Monday, March 30, 2015

Duck Salad with Port-Currant Sauce

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Duck Salad with Port-Currant Sauce
Serves 2 (entrée) – 4 (appetizer)
Difficulty: Moderate
Duck Salad with Port-Currant Sauce 
For unclear reasons, I shied away from cooking duck for many years. Maybe I thought it was difficult to do? It certainly is not – or, at least not duck breasts. This one looks complicated, but it is a can be done for a mid-week or special guest dinner. In addition, duck is an excellent, lean source of protein as well as iron, selenium and niacin. For some reason, duck has gotten a bad “rap” through the years because of the skin. Yet, it is comparable in fat and calories to a skinless chicken or turkey breast.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cranberry Bean & Mussel Stew with Zucchini


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Cranberry Bean & Mussel Stew with Zucchini
Serves: 4
Difficulty: Moderate
Cranberry Bean & Mussel Stew with Zucchini
This is a hearty and warming winter stew. For such an elegant, comforting meal, this stew is incredibly simple to prepare; it takes less than 30 minutes once the beans are prepared.  Any cranberry bean will do – I chose dried beans from Rancho Gordo. These heirloom beans are a beautiful dense, velvety bean with gorgeous pot liquor.  Originally from Colombia, the beans have been bred around the world. Similar to Borlotti, cranberry beans are very thin-skinned with a velvety texture making them ideal for soups and stews. If short for time, you could substitute canned white beans that have been rinsed and drained.

Cranberry beans

Mussels are one of the most eco-friendly proteins. Most of the mussels we eat these days are cultivated on ropes suspended from floating rafts in clean waters. They plump up naturally on plankton, converting it into nutritious meaty flesh. Farmed mussels are environmentally benign, and some research suggests their cultivation my have an overall beneficial effect on the marine ecosystem.

This dish falls squarely within that category of recipes that are so simple, every ingredient really matters. The mussels, of course, need to be as fresh as can be. The cooking time is so short, you definitely want to have everything prepped and ready before you start. I let the mussels sit in a big bowl of water with a little flour while I prepared all the ingredients.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Pear, Leek & Gruyere Turnovers

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Pear, Leek & Gruyere Turnovers
Makes 8 Turnovers
Difficulty: Moderate
Pear, Leek & Gruyere Turnovers
This appetizer is sure to wow your family and guests. It can also be served as a light lunch with a salad of greens tossed in simple vinaigrette. In either case – it is fabulous and can be made earlier in the day if you like. It can also be frozen after it is baked and reheated for later use. How versatile!
Pears for the turnovers
Leek ready for cleaning and trimming
  • 2 Tb butter
  • 1½ C thoroughly cleaned chopped leeks
  • Two 6 oz. peeled cored and chopped ripe pears of your choice
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • Salt & pepper
  • ¾ C packed grated Gruyere cheese (about 4 oz.)
  • 1½ Tb chopped fresh chives
  • 2 frozen puff pastry sheets
  • Flour
  • 1 egg
Leeks are a wonderfully delicious vegetable but they’re grown in sandy soil, so they need a good and thorough cleaning before use. Trim the root end and remove the dark tops, which are bitter.  Then make one long slice vertically, hold them together together, and chop horizontally in ¼- ½ inch sections. Put all into a large bowl, fill with cold water and agitate the chopped leeks with your hands, checking layers for any hidden dirt. The leeks will float and the dirt falls to the bottom. Lift cleaned leeks out of water to drain on paper towels. Chop drained cleaned leeks.
The cut leeks

Wash the chopped leek, the dirt will fall to the bottom
Melt 2 Tb butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add 1½ C cleaned leeks to skillet, stir 1 minute. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook until leeks begin to lightly brown, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Stir in chopped pears and sugar. Increase heat to medium; sauté uncovered until any liquid evaporates, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl; cool. Stir in Gruyere cheese and chives.

Sauté the leek and pears together

....and then add the cheese separately
Thaw 2 puff pastry sheets following package recommendations. Place one sheet on a work surface – sprinkle lightly with flour so it does not stick and roll gently just to take out the fold lines. Using a 4 – 4½ inch diameter ring, bowl or tartlet pan rim, cut out 4 rounds from each pastry sheet. 
Rolled pastry
Then roll out each cut pastry round to a 5” circle. Place about 3 Tb of leek mixture on half of each pastry round, dividing equally. Brush pastry edges as a glaze with 1 beaten egg.  Fold pastry over filling, pressing to adhere. Press edges with fork to seal. Brush turnovers with egg glaze. Pierce pastry in several places with toothpick. Place on baking sheet. Chill 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
Add the stuffing....
Close and then add the glaze
Preheat oven to 400 degree F. Bake turnovers until puffed and golden, about 18 minutes. Serve warm. They can be baked ahead of time and reheated briefly before serving. If you choose to freeze them, bake first, cool and put into a freezer-safe container. It will keep frozen for several weeks. Reheat from the frozen state before serving.
The final product!
I absolutely love these with champagne…of course, EVERYTHING is better with champagne!

Bon Appetit!

Larue



Monday, March 2, 2015

Larue's Simple, Light Extraordinary Green Salad

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Larue's Simple, Light Extraordinary Green Salad 
Serves: 4

Larue's Simple, Light Extraordinary Green Salad

I have used this salad recipe often…well, very often. Every cook needs to have a “go-to” lettuce salad up his or her sleeves. This is that salad. It follows a heavy-ish first course, like a thick winter soup, and followed by protein – steak, ribs, or fish - you name it.  Are you looking for something light and fresh to serve in between courses and to cleanse the palate and lighten the spirits? This salad should do the trick; it also makes for a good starter. You could, of course, add one (but just one…or it is no longer simple) item – such as sliced avocado.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs with Mango & Lime

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Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs with Mango & Lime
Serves: 4
Difficulty: Moderate
Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs with Mango & Lime
Mangoes are the starting point for this wonderful recipe – add a bit of lime and a dash of rum and we are out of February gloom and into a sunny mood. The additional tropical flavors of lime, chilies, ginger and coconut milk only seem natural. Take yourself to the Caribbean with this entrée.  As the mango cooks, it gives itself up entirely to the sauce, thickening it and contributing to a wonderful pale orange color. Serve with some Jasmine rice cooked in broth, chopped onion and a bit of coconut milk, add parsley for a bit of color and you have the perfect addition to sop up the sauce.
Key ingredients
Country-style pork ribs are relative newcomers to the meat case, promote the shoulder-blade section of the pork loin, and are not as lean as the pricier rib chops. Because they have the tougher, fattier character of the pork shoulder, they are best cooked slowly in any sort of braise. Shopping for them can be confusing, since they appear in a variety of shapes arising from the top end of the loin or bottom end of the shoulder.  For this recipe my favorites are cuts from the shoulder with bone in. They are never symmetrical so look for an even mix.