Macerated Fresh Berry Parfaits

maceratedberries

It’s been a month since I’ve posted anything, and for those of you that follow my blog I apologize. Most of you know I’m executive chef for a liberal arts university and we’ve been doing a lot of catering work leading up to summer graduation, which was yesterday, so my time has been short the past month.

As is customary for every graduation on campus, I create/prepare an upscale dinner for the board of directors and the guest speaker from graduation. Last night’s meal was a filling one, beef tenderloin with portobello-Madeira sauce, roasted purple and pink potatoes and sauteed broccolini, so for dessert I needed something light. Since fresh berries are plentiful right now, I made a simple fresh berry parfait. The guests were really impressed with the flavors and wanted to know just what I did. They were shocked when I told them, because this is so simple to do. It’s a way to heighten the flavors of the fresh fruit without covering it up, so while berries are everywhere you should pick some up and give this a try!

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, halved or quartered depending on their size
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp Grand Marnier or similar orange liqueur

and for the simple creme anglaise:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/3 cup sugar

To prepare the fruit, simply put all washed and cut fruit in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, lemon juice and liqueur. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

To make creme anglaise:

  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the cream and vanilla until bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan.
  2. While the cream is heating, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Slowly pour 1/2 the hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Gradually add the egg yolk mixture back to the pot of remaining cream, whisking constantly, and cook until it thickens and will coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Remove from the heat and chill.

To assemble the parfaits:

Spoon fruit mixture in a parfait glass, alternating between layers of the macerated fruit and the chilled cream anglaise. Serve cold.

 

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Crawfish Corn Chowder

crawfish

 

The weather here in Alabama has been unusually cold lately, with temps in the low teens and snow and ice. You may have experienced it, or seen on the national news, how the people in the south can’t deal with the winter weather, because we usually have temps in the 60’s on Christmas day. I’ve also been working a lot lately, especially with catered events, so it was extremely welcoming to come home after a long weekend of catering, on a cold night and find a pot of this delicious chowder cooking on the stove. If you love crawfish you should give this a try. Crawfish tails can be purchased at most supermarkets in the South. Around here, Publix carries them in the freezer section of their seafood department for about $12 a pound. It’s also a little spicy with the poblano pepper, so if you prefer your food a little less “warm” you may want to substitute a jalapeno for the poblano. The recipe has a list of ingredients, but it’s extremely easy to put together.

  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups diced onion, preferably a sweet onion like a Vidalia
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped poblano pepper, seeded and ribs removed
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry
  • 1 quart seafood stock (can be bought at your grocery store)
  • 1-16oz bag of frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 small potatoes, diced into small cubes
  • 1-15oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1-8oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 pound crawfish tails, thawed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt or sea salt
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning (a blend sold on the spice aisle)
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the oil and the butter, letting the butter melt. Add the onion, celery, pepper and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions and celery are tender. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add the wine and stock, whisking to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the corn, potatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, crawfish, bay leaves, thyme, salt, Cajun seasoning and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; discard the bay leaves and add the fresh chopped parsley.

Serve with a good crusty bread and a nice glass of wine. Makes about 10 servings.

 

Southern Cheese Grits Casserole

gritscasserole

 

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but work has been zapping my creativity. Last week, I made a cheese grits casserole at work and people have been begging for an “at home recipe”, so here it is. This is great as a starch with any meal, but even better when paired with a Southern meal. If you don’t think you like grits, give this a try. This IS NOT your normal breakfast style grits.

  • 2 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup quick-cook grits
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 small can yellow kernel corn, drained
  • parsley for garnish

In a large stock pot, bring the chicken stock and half & half to a rolling bowl. Whisk in the grits and cook, stirring constantly, for 5-7 minutes until the grits begin to thicken and bubble (be careful not to let them bubble on your hand/arms as they are like LAVA). Once thickened, remove from stove and pour grits into a mixing bowl.

To the grits, add the heavy cream, melted butter, cheese, bacon crumbles, diced tomato and the corn. Stir well to combine.

