To Truite or not to trout…THAT was the question…

28 01 2009


Lesson 21 is teaching us about various varieties of fish.  Here, we study pan-size fresh-water fish, such as trout.  Our recipe is for Truite aux Amandes, or Trout Almondine.  While I’ve never had trout almondine, I’ve prepared other fish (abalone, to be exact) with the browned butter and almonds which mark an “almondine” dish.  I was gifted with these little critters…

trout-filletsBut I’m not sure exactly what kind of fish they are.  The sweet young woman who gave them to me told be they’d been caught by a gentleman friend, cleaned, filleted and frozen.  Aren’t they a pretty color?  It reminds me of salmon.  My husband assured me they were trout.  Bless him.

You know how certain aromas can whisk you away to another place and time?  Bread baking, or maybe pumpkin pie fresh from the oven?  I had a similar experience with the trout.  One whiff and I was instantly transported to a memory of trying to eat the fish, but not being able to, because…I couldn’t stand the taste.  I hate fishiness.  I can’t eat it.  If I try to stick it out, my body has a bad habit of unswallowing, which is most unpleasant.  That’s one reason I’m such a sushi fan.  If it smells, I don’t eat it.  Period.  End of report.  So, when the first hint came wafting up, I went straight to the sink and washed everything down in ice cold water, lots of it.  No help.  I called Bruce in and even he stepped back.  Then, I looked in the eyes of our trout…cloudy, gray…maybe from being frozen?  But still…there was that smell!!!

Enter the leftover roasted chicken I fixed last week to catch up from the week before.  It’s been wrapped tightly in the c-c-c-coldest part of my fridge.  There’s one spot that is so cold, there’s usually a bit of ice in the drawer.  It’s a great place for beverages, or that little something that could stand being all but frozen.  That’s where my chicken was.   The night I roasted it, we’d already had our supper, actually a big, late in the day lunch, but the chicken smelled so darn good we decided to have “just” a bite or two…  I sliced half of the breast as though it were a Thanksgiving turkey, and served it with a light pan sauce.  There was plenty left for anything else, and we simply hadn’t used it yet.


I already had the remainder of the rice I’d made for sushi (unseasoned) the other night steaming with some herbs in anticipation of the quick trout recipe, so I took a hard right turn and put one and one together to get a chicken and rice casserole…  Riz aux Poulet??  The chicken was so large (Have you noticed how that is all of a sudden??  I can’t find a 3 pound chicken to save my soul these days!) all I needed was the other half of the breast, and I had plenty of meat to go with the rice.  I heated up some water and added a bullion cube (chicken flavored) so I could have a strong chicken flavor with not too much liquid, then stirred in about half a cup of cream.  I had about 1 to 1-1/2 cups liquid to stir into the rice (about 3-1/2 cups) and the chicken.  I heated up 2 cups of frozen peas and carrots and stirred them into the rice mix along with thyme (remember, it was used in the roast chicken recipe) and a few other seasonings, put it into a buttered casserole dish and heated it at 350º for 35 minutes.


I know it isn’t Truite aux Amandes…  I could only find one little tilapia fillet, or I’d have subbed that real quick.  I found swordfish, but…it’s not close enough.  I know there’s a big rockfish fillet in there, but that takes forever to thaw.  And the trout was supposed to be dinner tonight…  Oh well!

lemonslice1When Life hands you lemons….


25 01 2009

Today’s precarious economy, further fueled by California’s lack of a state budget, has made living and working in California an interesting experience as of late.  I’m a school employee.  Our district’s working budget for the year has already been reduced from figures the state released in My-June of 2008.  We honestly don’t know how long capital can hold out.  The state can’t pay it’s bills, including funding education, among other things – fire, law enforcement, state government expenses…  It’s times like this I’m glad I know a few tricks.

Beat convenience packaging.  A 9 0z. package of sliced breast of turkey was $3 – on sale.  I bought a 10 pound deli turkey, whole, for $18.00.  $1.88 per pound, and the roast was 10#.  I recently bought a mid-range priced deli slicer, thinking in advance.  If you can’t afford, or can’t store 10 pounds of turkey all at once, see if a friend will go in with you.  Even if you have to take the roast to a butcher or deli counter for slicing, you’re going to be well ahead of the game.  I figured the second 6 packages of sliced turkey were all “free.”  The same follows with other cuts of meat.  Alton Brown recently did a show on the value of buying a whole beef tenderloin.  I wish I could have watched it carefully.  It makes so much sense.   I’ve purchased pork butt that way…we got some great cuts and sausage out of it.  I’ve got a package of beef cuts right now.  I’m sure it’s good enough for stewing and stir-fries.  Mmmmm….shredded beef for tacos…  I’ll stop by and show you what I come up with! LOL!  Have a great day!

