Lobster Galliano

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This is a take off on a dish I was taught several years ago by my mentor Chef, Jeff Pennington.  In his application, there were only three ingredients, Galliano, Cream, and Lobster and it was incredible.  Simple yes, but an experience I will never forget.  What follows is the evolution of the recipe that I have brought it to based on my approach to the dish.  The flavor profile is the same, however I feel that it is now a complete dish, not just something to throw together and eat during dinner service.

You really have more than one option on this dish. If making the ravioli doesn’t appeal to you it can also be made with a lobster tail, just cut in half and simmered in the sauce until it is cooked through. Or as pictured above, do both.

For the filling:

1 Lobster Tail diced

1 Teaspoon finely chopped chives

1 Teaspoon finely diced shallot

1 Teaspoon chopped tarragon

1 Tablespoon zucchini small dice

1 Tablespoon tomato concasee

2 Tablespoon marscapone cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring a quart of water to a boil, and cut the lobster tail in half and place in a non reactive pan.  Pour the boiling water over the lobster tail, cover and let set for three minutes. Carefully remove the tail from the water, then remove the meat from the shell.  Dice the meat neatly.

Combine all of the above ingredients in a small bowl and season using the Salt and Pepper.  Once everything is combined nicely, carefully fold in the lobster meat.

Cover and set aside.

Fresh Pasta

1 Cup All Purpose Flour

¾ Cup Semolina Flour

6 Large Egg Yolks

1 Large Egg

1 ½ Teaspoons Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Whole Milk

Mix the two types of flour together and make sure they are mixed evenly.

Make a mound of the two flours on your work surface, then form a “bowl” in the top of it.  Place all of the remaining ingredients in to this “bowl”.  Using your first and middle finger begin to mix the wet ingredients stirring them inside the mound of flour.  Little by little you want to bring some of the flour into the wet mixture until a dough begins to form.  Once you’re able to actually wrap your hand around the ball of dough, begin to knead the dough, and incorporate as much of the flour in to it as you can.  Make sure you knead the dough until it is smooth, and almost tacky to the touch.  There is no need to be concerned with overworking this dough.

Once you have the dough a smooth consistency double wrap it in saran wrap and set it in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes.  You can make this ahead of time, and place the dough in the refrigerator overnight, however make sure you allow the dough to come to room temperature before you start to work with it the next day.

Set the rollers on your pasta machine to the largest setting, and cut about a third of the dough away from the ball that you formed.  Knead the dough out until it is able to fit into the pasta rollers and run the pasta through the first setting then fold in half and run through the first setting again (you may need to do this a few times). Then begin closing the rollers one setting after each pass of the dough.  Until you have reached the desired thickness.  I use the #3 setting as the final setting.

Lightly dust your working surface with some flour and lay your pasta sheets out. Have your filling setting close by, with a spoon in order to portion up the filling on to the pasta.

There are several ways you can do this next step.  First you can do another sheet of pasta, place the filling on the first sheet, then cover with the second sheet, and cut your ravioli’s from here.  Or you can place your filling on one half of the sheet, the fold it over and cut your ravioli’s from there.  No matter how you chose to do this step, just make sure you paint one side of the pasta with an egg wash in order to create a good seal. These details are really up to the individual, however make sure you get all of the air out of each ravioli before cutting and sealing them.

Set the ravioli’s aside until you’re ready to make the dish.

Lobster Galliano- lets put it together

2 Teaspoons Canola Oil

1 Teaspoon Shallot diced

1 Tablespoon Mushroom diced (I use shitake)

3 ounces Galliano liqueur

4-6 ounces of Heavy Cream

Bring a pot of well salted water to boil.

Place a skillet on to the stove on medium high heat.  Once the skillet is heated pour in the Canola oil and make sure it is heated through, then add the Shallot and Mushrooms.  At this time drop three or four ravioli’s into the boiling water.

Saute the shallots and mushroom until they are softened then pour in the Galliano.  If you’re working on an open flame, you will want to turn the flame off before doing this.  Be careful, because this liquid will begin to burn off rather quickly.

Once the flame has died down, pour in about half of the cream, and lower the flame to bring the liquid to a simmer.  Taste the liquid (be careful, it’s hot) and see if you need to add more heavy cream.  Once you have the liquid where you want it as far as taste, pull the ravioli’s from the water, drain them, and add them to the skillet with the liquid.  (the total cooking time on the ravioli in the water should be about 4 minutes).

