Saturday, February 23, 2008

Recipe - Oscar Party Time! Chicken Roulade

My husband and I are both culinary school graduates - he graduated from a culinary school in France, I graduated from a culinary school in the eastern US.

Since we both love food and cooking, we both love movies, and we both love getting together with our friends, we host an annual "Oscar Party." This party gives us both a chance to show off our culinary skills besides having a really good time. We ask our guests to fill out an Oscar ballot and make one choice each in all twenty-four categories. The person who wins gets a seven course dinner catered!

We have many dishes at our "Oscar Party," and this year I wanted to share one with you. It's a tasty chicken dish that's very different and very festive, but still, very easy to make, though the prepartion time is well over one hour. However, this dish is worth it.

Chicken Roulade with Prosciutto, Spinach, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes


6, 6 oz. boneless chicken breasts (skin on)
Ground black pepper
6 slices prosciutto
18 leaves fresh spinich
24 pieces sun-dried tomato
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 C. good red wine
2 C. beef stock
¼ C. tomato puree
1 C. demi-glace (Brown Sauce)
3 to 6 eggs, as needed
1 to 2 C. Half-and-Half, as needed
2 C. flour, as needed
2 C. Italian flavored breadcrumbs
1 L. canola Oil
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 bunch chives
4 T. unsalted butter, plus 1 T. for the potatoes
1 teaspoon chopped, fresh thyme leaves
2 T. white truffle oil, to taste


1. Lay a long piece of plastic wrap over your cutting board and tuck it underneath the sides of the board. (Covering the chicken with the plastic will also keep the mess down when you pound with the meat mallet.)

2. Place the chicken breasts on the covered cutting board, skin side down, with enough space between them so they can lay flat after you "butterfly" them. To make the butterfly cut, carefully slice open (without slicing the chicken all the way through) and spread the flesh of the chicken out so you will be able to pound it out into a single thin piece.

3. After pounding, place stuffing and then roll up.

4. Season the breasts with salt and pepper.

5. Place another length of plastic wrap over the seasoned chicken breasts and flatten with meat mallet to integrate the seasoning into the chicken. Pound chicken thin.

6. Lay 1 slice of prosciutto ham on each breast.

7. Add 3 leaves of spinach and 4 pieces of sun-dried tomatoes to each breast.

8. Fold in each end and roll tightly. Place on sheet tray and freeze until firm. (They do not have to be frozen completely hard, but this makes it easier to handle when breading.)

9. Preheat a deep-fryer to 350 F. Also, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

10. While the chicken roulade is hardening in the freezer, prepare the tomato demi-glace. In a saucepan, saute garlic and then deglaze the pan with the wine.

11. Add stock and tomato puree.

12. Boil over medium heat until reduced by half. Add the demi-glace (brown sauce) and let simmer until thickened ("medium thickness").

13. When the chicken is firm, set up a breading station.

14. Whisk together 3 eggs and 1 cup of the half-and-half for the egg wash. (Begin with this amount and whisk more together if needed.)

15. Set up a bowl each of: flour, then egg wash, and then Italian breadcrumbs.

16. Evenly coat rolled frozen chicken with flour (not too much or breadcrumbs won't stick).

17. Dip floured rolled chicken into egg wash, then into breadcrumbs.

18. In a deep-fat fryer, lightly fry until golden brown.

19. Finish in the oven for 15 minutes until completely cooked through. Remove from oven and let rest.

20. Boil the potatoes until tender.

21. Mash the potatoes and whip chopped chives, butter, salt, and freshly ground pepper into the potatoes with a beater.

22. Reheat the tomato demi-glace and to finish remove from heat, and immediately whisk in fresh thyme and 1 tablespoon butter.

23. Slice each chicken roll to expose the stuffed interior.

24. Place mashed potatoes in center of each plate, drizzle white truffle oil over the potatoes.

25. Lay chicken roulade over potatoes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Three Tips For Perfect Sauteing

The term, sauteing, has been applied to various cooking methods and it will continue to be applied to various cooking methods, however sauteing really refers to browning food quickly in a little cooking fat. It's a very convenient cooking method and one that's used most often with vegetables.

There are three very important things to remember when sauteing, so your food turns out perfectly:

1. The fat must be very hot before the food is added. If the fat's hot enough, it will sear the skin of the vegetables as soon as it touches them. If not, the vegetables will absorb the fat, making them greasy, and in some cases, downright inedible.

2. The pan must be large enough. When cooks try to cram too much into one pan, they end up stewing the food, rather than sauteing it. Stewed vegetables are definitely not what you want when you set out to saute.

