Whisk Wednesday: Sole Belle Meuniére~

19 11 2009


For my Whisk Wednesday dish this week, I selected Sole Belle Meuniére, from Le Cordon Bleu at Home.  Sole Belle Meuniére is simply a fillet of fish such as sole, in this case Swai, done is a browned butter sauce with sauteéd mushrooms.  The Meuniére denotes a browned butter…a butter allowed to just turn to a nutty brown, but not so brown as to burn.  Start with the mushrooms, as they take longest, sauté and keep warm, set aside.  The fish is cooked next, quickly and cleanly in simple butter and olive oil.  Remove to warm plate, add mushrooms while your butter sauce is gently browning.  Finally the butter is browned and the dish comes together quickly in the end.  In this plating the fish is accompanied by braised Brussels sprouts.  The serving notes suggested using a full lemon slice to replicate the head of a fish, and half slices for fins and tail.   I should have placed my fish a little higher on the plate rather than centered, and I think it’s time to buy some more colorful plates.  *Ü*

Notes about Swai…  Traditionally Swai are fish farmed in the Mekong River of Southeast Asia.  They have the potential to be sustainable aquaculture fish there, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium has this to say, “Swai is a river catfish farmed extensively in Asia. Catfish farmed in the U.S. is considered a “Best Choice,” because it’s farmed in a more ecologically responsible manner.” I find Swai to be be similar to sole or tilapia in texture and flavor.  It’s more the size and shape of sole than tilapia.  This particular swai was farmed in Australia.  I found it packaged in individual cryovac packages for $2.99 per pound.  Here’s a quick thawing tip… Lay your item, wrapped in plastic, in your clean sink.  The metal surface will draw the cold out of the frozen meat.  Turn frequently.  I’ve found I can thaw fish fillets and chicken breasts straight out of the deep freeze in about 30 minutes this way.

Tasting Notes~
This was a tasty dish at mid-week.  It’s always fun to have something unusual.  The dish is really light.  The fillets are light, the side was light.  This would take a heavy, side dish easily.  Something au gratin.  Maybe not something with heavy flavors, although the Brussels sprouts heightened the delicacy of the fish.  The basic recipe is easy, and opens up to a lot of possibilities.


Whisk Wednesday~Braised Lamb Shanks

11 11 2009

braised-lamb-shank_basmatiSince we’re on a much more relaxed path in Whisk Wednesdays, which suits those of us still following along, this week I chose to braise Lamb Shanks.  Sadly, I couldn’t find a reference to a recipe in LCB@H,  I chose a general braising recipe for veal shanks, and went with that.

The biggest problem I have with lamb shanks is that sometimes they’re cut so long that they won’t fit in most of my braising pans.  Braising is best done in a heavy cast iron casserole, or brazier with a heavy lid, so that the liquid stays inside with the meat.  Dutch ovens are also great.  This is my 7 qt. cherished Le Creuset cast iron cooker which is really too much for 2 shanks, but it’s the only cooker long enough to hold the shanks.

lamb-brownI started by giving them a good all-over browning over medium heat, developing the fond that would later become the base for the great sauce in the end.  While the shanks were browning, all the other aromatics and seasoning elements were being put together…chopped onion, celery, carrot, tomato, and since this is lamb, garlic.  Add a bay leaf, a grating of fresh black pepper, 2 cups of beef stock and top it off with a sprig of rosemary, and we’re good to go into the oven at 350ºF for 2 to 3 hours.


When I took this from the oven, there was very little liquid left in the pan.  First, I removed the shanks to a platter and covered them to keep them warm while I finished the sauce.  The basmati rice was already finished and waiting in the rice cooker.  I also removed the bay leaf and the rosemary sprig.  I added water to the pan and made my gravy thickening it with a slurry of cornstarch and water.

Tasting notes~
We love lamb to start with…and we almost always enjoy braised lamb shanks.  This was no exception. The lamb had been frozen for awhile, but there wasn’t the slightest hint.  It came out moist and full of flavor.  The vegetables melted into an intensely flavorful sauce that accented the lamb perfectly.  The basmati rice was the only disappointment.  It was a great choice with the lamb, but I didn’t care for the texture.  I would have been happier with a heavier, more densely textured rice for this dish.  You live, you learn!  Other than that, I’d prepare lamb this way again without hesitation!  However…I am looking for a Mexican lamb recipe…I’ve eaten the dish at a particular recipe chain…they call it Borrego…but that’s just the Mexican word for lamb, so I don’t know.  If you know of a recipe, please let me know!

