Thursday, August 27, 2009

Executive Chef Josh K. Watkins: Cooking Demo

Here is Executive Chef Josh K. Watkins in his restaurant, The Carillon at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center located on the University of Texas campus in downtown Austin.

I was fortunate to attend a demo dinner at the hotel restaurant where Chef Watkins prepared and served five courses paired with wine.

First course: Salmon Tartar. Oh yeah, he did the entire demo for us...beginning with a huge Salmon.

Salmon was served with a crispy fried oyster, creme fraiche and american caviar.

Here he is carefully and artfully stacking the ingredients on the plate.

Divya! She's wonderful, and the reason I got a seat at this chef demo. Luv ya chica! This first course was served with a glass of 06 Tamari Torrontes from Mendoza, Argentina. My notes say the wine was a very sweet light white wine with flavors of melon and honey. It was easy to drink and found at Central Market or Whole Foods for $10-15 a bottle.

Salmon Tatar with Crispy Oysters, Creme Fraiche and American Caviar
Recipe serves 4

1/2 lb fresh salmon
2 large shallots, diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 T capers, chopped
1 t dijon mustard
1 t worcestershire
12 fresh oysters2 C panko breadcrumbs
1 C all purpose flour
1 T black sesame seeds
1 T white sesame seeds
4 C canola oil
4 oz creme fraiche
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 oz ameican caviar
1 t chives, chopped

For the Tartar:
Remove skin and de-bone salmon if necessary. Be sue to remove all of the bloodline and cartilage. Dice salmon to 1/8 inch pieces or smaller. Combine salmon, shallots, garlic, capers, dijon, and worcestershire. Salt to taste.

For the Oysters:
In a medium pot bring canola oil to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl combine panko, flour, and sesame seeds. Dust oysters in breading, remove and fry until golden brown. Salt when removed from oil.

For the Creme Fraiche:
Combine Ceme Fraiche and lemon. Salt to taste. On a side note, Chef talked to us about making his own Creme Fraiche by using a quart of heavy cream plus acid plus a teaspoon of existing yogurt and then left a room temperature overnight. I may have to do more research before I attempt this.

Shape tartare into 4 ring molds. Place a teaspoon of caviar on each, followed by 3 crispy oysters and a spoon of creme fraiche. Garnish with chives.

Second course was a White Caesar Salad served with spanish anchovies, garlic chips, white asparagus and arugula pistou.

Serves 4:
4 heads romain hearts, chopped
2 whole egg yolks
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 lb manchego cheese. Note, he uses 12 months aged, essentially a "spanish parmesan."
2 C canola oil
1 lemon, juiced
1 t worcestershire
1 t digon mustard
1 can spanish anchovies. Note, these are not in a salt brine, but in vinegar.
1 bunch white asparagus, cut and blanched
1 lb baby arugula
1/4 C olive oil

Here Chef Watkins makes the Caesar Dressing:
In a small pot bring 1 cup canola oil to 250 F. Wrap manchego in cheese cloth, tie and submerge in oil for 15 minutes. Remove cheese, discard and place oil in refrigerator to cool. In a blender combine egg yolks, 2 cloves garlic, worcestershire, dijon and lemon juice. While blending slowly (SLOWLY) add cold oil. Add a small amount of cold water if too thick. Salt to taste.

The wine served with this course was the 07 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. I noted that it was grassy and herby and could be found for $10-15 at places where wine is served since it is a common wine.

For the Asparagus bundles:
Cut Manchego into 12 small batons. (Save scraps for Arugula Pistou) On a clean surface, lay out 8 anchovies skin side up. Place cheese and asparagus on anchovies and roll into tight bundles.

For the Arugula Pistou:
In a blender combine arugula, cheese scraps, 2 cloves garlic and olive oil. Blend until smooth. Salt to taste.

For the Garlic Chips:
In small saute pan bring 1 cup canola oil to 300 F. Slice remaining garlic cloves as thin as possible. (Preferably on Mandolin) Submerge in oil and fry until golden brown. Salt when removed.

Just before serving toss chopped lettuce with dressing and plate. Place asparagus bundles around and garnish top with pistou and garlic chips.

Our third course was Tomato-Fennel Soup with fennel confit, vodka gelle and olive oil crema.

I don't know what he is doing here. There was a very "interesting" vodka jello that he made for this course. He could possibly be doing something with that jello here.