Pour grits into a lightly greased casserole dish and bake at 350F for 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding

One thing my customers are always saying is that I make some of the best bread pudding they’ve ever eaten. I have several variations on bread pudding and try to make a pan about once a week. Blueberry, chocolate, orange-cranberry, traditional… I make whatever based on what I’ve got in the coolers and pantry.

Recently we had some croissants that were turning stale and I needed to use them. Since I’m not a true “baker”, I’ll usually look online for a recipe idea and then take off on it, because I hate following a recipe. This recipe started the same way, but because I’ve had a bumper crop of pecans from the home tree this year, I’m also looking at ways to use them in my fall cooking. This recipe can be made as a dessert or as a breakfast/brunch bread pudding. If you’re making it for the later, simply mix it up and refrigerate overnight, then bake off when you wake up.

 

  • 10 cups cubed, day-old croissants (about 5 large croissants)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups pure canned pumpkin
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 cups half & half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs, sugars, salt and vanilla extract. Fold in the pumpkin, then add the half & half and milk. Add the cubed croissants and toss well to incorporate. The mixture should be slightly soupy and if needed, add a little more milk.

Pour mixture into a greased 9″x13″ glass baking dish. Top with pecan halves. Bake at 350 for approximately an hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out with no liquid on it. Cool on a wire rack. Best served warm but not hot! (If the pecans start to get too brown during baking, cover lightly with aluminum foil)

For a breakfast/brunch serving, simply top with pure maple syrup. If you’re serving as a dessert, mix 1 box of powdered sugar with 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice and top by dipping a wire whisk into the sugar glaze and lightly shaking it over the surface.

Mushrooms Au Gratin

Thanks to Betty Crocker, most people associate the words “au gratin” with cheese sauce, but in the culinary world, au gratin is a cassoulet with a browned crust on top, usually breadcrumbs and cheese. This recipe is delicious but not low fat. It’s great with a grilled steak or a beef tenderloin so it’s usually a dish I reserve for dinner parties or holiday gatherings. Nothing like a nice piece of beef tenderloin with this dish and some truffled mashed potatoes to impress your friends and guests! If you love mushrooms like I do, give this one a try!

  • 3 pounds sliced crimini mushrooms (sold in grocery stores as Baby Bells)
  • 1 pound thinly sliced red onion
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 8oz butter, quartered and melted
  • 8oz heavy cream
  • 8oz Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a baking dish with PAM. Add one layer of mushrooms to the bottom of the dish. Top with 1 layer of onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with some parsley. Drizzle with 2oz of melted butter and 2oz of cream. Repeat the layers 3 more times. Top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is golden brown.

 

Grillades & Grits

 

Earlier this week, we caught beef tenderloins on sale for $10.99 a pound, so we snatched one up. When you butcher a whole beef tenderloin into filet mignon steaks, there are parts of the tenderloin left (the trimmings) that aren’t big enough to serve as steaks, but you don’t dare waste that wonderfully tender meat. I froze some of the trimmings for a future pot of Beef Bourguignon and with four of the smallest “steaks” I decided to make Grillades and Grits.

Grillades and grits is a southern (New Orleans mostly) tradition served usually at brunch but it can make an excellent dinner. The meat “grillades” can be anything and many times you see them made from round steak, chuck roast, pork tenderloin medallions and at times, beef tenderloin. I knew the basics for making this dish, so I drew on my Southern roots and Creole heritage (no, I’m not Creole, but my father’s family came to Birmingham from New Orleans and picked up all the cooking techniques) and created a really good version of this classic dish. It was so good, I had to run write it down, so I thought I’d share it with you.

First, I made the grits. I used 5 minute “quick cook grits” (Jim Dandy). The amount you use will depend on how many servings you want to yield. Follow the instructions on the box or bag except where it says to start with boiling water, replace the water with chicken or vegetable stock (I used vegetable stock made from “better than bouillon” stock base). To the stock, add 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1 tbsp garlic powder and 1 tbsp Italian seasoning. Once the grits are cooked, fold in 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese.