WW: Carre d’Agneau~

18 10 2009


Carre d’ Agneau…Rack of Lamb…Seriously a favorite in our house.  I’m rewinding between other recipes to mid September when we did this recipe and I couldn’t bear to fix this in 100º+ heat!   This is a wonderful recipe.  Just a quick sear, then off a hot oven for a fast roast.  While the juices are settling in the roast, the pan juices are becoming a lovely pan sauce…  Ok, I know. You don’t see that on the plate.  I can explain…really, I can.


If you’ve read more than 2 of my blog posts, you’re aware that I live in a culinary challenged area.  I found a rack of lamb. I was ecstatic!  It didn’t occur to me until sometime later that part of this lesson was the actual “frenching” of the rack.  Oh well…but…with that bit of butchery lie all the bits and gobs that make for the tasty pan sauce.  So….we didn’t have a tasty pan sauce, and therefore, we had Au gratin dauphinois as a side dish, along with minted peas and carrots.WW-pomme-dauphinoisTasting Notes:
The lamb was lovely…but cooked a little more done than we like.  I shot the half that came out prettier.  The other half was a little more done.  I think I might go 10 minutes and turn next time.  We opted for mint jelly this time around.  Oh quit…I worked on a pan sauce first, but there was an acrid taste in it that I just couldn’t get rid of.  The mint jelly played nicely off the fresh mint in the veggies.  The lamb is a definite do again, and the potatoes obviously are…I think this is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve made these.  There sure wasn’t anything left…

Whisk Wednesday: Rillettes de Porc ~

17 10 2009


Our Fearless Leader, Shari, has completed all the lessons in the Beginning Curriculum of the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school via our little cooking group.  She is now about half way through her real life experiences at the LCB academy in Ottowa, CAN.  How I envy her!  Though we are a small group, we’ve all decided to venture into the realm of the Intermediate course with her. How scary is THIS!!  So far, the recipes are a little more difficult to locate, but…we’re finding them!  We’re also allowing ourselves a bit more time between courses, I’m mean recipes!

This week we’re making Rillettes de Porc, (rillettes, pronounced “ree-yet”) a little French appetizer of sorts, usually served with bread and sour pickles, or cornichons.  One of these days I’ll remember to take the camera into the kitchen with me when I’m starting out, but that day apparently hasn’t arrived yet.  The mise en place for this was pretty easy…pork, a pinch of thyme, 2 bay leaves, salt and a clove studded onion. Oh, and 2 oz. of water. This is what it looked like after the long, slow cooking process:
rillettes-1stcookingSee all the lovely caramelized pieces of meat?  Those are problems in rillettes.  You want a smooth, creamy texture, and those nummy little brown pieces need to be beaned into submission.  I didn’t take that as seriously as I should have.  Take your frustrations out on those little brown pieces, but do wear an apron! Protect your lovely clothes!  After draining and pounding and shredding, you should start having nothing but meat fibers that look something like this:
rillettes-mashingThe next part was kind of difficult.  Not having any experience with Rillettes, nor even a picture to refer to for the desired texture, I was really at a loss for just how much of the pan juices and fat to add to the mixture.  I didn’t think to look for a picture on line until tonight. Duh.  Oh well.  I’m in the neighborhood I think!  I ended up adding all the pan juices in, and eventually all of the fat as well.
rillettes-crockWe ate it at this consistency…as you can see there are still little brown bits that didn’t get beaten down really well.  They make spreading more difficult.  Therefore, do not follow my example…follow the directions! *Ü*  You’ll end up with a more spreadable product.  We liked it at this consistency, but felt it was really still a little too dry.  The flavor was really good though, and kind of kept you coming back for just another bite.  Back in the kitchen, I took the rest of the meat and added more fat to it and stirred it in, and ended up adding in every bit of it.  It wasn’t overly soft, but was spreadable and tasted much better.  It looks a little better too.rillettes-final-productTasting Notes:
Don’t be in a hurry to season this.  Make sure you taste it before you start adding a lot of salt especially.  Yes, it needs to be heavily seasoned, but taste before you start adding.  There’s been a lot of reduction going on, and the flavors have intensified.  This isn’t something I’d necessarily think of right away, but it’s sure interesting!  It’s good, but a little odd for my West Coast palate!

