Sunday, May 25, 2008

Soba Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Jenn came up to visit this weekend and so I thought cook up this simple little dish that I know she likes. Peanut sauces, either as a dipping sauce, or with chicken skewers or noodles, occupy a central place in the pantheon of North Americanized Asian cuisine and are always very popular. I find that restaurants often make the sauces a little too sweet, so I had a fun time trying to balance the different flavors making up this sauce.


Recipe (Adapted from Ted Allen's The Food You Want To Eat, published at
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup roasted peanuts
1/3 cup light soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
2 medium garlic cloves
1 small cucumber
1/2 pound soba noodles
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 scallions, sliced

Dry roast the sesame seeds in a wok or cast iron pan under medium for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. In a small food processor, blend the peanuts, sesame oil, half of the sesame seeds, peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, mirin and garlic until the consistency of a thick sauce. Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise, scoop out the insides with a fork and slice into U-shaped pieces. Cook the noodles in boiling water as directed on the package. Drain, rinse in cold water, and re-immerse in some boiling to reheat. Drain again, mix in with the sauce, cucumber, scallions, cilantro and remaining sesame seeds. Serve hot or cold.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Seared Sesame Seed Tuna Sandwich

I just ended my rotation at the 'sandwich station' of the restaurant. Sandwiches are often very underrated, and considered to be the cheap relative to a fancy meal. The sandwich station at the restaurant is a way for us culinary students to re-think this all-time lunch favorite. I decided to try making a gourmet fresh tuna sandwich, with velvety avocado and a soy and scallion marinade.

Up to now, we had only been assigned recipes that had been tested by our chefs and that we tried to execute as best we could for our customers. This was thus a new opportunity to get creative, and come up with a different sandwich special to be served every day.

Since then I have begun my last month of school culinary .. so, if all goes well, I will be adorned with a chef's hat in a month exactly!


Tuna loin
Sesame seeds
2 scallions
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1/2 avocado, sliced
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil and canola oil
Bordelais bread

Cut the bread into thin slices. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill to obtain a nice grill mark and set aside. Season the tuna loin on all sides, generously, with salt and pepper. Pat with an even coat of sesame seeds making sure all sides are covered. Place a pan on high heat. Once it's warm, drizzle in some canola oil. Once the pan is steaming hot (and the oil starts to fume) delicately place the tuna loin inside. Make sure the oil is hot enough or the tuna will stick to the pan. Sear the tuna on all sides until the sesame seeds are nicely golden. Leave to rest on a cooling rack.
In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, lemon juice, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Taste and adjust seasoning and acidity. Add the thinly sliced scallions.
Carefully slice the tuna. Layer the tuna on the bread alternating with the slices of avocado. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the marinade. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Passion Fruit Baked Alaska

Pastry can seem a little daunting to a lot of cooks. Measurements are much more key than for savory recipes, and the job often more tedious. However, for me, it's usually pure joy. I have always enjoyed the wonders that come out of pastry kitchens, so being able to work all day with a pastry chef was a sort of childhood dream come true. The smell of the pastry kitchen was also a pleasant change from the steaming hot fish and meat stations, and the calm found there was soothing.

These Baked Alaska were a real pleasure for the eye. I also like the element of surprise: how this spiky white coat hides a soft and smooth scoop of ice cream and a chocolaty moist cake. Speaking of the cake.. it is addictive. It would work nicely to make ice cream sandwiches with, and is really easy and quick to make.

The only problem with this dessert is having to serve it quickly so it doesn't start to melt. I will let you imagine what that can cause in a professional kitchen when the whole restaurant suddenly wants a Baked Alaska for dessert!


