Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Béchamel Sauce

Mornay sauce over steamed veggies
I created this blog because I love to cook and I wanted my daughter to have easy access to my recipes when she had her own apartment/home. I am pretty crazy about my daughter so you can imagine how excited I was when she decided that she might like this cooking thing and wanted to learn more. So we are going to cook together and learn the basics. I decided to start at the beginning- sauces- and what better place to start than the five mother sauces.

The five mother sauces of French cooking were coined by Chef Auguste Escoffier in his classic cookbook Le Guide Cullinaire (the English translation is A guide to Modern Cookery (modern for 1903)). He listed the five mother sauces as Sauce Béchamel; Sauce Espagnole; Sauce Velouté; Sauce Tomate; and Sauce Hollandaise. A sauce derived form one of the mother sauces created by adding additional ingredients is a daughter sauce.

We are going to make a mother sauce each weekend for five weeks. So that brings us to béchamel sauce. Oh I love this sauce. It is the basis for my baked mac and cheese, the ultimate in comfort food. But I digress. Béchamel sauce was named after Louis Béchamel, a seventeenth-century French financier and courtier. It is basically a roux made from equal parts fat and flour and then milk or cream is added. It sounds deceptively easy.

Method

2 Tablespoons of Butter (Unsalted)
2 Tablespoons of Flour (Unbleached All Purpose)
1 1/4 Cups of Milk (Heated)
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
Pinch of White Pepper
Pinch of Nutmeg (Optional)

Heat the milk over low heat in a small sauce pan (it should never boil) In a medium size heavy sauce pan over low heat melt the butter. Once the butter is melted whisk in the flour.

Roux
Raise the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the roux (the butter flour mixture is called a roux and it is magical) is slightly fragrant (do not let it brown- you will do that for other sauces but not this one). This will take about 2-3 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the heated milk.
Slowly whisking in the milk
This sauce is supposed to be smooth and velvety (no lumps) so whisk it! Once all of the milk is added slowly bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Whisking the sauce
Cook the sauce (do not boil) for about 8-10 minutes until it has the consistency of a thick cream soup. If you so chose you can strain the sauce through a sieve to ensure its smoothness.
If you are going to use it later, take off of the heat, cool to room temperature, cover with wax paper to prevent a film from forming, and place in the refrigerator.  This sauce will keep for a day or two. If it is too thick when reheated, add a little milk to thin.

Alternations

Thick Béchamel Sauce
Prepare as above increasing the butter and flour to three tablespoons. This could be used a a base for a soufflé or to bind a runny casserole.

Thin Béchamel Sauce
Prepare as above using one tablespoon of butter and flour. This could be used a base for cream soups. 

Sauce Mornay
Because everything is better with cheese. Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of grated cheese to the sauce in the last two minutes of cooking. You may need to add a little more milk to thin. (This is amazing served over steamed veggies). Cheese to try- Gruyere, Emmental, Parmesan, Swiss, cheddar, or blue cheese. 

Mustard Sauce
Because I love mustard. Add 2-4 tablespoons one tablespoon at a time of mustard to the prepared sauce. I like Dijon mustard. Try a Cajun mustard for a chance of pace. Be sure to taste as you add the mustard. A little mustard can go a long way. I use this as a base for my baked mac and cheese. The perfect comfort food.

White Sausage Gravy
Cook about 1/2 pound to a pound of sausage and save the drippings. Use sausage drippings instead of the butter to make the sauce. Use 2 tablespoons of drippings (add butter to make up the difference if necessary). Stir in the sausage at the end and warm. Serve over biscuits-- heaven. 