3. The food must be dry. Even foods that have been marinated must be dried before putting them into the hot fat in the pan for sauteing. If they aren't dried, the liquid on the food will cause the food to stew rather than saute. If you want to create a glaze, and this is a nice effect at times, you add liquid - honey, brown sugar, molasses, etc. - to the vegetables after they're in the pan.

When a simmering layer of oil is added to the saute pan, the cooking technique changes from sauteing to pan frying. As the bubbling fat surrounds the frying vegetables with heat, they can be coated with an egg mixture, corn meal, or various batters.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Recipe - Quail Wrapped in Pancetta with Raspberries and Thyme

My husband and I hosted a lavish New Year's Eve dinner party and we wanted the entree to be something very different - not filet mignon, not chicken, not even a lavish fish dish. We decided on oven roasted quail wrapped in pancetta and stuffed with raspberries and thyme. Our guests loved it and were so surprised to be treated to something very different. The mashed celeriac we served with it was also a great change of pace from rice or potatoes. A salad of radicchio or leaf chicory would be perfect with this recipe. The bitterness of the greens offsets the sweetness of the raspberries and the delicacy of the quail. Quail are not used enough in the US. They're festive, inexpensive, cook quickly, and can be served is so many different ways.

Quail Wrapped in Pancetta with Raspberries and Thyme


4 oven-ready quail
20 grams salted butter (soft)
20 grams unsalted butter (soft)
Freshly ground pepper
1 T. fresh thyme leaves
12 raspberries (plus extra to decorate)
20 - 24 thin slices pancetta
4 cloves garlic
4 sprigs thyme


1. Combine the butter with the thyme leaves and pepper and divide into 4 equal sized portions.

2. Carefully lift the skin off the quail breasts (and thighs, if you're very skilful), then stuff the butter underneath and spread evenly by massaging the butter in gently from the outside, pushing it as far down as you can.

3. Stuff the cavities with 3 rasperries, 1 clove garlic and a sprig of thyme each, then wrap the quail tightly with the pancetta.

4. Place the quail in an oven proof dish and place in a preheated oven (400 F.).

5. Roast for 30 - 40 minutes or until the legs wiggle easily in the sockets.

6. Let rest for about 10 minutes, then serve with celeriac mash (cook peeled and diced celeriac in salted water with a squeeze of lemon until very soft, mash, and mix in some butter), and mixed, steamed vegetables of your choice.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope you all made something delicious for your sweetie this Valentine's Day, whether it be simply heart-shaped sugar cookies, chocolate truffles, or a full course gourmet meal.

I've been busy cooking for the loved ones in my life, so Culinary Corner Cafe will post more cooking tips, recipes, and culinary history tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Recipe - Swiss Fondue

While I was living and traveling in Europe, one of the best things I ate was fondue in tiny-but-beautiful Switzerland. Thanks to "The Melting Pot," I can now go out and enjoy many kinds of fondue any time I want, however, there are many times I want to make fondue at home. It's terrific for wintertime parties or just an intimate dinner for two. Besides it's wonderful and unique taste, fondue produces a feeling of warmth and contentment and an "all's right with the world" mind set, even if just for an hour or two.

The following recipe is for Fondue Neuchateloise. Enjoy it before warm weather arrives (and despite the snow in the Northeast and Eastern seaboard, spring is just around the corner).

Swiss Fondue (Fondue Neuchateloise)


2 1/2 fl. dry white wine
Clove garlic
5 1/2 oz. Emmental and Gruyere cheese (grated and mixed - half and half)
1 t Cornstarch
1/2 fl. Kirsch (this is the legendary Swiss cherry "firewater." It is quite dry. Don't use cherry brandy, which is quite sweet, instead. The best kirsch is Dettling, from Switzerland, but you can find good quality kirsch in any fully stocked liquor store. And fondue is safe for children and people taking medication as all the alcohol burns off.)
Shake of pepper
Ground fresh nutmeg
6 oz. crusty white bread, cubed

Note: The measurements above are "per person." Multiply each by the number of guests you expect to serve.


In Switzerland, fondue is always prepared in a "caquelon," which is an earthenware dish, glazed inside, with a handle, however an enamelled saucepan can be used, or even a not-too-shallow fireproof dish. Just follow the directions below:

1. Rub the inside of the pan with half a cut clove of garlic, and let it dry until the rubbed places feel tacky.

2. Put the wine in the dish and bring it to a boil.

3. Slowly start adding cheese to the boiling wine, and stir constantly until each bit is dissolved, then add more.

4. When all the cheese is in, stir the kirsch into the cornstarch well, then add the mixture to the cheese and keep stirring over the heat until the mixture comes to a boil again.

