Friday, September 30, 2011

Pâte à Choux

Chocolate Eclair's
If you've ever eaten a chocolate eclair, a cream puff, or a profiterole, then you have already enjoyed the unique airy, flaky texture and flavor of Pâte à Choux. 
In the mid 90's, I worked at a gourmet restaurant and banquet facility in Chicago. One of the most often requested appetizers was a savory filling in a Pâte à Choux puff pastry. These pastry appetizers brought a higher price of $2.00 each instead of $1.00 or $1.50. This same dough was also used to make pastry swans. The body of the swan was filled with sour cream before being floated in a bowl of rich Polish mushroom soup. The swan took the dish to a whole new visual, and price point level as well. One day my daughter brought some profiteroles home from her culinary school baking class. We just had to make some for me so I could put together some special savory appetizers like the "lobster puffs" picture on the upper left side of this page. So my daughter taught me to make Pâte à Choux. 
Get out your scale
The difference between cooking and baking is that baking is much less forgiving than cooking. When a recipe is a baking one, a scale is often required to measure ingredients, whereas cooking requires less precise measurements. Often visual clues are required to tell if it is time to proceed to the next step. Pâte à Choux is one such recipe. 
Making Pâte à Choux dough is much like making a roux
You just have to sift
8 oz. water, or milk (1 cup), or half water half milk (4oz ea)
4 oz. unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. all-purpose flour 
10 large eggs
Sifted flour

Beat some eggs
Bring water/milk and butter to a boil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Boil water, milk, and butter until melted. Add salt. Remove from heat and add flour. Work mixture together and return to heat. Continue working the mixture until all flour is incorporated and dough forms a ball. The mix will be ready when a light brown film forms on the bottom of the pan; Remember color is flavor! Transfer mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer. 

Add sifted flour to hot milk and butter
There should be a light brown film on bottom of pan
Place dough in mixer. Mix in the eggs
With mixer on medium speed add egg 1 at a time, making sure the first egg is completely incorporated before continuing. It is important to note that the mixture will separate and then come together again each time you add an egg; this should happen. Also, you may not need all the eggs. The Pate A Choux will be the right texture when you grab a piece between your thumb and index finger (pointer finger) and pull your finger and thumb apart. The dough should be  elastic, without breaking. Once all eggs have been added and the mixture is smooth put dough into piping bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe immediately into golf ball-size shapes, 2 inches apart onto parchment lined sheet pans. Wet your fingertip with water and push down slightly on the tip to keep these from burning. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Once they are removed from the oven pierce with a paring knife immediately to release steam.

 Eggs incorporated into the dough
Dough ready for piping

Fill pastry bag with dough
Pipe out 1-1/2" profiteroles 

Press down points with wet finger. Pâte à Choux  ready to bake
Pâte à Choux baked
Cut slit in side to allow steam to escape
Profiteroles ready to use or freezer
There are many pages, pictures, and video's on the internet about making Pâte à Choux and swans.      

© TMelle 1998-2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

French Onion Soup

With fall and winter just around the corner, it's also time to think about making some soup. French Onion soup is one of those comfort soups that we enjoy at my house. 
Kaiser Rolls

2   med                Onions (diced or sliced)
3   tbsp                Butter
1   clove              Garlic (minced)
4   14.5 oz cans   Beef Broth*
6   oz.                  Water (boiling)
1   tbsp.               Beef bullion
1/2 tsp.                Onion Powder
1 tsp.                   Worcestershire Sauce
2 whole               Kaiser Rolls (broken into pieces)
3/4 cup                Romano Cheese (thick grated) see below
optional               Sherry 
NOTE: Any beef broth you choose will work with this recipe. Homemade will make it even better. 
Sliced Onions

Melt the butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are soft and caramelized (about 15-20 minutes). Sprinkle the onion powder over the onions and mix well. While the onions are cooking, heat the water in a saucepan, or microwave until boiling hot. Stir in 1 beef bullion cube until dissolved. Add this broth to the onions, followed by the cans of beef broth. Bring this mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in the Worchestershire sauce.
Saute Onions Beef Broth

Pour the soup into a dutch oven, or individual oven proof crock bowls (recommended), leaving about 1/2 inch from the top. Set these onto a baking sheet to catch any spills while baking. If serving from the pot or bowls, add the Kaiser rolls, torn into 3/4” Pieces and cover. Place into a preheated 325°F oven for 20 minutes.
Add beef broth in serving crocks

Remove the pot(s) from the oven, sprinkle each with freshly grated Romano, Parmesan, Gruyere, or sliced Munster, and broil until bubbly and golden brown (3 to 5 minutes). To serve the soup, ladle the soup in bowls, or use the individual baking pots. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Add Kaiser pieces to bowl

Add Cheese

Bake and Enjoy
 This is really what I call comfort food. You can make this your own by changing the cheese to Munster, Swiss, Gouda, or any cheese you prefer. 

© TMelle 1998-2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

I’ve been forbidden

By my wife from entering upon the premises alone of Crate and Barrel, Williams Sonoma, Le Gourmet Chef, or my personal favorite Sur la table. The second person is apparently supposed to keep me from actually buying anything while in these stores. Apparently she thinks this is like letting a child loose in a candy store. One of my daughters often will go with me as that voice of reason. With her along it is much like sending the wolf to watch the chicken coop.
Professional Grill Griddle
Now I know that what is inside isn’t what my mother would have used and probably can’t be called “old school,” but it does have that warm and fuzzy feeling. As I said earlier I have worked as a short order cook in my younger years. Last summer I received an email from Sur la table ( featuring a stainless steel professional grill griddle that fits on the top of your outdoor grill. The griddle turns your gas grill into a flat-top griddle that allows you to cook many things just like a real short order cook. I just had to have it.