Toss the ravioli in the sauce you just created in the skillet and then pour everything into a bowl for service.

I garnish this dish with a mixture of fresh tarragon, and micro basil lemon greens and a couple of sections of orange.  However it’s just as good to grab a roll or a piece of bread and start eating away.

Enjoy

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World Food Championships 2013

Now that it’s all over, I realize how fortunate I was to qualify for the World Food Championships (WFC) this year. What started as just a normal day at work with a “Oh why not” attitude ended up being an incredible journey both professionally and personally. A lot of what I got to experience are the normal things that you would expect with something like this, but there were several pleasant surprises along the way. Here I will try my best to share them.

So my phone rings one day while I’m at work, for me this isn’t a surprise as my phone is constantly making some form of noise all hours of the day and night. On the line is my US Foods Territory Manager Brad Davis, and he reminds me about this contest that his company is having called the US Foods Next Top Product contest. The premise is simple, the have Chefs from all over the country submit recipes to their website and through a series of “rounds” recipes advance. When they get to the final eight recipes the people who submitted them get to go to Las Vegas to compete against each other to try and win the grand prize which is $20,000 in cash and prizes.
So why should I not take a few minutes and enter a recipe? Whats the worst thing that can happen? In fact I actually have time to enter two recipes so that’s exactly what I did. After briefly reading through the categories that they were focusing on I knew that I should enter the “sauce” category as that is one of my strengths and I have two very good sauces that we use on a regular basis in one of the kitchens I’m in charge of. I knew them both like the back of my hand, they both had several uses, and from the viewpoint of a Chef they both would be really nice to have on hand for several different reasons. The first entry was a Strawberry Vinaigrette, and it wasn’t the chosen recipe. The second was a Roasted Corn Sauce or as is described in one of my earlier blog post A-Maizing sauce. It was chosen at the Divisional level of the competition and that placed me in the Regional round and one step closer to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada.
The regional round was set up as a voting process on Facebook and Twitter. Basically anyone could vote for you each day via these social media outlets. I was up against four other Divisional winners and whomever had the most votes at the end of a six week period would win the Region, and move on to the Finals. This set myself and several other people on a daily mission to obtain votes, and right out of the gate I had a very large lead. It seemed after a few days that perhaps some of the other contestants weren’t even notified that they should be soliciting votes for themselves. Too good to be true perhaps and certainly this won’t last were my thoughts at this point. And sure enough the race would get very interesting along the way. Peach Cookies was a submission from a contestant in South Carolina and it didn’t take long for this recipe to close the large lead I had and make each vote, each day crucial. It seemed each day during work I would get a 3% lead, and every morning when I would wake up it would be back to 1%. When the final day of voting ended. I had a 2% lead, and had won the Region. I was going to Vegas to cook and if I could edge out the other seven regional winners I was going to walk away with $20,000 in cash and prizes. Things had got serious really fast, and I knew that I had a little over a month to do everything I could to make sure I was ready for anything that would get thrown my way.
First things first, my fear of flying and the fact that my wife shares that fear with me. Vegas is over 2000 miles from our house, so driving is out of the question, however I’m going to make this trip and the thought of having a trip to Vegas with someone else paying our way was not going to be passed up by her. Her desire to visit Vegas far outweighed her fear of planes, even though she had up until this point never considered getting on one. For me the answer was simple, I paid a visit to my doctor he wrote me a prescription and I knew I would be ok. For her the anxiety was present until our first flight, when she realized she loves to fly and never wants to drive anywhere again.
Now back to the contest. My first concern was the recipe itself and self doubt would become a daily feeling even though I knew how well I knew the recipe. Two days after winning the region I made three batches of the sauce and that put to rest a lot of my doubts. Now what else could I do to help my chances to win? It seemed to me that if my “product” was versatile it would certainly make it more appealing as a potential product for them to want to sell. I knew there was nothing on the market close to what I was making, so that also helped. So at this point I start to develop more uses for the sauce than what we were or had used it for. And in all I came up with twelve applications that were straight forward and actually did what the sauce was intended to do, bring flavor to the plate. So for this aspect of the competition I felt very confident.
Now what about some other details that I needed to consider? Interviews, there would be interviews and I had not been in front of cameras or large crowds for several years. In this respect I was very fortunate. The Director of Marketing where I work was not only willing to help me prepare of this but really took the initiative to make sure I had a good grasp on anything that could be thrown my way. She along with all of the other Directors at the facility I work at put me through the most difficult interview that I had to endure through this entire process. Then I was able to get honest feedback from her on better ways to handle certain situations. This was absolutely invaluable, and I can only hope to be given the chance to repay each of these people in some way in the future. With all of this under my belt, there was no way I could lose. So now it’s time to go to Vegas and win one not just for me and my family, and not just those I work with and for, but for a lot of family and friends from this area. An area that doesn’t get much recognition for accomplishments very often.

