This is a classic Bistro dish and it really exemplifies the simplicity of great bistro food – good ingredients, strong flavors, and fairly unfussy preparation (even for the home cook). I like to think of this dish as all the flavors of a great breakfast in salad form – kind of the best of both worlds.
Category Archives: Winter Dishes
Here’s an easy and appealing salad for the cooler weather. This is a salad that works well with many different combinations of ingredients. You can substitute Chevre if you prefer, or a different kind of cheese. You could also add some dried cranberries or some apples (or both) to give some extra color and flavor. And you could use a different kind of nut (I like pecans or pistachios).
Unlike many salads this one goes well with a glass of red or white wine due to the roquefort cheese.
I’m not bothering to give you a traditional recipe here since this is a pretty simple dish. I’ll give you an easy Dijon Vinaigrette recipe (following a traditional 3 parts oil: 1 part vinegar ratio). I’ll throw in a couple pointers on putting the salad together, then you’re on your own so have fun making some interesting combinations!!
Makes 2 1/4 cups
4 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar (preferably imported)
1/4 cup Sherry Vinegar
1 cup Vegetable Oil (replace 1/4 cup veg. oil with walnut oil if desired)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
Water as needed to thin
Method – In a blender combine mustard and vinegars. Drizzle in oils until blended. Season with salt and pepper, add water to thin if needed. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For assembling the salad:
Cut your endive into julienne strips or crosswise as desired. Toss with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent discoloring. Add vinaigrette (not too much) and cheese. Toss well and garnish with walnuts.
This week we will depart from the theme of ratio cooking to present a spectacular winter dish that could make for a very different kind of Super Bowl Party – especially handy if your local market has sold out of chicken wings! Even though it looks like a really impressive dish – it is easy to prepare so don’t be put off. Most of the work comes in procuring the ingredients then it’s a breeze to put it together.
When I was 23 I worked for 6 months in Alsace, France, which was a fantastic experience. I loved the combination of hearty German style cooking prepared with the finesse and sophistication of French techniques. And the wines from that region are really among my favorites. Pinot Blanc, Reisling (not sweet as many people assume), Gewurztraminer – these are all wonderful with many kinds of food besides Choucroute. They have a perfect sweet-sour balance, which makes them very refreshing in warm weather, yet they have enough body to be satisfying on a cold night with a huge steaming platter of Choucroute!
If you want to make it an even more authentic French evening you could be really contrarian and serve this hearty dish without turning on the TV at all!
The video shows a short clip of our presentation for the Choucroute at Cafe du Soleil. The Sous Chef is Abel Pena.
Do try to get the best sausages you can for this dish. I serve this dish every Thursday night during the winter months at Café du Soleil and I get my sausages from Salumeria Biellese. They are delicious! www.salumeriabiellese.com. I’m not sure if they ship outside of the city but you can contact them and find out. If you are in the New York area stop by their store – it’s a trip back in time.
You should also buy good sauerkraut for this dish. In New York fresh sauerkraut is available at Schaller & Weber, 1654 Second Avenue (86th Street). If you want to be self-sufficient and get a great product as a result you can make your own:
Just remember that will take 2-3 weeks to cure. You can also use a packaged Sauerkraut from the supermarket - it will work just fine.
And last but not least – you should use Alsatian wine to cook this dish and to drink with it. Unlike some foodies I don’t usually recommend cooking with the same wine I am drinking, mostly because the delicacies of a good wine are usually lost in a cooked dish. But in this case you do want the slight sweeteness of the Alsatian wine to provide a counterpoint to the acidity of the sauerkraut.
Alsatian Choucroute/Choucroute Alsacienne
Serves 8- 10 or more depending on your appetites
4 # Fresh Sauerkraut
3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
2 Onions, medium, cut in half and sliced thinly across the grain
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
½ bottle Alsatian wine (see above for different types)
1 Tbsp Juniper Berries
1 Tbsp Whole Cloves
1 tsp. Whole Black Peppercorns
3 Bay Leaves
Salt to taste
8-10 Smoked Pork Chops, about ½” thick, on the bone
1 # Smoked Slab Bacon, cut into ½” by 3” pieces
8-10 Fresh Veal Sausages (Boudin Blanc)
1# Strasbourg Sausages (Saucisse de Strasbourg)
4 –5 Blood Sausages (Boudin Noir) – optional
Fresh Thyme for garnishing platter
Chopped Parsley for garnishing
2-3 # Boiling Potatoes, peeled, cut into ¼’s and steamed or boiled
Preheat oven to 350F.
