Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chicken Roulade

This one isn't just a recipe - it's an activity. There is no shortage on the web of blogs dedicated to "quick and easy" recipes. This isn't one of them. I know most people don't have time to make a long and elaborate dinner every night, so I make a point of posting many recipes that can be done in about 30 minutes. But I'm also on a mission to rekindle people's sense of joy and adventure in the kitchen. I want to show people that preparing dinner shouldn't be looked at as a chore, but as a something fun to look forward to after a long day at work. Cooking can, and should, bring people together. For example, you can be prepping the potatoes, while your roommate or boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife is rolling up the chicken roulades. So turn off the tv, put on some good music and get cooking! 
             This recipe does involve a fair amount of work - pounding, rolling, steaming, frying - but that is what makes it fun. Also, once you master the technique you can freely experiment with all sorts of different meat and stuffing. Instead of chicken, you can try veal.  For this recipe, I've stuffed chicken breasts with avocado, sundried  tomato and swiss cheese.I serve it with a pink peppercorn sauce, sauteed zucchini and pommes fondant,  the potatoes from my previous post. It's a decadent dish that's well worth the effort. 

Start to finish 1 hour, serves 2
2 large chicken breast
1 avocado, cut into 1/2cm strips
100g swiss cheese (preferably Gruyere) cut into 1/2cm strips
80g sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced

The sauce:
100ml chicken stock
100ml white wine
100ml 35% cream
    1     clove garlic
    1tbs pink peppercorns  

The side dish:
          pommes fondantes & sauteed zucchini

1. Cut a slit down the center of each chicken breast, without going all the way through, then open it flat. Spread a layer of plastic wrap on your work surface and place one opened breast on it. Place a second layer of plastic wrap over the chicken and then pound it flat using a meat tenderizer of a rolling pin.
2. Transfer the flatten chicken breast onto a  fresh piece of plastic wrap that is twice as long as the meat. Line the center of the meat with avocado, cheese and sundried tomatoes. Pull the edge of the meat over the stuffing and then roll up in the plastic wrap, forming a log. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap and them wrap the log in a second layer of plastic to hold it tight.

3. Bring 1l of water to a simmer in a double-boiler and place the rolls in the top and cover with the lid. If you don't own a double-boiler and metal strainer placed over a regular pot works fine - it's ok if the fit is not perfect. Steam the rolls until firm, about 8-12 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pot, reduce the white wine by half and then add the cream and the garlic & pink peppercorns. Let simmer until reduced to a thickness that will coat the back of a spoon. You can either remove the garlic, or mash it up with the back of a fork and stir it into the sauce.
5. Remove the rolls from the plastic wrap and sautee in butter and oil until golden brown.

To serve:
Divide pommes fondant and sautee zucchini among 2 plates & laddle over sauce, Slice each roulade into 5 pieces and place on top of the vegetables.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pommes Fondant

Pommes fondant, or fondant potatoes are a real old school, classic French side dish that you see now and then on restaurant menus, but people rarely make it for themselves at home. They are surprisingly easy to make and once you try them I guarantee they will find a place in your regular repertoire. They have a nice caramelized crust on the outside and a soft, mashed potato texture on the inside. They are cooked in chicken stock, which will be absorbed by the potatoes, giving them a deep, rich flavour. Any chicken stock that isn't absorbed will reduce down to a nice glaze that will coat the golden crust of the potatoes. Pommes fondant are a great accompaniment to all sorts of meat dishes. Next week I will post the recipe for a chicken roulade that you can pair with these golden beauties.

  4-6      large yukon gold potatoes
  500ml chicken stock
  100g   butter
3 sprigs thyme
             salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C
1. Peel the potatoes and then cut into 2cm (3/4") slices. Season with a healthy amount of salt & pepper.
2. Heat 50g butter in a frying pan, then add the potatoes. Start on high heat, then when the butter starts to foam, reduce to medium heat. Brown the potatoes on each side, about 3 minutes per side.
3.  Add the chicken stock, thyme and remaining butter to the pan, then transfer to the oven. Cook until a knife passed through the potatoes with no resistance, about 30 minutes.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hot Smoked Salmon with Buckwheat Pancakes

