"Substitutionus Maximus", or, "Swapping Ingredients for Fun and Profit".
What’s a gnocchi? Potato dumpling, of course.
Well, to be exact, it’s just a dumpling of Italian origin. Potato gnocchi are a relatively recent invention, with potatoes (like tomatoes and corn) being introduced to Italy only after the advent of trans-Atlantic trade.
Gnocchi can be made with a huge variety of ingredients, from regular flour with egg to semolina or ricotta. Herbs, cheeses, spices – you name it, you can pop ‘em in the gnocchi. Most of the variety you’ll find is in the starch, but it brings us to our topic today – substitutions.
It’s quite easy to perform substitutions within recipes as long as you maintain a slight similarity in the type of ingredient you’re swapping and a nod to necessary adjustments for flavor preservation. Starches are really easy to swap, and the occurrence of such changes is becoming more commonplace as the number of gluten-avoidance diets rises each year.
With potato gnocchi, only a portion of the flour is removed in place of the potato, thereby maintaining a bit of gluten to help the dumpling hold its shape. Gluten-free diets face a bit of difficulty in this area, relying on other binders such as egg or xanthan gum to ensure a sturdy product. If you’re swapping out flour for flour, as in rye, buckwheat or whole wheat, follow the general principle of the potato gnocchi and keep a portion of all purpose flour in your recipe so as to provide the desired flavor without creating too dense of a final product.
There are countless books that cover all aspects of substitution within the culinary arts – most any cooking book you can find is composed of recipes that alter or swap ingredients for new flavors and textures. Try anything and everything, just don’t expect them all to go perfectly well – cooking is all about trying, with the successes and failures equal opportunities to learn more and hone your craft.
Basic Gnocchi Recipe
7 medium potatoes
1 whole egg
1 pound salt
Wash potatoes and cover with salt. Place potatoes in preheated 350 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Remove meat of potatoes and run through foodmill or ricer. In a large mixing bowl knead potatoes, egg, flour, and any dry ingredient you might want to add until medium stiff dough occurs. Place on cutting board, cut into sections and cover with a towel. Roll out sections into 3/4" logs and cut into 3/4" sections. Roll off of fork into the floured bowl that the dough was made in. For storage of extra gnocchi, place on sheet pan or a shallow pan and place in freezer over night. The next day you can place the gnocchi in Ziploc bags for storage of up to 6 months or so.
To cook gnocchis, place in pot of boiling water and cook until all gnocchis float. After about 2 minutes of floating place in a hot sauté pan with butter and oil until golden brown.
If there are two extremely vital sauces which every fine cook should know, they would be gravy and nacho cheese.
“But wait!” you may say. “I want to cook at a nice restaurant, not Momma’s Pie House. Nothing against Momma’s, that is, just… you know. Gravy??”
Well, here’s the beautiful thing about those two sauces: they’re both based on béchamel, one of the four classic sauces. Where’s it from? France, of course, and it was named after a steward for Louis XIV. Can’t get any fancier than that.
It’s surprising, really, how many common things we associate with junk food or ball park eats or what-have-you and, truth be told, those exact things have very austere origins.
Bechamel is a beautiful sauce in its simplicity, and white gravy is almost exactly the same. Milk, butter, flour. Add some black pepper, maybe some sausage, you’ve got a great biscuit topping. Add some sautéed shallots instead, a bit of white wine and maybe some truffle oil? Same sauce, sure – but now with a totally different flavor profile.
Now, take that béchamel, add some cheese, and you’ve got a mornay (this week's episode). If you use cheddar, maybe a bit of American cheese, some canned tomatoes and jalapenos, you’ve got a damn good nacho cheese sauce. But what if you, instead, use some gruyere instead? Pour it over a toasted baguette with some thin sliced, quick seared ham? Well, now you’ve got a croque monsieur, one of the best sandwiches in the world. A sandwich that’s a tad bit fancier than, say, nachos. Or if you use some blue cheese and pour it over a chateaubriand? Top that. I dare you.