Heat the oil in a 5 qt. heavy stockpot or saucepan and cook the onions over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and sauerkraut and combine with the onions. Cook about 5 minutes more, then add the wine, spices, bay, and salt. Bring to a boil then simmer about 30 minutes.
Transfer half the sauerkraut into a large roasting dish or aluminum pan. Place the meats on top of the sauerkraut and then cover the meats with the remaining sauerkraut. Cover with aluminum foil. Place in the oven to bake for about 30 – 45 minutes until the meats are heated through. Note that all of the meats are already cooked when you buy them (with the exception of blood sausage – but that cooks quickly and will fall apart if overcooked). You are really just heating everything up and melding the flavors together.
You can keep the dish warm in the oven at this point until you are ready to serve it.
Transfer the sauerkraut to a large serving platter in a heaping mound. Arrange the meats decoratively on top of the sauerkraut. Arrange the potatoes around the platter and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Decorate with fresh thyme sprigs and serve to great applause!!
Have a great time making and eating this dish – and, as always, please leave a comment or question. Remember, the Chef’s Got Your Back!
Linguine with Grilled Shrimp, Part 3
So far, so good, right?
You have made your Marinara sauce.
You have made your Garlic Herb Butter and rolled it into a log shape to store it.
Now comes the time to put it all together!! So, following along the Italian flag theme, we have our red and our green stripes.
Now comes The White Stripe:
That’s just a white sauce that can be made in one of three ways depending on your sensibilities. The first, and simplest, is just to boil some heavy cream (use about ¼ cup per person – and let it reduce by half until slightly thickened).
You will be tossing the cooked linguine into this sauce when plating your dish. (Please scroll down to the end of this post for the other two alternatives).
Finishing the Garlic Herb Butter Sauce:
No matter which of the versions of white sauce you will be using to toss the pasta in, you need to finish the garlic herb sauce as follows: Heat up some heavy cream in a saucepan, and then whisk the garlic herb butter into the cream. For 4 servings use about ¼ cup cream plus about ½ cup of the garlic herb butter.
The Shrimp: Use the biggest and freshest your budget will allow. Peel and devein them (leaving the tail shell on). Toss them with a marinade of chopped fresh garlic and herbs if you want a little extra flavor (let them sit about an hour, or even just a few minutes). Season them with some salt and pepper. Grill them if you have a grill handy, or just sauté them. Either way, after cooking, keep them warm (but not over direct heat) in the Garlic Herb Butter Sauce.
Cooking the Pasta:
Of course while the shrimp are cooking you need to cook your linguine. How much pasta is up to you but the general rule of thumb is 4 servings per pound of pasta. For this dish I would plan on getting 6 servings per pound because it is fairly rich. Remember to use a large pot with plenty of water when cooking pasta. It needs room to move around a little.
Also, be sure to add salt to the water – it should taste slightly salty. And cook it to the doneness that you like, but remember that “al dente” doesn’t mean that it gets stuck in your teeth when you eat it!
To Assemble the Dish:
Heat your Marinara sauce and keep warm. Reduce your heavy cream or heat your white sauce if you haven’t already done so). Toss the linguine in the white sauce. At the restaurant we twist the linguine into a tube shape with a large kitchen fork and place it on each plate.
Remove the shrimp from the sauce and place them on top of cooked linguine. Spoon a ribbon of each sauce on the plate as indicated in the photo at the top of the page (click on it for a larger view) using the rest of the garlic herb sauce in the pan for the green stripe.