Côtes de Porc Flamande

21 01 2009

A lot has happened in my world since last Wednesday, but cooking is still a major part of our life, so we’re carrying on!  I actually did fix the chicken dish from last week on Monday night of this week.  I didn’t think to take pictures.  I was tired and not thinking 100% clearly.  Without regard, the chicken came out incredibly moist, and smelled heavenly while it cooked.  Even though neither of us were particularly hungry, we wanted to taste what we’d been smelling.  I fixed a pan sauce and carved half of the breast and we ate it with mushrooms and onions along side.  I didn’t fix potatoes.  Sorry about that.  And that brings us up-to-date for Côtes de Porc Flamande.

Côtes de Porc Flamande is pork chops baked with thinly sliced potatoes sprinkled with thyme then drizzled with butter.  I confess, I reduced the butter as much as I dared.  Still…the aroma of roasting pork, potatoes and butter was intoxicating, and felt perfect for a misty winter night.  This time I remembered to take pictures, but I forgot to put the card in the camera…yes, I’m still tired.  Go figure.  So, go on over to the Whisk Blog and take a look at Shari’s potatoes.  Hers look truly fabulous anyway.

Next up is trout with almonds…happy whisking until next week!

Whisk Wednesdays and delays…

19 01 2009

We had a little hiccup from Life show up last week…Bruce had a heart attack and we ended up with him in the hospital for a few days.  So…3 doctors, 2 stents and 5 days later, we were finally able to escape.  It’s got to be easier to get someone out of jail than the hospital!  We had to wait for the Cardiologist to sign us off.  Then we had to wait for the doctor on call to release us.  After that, there’s all the paperwork to get together and signed off…at least his nurse was really on the ball for that part.  He was ready for everything but the final meds.  And now we’re home, trying to adjust to our new normalcy.  The heavy cream sauces and butter are no longer part of our “diets.”  I’ll work around them as well as I can, or those sauces will be part of our “once in awhile.”

And now I’m off to braise the chicken for Poulet en Cocotte Grand-Mère (Braised Chicken Casserole with Bacon, Mushrooms, Potatoes, and Onions).  Well, after I turn my potatoes first.  I’ve already done the mushrooms and onions, and carrots as well.  Practice, practice!

Rewind: Pavés de Rumsteak au Poivre Vert

11 01 2009

Friday night didn’t work out quite the way I anticipated.  I’d been looking forward to dinner out all day long…then I looked at the menus of my local choices.  Good enough, not great, nothing special and worse.  Hmm…we have a common thread here.  I’m going to separate myself from my “hard earned money” when they can’t do half of what I’ve been doing?  I don’t think so.  I sighed heavily, and headed to market.

Pavés de Rumsteak au Poivre Vert (Sirloin Steaks with Green Peppercorns) was a lesson I didn’t do on schedule.  We’d just had a steak a few days earlier, and I couldn’t get green peppercorns for love, money, marbles or chalk.  Another common thread in my posts! LOL!  We’re still in search of veal bones.  Since I’d secured a bottle of green peppercorns from Penzey’s, this sounded like a plan.  I had cream in the fridge, and cognac in the panty, so all I needed was a steak.

I confess, I didn’t do the potatoes that went with the dish in the book.  I cut myself a little slack.  It was Friday night, I’d worked all week, and I’d even cooked every night.  I went with baked potatoes and escalleped mushrooms with our steaks in green peppercorn sauce.  Sadly, what they sold me as sirloin was as sad a cut as they could get away with passing off as sirloin.  We’ll be doing this again with a decent little steak.  It was very tasty, even if a challenge to eat! LOL!  The gratin on the mushrooms looks darker than it actually was, but I still got really close to scorching them!