Creamed Spinach
This one is for my mom who loves creamed spinach. Make the béchamel sauce (add the nutmeg). Based on you taste preference you  you may want to add a bay leaf and a half of an onion with one clove stuck in it to the milk and heat the milk over very low heat for about 15 minutes to infuse the flavor (remove the onion, clove, and bay leaf before adding it to the roux). Meanwhile steam one pound of fresh spinach until wilted and tender. This will take about 5-6 minutes, remove from the steamer, coarse chop, and strain. Add the spinach to the sauce and stir. Serve immediately. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

French Mustard Vingerette

Salad with french mustard vinaigrette
I absolutely loved the mustard vinaigrette we had on our salads in France. It was amazing.  Since I have been home I have been trying to copy the taste.  The mustard isn't quite right and I think I am going to have to make my own but that it is a different blog post. So I am as close as I am going to get, and it is my new favorite dressing.  The only drawback is it has to be made fresh; you should only make what you need (or you can drink the leftovers-- yes, it is that good).  Please note the measurements are approximate.  This is one of those foods that you need to taste and adjust the ingredients to your taste. A note of warning taste the mustard and vinegar before you use them and adjust accordingly. If you can get your hands on real French mustard it is stronger than American mustard (deliciously so in my opinion).

The secret to this recipe of very few ingredients is quality of the ingredients. You want to use a good mustard (hence why I am thinking of making my own), shallots (you can substitute onions in a pinch but it won't be as good), and vinegar (once again-- you can make your own). The traditional dressing is Dijon mustard but you can play around with the mustard. I think a Cajun mustard might be yummy. A word of caution if you hate mustard you will not like this dressing.  My family loves mustard (we have at least 10 varieties of mustard),  and we LOVE this dressing.

Ingredients

2 Shallots (About 2 Tablespoons) Finely Chopped
2-3 Tablespoons of White Wine or Sherry Vinegar (or Champagne Vinegar-- even better)
A couple of Pinches of Sea Salt
1-2 Teaspoons of Mustard
Approximately 1/4 Cup of Olive Oil

Method
The most important step is to finely mince the shallots and soak them in vinegar and salt for about 10 minutes (I recommend a glass or ceramic bowl).
Soaking shallots
Next whisk in the mustard and slowly add the olive oil.
Completed dressing

That's it.  Amazingly easy and so so good. The bottom line: will I make it again.  Yes- I am mixing and matching mustards and vinegars. Yum!


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Les Saint-Jacques à la Nantaise

Les Saint-Jacques à la Nantaise
Here is my first attempt at translating and adapting a French recipe. I decided to make coquilles St.-Jacques because I wanted to start with something easy (I don't know what I was thinking because it was not easy to translate). Instead of the creamy white sauce, this recipe is from Nantes which is a northwestern French city on the banks of the Loire River.  It is made with white wine and lots of parsley.  I have translated and adapted the recipe from Le Tour De France Gourmand by Julie Andrieu. The first challenge was ingredients I live in Missouri (far from an ocean) and do not have access to scallops in their shells. My solution was to buy the scallops and shells separately. The recipe called for rose shallots, I used regular shallots.  You should find the freshest scallops available and use large sea scallops. I used a dry french white wine, fresh parsley from my garden, fresh garlic from the local CSA (thank you Fair Share CSA), and freshly made bread crumbs. I filled in some of the details that I thought would be helpful. Spoiler alert-- I thought this was an absolutely incredible dish. My husband thought that this was more appetizer size than entree size.  We ate two each.

Les Saint-Jacques à la Nantaise

Ingredients

3-4 Scallop Shells
6 Large Sea Scallops, Quartered
2 Shallots, Finely Diced
4 Tablespoons (50g) Salted Butter, Divided
2.5 Ounces (7 cl) Dry White Wine
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1/2 Bouquet of Parsley, Chopped
1 Slice of Bread Without Crust
1/4 Cup (10 cl) of Milk
Bread Crumbs
Sea Salt (Preferably Fleur de Sel), To Taste
Pepper (Preferably Freshly Ground), To Taste

Method 

Rinse and pat dry the scallops. Place the scallop shells on a cookie sheet. Preheat broiler.