Serious griddle cooking time griddle temp approx. 350 °F 
In this case I had to go to the store to see it before actually buying it. I went to the store with my wife in tow and when I saw it, instead of getting excited with me she said, “why do I need that?” “Because I’m writing a cook book and also a cooking blog, and brings back fond memories of my earlier cooking years.” If that wasn’t enough to seal the deal, it was also on sale! Now this is something my wife can understand.

Place sliders on a  hot grill

So I bought the griddle top, brought it home and placed it in the closet with my other gourmet treasures and left it there for over one year. Finally as my wife was cleaning she found it and asked “what do I do with this grill top that you just had to have?” OMG am I turning into a gourmet tool hoarder? I told her to leave it out and I would use it this Labor Day weekend, just after I finished with Lobsterpalooza (see 9-7-11 post).

Start flipping sliders over

You’re probably wondering what can you cook on an outdoor griddle? Anything! Fried eggs, poached eggs, hash browns, corned beef hash, roast beef hash, eggs-in-the-nest, pancakes, potato pancakes, French toast, hamburgers, hot dogs and many other things. With this griddle it is possible to duplicate the Japanese style of cooking called “Teppanyaki style” cooking. If you’ve ever had a chance to visit Ron of Japan, or Benihana you know what I’m talking about. 
Add bratwurst to grill
If you have a Wok at home then you probably have a dome shaped lid to put over it to steam vegetables. This dome lid is a critical tool when mastering the flat top griddle. You can actually poach an egg by frying the first side until half way to sunny side up eggs. Take a shot glass with 1/2 ounce of water in it. With the domed lid in one hand pour the water just over the egg and immediately cover with the dome. Depending how you like your poached eggs cook with dome on for about 30 seconds or less until the egg is poached.  This water method also works for melting cheese.
To get going you need to place the griddle on the gas grill and close the lid until the temperature reaches 350°F. At this time shut off the burners directly under half of the griddle leaving the burners on the other half to the on position.   

Pâte à choux  Lobster Puffs
Every time you take the time to cook outdoors you're just going to get hungry. As I mentioned in my last post, if you have any leftover lobster, you better make some lobster dip. Then go to the freezer where you should always have a supply of "Pâte à choux" on hand for just this reason. Pâte à choux dough is the same dough used for eclairs, cream puffs, profiteroles, and make a nice appetizer with savory fillings.
Teppanyaki style vegetables
Teppanyaki style shrimp
As you can see this grill griddle could be used to recreate your favorite Japanese restaurant at home in your backyard and on your grill. Look for a future post where I will experiment with Teppanyaki style cooking. Until then does anyone know how to make the egg sauce that they put on the shrimp.
Teppanyaki style shrimp with egg sauce

Yes all of this and more is possible with a flat top griddle. Don't forget that playing with fire should be left to professionals.
Teppanyaki style shrimp on fire
Now go get your griddle on! If you're looking for recipes just send me an email and I'll try to accomodate your request.

© TMelle 1998-2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lobster Palooza

5-6 pound lobster
Lobster and seaweed
I have to admit that while I have eaten whole lobsters, I have never actually cooked them before. My family told me that I did make them before, but I don't remember this. This week our local family owned grocery store chain celebrated "Lobsterpaloza." To celebrate this year they were offering live 1-1/4 pound Maine lobsters, flown in fresh, or fully cooked lobsters for $10.99 each.
Boil Salted Water
One of my daughters just graduated from a culinary program at Kendall College with a Personal Chef and Catering certificate. I decided right then and there that this year it was time to man-up and cook my very first (or second) whole lobster, with my daughter's help of course. I placed an order for five whole lobsters. 
Drop them in
The following day I arrived at the fish department to pick up my lobsters. In the fish case they had a live 5 or 6 pound lobster just calling to me. I was handed a wine box with 5 whole lobsters and seaweed in it. 
Lobster cooking
I placed the box on the conveyer belt as it proceeded on its way to the cashier. She asked if there was anything in the box and I pointed to the tag and bar code on the top of the box. As she started to turn the box over to scan the bar code I advised her that she was about to dump the live lobsters and seaweed onto her conveyor belt. "They're alive? She asked jumping back from the box. 
Nine minutes later
Cool enough to handle
Once at home we started a pot of Kosher salted water on the side burner of the grill until came to a full rolling boil. Now the moment of truth came and we dropped them into the water and covered the pot. The fishmonger said it would take 12 to 15 minutes to cook. That seemed like a very long time, but we followed his instructions to the letter. In actuality the time was wrong and 9 minutes would have worked better. We removed the lobsters from the pot to the cold grill top and allowed them to cool enough to handle.  
Ready to process
Lobster tail section removed
Lobster tails

Lobster claws and legs removed

September through October is the time to get lobster. Maine has declared October to be Lobster Month. How did "lobsterpaooza" get started anyway.For more information visit the Maine Lobster Council website at
Crack shells and remove meat from claws
Serve lobster with garlic mashed and melted butter
So what do you do with all of the left-overs? I know what you're thinking... What left-over's. Plan for it. Just from the claw and leg meat you can make a New England style lobster roll, or lobster dip.
Chopped lobster
New England Lobster Roll
In an earlier post about lobster I said that I would tell you what my favorite lobster was. I think that Australian Rock Lobster tails are the best. This is what they served at Weller's, our favorite seafood restaurant in the 60"s.
Steamed and then broiled lobster tail
 Finally, I really don't like to see how my dinner got to the plate.  Cooking a whole lobster is not for the faint of heart, so I would suggest buying frozen lobster tails

© TMelle 1998-2011