5. Add freshly ground pepper and nutmeg to taste.

6. Remove the dish to on top of a small live flame (Sterno or alcohol burner) and keep it bubbling slowly. (Some people do use electric fondue pots.)

7. Bread should have been cubed - about 1-inch cubes - for spearing with fondue forks and stirring around in the cheese. A crusty bread, like French or Italian, needs to be used.

Fondue Lore

The old custom is that if you accidentally lose the bread into the cheese from the end of your fork, if you're male, you have to buy a round of drinks for the table; if you're female, you have to kiss everyone.

Do not drink water with fondue - it reacts badly in your stomach with the cheese and bread. Dry white wine or tea are the usual accompaniments.

The "coupe d'midi," or "shot in the middle," is taken when you get full before you're "really" done, and consists of a thimbleful of kirsch, knocked straight back in the middle of the meal. This usually magically produces more room if you're feeling too full. Don't ask how this works, just accept the fact that it just does.

The crusty bit that forms at the bottom of the pot as the cheese keeps cooking is called the "crouton," and is very nice peeled off and divided among the guests as a sort of farewell to the fondue - but only for now.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Recipe - Split Pea Soup

Winter seems to be heaving one last, big gasp in many parts of the country, one of them being where I live. Even though we know spring is just around the corner, on cold days like today, one of the things I love most is a wonderful bowl or two of soup. A big plus is that most soups are quite healthy as well as delicious. The low fat, high fiber spilt pea soup presented below is both warming and filling. Pair it with some crusty homemade whole grain bread and I can't think of a better way to welcome your loved ones home from school or work, or just to treat yourself.

Split Pea Soup


1 T. canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 small russet potato, peeled and cut into pieces
4 Cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 Cups of water
1 1/2 Cups dried split green peas, picked through and rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat oil in a large pot.

2. Sauté garlic, onions, carrots and celery for 3-4 minutes, until softened.

3. Add potatoes, broth, water and dried split peas. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Allow soup to cool a little. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.

5. Season to taste.

Serves 6

I've now presented three soups that are wonderful for wintertime dining and extremely healty as well. I hope you'll try at least one of them and let me know what you think.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Recipe - Walnut and Spinich Polenta with Roast Tomatoes

This recipe "dresses up" polenta a little and with it's bright yellow, green, and red colors it looks very festive as well. It's a great recipe to enjoy on a cold winter's day as it's quite filling, but still very healthy. All of the ingredients provide us with essential nutrients and the walnuts, spinich, and roast tomatoes are especially good.

Walnut and Spinich Polenta with Roast Tomatoes


8 medium tomatoes
500 grams polenta, shaped and cooled
125 grams (4oz) plain flour
2 T. olive oil
400 grams spinach
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 chilli, chopped
125 grams walnuts


1. Heat oven to 350° F.

2. Cut the tomatoes in half.

3. Lightly oil a baking sheet and place the tomatoes on it.

4. Bake tomatoes in the oven for 25 minutes.

5. Cut the polenta into 16 slices, brush with oil, and place on a baking sheet in the top of the oven for 15 minutes.

6. Heat 1 T. of olive oil in a large pan and lightly cook the spinich for 2 minutes.

7. Add the crushed garlic, chopped chili, and the walnuts.

8. Mix thoroughly and cook for 1 minute more.

9. Divide the spinich mix between four plates, top with the polenta slices and roast tomates, season to taste, drizzle with a little olive oil and serve with fresh, crusty bread.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Polenta and Grits - What's the Difference?

Well, let's start out with what's not the difference - they're both corn.

Polenta is typically made from coarsely groung yellow corn meal. It's boiled very slowly until the cook has what many call "corn meal 'mush'." After cooked polenta has cooled and hardened, it can be sliced, sauteed, or grilled.

In many parts of Mexico, and especially in northern Italy, polenta is a beloved dish that's served daily, often topped with meat, fish, pasta sauce, cheese (this is true especially in Mexico), or vegetables. Many Italians love their polenta torta, a layered dish that's limited only by the imgination of the cook and is reminiscent of lasagna.

Polenta can be combined with many different ingredients, so the final product can be either sweet or savory.

Grits, served most often in the American South, are "coarsely ground pieces of dried corn moistened into a mealy paste." According to NPR, their role in Southern culinary culture is almost mythic.

Historians believe that grits provided food for the first English settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, and later helped many Southerners survive the deprivations of the Great Depression.

There is a difference between corn grits, which include both the hull and the germ of the grain, and "true" hominy grits.