Melt 2 tablespoons (25g) of the butter in a medium skillet over low heat.  Add the shallots and cook over low heat for approximately 5 minutes.  Add the wine and slightly raise the heat. Cook for 5 more minutes.
The shallots cooking in butter-- what a lovely smell!
Meanwhile soak the bread in the milk. Mash with a fork and drain. Add the minced garlic, parsley and the drained bread to the skillet. Cook approximately 2 minutes.
Added the garlic, parsley, and wine.
Add scallops to the skillet and cook 3-4 minutes.
Added the scallops
Remove from heat and divide between the shells. Top with bread crumbs, lightly salt and pepper, and top with the remaining butter.

Ready for the oven
Place under the broiler 3 minutes to brown.  Carefully watch the scallops (you may need to take them out early) so they don't burn.

Will I make this again? Yes, best scallop dish ever. (Really-- I am not kidding).


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lavender Sorbet

My lavender
The ice cream in France (and Italy) is out of this world good.  What struck me about the ice cream in France (other than the incredible yumminess) was the number of flavors-- seriously Baskin Robbins has nothing on France.  I would like to devote a significant portion of my life to eating French ice cream.


58 glorious flavors
 I barely made a dent in trying the different flavors of ice cream.  Having typed that one of my favorite flavors was lavender.  Yes, lavender ice cream; it was crazy good.  I grow lavender and right now I have a lot of flowers so I decided to recreate it at home.  I decided to make sorbet instead of ice cream for several reasons.  Sorbet is lighter than a heavy custard ice cream and a lot easier to make.
The inside of the store with 58 flavors.

Some of the choices- yes olive is a choice

More Choices- cactus was amazingly sweet 
Lavender Sorbet

Ingredients

1 Cup (200 grams) of Sugar
2 Cups (237 ml) of Water
1 Tablespoon of Fresh Lavender Flowers
2 1/2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
1-2 Tablespoons of Vodka (this keeps the sorbet from freezing solid; adjust the vodka depending on how firm you want the sorbet)

Method

You are going to make a simple syrup by dissolving sugar in water in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Once the sugar is dissolved slightly raise the heat and add the lavender flowers.  

Lavender flowers from my garden
Bring the mixture to a boil (stirring constantly) and then lower the heat so that the mixture simmers for 5 minutes. 

Remove from the heat, cover and let the lavender flowers steep for about 10 minutes. Strain the mixture into a glass bowl and add the lemon juice and vodka.  You are adding the vodka to keep it from freezing solid. 
Straining the lavender
I covered it and refrigerated until chilled. Once chilled, add to an ice cream maker and voilà a taste of France.
Finished lavender sorbet- delicious


Sunday, September 27, 2015

White Cushaw Squash

Cushaw squash in the field (my foot for reference)
You may not know this about me- I am a master gardener intern. I have wanted to do this for years but there was always a reason that I couldn't. My daughter is now in high school, so I decided to start classes. I justify it by saying that I am modeling life long learning for our daughter. But the reality is I love gardening and I wanted to learn more. I like the people I meet gardening and I love my presentation topic-- hedgerows (I know it is a strange thing to be fascinated by but I am).  So, I finally get to learn all kinds of things about plants and I get to play, I mean volunteer, in a garden that donates its produce to Saint Charles Food Pantry and Synergy Services (the garden is Atkins Johnson in Gladstone). It is a beautiful garden. It is all heirloom (pre1900- and has the neatest variety of okra (fife creek cowhorn okra). Fife Creek Cowhorn Okra is available from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds --- why is it so great? Because it stays tender even after it is 7 to 8 inches long.... so if you are like me and love okra but forget to pick your okra daily --this is the okra for you. Okra is also one of the prettiest growing veggies. Yes, I will be growing this okra next year.

The other amazing crop is white cushaw squash. It is a real thing and it is amazing. It tastes a 1000 times better than pumpkin. White cushaw is an heirloom squash from the south (1891). It is easy to grow (so I've been told), resistant to squash bugs, and yields a lot of giant squash.  When I say giant- I mean giant-- they weigh 30-40 pounds.

I ended up with a squash (be still my heart) and here is what I did:

I chopped up the neck of the squash, peeled it, diced it, and froze it in vacuum bags for the winter. It made a ton. I will use it in soups, pies, and casseroles this winter.
Bags of diced squash
I chopped the body of the squash in half,

The inside of the squash
dug out the seeds and roasted the squash halves for one hour in a 350 degree oven.

