Saturday, August 27, 2016

Shirred Eggs and White Asparagus Spears with Lobster Ballotine

     An Elegant Modern French Lobster Ballotine For Breakfast!
     I once worked with an old French chef from Provence back in the early 1990's.  The chef owned a French fine dining seafood restaurant in Florida.  The best selling item on the menu was Blue Crab Galantine.  In case readers are interested, I published a similar Crab Galantine recipe in my Classic Cuisine Website.  Here is the link:  Blue Crab Galantine with Avocado and Confetti Pepper Vinaigrette.
     The Crab Galantine was made with crab meat, petite aromatic vegetables, bread crumbs and egg.  The crab mixture was placed in a stainless steel ring mold, then the open ends of the cylinder were grilled till the crab mixture congealed.  The Crab Galantine was then pressed out of the ring mold onto a plate and served.
     Technically, the Crab Galantine should have been called a Ballotine, but out of respect for the senior French chef, I called my version of the crab recipe a Galantine too.  I think that the French chef intentionally called his creation a Galantine, in order to redefine Galantine for modern French cuisine applications and back at that time this was a good thing to do.
     By definition, a Galantine is a whole chicken that has the meat removed from the skin, then the meat is turned into a mousseline, which is then wraped with the chicken skin and trussed into a thick sausage shape.  The shaped Galantine is poached, then chilled.  Then the Galantine is sliced and each slice is coated with gelatin, before being chilled again.  The Galantine is then arranged on a Chaud Froid platter and served.  This is the classic definition of Galantine.
     A classic Ballotine is made with a chicken thigh or whole leg.  The meat is taken off the bone, then it is stuffed with chicken forcemeat or mousseline.  The stuffed leg is trussed so it is shaped like a leg, then it is cooked, chilled and served.  By definition a classic Ballotine is only made with chicken and it is served chilled.      
     At sometime since the early 1990's, the definition of Ballotine was officially redefined to suit modern French cuisine applications, while the original Galantine definition was not changed.  Officially a Galantine is only made with chicken and it is served cold, while a Ballotine can now be made with any kind of meat and it can be served hot or cold.  I think the decision to redefine Ballotine was based upon the Ballotine being the lesser known recipe and because a classic Ballotine is a single portion item.  Unfortunately for the old French chef that I worked with, it looked like he made a case for redefining the Galantine, because it was a more popular recipe, but redefining the Ballotine is what got the nod.
     Anyway, I originally called today's recipe a Lobster Galantine, but I decided to change the name to Lobster Ballotine.  As mentioned before, the word Galantine will be used to describe the crab recipe out of respect for the great old French chef from Provence.  Ce est la vie!

     Lobster Ballotine: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (1 petite ballotine)  
     When making this style of ballotinetine, think of it as being a crab cake or lobster cake that is grilled while it is in a ring mold!  The mixture should be about 95% meat.  
     For lobster or crab meat, there is not enough gelatin in the meat to hold the meat together.  Just like for a crab cake, a tiny amount of egg and breadcrumb takes the place of the natural meat gelatins.  The best crab cakes have less than 5% egg, breadcrumb and aromatic vegetables in the recipe.  The same goes for a Lobster Ballotine mixture. 
     Shellfish Ballotine meat should be like coarse forcemeat.  The forcemeat should not be pressed through a fine mesh strainer.  Shellfish galantines are usually not served with the forcemeat refined, like a mousseline style forcemeat.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 3 cups of water.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 8 whole black peppercorns.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Place a 4 ounce piece of shelled lobster tail in the poaching water.
     Poach the piece of lobster tail for about 1 minute, till it is half way cooked and still raw in the middle.
     Step 3:  Remove the lobster from the poaching water.
     Finely chop the lobster meat.
     Step 4:  Place the chopped lobster tail meat in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of a minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced green onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced mixed green bell pepper and red bell pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of marjoram.
     Step 5:  Add 1 teaspoon of bread crumbs.
     Add just enough whisked egg to moisten the lobster mixture.  (About 1 teaspoon.)
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 6:  Brush the inside of a 1 1/2" to 2" diameter stainless steel ring mold with unsalted butter.  (The ring mold should be about 2" tall.)
     Set the ring mold on a cutting board.
     Spoon the lobster galantine mixture into the ring mold.
     Press the lobster mixture into the ring mold.
     Fill the ring mold completely, so the lobster mixture is flush with the top of the ring mold rim.
     Step 7:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Use a spatula to transfer the ballotine to the hot sauté pan.
     Step 8:  Leave the ring mold attached to the lobster forcemeat mixture as it cooks.
     Sauté till the bottom of the ballotine is a golden color.
     Carefully invert the ring mold and sauté the top of the ballotine till it is a golden color.
     Step 9:  Use a spatula to place the ballotine ring mold on a platter and set it aside till later in the recipe.
     *The inside of the ballotine will be only partially cooked!  It will finish cooking with the shirred eggs later in the recipe!

     Shirred Eggs and White Asparagus Spears with Lobster Ballotine:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.  
     For this recipe, it is best not to peel the white asparagus.  The extra height from the thickness of the spears act as barriers that separate the 3 eggs in the casserole dish, just like partitions.
     Step 1:  Blanch 3 whole white asparagus spears in salted boiling water, till they are cooked al dente.
     Remove the asparagus spears from the water and place them on a cutting board.
     Step 2:  Select a 7" diameter shallow round casserole dish.
     Brush the casserole dish with melted unsalted butter.
     Step 3:  Trim the length of the asparagus spears, so are the size of the radius of the casserole dish.  (A half of the diameter.)
     Place three blanched white asparagus spear tips in the casserole dish, so they point out from center and they are equally spaced.  (Refer to the photos above.)  
     Step 4:  Place 1 whole raw large egg in the empty space between each of the asparagus spears.
     Step 5:  Use a spatula to place the ballotine ring mold on the center of the casserole dish on top of the asparagus spear ends.
     Place a small piece of foil or parchment paper on top of the galantine to prevent darkening when baked.
     Step 6:  Place the casserole dish in a 300ºF oven.
     Bake till the egg whites are fully cooked and the yolks are still soft.
     Remove the casserole dish from the oven.
     Step 7:  Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving dish.
     Remove the piece of foil (or parchment paper) from the top of the ballotine.
     Step 8:  *Wearing a heat proof glove is best for this next step!
     Carefully remove the ring mold by gently pressing the Lobster Ballotine center with a spoon, while lifting the ring mold.
     *Be sure to apply light pressure, so the lobster galantine does not crush!  Take care not to break the shirred egg yolks in the casserole.
     Garnish the Lobster Ballotine with a curly parsley leaf.

     The Lobster Ballotine is actually fairly easy to make and the flavor of this shirred egg entrée will certainly impress guests!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Eggs and Spicy Cracklins over Pan Fried Jalapeño Cornbread

     A Southern Style Breakfast With Some Spicy Crunch!  
     Cornbread can be flavored with just about anything.  Jalapeño Chile Pepper is by far is one of the most popular cornbread flavors.  
     Pan Fried Cornbread is similar to early American spoon bread.  When made correctly, pan fried cornbread is light and crisp, not heavy or greasy.  The cornbread dough for pan fried cornbread should be very moist, yet thick enough to stand in a serving spoon.  
     The flavor of the frying grease adds flavor to the cornbread.  Southern cooks make the most of every scrap of food and little is wasted.  Just a few tablespoons of bacon grease or chicken grease is enough to flavor the frying oil or lard.  Homemade lard is good too, because it has much more flavor than bland grocery store lard products.    
     Cracklins are another Southern Food staple.  When cutting the skin off of a section of pork belly, it is all too easy to just toss the skin in the trash.  With very little effort, the pork belly skin can be turned into cracklins, which can be chilled or frozen for later use.  A few cracklins added to stew or slowly simmered greens adds a lot of pork flavor.  
    Just like with French Lardons, crispy fried cracklins also can be used as a garnish that adds a crunchy texture and a savory flavor.  Spicy seasoned cracklins add a nice flavor crunch to today's breakfast entrée.
     Hot sauce is a mainstay table condiment in the south.  Southern style hot sauces tend to be thin and vinegary.  Asian style Sriracha hot sauce has become popular just about everywhere during the last two decades.  Sriracha is a garlic and red serrano chile pepper sauce that has a medium thick consistency.  When a mild spicy flavor is needed as a garnish on a plate and the food presentation could benefit from the addition of a red color sauce, Sriracha is a good choice.  
     Sriracha usually is sold in a plastic squeeze bottle.  The squeeze bottle can be used to paint a plate with Sriracha.  Making clean looking sauce dots on a plate only takes a little bit of practice and after a short time it is easy to master this garnishing technique.  