Weekday Dinner Alternate Presentation: You could also do a much simpler dish for a weekday dinner by just tossing your pasta with your Marinara sauce then spooning the shrimp over the pasta followed by the remaining garlic herb sauce. You can skip the cream sauce entirely for this presentation.
Either way, it’s a delicious dish, and I hope you will try it and let me know how you liked it. Please also comment if any part of the recipe is unclear.
Remember, The Chef’s Got Your Back.
* As Promised – White Sauce Alternatives:
1) Simple white sauce – I make it using whole milk thickened with a roux (equal parts flour and melted butter – you need about 1T. roux per 2 cups of milk – or until it’s about the consistency of heavy cream).
2) Lower Fat White Sauce – use cornstarch (diluted with just enough water to make it pourable) which you whisk into boiling 2% or nonfat milk (use the same ratio as for roux – about 1T. per 2 cups of milk). That will give you the feeling of eating a creamy sauce without the calories.
Last week, Dear Reader, I left you hanging by a thin strand of linguine waiting in suspense for the next installment of our recipe.
Well wait no longer!
You have made your marinara sauce. You have stored it in the refrigerator ready to use.
Remember that we are making the three colors of the Italian flag for this dish – so now for the green stripe.
Linguine with Grilled Shrimp in Garlic Herb Butter: Part 2
This is the real recipe star — garlic herb butter (in the pro kitchens we often call it “escargot butter” because it’s what we use to make those delicious baked Escargots de Bourgogne – the ones swimming in this delicious butter).
This is another ratio recipe for you:
1 part Shallots, peeled and chopped
1 part Garlic, peeled and chopped
1 part Parsley, peeled and chopped
For 1 # Unsalted Butter (softened) use 1/3 cup of each item listed above. I do suggest you make this recipe with a pound of butter. You will find that you can use it in many different dishes so it’s great to have it on hand in the freezer.
Chop the shallots, garlic, and parsley separately in the food processor, then combine (you don’t have to wash the bowl of the machine in between). Then you add your softened butter, puree until combined well, add salt to taste and you’re done!
It’s best to do this ahead of time then store in the refrigerator or freezer. I usually roll it in a log shape and wrap it in plastic wrap. See you in a few days for the last installment of our recipe, where our fearless hero shows you how to cook the pasta, grill the shrimp, and put it all together for a show-stopping creation!
Remember, The Chef’s Got Your Back.
For this week’s blog I want to present a restaurant dish and give you some variations on how you can simplify it for home cooking.
This post will be in three parts over the next week so you will have plenty of time to plan ahead to make this dish for your next dinner party.
We’ll start with one of the most popular dishes at Café du Soleil:
Linguine with Grilled Shrimp in Garlic Herb Butter.
Let’s start with the fancy restaurant-style presentation. This dish is designed to look like an Italian flag, with red, green and white sauces in stripes. That may seem like a lot to do but it’s not so complicated. I’ll break it down for you and you can decide.
Part 1 – Marinara Sauce
1 can (14.5 oz) plum tomatoes (preferably Italian)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1T. garlic, chopped
1T. each dried oregano and basil
add a few red pepper flakes to spice it up if you want
1. Sautée the onions and garlic in a couple Tbsps. of olive oil until soft
2. Add the tomatoes and seasonings and a few sprigs of fresh basil
3. Simmer about 30 – 45 minutes plus salt and pepper to taste
4. Pass through a food mill (my preference
for optimum texture) or food processor and puree
Chef’s Secret: I put in a little sugar just to sweeten it up a little, and some tomato paste to give it a little more color and flavor.
Chef’s Secret: I also like to add a little red wine to my marinara – anything leftover from last night’s bottle is fine
Chef’s Secret: I also like to add a little fresh pork to give it a little more body – you could use a small
piece of pork shoulder, or any cut with some meat and some bone to give flavor –
remove it before pureeing and it makes a nice little snack for the cook.
Simpler Method: If you want to use your favorite jarred version that would be a no-brainer way to simplify.
I like to freshen up a jar of commercial sauce by pureeing in a couple fresh plum tomatoes,
and if you’ve got some fresh basil on hand, toss that in too.
So far, so good.
See you again in a few days for Part 2.