Jul 30, 2011

Shirazine Bistro Special!

I have been hyper inspired lately, I don’t know where its coming from, it could have been a 5 minute filler with Rachel Ray or my latest acquisition, Julia Child’s kitchen wisdom! Well maybe a little bit of both. To top that I have been dreaming of an a la minute bistro/deli that I will run by night and not have a fixed menu ....hmmm! So my kitchen has been churning out a lot of French-Italian fare with bits of Spanish thrown in. The other day I was hell bent on making Chicken Parmigiana and I couldn’t find decent parmesan for it, I was so frustrated that I bought mushrooms, spring onions and cream cheese, thinking I would eventually do something with it! Then I remembered this one lovely mushroom sauce recipe I had made a long time back, very simple, very French and of course, very rich! I had already flattened the fillets and marinated them in little Worcestershire sauce, so there it was, crumb fried fillets a la Parmigiana with a champignon sauce to compliment it, nice!

The Parmigiana part:

4 chicken breasts, flattened
Oil to shallow fry


2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Little salt and pepper
Crumb Coating:
2 cups of breadcrumbs
3 tbsp of cornflour
Salt and pepper

Mushroom sauce:

1 large onion, sliced thin, if you want this sauce to be really authentic, use a white onion
5-6 cloves of garlic, thinly slivered, the French wouldn’t murder a dish with this much garlic, but then a lot of my cooking is garlicky and I think it helps me appreciate Europe inspired dishes a bit more!
1 pack of mushrooms, sliced thin, that’s about 200 gms or so.
2 tbsp butter
½ cup cream cheese, I use Philadelphia, pocket permitting or if a travelling relative has been kind, otherwise Britannia cream cheese isn’t that bad to cook with.
1/2 cup fresh cream
1 tbsp sour cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, here too if you want a light and satiny sauce, use white pepper, we like our food robust and fragrant so I actually used a woody potent pepper like Malabar.

Keep some milk handy to thin the sauce, it thickens as it sits. A friend of mine just mailed me that she tried this and it was thick ...hmmm!

Melt the butter in a pan, fry the onions and garlic till transparent, add the mushrooms and turn up the heat so they sear and shrink, fry for about 2-3 minutes, lower the heat and add the cream cheese, in dollops if you have to, it will melt and spread. Season with salt and pepper, if you need something a little extra, you can use half a cube of chicken stock. Just crumble it on top, and stir gently, so the cheese doesn’t stick and melts evenly. Take off the fire and gently stir in the cream. Put back on the fire for few minutes till it bubbles a bit, check seasoning, take off the fire. Mix the breadcrumbs, cornflour and seasoning in a flat dinner plate. Pat the fillets down on the bed of breadcrumb mix; use your palms to flatten it more, so the crumbs stick well. heat oil in a large frying pan. Shallow fry the fillets for 4 minutes or so on both sides, depending on how long you marinated the chicken, flatted chicken breasts cook pretty fast and can get overdone pretty fast too. I use tongs to turn the chicken, I don’t like spatulas, the sometimes take off the coating!

Set the fillets on a platter and top with ladles of the mushroom sauce, you can serve separately too, but the sauce keeps the fillets warm and juicy. You can season once more with dry dill if you like. I served this meal with a salami and salsa bruschetta and shredded lettuce. I always keep extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the sideboard, a dash of each on the lettuce and this meal is complete!

Jul 22, 2011

Simple Sole

I have to admit, the only reason I don’t bake fish is because it makes me miss my mother too much! I sometimes wonder how my dad deals with it because he keeps asking me to bake fish, I guess he is at that point in his grief where he finds this comforting more than disturbing. So I am making my version of Sole Mornay today!
I was lucky to find really good Indian sole fish at the fish guy. I got me 2 batches of 250 gms of less than ½ inch thick fillets, about 2-3 inches long. This dish is so comforting for us as a family, that its simplicity blows my mind, as in, I would imagine, a family favourite would be elaborate and traditional and all that, this

Simple Sole is none of that. Its half as pretentious as it sounds and twice as yummy. My mum used to make a nice big batch in a flat clear Pyrex dish, my favourite, the kickass heavy one. They don’t make glassware like that anymore. This one is solid and about 20 years old. But I made just two portions for dad and me in ramekins, very pretty, very perfect.