Annual September Hiatus~

20 09 2009

I don’t know why I just don’t admit it to myself…September is a killer month for me.  School starts the end of August and the next 4 weeks are a whirl of activity I can barely keep up with.  I’m so very far behind with my cooking groups that it’s scary! But…it is what it is.  I’ve cooked when I could, in some of the more unusual circumstances…LOL! You’ll get the idea when I get the pictures up.

I have cooked, most nights…not always from scratch, but I have cooked. Trader Joe’s has been a real pal! We’ve had a lot of pasta dishes…very easy to put together. I replayed the zucchini-pasta dish with the zucchini cut into batons…and it was ok. We liked the coins better.  I’ve used a lot of interesting sausages with different sauces and pastas to see what we like.  We prefer the red sauces to the heavy cream and cheese sauces…although they do have their place!  Right now Arrabiatta is our favorite.  I’m looking for a recipe for one that reads the way my mouth tastes it.

I’ll work on the posts for the dishes I have finished…Minestrone…is that all? I suppose it is…and I didn’t take photos, so it’s hard to post what I don’t have.  Ok…well, today is a cooking day because I finally feel like it!  Today we’ll be making bolognese and crespelle for Cooking Italy, then traveling over to see just how out of sync we are at Whisk Wednesday, where our Fearless Leader (seriously!!) has begun her Le Cordon Bleu courses!!  These latter courses have been very difficult due to ingredients. I have no desire to try a chicken version of a veal dish. I want VEAL!! Oops. Sorry… If you’re a member of PETA, my apologies…

Now…it’s time to rotate the laundry…yes, food bloggers usually do laundry too!…and get that stove up and running! I’m in the mood for FOOD!

Whisking Mignons de Porc Arlonaise~

3 08 2009

Sometimes you can’t quite imagine the complexity of a dish by reading the recipe…even when you work at it.  This was one of those.  I admit, the oven temp of 425º really put me off while it was over 105º outside, but it wasn’t on very long…45 minutes tops, including pre-heating.  And it was so very worth it.  This dish just kept bringing surprises to the tastebuds and to the tongue in the way of textures.


This is basically a very uncomplicated dish with lots of little bits and pieces to do.  I think it’s time to either shake this house until I find my scale (originally gotten to weigh my pet corns***e, instead used to weigh baby chinchillas-NOT sn*** food!!).  This recipe called for ounces of things.  I know Alton Brown says the only way to bake properly is by weight…and I’ll bet I know why…  Either way, I needed to weigh the carrots, leeks, celery, turnips (withheld due to convenient memory loss), and mushrooms (substituted due to inconvenient memory loss).  I also neglected to buy small waxy potatoes. All I had in the house were large russets, which I cut into chunks and “tournéd” dutifully, albeit not 100% successfully.  I did end up with some relatively same sized little barrels, some of which actually did have 7 (woo-hoo!!) sides.  I know I spent a lot more time on mise en place, than I did on actual cooking.  For my dark beer, I selected an Oatmeal Stout from an in-state micro-brewery.  California has lots of little micro-brew pubs that are fabulous.  I have to recommend doing all the mise en place with this recipe.  Once you get started with the pork, it all goes very quickly, maybe 30 minutes cooking time tops.  Please note, I halved the recipe as much as I possibly could, and it worked pretty well!!

This would have been a good spot for a shot of the pork, nicely browned, just before it went to the oven.  I used a cast iron skillet, since it would hold heat nicely, disperse it evenly, and go in and out of the oven with ease.  The pork browned off nicely while my potatoes were simmering on the back burner.  The pork would be 15 minutes roasting, and the potatoes need to simmer 10 minutes then set until needed.  My first glitch hit when I realized my hubby had set the oven for 200º when he lit it for me (yeah, I know, they make ranges that will light themselves, which this was once upon a time…it WAS on the priority list until I HAD to buy a new fridge).  Oh well…heat down on the stove top, heat up in the oven, brown a little bit more, and it will balance out.  The cast iron holds heat long enough for the oven to catch up.  We need the roasting pan for finishing the dish, but we can start the sauce now.

