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It's a challenge to operate a busy 100-seat restaurant and create new dishes each day that will inspire diners. At Charlie Trotter's, guests expect a bit of magic in every course delivered to the table. Fortunately, my job is made easier by the network of specialty food purveyors with whom I have long-standing relationships. Organic lamb from Wisconsin, truffles from the French and Italian countryside, morel mushrooms from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and ramps from the wilds of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley are only a phone call away.
While grocery stores across the country are expanding their offerings in response to the increased sophistication of shoppers, the home cook's access to gourmet ingredients—especially in rural areas—can still be limited. The time constraints of a demanding job and raising a family can pose further challenges, making it difficult for home cooks to orchestrate complex multicourse meals. Great food doesn't have to entail frantic foraging for ingredients and performing Herculean feats in the kitchen, however. With a few basic foodstuffs and a touch of bravado, home cooks can create flavorful dishes that will impress even the most ardent gourmet.
The recipes in this book were created with just such a goal in mind—elevating everyday cuisine to a higher level of sophistication. The ingredient lists are necessarily simple in scope, yet I believe you'll find the resulting dishes flavorful and well worth making time and again. While you may come across the odd ingredient you aren't familiar with—say, Korea's ubiquitous table condiment,kimchi, or Japan's fiery togarashi spice blend—you may be surprised that your local store stocks it. If you don't have access to gourmet specialty stores or Asian markets, or you simply don't have time to shop, try shopping on the Internet. There are many excellent gourmet food e-commerce sites that will ship directly to your door. And, best of all, they are open twenty-four hours a day. When you are experimenting with recipes throughout the book, don't hesitate to mix and match elements from different recipes to suit your tastes and the ingredients available. Our menu at the restaurant evolves out of just such spontaneity, guided by basic considerations of taste and texture. In planning your meals, take your cue from the seasons—what looks best on the market stand is likely to taste best when it reaches the table.
Great cooking has always been about great ingredients. That holds true for the sauces and accompaniments as well as for the main ingredients. Although all of the recipes that follow are items that could be purchased at the grocery store, I cannot stress enough the importance of making these foods from scratch. There is no comparison between canned and homemade stocks or store-bought roasted red bell peppers packed in oil and freshly roasted red bell peppers. The homemade version will always be more flavorful, it will be seasoned to your taste, and it won't contain preservatives or emulsifiers.
Stocks are the building blocks of cuisine. At the restaurant, we use some type of stock or reduction to prepare almost every dish. Stocks are extremely versatile and can add a vast range of flavors to your cooking. They can be infused with herbs or spices, reduced down to any thickness, or used as bases for soups. Stocks can also be used in place of water to add a wonderful richness and depth of flavor to dried beans, lentils, and grains.
Making stocks and reduction sauces may seem like a time-consuming proposition, but they really require very little preparation time. Once they are simmering, they simply need to be skimmed every hour or two. In one or two Sunday afternoons you can make enough stocks and reduction sauces to last for several months. They can be frozen in ice-cube trays, popped out in frozen cubes, and stored in plastic bags in the freezer for several months.
There are five rules to follow when making stocks and reductions:
Always use cold liquid. Hot water causes the protein and fat released from the meat to emulsify, which makes the stock cloudy.
Don't use too much liquid. The higher the proportion of solid ingredients to liquid, the more flavorful the stock will be.
Never allow a stock to boil. Boiling emulsifies the protein and fat, whereas simmering allows the impurities to rise to the surface where they can easily be skimmed off and discarded.
Don't stir the stock after it starts to simmer. Stirring emulsifies the protein and fat.
When straining finished stocks, allow enough time for the liquid to drain naturally, and do not press on the ingredients in the sieve.
Once you experience the new dimension the following stocks can bring to your cooking, they will become a permanent fixture in your freezer.
yield: 2 quarts
6 pounds meat bones (beef, lamb, venison, or veal)
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped celery
4 cups chopped yellow onions
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup chopped tomato
2 cups red wine
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
PREHEAT the oven to 450°. Place the bones in a large roasting pan and roast for 1 hour, or until golden brown, turning the bones after 30 minutes to ensure even browning.