So if there’s one thing to take away from all this, learn the béchamel – it’s like a Swiss-army knife, tons of uses both fancy, and homey.
1Qt HEAVY CREAM
SALT & PEPPER
1 DICED SHALLOT (OPTIONAL)
Melt butter in a sauce pot, when melted the flour is added. The mixture is stirred until the flour is incorporated, and then cooked until at least the point where a raw flour taste is no longer apparent about 2 minutes. Slowly add the cream stirring constantly to a smooth consistency. Simmer about 5-8 minutes. If sauce gets to thick just thin to desired consistency by adding more cream.
If using the shallots add in with the butter and cook about 1 minute.
Remember this sauce is a base for many other sauces.
So the last time that we talked about mushrooms, we were covering duxelle. The key lesson with the duxelle had been patience, and how you couldn't rush it – if you cooked it too fast, you'd scorch the mushrooms and get that nasty burnt flavor.
For the mushroom en croûte, we're going to go back to talking about patience, but this time in regards to baked goods.
The first thing to cover would be the dish we're preparing in the video – the mushroom en croûte. The pastry we wrap around the duxelle-stuffed portabella mushroom is what's called "puff pastry". Reason why? It puffs up! Hmmmmm... ; ) Puff pastry is technically known as a laminated dough, since it consists of many layers, like laminate flooring. Croissant and danish dough are also laminated, and they all share the similar attribute of layers of butter and dough. The butter melts and steams, causing the pastry to rise up. There's a specific temperature you want to use when baking these kinds of dough, and 375-400º F is about right.
Now, some people tend to crank the oven up even higher than that, which can work for an en croûte – up to a point. The higher heat browns up the pastry rather nicely, which looks great, but this all goes back to the patience thing. One problem is that the pastry doesn't cook all the way through, so you don't get all the crispy, crunchy layers out of the pastry that you should. The innards of the en croûte won't heat up either, so you'll have a nicely browned and attractive appetizer, but it won't be as crunchy or as hot inside as you'd like.
It may pain you to have to wait by the oven for the en croûte to cook all the way through, and you may want to pull it out when it gets golden brown. But the important thing about puff pastry is that you cook it longer than you'd think, since it really needs that extra time in the oven to get completely crisp. Puff pastry is tough – don't worry about it, it can handle the long time – and don't stress about it drying out, either. You've got all that delicious, moist filling inside to counterpoint the crunchiness of the shell.
So bake it hot (but not too hot) and for a while, and you'll have an en croûte that's just right.
- Chef Savage
MUSHROOM EN CROUTE
6 PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS
½ C BALSAMIC VINEGAR
6 CLOVES GARLIC
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Take mushrooms, flip them upside down and take the stem off and scrap the fins with a spoon. Place in a baking dish.
Chop garlic and shallots in a food processer and slowly add in vinegar and water till combined. Pour vinegar mixture evenly over mushrooms and then cover with foil. Cook in oven for 1.5 hours. Most of the liquid should evaporate but not all and the mushrooms should be fork tender. Cool mushrooms in refrigerator.
Mix together Duxelle and feta. Split mixture between the six mushrooms.
Steam the spinach and place over the Duxelle covering it entirely.
Take thawed puff pastry and using a lattice cutter roll it over the pastry cutting the whole pastry in one direction. Very gently cut the pastry sheet into 4x4 squares. Take one square and carefully spread open trying to keep the each opening the same. Then place over the mushroom and tuck the extra pastry under and repeat till all are covered. Spay each with a vegetable spray and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees.
It doesn’t really mean “with ice cream,” it actually translates to “in the style of” and is, truthfully, a fantastic way to cook.
Tuna Provençal is a dish prepared à la mode de Provençal, and the long name describes the key accompaniments to the tuna: in this case olive oil, tomato, and garlic. À la Bourguignonne, on the other hand, is “in the style of Burgundy” and includes red wine, small mushrooms and white onion. There’s numerous other “styles,” so named for the regions from which they emerged, and they all include their specific set of ingredients. Take your Provençal dish and add some black olives and anchovies, and you’ve got a dish à la Nicoise.
