doneness.  Let rest for 5 minutes.

To plate, place a decent amount of the roasted vegetables on the center of the plate.  Lean steak on top of vegetables.  Finish plate with allemande sauce. 

Voila!  Fancy dinner at home.  And oh. so. easy. 

Hope you guys have a great start to your week!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Allemande Sauce


Happy Friday everybody!

This quarter at school finally came to a close yesterday after I took my last final!  Hooray two weeks of freedom!  I've already started my "school-vacation" by redoing the bathroom - mainly just buying a new shower curtain, MAJOR dusting, some new rugs, and a few other odds and ends.  I'll have to post before and after pictures because it's definitely going to be "brighter"!

Anyway, I've got a sauce for ya today.  It's one that you don't see very often, and I have no idea why!  It's one of my favorites and it can go on practically any protein, although it's mostly used on meat and chicken.

This is actually a two for one post today - an Allemande is a small sauce to a mother sauce - Veloute.  So we've got to learn how to make a Veloute before we can make an Allemande.  But most of you probably already know how to make a Veloute.  Oh you don't think so?  Well... have you ever made a basic gravy?  Why yes?!  Well, my friends.  You've made a veloute - basically just a fancy way of saying gravy.  Who knew?! 

Well, let's get to it!



1 oz. butter
1 oz. flour
2 & 1/2 cups chicken, beef, or fish stock
salt and pepper (white, if you have it), to taste


2 cups veloute sauce
1 eggs yolks
3 oz. heavy cream
1/8 oz. lemon juice
salt and pepper (white), to taste

Let's start by making our veloute.  In a large saucepan, heat up the butter under medium high heat.  Add the flour and stir.  This is a roux!  We'll want to cook it just until it's blonde in color.

Gradually add in your stock of choice (I used beef since this is going with a steak dish).  You'll want to be whisking constantly in order to prevent any lumps from forming.  Once the stock is incorporated, bring the mixture to a boil. 


Then reduce to a simmer and let reduce for about 30 minutes (about 2 cups).

Strain the mixture to remove any leftover lumps.  Voila, veloute.  This you can jar up and keep for a few days, no problem.  But we're taking it a couple steps further.

So for our allemande, place the veloute in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.  I have an abundance of rosemary at the moment, so I threw in a sprig of that to add a little more dimension to the sauce. 

Meanwhile, in a stainless steel bowl, whip the egg yolks with the heavy cream.  This will create what's called a "liaison."  Ladle about 1/3 of the veloute in with the yolks, whisking constantly.  This, of course, is the process of "tempering." 

Gradually add the tempered liaison to the saucepan with the rest of the veloute, whisking constantly.

Do not let the mixture come to a boil, this will curdle the eggs - and you don't want that.

Add the lemon juice and season mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.

Strain mixture for any leftover lumps and serve right away.

We ended up topping a nice grilled NY Strip with the sauce, but the possibilities are endless!  You can even mold the Allemande with different flavor possibilities too - fresh herbs, tomato paste, horseradish, mushrooms - whatever pairs well with the meal you're serving! 

Enjoy guys - and have a great weekend!  And stay tuned to see what awesome dish that this sauce lands on =)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

So we made vegetable stock last post.  Now what do we do with it?!

The most obvious and cliche choice would be soup, right?  Right.  And it just so happened that I was really in the mood for some. 

A friend of mine had given me some broccoli from her garden in exchange for some pizza dough and gluten free banana bread (hooray for trades!) a little while back and it had just been sitting in the freezer all this time.  I noticed I had a bunch of cheese in the fridge too.  So it looks like my soup was picked out! 

Broccoli cheddar is just one of those soups that goes so well with a fresh baguette or a sandwich.  It screams comfort to me, and is perfect for a quick lunch.  So let's get to it!


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, julienned
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 cups vegetable stock
1 large crown of broccoli, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
pinch of nutmeg
1/8 cup basil, chopped
1/2 cup Velveeta (I'm not ashamed)
1/2 cup Colby Jack cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper, to taste

It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but most of these items I have on hand on a regular basis, so I'd assume the same might be said for you all, too!

Melt the butter in a medium sized stock pot under medium high heat.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook until the onions are just translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

Add flour and stir until a light paste is formed.

Add heavy cream, milk, and vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil.

Add broccoli, carrot, nutmeg, and basil.  Simmer mixture for about 20 minutes.

Turn off heat and stir in cheeses.  Stir until melted and season to taste.

You can leave your soup chunky at this point, or if you like a creamier soup, you can puree the mix for a silkier texture.  I chose to puree mine a bit, leaving some chunks for texture.

Serve with cracked black pepper as a garnish and toasty baguette!

See, what did I say?  Lunch (or dinner) in less than 30 minutes!

Enjoy guys!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Basics 101: Vegetable Stock

How's everybody's weekend going so far? Ours has been quite relaxing, although I do end up going back to work today (I've had the last 3 days off work, and they were definitely needed!).

A good stock, whether it be chicken, beef, or vegetable, can be the basis for many great dishes and sauces.  I actually prefer a vegetable stock over the animal-based because 1) it's the easiest, 2) it's the quickest, and 3) it's the cheapest!

You can definitely use a variety of vegetable combinations, but don't think that more is always better.  Sometimes you can even just use a handful of vegetables and it will turn out great.  If you try to incorporate too many vegetables though, you'll end up with something that's not versatile enough for you to use with everyday dishes.

Vegetables that I'd avoid using for vegetable stock would be asparagus, broccoli, spinach, and bitter greens.  These are strongly flavored and would overpower your stock if you wanted to make it all-purpose.  Also, starchy vegetables like potatoes should be avoided because they can cloud up your stock - unless clarity isn't an issue.  Then by all means, go for the potatoes!

I like the following formula because it has everyday vegetables that I usually have in my crisper drawer.  Feel free to change things up to develop a stock that's right for you!

(Makes 2 quarts)

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 carrots
4 celery ribs
1 large onion
1 leek, washed
1 bulb of fennel, fronds cut off
1 large turnip
1 large tomato
1/2 cup white wine
2 quarts water
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
small handful of black peppercorns (maybe 1/2 teaspoon?)
about 14 parsley stems

Now, one thing about stocks.  A lot of recipes make you dice up your vegetables before you put them in.  I used to do that.  And then I worked at a restaurant.  We never dice them up.  At most, we quarter the vegetables.  It's quicker and you end up with the same result.  And it helps with the straining process.  So depending on your time and whether you want to work on your knife skills, you can forgo the small dicing of your vegetables.  A quick chop to make them manageable in the pot is good enough.

Heat your oil under medium high heat in a large stockpot.  Add the carrots, celery, onion, leek, fennel, turnip, and tomato to the pot.  Let the vegetable cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine, water, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and parsley stems.

Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Take off heat and let cool to room temperature.  Strain and package up into individual containers (I did 4 pints).  Label and date.  Store in refrigerator for up to 3-4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.  If you store it in the freezer, you want to thaw it slowly under cool running water.

So what would you use your vegetable stock for?

Have a great rest of your weekend guys!