    This is the dish that I did for my first elimination challenge on Top Chef Canada. We were asked to make something that was our personality on a plate. As the only Montrealer  in the compitition and a proud Quebecer, I felt it important to bring some Quebec ingredients and flavours to the plate. As regular readers of this blog should know, I am a big fan of cooking with apples and maple syrup so I knew I wanted to do a dish with these ingredients. I originally wanted to do something with duck, because in Quebec duck is very popular and there are many local farms producing high quality duck. Unfortunately I couldn't find any in the 30 minutes we were given to shop in the challenge. I settled on salmon instead because I love using the smoker and smoked salmon is also very popular in Montreal. 
     This recipe finds its roots in two different dishes. Smoked salmon on blinis (potato pancakes) is a French classic. This dish is normally served cold, in bite sized portions as a canapé. The other dish I had in mind was the buckwheat pancakes that are served at Au Pied du Cochon with seared fois gras and maple syrup. By combining these two dishes, I made a warm comforting dish that was both a nod to the cuisines of France and Quebec. The tart citrus supremes help cut through the richness of the dish. The maple brandy butter ties everything together. The dish was a big hit with the Top Chef judges and their one complaint was that I didn't give them enough of the delicious sauce!   

Serves 4 Prep time 30 minutes, cooking time 20 minutes

800g center cut salmon
100ml maple syrup
50ml brandy
100g cold butter, cubed

1 grapefruit
1 lemon
1 lime
1 orange
2 macintosh apples, peeled and diced

buckwheat pancakes:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tbs baking powder
2 eggs
2 cups milk
salt & pepper

Woodchips for smoking - preferable a blend of 80% maple 20% hickory, soaked for 1 hour in cold water

1. Mix the dry ingredients of the buckwheat pancakes in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the milk and eggs to the well and stir until the batter is smooth. Set aside for 10 minutes
2. To make the citrus supremes, use a knife to cut the peel off of all the citrus, being careful to remove all of the pith , exposing the flesh. Cut along the white lines to remove just the flesh from grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime. Set aside for garnigh
3. Light a small amount of natural charcoal in your barbecue. If are using a gas barbecue, you will need to wrap the chips in a perforated aluminum pouch and place them as close to the element as possible without touching the open flame.  For more tips on smoking, see my recipe for smoked mackeral. If you are using charcoal, the aluminum poach is useful because if will prevent the chips from igniting, but it will take longer for the chips to start smoking. If you are fortunate enough to own a bbq that was built to be used as a smoker, follow the instructions that came with the machine. The ideal temperate to cook the salmon at is 150C, 300F 
4. Cut the salmon into four square portions. Use a pastry brush or a spoon to coat the salmon with maple syrup and season with salt & pepper.  Place the salmon on the highest rack and close the lid. Check on it frequently. If the woodchips have ignited, you can spray them with a little cold water. The cooking time will vary depending on how hot it gets inside your smoker/bbq. When the salmon starts to flake apart with a gentle squeeze, it is done. You can check the center of the salmon with a meat thermometer. 57C/135F will be the ideal medium rare.
5. Meanwhile, start to fry the pancakes. Heat a small amount of butter in a non-stick pan on medium heat and pour 2" pancakes. Fry for 2 minutes on either side. Transfer pancakes to paper towel to remove excess grease. Work in batches until you have 12 pancakes.
6. Heat a small amount of butter in a frying pan on medium heat and add the apples. Sautée for 2 minutes and then add 2 tbs maple syrup. Continue to sautée until apples are nicely bornwed, about 2 more minutes. Deglaze with 20ml calvados or brandy.
7. To make the sauce, add the calvados, or brandy to a small sauce pan and reduce by half. Be careful as the brandy will catch fire. It is ok if this happens. The fire can be quickly and easily extinguished by covering the top of the pot with a lid. Whisk in the cold butter, one cube at a time and then whisk in  100ml maple syrup.

To serve:

1, Warm the pancakes on a baking tray in an oven prehested to 150C/300F. When warmed through, make a pile of three pancakes in the center of each plate.
2. Scatter the citrus supremes and caramelized apples around the pancakes.
3. Place one piece of salmon on each pile of pancakes.
4. Drizzle sauce on and around salmon.