Now, how is this exactly a fantastic way to cook? Well, imagine you have some surprise guests coming over for dinner, and you have no clue as to what to make. An easy way to toss together something delicious and that’s sure as hell gonna impress them, is to proudly proclaim that you will be preparing “chicken à la Bourguignonne.”
What will you have to do? Well, sauté some chicken in a pan, deglaze with red wine, toss in some mushrooms and onions, and you’ve got it. Not difficult at all, and your guests will think you a culinary genius, all because you knew the key ingredients for a style of cooking.
These styles are highly flexible, which means you can really substitute most any protein you’d like, and as long as you have a relatively balanced amount of the ingredients (i.e. not handfuls and handfuls of garlic and only half a tomato) you don’t need a specific recipe. Just use some basic techniques, keep the key ingredients in mind, and you’ll be good to go!
6-6 oz. tuna steaks
Salt, fresh cracked black pepper
¼-cup olive oil
4 cloves of garlic fine chopped
1-cup diced onion
1-cup diced yellow bell pepper
2-cup diced fresh tomato
1-cup chopped calamata olives
1-cup chopped green olives
1-cup basil chiffonade
2 cup white wine
3/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
Fresh basil sprigs
Season the tuna. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Start to sauté the garlic and onions for 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper and sauté for a 3 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and the olives and sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Add the wine and allow to reduce by half. Add the romano and the basil, toss. Sear the tuna in the olive oil very quickly and remove. The Tuna will be rare. Place a little Provencal mixture on a plate and place tuna on top. Place more Provencal on top of tuna. Garnish with romano shavings and fresh basil sprigs.
You can’t be scared of knives, you can’t be nervous about that expensive piece of steak in your hand, and you most definitely can’t be scared of the flames leaping up out of the range like a ravenous demon’s breath.
A recipe, or a technique, can help alleviate this fear – take today’s Chateaubriand marinade, for instance. Having a steak fresh out of the marinade in hand and ready for that screaming hot pan in front of you is a thrilling experience, but it is at this key moment when the weak fall aside. For not only do you need to go ahead and cook that steak, you’ve got to char it. Sear it to hell and back, developing that amazing caramelized crust that defines the very essence of the chateaubriand.
Fear can enter in here and make you stop early – fear that you’re overcooking it, or fear of the smoke rising up from the pan. Don’t let this take over. Stand strong, move ahead, sear it right.
When I switch from cooking at the Cliff House to cooking at home, there are a few adjustments to be made. At work, if I want some perfectly caramelized peppers and onions - the kind with the crisp, sweet, roasted flavor on the outside but still a bit of crunch – I can set a pan on high flame for a few minutes, getting it smoking hot, then toss in my oiled vegetables and quick sear them with a few tosses of the wrist.
At home, this is a lot harder to do. Without the commercial vents above my home stove (like the ones at work) smoke fills the kitchen; oil spatters from the pan and will flame up, and the family starts to freak out and may begin to contemplate ordering pizza. This may happen when you try the chateau at home – but stay strong. Let your pan get really hot, sear the steak well, and you’ll be glad you did.
You just may want to turn a fan on - and tell your family to calm down while you’re at it.
- Chef Savage
Yields: 1 qt
4 cup orange juice
1-cup balsamic vinegar
3 tbl Sweet Chili Sauce (hot pepper sauce found at Asian markets)
Mix all ingredients together. Use as a marinade for beef tenderloin (We use 8 oz portion of the thickest part of the tenderloin). Allow the meat to marinate over night.
5lb Yukon potatoes
½ lb butter
1 qt heavy cream
½ lb bacon
1 c diced red & yellow peppers
½ c chopped chives
½ c chopped artichoke hearts
½ c sour cream
Salt, pepper and garlic to taste
Boil potatoes and strain. Melt butter in cream and add to potatoes. Whip together with all ingredients.