Serves 4:
2 bulbs fennel, julienne. Notes: Pick fennel that is not bruised.
8 cloves garlic, diced
8 sprigs thyme
2 C canola oil
1 C vodka
3 sheets gelatin
1 C heavy whipping cream
5 T extra virgin olive oil
16 ripe roma tomatoes
4 large shallots, julienne
1 C white wine

For the Fennel Confit:
In medium saucepot combine fennel, 4 cloves garlic and 4 sprigs of thyme. Bring to boil, reduce heat and let simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and strain. Remove thyme and discard.

For the Vodka Gelle:
In a small mixing bowl bloom gelatin in cold water. In a small pot combine gelatin and vodka. Warm just enough to dissolve gelatin. Chill on sheet pan with parchment under refrigeration. Cut to desired portions. You will need 10-12 sheets of gelatin per quart of liquid.

For the Olive Oil Crema:
In a mixing bowl combine heavy cream and 1 t olive oil. Mix to desired consistency and salt to taste.

For the Soup:
In large saucepot saute shallots, fennel, and 4 cloves garlic in olive oil. Deglaze with white wine. Add thyme and tomatoes. Let simmer 30 minutes. Remove thyme puree and strain. Salt to taste.

Garnish bowl with Fennel, Gelle and Crema. Pour soup into bowl tableside.

For our entree, the fourth course was Brioche Crusted Rack of Lamb served with asparagus ragout, oven roasted tomatoes and bacon gastrique.

Serves 4:
1 bunch green asparagus, peeled and cut
1/2 C english pees (shucked)
1/2 C grape tomatoes (halves)
2 large shallots, diced
1/2 C red pearl onions
4 roma tomatoes (halved)
4 cloves garlic, diced
4 sprigs thyme, picked
1/2 C olive oil
1 C water
1 C white wine vinegar
1 C sugar
1/4 lb bacon, diced. Notes: Chef used applewood smoked bacon.
2 whole lamb racks, frenched
2 C brioche bread crumbs
2 t dijon mustard

For the ragout:
In large saute pan cook asparagus, peas, shallots, grape tomatoes and pearl onions until tender. Salt to taste. Add butter.

For the Bacon Gastrique:
In a small saucepot combine water, vinegar and sugar. Simmer on medium heat until reduced by 1/2. Cool liquid when syrup consistency is reached. In a small saucepan render bacon until crispy, drain and discard fat. Combine with reduction to complete Gastrique.

For the lamb:
Season liberally with salt and pepper. Sear on high until golden brown on both sides. Apply a thin coating of mustard and submerge in breadcrumbs. Finish in a 400 F oven until desired temperature is reached. The lamb should be 135 degrees on the inside.

Plate ragout and tomatoes. Cut lamb into chops, plate and garnish with Gastrique around.

This course was served with a glass of 05 Flora Springs Merlot from Napa Valley, California. The wine smelled heavenly and paired excellently with the lamb. It was a big wine, and smooth with a wonderful finish that had a little bit of spice.

The finale was Goat Cheese Cheesecake served with lemon verbena caramel and raspberry confit.

This recipe makes one 10-inch cake:
For the Graham Cracker Mix:
8 T melted butter
28 graham crackers, crushed
1/4 C granulated sugar

Measure 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs. In a mixing bowl combine crumbs with sugar and butter. Stir or blend with hands.

For the cheesecake:
1 lb goat cheese
1 lb cream cheese
4 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
12 oz granulated sugar
1 T vanilla bean paste
3/4 C heavy cream

Line the cake pan with parchment paper and the graham cracker mix. Bake the crust for 10 minutes at 325 F.

Reduce oven temp to 300 F. Place both cheeses in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment.

When the cheeses are combined, add the sugar and vanilla bean paste. Continue mixing for 2 minutes until completely smooth. Scrape bowl at least once in the middle of mixing.

Add eggs one at a time, scraping the sides after each addition. Add heavy cream and continue mixing until homogenized. Pour over the crust, knock the pan on the counter top to get bubbles out. Bake in oven in a water bath. (place cake pan in a half sheet pan, add enough water to come half way up the cookie sheet)

Bake until set. Smooth surface forms on top and jiggles like Jell-O not water. Take care to not brown the cheesecake. Add more water as needed. Baking time is typically 45-50 minutes. Chill overnight.

For the Caramel:
1 oz lemon verbena
1 C granulated sugar
1 t corn syrup
3/4 C heavy cream
1 T butter
1 t lemon juice or lemoncello (optional)

Steep lemon verbena in scalded cream for at least 30 minutes. Strain and cool. In a medim saute pan put 1/4 cup water. Pour sugar directly in middle of water. Add corn syrup and caramelize to desired amber color. Pour in steeped cream and butter and whisk until smooth. Add lemon to taste.