     Spicy Seasoning Salt:
     This recipe yields about 2 tablespoons. 
     Mix these ingredients together in a small container:
     - 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     - 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. 
     - 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
     - 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder
     - 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
     - 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika
     Set the spice mixture aside.   

     Spicy Fried Pork Cracklin's:
     Pork belly sections are usually sold with the skin attached.  The skin must be removed, before making home cured bacon or pork belly recipes.  
     Pork belly skin can be frozen for later use or prepared on the spot,  It is best if the skin has a minimal amount of fat attached.  
     Any amount of pork skin can be fried per batch.  Cracklin's are usually rendered at a lower temperature than when making fried pork rind snacks. 
     Step 1:  Soak the pork belly skin in bacon soda water overnight in a refrigerator.  About 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda per quart of water is plenty.  After soaking, drain off the water.
     Step 2:  Place the pork belly skin on a roasting rack in a refrigerator.
     Allow the pork skin to air dry. 
     Step 3:  Use a steak perforating tool to poke holes through the skin.  (optional) 
     Cut the pork rind into small bite size rectangular pieces and set them aside.          
     Step 4:  Heat about 1/2" of vegetable frying oil or lard in a wide pot to 300ºF to 325ºF.  
     Place a few pork rind pieces in the hot oil at a time, so foaming does not occur.
     Gently render and fry the cracklins till all of the moisture evaporates and no sizzling sound can be heard.  The finished cracklins will be crisp and slightly greasy.  
     Step 5:  Use a fryer net to place the cracklins on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Generously season with a few pinches of the Spicy Seasoning Salt mixture.   
     Keep the cracklin's warm on a stove top.  
     *Any extra can be frozen for later use or served as a snack.  Save the frying oil for making the corn bread! 
     Pan Fried Jalapeño Corn Bread:
     This recipe yields 5 or 6 small fried corn cakes!  This style of pan fried cornbread is basically made like Colonial American Spoonbread.  The batter must be thick enough to easily stand in a spoon. 
     Step 1:  Place 1/3 cup of corn meal in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3/4 cup of Yellow Masa Harina.  (Nixtamal Yellow Corn Flour)     
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.  
     Add 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Mix the dry ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of bacon grease.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced seeded green jalapeños.  
     Step 3:  Add little bit of warm water at a time, while stirring with a whisk, till the cornbread mixture is an extra thick batter consistency that can easily stand in a spoon.  (About 2/3 cup to 1 cup.)  
     Step 4:  Allow the cornbread mixture to rest for 15 minutes.
     *If the corn meal absorbs the water and it looks dry, then add a few teaspoons of water while mixing, till the batter returns to an extra thick consistency.    
     Step 5:  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium/medium low heat.
     Place enough vegetable oil or lard in the hot skillet, so the oil is about 1/4" deep.
     Add 1 tablespoon of bacon grease to the hot oil.
     Adjust the temperature, so the oil is about 350ºF.
     Step 6:  Use a serving spoon to place large oval shaped dollops of the thick cornbread batter side by side in the hot oil.   (Each dollop should be about 1/4 cup in volume and each cornbread should be about 3/8" thick.     
     Step 7:  Pan fry the cornbread till the bottom side is fully cooked and golden brown.
     Flip the cornbread with a spatula.
     Cook the other side till it is golden brown.
     Step 8:  Set the pan fried jalapeño cornbread on a wire screen roasting rack to remove any excess oil.
     Repeat these steps till there is no more cornbread dough.  Any extra cornbread can be served with other meals!
     Keep the pan fried jalapeño corn bread warm on a stove top.   

     Eggs and Spicy Cracklins over Pan Fried Jalapeño Cornbread:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Cook 2 large eggs any style that is preferred.  (Sunny side up looks best!) 
     Step 2:  Place the pan fried jalapeño cornbread on the center of a plate.
     Place the 2 eggs on the cornbread.
     Step 3:  Cascade about 1/3 cup of spicy cracklin's over the eggs and onto the plate.
     Use a squeeze bottle of Sriracha Sauce to paint a simple design on the plate.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.

     This tasty Southern style breakfast will definitely stick to the ribs!