For the “grillades” you will need:

  • 2 large chunks of meat per person (I used 4 extremely small filet mignons, approximately 3 oz each)
  • 1/2 of a white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2# Crimini mushrooms, sliced (a.k.a. Baby Bell)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup liquor or wine (I was planning to use white wine but we were out and all we had on hand was Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur, which actually worked wonderfully)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp Grey Poupon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil, then add the meat and sear on all sides to get a nice caramelization and cook to medium or medium rare (about 3 minutes per side). Remove the meat and hold in a bowl. To the pan drippings, add the onion, bell pepper and mushroom and cook until the onions and bell pepper are tender. Deglaze the pan with the liquor/wine, scraping up all the burnt bits on the bottom of the pan (that’s your sauce flavor). Add the cream, mustard, salt, pepper and garlic powder and boil until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the meat back to the pan.

To serve, mound some of your cheese grits on a plate. Top with 2 pieces of meat and then a spoonful of the sauce over the meat.

Chicken Supreme over Low Country Cheese Grits

Several years back when I represented Bruno’s Supermarkets, I participated in the “Taste of the Summit” food exhibition at The Summit shopping center in Birmingham. This elegant take on a southern favorite, creamed chicken and grits, was my featured recipe for the event. I also cooked this one on Good Day Alabama’s morning cooking segment in 2002. In this recipe, I take a few fresh ingredients that are everywhere in the south come summer time and incorporate them into the dish. The “grits recipe” is the same recipe I use with I make “shrimp and grits”.

For Chicken Supreme:

  • 6 slices thick cut bacon, cut into pieces
  • 1 # boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders, diced (or you can skip this step and pick up 1 rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and remove the meat from the bones)
  • 2 cups fresh corn (removed from the cob)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tbsp fresh Thyme leaves

In a small sauce pan, combine the corn and milk and cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes or until corn is tender. Drain corn, reserving the milk.

Cook the bacon in a skillet until brown and crispy. Remove bacon and reserve. In bacon grease, cook the chicken until done (5-6 minutes) and remove from the pan. To the bacon grease, add the butter and flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes, then add the warm milk you cooked the corn in and the heavy cream. Cook, stirring quite often, until mixture thickens and will coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper and toss in the chicken and cooked corn.

Serve chicken over a bowl of cheese grits. Top the creamed chicken with crumbled bacon, cherry tomatoes and fresh thyme leaves.

Low Country Cheese Grits:

  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup grits (quick cook are best, but NOT INSTANT)
  • 1 cup Mexican or Taco Blend shredded cheese

In a stock pot, cook the bacon until brown and remove bacon from the pot. To the bacon grease add the chicken stock and cream and heat until just boiling. With liquid starting to boil, whisk in the grits and cook, whisking constantly, for 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to let the grits “bubble” on your hand as the boiling grits have the consistency and temperature of LAVA.

Remove grits from the heat and whisk in the cheese. Add the crumbled bacon to the cooked grits.

Chicken Breasts with Mushroom-Sage Sauce

Every so often, I get a reprise from cooking, and today was one of those days. Yesterday I traveled to Tuscaloosa to see the Tide whip up on North Texas so I didn’t make it home until after midnight. Today was a lazy day so it was nice to not be the cook tonight and to my surprise, I was served a dinner that rivaled a restaurant quality dish, so I thought this week I’d share the recipe with you.

This would be an ideal “dinner party” entree. We had it served over farfalle pasta (bow ties) and the sauce was perfect for the pasta. It’s not a “low fat” recipe, but every so often it’s nice to splurge on yourself.

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots (a small red onion will suffice)
  • 8-10 oz shitake or crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine (we used Sauvignon Blanc because we already had a bottle in the chiller)
  • 2/3 cups heavy whipping cream (light cream may curdle, so be sure to use the heavy cream)
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/3″ thickness
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and parsley and saute 5-10 minutes more, until the mushrooms have absorbed the liquid and started to brown (mushrooms will first absorb your butter, then they will give off their moisture, then before the brown they will soak back up the moisture in the pan). Add the vermouth/wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the cream, bring to a boil, and cook the sauce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes).
While the sauce is reducing, in another pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes on each side, until browned and cooked through.
Stir the sage into the reduced sauce and season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over cooked chicken to serve. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.