Base Cake:
345 grams of bittersweet chocolate
8 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons of espresso extract
Large pinch of Kosher salt
140 grams of granulated sugar

4 egg whites
200 of granulated sugar

Passion fruit ice cream
Rasberries, for garnish

For the cake:
Preheat your oven to 325 F (162 C). Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. In the meantime, in a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, extracts, and salt. Temper the yolk mixture with the melted chocolate (by adding a little chocolate at first, mixing well and then adding the rest of the chocolate).
In an electric mixer bowl, place the egg whites and sugar. Mix until soft peaks form. Gently fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture unti, just blended in. Grease a parchment-lined cookie sheet (with Pam!) and pour the chocolate mixture in. With a pastry scraper flatten out the mixture to obtain an even 1/4 inch layer. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the cake is just set.
Leave the cake to cool. Once it has, using a cookie cutter just slightly bigger than an ice cream scoop, cut out chocolate cake circles and lay them out small cookie sheet. Scoop a scoop of ice cream in the center of each circle (as quickly as possible so that the ice cream does not get a chance to melt) and place in the freezer. In the meantime, make your meringue.

In a bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar together until well combined. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. The bowl should fit the top of the pot snuggly but the water should not touch the bowl. The water should not boil or the eggs will scramble. Whisk constantly so that the eggs do not get a chance to coagulate. Once the egg mixture is a little warmer than body temperature (about 110 degrees) turn off the heat. Place the mixture in a electric mixing bowl. Whisk until stiff peaks form and the mixture is glossy.
Place the mixture into a piping bag with a medium size tip. Take the cakes and their scoops out of the freezer. Pipe little meringue peaks all around the ice cream, making they are all close to one another. If the ice cream is melting too fast, you might have to put it back in the freezer for a few minutes before piping again. Once the meringue is piped all around the ice cream, quickly torch the sides of the meringue, making wave movements, and working quickly so that the meringue does not burn.

Serve with raspberries. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Chicken Piccata

I have been meaning to post this recipe for a while, but for some reason I never got around to taking a picture of it. We have talked a lot about flavor combinations at school and what makes a dish work. The three components that seem to come back in various forms are a mix of saltiness, fat and acidic flavors. Chicken piccata makes perfect use of all three: saltiness with capers, fat with butter and acid with lemon. This really is one of my favorite dishes. It's so simple to make, and also works great with fish.

I have moved on to the pasty section of the kitchen, so I will be posting about those adventures very soon. I have a newfound appreciation for kitchen life everyday. It definitely is one of the most physical jobs I have ever had, at times one of the most stressful, but generally one of the most pleasing. There is just something so special about spending time concocting flavors and aromas for the unique goal of pleasing.


Recipe for two (adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon water
3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
Good olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons of capers, washed and drained
Sliced lemon, for serving
2 teaspoons of dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper and dried oregano.

Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the capers, and swirl to combine. Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Salt and Pepper Shrimp

So here I am with my first post in far too long. I have to apologize, as Jenn is the one who spends most of her day in a professional kitchen and yet she is the one who still finds time to come home and post in her spare time!

Salt and Pepper Shrimp is a pretty much a standard at most chinese restaurants, and is usually done deep-fried. This variation (another winner from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen) is a pan-fried version that is really simple, and delicious. It's great for those evenings when you're both short on time and have an empty fridge (the only perishable thing it calls for is ginger and scallions). It's traditional to use smaller, thin-shelled shrimp and eat them whole (the shell crisps up nicely and gives a nice crunch), but I've used peeled as well with great success.



2 teaspoons of cornstarch
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of sugar
400g of small, frozen shrimp.

2 cloves of garlic, sliced.
2 inch piece of ginger, sliced
3-4 scallions cut into 1 inch pieces
3-4 dried chilies, deseeded and cut in half (optional)

Defrost, trim and rise the shrimp. Mix together the cornstarch, salt, pepper and sugar and add the shrimp. Heat a wok or cast-iron pan on medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil. Spread the shrimp on the pan in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook in batches if necessary. Leave the shrimp untouched for 30-45 seconds, allowing them to crisp. Gently turn them over, to do the other side. Stir fry gently for another 2-3 minutes and remove the shrimp from the pan.