For the Raspberry Confit:
1 C water
1 C granulated sugar
1 pint raspberries

In a small pot bring water and sugar to boil. When sugar is dissolved, place raspberries in mixing bowl and pour hot liquid over them. Mix and chill.

Dessert was served with the 06 Flat Creek Muscat from Blanco Texas Hill Country. It was bight and sweet with apple flavors.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Short Ribs served over 3 Cheese Risotto

You guys know how I love to photograph each step of my meals, it helps me remember what I did and it is how I learn from other food bloggers too. This was a really special meal, and it kills me that I don't have more photographs. For one I was in a huge rush to put this together and my camera battery was also dead. These few pictures I do have were taken just before serving this meal to guests and taken with my phone.

Short ribs are special, they are one of my favorite things to cook and to eat. They are easy to prepare, impressive to serve, and taste so good when cooked slow and low they fall right off the bone.

Jim and I were having friends over for dinner and I had planned to make short ribs, but I had misjudged my time and had to really rush to get this put together and in the oven. They need to cook for 3 hours at least. My recipe is loosely based on this one from Giada.

Short ribs can be expensive, so I just watch for sales at the meat counter. You want to buy about a pound per person. I was serving four, so this recipe used four pounds of beef short ribs.

Ingredient List:
Short Ribs
Salt and Pepper
Onion powder
Garlic Powder
Olive Oil
1 large Onion
3 cloves garlic
3 carrots
3 celery stalks
5 roma tomatoes
1 cup red wine
3 T dijon mustard
2 cups beef broth

Preheat the oven to 350.

I seasoned the short ribs with the usual S.P.O.G. (salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.) Using my heavy dutch oven I used just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot and heated to medium-high. In batches, sear the short ribs on all sides until nice a brown. Remove and set aside on a plate. My mother seasons her short ribs with S.P.O.G. and then dusts them with flour. See her recipe here.

I diced one onion and added it to the dutch oven along with a couple of carrots and celery stalks that got a rough chop. Let this cook, stirring frequently for about five minutes. Then add three cloves of coarsely chopped garlic. Cook, stirring frequently for two minutes. When onions are translucent, add five roma tomatoes that have been quartered. Add one cup of good red wine. and 3 tablespoons of dijon mustard. (This is the secret ingredient.) Bring this mixture to a boil and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot left from browning the short ribs.

Return the ribs to the pot and add enough beef broth to fully cover the meat. Cover the pot and place in the oven for three hours, until the meat is fork-tender and falls easily off the bone.

Note: Giada removes the short ribs from the cooking liquid and then blends the remaining broth and vegetables into a sauce, pours over cooked pasta and serves the short ribs on top.

I pulled the short ribs out of the cooking liquid and placed on top of 3 cheese risotto. Yum yum yum. Let me say again, "YUM!"

I did however reserve all the cooking liquid and a couple days later, I skimmed the fat from the top and then heated in a sauce pan over medium heat. Once heated through I took my immersion blender to the sauce, added a teaspoon of cornstarch to help thicken, and then served over cooked pasta like Giada had originally suggested in her recipe. This was SO GOOD!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Wonderful Weekend

It's just after 9 PM on Sunday evening and its time to accept the fact the weekend is over, and I'm sad to see it go. I simply am dreading the 5:30 AM alarm on my phone that says (literally) "GO TO GYM - Wedding Dress!"

Friday after work Jim and I went to Kona Grill in the Domain for a really fantastic happy hour. They have sake bombs for only $6. We discovered two and a half hours later that they put a limit on how many sake bombs one person can be served. At 7 PM when we walked out we realized WHY they put a limit on how many one person can be served. They taste great, but man they can catch up with you. We followed happy hour with dinner at a local sports bar just down the street from our house, and made it home in time to see the Denver Bronco's kick off their first pre-season game. I didn't make it through the first quarter...those dang sake bombs.

Saturday morning was a blast! I met my brother downtown where he lives and I got to watch him experience a Farmers Market for the first time. I love farmers markets, it makes me feel so good to buy local, to know my fruits, meats and vegetables are the freshest available to me. I purchased a dozen eggs, which I came home and hard boiled...I'm going to post that technique on the blog sometime soon. Basic, yes, but it is possible to mess that up. Talk about photogenic eggs! lol. My brother Brad found cucumbers, zucchini, pears, and hamburger meat. He never gets really outwardly excited about anything - as opposed to me who recently admitted I have the urge to clap when my entree is delivered to me while dining out. I just love food...and the farmers market is a celebration of all things foodie. In addition to the dozen eggs I bought a jar of local honey, figs, onions, green and red tomatoes, basil and I also purchased some gourmet green olives stuffed with garlic! While chatting with the guy selling the olives, I discovered HE is the bartender at Ranch 616 who had part in creating the official drink of Austin 2009 - Fire In The Hole. It's fantastic you guys. I first heard about this official drink from my friend Jenna who works for Tito's Handmade Vodka. Jim and I had dinner at Ranch 616 soon after we heard about this drink, that turns out is really a shot.