Sautéed New Potatoes
Boil New Potatoes till fork tender. Sautee with bacon and shallots.
Reduce 1 bottle of your favorite wine to a syrup consistency.
1 oz Truffle peels mixed with 1# butter
To cook Chateaubriand: Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high. Char the tenderloin on all sides. This will cook the chateau to about medium rare. Finish in a 350° oven until desired temperature.
So one of the first things taught in culinary school to the legions of charming, innocent and happy students is how to make a good stock. That, and how to not cut your hands off with a knife.
It’s a really basic, simple thing, but one of the key factors of a good stock is using good ingredients. There are some chefs out there who will just throw whatever they have on hand into the stock, turning it really into the proverbial “kitchen sink.”
Tomatoes that are bit too soft? Sure! Some of these carrots that are looking wimpy? Why not! It’s just stock! Ignore that moldy celery, it’s gonna cook out!
But the problem with this approach is that if you throw all this nigh-garbage into your stock, you’ll get a mediocre product. The extra long cooking time can cover up the bad aspects of some of these ingredients, of course, and that’s why these chefs do this, because they feel they can get away with it.
Don’t do that.
A stock is like a foundation. It’s the beginning, the genesis of soups, sauces and all manner of wonderful things. If you have a gorgeous multi-million dollar house on a shabby foundation, no one’s gonna want to buy your place when the walls are cracking and pipes are breaking and the roof is leaning to the side like some Italian monolith.
An excellent stock can make beautiful sauces, rich soups and stews. A mediocre stock? Well, the best you can ever hope to get is a mediocre sauce. If mediocrity is what you’re shooting for, heck, go for it – but if you want to have great sauces, take the time and lay your foundation right – make a great stock.
- Chef Savage
5 LB VEAL BONES
8oz CAN TOMATO PASTE
5 CUPS MIREPOIX
2 Cups Onion, Cut into Eighths
1 Cup Carrot, Rough Chopped
1 Cup Celery, 2 Inch Segments
1 Cup Leek, Halved and cut into 2 Inch Segments
5 EA BLACK PEPPERCORNS
4 EA WHOLE GARLIC CLOVES
8QT WATER, Cold
2 EA BAY LEAVES
1 OZ FRESH THYME
1 OZ PARSLEY STEMS
1 OZ ROSEMARY
2 QT RED WINE
Spread bones in a roasting pan and roast for about 30 minutes at 425º F, turning once. Remove the pan from the oven and paint a thin layer of the tomato paste over the bones. Spread the vegetables in the pan and roast an additional 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables begin to caramelize.
Remove the pan from the oven and move all of the bones and vegetables to a stockpot. Place the pan over high heat on the stove and deglaze with the wine, scraping the pan with a whisk or metal spoon to remove the caramelized drippings. Pour the wine and drippings into the stockpot. Add the peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves and fresh herbs. Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover the bones.
Over medium heat, slowly bring the stock up to a very gentle simmer - don’t let it boil. Adjust the temperature to maintain a gentle bubbling. Every thirty minutes or so, skim off any foam that rises to the top of the pot.
Let the stock simmer gently for at least four hours. If you have the time, it can simmer for up to 12 hours. Add a little more water and lower the heat if you are getting too much evaporation.
When the stock is done, remove the solids and discard. Strain the stock through a very fine mesh strainer or through a colander lined with three or four layers of cheesecloth. Chill quickly over ice and then refrigerate. When the stock has thoroughly chilled, the fat will separate and rise to the top, where it will congeal. Remove and discard.
I imagine that if you took one of your ancient relatives (just a couple hundred years back) and brought them to the present day, and then showed them the inside of your refrigerator, they’d probably scratch their head in bewilderment.
“Why?” you would ask them. They would point to the bottles of pickles and jellies, cured sausages and maybe that package of bacon, and then turn to you and ask, in the same tone, “Why?”