Mornay is essentially a cheese sauce, made much like the way b├ęchamel or white sauce is, in this dish I make it a tad easier for myself and to be honest, this process works well in this recipe. This dish is most definitely my version because there are bits that the French will probably guffaw at!

250 gms of Sole Fish fillets = 4 pieces

For the Marinade:

Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

For the Mornay Sauce

1 onion thinly sliced
4-6 garlic pods, crushed
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
1 cup of warm milk
½ cup of parmesan cheese, you can use processed cheddar too
½ a chicken stock cube (this is optional, a lot of people in my family don’t like Mornay as bland as it usually is, I prefer it bland, that way I can taste the fish)

For the Topping:
A few sprinkles of dry dill
A handful of grated parmesan

Marinate the fish fillets and set two pieces in each ramekin, if you are using a dish, then lay them slightly overlapped, so they keep each other moist! Pour the leftover marinade over the pieces, cover with foil and refrigerate. In a pan, fry the onions and garlic in the butter, till transparent and on their way to browning, keep the fire low. Add the flour to the cooking onions and stir well with a wooden ladle. Add the warm milk and the cheese and keep stirring till the sauce begins to thicken. Take off the fire and season with the chicken cube, salt and pepper. I love red onions, so I use them for this dish as well, you can use white onion or spring onions too, leave the greens out though. Set the sauce aside.

Pre heat the oven on 200, take out the ramekins in advance, so they come down to room temperature. Bake covered with foil for 8-10 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 2-3 minutes so the liquid evaporates a bit. To serve, top with half of the sauce in each ramekin. Sprinkle with dry dill and the leftover grated cheese. Stick it back in the oven for another 2 minutes with just the top on, so the cheese bubbles. Serve hot with a nice salad and a soft, warm dinner roll or baby croissant.

Jul 19, 2011

Back 2 Life Mac and Cheese

Ok this is the quickest, most decadent meal ever and I love it! The last time I tasted real food was on Wednesday, last week! The flu made me suffer for all my sins, each one of 'em as it always does and I am so so happy to be back, that I could only celebrate with a little cooking. Apparently, relapsing is a big threat so I was given a total of 30 minutes to myself. Fine! Armed with a season 7 episode of Will & Grace on my lappy, I was in and out in less than 30! Incidentally, I only watch W&G when I cook, ya seasons 4 – 8, over and over again, it’s a manic thing! And to be honest, I actually don’t watch it, it just plays while I cook and it’s perfect!

So anyway, this time around I wanted something totally, completely soul food-y and nothing is more soul than Mac and cheese, from scratch that is! The longest part of the cooking was the pasta, what is wrong with Bambino, ya ya...I tend to buy local, it’s another one of those things! But seriously, it took like 40 years to cook the darned thing and I bought regular macaroni! You know they have a spiral variant that works really well, should have! So here most of the cooking is done in the oven, apart from the godforsaken boiling...easy and yum!

1 cup macaroni, boiled in 3 litres of water, add a little salt and a bit of olive oil, it adds sheen and doesn’t let them stick. Use the directions on the bag for best results though. So then you get a bowl full.

1 cup hot milk
½ cup fresh cream, thick, I usually, use Amul in this weather, it’s more stable.
1 or more cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp white pepper, u can use black, it’s more potent and it makes the macaroni speckled.
2 tsp garlic powder, hold the amount if u don’t know the brand, I use a Jamaican one, it’s very potent, you open the bottle and it’s like ‘whoa!”
8 bacon rashers halved = 16 pieces about 3” long

Boil the macaroni. Combine the cheese, milk, cream and seasoning, pour over macaroni, mix well, transfer to a baking dish that’s lightly greased with olive oil. Cover the top with the bacon, use two slices if it’s lean, thin bacon. I personally prefer thin but fatty strips, works well when you cook with it this way. Bake in a preheated oven on 180 for about 5-8 minutes, watch the bacon for doneness. Serve with a nice cold salad; I have a thing for hot and cold foods served together. I am making a fresh dressing of 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsbp honey and a little sea salt, all whipped up and a dollop on a bunch of fresh salad leaves is all you need. Andy usually likes bread with Mac and cheese, so I make crostini but not this time!