Win “Sauces”!

SaucesThe entry period for Kitchen Simple is over and the winner is Risa G.  Congratulations to Risa!

It is the final week of National Cookbook Month and there is one book left to win!  My final giveaway is Sauces.  And since this is your last opportunity, use all three chances to win:

– On Facebook, go to James Peterson Cooks, LIKE my page and then COMMENT on the  “Sauces” post.

– On Twitter, be sure to follow me and then tweet using the hashtag #WinSauces.

– On Instagram, follow me (JAMESPETERSONCOOKS) and then find the photo of “Sauces” and leave a comment.

The entry period for Sauces is October 26 through October 31.

Thanks to everyone who entered during the first three giveaways and good luck to everyone who enters this week.  And stay tuned for several upcoming posts on sauces to go along with this week’s book!

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Win “Kitchen Simple”!

Kitchen SimpleThe entry period for Fish and Shellfish is over and the winner is Aaron R.  Congratulations to Aaron!

National Cookbook Month continues and we move to giveaway #3 – Kitchen Simple.  As you know from past weeks, you may earn up to three chances to win:

- On Facebook, go to James Peterson Cooks, LIKE my page and then COMMENT on the current entry post (there will be a separate post for each book). It is very important that you actually comment on the post – I’ve gotten many new Likes without a comment and, unfortunately, those don’t count as entries!  For all of you fine folks who have already “Liked” the page, just a comment will get you an entry.

- On Twitter, be sure to follow me and then tweet using the hashtag #WinKitchenSimple.

- On Instagram, follow me (JAMESPETERSONCOOKS) and then find the photo of the book and comment.

Each of our first two winners have had multiple entries so use every opportunity!

The entry period for Done is expired.

The entry period for Fish and Shellfish is expired.

The entry period for Kitchen Simple is October 20 through October 25.

The entry period for Sauces is October 26 through October 31.

Get those entries in, and good luck to all!

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Win “Fish and Shellfish”!

Fish and ShellfishMy giveaway for Done is complete and the winner is Joy W.  Note that Joy used all three opportunities to win and that paid off!

Now we are on to giveaway #2 – Fish and Shellfish.  Just like last week, you may earn up to three chances to win:

– On Facebook, go to James Peterson Cooks, LIKE my page and then COMMENT on the current entry post (there will be a separate post for each book).

– On Twitter, be sure to follow me and then tweet using the hashtag #WinFishAndShellfish.

– On Instagram, follow me (JAMESPETERSONCOOKS) and then find the photo of the book and comment.  Simple!

The entry period for Done is expired.

The entry period for Fish and Shellfish is October 14 through October 19.

The entry period for Kitchen Simple is October 20 through October 25.

The entry period for Sauces is October 26 through October 31.

Good luck everyone!  I hope to ship a book to you soon.

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Cookbook Giveaway!

It’s National Cookbook Month!  This has inspired me to give away signed copies of four different cookbooks. The first book is Done, my newest! You may earn up to three chances to win each book:

– On Facebook, go to James Peterson Cooks, LIKE my page and then COMMENT on the current entry post (there will be a separate post for each book).

– On Twitter, be sure to follow me and then tweet using the hashtag #WinDone (or, in subsequent entry periods, #WinFishAndShellfish, #WinKitchenSimple, #WinSauces)

– On Instagram, follow me (JAMESPETERSONCOOKS) and then find the photo of the book and comment.  Simple!

The entry period for Done is October 8 through October 13.

The entry period for Fish and Shellfish is October 14 through October 19.

The entry period for Kitchen Simple is October 20 through October 25.

The entry period for Sauces is October 26 through October 31.

Winners will be announced at the end of each entry period. Good luck, and I look forward to sending you a book!

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Rhona’s Paris Dinners

I have a close friend who lives in Paris. She, like I, trained as a chef and knows how to cook. She’s raising her 16-year old son single handedly while she translates 6 days a week at Le Cordon Bleu where she works as many as 12 hours a day. Even though she comes home exhausted, she always provides a proper meal for her son: a proper French meal, with courses and a variety of dishes. We speak often on the phone–just about everyday–when it’s about 5 pm my time and 11 pm her time. I’m sipping on my first cocktail and she’s making or eating dinner. The process, for me, is slow torture. She starts out describing the products that are about to be cooked–things that we can’t find here like wild game, the best butter in the world, or fresh goose foie gras, and by the time she’s starting to cook, my stomach is growling.