Canard aux Navets…umm…Carrottes

7 01 2009

With my most sincere apologies to Iceberg, Knot-head, Pokemon and Dusty, this week’s class has us learning roasting techniques as applied to “canard”…umm…duck.  Those are our 4 backyard friends…who waddle and quack and keep Life entertaining.  You can’t watch them 5 minutes without laughing.  I wasn’t too sure about this one.  Once I took a look at the piece of meat I was going to wash, season, truss and roast…it was a piece of meat and the boys quacked on.  It’s all good.

This lesson left me feeling very insecure and at odds with myself and the recipe.  I still don’t feel like I did this right, or I feel the recipe left something out somewhere.  I’ll read it all again tomorrow, and likely find where I messed up.  That’s not to say we had a complete failure, but am I ever glad I didn’t have to take my plate to a master chef who knew what my dish was to taste like!  I was able to work a little sleight of culinary hand and pull off a creditable meal, but it was oh! So close!

The very first obstacle was trying to decide if I should use the whole quantity of liquid for my duck, seeing as I was halving the recipe, using only one duck.  I compromised.  I started with 2 cups of stock, but…sadly, not veal.  Veal bones continue to elude me.  I don’t think the holidays helped me reach the best folks to ask either.  So, I used good homemade beef stock that we canned ourselves.  I cooked a lot during my 2 week Christmas break!!  Ok, so we have fewer duck bones for the pan.  We want the wing tips and necks to be part of the goodies creating our fond.  Oops.  One wing tip is missing.  I am displeased, but undaunted.   The missing wing tip totally threw me off, and I totally forgot to remove the wishbone.  I didn’t even give it a thought.  I seasoned that baby and trussed it right up.

The next step was to brown the duck in the roasting pan.  I didn’t have a roasting pan that would fit, so I used a BIG (7-1/2 qt.) skillet to brown the duck.  This took a bit, but I was pleased with the color in the end.


I used a roasting rack…Loved that part!  It kept the duck positioned nicely with no difficulty at all!  I chopped an onion, and chopped the trimmings from my turned carrots for the roasting pan.  The drippings from the skillet went into the roasting pan as well.  At this point, our little duck went into the oven for 20 minutes.  We were supposed to baste it frequently.  That struck me as odd.  2o minutes isn’t that long a time…but who am I?  The student, that’s right!  “Frequently” worked out to be every 10 minutes.  I started being concerned when I looked in the pan after the first 20 minutes…there were no “juices” in the pan.  All that was there was fat and veggies.  Hmmm….Oh well.  Turn the duck and see how things are in 20 minutes.

At this point I’ll purr about my new toy.  This is my new baster.  My hubby thought something I could take apart and clean would make me happier.  This also has a cleaning brush AND an injection tip that screws into the end of the baster.  It was wonderful and worked great.

Turn, turn, turn…This is my first attempt at turning a veggie.  Not horrible, but not much good either.  My second try was the potatoes for my salmon last week in a “rewind” lesson.  The ones that follow are my 3rd effort.  I don’t have this mastered yet, and I prefer cutting the potatoes over the carrots.  Turnips?  Ummm…they’re with the veal bones!  Well, maybe not really, but that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

About the time it was time to turn the duck breast-up, I noticed it was full of liquid in the body cavity.   Now…since it’s been in there for the past 40 minutes anyway, should it continue to stay there?  I poured it into the roasting pan so I could use it to baste the duck.  I’m not so sure that was the thing to do, now.  Another thing I noticed was that my pan veggies were burning.  That didn’t make me happy in the least.  I was hoping to have the duck fat for another purpose.  The duck continued to roast for the suggested 40 minutes, being basted “frequently.”   I needed to be careful drawing up basting liquid (I was also using the reduced broth too), because I was getting blackened flecks in the basting liquid from the pan.canard
Without regard to the things that worried me and kept me guessing, after about 2 hours we had a lovely roasted duck.  Every bit of anything in the roasting pan was charred black and smelled bitter.  There was no way I was going to deglaze that.  When I realized that perhaps the juices from inside the duck should be saved in the pan with the stock, it was a little late to save about half of the juices.  The neck and the one wing tip were toasted a lovely brown, so I tossed them into the saucepan with the remaining bit of stock, duck juices, the bouquet garni and 1/2 cup of white wine.  I was saddened at losing the caramelized onions and carrots from the pan, but…that’s why they sell those reduced essences.  I admit, I used a bit of seasoning rather than have a sauce that was tasteless.  I also thickened it with a bit of cornstarch.  Since I was doing carrots instead of turnips, I cooked them in a very similar way.  I boiled them, sauteed them in butter with sugar, and added finely chopped fresh ginger to the pan.  Those were some yummy carrots!  They offered a nice sweetness to contrast to the richness of the duck.  The duck was tender and moist, with a rich flavor.  I’ve not had much duck, so I’m not sure what flavor I should expect.  I have a co-worker who is a duck-lover though, so I’m going to take her a packet to taste.  I’d do this again, but maybe not quite the same way…but I’m intrigued!