When we arrived in Vegas the excitement was incredible. In reality I’m just a guy who goes to work every day and I try to do my job to the best of my ability. I love my job and everything about it, except for the hours. I love food and everything about it and being a Chef truly isn’t a job for me, it’s a lifestyle. I’m proud of what I do day to day, but the truth is everything I do is for my family. I like to keep things simple, but here I am getting flown to Vegas to compete in the World Food Championships. It was very humbling and the sense of accomplishment that I felt was incredible. I had been given a chance to do something special for those that mean the most to me. I was realizing that all of those long nights at work, the missed school functions, the family time that was spent without me could be repaid to some extent by winning this contest. To be able to return home to those that were going to miss us the most and let them know that it was all worth while was now the only thing on my mind. Yes I would be able to enjoy myself, relax, and be a part of the Vegas experience but when I was told it was time to cook my mind would be nowhere else and my intentions would be very simple, win.
Shortly after arriving at our Hotel and getting registration taken care of for the event the agenda for the next few days was now clear. Meetings, dinners, interviews, and finally some cooking is what I had in store and I was going to embrace all of it with open arms. The amount of detail that was put in to this entire event was extraordinary. Everything was planned properly, the excitement was so thick in the air you could taste it. There were people from all over the world who had came to this one small square mile for their love of food. Chefs, cooks, writers, judges, media, television personalities, all watching the same things, tasting the same foods and being a part of an international event. The folks at the World Food Championships really know what their doing, and it showed in every way possible. The company responsible for my participation in the event, US Foods didn’t just allow what the event was providing for me to be enough, they went over and above with gift packages, an upscale dinner at a local country club, a knife set as well as several other nice giveaways. Nothing was overlooked or forgotten, and my wife and I were treated like celebrities in everything we did.
When the day arrived to cook, one thing had changed. Our cook time had been extended by nearly three hours. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with the time, but one thing was for certain, I wasn’t going to be late turning in my food. It didn’t take long for the nerves to vanish once I started preparing my ingredients. Everything I needed was there, and there was no doubt I would make the best batch of corn sauce I had ever made. My wife was close by watching, and each time I looked her way she would send a beautiful smile to me that would comfort me even more. When I had finished my first batch of sauce, I still had over two hours of cook time left. I placed the finished product in to holding containers and set it aside. When the time to plate grew closer I would gently warm it back up for plating. I started a second batch of sauce that I had no intentions of ever finishing. I knew the cameras and interviews would be making their way through the cooking area and I wanted to be able to not only explain what I was doing, but also be able to show them the actual process.
During this time I was able to talk with one of the people responsible for the contest from start to finish. He informed me that all of the kitchen equipment we were using was going to be cleaned after the contest and then donated to the Wounded Warrior project, and all of the food that was left over from the day of cooking would make it’s way to a local food bank. Once again, every detail was covered and I was proud to be a part of what was going on here. As the cameras approached I tried to make sure nothing was in a position to get burned, scorched, or knocked over so I could focus on answering all the questions properly. In what was realistically a ten minute interview it seemed like it went by in twenty seconds. It went well and I was happy with it, and the best part was when I was finished with the interview it was time to finally plate my dish. Since I had sat down and typed up the recipe months earlier, this was the moment that I had most anticipated. Once the food was on the plates, off to the judges I went and turned everything in with about six minutes to spare. The sense of relief was incredible. And at this moment the true reality of everything became very clear. I had made exactly what I had turned in months earlier, it was perfect and there was nothing that I could have done better throughout this entire process. If I win or not comes down to the opinion of four people that I won’t get to meet until after the process is over. But for my part, and what I could control I had exceeded my own expectations and there was a calmness and sense of accomplishment that came along with that in which can’t be described.
Now it was time to do what cleaning I could before I had go on stage and find out the results. I got a hug and kiss from my wife, and I was the happiest person on the planet. We made our way to the stage, and one by one me and the other seven finalist were called up. Each of us were introduced and the Host exchanged a few words with us, then he went directly to who had won. Black Bean Sliders was the winner. In all of my thinking I had never imagined that being the winner. I had always looked at the marketability and versatility of the products I was going up against and in my mind I just didn’t feel threatened by the eventual winner. On the upside the Chef who won was a great guy, and I have no doubt that his winning recipe was delicious.
The contest was over, and I had lost. But in so many other ways I was the biggest winner Vegas has ever seen. My wife and I had the chance to travel 2000 miles and spend four days together, and that is something that money can’t buy. It was the first time we had left our children for more than one night. With that came a lot of fun, and also an equal amount of heartache. The main reason for us making the trip was to win, and I had fallen short. But the memories that we made, and the experiences that we had the chance to enjoy together made everything worth while. And I wouldn’t trade any of it for the prize that I would have received if I had won. Now that we’re back home to our normal routine, we speak of going back daily and taking our children with us and finding jobs and a place to live. The new doors that were opened for possible career advancements are very exciting, and I can only stay focused on not letting these slip through my fingers like the finals of the contest did. Because in the end I’m just a guy trying to take care of his family. And every day I feel like the ultimate winner for that reason.
Thanks to the people of The World Food Championships for all that they provided. And a special thanks to US Foods for showing my wife and I the time of our lives, and treating my family and myself in the way that you did. Also I would like to thank Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Cross Lanes, WV for giving me a great work environment and being so supportive and helpful throughout the whole process of this contest.
And to my family, I am nothing without you. And the support and love that you show me each day makes what I do worth doing.