Roasting squash

I let it cool, pureed, drained, and froze it in vacuum bags.

Draining the squash- it has the consistency of baby food
I did take two cups of the pureed squash and made a custard like pie.

Pie!
I roasted the seeds for about 25 minutes in 325 degree oven. Yum! My only complaint is I would have liked more seeds....

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

It is a little messy but it is so good
We are still on our healthy eating "lifestyle" changing guidelines.  I really enjoy our new eating habits- more fish, fruits, and veggies and less meat, pastas, and desserts. I miss pasta the most although I have replaced white flour pasta with whole grain pasta (angel hair), quiona, and brown rice.  I really enjoy dessert once a week because it gives me something to look forward to- although I allow myself a piece of high quality dark chocolate once a day. We eat a lot of fresh tuna and salmon- it is a good thing we love fish and I try to make meatless meals.  One of my favorites is grilled portobello mushrooms.  So easy and so good. I wasn't planning on blogging this one but it was so good, my family requested that it be blogged. So the amounts are approximate and there are no in process pictures.
I would normally use basil in these mushroom but I had some fresh spinach and used that instead. If you are one of those rare people that don't like goat cheese, then substitute mozzarella (or another cheese) for the goat cheese. I would have loved to add panko or bread crumbs to this mixture but I am trying to cut back (and I didn't miss them).

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

3 Large Portobello Mushrooms
Olive Oil
Couple of Tomatoes, Diced
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1/2 Half Red Pepper, Diced
1/4 Sweet Onion, Diced
4 Ounces (114 grams) Goat Cheese
8 Ounces (228 grams) Spinach, Chopped
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper, To Taste

Prepare your grill. (light your charcoal if you are using a charcoal grill). Sauté the onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil. Once the onion and garlic are lightly caramelized, remove from heat and cool. Meanwhile, scoop out the black fins of the portobello and lightly coat the inside and outside of the mushrooms with olive oil.  Combine the tomatoes, red pepper, goat cheese, spinach, vinegar, onion and garlic in a bowl.
On the grill
Divide the mixture between the mushrooms and place the mushrooms on the grill. Grill for approximately 7-10 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is heated through.
Finished! These were eaten so quickly I was lucky I got a picture.
The bottom line will I make this again? Yes, my family is already requesting it. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Best Tacos

The perfect taco
Under the food guidelines I am trying to follow, I am only supposed to have red meat once a week.  I am pretty close to meeting that goal. So, for my red meat meal you would think I would always want a nice juicy steak. Not necessarily.  I am totally addicted to tacos and not just any tacos- I either want tacos from La Tienda (but if I am at La Tienda I am usually going to want the shrimp cilantro pesto quesadillas) so the only other taco I want is this recipe. Yes, it is that good.  It takes awhile but that gives me time to run a couple of miles before dinner. A pro tip-- use cabbage in your tacos instead of lettuce- it tastes better and doesn't wilt.

Tacos
Meat:
1 Pound (.45 kg) of Hamburger (You can make two pounds with the same amount of spices)
Spices:
1 Tbsp of Paprika
1-2 Tbsps of Chili Powder
1/2 Tsp of Garlic Powder
1 Tsp of Cumin
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
Veggies:
1/2 of a Bell, Red, Yellow, or Orange Pepper, Diced
1/2 Onion, Diced
It looks like too much spice but it is not trust me
Mix together the meat and spices and place in a medium sauce pan.

Add enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for an hour (yes an hour- this is when I go for my run so I can eat several tacos guilt free).
Adding the pepper and onion- I am on a red pepper kick
Add onion and pepper to the meat mixture and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.  Most of the liquid cooks off so I have never had to drain the meat.
Finished- still some liquid but not too much
Either use the meat right away in your tacos or refrigerate and use later. I like soft shells, cabbage, avocado, onion, tomato, cilantro, and cheese for my tacos.

The bottom line: will I make this again? Yes, it is so good.