LEARNING THE FINE ART OF ASSEMBLY

IMG_2683As a professional chef one of my skills is recipe writing. A restaurant needs standardized recipes in order to turn out consistent food day after day, but at home I am more of an assembler. Oh sure, I use recipes on occasion—when I want to make Indian, Thai or other ethnic dishes or when I am testing recipes for  a cookbook or news article—but mostly I look in the fridge and see what is available. This is actually more of a skill than the recipe writing. To be able to assemble on command you need to have a myriad of flavor combinations stored in your head, ready to be called on at a moment’s notice. Continue reading

COOL WEATHER MAKES ME WANT TO BAKE

This morning I awoke early and decided to bake a cake. This is unusual behavior for me but this autumnal weather makes me want to pull something fragrant and delcious out of the oven.  This cake uses simple ingredients I always have around and goes together quickly. It is not too sweet, keeps well for a few days and is equally delicious with firm-ripe pears. I like it best at warm room temperature-eaten plain-out of hand, but feel free to gild the lily with caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream Continue reading

SOMETIMES WHEN YOU ASK NICELY, YOU GET THE RECIPE

I remember my grandmother exchanging recipes with friends in Kokomo Indiana. Sometimes she would make a recipe and say “it doesn’t taste like Sally’s-maybe she left something out”. Often chefs are accused of “leaving something out” to safeguard their creations. I believe it is more a difference of technique. “Blend until smooth” might mean one thing to one cook and something else to another. “Season to taste” opens a whole can of worms. I say you can put 5 chefs in a room with the same written recipe and get 5 different results. Everyone reads, interprets and cooks a little differently. At the Tavern I get all kinds of requests for recipes. Surprisingly, one of the most common is for our pan-seared Brussels sprouts. It happens so often I put the recipe in my cookbook. I am honored and flattered when guests ask for recipes. It means they like the dish so much they’d like to serve it at home. Fine by me. So, finally, after many requests, is our Curried Butternut Squash Soup. Hope you all enjoy and claim it as your own.

CURRIED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

Serves 4-6

2 Tablespoons     canola oil

2 cups                    finely chopped, peeled yellow onion

2 pieces                  star anise

2 Tablespoons     curry powder

½ cup                    apple cider

2 cups                    heavy cream

4 cups                    roasted butternut squash puree

4 cups                    water

3 Tablespoons    packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons         kosher salt

¼ teaspoon        ground black pepper

1/2 cup                 orange juice

3 drop                   hot pepper sauce (optional)

 

In a 3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil and sauté onion until tender and translucent.

 

Add the anise and curry powder and stir well. Add the cider and bring to a boil.

 

Add the cream, squash puree, water and sugar. Stir well and bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add salt, pepper and optional hot sauce.

 

Using a blender wand, puree soup and strain through a chinoise.

Serve immediately or cool quickly and refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze up to 3 months.

 

ROASTED APPLE GARNISH

 

1 tablespoon           butter

1 large                    apple, peeled, cored and diced

 

In a non-stick skillet melt butter and sauté the apple until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Let cool and spoon atop portions of soup.

COOLER WEATHER SPARKS APPETITE FOR WARMING SOUPS

This morning was rainy and gloomy. Funny, I love this kind of fall weather as much as I do the bright, sunny days. I had planned a crab salad for lunch but suddenly the idea of chilled crab and lettuce was not so appealing. What I wanted was soup; a warming, cozy bowl of soup to take away the grey chill. A quick look in the fridge didn’t yield many prospects; after all, I had planned on crab salad. I settled on a bag of cremini mushrooms as a starting point. The mushroom chowder at West Town Tavern is always hugely popular and one of our most requested recipes. (How it didn’t end up in the cookbook is still a mystery.) At the Tavern, however, we use a flavorful mix of shiitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms. Could I make flavorful chowder with just creminis? I rely on creminis for raw texture-not for robust flavor. I knew that by deeply sautéing some onion until browned and tender I could develop a good base. A few carrots, garlic and potatoes added chunky texture and grainy mustard, Worcestershire and thyme added complexity. The chowder took a little more than 30 minutes to prep and there is plenty for lunch tomorrow as well. This also freezes well due to the fat content of the cream.

WINTER MUSHROOM CHOWDER

Makes 2 quarts, serving 8

1 Tbl              canola oil

2 cups           finely chopped onion

1 quart         coarsely chopped cremini mushrooms, about 12 ounces

1 ½ cups     coarsely chopped, peeled carrots, about 2

2 cups          small dice, peeled Idaho potatoes

4 cloves       garlic, peeled, smashed and minced

½ cup           beer, ale or dry sherry

5 cups           water

2 large          bay leaves

1 ½ tsps       kosher salt, divided

1 cup             heavy cream

½ tsp            freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbl              minced fresh thyme leaves

1 Tbl              grainy mustard

2 Tbl             Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp           hot sauce (optional)

 

In a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat add the canola oil and heat until hot. Add the onions and sauté until browned. Add the mushrooms, lower heat to low and cover pan. Steam the mushrooms for 5 minutes until they soften and begin to give up their juices. Uncover pan, raise heat to medium and sauté mushrooms until they are tender, boiling away the liquid. Add the carrots, potatoes and garlic.