A lot of the stuff we cook with (and don’t necessarily think about) has a specific reason for being the way it is. That reason almost always boils down to preservation, or namely the lack of a proper method. – at least before the advent of refrigeration, and that’s really a rather recent accomplishment.
This week we cover pheasant confit (not the usual duck or goose). Confit is one of those old-school methods of preserving food, and it’s unique in that it really uses two methods. The first is brining, which is a method of increasing the amount of salt in a product, thereby making it less hospitable for bacteria. The second part of a confit is the storage – in the fat it was cooked in. The procedure originated in France, and like a lot of other unique foods, was originally designed to dramatically increase the shelf life of a product.
We’ve grown so accustomed to these items as staples that we continue to practice the same techniques developed hundreds of years ago, but now simply for the development of their flavors. That great flavor of a ruben, with the smoked meat and sauerkraut, is almost entirely thanks to old preservation techniques.
So enjoy your confit, and take a moment to thank those old French chaps for not having a fridge of their own.
6ea Pheasant Legs
16c Rendered Duck Fat
2ea Oranges (cut into 8 pieces)
2ea Lemons (cut into 8 pieces)
½ c Kosher Salt
½ c Sugar
1c Orange Juice
10 Garlic Cloves
2 Bay Leaves
1oz Fresh Thyme
1oz Fresh Rosemary
1oz Fresh Parsley
6 Black Peppercorns
Place all ingredients for brine in an 8qt sauce pan and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from flame and cool. Once brine is cool, pour into a 2 gallon container and place legs into the brine and let set for 12 hours covered in the refrigerator. If running short on time you do not have to simmer the brine as we demonstrated.
Pour brine through a colander and discard liquid. Place pheasant legs in a roasting pan and cover with some of the remaining mixture from the colander. Melt the fat and pour over the duck.
Place pan in a 250 degree oven for 4to6 hours or until the meat falls of the bones. Start with 4 hours and check in 30 minute increments. Cool and store in duck fat. (You may leave it in the fridge for several weeks; just make sure the legs are covered completely in fat)
Something that occurs naturally to chefs (and probably doesn’t often cross the mind of everyone else) is butchery. Maybe not going so far as to render down a live animal into the beautiful little prepackaged segments you’d find in your local grocer’s meat department, but slicing up a whole chicken or a side of a beef is a surety.
The wonderful thing about this (the big secret, if you will) is that you can actually save a good bit of money doing this. It’s not really hard to do - all you need is a nice knife (the sharper the better!) and the will to learn. Practice makes perfect, of course, and if you’re able to devote a bit more time, you too can get in on the secret.
Whenever I’m cooking up some chicken at home, be it soup, sautéed chicken breasts or something as fancy as the Duxelle Stuffed Pheasant Breast (well, I guess I’d be cooking pheasant then, but… whatever), I just grab whole chickens and cut them up into the pieces I need. Then I can have choice – I could do full breasts, split ones, cook off the tenderloins for whatever, and maybe stuff the legs into a jambonette. That, and you get that wonderful carcass that you can toss into a pot with a few pieces of celery, carrot and onion and c’est voila! You’ve got your own, delicious, homemade chicken stock. Use it with that chicken meat you just cut up and you’ve got the best damn chicken soup ever.
That’s not even beginning to talk about what you can save by buying full loins or strips of beef from a Costco or Sam’s – learn how to trim and cut ‘em up, and you can do a big ol’ steak barbecue on the cheap. All in all, butchery is one of those things that can bring you a lot of joy, if you just devote some time to learning it.
- Chef Savage
Roasted Breast of Pheasant
Stuffed with Mushroom Duxelle with Raspberry Demi
Yield: 6 portions
3 each whole Pheasants
2 tablespoons shallots (diced)
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons raspberries preserves
1 cup demi-glace
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Demi-Glace: Place shallots, raspberries, preserves and wine in a saucepot and reduce by half. Add the demi-glace and reduce again by half. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Stuffing & Cooking: Trim the extra fat off of the breast and butterfly with a boning knife (the half of the breast that is opposite the wing bone). Place about 4 ozs. of the duxelle on the breast, skin side down. Roll the breast around the stuffing; try to seal the stuffing in. Place the stuffed breast, crease side down, on a roasting pan and bake in a 400° oven, with the wing pointing upward, for approximately 10 minutes.