Fire In The Hole

1 large jalapeño
1/2 oz Titos Vodka
1/2 oz Paula's Texas Orange
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. Cayenne chili pepper
1 tbsp. salt
1 ice-cold beer back

Mix cayenne chili pepper and salt together on a plate. Cut top off jalapeno - core and seed. Dip jalapeno into cayenne chili pepper and salt mixture on a plate. In a shaker: mix vodka, orange liqueur, lime juice, and ice. Strain and pour into jalapeno. Serve with ice-cold beer back!(serves one)

At Ranch 616, the beer back is an ice cold coronita, the short coronas. Excellent! Also, if you order a group of Fire in the Hole's, I can't remember if it is five or so... then it is called Ring Of Fire. Jim and I decided then that we would have to bring my parents there next time they come into town for a visit. What a fun way to kick off the night.

After the shopping trip with Brad at the Farmers Market, I came home to make my soon-to-be Award Winning Salsa for the contest at Faraday's Kitchen Store. I wanted the salsa to sit in the fridge over night so the ingredients could fall in love and marry. I was VERY happy with the way my red salsa and my green salsa turned out. I was never fully hooked on the names I came up with for my salsa, but oh well. Here are the recipes:

"You Just Can't Get Enough"
4 small tomatoes, chopped
2 14.5 canned diced tomatoes, one is fire roasted, one is zesty mild green chile
3 medium green jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 small sweet onions or one Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T ground cumin
¼ t salt
1 cup cilantro
½ t dried chipotle chile pepper

Coarsely chop tomatoes and onions and add to cuisinart blender, pulse 3-4 times. Seed and chop three jalapenos, add to cuisinart, pulse 2 times. Add vinegar, garlic, cumin, salt, chipotle chile pepper, pulse 2 times. Add one cup cilantro, pulse 2 times. Add one can of diced tomatoes, pulse 2 times. Add the other can of diced tomatoes, and simply stir together.

"Very Verde Salsa"
1 lb tomatillos, quartered
1 sweet onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2 t ground cumin
1 t salt
½ cup cilantro
½ lime, juiced
1/3 c chicken stock
Olive oil

Place quartered tomatillos and jalapeno halves on a rimmed baking sheet and broil for 10-15 minutes until they start to brown and blister. In a saucepan sauté diced onion and minced garlic in ½ tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add roasted tomatillos and garlic along with all the juices from the roasting pan. Take off heat. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add juice of half a lime, stir and serve.

Saturday night, Jim and I celebrated with a friend who just got a job in this tough economy. We met some new people and had a really great time at the house party. One of the hosts made us a german chocolate cake shot that was like dessert, but it started with a sugared lemon...reminded me of flavor tripping.

Sunday Sunday Sunday! I love Saturday and Sunday mornings. I like it when I wake up around 7:30 AM and make a cup of tea, and tip toe in my pajamas to the couch where I log onto my laptop and check e-mail, read food blogs, and update my own. I love the quietness of the morning and the alone time. Jim woke up late and joined me on the couch with a magazine. We sat there for a good hour while I worked on my laptop, eating cereal, and he on the other end with my feet in his lap as he read about fantasy football. THAT is what Sunday is for. We went to church at 11 and then drove to Lakeway where I dropped off my two salsa entries at Faraday's. Starved, we drove another two miles down the road and enjoyed a really lovely italian lunch at Rocco's in Lakeway. I had a small cup of their tomato soup and a crisp green salad with spicy pecans and green apples. With full bellies, we drove home and napped - my most favorite thing to do on Sunday after church.

I haven't heard from anyone at Faraday's so I'm guessing neither of my salsa entries placed in any category today. There were so many entries, I can't wait to read the winning recipe, and then duplicate it here on the blog.