COOK the carrots, celery, onions, and garlic with the canola oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat for 7 to 10 minutes, or until caramelized. Add the tomato and cook for 2 minutes. Add the red wine and cook for 15 minutes, or until most of the wine has cooked out. Add the browned bones, bay leaf, and peppercorns and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then decrease to low heat. Simmer slowly for 6 to 8 hours, or until reduced to 2 quarts, skimming every 30 minutes to remove the impurities that rise to the surface. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve and use as desired.
THE GOURMET PANTRY
Like the stocks, the following recipes are the building blocks of great dishes. Different from the stocks, however, these foods should never be frozen for later use. Freezing causes textural and flavor changes that will affect the outcome of a dish. But all of these recipes can be prepared ahead to make the preparation of a dish simpler.
Roasted Bell Pepper
yield: 1 pepper
1 red or yellow bell pepper (or substitute a chile pepper variety)
2 teaspoons olive oil
COAT the pepper with the olive oil. Place on an open grill or flame on the stovetop and roast, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the pepper is completely blackened. Place the roasted pepper in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 5 minutes. Peel off the skin and seed the peppers. Use immediately, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
yield: about 3/4 cup
4 bulbs garlic, tops cut off
3 cups milk
1/2 cup olive oil
PREHEAT the oven to 350°. Place the garlic in a small saucepan, cover with the milk, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Drain the milk, place the garlic bulbs, bottom side down, in an ovenproof pan, add the olive oil, and cover. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the bulbs are soft. Cool the garlic in the oil and then squeeze the soft garlic cloves out of the skins. Use immediately, or refrigerate in the oil for up to 3 days.
These menus can be followed exactly or used as a guideline for choosing your own combinations of dishes. The wine suggestions will give you a start on the direction for the wines.
This is a wonderful spring or summer menu, light and simple to prepare. It is one of those meals that is great shared among friends. The timing is not crucial, as much of the meal can be prepared in advance, and conversation can rule the evening.
Shrimp with Spicy Fruit Salsa
Spätlese Riesling offers a sweetness to complement the fruit and foil the spice.
Olive Oil—Poached Cod with Roasted Tomatoes and Broccoli Rabe
White Rhône, with its characteristic rich texture and herbal flair, will handle the earthy vegetables.
Warm Peach Turnovers with Almond Ice Cream
Sémillon-based wine, particularly Sauternes, will mirror the fruit and nut flavors.
· For the starter, the tropical fruit can be cleaned, diced, and refrigerated in separate containers for several hours before serving. The vinaigrette can be prepared several hours in advance and tossed with the fruit just prior to serving
· For the entrée, the tomatoes can be blanched, tossed with the other ingredients, and refrigerated until ready to bake The broccoli rabe can be cleaned, blanched, and refrigerated for several hours.
· For the dessert, the ice cream can be prepared a day in advance. The dough can be rolled, cut, and refrigerated for several hours The peaches and sauce can be prepared several hours in advance and refrigerated in separate containers.
Shrimp with Spicy Fruit Salsa
1/2 cup diced mango
1/2 cup diced papaya
1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 Thai chile, seeded and minced
8 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
TO PREPARE THE SALSA: Combine the mango, papaya, and pineapple in a medium bowl. Whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, cilantro, olive oil, and Thai chile in a small bowl and pour the mixture over the fruit. Toss lightly to coat the fruit.
TO PREPARE THE SHRIMP: Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and cook in a very hot sauté pan with the canola oil for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until just cooked.
Spoon some of the fruit salsa onto each plate and top with 2 shrimp.
insights: Thai chiles are small, dark green peppers with a lot of heat. They are available in many grocery stores, but if they aren't available in your area, use jalapeños instead.
Olive Oil-Poached Cod with
Roasted Tomatoes and Broccoli Rabe
3 large tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (see note, page 118)
2 sprigs thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch broccoli rabe, cleaned and blanched
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
4 5-ounce cod fillets, skinned
TO PREPARE THE TOMATOES: Preheat the oven to 375°. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 seconds and then peel off the skins. Cut each tomato into 8 wedges, place in a small roasting pan, and toss lightly with the garlic cloves, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and thyme. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft. Remove the tomatoes from the pan, season to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
TO PREPARE THE BROCCOLI RABE: Cook the broccoli rabe in the butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until warm. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
TO PREPARE THE COD: Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over a very low flame to 120°. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and place in the warm oil. The oil should cover the fish. Cook for 9 minutes, turn the fish over and cook for an additional 9 minutes, or until just done.
Place some of the roasted tomatoes in the center of each plate and top with a piece of fish. Arrange the broccoli rabe around the plate and drizzle the tomato cooking liquid over the fish and around the plate.
insights: Poaching in oil may sound like it would produce oil-soaked fish, but it actually seals in the juices and results in tender, moist fillet. It is a good cooking technique for firmer fish such as cod, swordfish, or salmon. The key is for the oil to be warm, but not hot. Keep the thermometer in the oil as the fish is cooking, and adjust the heat to maintain a temperature of 110° to 115°.
Warm Peach Turnovers with
Almond Ice Cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup ground almonds
4 egg yolks
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, chopped
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cubed
4 ounces flour (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 peaches, peeled and cut into 12 wedges each
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1 egg, lightly beaten
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
TO PREPARE THE ICE CREAM: Fill a large bowl halfway with ice and cold water. Combine the cream and almonds in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil over high heat, and remove from the heat. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl and slowly whisk in some of the hot cream mixture to temper the eggs. Pour the egg mixture into the cream and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and steam rises from the surface. Strain into a bowl through a fine-mesh sieve and cool in the ice-water bath, stirring occasionally, until chilled. Freeze in an ice cream machine and keep frozen until ready to use.
TO PREPARE THE CRUST: Using an electric mixer or by hand, combine the butter, cream cheese, and flour in a large bowl until it just comes together (it should have visible streaks of cream cheese). Remove the dough from the bowl, pat into a disk, and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 12 2 1/2-inch squares, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.
TO PREPARE THE FILLING: Cook the sugar and water in a medium sauté pan for 10 minutes, or until golden brown and caramelized. Do not stir the sugar while it is over the heat, or it may crystallize (see note, page 165). Add the lemon juice and crème fraîche and stir well. Gently stir the peaches into the sugar mixture, remove from the heat, and cool in the pan. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peaches from the pan, reserving the sauce.
TO PREPARE THE TURNOVERS: Preheat the oven to 350°. Place 2 peach slices on each dough square. Fold the dough over the peaches to form a triangle. Brush the very tip of the dough with the egg and press firmly to seal. Place the turnovers on a baking sheet. Brush the tops of the turnovers with the egg and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly and dust with confectioners' sugar.
Place 2 turnovers back-to-back on each plate and top with a small scoop of almond ice cream. Drizzle the sauce over the turnovers and around the plate.
insights: These turnovers are fantastic when served warm, but they could be made ahead and served at room temperature with warm sauce. Plums, figs, and apples would also be delicious.
|planning a menu||10|
|pairing food and wine||11|
|soups, sorbets, and granités||149|
|tarts, pies, and pastries||159|
|cakes, custards, and puddings||179|
Posted September 23, 2001
This is one of the best cookbooks I have ever used. Trotter's previous cookbooks were filled with recipes that were daunting enough for the home cook to read, let alone attempt to make; but this book is different. The recipes employ a sensible number of ingredients and can be made in a reasonable amount of time - and the results are absolutely fabulous. My family has actually swooned over the results of Trotter's recipes! I have about 300 cookbooks, many by top restaurant chefs, and I would rate this one at the top - right alongside my perennial favorites: The Union Square Café Cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, any of Sarah Leah Chase's books, and Tom Colicchio's 'Think Like a Chef.'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.