Corn Sauce- Amaizing? Give this a try!

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Corn Sauce, I realize that it doesn’t sound that sexy.  However this is one sauce that I turn to a lot in the kitchen for several different uses.  What started as a way to bring one more level of flavor to a dish, has evolved in to something that I keep finding uses for.

Where it began- A few years back I participated in a cooking competition in which I had several weeks to determine what I wanted to prepare. It was simple, four courses with one hour to complete them all.  The menu that I had developed at the establishment I was working at had a really nice sandwich on the menu of smoked trout, and a fried green tomato.  It was served with an herb aioli and was pretty popular on our menu.  I wanted to bring this dish to the competition however I wasn’t going to serve a sandwich.  The flavor combinations were good, however I felt that it needed one more component in order to truly make it special.  So after thinking about what would compliment a fried green tomato and trout on a plate I came to the conclusion that a nice fresh ear of corn would be the perfect compliment to what we were already going to have on the plate.  I knew that I didn’t want the judges to have to pick up an ear of corn or fish after pieces of corn on the plate with their fork, so the only answer was to make a sauce that would bring that flavor and not disturb what I already was going to put on the plate.   This is what I came up with, I hope you give it a try!

 

You can use fresh corn, or frozen corn to make this sauce.  I do not recommend canned corn however.

 

What you will need:

1 One pound bag of frozen corn

1 Carrot cut in large pieces

1 Stalk of Celery cut in large pieces

1/2 Red Onion peeled

2 Cloves of Garlic whole

1/2 Pound of Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heavy Cream

 

Use a small sauce pot, or large skillet that will comfortably hold all of the ingredients and place it over medium heat.  Keep in mind through this whole process that you do not want to use high heat.  You’re just trying to extract flavors and bring them together.  Tying to speed up the process with high heat will not help you with the end product in any way.

Place the butter in the skillet that you’re going to use and when it begins to melt pour in the corn, and add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and season everything with salt and pepper.  Give everything a good stir and just let it come to a simmer.  This may take some time, but it is worth the wait.  Once a simmer is reached, give everything a good stir again and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Turn the heat off and let the skillet set and cool to room temperature.

Remove the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic and spoon the corn in to a blender.  You want all of the corn, and butter in the blender and then blend on high, add a small amount of heavy cream in order to reach the consistency that you want.  Let the blender run on high until the sauce is smooth.  Turn off the blender and taste the sauce, adjust seasoning as needed.  Depending on the application I am going to use the sauce for I will pour it in to a strainer and allow it to drain through.  Most generally I will just use it as is.

In the end you will have a very flavorful sauce that brings a really strong corn flavor to several different applications.