Add the beer and bring to a boil, stirring. Add the water, bay leaves and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining 1¼ teaspoons salt, cream, pepper, thyme, mustard, Worcestershire and optional hot sauce. Return soup to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes more. Discard the bay leaves. Using a blender wand puree soup slightly if desired.

Serve immediately or cool quickly in an ice bath and refrigerate, covered, up to 5 days.

Tip: Use a mix of mushrooms if desired. You will need about 12 ounces of raw mushrooms before they are trimmed.

Serve with: take this soup to another level and top it with Blue Cheese Croutons

© Susan Goss and Drew Goss, all rights reserved

 

 BLUE CHEESE CROUTONS

Makes about 4 cups

 

4 cups          artisanal bread cubes, about 1-inch x 1-inch

4 Tbls           unsalted butter

3 ounces       blue cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350°

Place bread cubes in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and cheese, stirring occasionally until smooth. Pour butter mixture over bread and toss gently to mix.

Spread bread onto a cookie sheet and separate as much as possible. Scrape any remaining butter mixture over cubes.

Bake until beginning to crisp, about 10 minutes. Turn gently with a spatula and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes more. Let croutons cool completely before using.

Use croutons in salads or float atop mushroom chowder.

Store croutons covered at room temperature up to 24 hours.

© Susan Goss and Drew Goss, all rights reserved

 

FOR NATIONAL CABBAGE DAY ENJOY THIS SAVORY WINTER SIDE DISH

EAT YOUR CABBAGE

I grew up eating cabbage. I loved cole slaw, ate sauerkraut straight from the can and even gobbled my mother’s annual New Year’s Day braised corned beef and cabbage. The cabbage I ate was white or green. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered the jewel-like tones of red cabbage.

Since today is National Cabbage Day I’d like to encourage you to simmer a pan of West Town Tavern’s Zinfandel-Braised Red Cabbage.  This sweet and savory dish is perfect for this weather; try it with a simple roast chicken, good sausages or roasted acorn squash.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons                    canola oil

1 large                                   red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

1 small head                       red cabbage, coarsely shredded

2 teaspoons                       ground allspice

1 teaspoon                         kosher salt

½ teaspoon each              nutmeg, cinnamon and ground black pepper

3/4 cup                                 zinfandel wine

½ cup                                    red wine vinegar

2/3 cup                                 packed dark brown sugar

In a 5-quart sauté pan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and sauté slowly, stirring occasionally, until browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add the cabbage and stir until wilted. Raise the heat to high and add the spices, stirring well.

Add the wine and bring to a boil, cover pan, lower heat to medium-low and simmer until cabbage is tender and has absorbed the wine, about 15 minutes.

Add the vinegar and sugar and continue to simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until most of liquid is absorbed and the cabbage is very tender. Serve immediately or reserve at room temperature up to 45 minutes. Reheat if necessary. Cabbage may be refrigerated, covered, for 3 days or frozen for p to 3 weeks.

Adapted with permission from West Town Tavern: Contemporary Comfort Food by Susan Goss with Drew Goss.

WINTER MUSHROOM CHOWDER

Today is National Homemade Soup Day and it seemed appropriate to post the recipe for our wildly popular Wild Mushroom Chowder. Why this recipe didn’t make it into the cookbook is beyond me but I am happy to share it. We use a mix of cremini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms at the Tavern but a rich soup can be made using just creminis. I actually make it in an iron skillet instead of a soup pot to make sure the vegetables and mushrooms get good and brown. That caramelization is essential to a deep flavor in the soup. You can get away with using just 1 tablespoon of oil if you keep the heat at medium and cover the pan after you add the mushrooms. Mushrooms are little sponges and happily slurp up any oil or liquid they can. If you cover the pan and let them steam for 5 minutes they will begin to release their own delicious juices and will stew in them until tender.

Makes 2 quarts, serving 8

1 Tablespoon     canola oil

2 1/3 cups            finely chopped onion

1 quart                  coarsely chopped cremini mushrooms, about 12 ounces

1 ½ cups              coarsely chopped, peeled carrots, about 2

2 cups                   small dice, peeled Idaho potatoes

4 cloves                garlic, peeled, smashed and minced

½ cup                    beer, ale or dry sherry

5 1/3 cups            water

2 large                   bay leaves

1 ½ teaspoons   kosher salt, divided

1 cup                     heavy cream

½ teaspoon        freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon      minced fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon      grainy mustard

2 tablespoons    Worcestershire sauce

In a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat add the canola oil and heat until hot. Add the onions and carrots and sauté until browned. Add the mushrooms, lower heat to low and cover pan. Steam the mushrooms for 5 minutes until they soften and begin to give up their juices. Uncover pan, raise heat to medium and sauté mushrooms until they are tender. Add the potatoes and garlic.

Add the beer and bring to a boil, stirring. Add the water, bay leaves and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer soup until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the remaining 1¼ teaspoons salt, cream, pepper, thyme, mustard and Worcestershire. Return soup to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes more. Discard the bay leaves. Using a blender wand puree soup slightly if desired.

Serve immediately or cool quickly in an ice bath and refrigerate, covered, up to 5 days.

Tip: Use a mix of mushrooms if desired. You will need about 12 ounces of raw mushrooms before they are trimmed.