Friday, January 25, 2013

French Basics- Estouffade

Hi Folks,
I am off to France for 2 weeks, flying out this Sunday. I received a call from a dear friend, the father of my Goddaughter Genevieve, to ask if I could come over to help him cater for his guests at his ski chalet in Les Carroz. He has to go in to hospital to have his Prostate removed and will be out of action for a wee while. Refusal wasn't an option. The up side of this is that I get to play in a proper French Kitchen, I get to ski in the afternoons, and I get to see Genevieve who I have not seen since she was a baby. The down side is.....well, there is no down side, unless you count flying and eating airline food.
I also get to take my  8 year old son with me (he has his bag packed, I do not).
As a result, my mind is on all things French, so I thought I'd share a trick or two for creating that classic French flavor.

Estouffade, or brown stock to you and me, is not only easy to make, it will transform any dish where you need a brown sauce to accompany it. Use it by itself, or add it to Espagnole (flour based brown sauce) to make Demi Glace. I'll do a post on both of these later.
Marrow and neck bones with carrot, onion and celery

Estouffade is made by roasting bones and root vegetables together, adding tomato puree and water, and reducing the liquid until you get the desired results. Don't start it unless you can guarantee you will be around for the afternoon. You don't have to watch over it, but you will need to check it to make sure you don't boil it dry. Cleaning the pan is a real bugger, take my word for it!!

You might have to ask your butcher for the bones. Neck bones with some meat still on , or rib bones will do. You'll also have to find some marrow bones for that delicious marrow jelly. The ones I use are labelled dog bones and they are usually in the freezer section. Veal and Partridge were used in the old days, but who stocks these! It's hard enough to get  beef bones in a US store.
Roughly cut the vegetables (washed but not peeled, including the onions as the skins add color too) and combine with the bones in a roasting pan. Add a little oil to this and pop in to roast at about 350 degrees. I've no idea what gas mark that is, you'll have to find out for yourself.
Turn occasionally so they all get browned and the sugars get caramelized.

Add Tomato puree

Remove from the oven and add the Tomato puree, and stir over a medium heat so the puree also gets browned. Add water to deglaze the pan, making sure all the crispy bits stuck to the bottom are removed. Pour the contents carefully into a large pot, making sure the bones don't all fall out and create a tidal wave of back splash. Add a couple of bay leaves, but no other fragrant herbs. Parsley stalks and mushroom trimmings are OK if you have them.
Stock before the reduction
Bring to the boil and then reduce the liquid by half. I then pour the stock through a Chinois ( conical strainer) into a measuring jug for easy pouring afterwards. I put at least half of this lovely essence into ice cube trays and freeze. This way, I can use it in small quantities. The rest goes into larger containers for larger projects.

Stock after the reduction
Whatever fat that rises to the top can be scraped off when it cools, as the stock will now be like a jelly ( a good sign that your reduction is sufficient).

Give it a try. It is easy to make, even if it takes time, but as long as you are in the house anyway, you might as well make it. The difference to anything you make afterwards will be worth it.

The next blog will be from Les Carroz

Au revoir mes amies.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Chicken soup with "Bits"

Unidentified left overs hiding under cling film

If you are anything like me, you probably have several items that look like this wrapped in cling film, lurking somewhere in the back off the fridge. Probably left over from the festivities, or just leftover from last night's dinner. Either way, these remains will be the basis for a wonderful stock to warm your cockles, or any other body part that needs some attention.
You can make soup from just about anything, but it will never amount to much unless you start with a good stock.
The good bits

Stealing from our chickens

Add the bones and jelly to a stock pot, together with the trimmings from the veggies you intend to use to add additional flavor to the stock, and in this case, bring to the boil and then simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. The chicken was roasted with Thyme and Rosemary, which will also add a dimension to the stock.

Eye of toad, toe of frog
 As my wife likes soup with "bits in," being the dutiful husband that I am, I cut the veggies into batons, before dicing them into the required "bits."

 I then sauté the onions, carrots, celery and any other hard root veggies I find with a knob of butter (what else).
Once you have done this, you can add the rest of the softer veggies, together with the chicken scraps you have saved from the roast. Add the strained stock from the stock pot, Bring back to the boil and then simmer until all of the veggies are  just done, about 20 minutes.
Of course, you can add any ingredients to this recipe. Some of my favorite adds are white navy beans, squash and kale.

Chicken soup with "Bits."

While I'm in the kitchen, I like to take care of some other prep that will help during the week, such as boiling these beets with their skin on.

When done, the skin just peels off  by pushing it with your fingers. If you don't want stained hands, use rubber gloves. This batch made a jar of pickled beet that I will enjoy with sliced Ham, and also a base for a nice salad to go with our soup. I also soaked some white navy beans for something tomorrow.

Who knows.........

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mignonette Sauce

Happy New Year.

As I am still recovering from what some would call an excess of all things festive, I thought I'd start out the New Year with something really easy, incredibly tasty, and very healthy.

Fresh Oysters.

and in particular, Oysters served with Mignonette Sauce. It sounds very posh and dainty, but it is really just vinegar with shallots and cracked black pepper (or white if you prefer).

Combine all of the following and refrigerate overnight.
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground white or black peppercorns (vary amount according to taste)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar ( Sherry vinegar will do)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or red onions
  • Salt to taste

You will need to use an Oyster knife if you are going to do this from scratch, otherwise you could buy your oysters already open in the half shell, but what's the fun in that.

There are lots of oyster shucking videos on youtube, so I won't delve into that here, but the place to start opening the little darlings is at the hinge, as pointed out in the photo.

Once the oysters are shucked and cleaned, scoop a teaspoon of the Mignonette sauce onto the Oyster and slurp.............

If you don't fall in love with this tasty delicacy, I'm a monkey's uncle.