Uses:

Roasted Garlic and Cumin Pork Loin

Grilled Pork Chops (Pictured above)

Fried Green Tomato and Smoked Trout

As an accompaniment to a Black Bean, Red Onion Salad- just toss with the salad and you have a south west treat

Stirred in to Polenta just as it is about to be finished cooking, This makes the Polenta a star on the plate, not an afterthought.

These are all things that I have used this sauce for.  And each time it is received very well.  Corn Sauce may not sound like something earth shattering, however if your goal is to bring flavor to the plate then you should certainly give this a try.

To the plate : Poitrine de Porc (Braised Pork Belly)

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Pork belly is one of life’s simple pleasures if you ask me and, if prepared correctly has a lot of cooking lessons that can be used when cooking just about anything. Braising is one of my favorite cooking methods to use, and this dish shows how it can transform something in to one of the best things you will ever consume.

First things first, realize and accept that if you want to enjoy this dish the way it should be enjoyed you’re going to have to have some patience. And you will have to pay attention to some details as well. But if you do, the payoff makes the wait “oh so worth it”.

We recently ran this as a dinner special at one of the restaurant’s. So I will walk through the steps that we took to prepare it. 

Day one:
We started with the following:
The pork belly
Mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery)
Whole garlic cloves
White wine (we used chardonnay)
Chicken stock
A few bay leaves
Fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage)
And of course salt and pepper

We roughly chopped the mirepoix and placed it in the bottom of a large pan to form a flavorful layer of protection for the pork belly while it braised.  Once we had a even layer of mirepoix on the bottom of the pan we tossed a few garlic cloves, the bay leaves, and the seasoned everything well with salt and pepper. 
Then we placed the pork belly right in the center of the pan, skin side up and put the fresh herbs around the side of the belly. Now it was time for the braising liquid. We poured about a half a bottle of white wine in the pan and then chicken stock until the belly was covered. 
After everything was in the pan we used parchment paper to cover the pan and then sealed it up using aluminum foil. Take care to make sure everything is sealed well.
We then placed it in a 250 degree oven for six hours.  When it was finished cooking we removed it from the oven and placed it on the counter to allow it to come to room temperature. It is crucial that you do not break the seal of the foil during this time.  You want all of the steam, liquid, and flavor to stay in the pan. 
After it has came to room temperature place another pan on top of the sealed pan, and then put large cans of food in to that pan in order to “press” the pork belly.  This will press out all of the “bad” fat. Then put everything as is into the refrigerator over night.

Day two:
We removed the weighted pan from the refrigerator and place it on the counter.  Removed the top pan, and then the foil.

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At this point we had a cutting board ready to set the pork belly on, and carefully clean the pork belly off of herbs and vegetables that were stuck to it.

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We transferred the belly to the cutting board and cut it in to the serving size portions. We trimmed the belly to make it in to a large square, then cut six ounce portions for service.
Once we had everything cut the way we wanted then we carefully removed the skin (and set aside) from the top of each piece. And allowed everything to come to room temperature before cooking them.
Using a very sharp knife we cut the skin in to very thin strips, it is very important that they are as thin as you can possibly cut them.

To cook for service:

Heat a skillet and add some canola oil to it.  You want the skillet and oil to be hot, but not to the point of smoking before you put the portion in to cook.
Season the meat with salt and pepper and place it in the skillet laying on the side that used to have the skin on it first.  Just let it cook and brown on this side until it is golden brown, and is somewhat crisp. Then turn it over in the skillet and immediately place it in a 350 degree oven for about five to six minutes.

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At this point we dropped five or six pieces of the skin in to a deep fryer and let them cook for a minute or two.  When their ready they will float, and you don’t want them to become black

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We used this as a garnish for the dish, and its such a wonderful treat.

The finished product was served with fresh kale (that we cooked in butter and chicken stock), tomato concasse and a Ancho Bourbon sauce.

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The result was one of the most memorable dishes I have ever put together.  The pork belly was so tender and flavorful that you couldn’t wait to take the next bite.  The greens provided a perfect complement to the richness of the meat, the crunch of the crispy skin brought wonderful flavor and a nice contrast in texture and the sauce gave you just a little spice if you wanted to drag a bite through it. 
I’m as proud of this dish as anything I have put on a plate in any restaurant I have worked in.  And I look forward to preparing it again in the future.