Lower the heat to medium low, add a little more oil. Add the ginger, garlic, and chiles (if using), and stir fry gently to release the flavor into the oil. Just as the garlic begins to crisp, add the scallions and the shrimp back into the wok. Stir fry for 20-30 seconds. Serve with rice.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Seared Salmon with Pea Risotto and Tomato Puree

I have started cooking for the school's restaurant, and, to say the truth, it has been quite the ride so far. There is a mix of stress, excitement, and genuine pleasure which all mixed together make for fast-paced days with very little time to rest. I am getting used to all the organization that a professional kitchen demands, and the real pleasure of cooking for busy and hungry New Yorkers.

A lot of the time spent in a kitchen is prep work. In the morning, fish or meat must be prepared, cleaned, portioned and made ready to use. Vegetables must be pre-cooked, and certain things cooked partially only. Risotto, which has quite a fussy texture for instance, must be cooked 80% of the way in the morning, and then set to cool by being spread on parchment-lined sheet pans. The risotto is then re-moistened with chicken stock when ordered, and then garnished with finishing touches such as cheese and peas.

Kitchen life, in many ways, resembles the strict setup of army life. Organization is key, hierarchies must be respected, and the chef must be addressed by reminding oneself that he or she is, indeed, the leader of the day. "Yes chef", and "no chef" are the only acceptable answers to be pronounced. The "barker", or frenetically angry cook at the front of the kitchen makes sure that orders are respected and deadlines not passed. He screams "order in" once a meal had been ordered, and "fire" once the meal is to be brought to the customer right away. The cooks are expected to be disciplined, respectful of orders and extremely meticulous.
Although, I have never experienced the battlefield firsthand, I can rest assured that life in the kitchen has already brought me pretty close.


4 salmon fillets
2 tablespoons of whole butter
A drizzle of blended oil
Salt and pepper

About 3 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of arborio rice
A knob of butter
2 minced shallots
2 minced garlic cloves
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 glass of white wine
A good handful of grated Parmesan cheese
A handful of peas, cooked

Pea Puree
1/4 cup of heavy cream
3 tablespoons of water
Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup of peas

Tomato Broth:
4 tomatoes
1 minced shallot
1 minced garlic clove
1 sprig of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon of sugar

Chopped chives
Basil leaves

Pea Puree:
Start by making the pea puree. In a blender, mix the peas, water, salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add the cream. Mix well.

Tomato Broth:
Take two of the tomatoes, remove the cores and chop in half. Remove the seed and transfer to a separate bowl. Using a blender, blend the tomatoes until you obtain a smooth puree. Strain through a fine strainer. Disregard the tomato foam that is too thick to be strained. Transfer the strained liquid to a bowl, add the sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Strain the seeds as well, and add the liquid strained to the bowl. Reserve.
Peel and core the other 2 tomatoes. Chop finely. In a pan, heat some oil and add the shallots, garlic and thyme. Once the shallots are softened, add the tomatoes. Season. Cook on low heat until the moisture has mostly evaporated. Reserve.
Heat the stock in a pot - bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Melt the butter in a pan on medium low heat and add the shallots, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. When the shallots begin to soften, add the rice. Mix with a wooden spoon until lightly toasted. Add the wine and stir constantly. Once the wine has evaporated, add the stock, ladle by ladle, gently stirring. Add more stock once the rice has absorbed the liquid. Adjust the seasoning during this process. After about 18 minutes of cooking time, the rice should be tender and creamy. Add the cheese, peas, pea puree and stir until smooth.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Drizzle some oil in a oven-proof pan on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the salmon, skin side down. Press the fish down to make sure it does not curl. Once the fish skin begins to become crispy (after 2-3 minutes), add the knob of butter. Gently pour the fat out of the pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for an additional 1-3 minutes for a medium rare salmon.

In a pan, heat the two types of tomato preparations together.

Plate by placing a circle of risotto in the middle of each plate. Circle with the tomato broth and top with the salmon fillet, some basil leaves and chopped chives . Enjoy!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin