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HOME COOKING WITH CHARLIE TROTTER
By Charlie Trotter
TEN SPEED PRESS
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One introduction
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, morels 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, 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 450º. 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.
Meat Stock Reduction
YIELD: 2 CUPS
2 cups chopped yellow onions 1 cup chopped carrots 1 cup chopped celery 2 tablespoons canola oil 1 cup red wine 2 quarts meat stock (see page 3) 4 sprigs thyme
COOK the onions, carrots, and celery with the canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the red wine and cook for 10 minutes, or until most of the wine has cooked out. Add the stock, decrease the heat, and simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Strain, return to the saucepan, add the thyme, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the thyme and simmer for 30 minutes, or until reduced to 2 cups. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and use as desired.
YIELD: 2 QUARTS
6 pounds chicken bones 3 cups chopped yellow onions 2 cups chopped carrots 2 cups chopped celery 1 cup chopped leeks 1 tablespoon whole white peppercorns 1 bay leaf
PLACE all of the ingredients in a large stockpot and cover three-quarters of the way with cold water. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat, and simmer slowly over low heat for 4 hours, skimming every 30 minutes to remove the impurities that rise to the surface. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and cook over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes, or until reduced to 2 quarts. Use as desired.
YIELD: 2 QUARTS
4 large yellow onions, chopped 6 stalks celery, coarsely chopped 1 celery root, peeled and coarsely chopped 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped 2 red bell peppers, seeded, deribbed, and coarsely chopped 1 rutabaga, peeled and coarsely chopped 1 bulb fennel, peeled and coarsely chopped 2 parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped 2 bulbs garlic, halved 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
PLACE all of the ingredients in a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat, and simmer slowly over low heat for 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and cook over medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes, or until reduced to about 2 quarts. 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 350º. Place the garlic in a small saucepan, cover with the milk, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Drain the milk and discard, 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.
YIELD: ABOUT 2 CUPS
2 1/2 cups cleaned and stemmed mushrooms (such as button, cremini, shiitake, or portobello) 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion 1 clove garlic 2 sprigs thyme 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 cup water Salt and freshly ground black pepper
PREHEAT the oven to 325°. Combine the mushrooms, onion, garlic, thyme, olive oil, and water in a small roasting pan, cover, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender. Remove from the oven, cool in the cooking juices, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
YIELD: 1 /4 CUP
6 tablespoons peeled and julienned fresh ginger 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 1/2 cups water
PLACE the ginger, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and 1/2 cup of the water in a small saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes, strain the liquid, and repeat the process two more times, reserving the final cooking liquid to store the ginger. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 1 week.
YIELD: 2 CUPS
1 cup water 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar 2 tablespoons kosher salt 1 whole clove 1 teaspoon mustard seeds 1 teaspoon black peppercorns 1 teaspoon peeled and chopped fresh ginger 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
COMBINE all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat, allowing the sugar and salt to dissolve. Cool and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 1 month.
YIELD: 1 1/2 CUPS
1 cup water 1 cup sugar
BRING the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, remove from the heat, and cool. The syrup may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
1/2 cup chopped onion 1/2 cup chopped apple 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil Salt and pepper 1/4 cup curry powder 2 teaspoons turmeric
SAUTÉ the onion and apple in 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil over medium heat, until just translucent. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the curry powder and turmeric and cook until the mixture starts to get pasty. Add the remaining grapeseed oil, mix well, and continue to cook until the oil is warm (do not boil). Thoroughly purée in a blender, pour into a container, and cover. Refrigerate for 2 days. Decant carefully.
Planning a Menu
Choosing a menu may seem like a simple task, but the combination of dishes can be the difference between a flawless meal and a huge headache. There are several things to consider when planning a multicourse menu. All dishes need to have contrasting and complementary flavors, colors, and textures. And, in a multicourse menu, each course needs to be considered within the context of the whole menu.
The progression of foods on a menu is a key to a successful meal. The menu should progress from delicately flavored to more strongly flavored dishes. Serving sautéed scallops after roasted garlic soup, for instance, may seem like a good idea, but after eating the garlic soup the delicate scallops will be tasteless. Start the menu with lighter dishes and move on to the heavier dishes. You should also serve cold dishes early in the progression and hot dishes later in the meal.
Contrasting textures are essential to an interesting menu. A dish with barley followed by a dish with Israeli couscous, for example, would be texturally repetitive-and boring-regardless of the variety in flavors.
Avoid using the same food twice in a single menu unless that food is the theme of your menu. Tomato soup followed by a course containing roasted tomatoes would be redundant in a regular menu. However, if you are planning a tomato menu, there should be tomatoes in every course.
Be cautious when using ethnic flavors in a meal. Combining more than two ethnic cuisines in one menu can be tricky, and most often it's just confusing.
Plan the wines to be served while planning the menu. Menus can progress from white to red wine, or they can be devoted only to red, or white, wine. (See below for a more detailed discussion on pairing food and wine.)
Consider cooking times and temperatures. Compare the cooking times, oven temperatures, and burner space of each recipe to make sure that the menu is feasible. If you have only one oven, you won't be able to cook two dishes that require different cooking temperatures and have them ready at the same time.
Pairing Food and Wine
For many people choosing the correct wine is the most intimidating part of planning a dinner party. Although it's not quite as simple as white wine with fish and red wine with meat, unless you are a wine connoisseur, it doesn't need to be unduly complicated. When pairing wine with food, the key is balance. Balancing the flavors involves considering the entire dish-its main components, the cooking technique, and the herbs or spices used.
First and foremost, the main characteristics of the wine should balance the main flavors of the dish. Oily foods, for example, should be served with crisp, acidic wines that cut through the oil. Salty foods are best with effervescent or high-alcohol wines to offset the salt. Smoked salmon served with caviar would call for a high-acid, effervescent wine. The effervescence tames the saltiness of the caviar, and the acid cuts through the fat in the salmon. Meaty-fat foods such as beef need wine with some tannin to cut through the fat.
When planning your wine selections, think about the prominent flavors in the dish. Is it grilled, cooked in butter, or broiled? Does it have an herb component that stands out? How does the sauce affect the flavor? Sautéed salmon with a mushroom-red wine sauce is best with an earthy, aromatic Pinot Noir. The wine will have enough acid to cut through the fat in the salmon, an earthiness to match the mushroom flavor, and a lightness that will allow the flavors of the dish to come through. But, if the salmon is served with a spicy Asian-flavored sauce, it would be best with a dry Gewürztraminer from Alsace, the rich brown-spice characteristics of which will highlight the Asian spices while handling the oiliness of the salmon.
Armed with a basic idea of the flavors in the menu, you can head to the local wine shop and peruse the selection. Don't be afraid to ask questions and to accept suggestions; the staff is there to help.
Once you have made your wine selections, make a note of them and keep them where they can be referenced later. The next time you prepare that dish, the notes can be used as a guide. Through trial and error, and note keeping, you will develop your food-and-winepairing knowledge.
Excerpted from HOME COOKING WITH CHARLIE TROTTER by Charlie Trotter
Copyright © 2008 by Charlie Trotter. Excerpted by permission.
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