Combine the vinegar and the sugar…what a fragrant start this is!  At this point, the sauce doesn’t belie what cuisine we’re cooking…it could be Asian…German…French…Californian…  I was afraid I’d over-cooked this phase.   The sugar reached an amber color just as the vinegar evaporated leaving me with a pot with an amber sugar sculpture in the bottom!  Bring on the beer!  It didn’t sputter as much as I anticipated, but it sure did foam!  The next steps involved reducing the sauce ingredients as they were added, taking the pork from the oven to rest briefly before reintroducing it to the cooking pan, now filled with a julienne of carrots, leeks and celery (and well washed and drained canned mushrooms).  If nothing else, this dish fills the air with aromas that will have your audience filled with anticipation.


Voila! Mignons de Porc Arlonaise!  The pork is so tender and full of flavor that this could easily be a special occasion dish, and yet it’s pretty straight forward and forthright.  There’s a little prep, but no baby sitting. It’s kind of all right there.  The sauce makes this dish.  This was our photo plate, and the sauce doesn’t show up well (and wouldn’t have on any plate I looked at save one and that one washed out the appearance of the pork), so I served up some sauce on the side as well.


This shot pretty much says it all.  All gone. Every bit of it.  I cut it back to 3 servings, and every morsel went away.  Yes, Jasmine (sheltie cross) got her share.  No veggies (leeks included), but she enjoyed her nibble of the pork medallions.   This is a serious “keeper” recipe.  Kayte mentioned perhaps a holiday meal…I’d agree.  Another success from Le Cordon Bleu at Home!

*Editor’s note….Yes, that’s a can of Little Friskies cat food on the back of the island; no, it was not included in the dish we prepared. I don’t know why it was still there.  It simply was, and I’m not photographer enough to see “everything” in my shot.  I’m a Foodie, what can I say…!

Whisk Wednesday ~ Roast Pork Tenderloin…on hold

31 07 2009

If you’ve followed along as I’ve whisked my Wednesdays, you’ve realized that deep inland Northern California is NOT a culinary hot-spot. And we’re there again this week. I never know when it’s going to be utterly impossible to get something totally normal. This time it was pork tenderloins and raw, uncooked shrimp. I simply could NOT get UNSEASONED pork tenderloins in town. I could get marinated ones…thanks so very much. That pretty much defeats my purpose. The same for shrimp. I could get already peeled and cooked shrimp. I could get shrimp that were in the deep, deep freeze (they have a freezer where they keep all the seafood that doesn’t sell from week to week…you kind of get the picture…), but they’re in such shape you can’t even tell what kind of shape they’re really in. So…cooking is on hold until I can shop in Chico. I tried two different days, and the story was the same and worse. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work at all. As for us, we had tuna sandwiches and take out pizza. I’ll catch it up…this one looked kind of fun!

Whisk Wednesday ~ Velouté Du Barry

22 07 2009


Velouté Du Barry, Cream of Cauliflower soup thickened with cream and egg yolk.  This was pronounced a “keeper” promptly upon being served.  I think my texture varied significantly.  I didn’t strain and remove the “solids” of the soup, so my soup’s texture texture resembled cream of broccoli soup…thick and rich, but not velvety smooth. I can see that it could have been that kind of smooth if I’d sieved it properly. I tend to be frugal that way.  Once I figured out what the difference would be, I put the solids back into the soup.


This was an easy prep soup.  Since I was using canned broth, I put a small bouquet garni into the broth to simmer while I did my mise en place.  I used canned chicken broth, with leek, fresh celery, thyme, celery, and dried bay leaf, and added a splash of white wine to the broth.  That added a lot of underlying flavor to the broth.  When I was doing the mise en place, I realized I didn’t quite have enough onion on hand, so I improvised, like a good bonne femme (good wife)….I grabbed up a shallot and chopped it up to make up the difference.  I’m sure that’s within reason.  The aromatics are lightly cooked in butter with a touch of rice flour added.  The florets are simmered in the broth with the leeks and onions, all is pureed and strained, then thickened with a combination of heavy cream and egg yolk.  The soup is finished with croutons, a few parsley (or chervil) leaves and a grating of nutmeg.

Ahhh…a grating of nutmeg.  There’s an odd little story hiding here.  I’ve changed my use of herbs and spices some since beginning this cooking group. I’m now using some herbs regularly (thyme for instance) that I didn’t use much, and never used fresh in the past.  So, it didn’t surprise me much that I suddenly had a real desire to try freshly grated nutmeg.  Off to market…$9.99 a jar. Ouch.  It’s not a good time to indulge myself in a $10 whim.  My next stop was a little Mexican market…No kidding…whole nutmeg in bags 99¢.  Of course I bought it! Even the worst fresh beats ground in a jar how many years?  *grin*  I’ve since checked Penzeys, and they have reasonable priced product as well.  I have to admit…the nutmeg totally made the dish though.

WW~TFF~Joust-Such is Life

30 06 2009

Once in awhile reality bites…and not usually very nicely.  We took a quick camping trip to restore some of my sanity, and when we came home our refrigerator was on the fritz. The freezer side was frosted up and the fridge side was warmer than it was supposed to be. I thought maybe it just needed to be cleaned out..so the air could circulate better. Nice logic. So I cleaned and rearranged things and things were better for a few days.  And then I noticed the frost building up on the back wall of the freezer again. Yesterday, it quit again. I looked up fridge maintenance, and…realized I needed to call a repairman. Cool. Done. He was here first thing this morning. After an hour of defrosting behind the panel, the verdict was our “motherboard” went out. There’s a computer in my fridge? Ok..I can buy that. Apparently I did…Motherboard…ummm…how much? Ouch! And just what is the life expectency of a refrigerator in the 21st century?? 7 YEARS? (And this one is how old already…?) The upshot is that in order to repair our hated and despised side-by-side (I thought it would work, I measured, I checked, I still hate it) it would only cost double the repair bill to buy a new fridge. NOT a decision I expected to need to be making just at the moment.  So, a bit of quick checking and double checking, and back we went. The new one will be delivered 1st call tomorrow morning. That will end this roller coaster of meal-not-planning.  We have 5# of ribs thawed, and 5# of pot roast thawed…and there are 2 of us. That’s meal-not-planning. We BBQ’d the ribs and made shredded beef from the pot roast, but there was no planning involved. Maybe next week…maybe not. Next week we’re preparing to take our 17 yo granddaughter camping. There will be loads of planning there, but I don’t know that any of my cooking will fit in any of the groups! LOL! Ah…’tis summer!

WW~Rum Savarin

17 06 2009

The final element of Menu 2 is a Rum Savarin.  Pardon me, what?  A Rum Savarin…  It’s a yeast-cake that’s soaked with a vanilla rum syrup then glazed with apricot glaze,  served with sliced strawberries, kiwi and Chantilly Cream.  This one is a bit time consuming.  I’m glad I didn’t try to get it to work in just an hour or so.  It needed time…time to rise, time to beat in the sugar, salt and butter, time to rise again, baking time, cooling time, soaking time…quite a bit of time.


I rather expected a close textured yeast cake.  This was stronger than I anticipated, but it was eggy, like popovers.  In fact, the savarin was quite comparable to popovers, especially looking at the outside.  I used a 6 cup super muffin-bundt pan and the bread mushroomed way over the tops because it was so light.  I had to cut the bottoms off level so the cakes could be plated.  I’ll use the pieces we cut off as a kind of trifle with sliced fruit.  The Savarin itself is made a couple of different ways.  Our book had us creating the dough with out fingers until it cleaned the bowl, then gathering it and throwing it back into the bowl…  I checked a few recipes and ran across one that suggested it benefitted from a healthy amount of beating with a dough hook.  I used my food processor…I don’t recommend that.  There was a little too much batter-dough and it got places it shouldn’t have.  Next time we don’t beat it quite as long and hard, and we use the mixer.  For a larger group, the batter-dough would do well in a bundt pan.

I was really pleased with the vanilla rum syrup.  I added the rum while the sugar and water were boiling so some of the intensity of the rum would mellow.  I added the vanilla after I turned the heat off.  I literally basted the inside of the cake after it was cut with the syrup.  And there was one other minor (oops) difference…I grabbed a jar of plum jam rather than apricot from my pantry.  That’s what I get for not labeling my jars!  Not that that was a bad thing…it was just different.  Rather than kirsch, I used Pama.  I had Pama.  I didn’t have kirsch.  Besides…I don’t much care for the taste of kirsch.


The Chantilly Cream was perfectly simple. I’m getting pretty good at knowing about how much cream to pour out for the two of us.  I’m getting to the point of being able to have fresh whipped cream in under 5 minutes from thought to plate.  This is so easy.  And so tasty.  Yes, it’s like Strawberry Shortcake…but so yummy!  I’d do this again…