Last night, she made blanquette de veau. A veal blanquette is somewhat like a veal stew except for a couple of things. First, the meat is poached rather than braised. The poaching liquid is then finished with a flour roux. Egg yolks are added to the thickened poaching liquid and the mixture slowly stirred until the egg yolks gently thicken it and turn it silky. Cream is then added. In traditional versions, mushrooms and pearl onions are included to go along with the meat. The blanquette is served with rice.

A blanquette is a pretty straightforward affair, but there are certain caveats and tips. In France, they call for the tendron which is a part of the breast and is, in fact, the least expensive cut of veal you can buy. In this country, I buy either a whole or half breast of veal, trim off the fat and gristle, and separate the meat from the bones. I then use the bones, along with some aromatic vegetables, to make a basic veal broth in which to poach the meat. This is important: blanch both the meat and the bones (not together) by putting them in a pot of cold water. Bring the water to a simmer, drain the meat or bones, and rinse with cold water. If you don’t follow through with this blanching process, the poaching liquid will be grey and taste like soap. Once the bones are blanched, make the broth. When the meat has been blanched, it is ready to be poached–usually for about 40 minutes–in the bone liquid.

Once the meat has been poached, you’ll be left with a very flavorful poaching liquid. This liquid can be reduced to intensify its flavor but, more typically, it is simply thickened with roux to give it the right consistency. Once the roux has been incorporated–or rather, the poaching liquid whisked into the roux–the liquid can be combined with egg yolks (traditionally about 8 per quart of liquid) and gently cooked over the stove (while stirring constantly) until the liquid takes on a silky consistency. Rhona then finishes this concoction with organic crème fraîche, cream of a quality we can’t get in this country. For some reason French cream tastes better than American cream, even American cream that’s been cultured into crème fraîche. They typically eat near midnight.

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Artichoke Bottoms

I was once a maitre d’ at a restaurant in Montmartre. An American came in and ordered an artichoke vinaigrette which was duly presented with a bowl for the finished leaves. As he sat there, I realized that perhaps he didn’t know how to eat an artichoke, so I went over to his table, took a leaf of the artichoke, dipped it in the vinaigrette, slid it between my teeth and placing the finished leaf in the bowl. Figuring I had handled the problem and continuing my gentle surveillance of the dining room, I returned 10 minutes later to find the artichoke gone. I mean gone. Every bit of it. Not a trace, no leaves, no heart, no nothing.

While most of us nowadays know how to eat an artichoke, many of us are mystified by recipes that call for artichoke bottoms or artichoke hearts. To prepare artichoke bottoms (the hearts are virtually the same) the leaves must be trimmed off in a process we call “turning.” Even though this seems wasteful, there’s nothing quite so elegant as a simple salad of artichoke bottoms with walnuts or more elaborate combinations with wild mushrooms, asparagus tips, etc. To turn an artichoke, grip it, underhand, in your left hand. Hold a long and very sharp knife against the artichoke with your right hand. Use your lefthand to rotate the artichoke against the knife, trimming off the outermost leaves as you go. Continue rotating–it may take several rotations since you should try not to cut too deeply with the knife and cut into the inner flesh–until you see the pale flesh of the inner part of the artichoke. At this point, cut off the bottom stem (you can also do this at the beginning) and switch your grip on the artichoke from underhand to overhand. Hold the knife along the bottom of the artichoke at an angle and rotate the a artichoke to trim off patches of dark green. The bottom of the artichoke should be completely free of dark green. Cut the leaves off the base and trim the base by rotating it against a small sharp knife.

To cook an artichoke bottom, put it in a small pot with enough water to cover generously. Add a tablespoon of olive oil (this coats the artichoke and keeps it from darkening) and cover the pot with a plate to keep the artichoke heart submerged.  Simmer until a skewer slides into the artichoke heart with only slight resistance.  Drain, allow to cool, and remove the choke with a spoon.

Artichoke bottoms can be served in salads or, for elaborate presentations, as holders for other vegetables such as peas, string beans, mushrooms, or truffles!

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How to prepare and roast a whole round fish (daurade)

By “round fish” we don’t mean a fish that’s actually round, but rather a fish that swims in a “normal” way, with belly down and dorsal back fins up. This is in contrast to a “flatfish,” which is relatively flat (duh) and nestles in the sand on the bottom of the sea. Sole and flounder are examples.

A daurade is a round fish that swims on the European side of the Atlantic. They are closely related to our porgies, but are meatier and come in a number of very desirable varieties. Daurade is now farmed, but wild daurade can still be found at exorbitant prices.