To Serve: Cut in slices about 1/4" thick and serve in a fan with the sauce on the bottom.
Okay, so this is a bit of a preemptive strike against any foodies who may start clamoring about the usage of the term ‘bisque.’
You see, bisque is one of those dishes whose definition, and thereby ingredients, has changed over time. Classically, a bisque is just seafood. Well, if you go farther back than that, like, before the 17th century, then classically-classically a bisque is a soup made with, and thickened by, game or seafood. They mostly used crayfish as the seafood, and as time passed, crayfish and lobster ended up becoming the main ingredients.
Even now, French culinary dictionaries are gonna say that a bisque is exclusively seafood. American ones will say that the term can include soups made with other meats or exclusively vegetables.
“So,” you may ask, “What’s the big deal?”
Well, nothing, really. What the stalwart defenders of culinary lexicon have probably forgotten is that food changes over time. The terms should shift as well. If a ‘bisque’ is seen more as a dish that’s thickened by pureeing the ingredients, then we can lump in the vegetable bisques and what-not.
So, cut the chefs of the world some slack if they use a term that, according to Culinary Dictionary X, is wrong. Unless, of course, they’re trying to call a pile of scrambled eggs on a plate an omelet. That’s just not cool.
- Chef Savage
1 ea Yellow Onions Rough Chopped
6cans Artichokes In Water (16oz)
1qt Heavy Cream
1/4lb Gruyere Cheese (shredded)
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Sauté Onions in butter until soft.
Add Artichokes do not drain.
Add cream simmer 1 hour.
Blend with immersion blender till smooth.
Add cheese and blend again.
Pass through china cap.
Serve with warm crabmeat.
One of my biggest pet peeves with cooking – or at least, with other people's cooking – is a lack of flexibility. At work, that mostly comes about from inflexible diners and employees with no work availability, but that’s not what we’re talking about... I’m talking about flexibility with recipes. A lot of recipes are really strict and rigid, requiring items in strange amounts like “two cups plus a teaspoon of sugar” or “three and a half eggs.” Really? A half egg? From what, a half chicken?!? The great thing about most recipes is that you really can fudge the amounts; your sauce will be just the same without that extra teaspoon, and go ahead and use the whole egg. You’re not gonna kill anyone. But it’s not just amounts, it’s also in the procedure. So many recipes say “bake at 392 degrees for exactly 21.2 minutes” or such nonsense. Sure, a temperature range is great and all, but ovens vary, and my roast chicken in one oven may be done a lot faster than another. The recipe should focus more on the actual procedure, or what it is you’re looking for – golden brown crust, firm center, a certain internal temperature so that you don’t serve raw chicken. Then you might actually kill somebody!
Hollandaise is like that. There’s a half dozen ways of making it; I’ve seen it made in a bowl over a double boiler, over a fryer, in a blender… hell, I bet you could do it in front of a screaming hot oven, but you’d probably cook yourself as well.
But the reason the recipe is flexible, and that people can make it different ways and still come out with the same sauce – that’s because they understand what’s going on. Heat plus eggs equals coagulation, and when you add melted butter, you get the thick sauce you want.
So do the recipe however you want, and as long as you understand what’s happening, and more importantly, why, you can do anything!
- Chef Savage
2 ea Egg Yolks
1oz Lemon Juice
1oz White Wine
1oz Worcestershire Sauce
2 shakes Tabasco Sauce
½-3/4# Clarified Butter
Pinch Salt & Pepper
Melt butter in microwave in 20-second intervals till butter reaches 180 degrees. Be careful butter may boil over and could burn.
Place egg, lemon, wine, worcestershire and tabasco in blender. Blend on medium speed for 30 seconds. Slowly add butter till desired thickness. Finish with salt and pepper.