My weekend ended with a movie that made me laugh and cry. I saw Julie and Julia tonight with my future mother in law. The movie was so good and enhanced only by the Moonstruck pizza that we split between the two of us. I'm eating a tums as I type this, and I'm not kidding. If you've seen the movie, then you get the reference. I don't see how you can watch a movie like that and not EAT while enjoying it. The Moonstruck pizza at Alamo Drafthouse is so good, and the entree I order almost always when I see movies there. It's a margarita pizza made with fresh mozzarella, fresh tomato slices (although tonight they were diced, not sliced) with fresh basil and a spicy tomato sauce. If you are a food blog writer, or even a food lover - you will connect with this movie. I thought it captured the ups and downs of pushing yourself in the kitchen, and as a fairly new cook I related to the disasters, the meltdowns, the successes and the best feeling in the world when your partner devours a meal you have prepared for him. Jim you are the butter to my bread. Oh, if you haven't seen this movie, what are you waiting for? I can't wait to see it again!

5:30 AM is getting closer and closer, I must say goodnight, close my laptop and get some rest. After the dinner I just had there is no way I can get out of my morning workout. G'Night.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Roasted Potato and Poached Halibut

This Roasted Potato and Poached Halibut recipe is one of those meals that has been sitting in my "to post" folder for a while. I took so many pictures while making this, I guess I kept putting it off because it seemed like such a chore to dig out and post. Well it's been a very busy week in our house and I've finally carved out some time to talk about this fish recipe.

The potatoes will take a while to roast in the oven, so I start by giving them a good scrub with a had bristled brush under running water. Look for ugly "potato eyes" and pick those off too.

I have the recipe I followed for the Halibut, but I honestly don't know what directions I was following for the potatoes. For some reason I put the whole potatoes in the oven...but not sure how long because you can see in future pictures that they are not cooked all the way through.

Here are the ingredients you need for the Halibut:
Halibut fillets
bay leaves
Here are the ingredients for the sauce:
halibut broth
Start by filling a 4 quart pot half with water.
Add 10 peppercorns to the water.

Along with 2 teaspoons of salt,

Slice a medium onion, add to the water as well.

Slice one lemon, add to water.

My mother sent me this beautiful bay leaf wreath, it smells divine and I pluck dried bay leaves right off of it to cook with (rinsed first of course.)

So to recap, we have two quarts of water, 10 peppercorns, 2 tsp salt, 1 medium onion sliced, 1 lemon sliced and 6 bay leaves. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes.

While the water simmers for 10 minutes... lets check back on the potatoes.

By the looks of this picture, the potatoes don't seem cooked all the way through. But I removed them from the oven and quartered.

In a mixing bowl I added some olive oil and stirred to coat.

Added some course sea salt to the potatoes.

Then spread them out onto a rimmed baking sheet.

Seasoned with Italian seasoning. You could use whatever fresh or dried herbs you had on hand.
Then put the potatoes back into a 425 oven to crisp up and finish cooking all the way through.
After 10 minutes of simmering, I put the halibut fillets in the water and bring it down to a slow boil until the fish is done. It will start flaking.

Carefully remove with a slotted spoon or spatula when fish is cooked through.
Set aside on a plate while we make the white sauce.

Oh look, I added some asparagus to the roasting pan. I love love love roasted asparagus. Toss the potatoes around every 10 minutes or so, we want them to brown evenly in the oven.

For the sauce.... in a deep saucepan, melt 1/4 stick of butter over low heat.

Add 1/4 cup flour and stir constantly until completely absorbed by the butter.

Be careful not to let the butter burn.

Add a little bit of the broth from the halibut pot and continue to stir, gradually adding more water and stirring until the sauce becomes a thick mixture the consistency of thin dough.

Keep going. Whisking, and adding water/broth.

Make sue there are no lumps. Once the sauce has a creamy consistency, we add the other flavors.

Add the juice from 1/2 a lemon.

Whisk, whisk, whisk.

Add 1/4 cup of capers.

Along with 3 tsp of caper juice.

You could also add a splash of white wine in there to make it even richer. Stir. Taste, and add seasoning as necessary.

I added a pinch of salt and a hearty sprinkling of black pepper.

When the sauce is the way you like it, Carefully slide the halibut pieces into the sauce, spooning sauce over the top of each halibut fillet.

Let this steep for about five minutes on a very low heat.

The potatoes are crispy now, and ready to serve.

The asparagus look good too. I love when the ends are charred and crispy.

Serve by plating the halibut with potatoes on the side along with asparagus, cover with the sauce.

This was the first time I have ever poached a fish. I thought the subtle flavors from the boiling liquid added a nice touch. However, I personally like the crispy edges that occurs when you pan sear or bake fish. It's a texture thing, not a flavor thing. I can check "to poach" off the list now that I've attempted it. I really liked the roasted vegetables!

This is the wine we served with the meal. Yum! Penfolds Kalimna Shiraz.