In order to make hominy, one starts (no, not with a can), but with field corn. The dried corn kernels are soaked in a solution of baking soda, lime, or wood ash (also known as "lye water") for one to two days. When the kernel's shell falls off, the kernel absorbs the water and swells to more than twice its size (ouch!). The kernels are then rinsed several times, dried, then finally ground into grits. The grind can be coarse, medium, or fine.

It is, in fact, this alkaline soaking process, which also adds to the nutritional value of the food, that differentiates grits from polenta.

The same soaking process is used to make masa harina, which is the key ingredient in corn tortillas. Due to their altered chemistry because of the soaking, both grits and tortillas helps to prevent pellagra, a disease caused by niacin deficiency.

Corn is beloved in so many cultures, but often, when someone says "polenta" or "grits," people not from those cultures turn their noses up or think of something that's perhaps way too "down home" for them. This really isn't true. Both polenta and grits can be contributors to very sophisticated dishes when used by a creative and imaginative cook.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Recipe - Ethiopian Honey Yeast Bread

Ethiopia is well known as the home of the hottest, spiciest cuisine in the world, however this bread is a lovely, sweet bread that's just perfect with morning or afternoon coffee or tea. In fact, it's perfect anytime.

We've tested several recipes for Ethiopian Honey Yeast Bread and this one is our all time favorite. We hope you'll love it as much as we do.

Ethiopian Honey Yeast Bread


1 (1 T.) package active dry yeast
1/4 Cup water, lukewarm (110 to 115 degrees F.)
1 egg
1/3 Cup honey (the highest quality available to you)
1 T. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 Cup whole (don't skimp, use whole) milk, lukewarm
6 T. unsalted butter, melted
4 to 5 Cups all purpose flour (if you want a healthier bread, make 1/3 of the flour whole wheat)


1. In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over the warm water. Let stand for 3 minutes, then stir to dissolve. Set the bowl in a warm place for about 5 minutes; mixture should double in volume. If it doesn't, repeat procedure.

2. Combine egg, honey, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a deep bowl, mixing until smooth. Add the yeast mixture, milk, and 5 tablespoons of the melted butter. Beat until well blended. Stir in flour 1/2 cup at a time, until becomes too stiff to stir.

3. On a lightly floured board, knead the dough, adding a small amount of flour when necessary to keep from sticking. Knead for about 5 minutes. Place dough in a large, greased bowl. cover with a damp cloth and let sit in warm place for about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Knead the dough again for only a few minutes. Shape the dough into a round and place it on the greased sheet. Preheat the oven to 325*F.

5. Let the bread rise again while oven is preheating.

6. Bake the bread for 1 hour, or until the top is crusty and a light golden brown.

Serve with coffee or tea and enjoy! This is such a delicious recipe. We feel once you try it, it'll become one of your favorites.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sourdough Lore

The oldest method of processing food, except for fire, of course, is wild yeast. In fact, the Mesopotamians first used yeast to brew beer as long ago as 6000 B.C. However, it wasn't until three thousand years later, when the Egyptians experimented with cooking methods, that someone figured out that yeast could be used to make bread rise.

The ancient Greeks and Romans, being a bit more flamboyant, at least as far as bread is concerned, embellished on Egyptian bread "recipes" and added olives, various fruits, seeds, and herbs to their own concoctions, thus coming up with something more elaborate.

We do know that the development of sourdough bread came much, much later. What isn't known, however, is if the invention of this very tasty bread came about because someone was an inspired chef who decided to use old, souring dough from a previous loaf of bread to create something new and different, or whether the creator or the sourdough bread many of us love so much was just a very lazy cook. Whichever, we owe him, or her, a debt of gratitude. (Although I'd love to believe the "inventor" was an inspired chef, I'm betting it was a very lazy cook or a cook who sadly, at the time, at least, had far too little with which to work.)

The first recorded instance of the use of sourdough bread occurred when the ships of the Spanish Armada arrived in the US with a sourdough starter pot. From that time on, there was no looking back.

California's gold rush played a part in making San Francisco the "home" of sourdough bread in the US when the Boudin family, master bakers from France, arrived in the area. Intrigued by the taste and uniqueness of sourdough, they established a bakery and their bread soon became famous, especially with the miners who crowded their shop every morning. This bakery, which is still famous in San Francisco, has been using the same "Mother dough" starter since 1849. The recipe was almost destroyed in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, however Louise Boudin, recognizing its importance to her family, risked her own life to save it

Bread is one of life's staples. If you want to be taken seriously as a cook, especially a gourmet cook, you'll master the art of bread making. And if you want to include one of the tastiest and best loved of all the various breads, you'll master the art of making sourdough.

Good luck!