Rewind to Class 19 – Saumon au Champagne

1 01 2009

I’m about a month behind with this dish.  I think I was in the middle of the GLAD event when everyone else was poaching salmon.  We’re working on different cooking techniques now.  We’ve learned about cutting vegetables, making stocks, mastering basic sauces, and now it’s time to experience several cooking techniques.  We’ve cooked food in hot oil; we’ve braised; we’ve cooked with dry heat, and we’ve been poaching.  We learned to poach eggs and chicken, now it’s time to poach fish.

Salmon is a popular fish.  It comes out nicely with most cooking techniques.  It broils and grills well, smokes very nicely, and poaches like a dream.  Salmon is a bit heavy in flavor for use in stock or broth though.  Don’t plan to use odds and ends from this dish for those purposes.

Working from a recipe from Le Cordon Bleu at Home, our task was to poach a white fish for fish stock…  I confess. This was not going to happen for me.  When I picked up my fresh ingredients, there was nary a fish to be had.  In fact, I watched the last one leave the meat counter as I approached, thinking surely that wasn’t the last one!  Oh, yes it was.  I ended up buying a box of fish stock.  That pretty much shot the first 75% of the recipe.  Even though the box stated their stock was made with vegetables, I poached a bouquet garni in the broth while it heated.


I used a casserole dish that I thought was large enough for the salmon fillets, but it was really a tight fit.  I buttered it, and set the oven temp.  I spread the shallots in the bottom of the buttered dish, lay in the fillets, and added the cooking liquid combination of stock and water.


Our book suggested serving this dish with turned potatoes.  This was my second attempt at the technique of tourné.   I quartered red potatoes and worked them over.  I wouldn’t say I have this mastered, but I think I’m starting to get the idea of how to do it.


Here we are at the half-way point.
I needed to pull the fillets out and change their positions at midway because my dish was too small.  This resulted in slightly over cooked areas on the fish.   The fish was slightly underdone when I took it from the oven.  I strained the cooking liquid and set the fish aside, covered with parchment and a towel, to continue cooking.

Here’s my sauce at the liquid stage…it’s a broth with a lot of teeny-tiny particles of flavor bustling about getting ready to meld into a creamy sauce.  I mixed my egg and cream and ladled some of the roux thickened sauce into the mixture to temper the eggs and cream (we don’t want scrambled-egg sauce), then poured the tempered mixture into the hot sauce.  Look what we got!


The salmon was wonderful…light, and silky in texture, just like the sauce.  I don’t know why they suggest these potatoes…they’re so PALE!  I had to add parsley.   You get a closer shot of the turned potatoes here too.  Like I said, I still have a lot of work to do to master this technique!

The verdict?  I have a confession.  I don’t like salmon.  There are a couple of ways I like it (raw, as sushi is my favorite), but not very many.   I never order salmon, because I know I won’t care for it.  With one exception…there was a place in Pasadena, CA that made THE BEST lacquered salmon, and it was heavenly!  This wasn’t my cup of tea.  I was able to eat about half of it, before the salmon flavor overwhelmed me.  Mr. Green Jeans didn’t mind a bit.  He happily polished off my remaining portion.

I almost forgot…this was about the time everyone offered to share their sinks of dishes following prep…
The butter dish is not an error…it went sailing…  I bumped something with my elbow which struck my little butter server, knocking it to the floor….where it was saved by falling into the dog’s water dish.  Yes, I had to mop the floor.  But…I didn’t have to clean up butter too!

The next dish up in order is a whole poached “salmon-trout” with an herbed mayonnaise.  I’ll catch this one as fish becomes available.  Where I live, “salmon-trout” are called Steelhead, and they’re a sport fish…the BIGGER the BETTER!  It will be a challenge to acquire an appropriate sized specimen.  The next class on the calendar is roasted duckling…which is currently in residence in our freezer, waiting.  Happy Whisking!