Here we show how to prepare the daurade by trimming and cleaning. We then roast it with the skin and scales left on and then simply peel off the skin and scales when the fish is done roasting. This is a great trick when you’re grilling and don’t want the fish to stick to the grill.

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How to roast a whole round of veal

The round of veal is a roundish muscle that resembles a flattened sphere. It usually weighs about 4 pounds but can vary a lot in either direction. It is impeccably lean and tender and is used to make the finest scallops for such things as veal scallopini. Most people, however, substitute a cheaper cut. Yes, a round of veal is expensive but not as expensive as a lot of things and it makes a perfect and very elegant roast that you’re unlikely to have encountered anywhere else. One caveat: the veal must be perfectly cooked or it will be dry.

When you buy your round of veal, it will come “cap off” or “cap on.” The “cap” is a flat section of tough meat that partially surrounds the round and has to be trimmed off. You want this piece of meat for making your jus so when you buy the veal, ask for it cap on or, if the butcher removes the cap, be sure he gives it to you. This extra meat is essential for making a jus since the properly cooked round will release very little in the way of juices.

When you get your veal home, trim off the cap–just follow the natural separation of the muscles–and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Let the veal come to room temperature before you roast it. Brown the cubes with carrots and onions and place the tied up round of veal on top in a pan or pot just large enough to hold it. Roast the veal to an internal temperature of 132 degrees (it will rise 5 degrees as it rests) and transfer it to a platter. Cover it loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving. Spoon or drain the fat off the caramelized juices in the pot or pan you used for roasting the veal. Add water or broth to the caramelized juices and simmer while scraping with a wooden spoon. Strain and transfer to a sauceboat.

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How to poach a flatfish

Many of us have fish poachers but when it comes to poaching a flatfish like a sole or flounder, we’re lost. The standard solution to this  quandary is a special fish poacher called a turbotière, diamond-shaped, with handles on the ends and a rack for lifting up the fish. The only problem with said devices is their cost. They’re usually made of copper and can cost upwards of $1000. While I’d love to have one–they’re beautiful–even I have a hard time justifying this expense since poaching whole flatfish isn’t a daily procedure. To improvise a turbotière at home, you’ll need a roasting pan that’s deep enough to hold the fish covered with liquid and a cake rack, grill-like to help the cake dry slightly. Unfortunately, most cake racks don’t fit into most roasting pans so you’ll have to cut the cake rack down to size with wire cutters. Once you’ve got it so that it fits into the roasting pan, attach loops of strings to two ends so you can lift it out when the fish is ready.

Traditional recipes usually call for poaching in a court-bouillon, which is essentially a vegetable stock. The fact is that very little flavor from the poaching liquid makes it into the fish such that the expense and effort of a court-bouillon are hardly worth it. An easier solution is simply to salt the water liberally and infuse it with a bouquet garni (a bundle of parsley, thyme, and bay leaf). If you’re in a restaurant situation, re-use the poaching liquid so that you end up with a rich fish broth you can use for making sauces. You can even use it as the base for a beurre blanc or hollandaise.

Here we show preparing and poaching a turbot:

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Caramel

Caramel is one of those simple things that throws people off. Perhaps it’s the idea of heating sugar to rather shocking temperature that scares us, but as long as you stand back a bit during critical moments, there is nothing to fear. First off, most recipes include an initial step of adding water to the sugar. This accomplishes nothing and only makes the caramel take longer to cook because before the sugar can begin caramelizing the water must all evaporate off. So when you set out to make caramel, use sugar alone. Traditional recipes suggest cooking caramel in an unlined copper pot, but I do mine in copper lined with stainless steel. Plain stainless steel also works. Don’t use tin-lined copper or aluminum. The important thing is that it be rather heavy so the sugar cooks evenly. Add the sugar, turn the heat to high, and begin stirring with a wooden spoon. After a few moments the sugar will start to lump up, as though you’ve added liquid, but after a couple of minutes, the sugar will begin to liquify. Continue stirring until all the lumps disappear. Now you have a couple of choices, but whatever you do, it’s imperative that you stop the cooking or the sugar will burn. If you’re using the caramel as it is–you’re not converting it into any kind of sauce or syrup–then stop the cooking by plunging the pan in a bowl of cold water. Let it sit in the water for a couple of seconds and then use it immediately before it hardens. Caramel is simply sugar cooked until it turns reddish brown, but there are a number of derivatives. If you add water to the caramel as soon as it’s ready (here you should stand back), you’ll end up with caramel syrup. If you add heavy cream, you’ll end up with caramel sauce. If you cook butter with the caramel and then finish the mixture with cream, you’ll have butterscotch.

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